Friday, May 30, 2014

Car shopping, and going low tech... in the simpler the better.

Here's a (buried in snow) photo of one of my favorite cars ever... my 1995 Toyota Previa... It's the car that got us home, 10 miles through a blizzard... with a broken axle. (The axle had broken during a spin out as I drove through the blizzard... but the car just kept going!) What a great car it was...

I would have driven it forever, but it blew a head gasket and at the time we thought it made more sense to replace it, than to fix it.

I've had two Kia Sedonas in the 4 years since my beloved Previa bit the dust.  I liked both my Sedonas... they were good cars for the money. But the design of the engine and all the electronics made them almost impossible for Joe to work on. For example, you can't even change a Sedona's spark plugs without removing the whole top of the engine. (Which makes replacing the spark plugs a job that requires an expensive trip to the mechanic!)

When it became clear that my latest Sedona needed more work than I was willing to put into it, and it was time to start car shopping, I started off looking for a car as new as we could afford (with no car payment... cash only). But as I looked at those cars and saw all their newer bells and whistles... I just couldn't get excited about any of them.

I couldn't drum up even a minute's worth of enthusiasm over the newer, fancier cars I was finding.

Then, on impulse, I typed "Toyota Previa" into the search box. It was a long shot... they haven't been sold in the U.S. since 1997. I found some old beat up ones up in Denver that didn't even rate a second look... but then I found a 1997 Previa for sale. The van looked great in the ad... and I started wondering if it was crazy to buy an older car on purpose. (In our society, isn't it almost required to buy a car as big and fancy as you can afford?)

I looked at and drove one of the newer cars I was considering, another Kia, and it would have served it's purpose... it was comfortable... it even had a DVD player... but I kept thinking about that older Previa.

Finally I drove up north (the car was almost 100 miles away!) and drove the Previa. It drove beautifully. I asked Joe if he could work on a it... he said it would be much easier to work on than a Sedona.

I thought about it, lost sleep over it, and finally decided to buy the Previa.

My "new" car is 17 years old and I'm thrilled with it!

It's solid, no frills, and built like a tank. It doesn't tell me the temperature outside or inside, which direction I'm going, or how many more miles I can drive before running out of gas. It doesn't remind me of things, play movies, shut it's own doors, start it's own engine, or guide me with GPS.

And it can't parallel park itself.

Which means it has exactly the features I was looking for... it's simple, basic, and should be dependable.  (It does have "all-trac" all wheel drive, I thought it was time to get a vehicle that can make it up the driveway even on the super snowy days!)

It gets a new windshield next week, and could use a run through the car wash... but that's all it needs. (It was clean when I brought it home, but it's been rained on since then.)

It feels so great to be driving a Previa again... I might have to plan a little road trip just to have the enjoyment of driving it someplace!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thrifting Thursday

I recently found a couple of little gems while thrifting that I want to share...

The first is this antique tin box, labeled "Autokit No. 8".

It came into the thrift store M's works at, and I was intrigued by it. It has a tiny little clasp in front to keep it closed, and when you open the lid there is a list of the original contents inside.

I did a little research, trying to find out how old it is and this "Aerokit" is the closest thing I was able to find. The aerokit being a little first aid kit for planes, the autokit for cars.

This aerokit dates from the 1920's, so I'm guessing my Autokit No. 8 is about the same age...

Imagine, it might have ridden around in one of these cars...

... back almost 100 years ago!

Here's another item I found while thrifting and couldn't pass up...

It's a large wooden bowl... I can't tell the age (probably  not that old), and it's a little rough... as in stained, dried out, etc.

Looking at it from the top, it's not uniform... I wonder if it's handmade.

I thought it might make a fun project... sand it down (carefully!), and either oil, or paint and distress it...depending on how it turns out. It's good, solid wood and I love it's lines. I think it will turn out nice either way.

There will be no little sanding projects going on this week however... I bought my new (old) car, and have been busy getting it licensed and legal... and S graduates on Saturday. Her foster mom isn't doing anything for the graduation (don't get me started on that!), so I'm making celebration plans, trying to make it really special for S. So far: dinner out with friends and family, gifts, of course... and flowers. (S's special request)

Busy, busy!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A two Dr Pepper sort of day...

I don't drink coffee, and have never built up much tolerance for caffeine. A little caffeine goes a long way with me, and just a little more can keep me awake half the night... body tired, but thoughts buzzing with grand projects and inspirations...

So I limit myself to one soda (Dr Pepper!) a day. I only drink more if I think it's the only way I'm going to have the energy to make it through the day.

Today is likely to be a two Dr Pepper day.

I should have saved myself the trouble of getting ready for bed last night... tracking down sleep ended up being mostly an exercise in frustration.

I had a hard time getting to sleep because I was thinking about the car we're buying today. I'm definitely taking the road less traveled in buying this car... Instead of buying the newest car we can afford (never a new car, always a cross-your-fingers-and-hope-for-the-best used one) I'm buying an older car. On purpose. And hope I'm not throwing money away or buying trouble...

So I had a hard time getting to sleep... wondering if I was making the right decision.

Shortly after I fell asleep... M woke me up, feeling sick. I got him a Tums, sent him back to bed and (using my used car buying strategy) crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.

An hour later he was up again, stomach unhappy... threatening to erupt.

False alarm... back to bed... sleep a little more.

An hour or so later... M is up again... truly sick this time. His stomach rejects every single thing he's put in it...

He's been up two of the last three night vomiting... his gastroparesis is seriously not happy right now. Today will be a challenge of convincing him to eat lightly, to not overload his angry stomach... even while he angrily insists he's fine now... and hungry.

His stomach finally starting to settle....M showers... better, but still calling out how bad he feels, needing reassurance that he's ok. Then, freshly clean and back to bed, M goes back to sleep while I scrub and sanitize the bathroom...

As I get in bed and try again to sleep I hear the first birds chirping outside the bedroom window and realize that morning is almost here.

It's the beginning of a two Dr Pepper sort of day...

Monday, May 26, 2014

Happy Monday

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

A picture I found on craiglist...

I'm car (van) shopping and found this photo in an ad... the old VW buses are one of my favorite cars. I used to have a 1972 baby blue one, my Dad had a 1965(ish) camper very similar to the second van from the right in this photo.

I'm not shopping for an old VW van... I'd have to take out a second mortgage to afford one, and it wouldn't be practical at all, even if I had the money... but the photo of those old vans, the bright colors, the mountains in the background, just makes me happy.

(How much do you want to bet the photo was taken in Boulder??) 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Movin' along...

I guess it's been awhile since I posted any pictures of how the pumpkin patch fence is coming. Slow is still the best word to describe our progress... but it's still moving along.

We finished the trim piece around the top header that we were working on here and last weekend we put up the horizontal supports for the pickets.

We used 2x4's and, once we got the posts marked for them, it went fairly quickly.

R and I measured, marked the posts, and squared everything up early one morning... it was such a nice time of just the two of us working outside together. What a lovely way to spend the morning....

Anyway... that done, the next step is pickets. We're fencing a fairly large area (35'x 18') and can't afford the prices I've seen for individual pickets (here they're $2.59 each!), so we're buying basic 6' cedar pickets, cutting them to size and cutting the top to a point.The basic pickets are only $1.48 each (here) and I can get two smaller pickets out of each one.

I cut one yesterday and clamped it in place for a little preview.

I think it will work... (Behind the pickets you can see a little bit of another landscaping project I've been working on lately... more on that another day.)

Once we get the pickets cut, it should be easy work to put them up.

I've also started laying paving stones for the walkway through the pumpkin patch...

These paving stones used to form the border around the old pumpkin patch fence, and I thought I'd recycle them inside the patch as a walkway. I'm not crazy about this pattern though... I'll probably re-do it.

I'm planning on planting the pumpkin patch this weekend... and then it becomes the race of finishing the fence before the plants get big enough for the deer to eat!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Colorado May

Heavy clouds laying low...

.... blocking the sunlight... bringing a feeling of evening...

though it's only 2:00.

Tornado warning... sky watching...

... it looks like spring has finally arrived.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Because of this....

...snow last week, my garden has been looking like this:

And my sunroom has been stuffed full of garden plants!


...and more tomatoes... grown from seed.

A few jalapeno tiny plants I bought the other day...

... some Sweet Williams the kids got me for Mother's Day...

... and the "elderly" geraniums I've had for close to 10 years. They spend each winter in the sunroom and head back out to the front porch each summer.

And these are just the plants in the sunroom, I've got more plants, waiting to go outside, scattered around the house.

This week is moving week for all of them... I've been hardening them off the past couple of days, and they should all in outside, and in the ground by the end of the week.

Happy Gardening everyone!

Monday, May 19, 2014


May 19, 2014

Outside my window... the sun is up and brilliant, the whole world seems to be glowing with early morning light.

I am thinking... about all the gardening I hope to get done this week.

I am thankful... for the beauty of spring, the flowers, the tiny fresh leaves on the trees, the baby animals everywhere.

In the kitchen... the oven stopped working, last night's dinner was french bread pizza cooked on the grill. The kitchen is probably a subject that is best left un-discussed right now.

I am creating... a garden.

I am wondering... about the results of the bone scan M had done last week, hopefully we'll hear today.

I am looking forward to... M's girlfriend Rach. visiting later this week. M really needs a pick me up right now!

I am learning... from some cool coursera courses I'm taking right now; Introduction to Human Behavioral Genetics, and Teaching Character.

Around the house...everything is a mess. We worked outside all weekend, and the inside of the house definitely shows the lack of attention.

A few plans for the rest of the week... M's appointment with the spine doctor, the appliance repair guy coming to fix the oven, getting the gardens in, and other things I know I'm forgetting right now. 

A peek into my day...

...bedding plants waiting to be planted.

Visit Peggy's blog for more about The Simple Woman's Daybook

Friday, May 16, 2014

Pig in the Pumpkin Patch

By anyone's standards we live a pretty boring life.... not much happens out here in the boonies. So we've learned to take our excitement where we find it.

Like this morning, I went out to feed and found a pig... in a coat... rooting around in the pumpkin patch.

We see a lot of different creatures around our acreage ... deer, coyote, foxes, hawks, snakes... are everyday things. Mountain lions passing through are even regular occurrences... (although not every day, thank goodness!)

But a pig in a coat is unusual... even for here. (So of course, I ran in and got the camera!)

This pig is not a stranger to me however... His name is Ernest.

I know this because he's my neighbor's pig... He's a teacup pot bellied pig. (Who knew there was such a thing!!)

And he seems to like horses....

But he's not great at reading donkey body language....

... continuing to snuffle his way along the pasture fence while Tucker snorted warnings to him to get away. Tucker is, apparently, afraid of very small pigs... and thinks it's his job to run them off. But he's a cautious donkey... no sense getting too close to this scary new thing.

Ernest eventually snuffled and rooted his way back home again...

... and I came back in the house, and Tucker finally relaxed and went into the barn to eat his breakfast.

Just another exciting morning on the farm...

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Mailbox mini-makeover

My first title for this post was mini-mailbox makeover... but then thoughts of tiny little mailboxes started floating through my head and I realized I should change it.

It's the makeover that was "mini" not our mailbox.

Our mailbox, the same one that was here when we moved in, is just an ordinary... old... metal rural style mailbox.

It was a little beat-up and rusted when we moved in, but that's part of what I like about it. Like me, it shows it's age. ;) We did give it a coat of paint a few years ago, and I've painted our house numbers on the side a few times (the paint fades quickly in the hot summer sun), but mostly it was just a mailbox on top of a post stuck in the ground.

And then I had an idea... Wouldn't it look much better with a barrel full of flowers surrounding the post?

I had an old half barrel up by the house that I grew flowers in each summer. So, I had the barrel... I just needed to figure out the logistics of getting a barrel, so full of dirt I couldn't even budge it, up the driveway and around the mailbox post. Oh, and how would I get it over the post? The bottom of the barrel might... um... get in the way.

(A bad, blurry picture of the barrel in it's previous home by the garage:)

The other day I had one of those do-or-die moments and impulsively decided it was time for the barrel to move up the driveway.

First, I shoveled out about half the dirt in the barrel into a wheelbarrow.  That lightened it up enough that I could get a furniture dolly underneath it and lever it onto it's side and dump the rest of the dirt out.

True to form, once I reached that point... the point of making a giant mess... the point of no return... I had second thoughts. What if it didn't work??

I kept going though... I couldn't just leave the barrel and the mountain of dirt in the middle of the driveway.

Next I broke the bottom out of the barrel (luckily it was already pretty rotten...), leaving it more of a tube, loaded it onto a wagon and hauled it up the driveway. R helped me lift it over the top of the mailbox, and with some careful maneuvering it was settled on the ground around the mailbox post. I leveled and centered it as much as possible (the mailbox sits on the top of a steep slope) and headed back down the driveway to get the dirt.

It took two wheelbarrow loads to haul all that dirt up the driveway... As I shoveled it back into the barrel I had visions of the Post Office telling me I was breaking some official P.O. regulation and needed to move the barrel back down the driveway again. (Thankfully, that has not happened... yet!)

Barrel in place, dirt in barrel... now maybe for a little light.

Our road can be VERY dark at night, it can be hard to find our place after dark... so I thought a few solar lights might be nice.

I added some little round solar lights I found, and then... just for fun... I painted some rocks with glow in the dark paint and put them in too.

It was getting there but definitely needed some color...

It was time for flowers...

But I knew anything I planted up there would 1. be eaten by deer, and 2. have to be watered.

I'm not generally crazy about artificial flowers but decided they were the only way to go in my new planter.

I added some flowers I had leftover from a wreath I deconstructed, and some others from an arrangement I found at Goodwill.

Drumroll please....

My much improved mailbox:

I love flowers, and I love the friendly look of a planter full of flowers around the mailbox. They will also be a good "landmark" when giving people directions to the house... )

And... they don't have to be watered, and the deer won't eat them!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Pumpkin patch fence progress...

...or lack thereof.

Mother nature has slowed down the progress on the pumpkin patch fence... We've had two snowstorms during the past couple of weeks, and plenty of cold, anything-but-springlike weather.

But here's where we are...

We're building on a slight hill, and followed the slope with our 2x4 header pieces, except for the gate area which we leveled.

The main header pieces are up all the way around, and now we are working on adding some 2x2 "trim" to the top of the header.

We weren't sure about adding the extra piece to the top, but without it, the header looked too thin... flimsy.

So we're going around now and adding the extra 2x2's...

Which wouldn't be a big job (a couple of hours tops!) if we didn't have to stop for snowstorms (and the dozens of other distractions that seem to pop up each time we head outside to work!).

Here's a picture of the "inspiration" fence again:

We're changing the plans a bit because our fence is so much shorter (5' compared to 10') and because our garden is smaller (35'x17') than the one is the photo. We're leaving the pickets at the bottom, but because of the height difference, we aren't going to put in the wood gridwork between the pickets and the header. We're going to use cattle panels cut to size instead... They'll give us the same gridwork design but in a much lighter form. We're also going to leave off the 2x2 trim pieces the they put running vertically up each fence post... wood is just too expensive to add all the little "extras" in this fence design.

Here's a picture of a fence with a cattle panel insert:

The panels are rigid and I think they look very nice, not wavy etc. like horse or field fencing. We'll use cattle panel just on the top half of ours... the bottom will still be pickets, but this gives a hint to what the top might look like.

So... that's where we are... hopefully this week we can get the header done and start on the pickets. (Which is fairly important, because we need to get the deer fenced out so I can plant my pumpkins!)