Monday, June 30, 2014

Happy Monday

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

This picture...

... taken by Theron Humphrey of his dog Maddie.

I don't know why I love it so much, but it makes me smile every time I look at it. You can see more of Theron's work here.

Happy Monday!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Horse care 102

So... what do you do when you turn your horse out to pasture and he looks fine, no lameness, everything looks great....

...and when you let him back in he's got blood dripping down his hoof and from certain angles it looks like there is a very real possibility that his hoof has started to fall off.

(Ewwww! *shuddering slightly at the memory*)

That's what it looked like at our house yesterday, and yes... it was gross. It was one of those times when I wondered why I'm always the one that has to deal with the blood... sometimes I get tired of being the one who knows what to do with the first aid kit in the barn.

(I will spare you photos of Murphy's mess of a hoof... trust me, you don't want to see them... and post a few random photos of him instead!)

Anyway.... I feel pretty competent when it comes to doctoring Murphy's little cuts, scrapes, and the occasional minor lameness (often a hoof abscess, usually when the ground has gotten very hard....), but I had never seen anything like this before.

So after spraying the gaping wound with antibiotic spray and wrapping it up (just how much "vet wrap" would it take to hold a hoof on, I wonder?), I decided I should probably call the vet...

She came out and declared it (yet another!) hoof abscess and to do what I always do for abscesses. (Soak twice a day in epsom salts and water for three days, and he's good to go...)

I felt better when she said the first time she'd seen one like this she thought the horse's hoof was falling off too...

After she looked at Murphy, we had a nice visit... she took pictures of the pumpkin patch fence (she wants to build one like it) and R has an invitation to volunteer with her large animal practice this fall.

Although it started out somewhat traumatic, it ended up being a good (although slightly expensive) afternoon.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Soldier and Nancy ~ a little "living history"... and a brief update

We've been helping take care of a neighbor's horses lately...

That's Soldier in the front stall... Nancy in the back stall.

This photo shows their personalities... Soldier is big, bold, confident and curious... Nancy is small, shy, a little skittish and not much into things that are unusual... like a camera!

They are the dearly loved horses of a friend of ours, Mr G... a elderly man who, until some bad health this past spring, took care of them entirely on his own. Soldier was his riding horse... Nancy's a rescue he got as a companion for Soldier. Since March though, another neighbor and I have taken turns caring for them... Mr G spent a month in the hospital, and has been home for awhile now but isn't strong or steady enough to take care of them.

I might feel differently come winter but, right now, I don't mind taking care of Soldier and Nancy. You know how much I love history... and going into Mr G's tack room and hay barn are like stepping back in time.

Mr G was born in the mid-1920's and grew up on a farm in central Europe. He came here after WWII and has no wife or children... just his horses. His place looks and feels a little like I imagine a small farm in 1930/1940's Europe might have looked and felt.

His tack/feed room is nicely organized and is decorated with pictures and calendars he liked so much that some of them have been hanging on the walls for decades.

He also has a little hay barn, with hay neatly stacked on one side and this old, carefully cared for, tractor on the other. (I might try to buy this tractor when he's ready to sell...) The chains on the tires are for the snow, of course... yes we do get so much snow that even a tractor needs chains!

An ancient, well used pair of hay tongs remain stuck in an old bale of straw next to his hay.

Anyway, I don't mind going up there to do his barn work... I go early in the morning, before anyone else gets up, and it only takes 20 minutes or so.

It's so peaceful up there.... and I love seeing the "from scratch" ways his barn is set up. There are no livestock panels, electric fencing, or pre-fab stalls here.

It's all made, by hand, by Mr G.

His tools of the trade...

.... mended, not replaced, when they break.

These scissors, stuck in the crack between the wood of the hay barn, have a slightly curved blade... for trimming the "feathering" on the back of a horse's legs and fetlocks. They also work well for cutting baling twine!

Decades worth of horse shoes... Soldier only recently began going barefoot.

An antique scythe hanging in a shed...

A long piece of lodge pole pine which can be used to limit Soldier and Nancy's pasture access...

I took a lot of other pictures as well, too many to post... wanting to somehow record a way of doing things that seems to be quickly being lost...

We are doing fine with S here, by the way... M and R are bending over backwards to make things work and I'm hoping everyone's patience holds out until they find her a place to be. Her attorney (all children in foster care are appointed one) was here yesterday and S enjoyed showing her around... She (the attorney) will probably be sending her assistant to the foster mom's house on Friday to help get S's things packed up and moved out. It will be good to get that done sooner rather than later...(When we packed up a few of S's things to take with us on Monday, the foster mom told S she'd better take everything because she wouldn't keep it for her... Needless to say, we couldn't pack up a whole room at that time, and S has been stressing about the foster mom throwing her things away...) The GAL is sending her assistant to make sure foster mom doesn't start in on S or me again verbally...

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

savoring the small blessings...

Yesterday was tough.... there are no two ways about it.

After picking S up on Saturday after a blow up (both she and foster mom blowing up!), the plan was to take her back to her foster home yesterday. There was a staffing yesterday and all the "important" people would be there (GAL, worker, foster mom, etc) so it made sense that the meeting would be a good time to get things sorted out.

Only S really didn't want to go back... She was willing to go to the crisis center rather than return to that home.

She let her therapist and caseworker know and we met the caseworker for a "just her and S" meeting before the bigger meeting.

After talking to S she and the GAL decided she shouldn't return to the home...

And of course, the next question was could I keep her for a few days while they found a place for her. I said yes, but only for a week... give or take a few days.

Then we had to go back to the home to get some of S's things. I was worried... frightened probably isn't too strong a word... because I knew the foster mom would get ugly... and I wasn't looking forward to it.

And she did get ugly... telling S that "you'll never have a family" and saying angry, hateful things to me as well.

M was so angry at the things the foster mom said that he had to leave the house, fists balled up, psychotic voices yelling inside his head, full of impotent fury. R was much the same (only without the voices!)... the foster mom actually lied to R during the ordeal to get her out of the room so she could attack S verbally! R was angry, furious that an adult would act the way this woman did.

S is no angel... she can yell and swear when she's angry (I've never seen it, but I know she does...) and can be a master at creating her own reality, but that's easier to understand coming from a person with her history of abuse, than from a foster parent who is supposed to be the "stable" one.

Today we will try to recharge and put yesterday behind us...

Tomorrow the GAL comes to make sure my home is safe enough for S to stay for a few more days.

Small blessings to savor? My children's finalized adoptions, being able to delete that foster mom's name and number from my address book, a nice warm cup of tea, a quiet house, and a surprising a tiny fawn grazing in the back pasture...

Monday, June 23, 2014




Outside my window... the sun is up, the sky is blue, it looks like another beautiful summer day.

I am thinking... or more specifically, I am trying not to think about the situation with S... her foster care placement is deteriorating and I worry where they will move her.

I am thankful... for my children's long finalized adoptions which spared them the miseries of foster care.

In the kitchen... I should probably cook something. I haven't done much cooking this weekend, we've been on the run a lot.

I am creating... right now, this minute? I'm trying to create a sense of belonging for S, of being loved and lovable. Not an easy task with a young person who has lived the life she's lived...

I am going... to have to get going on a mountain of laundry that's piled up. Surely we'll all run out of clothes soon if I don't get busy!

I am reading... 1776 by David McCullough... I love a good history book!

I am hoping... for a miracle for S... a good foster or group home, a dedicated case worker, and people in her life who love her.

I am looking forward to... a mostly stay home day today.

Around the house... no projects going on right now, I've been busy outside with our barn and garden work and have also been taking care of a neighbor's horses.

A favorite quote for today... "I shall offer you a sacrifice of thanksgiving...." Psalm 116:17

A few plans for the rest of the week... So far the week looks fairly quiet... I'll probably take S back to her foster home today, tomorrow we have dentist appointments, and Thursday we'll be working at the thrift store. The rest of the week we'll probably be hanging pretty close to home...

A peek into my day evening....

Kids finally in bed, lights mostly off, tea pot (blue light) heating up water for a last cup of tea... the kitchen in the quiet of the evening.

...and the dining room with my reflection... doubled for some reason... in the window.


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

Friday, June 20, 2014

If it's June.... (Mud Cake Recipe)

Yesterday was Joe's birthday. In the morning, while I was working in the kitchen, K called.

K is our third daughter and lives in a tiny village in the north of Ghana where she works for the Peace Corps. She remembered it was her dad's birthday, and as we talked I asked her to guess what I was doing...

She said "baking a cake" (Hmm... good guess), so then I asked her what kind of cake?

Without hesitation, from more than 6,000 miles away, she knew the answer... "Mud Cake"

She probably didn't even have to think to answer that question, since I have made mud cake for Joe for his birthday every single year since we got married... I've been making that yearly mud cake since Jimmy Carter was president!!

It started off one of those new wife things... Joe used to tell me how wonderful his mother's food was, and how every year for his birthday she made him a mud cake from his grandmother's recipe... and how there was nothing as good as that mud cake.

So of course I had to get the recipe from his mom and take over the tradition...

I've kept the tradition because mud cake is such an amazingly delicious treat...

It's an old, "from scratch", recipe and it's full of sugar and oil. This is not health food.

But it is rich and sweet and packed with gooey chocolately deliciousness.

And it's a fool proof recipe... it ALWAYS turns out! (It's also a great cake to share with neighbors, bring to a pot luck, etc.)

Want to try it?

Here's the recipe...

Mississippi Mud Cake

2 cups sugar
1 scant cup oil
4 eggs
1 & 1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tsp vanilla

Cream sugar and oil, add eggs. Mix dry ingredients, add to sugar mixture. Stir in vanilla. pour into 9 x 13 pan and bake for 325 for 35-40 minutes. Cover cake with marshmallows and cook for 8 minutes more. Frost warm.

Mud Cake Frosting 

1 stick butter, softened
1/4 cup cocoa
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk

Mix together sugar and cocoa, add remaining ingredients, mix well.

If you try it, let me know what you think! 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Rain is good...

....especially when you live in a place that frequently deals with drought.

I took this picture this morning in the front pasture as I was waging war with the purple thistles (armed with my trusty six-shooter weed-eater)...

Don't look at my dirty old paint splattered barn coat, and don't get distracted by the sun just coming over the horizon (and my arm), instead check out the grass that is up to my waist!

We don't see that much in our part of Colorado...

The grass is so long you almost can't see the deer walking through the front pasture...

Here they are again, coming out into a place with shorter grass.

Needless to say, Murphy and Tucker are being spoiled by all the grass in the back pasture...

A little rain now and then is lovely.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Annie's Story (our house's original owners)

I just got done reading Sherry's post on Young House Love about the history and original owners of their house. I've LOVED researching the history of our homes, and Sherry's post got me thinking I should also write about what we know of our current home's history.

(Our house, circa 1980)

And a similar view today...

First I should probably back up a bit... When we bought our home the seller didn't disclose any major defects, and it passed the home inspection... so, needless to say, we were shocked to discover (shortly after closing) that the house had major problems... It's a log home and the logs hadn't been maintained (by the previous, not original owner) and there was wood rot, bug infestation, and places where we could see light between the logs. (The inspector apparently knew nothing about log homes and just gave the exterior of the house a very quick look!) Anyway, a fair amount of panic ensued when the first estimate to fix the house came back at more than 25% of what we'd just paid for the entire house... and there was anger too.  Anger at the seller, and the inept inspector, of course... but I was also angry at the house. It made no sense, but I somehow blamed it (for not being taken care of?!) for all it's problems.

It was in the midst of all the drama and trauma of discovering the house we'd sunk every penny into was in danger of falling down, that I tracked down Annie. I guess I needed to know the history of the house to try to make my peace with what felt like a dream home turned nightmare money pit...

Annie, with her husband, built our house... their house... starting back in the mid-1970's. She was an art teacher, he was a lumber jack... She eventually told me a dozen stories about the building of this house.... about how they'd harvested the logs for the house up in the mountains and had them milled before hauling them down here to build. The logs are all lodgepole pine, and some of them have a bluish tinge to them because they are beetle-kill wood. (The beetles stain the wood...)

The living room fireplace was built from huge stones they gathered in Coal Creek Canyon and hauled down with the help of friends...

The bedroom fireplace is made from petrified wood they found when they dug the foundation.

It was a long time before they were ready to build this fireplace, so they "stored" the petrified wood under a big scrub oak in the front pasture until they needed it.

It took them two full years to build the house... When they first started building they drove out each weekend to work, during the latter part of the building they lived in a little camper parked in what would later become the garage.

The logs are held together with huge spikes and have both insulation and chinking in between each course.

Annie had one very close call during the building... She said she had been working pounding together a course of logs on the north side, towards the top of the second story. As she worked her way along, straddling the top of the logs, holding on with her legs and pounding in stakes with a sledgehammer, she worked her way to where the guest bathroom is... and not realizing that her husband had cut out the logs for that window since the last time she'd worked, she scootched forward expecting solid logs between her knees to hold onto and found the open space of the window instead. She lost her balance and slipped upside down (legs still holding on, feet locked together), around the top course of logs where she held on as tightly as she could and started yelling for help... Thankfully her husband was close and was able to get to her before she fell.

(Annie was sitting on top of the upper window on the left when she almost fell...)

After she told me that story I asked what she did after she was pulled back to safety... She said she got back up on top of the logs and kept working.

Our loft was designed to be her art studio (it has water piped into it, but has never had a sink installed) and the big wall in the family room  was designed to be a "gallery wall" of her artwork.

(The house in about 1980, Annie's gallery wall on the left...)

The family room now from about the same angle (notice the same doorbell, painted now, over the stairs...).

We have their original blueprints and cherish them. It's a quirky house, but not a haphazard one...

It is definitely one of a kind.

Annie bred and raised Arabian horses and was so happy to know that the barn is being used as a barn again. (It had been used as RV storage for years before we bought the house.)

See the little camper in the background? That's what they lived in while they finished building the house... (the photo dates from the early 1980's)

Sadly, Annie's husband began losing his sight about 5 years after the house was finished. By the time the house was 7 years old he was almost blind and unable to maintain the house any longer and they sold it.  He passed away a few years later...

(Annie's husband ans son shortly after the house was finished...)

After I tracked Annie down and we had a chance to talk about this funny old house, I found it easy to forgive the house (for being such a wreck) and became 110% committed to bringing it back to what it should have been.

(2005 - During the exterior repair stage... log damage repaired, chimneys rebuilt, stucco... to the protect logs... going on.)

When the house was built, Annie and her husband had intended it to have stone chimneys... but the budget just wouldn't allow stone, so they finished them in wood. When we repaired the outside of the house, I used Annie's blueprints as a guide and had the chimneys rebuilt in stone.

Since we couldn't preserve the log exterior (leave it exposed) we trimmed out the house in lodge pole pine timbers as a way of connecting the "old" log home, with the "new" stucco covered one.

The first time Annie came to dinner, she walked into the house and tears immediately came to her eyes. As she wiped the tears away she said, "There's a lot of love built into this house..."  She even asked if, on another visit, she could sprinkle some of her husband's ashes out in our gully...

I wasn't sure what to say (it was an unexpected request to say the least!) but I said yes... and later that same summer she came back and walked our gully, sprinkling ashes and just being alone there. She later told me that gully was so important to her (to them) because, before this land was even available for purchase (when it was still railroad land) she and her husband had been part of a trail riding club and had frequently ridden their horses across this land... timing their lunch stop so they could picnic in a pretty little gully along the way.

That pretty little gully ended up part of the land they (and we) eventually purchased...

So... that's the story of our house. Sorry it got so long, but it seemed important to get it written down...

Anybody else have a house story to share?