Thursday, July 31, 2014

According to my highly scientific rain gauge...

...we've had almost 3" of rain over the past couple of days...

... and it's still raining.

The pumpkins are happy...

.... the echinacea are thrilled.

But the chicken yard fence building has slowed to a crawl.

We started stretching the wire fencing yesterday but the ground is too wet... I'm afraid the T-posts aren't solid enough.

(And why does everything in this photo look crooked to me? I can tell myself the tree is crooked, and everything is on a slope... and the T-post to the left of the tree has been pulled over a little by the tension of the wire... but those wood posts are straight... I swear... and the level said they were.... so this photo makes me a little crazy.)

Anyway... we've stopped stretching wire until things dry out a bit.

We are in serious need of a little sun!

Here's a photo reminder if you're in Colorado and haven't seen the sun in a while... It looks like this:

It seems like it might be a good day to start building the gate, it can be done mostly inside.

The rain has been great, we live in a place that's dry enough that we always welcome rain...

But it can stop now.

The kids have a car wash fundraiser on Saturday for their Special Olympic team and it's either going to be perfect timing (people cleaning up their cars after all the rain) or horrible timing (still raining, no one washing their car).

Oh well, enough of this whiny, disjointed post... back to work. :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

plans afoot

I thought I'd share a quick peek at the outside project I've been working on the past few days.

It's a fenced area for our chickens.

That's right... chickens... as in those large birds that Joe hates with a passion.

Joe has hated chicken so much that the only way we could have chickens (and fresh eggs) was to share a tiny flock with our next door neighbor... on her land. This worked great until the neighbors had to move for work... and their house sold in one day... and they can't take the chickens with them.

When she asked if I could take "our" chickens, I told my neighbor I couldn't, and she understood why... Joe's been very clear how he feels about chickens.

And then... wonder of wonders... he suddenly changed his mind and said we could keep a few of them.

No more walking up the hill and climbing through the fence to clean the coop, no more concerns about finding them a new home... our own chickens right here.

It's a genuine 100% miracle.

But there are preparations that have to be made... I can have the coop my neighbor and I fixed up together, but I have to figure out a way to move it down here... and I have no safe fenced area for our little flock.

So, I'm fencing again.

Monday I planned out where I'd put the coop, decided on a size and shape for the chicken yard, and gathered the fence posts I needed. This part ended up being really difficult, since I needed a relatively flat area to hold the coop, ideally inside an existing fence (coyotes and foxes love chickens and can be very bold about stealing them), and close enough to the house to be convenient. It would have been easy to find a spot a few years ago, before I started working on the back yard... but I've landscaped most of the backyard now and finding an area big enough was tough... I finally decided to use a small corner of the backyard.

Yesterday R and I set the wooden posts that will be on either side of the gate, and also placed the T-posts that we're using for the rest of the fence. Luckily, I had a bunch of old T-posts from the old pumpkin patch fence and several decent wood posts a neighbor gave us when he moved away... so I don't have to buy any posts... just a little cement.

Here's a view of the back corner where the chickens will be. The two wooden gate posts are already set (towards the middle of the photo) and you can see some of the thin dark T-posts as well. (It looks like one is leaning... we can straighten that as we attach the wire fencing.)

We set the wood posts in concrete, which is something I haven't done often... but they seem sturdy enough. Since we need to hang a people-sized gate, I needed wood, set in concrete, to be strong enough to hold the gate. The second wood post wasn't necessary, a T-post would have worked... but the wood looks much better.

Here's a view from the other side of the yard...

I still need to reroute that black hose, which is part of our drip sprinkler system for the trees, and get those old rolls of fencing moved. The fenced area is going to be oddly shaped because I'm fencing off my two little blue spruce trees, they will be outside the chicken area... but the big crooked cottonwood gets no special treatment... it will be inside the fence... giving them shade in the summer, and letting the light through in the winter.

Today I hope to get the wire up all the way around, and hopefully start building the gate, and then we can move the coop and the chickens.

We can't wait...

Monday, July 28, 2014




Outside my window... the sun is going down... the sky looks a lot like the new header photo I added the other day.

I am thinking... about not much... just enjoying the winding down part of the day.

I am thankful...for such a lovely cool evening, a nice thick blanket will feel good on the bed tonight.

In the kitchen... I've been cooking more now that the weather has cooled (and M's gastroparesis is flaring up again). Tonight was "summer chicken salad" a good summer dinner recipe.

I am creating... I'm working on an outdoor building project... I hope it turns out.

I am going... to bed early tonight, I didn't sleep well last night and I'm tired.

I am wondering... if S is still doing well in her new foster home. If I don't hear from her soon, I'll call. 

I am reading... I started reading the new Chris Bohjalian book, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands but didn't like it, so I'm reading a Sandra Dallas book I've never read: The Chili Queen.

I am get a fair amount done outside tomorrow, today was mostly planning.

Around the house... I'm not keeping up very well, I'm spending too much time outside to get much done... although I did finally refinish the dining room table leaf. I refinished the table months ago, but put off refinishing the leaf until just the other day. It's good to have it done...

A favorite quote:

My sister posted this and I thought it was lovely...


A few plans for the rest of the week... working outside on my little building project, working at the thrift store, and a Special Olympics fundraiser on Saturday.

A peek into my day...

Plans and notes... the first steps of a building project:


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

Friday, July 25, 2014

the bird whisperer

R loves animals... and almost all animals love her. She is so sweet and non-threatening, that creatures just seem to be drawn to her...

Take this fledgling, for example...

R found him mostly drowned in the water trough.... When she pulled him out of the trough he was limp and lifeless, mouth open looking for air, coughing and choking.

She wrapped him in a towel and carried him around as he started to breathe again... He was alive, but barely and shaking like crazy.

She dried him, sat in the sun with him (on a 95 degree day!) and as long as she held him he was quiet and calm (although still shaking) but each time she tried to set him down he started squawking and making a huge fuss.  Eventually he calmed down though, and before long he was strong enough to stand....

... and even flutter his wings a bit.

Finally, after more than an hour...

...he had recovered enough to fly away.

R watched him go, proud of "her" baby...

... and proud of herself for saving him.

I hope R is able to work as a helper to our large animal vet... She wants to, and they have said to contact them in the fall when more volunteer positions open up... I'm keeping my finger's crossed, it would be such a perfect fit for her.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

petrified plans

In my last post I wrote about finding a good sized cache of petrified wood by the front porch, and having the happy dilemma of what to do with it... and with the rest of the petrified wood we've found here over the years.

I wanted to somehow display the petrified wood, but not necessarily in the house.... but not on the ground either (around a flower bed for example), because then it would just end up being covered with leaves and dirt and eventually buried again.

I was thinking about how Mr G displays his petrified wood along a stone ledge in his backyard... and I liked that idea but don't have the right kind of ledge.


It was about that time, as I was thinking about what natural "ledge" I might be able to use to display the petrified wood outside, that I noticed our cattle panel "collection" leaning up against the pasture fence. I'd pulled all my odd sized bits of cattle panel out from behind the barn because we had been planning on incorporating them into the pumpkin patch fence... but then we changed the fence design and no longer needed them. So they were just sitting out, in the way, waiting for me to put them away again.

One long piece caught my eye and got me thinking that I could make a "ledge", or shelving, from it and some fence pickets and display the petrified wood that way.

I started by trimming the sharp points, and cutting each short side of the panel to create "stakes" to anchor the cattle panel into the ground. (We always have to factor in for wind here... the wind is fierce and if something is outside it has to be well anchored or it's likely to end up in the neighbor's pasture!) Then Joe helped me bend the cattle panel into a "U" shape by using a fence post to hold the center and bending each end towards the middle.

It didn't turn out perfectly... but close enough to hold shelves.

Then I painted the cattle panel black (because it still looked like a cattle panel to me, and I was hoping to fancy it up a little...) and pushed it's "stakes" into the ground out back, in a mulched area up by the house. (The only piece of cattle panel I had, long enough for this project, had one small bent section, you can see it on the left... which I just worked around. Cattle panel is extremely rigid... which is why I can use it to hold rock, but it also makes it very hard to bend it back straight once it's been bent like that...)

I also bought a few cedar pickets at Home Depot.... they would be my shelves.

I bought some wider pickets (5 1/2") and one narrower one (3 1/2") to fit the spacing of the cattle panel openings, and cut just the dogeared top off two of the wide pickets and the narrow one... those became my bottom shelf.

I cut two of the wide pickets about 8" shorter for my middle shelf...

... and the last wide picket I cut 8" shorter than that for the top shelf, so when it was done it would be kind of an "A" shape. (This description sounds convoluted and confusing... the picture below should help.)

I thought it might be easier to see the petrified wood if the shelves were graduated... going from deeper on the bottom (3 pickets = 14 1/2") to just one 5 1/2" shelf on the top. Once the shelves were in place, I adjusted the cattle panel framework until they were level, and made sure they were evenly spaced from side to side. I didn't attach them to the cattle panel frame, but I might later if they start to shift...

Then I loaded it up with petrified wood.

Once I got all the wood on the shelves I realized I probably have too much petrified wood for graduated shelves so, as soon as I buy more pickets, I'm going to add a few pickets on the top and in the middle to make the shelves all 14 1/2" wide.

(In this photo it looks like the shelves stick on more on the left, but they are centered, it's just this photo angle that makes them look off...)

I do love how it turned out... The petrified wood is displayed where it can be seen and enjoyed... and is no longer sitting in little piles here and there around the house and yard. I can see us adding pieces to our little collection as we find them...

And it's lovely to have something pretty in the yard that doesn't need watering or weeding!

The total cost for my little project has been about $10. so far (the wider pickets were 1.88 the thinner one was 1.28), and I'll probably spend another $5. or so on pickets when I make the top shelves deeper. The cattle panel was already here, of course, and using it got it out of the "leftover fencing" pile and got some use out of it... which is always good!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sixty-Four Million years ago...

....our now semi-arid land was a rainforest... lush and tropical.

With lots of trees.

Tress that died and eventually petrified...

... leaving pieces of themselves for us to find and marvel over.

Our whole area is rich with petrified wood. There is a large marker in the town park made of petrified wood.

The fireplace in our master bedroom is made from petrified wood. (It's from a petrified tree they found when they dug the foundation.)

But we still get excited about finding pieces of it... and after every big storm, small pieces will have worked their way to the surface for us to find. (Notice the little pile of petrified wood on the hearth...)

After I moved the trough I got from Mr G to it's new spot by the chimney, I decided to prune the old juniper bush that's up there. Once it was done it looked nice and neat but the area next to it.. between the porch steps and the fence... looked terrible in contrast. There was a million cottonwood leaves, weeds, etc. and I decided it needed straightening too.

As I pulled the weeds and dug the old leaves out of this little area, I found some good sized pieces of petrified wood. Since I'd decided to lay down some pine needle mulch there, I wanted to get that ancient wood out of there before it was buried in mulch. I started feeling around in the dirt and realized the whole area was full of petrified wood! I kept digging through the finding more pieces until I had this huge pile...

It doesn't look like much when it's dirty... but once it's cleaned up it's beautiful!

I soaked it all in a wheelbarrow of water, and scrubbed the dirt off each piece.

What a treasure.... each piece's shape, colors and marking are unique and just beautiful!

There was very old landscaping fabric under most of the petrified wood I found, but there was so much dirt and debris on top that I'm guessing that pile of petrified wood was probably left over from when Annie and her husband built our house 40 years ago. I wouldn't be surprised if it was the last remnants of the petrified tree they'd found when digging the foundation....

The question was.... what to do with all this petrified wood? I already have little piles of petrified wood everywhere... inside on the hearth, outside by the flower bed... and we're always finding new, pretty, pieces here and there.

So this big newly found collection forced me to come up with a plan for it... a way we could see and enjoy it, rather than keeping it in haphazard little piles here and there.

After thinking about it I finally came up with an idea for holding and displaying it... but since this post has already gotten very loooong....  I'll post about what I did with all the petrified wood I found tomorrow.

Oh, and here's the little area I was cleaning out when I found the wood... finished off with a thick layer of pine needle mulch, and some stones (not petrified wood!) to finish it off.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Happy Monday

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

The scarecrow I made for the pumpkin patch...

I used a metal framework "man" I've had for years,
and added some old clothes. I wish his face was easier to see though, it kind of gets lost in the background...

I might grab some old corrugated metal my neighbor has in her trash pile, cut it to fit behind his face so it will show up better. 

Happy Monday!

Friday, July 18, 2014

one man's trash...

I worked out a nice trade the other day with our neighbor Mr G. I wrote a little about him, and his wonderful time capsule of a barn here...

It started when I bought him a rolling trash can, thinking it would help make it possible for him to get his trash down to the road on trash day and would keep the critters out of the trash.  I dropped the can off at his house, and he showed me where he wanted it... out in a shed by the barn.  I had to move an old galvanized trough to fit the trash can into the shed, and as I moved it Mr G talked about how it should be set out with the trash, it had holes in the bottom that couldn't be patched, so it would no longer hold water. I asked him to please not throw it away... that I would take it. The look on his face when I offered to take it made me smile, but he didn't question me too much, he just said (in his formal, very accented, old world way), "But it's no good for anything, it has holes."

When I drove down his driveway 10 minutes later the back of my Previa was stuffed with a large (holey) galvanized trough, and Mr G had learned a little about my gardening peculiarities and what a nice planter you can make from an old galvanized trough.

At first I wasn't sure where I was going to put my new planter... If you remember I already have two large troughs in the backyard garden area that hold strawberries.

And a small trough in the front yard for flowers (usually pansies...)

I finally decided this one would go on the west side of the house, next to the chimney. I have kind of a large, mulched area there and the ground is fairly level, I think it would be a great place for a planter full of flowers...

I still need to level it and fill it with stones in the bottom and soil on top, and then plant of course. (Which is the fun part!)

I'll post an after picture once it's finished...

Thursday, July 17, 2014

time4learning... a review

I signed M and R up for time4learning a few months ago. I went back and forth about it before doing it... wondering if it would be too childish for them, if they would use it, and especially... if they would learn from it.

My thought was to use this online program as enrichment for them... screen time that is more worthwhile than playing another game on the wii. M and I spent an afternoon looking at sample lessons, and although I worried the graphics were too young for him. (Time4learning has high school material too, which has more more grownup graphics, but because of M's developmental delays the material is too challenging.) Anyway... I shouldn't have worried, M was fine with both the graphics and material. I signed both kids up, getting a discount on R's membership, and M couldn't wait to really get into the lessons.

That was a couple of months ago, we used it a lot at first but I have to say we didn't use it much while S was here... Next week, though, as we get back into a schedule that includes academics again (not just running around to doctor's appointments!) it will be part of M's day. He especially loves the science, and will work through several lessons at a sitting... periodically calling out "Mom, did you know ________?" and sharing whatever new fact he'd gotten from the lesson. It's been a good fit for M.

It's probably not been as good a fit for R... she has her delays and learning disabilities too, but for some reason she hasn't gotten into it the way M did. It wasn't a bad fit for her, she just hasn't enjoyed it the way M has...

So... I'm looking forward to getting back to our academics next week and getting M, at least, back to time4learning. My kids are older, and we're using the program in a non-traditional way, but I've found that there is enough flexibility in the program that it works for us. It's worked great as an enrichment program, it's been great for reviewing material they've learned in the past, filling in gaps in their learning, and just having some worthwhile fun on the computer.

As a member of Time4Learning, I have been given the opportunity to review their program and share my experiences. While I was compensated, this review was not written or edited by Time4Learning and my opinion is entirely my own. For more information, check out their standards-based curriculum or learn how to write your owncurriculum review.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

It's a Cadillac

The pumpkin patch fence got a huge upgrade recently.

Going from a piece of cattle panel bungie-corded in place for a gate...

... to this Cadillac of a gate that Joe built. (We didn't stain or treat the wood between the previous photo and this one... I took some of these pictures during an evening when the light was just fantastic... the sky absolutely glowed. That's why there is a color difference from one photo to the next.)

It took him two weekends to build it, using mostly scrap 2x4's left over from the fence and leftover pickets. He cut each picket to size, trimming the bottoms so they would clear the thick flagstone "welcome mat" at the entrance to the garden.

I love the gate latch, it's heavy cast iron (I am partial to cast iron), and we got it at Home Depot. We bought several different styles of latches to try, not sure what would work best on the double gate, and this one ended up working and looking the best...

I think the gate is gorgeous, and am so happy to see this part of the fence finally finished.

Next will be filling in the upper, open areas of the fence (between the pickets and the header) with a metal framework. We're still playing around with ideas, but we want it to be decorative, AND keep the deer from coming through that opening into the garden.

A quick update on S (who had been staying with us while they looked for a permanent foster placement): She moved to a foster home on Sunday... Things are quickly getting back to normal here, and it's been wonderful to have a more freedom again (not needing to keep her or M in my sight at all times)... I've worked out in the garden, taken some short walks, it's been very nice. I haven't heard from S since she left but will check in with her therapist later in the week and see how she's doing...