Friday, August 29, 2014

C is for chicken....

... and cucumber.

Which, when combined, makes for some cheap entertainment.

I hung a huge cuke on some baling twine, and once they figured out it wasn't a threat, our chickens got days of entertainment from it (and so did we, they are so funny!).

C is also for construction, which is coming along well... So far the hardest part of my secret project has been all the trips to Home Depot. It's a hard store for M to visit and he frequently wanders off, and R won't even come in... she'd rather sit in the car... so I tend to be distracted (trying to hurry, and keep track of M, while still finding what I came in for!) and I forget things when I'm distracted.

But it does seem to be coming together... hopefully I'll have some pictures soon. (Good guesses Liese, but no I'm not making a trellis, dance floor, chicken perch or pot holder thingy. Here's a hint it's BIGGER than a breadbox... :)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

a secret project

I'm working on a secret project.

Secret because Joe isn't crazy about me building things... and my secret project involves building. As in power tools, lots of wood, and a fair amount of expense.

Why does wood have to be so expensive?

I'm trying my hand at an Ana White project... my first.

And the project instructions say "advanced" which scares me because I'm not "advanced" when it comes to building things... I'm very firmly in the "beginner" category. But she has plans for exactly what I've been needing (and can't afford) so I'm hoping I have enough "beginner" skills to get me through this project.

I don't think I'm going to tell you what I'm building until it's done.

That way, if all I end up with is an expensive pile of firewood, no one will ever know how crazy I was to attempt this project.

Here's a hint though...    This is what I was working on yesterday:

Yes, I was building in the mudroom... It was big enough (barely) warm and dry (and the lines in the tile came in handy for keeping things square).

More to come...

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Well, that was easy...

So, I've had this little fix-up I've been wanted to do to the chicken coop pretty much since we moved it down the hill and into the backyard.

You caught a glimpse of the fix up area when I posted about my little porch roof... it's right there on the left... it needed work.

Three sides of the coop "ground floor" are just closed in with chicken wire (which also runs underneath the area) but the fourth side was closed off at some point with a piece of plywood nailed on the inside...

... leaving the outside an unfinished mess of old tangled chicken wire, wire mesh, and dirt.

After puzzling for awhile, trying to think of a good, inexpensive, but attractive way to finish that side I decided to use cedar pickets and side it.

I actually had to buy a few pickets for this...  after thinking we had enough cedar scraps from the pumpkin patch fence to last virtually forever.... when I started pulling out scrap wood, I found I'd already used all the bigger ones up. So it was back to Home Depot... my home away from home.

First I cut a piece of scrap 2x4 and attached it vertically in the middle of the open space, to give more support for the pickets. Then it was super easy to cut the pickets to fit (making sure to cut off the "dog ear" end on each piece in the process) and attach them, starting at the bottom and overlapping each row over the previous row.

Here's the finished product...

So much nicer, don't you think?

I placed the first row of "siding" as low as possible, to block off a little of the open area under the coop (which is set up on paving stones to level it) to help with warmth this winter. I will probably also fill that area with mulch as winter gets closer...

Yes, I'm already thinking about winter. It's definitely felt like fall the past couple of days, and while I know we have a bit more summer left I also know winter will be here before I know it!

Monday, August 25, 2014




Outside my window... the sun isn't up yet, but the sky is starting to lighten. I love seeing the back-lit silhouettes of the big pines on the horizon.

I am thinking... about what an exhausting weekend it was. M had his birthday party on Saturday, and yesterday I entertained some of daughter K's friends from Ghana who are visiting in the U.S.... and mixed in with all the company was an emergency at the neighbors that we had to help with. I was SO tired by last night...

I am thankful... that the weekend is over. I'm ready for some calm, low-key days.

In the kitchen... I cooked all day yesterday for my Ghanaian guests. When I asked K what I should cook for them, she said "anything, but lots of it" so I made sure I had a feast ready for them.

I am creating... I've got another little project connected to the chicken coop I'm hoping to get done this week... adding some siding to an area that was never finished. I can't wait to get started!

I am going... no where today if I can help it. I need some time at home... the grass needs cut, the gardens need attention, and I can't get anything done when I'm spending my days running around.

I am reading... nothing right now, I'm thinking we need to schedule a trip to the library.

I am hoping... M's stomach does well with all the rich food we had yesterday. Today will be a "simple" food kind of day for sure...

I am looking forward to... starting work on the chicken coop project I've put off for the past week. The wood for it is in the back of the van and it's been so hard to have to wait to get started.

One of my favorite things... watching the sun coming up, which I've been doing for the 20 minutes or so I've been typing this post.

A few plans for the rest of the week... R has a ukulele lesson, I'm having some repairs done on the car, both kids have an appointment with the pdoc, and I'll probably have to take M shopping to spend some of his birthday money.

A peek into my day...

The first thing I usually see each morning... Murphy at the fence, pawing the ground impatiently, waiting for me to come and feed him.


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

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Celebration time!

It's M's birthday!

Twenty-two years ago he was born (about a month early) and began the roller coaster that has been his life.

I'm busy making chocolate chip pancakes (his favorite breakfast!), and later we'll stop at Sprouts and pick up some tofu for his favorite dinner... Without-the-Beef Stroganoff. (Since he isn't able to eat beef or pork I've had to get creative with favorite family recipes... substituting tofu in the stroganoff is surprisingly good!) I'll make a nice pineapple upside down cake for his birthday cake...

Many people probably thing of M's struggles with schizophrenia or FASD when they think of him... but those are just a small part of who he is. Just for fun I thought I'd share a little about him that most people don't know...

1. M loves trivia facts and often remembers funny little bits and pieces of things he's heard... like which type of snake is most poisonous, which can burn your skin if you touch it, and the dental characteristics of sharks.

2. M seems to have a map in his brain, even of places we've only been to once or twice, and his sense of direction is uncanny... I can't tell you how many times he's kept me from getting lost.

3. The highlight of M's day is walking up to the road and getting the mail. He literally plans his day around that event... and Sundays can be hard (no mail delivery).

4. M processes pain differently than most people. Unless it's really an intense pain he doesn't seem to feel it. (And yes, this causes no end of problems in terms of keeping him safe and healthy!)

5. M loves to play board games. We play a board game or two at least 4-5 days out of the week. His favorites are Jumanji and Zathura... both based on books.

6. M is looking a little shaggy these days. He's trying to grow his hair out... his goal is a ponytail. I'm not sure we're going to make it.

7. When M was a baby his nickname was E.T. He was malnourished when we got him (at 7 months) and his head looked huge compared to his scrawny little body... so Joe called him E. T.  It didn't take long for him to put weight on, but the nickname stuck for several years (just don't call him that now!).

Here's M on his first birthday....


He was up most of last night, too excited to sleep... I hope he has a good day today.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

coop quilt... finished!

I finished my little barn coop quilt over the weekend, and I think it's my favorite barn art so far...

I've always loved that barn red paint (the name of the paint is "barn" and it's a Sherwin Williams color) and especially love how it looks paired with white.

It ended up taking three coats of white to cover, so I spent a fair amount of time sitting out by the coop painting... (and almost as long touching up the red!)

It was worth it though... I love looking out the back window and seeing the happy little coop sitting out there...

I'm almost done fixing it up... I put trim pieces around the opening from the coop into the run, and yesterday had some fun building a little roof over it out of some scrap piece of wood and galvanized metal I had laying around.

Yes, it's totally unnecessary... it was a just-for-fun little project.

I still need to add a door into the coop (right now it's just some wire on a frame held up with carabiners), I'll probably work on that today. I found some wood for it yesterday (Thank you E!) and cut it to size, today I'll finish painting it and hopefully get it hung.

Look... even the hens are enjoying their little bit of barn art!

Friday, August 15, 2014




Outside my window... the sun isn't up yet... early mornings this week because Joe has had to be at work early (and I'm the backup alarm!).

I am thankful... for so many things... right now, especially, for my children and grandchildren's health.

In the kitchen... M's gut is doing well enough that I've been able to have a bit more freedom in terms of cooking. For the past few weeks every evening has been a dilemma of what can I make for dinner that he might be able to eat? He's enough better now that I have a little more leeway in what I serve...

I am creating... a bit of barn art, and a little mando music when I get the chance.

I am reading... Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance. I picked up a few books on chicken keeping the last time I was at the library... most were pretty dry, but this has been a fun read. 

I am hoping... M's gut continues to work well enough to get by. He hasn't been sick for several days which has been wonderful!

I am looking forward to... seeing S later this morning. Her foster mom is bringing her for an overnight visit. This is the first time I've seen her since she moved into her new foster home, and I miss her.

Around the house... I'm already making plans for fall/winter projects. I'm looking forward to fall and having more time for inside work.

In the garden... pumpkins are growing like crazy and the onions and carrots are doing great, the peppers are producing but not well and the tomatoes just aren't happy at all. I think I'm going to move them into the big garden (from the little kitchen garden) next year and see if they're happier. 

One of my favorite things... Irish dancing (my older girls danced for 10 years). I found this video taken at the wedding reception for two dancers from the "Lord of the Dance" show. It's awesome... and brings back so many memories. Enjoy...

A peek into my day...

a couple of chick pics...

This is M's hen... Sara Kane

Hazel and Lilly:
"Do you have any treats for us?"


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

Thursday, August 14, 2014

a newsy little update

So... no pictures of a finished barn quilt on the chicken coop today. We ended up running all over town on Tuesday, so I had very little time to paint... and yesterday an old friend spent the day, so no painting then either. It's supposed to rain today, and S is coming for a visit Friday-Saturday so Sunday might be my first chance to really spend time outside painting.

Since I have no "after" pictures, I thought I'd post a quick update instead...

M is one week away from his 22nd birthday... and is unsettled. He's always unsettled around his birthday, and unfortunately this year is no different. It doesn't help that his gastroparesis has been flaring up for the past few weeks, and he's thrown up more than a few of his bedtime medication doses. His schizophrenia meds are truly what keep him connected and reasonable... he can miss a dose here and there, but not many, without causing problems.

I do think the gastroparesis is finally calming down again, thank goodness, he's made it through two nights without vomiting. I think the cause of this recent flare up might might have been the Ensure I started giving him a month or so ago. A friend, who is a doctor, suggested it when I mentioned his weight loss to her... but I think it's just too rich for him. Unfortunately, he's down about 30 lbs over the past couple of years, and can't afford to keep losing like this. So, it's back to the drawing board... finding ways to get calories in, without triggering another flare up!

M's back is still an issue, and things seem to be at a standstill in terms of treatment. His spine doctor wanted him to stop wearing the brace (apparently, wearing it for too long starts to be counterproductive...) and ordered an MRI which was done several weeks ago. The doc said he'd call to let me know the results of the MRI... but despite multiple reminder calls on my part, I'm still waiting for the results. (grumble, grumble) The MRI will (probably) show either a fracture in his vertebrae or a malformed vertebrae... and which one it is should help steer the next direction we need to go for treatment.

R is spending the month running back and forth from Mr G's house, taking care of his horses. He's hired her to feed, groom, muck stalls, etc. It's only for this one month (neither of us thought it would be a good commitment to have during the winter) and she's already looking forward to the end of those early morning (and evening) bike rides down the road.

The chickens are great... none of them has been eaten yet... (thank you coyotes for small favors!)... and they are laying well. I do enjoy watching them pecking and scratching around in their run, and after a few treats of apple cores and salad scraps, they are SO happy to see me each day... They come running as soon as I show up at the gate, checking to see if I've brought anything more exciting than their regular chicken feed.

I'll close with this picture... of the miniature pumpkins in the pumpkin patch. It's only about 2" tall right now, but perfectly formed. It will be fun to see how big it gets!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

a miniature barn quilt

If you've been reading my blog for long, you know I love barn art...

I added a little personality to my barn back in 2011:

And last year I painted a barn quilt on our shed:

So, of course, there was no way I wasn't going to add a little art to the chicken coop.

That almost square little door was like a blank canvas... calling to me that it needed a tiny barn quilt.

So, I'm giving it what it needs.

I found a nice design last week... (a full sized barn quilt that's for sale... wouldn't it look nice on your barn?)

And yesterday I started by measuring the door, getting the math figured out, and making a quick half-size pattern to follow.

I love the symmetry and order in quilt blocks, and this turned out to be an especially easy pattern to draw. I basically just marked out an 8x8 grid (each section 2.5") on the door and added the few angled lines and it was done.

The only complicating factor was the 2.5" piece of extra wood on the hinge side of the door (probably there to give the door a little extra strength), but it ended up being almost exactly 2.5" wide, so it wasn't hard to incorporate into the pattern.

Since it's such a small area, I decided to try taping the sections off (usually I just paint freehand)... but that ended up being a bad idea. I did get some nice straight lines but the tape messed up some of the original red paint, so I have a little more touch up on the red than I was anticipating.

So I'm free handing the rest, and the spaces are small but not too bad.  I am having to use an artist's brush for the whole thing, it's just too small for a regular paintbrush!

It works best for me to outline the space first, then fill in the middle. You can see my lines aren't perfectly straight... but that's ok... barn art is meant to be enjoyed from a distance, and none of the little wiggly spots in the lines show up from even a foot or two away.

I got about 3/4 of the first coat done yesterday, I'll go back out today and finish up the white (2-3 coats) and touch up the red tomorrow and it will be done.

A sweet little barn quilt for a sweet little coop.

I'll post some pictures when it's done...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Happy Monday

Crazy Casa K

What makes me happy?

"Hay Day"...

The day the year's hay gets delivered.

It was yesterday.

Oh yeah....a full barn is nice.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Colorado skies

Yesterday was cool and by afternoon storms had started rolling in.... I love watching them race over the hills to the north of us, it's easy to watch their progress as the rain (or snow, depending on the season) gets closer and closer until finally the first drops, or flakes, splatter on the north side windows.

I could sit outside and watch the clouds all day.

Rather than fill this post up with a lot of words, I thought I'd share a few of the pictures I took yesterday of the clouds...

Evening... sun going down...

Thursday, August 7, 2014

busy days...

The chicken yard is done... the coop is moved.. and our chickens are safely moved in and doing well.

It's been a busy couple of days!

I love our little coop... I found it about a year ago in my neighbor's trash pile... It was a little rough, but my "chicken partner" neighbor (who shared our little flock of chickens and kept them on her land) and I fixed it up.

It's still a work in progress though... Yesterday I put trim around the little window, and today I'll trim out the rest of that side... match the nest box side. It also got a new coat of paint (leftover barn paint), I do love the barn red with the crisp white...

The coop sits outside the chicken yard fence, but snug against it, and I cut a hole in the fence that matches the opening out of the coop, then stapled the fence to that side of the coop. Not only does that save space in the chicken yard (which isn't big anyway...) but I can clean the coop and gather eggs from outside the yard... easy peasy!

To finish up the chicken yard, R and I bent a piece of cattle panel and created an archway over the gate...

In addition to fancying up the gate, it gives a place to attach the tree netting to.

The entire chicken yard is covered with tree netting to keep the hawks out. I had a few branches that were hanging low and had to come off the big cottonwood that ended up inside the fence, so I cut the highest branch off about a foot from the trunk of the tree, added an open eye screw to it, and use that hook to hold the tree netting up... kind of circus tent style. The sides of the tree netting are attached to the fencing (and arch) with zip-ties.

The hens settled in quickly (despite Cody getting into the chicken yard the first evening and chasing them around!) and seem happy to dig and peck around in the dirt and mulch.

It was a lot of work, but I'm so happy to have our chickens right outside the back door. We bought these chickens as tiny chicks last spring, and they've lived in the shared coop at the  neighbor's ever since... It's very nice to just walk out the back door (instead of through the front pasture and over the hill) for fresh eggs!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


... is the mother of invention.

Yes, necessity is too...

...but boredom (and schizophrenia) was the fuel for a little inventive fun M and I had yesterday.

He's been sick a lot the past week or so, his gastroparesis has been flaring up and he's thrown up his evening meds several times. Consequently, he's been more obsessive and unsettled lately... getting stuck on things, unable to shift gears, and just generally unhappy (and making everyone else unhappy at the same time).

Yesterday afternoon he was so unsettled... and nothing seemed to be helping him relax... even offering playing a game.... which is almost always calming to him.

He was too unsettled to decide on a game...

So I made him a new one.

While he sat on the front porch, unhappy, unable to make a decision, and too unsettled to focus on anything...

I grabbed a chunk of 4x4 left over from the pumpkin patch fence and quickly cut it into 5 squares (each ended up about 3.75" per side).

M was already coming to look for me in just the 10 minutes it took to do the cutting, so I grabbed the drill and a big drill bit and headed out to the front yard.

I didn't tell him what I was working on at first... trying to pique his interest... and it did. He was focused, watching me drilling for a few minutes and quickly realized I was making a die.

By the time I'd started drilling the second wood cube, he was excited and saying I should make five of them... which I was... so we could play yahtzee (one of his favorite games) with them... which had been my dastardly plan all along.

I didn't take time to sand them, since I knew he wouldn't be able to maintain focus for that long, so there were a few splinters, but otherwise the game was a success.

I chalked out a huge scoresheet on the small paved part of the driveway and we got a fair amount of exercise tossing the giant dice and then gathering them all back up again for the next "roll".

I beat him 301 to 273... I rolled a yahtzee.

By the time we were done playing, he was much more settled... the novelty of the game, and the bit of outdoor exercise seemed to have interrupted the stuck place he was in and the rest of the afternoon was much easier...

I'm still picking splinters out of my fingers though, I think I'll sand our new dice down before our next "yard yahtzee" game.