Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Restoring The Old Barn

It looked neat from the back porch. Kinda picturesque. But it really wasn't functional at all. Roughly one hundred and fifty years ago the center section of the barn was an old wooden corn crib. Then at some later date they added on to it. Then even later, the original owners of the current house on the property added on with the metal siding and it seems it then served as run-in shed for livestock.

We really don't have enough of the original farm acreage left for cattle. But it wouldn't be a bad little shack for a few sheep and maybe a goat or two. We also need a place for storage so something with doors to keep the bats and raccoons out would be nice.

So the engineer has been plugging away at making it functional again.

It's an interesting project. Most farms now days just knock down any old structures and throw up the new fancy metal pole barns. It's certainly more cost effective to do it that way. But there's something about this old barn that speaks to us. It's been through several reincarnations already. We would like to give it the respect it deserves. But the budget says it also needs to be within reason. So we're doing what we can in the spirit of the recyclers who came before us and we're even doing it without power tools. Okay, HE is doing it without power tools. I just take the pictures.

If you have sill plates that look like this you have a problem. The south-east corner of the barn had a few issues and was literally disintegrating.

So the engineer fancied a new sill plate and is replacing the old bowed and rotten barn siding that was no longer really attached to it.

Below you can see the new barn siding on the left and the old on the right. Once the new boards cure a little he's going back and adding battens in between. Did you know that's why there is such a thing as a batten, to hide the gaps?

We're saving as much of the old barn siding as we can. I'm sure we'll come up for a use for it someday.

Inside, the old corn cribs are coming down and short walls are going up to make stalls. There will be a subfloor put in over the doorway so we can store hay above the stalls along both sides of the barn.
This small section is ready to be a sick bay. Since we have a sick bay on the back porch for chickens we figured it would just be a matter of time before we needed one for one of the four legged animals. There will be a small door leading out to a separate outdoor pen.

It's a lot slower than putting up a fancy metal pole barn, but I think ours will have more character.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Porch Chickens

Remember Bumblefoot Beth? The worlds most expensive chicken? The one the vet tried to build a little cast for?

Well she's been living on the back porch again for the past few weeks. She and her sister, Sammie. They seem to have a recurring case of bumblefoot. This is at least the third time we've had them inside. Sammie is healed up again and was just released back into the chicken run.

Beth still has a little bit of healing left to do. I will say having them on the back porch certainly makes egg gathering convenient. Although the announcement of the egg's arrival can get a little loud at times.

I'm starting to think they are somehow causing the bumblefoot on purpose in order to come in and get special treats and foot rubs. She makes the softest, sweetest cooing noises when she's getting her feet wrapped. I think I'm actually going to miss her when she goes back outside. Maybe we could just keep her as a porch chicken?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Chicken In A Bread Pan Pickin' Out Dough

I can't cook. There. I said it. Now the whole world knows. I have a lot of skills. I can do a lot of things. I'm very talented. I can even cross one eyeball at a time. But I can't cook.

Oh, I try. I have a small list of basic meals I can throw together and we somehow survive. You know like pot roast, meatloaf, pork chops, hamburger helper. Thing is, all the more fancy meals seem like such a huge waste of time. And then there's all the clean up after. I have better things to do with my time. The real problem is that I never learned how to cook in the first place. My Mom was of the same mindset and never cooked a lot either. But I married into a family of cooking women. It's so bad my sister-in-law bought me The Complete Idiot's Guide to 20-Minute Meals one year for Christmas (which I love).

But occasionally I get the urge to move out of my 20-minute comfort zone and try something new. Seems like every year about this time I get the hankering for homemade bread. My mother-in-law can whip out a batch of bread in her sleep. In fact that's all they ever eat. I've watched her make it and so I basically know what it's supposed to look like when it's done.

This is not what it's supposed to look like. I'm pretty sure it was supposed to rise.

Every year, in the fall, I try to bake bread. Every year it fails miserably, I feed it to the chickens and then give up. But not this year. Nope. This year I don't care if it costs me $847 in baking supplies, by golly I'm going to make a loaf of whole wheat bread. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Squirreling It Away

The squirrels have been keeping the dogs busy this week. They dash out into the yard, grab a walnut and run back to their hole in the tree as fast as their little legs can carry them. The dogs lay on the back porch and watch for them out the window. When Lucy spots one she starts barking her head off. I let them out and the big dog, Bandit, follows even though he has no idea what they're after. Half the time he doesn't even run in the right direction. At least they're getting some exercise.

I figure the squirrels know what they're doing and judging by their frenzy I've decided it's time to inventory my own nuts. We live far enough from civilization that running to the store in the middle of a snow storm isn't really an option. So it's clean out the freezer week around here. I have a lamb and a pig on order and I want to defrost the deep freeze before they get here. (It's supposed to be frost free yet there's over an inch of frost. Why is that?) Anyway, so far I've been able to make up some normal meals with what's left but we're quickly heading into the more, shall we say, interesting combinations. I figure if I throw enough barbecue sauce on just about anything they'll eat it. But, um, does anyone have a fabulous recipe for pork liver?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Puppy Dog Eyes

I should probably just go ahead and have the word SUCKER tattooed on my forehead.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Golden Girls Get Spa Treatment

Just like dogs and cats, sheep need to get their nails trimmed occasionally. It prevents them from getting gunk stuck in their hoof which could then cause hoof rot and other issues. It doesn't hurt them at all and is no different than clipping your toenails.

While we were driving home from picking the sheep up from Theresa's house this spring I decided they should be called The Golden Girls. We had only know them for a few minutes and really had no time to base their names on their personalities, but somehow I nailed it. They couldn't be any more suited to their names if we'd known them for years.

Blanche was first in line for her spa treatment this morning. And in fact was a little disappointed to find out they weren't also getting facials. You see Blanche is the girly, girl in the group. She loves fashion and makeup. She wears weeds like a broach and minerals like rouge every day. She also loves to gossip.

Then there's Rose. Sweet, innocent Rose. Rose has been halter trained but she forgets. In fact Rose forgets everything every day. She kinda lives her own version of 50 First Dates.

Rose: "I don't want to die! Please don't lead me to slaughter!"

You're not going to slaughter, Rose. You're just getting a manicure.

Rose: "But I don't' know what a manicure is. Please don't make me. It must be something awful. I don't want a manicure."

Oh for crying out loud, you're just getting your nails done, Rose.

Rose: "Oh hey, this is kinda nice. It's so pretty from up here"


There are no pictures of Dorothy getting her pedicure. Dorothy is a character. Dorothy is also the Engineer's favorite. Dorothy doesn't have any pictures because she was getting a personal massage and being spoiled rotten by the Engineer while I was trimming her nails.

Sophia is the older, wiser gal in the group. She's no dummy. She avoided the halter quite well once she figured out what was going down. But she loves attention and it only took a few minutes of petting to convince her to go ahead and get this over with.

See girls, that wasn't so bad after all was it?

*silence, crickets chirping*


No animals were harmed in the production of this post. And in fact all received animal crackers and belly scratches for their good behavior. Er, well, Rose got one, too.

Darn Rumors

Word must have gotten out that I was planning to do hoof trimming today.

Dorothy: "What hoof? I don't have any hooves. Heck I don't even have any legs. Do you see legs?"

They're not going to make this easy on me are they?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sit, Stay, Good Dog

Willa has got to be a candidate for Best Dog Ever. She has bonded with the sheep beautifully. Playful but gentle. She lays around with the lambs and even licks their ears. They don't mind the ear licking. They even seem to enjoy it. The bum sniffing though they could live without. Especially Sophia. Bum sniffing is off limits with Sophia. For the most part Willa has been accepted as one of the flock.

My Dad always said you could gauge the intelligence of a puppy by the size of the lump on it's head. If it had a large lump it was a smart dog. Old wives tale or not there's at least some truth to it in our case. Willa's lump is huge. She's mastering her commands in no time flat. Bandit, our shelter dog, on the other hand doesn't even have a lump. He's still working on sit after four years. Hey, I'm just sayin'.

We've only had one teeny, little, understandable issue with Willa so far. When I let her mingle with the chickens for the first time one afternoon she was fine and acted like she couldn't care less about them for the first 15 minutes or so. Then after a while she tried to introduce herself by sniffing some chicken bums. Chickens are not accustomed to having their bums sniffed as a greeting. Needless to say chaos ensued. Per the hen's request she's going to have to grow up some more before she'll be mingling with the chickens unsupervised.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Mystery Mission Challenge Revealed!

I am finally able to reveal the end product of my Mystery Mission Challenge project! Our assignment from Quilt Guild Headquarters was to exchange 6.5" squares with the selected individuals in our group. We could decide how many and what style. We were only allowed two other fabrics of our own to complete the quilt top. And we had to meet at least once to discuss the projects and get to know each other a little better.

In our little group of three we had three different taste preferences. (I think they did that on purpose.) So naturally it wasn't easy to decide on a theme. We really had no choice but to go scrappy with it, much to my delight. I love a scrappy quilt. We did, however, all agree that we liked the same pattern from Nickle Quilts and realized we could still make each quilt our own just by the border choices and quilting designs.

I wanted to make mine look old, like a vintage quilt. So I chose reproduction fabrics for the border and backing. Then just quilted simple straight lines (or as straight as I'll ever get them, I don't know why I have such a problem with that.) It still seemed a little contemporary so I tea-stained the entire thing to tone down some of the brighter colors just a hair.

We did the big reveal tonight at our quilt guild meeting and the quilts were a big hit. It was a lot of fun to see how different each quilt looked with the different border choices. I thought Elaine's brown fabric really made all the other colors pop and Judy's floral print gave it more of a blended look.

It was a really fun project to work on, although there were times I thought I was in over my head. Best of all it was a really fun way to get to know some of the gals in our guild.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair

Lucy watching squirrels stashing walnuts stolen from her turf.

Uh oh, Looks Like We've Got Some Competition

Blackbeard, Old One-Eyed Calico Jack and the boys have still been practicing their dueling banjo's routine for the next season of America's Got Talent. But we hear from our reconnaissance scout there is some stiff competition out there. We're going to have to step it up a notch.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Battening Down the Hatches

It's a very busy time of year around here. The race is on to get things done before the weather turns cold. We've spent the past three beautiful days getting fall chores done. Friday the kid and I did a major clean out of the chicken coop. You just wouldn't believe how the cob webs accumulate in there, then the dust falls on them and it's like a scene from a bad horror movie. The chickies love it when they get new bedding in the coop although they find it annoying that their egg laying has to be interrupted in order to do so. I just know all that clucking was telling us to hurry up.

Saturday was a million little chores like cleaning the mud room, harvesting a few veggies, some cooking and baking and getting a load of straw tucked away in the barn. Found yet another source for hay so I'm trying to let my paranoia of not having enough go. It's hard being a first-time shepherd, everything makes you paranoid. I know the girls are tired of me poking and prodding on them to check and see if they're fat enough. I don't think Sophia is fat enough. Although I don't know how long it should take them to recover from having lambs in the spring. Maybe she's normal? Or maybe I should be giving her an extra boost of grain? See, it's hard. When you have newborns the doctor tells you when to start them on cereal or whatever. With sheep, nobody tells you.

Later that day, the Engineer built a new window to replace the old one on the East side of the coop. The old one was one we had found in the barn and tried to recycle, unfortunately after one year of use it was literally falling apart. Willa's first puppy training session rounded out the evening. Some folks don't bother to train their livestock guardian dogs. They don't need any training to learn how to protect their flock. They do that by instinct. But she's going to be an ENORMOUS dog and if we don't teach her not to jump on people she'll flatten little ol' me like a pancake. I could do the training without going to class, but we also need to get her used to getting in and out of the vehicle. She'll need to go to the vet occasionally and I sure as heck won't be able to lift her hiney up in there.

Greener pastures was the goal for today. Willa apparently wants to grow up and be an archeologist. She found something sticking out of the old burn pile we thought we had buried. She pulled on it and one thing led to another until there was a crater the size of meteor. So everybody moved to a new pasture today. I was afraid of what might lurk toward the bottom of that pile so the Engineer built a sieve and sifted through 100 years of garbage. You wouldn't believe the crud that was in there. At some point there must have been a tragic porcelain doll incident, there was the head of a garden rake, a Victorian hinge, some chain -- a little bit of everything. While he was busy with that I raked and seeded the perimeter of the pasture where there had been a lot of browse growing earlier in the year. The sheep did their job of clearing it very, very well. Tomorrow I'll over-seed the whole pasture with a good pasture mix to try to boost the nutrient content. Did you know September is the best time of year to plant seed?

Friday, September 11, 2009

I'll Never Forget

My internet connection has been down all day and that's okay. My television hasn't been turned on either. I don't need all the media to remind me what happened. That video clip from eight years ago is permanently etched in my brain. That day changed my life.

We lived in the city. I worked as a telecommunications consultant and was driving to see an important client. The engineer was packing his bag and heading to the airport...he had another meeting scheduled in one of the towers having just been there days before. Once I finally comprehended what was happening on the radio I turned around and went home. We, like everyone else, sat glued to the television--for days. Our lives forever changed.

I don't need television or the internet to remind me. I will never, ever forget.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My Kingdom for Some Hens

It's that time of year. Time to reflect on this season of breeding and plan the next. Let's review shall we?

First, we had Polly and her babies, JB and Jasmine. One boy, one girl. Both with muffs and clean slate legs. Perfect. Exactly what I was looking for. Didn't really need another roo, but figured I could make it work somehow.

Then, there was the great incubator disaster. One lonely chick hatched Easter weekend, after we'd given up on the batch. We named him Lazarus. This brings our total to two boys, one girl. And the poor bugger doesn't have any of the qualities I'm looking for. Not one. He's already gone to his new home.

Of course, we couldn't just have one lonely chick. Nope, we had to go out and get it some friends. Six little friends, in fact. Sir Sparky D'Uccle, his wife, Madam Mille D'Uccle, her maid servant, Twiggy, the Seabright brothers, and Cornelius. Bringing our total to six boys and three girls. The Seabright brothers and Cornelius have all found new homes.

Then there was Minnie and her babies. Please note the comb and wattles on the one on the left. Yep, he's a he. Seven boys, four girls. He's looking for a new home. She's staying even though she has a few errant feathers on her feet, she just won't be allowed to breed.

And finally, there's Wacky Wilma and her babies. Roosters, both of them. They're also looking for new homes. That makes nine boys and four girls.

All of them are very sweet, but lets remember why I have bantams to begin with...they were Dad's chickens. The only reason I'm allowing them to breed is for sentimental reasons. They don't provide gads of eggs, and even when they do lay eggs they're way too small to sell, so they really are just a novelty on the farm - pretty decorations in the barn lot. Decorations that have to be fed and watered and cared for.

So after all the work, and all the trouble, out of the four girls only one, Jasmine, has the qualities I was looking for. Well, and even that's not true. I already have plenty of black hens and really needed any other color. *sigh*

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

One Man's Trash...

Labor Day weekend came and went and can you believe I didn't take a single photo the entire time? I'm not sure I can blog without photos. I wonder if it will allow me to post without a photo? You see, I was too stinkin' busy to be messing around with my camera.

Every year the itty-bitty town we live near throws a HUGE festival and every homeowner for miles around has a yard sale. I've decided to put myself on a every-other-year schedule for the sales. One year I go to them and one year I have my own. This was the year for me to have one. So all last week I peered into the nooks and crannies of our humble abode and drug out all sorts of things that hadn't seen the light of day in many moons.

We moved into this house three years ago. I decided anything that hadn't been put to good use in those three years was gonzo. I really didn't think there would be all that much. It never seems like all that much...until you start to put it in a pile. Then the pile just continues to grow and grow and you're amazed at how much "stuff" you could easily live without. I'm embarrased to admit I completely filled my dining room. Yes, an entire room folks.

So we drug all of it out on the lawn early Saturday morning and spent the rest of the weekend studying human behavior. Because if there were ever a time to enjoy people watching it would be at a garage sale. Living proof that it takes all kinds to keep this planet spinning. Have you ever noticed that the one thing you considered just tossing in the trash is always the first thing that sells? Why do you suppose that is?

All in all I'd say it was a successful event. I was able to enjoy visiting with the neighbors and made a few bucks in the process. The best part though was getting rid of all those material things we don't really need and putting them into the hands of someone who does. A lot of the crap left over was pawned off on, er I mean the priceless family heirlooms were passed down to, my daughter and her fiance. You gotta love the young, broke college student types.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hook, Line & Sinker

Oh sure. Go ahead. Try to resist. I dare you.

You know you want to pet me.

I'm irresistible.

And I know how to work it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Love. This. Dog.

Willamina and I have been to the vet. She was poked and prodded and had her boobs smashed in a big machine. Oh wait, no that was me. Well, she was poked and prodded anyway. And she was WONDERFUL throughout the whole experience.

She's now had all her puppy shots, except one last booster and has a microchip. The first day she was here she laid down in a hollow to take a nap. I couldn't find her and nearly had a heart attack, I thought she was gone. After that the microchip seemed like a very good idea. Great Pyrenees are known to want to claim whatever territory they can see. Eventually our four foot fence could be nothing but a small hurdle for her. I want make sure we have a chance at getting her back if she decides to claim the wild west.

The Golden Girls aren't particularly thrilled with her presence yet. I don't think they understand that she's here to protect them. It's pretty funny to watch the girls stomp their hooves in an attempt to warn Willa off. I'm sure they think they're all mean and scary looking when they do that. If they were more than two foot tall it might work. But given they're just little Shetlands, yeah, not so scary. Willa just looks at them with a puzzled look as if she's thinking "Whatever."

She is showing great guardian instincts already even though she's still a baby. A 36 pound baby, but a baby none the less. She whines a little bit at bedtime, but I would too if I was taken from my litter mate and stuck with a bunch of freaky-looking, foot-stomping sheep that don't seem to like me very much.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Another New Farm Addition

After some intense hostage negotiations with the UPS man, I finally was able to receive Mildred into our humble abode today. I love everything about her. Born on June 03 in Boulder Colorado, she is a Cherry 40th Anniversary Edition Schacht Matchless spinning wheel. I can just tell she and I are going to become great friends. We have so much in common. We're even celebrating the same anniversary. ;)