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Sunday, December 4, 2016

We Bought A Barn

Yep, that's right.  I finally worked up the courage to sign on the dotted line and order our barn.  GULP.  It should be delivered and built sometime in January, as the weather permits. 

We went with a Cleary Building that is 30x40 feet with two 8 foot long overhang porches on each long side.  (Not included in the footprint measurement.)  This will provide additional shelter and watershed for the windows and stable doors.  We chose antique bronze for the entire building, no trim colors, and a deep rust red for the roof.  From the street, the steel will look like old, deep brown wood panels, and the roof, like a rusted tin roof.  The windows will be white, as that is the only color they come in and I haven't decided what color to paint the doors for the humans.

Now that the contract was signed we had to make haste and get the pad built up.  As you remember, the garden was the only close to flat bit of land we had on this property.  With that completely stripped out, the pad builder could more easily see the slope of the land and gave us a quote.

With impending, possible horrible weather on the way, I called to let him know that sooner would be better to work on the lot.  Once my hill gets wet, it becomes a slip and slide.  Seeing as he would need to bring in 6 fully loaded trucks of earth, he agreed to come last week.  The lowest end looked like it was only 8 inches from the highest corner of the land, which we needed to match.  (We don't dig into the hill to build.  The water runoff would undermine the foundation and cause for a wet barn interior.)  After the landscaper began working and put his laser to work, it turned out the 8 inches was closer to 18 and the lot didn't slope in just ONE direction, but in TWO.  So 6 loads of earth turned into 15!

Three Days later, my wallet now much lighter, we have a flat area for our barn.  It will sit and wait patiently for the barn raising.  In the meantime, Mother Earth will snow, and rain, and settle the earth.  (Earth mover worked three days at 45')  The day after he finished we got 4 inches of snow.  The trucks never would have made it.

Meanwhile, to save a little of my sanity, I decided the new barn needed its own painting.  Not just a simple barn quilt square this time.  Nope.  As a nod to my Pennsylvania roots, this barn would have an Amish Hex sign on it.  Full of history and meanings, I spent several days designing and drawing the pattern out.  It would need to be much larger than the standard 24 inches to be seen from the road.  I decided on a 40 inch circle and pointed the fiberglass steed towards the local big box store for plywood.

I also picked up a quart of base paint.  Instead of using a traditional stark white, I went with a slightly tinted white which leaned towards almond.  With the barn being a deep dark brown, I felt true white would be too stark.  For the other colors, I already had several small jars from other projects.  I did pick up a botanical green, a deep red called No more Drama, and an orange called Inferno.

Back to the workshop where a nail, piece of string with a loop, and a pencil worked to draw out a circle for the jigsaw.  After the shape was managed, a quick few passes with the sander on both sides gave me a great surface for the primer and paint.

Both sides were treated to two coats of paint and primer.


I then transferred my drawing to the board. (The drawing looks off center, but it is the camera angle.)

It is always the first brushstroke that makes me nervous.  After that initial stroke, creativity takes over and the only thing that slows me down is slow drying paint.

I started with the Distelfinks. This was done in the Turkish Tile Blue of the front door.

I added some white to the paint for some rosemal effects and to add dimension. Traditionally, there is a heart above the birds.  As I cannot stand the heart shape, I had to be more clever.  Watch the space between their tails and between their faces.



For their crests I used Behr Tropical Skies. It's kind of an electric Teal Blue.  I added white dots of decreasing size.



Red ring to match the DunRovin' Station star ring, the laurel wreath, and tulip get their first coat of paint.


Eyes are added and the book of knowledge.

Bird beaks and tulip leaves and stamens.


Tiny dot details and the Tropical Skies waves/ raindrops take shape.  Phases of the moon are added
and it is then I realized I was missing a wave to the right of the tulip.

I added an acorn to the bottom.  The stamens kept grabbing my attention.  It looked like a bug with
its antennae sticking out of the tulip.  After Doc looked at it, he saw slug eyeballs from the children's movie Epic.  So here's our little secret laugh.


Here it is completed.  It still needs 4 or 5 coats of polyurethane, but I've got time to do that.  It will hang on the barn, facing the house so that we can enjoy it.  (See the two negative space hearts?)


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Day Trippin' - Wayne, Ne

It was another one of those gorgeous Fall weekends that we were blessed with this year.  In fact, it wasn't until just this past Thursday that we finally plummeted from daytime temperatures in the mid 70s and low 80s to highs in the 50s.  Sure we were well below freezing at night earlier in October, and some in November, but the daytime temperatures have been fantastic!

It was on one of these amazingly stunning weekend days that I told Doc that I had seen a new shop in a "local" town on TV.  It was featured on a show that I record every morning and then watch as time allows in the evening.  The show features state points of interests, market and weather news, and brings in local speakers to inform viewers on crafting, cooking and farming trends.  It is quite well done and always interesting.  The show, Pure Nebraska, archives its episodes online so you are welcome to view them as you wish.  As a person that enjoys visiting the locales, the only thing you have to really look out for is that they do, occasionally, recycle some of their stories.  So it really is important that you make sure that the place you are planning to visit is still in operation. 

On this particular day, whether the shop that had been featured on the show was still there or not, was not an issue.  The town was interesting enough that it would surely be an adventure on its own.  If nothing else, the drive was a direction we hadn't gone yet, so the scenery was new.  Harvest was in full swing, and colour was exploding around the countryside.  Doc agreed to being dragged into the sunlight.  So with camera in tow, we hopped into the car and pointed her North.

Wayne is a SOLID two hours to our North.  There isn't a whole lot between here and there, but we had amazing things to look at.  As we drove, I made note of several sites that I wanted to photograph on the way back.  We also passed through a slow moving cold front, so our sunny warm skies were replaced by leaden clouds, threatening rain, and winds that howled across the empty prairieland. 

As if setting the stage, we approached the village of Pilger, which was practically wiped from the map by twin tornadoes just two years ago.  If you didn't know that, you'd never know it by the looks of the town.  All of the damaged homes were gone.  Lots were empty, but the grasses had taken hold.  But for the few verdant lots that had concrete steps standing as resolute witnesses to the homes that once belonged there, the town looked great.  Businesses have been rebuilt, life has moved on.

We pressed on.

Mile after mile, hill after hill, one farmstead after another snuggled in, sheltered from the wind in its cloister of trees.  We pressed on.  After it began to feel like we were on a never ending river of tar treadmill in the Twilight Zone, we crested a hill and the town of Wayne laid sprawled across the valley below us.  I didn't know what to expect, but I certainly didn't expect to see a city as large as it was.  A village, a town, a hamlet, yes, but I did not expect to see a full sized city.  (That'll teach me not to google before I go!) 

Wayne is a railroad town, which means many of its older structures are made from precious brick.  When you are close to the supply line, it makes it more financially feasible to use the heavy material.  Remember, trees were few and far between back in the day, so brick was the obvious, long lasting material of choice, but hard to ship far from the rail lines. 

It is also a thriving area for lumber, grain, and is the home of Wayne State University.  So the city is a hub for several of the surrounding counties.

Some of the buildings were quite memorable so the camera had to come out.


The brick on this church is a real eye catcher.  It reminded me of tiger butter fudge,
a deep rich brown and raw sienna/umber striped brick. In the intermittent sunshine,
the pattern just explodes.



Most of the main downtown area was destroyed in a massive fire in the late 1880s.  The buildings
that went up to replace them are stunning in their small details that go
missed by the casual observer passing through town. 

A remodeled building on the west side of the main street has shopping
below and apartments above.  The designer decided to replace the old time
advertising in the windows.  Sometimes it's worth the extra money, eh?

Looking North in Wayne.  The old downtown area is a mix
of old buildings and new shops; thrift, antique, gourmet food, coffee, clothing, and
professional shops line the lower levels.




The main purpose of the trip was to find and explore the Rustic Treasures Antique shop.  The episode featured a HUGE room filled with bee boxes that had been cleaned and were being sold as art, repurposed furniture, or as the foundation for repurposed items, like chalkboards.  The crazy collection and the passion of the owner on the show, begged a visit.

After a two hour drive, despite a stop in Pilger for junk food snacks, I could hear Doc's stomach growling from my side of the car.  That's never a good thing.  So we opted for lunch before we vanished into the bowels of an antique store. (Read: I get easily distracted and eating takes a backseat to exploring.  Dory the fish has nothing on my attention span!)  The town has several college town staples, and oddly enough, many steakhouses (must be a railroad- feed lot thing), but we ended up at Dairy Queen, where we KNEW food would be fast and hot.

Then we were OFF!  We found parking right in front of the store, which usually means I won't find a darn thing.  If I'd parked three blocks away, in a blizzard, uphill, and my truck was full of stuff I meant to take out, then I would have run into a free gold plated bedroom set.  I was hoping that my luck would be different this trip.

Upon opening the door and entering the shop, I KNEW it was different.  It was like that scene from every movie, when the unsuspecting main character opens a door, and the lighting changes, and uplifting magical fairy music starts playing.  Well that ACTUALLY HAPPENED! Ok the music was coming from the coffee shop inside the antique store, but the sentiment was totally there.  I distinctly remember saying "WOW" when I stepped inside. How a place can be cavernous, chaotic, eclectically mish mashed, and meticulously organized ALL at the same time is beyond me, but it was!

I did a quick glance around to get my bearings and to figure out a general plan of attack.  I didn't want to miss one tea cup, one antique salad spoon, or ceramic pug dog.  One of my favorite antiquing things is to find a shop that has yet to either be discovered or whose owner has not been tainted by the dreaded "but it sold on eBay for" disease, both of which drives up prices to unrealistic values.  This store was free from both.

My insulator coat rack - $5


It is filled with consigners, but was not done in an obvious booth setup.  The owners saw that the shop was meticulously maintained and organized, and that items were constantly moving around the shop, and that holes were filled.  An item in one spot may go unnoticed, but move it and suddenly it's the star of the shop.  As we wandered up and down the isles, creating a "save it for me" pile at the front desk, I couldn't help but to notice the amazing architectural details of the building, and couldn't help to notice the LACK of the wood walls and shelving and beekeeping supplies I had seen on the show just the day before. 


Perplexed, I asked an employee about the bee boxes.  He said that the room full of bee keeping supplies was in the basement and the whole area was off limits to the public as it is a safety issue (no fire escape access).  He then followed that with, "BUT the owner is having lunch, and I'll ask him if he'll take you down when he's done."

Tripping hazards, uneven floor, stacks of antiques, low ceiling, hanging wires, old stock, no marked fire exit vs. private showing?! BRING IT ON!

Folks, the basement was amazing!  The history of the building above practically oozed from the uneven old concrete flooring.  The leftover glass shelving remains of the now defunct Ben Franklin craft store lay stacked in a back corner, a silent witness to change.  As old light switches were flicked on, the glow from several old incandescent yellow bulbs illuminated the shelf upon shelf, upon shelf of wax trays, queen separators and bee boxes. It went on and on, back to the dark recesses of the old basement. 


The owner went on to explain what little he knew of the building and how he came to be the owner of all this sweet goodness in the basement.  He had gone to an estate sale, which had been a former apiary.  Upon seeing ONE bee box, he just couldn't leave the rest behind! Now could he?  So they all followed him home, and he sorted and power washed each and every piece, and meticulously dried and placed them lovingly on shelves.  He's figured that some people will want them for actual bee boxes. But most will want them for their repurposing value.  Old painted, distressed wood is hot right now and he has a few ideas.  The trays can be painted with chalk paint and made into rustic message boards.  Bee boxes can be stacked and topped of with their lids for a quaint storage side or coffee table.  Wax boards are art in and of themselves, but could be further sealed as serving trays.  We nodded in agreement, as I fell in love with a wax board of my own.  I sat it down so I could finish the tour.



The basement continued through an archway which had been the wall between one buildings basement and the neighboring basement, all now one property.  This room was piled with furniture, and fixtures.  There was an old room that appeared to have been some sort of large pantry with OLD wood shelving, and a large heavy door.  Further in the back, another large heavy door, reminiscent of a walk in cooler was both beckoning and foreboding.  The creepy room beyond had no electricity, so three humans whipped out three smartphones and pushed their flashlight buttons.  The cavernous space seemed to shrink from the probing lights, coyly hiding its secrets as the beams wandered the room.  One long wall held nothing but large wooden shelves, old small, used cans of stains and oils sat scattered.  The opposite wall supported a long counter, scared with long forgotten projects.  The tool racks above, empty of their charges.  A double sink and a large food warmer were all that were left. 

The owner moved quickly over these sights, as he has seen them many times before.  Instead, he focused on an odd piece of abandoned machinery on the floor.  The Doctor Jeckle and Mr Hyde quality of the room did not go unnoticed to me and this machine on the floor only bolstered that feeling.  The owner had no idea what it was.  Its knee high hulking mass on the floor was interlaced with tubes, hoses, valves, dials and gauges, and piping to nowhere.  It appeared to me to be the sick love child of Rube Goldberg and a Steam Punk fanatic.

Of course while I started to wonder where the bodies were buried, Doc was, as usual, attracted to both the mystery and the functional beauty of the mechanical beast.  As he poked and prodded, followed pipes and tubes to their ends, and pondered its use- I fully expected it to emblaze the room in light and start to scream "EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE!"  No sooner had this thought crossed my mind, and I began to wonder if I would be able to outrun both Doc and a Dalek, Doc shouted, "IT'S A GENERATOR!"  I darn near jumped out of my skin.  I'm glad I found something to entertain him.

Mystery solved, we exited the odd little room back into the basement.  It was then that I noticed something odd, well MORE odd than anything before.  For an almost dirt floor basement with raw walls, exposed joist ceilings that were only about 6.5 feet high, raw light bulbs dangling, pipes and wires exposed, there was intricate TIN CROWN MOLDING around the entire basement.  WHO would do that, and WHY?

It certainly wasn't a public space, so why on Earth spend that kind of money on putting up Tin Ceiling crown molding, and without the ceiling, which there was no evidence of ever having existed.  Odd.  We kept moving and I made sure to snag my bee frame. Now back upstairs in the land of the day dwellers, we thanked the owner for his most generous tour through time and continued to walk through the shop, where we continued to find treasure after treasure. Doc disappeared to the adjoining coffee shop to peruse the internet and to put an iced vanilla tea out of its misery. 

Knowing I had lost Doc to technology, but knowing he was safe, fed, and fully entertained, I told him that I was going to stroll to the end of the block to a newly opened thrift store.  The thrift store was owned by the same set of managers that own the antique store, so it had to be GOOD.  Being a thrift store, I wasn't expecting much.  Again, I was pleasantly surprised.  It was clean, well lit, organized and everything was perfectly priced.  All the proceeds went back into the community!  A great place.

Satisfied with a great trip, we knew the trip home was two hours long, and we were racing a fast encroaching sunset.   So with that we turned the silver fiberglass horse south and headed home.

Thanks for coming with us.




Update: Two days after this visit, I learned that supposedly the best onion rings on this side of the state are in Wayne.  Now that I know that, we HAVE to go back!

 Oh, and I JUST had to share this Treager grill we saw at a Farm Store on the way home.  I mean really, who DOESN"T need a piggy grill?!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Filley Stone Barn Harvest Festival

A few weeks ago, Doc and I decided to hop in the truck and take off for parts unexplored.  Anywhere you go here, you have to prepare to sit in the car, and sit and sit.  To make it tolerable, the journey darn well be as entertaining as the destination.  This is why we try to pick places that we haven't been, so that we can explore all new little places along the way.  Hopefully we'll find a little amazing place along the way that will demand further, in depth exploration on another trip.

On this particular Saturday, the weather promised not only to be nice, but spectacular- sunny, breezy, no humidity, and 73 degrees.  For driving and exploring, and hanging out at an outdoor festival, it doesn't get better than that!  We chose an hour and a half trip to The Filley Stone Barn
  It's not only an amazing structure for its time, but they were having a luncheon, flea market, antique car and tractor show, and showcasing harvest methods of the past.  It promised to be a lovely day.

I invite you to visit the above link to read up on the interesting history of the barn.



This was the lower level of the barn.  This is where the livestock would have been kept.  It currently houses broken gates, stall doors, and various old leather and iron tack.

 Vendors housed inside the barn on the main machine level for the festival included a glass marble maker and a sock knitter.  These knitters were given to women during WWI to knit socks for soldiers.  If they met their weekly quota, then they were allowed to keep the machine after the war was over.  They came with charts that instructed the user how many rows were needed for each size foot.  It was amazing to watch them crank out socks!

Note the axle jack on the right side that tips the
wagon to allow cobs to fall.
Outside there were wagons filled with dry feed corn.  The corn was then gravity fed and hand guided to a conveyer that shot it through a shelling machine.  This machine removed the dry kernels from the cob.  They fell into a hopper and the cobs flew from the machine like precision agricultural projectiles into another waiting wagon.

The whole process looked like a horrific, mangling accident waiting to happen.

A stunning team of draught horses pull a plow, tilling under the corn stalk trash.  The little girl is wearing her homesteading dress.  This is common for 4th graders here.  They spend the year learning about state history, culminating in a week of dressing up and going on experience immersion field trips.

 Also on hand were manual corn shellers, corn crackers, a couple pressing sorghum canes and boiling down the juice to sorghum syrup.  There was a booth full of classic pioneer toys.  The field had a working water windmill and a hand pump, which the children were encouraged to check out.  The adjoining field was lined with restored antique cars and tractors.

 The historical society put on a pot luck lunch inside the barn.  It is a jaw dropping, amazing place.  The floors on this level are wood planks that are 3 inches thick and the open hay loft is just amazing.


Vendors outside were a mix of flea market and local people that market big name products, which didn't hold any interest for me and honestly kind of ruined the whole ambiance of the historical location and event.  There were a few people there selling farm antiques, food, and farm products like eggs, milk, cheese, baked goods, and goat soap.  I was shocked to see that there was NO ONE there making and selling apple butter.  I guess that's MY thing.  If I didn't live so far away, I'd volunteer to do that every year!

It was a lovely day!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Projects and Treasure

Between bouts of the craziness; football games, the beginning of a new school year, volunteering, gardening, the fair, and all the little things that seem to gang up on us and steal time away, we managed to sneak away and find little escapes.  Occasionally, I managed a small project or found a little treasure to add to a growing collection.
The not so small project is one that is hovering over my head like an elephant.  Now that's an image, isn't it?!  We have 4.5 acres that has been hayfield, but I don't like the look of the scraggly hay.  I don't like having to wait to have it mown in August for cattle hay.  And I really don't like the hiding places it affords to predators and deer.  After it was hayed the last time, I decided to keep it mowed.  I started by splitting the field in half and mowing one half each time I did the yard, about every ten days.  But it was far too thick in places for those areas to wait almost 20 days between mowing, so now I just mow it all at once.

It's a tricky mow.  There are hidden holes that will jostle you right out off your seat.  The whole thing is a giant three sided bowl with steep areas, if not cut correctly, make you feel like you're going to slide right off your seat. I've tried many patterns of cutting to find the right path for both sanity and safety.  I finally figured out that just mowing east and west and west and east is just fine, if not tedious.

So now we have a stunning, clean, well manicured 4.5 acre PASTURE.  Pasture means critters.  Do you know how many critters I can put on 4.5 acres?!  A LOT!  The mind goes wild with miniature cows (wouldn't those freak out the cattle next door), horses, sheep, llamas, or alpaca.  The rolling green field needs, nay DEMANDS, critters!

(We can't say that we weren't warned that chickens are "gateway" livestock ~Doc)

But if you are going to have livestock, you need a place to put them.  I am NOT building another large structure.  Design, yes.  Help, yes.  Supervise, yes. Pay for, ugh, yes.

I have auditioned several local out building companies.  One never returned my call.  One wasn't interested in doing a building that was ONLY 30x30 feet. One has been not only very nice and patient, but also comes highly recommended by friends that have also used them.  I had a design in mind and actually found out that a neighbor down the road has the same building.  Upon checking it out, I was sold.  We did find out that for only a little more money we could upsize it to 30x40 feet.  So it is silly not to.

The free space of the pasture is a large square.  We had planned to put the barn on the Northwest corner and then eventually run a fence from one corner of the barn, around the pasture (with a few access gates thrown in) and back to the other corner of the barn.  The problem was the slope of the land.  The landscaper that came out to give us an estimate on the pad for the structure hesitated.  When he did I knew it was going to be far too much work, which translates to time and money, for this project.  He would have to use twice as much dirt as normal to build up an area large enough for the building requirement.  I looked at him and said, "tell me the ONLY place on my whole property even close to being level enough is where I have my garden."

He looked over his shoulder at the 1200 square feet of meticulously fenced and manicured garden and said, "yep."

UGH.

So, dear readers, I spent the whole next three days taking apart the garden. 

 This of course brought about a great deal of debate amongst the flock.  While they were all for me taking out the annoying fence, thereby shortening the waddle from the coop, around the fence, and through the narrow 5 foot wide gate to the deliciousness, they were a bit befuddled by the open freedom.  Once a quorum was reached, they voted that it was a good thing and while I dug out what seemed like a million concreted cedar posts they ripped out field peas, devoured mint plants, dug grubs, and tried to race my shovel into the hole with their delicate little necks.

Even more fun prevailed when I took the tractor and removed an 8 inch deep layer of mulched hay, exposing a whole hidden world of ants, pill bugs, worms, grubs, greens, and best of all, dusty bathing dirt!  When I used the tractor to move the three compost piles, you would have thought I announced a dress sale in the basement of a 1950s movie.  I swear I actually heard the chickens squeal with delight upon exposing all the goodies that were hiding beneath compost.  Not to mention all the old tomatoes that made a run for it when I lifted the pile!

When it was time for them to go to bed Wednesday night, they looked like a poor woman two weeks overdue.  They could hardly waddle for having played outside all day, and filling their crops to almost dragging.  We saved on the chicken feed bill this week!
Playing in the invisible barn.

6 hours on the tractor later with the rake and harrow, and what is left is a clean, almost flat, hard packed earthen base for the pad for the new barn.  The pad guy will come in the next few weeks to raise up the earth to prevent water from racing down my hill and THROUGH the barn.  I am sad to see the garden go.  I don't think they'll be one next year, but I will be planting some sorghum, sunflowers, and some kushaw squash on the hillside. 

kushaw squash
Speaking of the hillside, I have one area that cannot be taken down with the mower.  It is raised so the septic line far, far beneath it is protected, but the mower bottoms out on it when I go over it.  So the solution was simple: fill it with something else.  Right now the grass is short, but I'll let it get tall.  It is also filled with wildflower seed.  The blue and the orange houses mark the limit area for the mower.  Since I took this photo, I've added two more.  But that's enough. Our little Norwegian village on the hillside. I just love the brightly, happy colored buildings during both the green and white seasons!

Speaking of brightly coloured buildings.  On a recent 'should have bought a squirrel' drive home, I spotted far in the distance BLUE!  You have to understand this is very conservative country.  People are comfortable with traditional building colors and rarely let their adventurous side show.  Sure there are RED barns, but those are SO traditional, that they may as well be the more common, brown, umber, sienna, grey, or white colors so frequently seen across the countryside.  So to see BLUE was an eye turner during the raw umber landscape sheering of the bean harvest.  I HAD to see this spread up close.  Luckily a grid system state makes that relatively easy.  Imagine my surprise when I came across not just the blue barn, but also a stable, cow shed, machine shop, chicken coop and OUTHOUSE! They were all the deep bright blue of a swimming pool liner! 

On a recent trip to Wayne (more on that later), we also came across not one, but TWO HOMES painted in the same teal as our Oodalolly Chicken coop, and one PINK schoolhouse!  I guess the bleak landscape does occasionally drive the bold and creative to go for the color in their life!


Pretty empty out here, eh?

Now it's time for a couple of projects INSIDE the house.

Project 1:  I had a brilliant idea late at night for a little corner that was just screaming for SOMETHING to fill it.  My solution was to hang a saucer from each of my china sets.  I use English plate hangers which are hidden from view, unlike the traditional ones with 4 grabbing fingers and springs you traditionally use.  I've used them for years with great luck and highly recommend them if you have plate or platters to display.  Following the directions is key to these hangers. You can find them online and at Hobby Lobby.









Project 2: A few weeks ago, a local hardware store tweeted that they were using a chick feeder (a new one with the bottom still attached) as a wall mounted holder for their dry erase markers in their employee areas.  WHAT A GREAT IDEA!  I certainly didn't want to drop the change on a NEW one, but you can always find a USED OLD one at antique shops and flea markets.  In fact, I found this on super clearance at a shop because the base had been lost.  I don't need the base!  For $1, and a quick spray of clear coat to preserve the rust patina, I have a large holder for my fountain pens, dip pens, and alcohol pens!  It's hanging with a simple loop of jute.



Project 3:  I have no idea.  I found this tiny photo at an antique store in a pile of at least 1000 old photos that had been tossed in a box.  This little antique store was amazing and the prices were still great as it was still a little-known shop.  It was, however, not in a good part of town....AT ALL.  I saw the photo on one trip, but didn't buy it then.  The image haunted me for a week until I could get back again.  She was still there. So for $1, she came home and sits on my studio desk behind UV-shielded glass.  For the time, that was one expensive outfit, let alone the cost of getting a photo done.  It was probably taken in July to boot! LOL.  Just look how adorable and proud she is.  I wonder who she was, and what became of her.  Just an amazing photo.


Project 4: I have a long standing tradition of letting things sit at my regular haunts.  I'm at them enough, that if they are still there a month later, I'll either buy it, or wait another couple of weeks.  This project/treasure was one of those times.  This amazing pen and ink watercolor of an old homestead was buried in the front room of Liberty House in Seward.  I'm in town once a week to deliver eggs and pester Pat.  I kept being drawn to this picture. 
The heavily molded, gold gilded frame wasn't even close to my style, and the white mat - well most of you know how I feel about framing things in white.  Then there was the price. Ya, way out of what I wanted to spend.  With Liberty house still for sale, after two months of looking at this picture, I finally asked Pat about it.  I told her I didn't want the frame and did she want to buy it back and re-sell it.  It turns out she had a customer that WANTED the frame, but didn't want the picture.  So I managed to get the picture for a wonderful price and left the frame there for the other buyer.  A quick trip to Hobby Lobby's frame shop and the print is now in its new forever spot on a new homestead! Just look at how that black mat makes those colors sharp and pop!

Project 5: Containing the Posts.  No, I'm not scaling back on my internet postings.  Just like any acreage, we have a huge stockpile of various posts; fence, garden, snow, electric, and horse.  For the past two years we have been using a simple storage method - cram them in the corner.  This caused some problems.
The first of which was the post you wanted was never accessible.  I swear they knew you were coming and would crawl deep into the pile, behind the rustiest heaviest posts.  When you finally found the one you needed, it would grow arms and legs and grab on to anything it could on the way out of the pile.
The second problem was stability.  These posts are heavy, rusty, and sharp. The constant worry that one or more of them would suddenly get a hankering for squishy pink flesh was ever present.  To try to curtail their appetite, we placed a large plastic trashcan in the corner to hold the largest of the offenders.  This was soon full, and five gallon buckets joined the organizational line up.  Posts were being shoved willy nilly into whatever bucket would accept them.  This brought us back to problem #1.

Then it happened.  This past week, upon opening the large overhead door, I heard the most terrible screeching sound.  It turns out the Roughneck plastic trashcan wasn't so rough after all.  It had split and tipped over, taking dozens of 8 foot steel posts with it.  As it fell, it decided that the floor would be lonely without company, and it caught all the other posts in the surrounding 5 gallon buckets.  Since there would be nothing to eat while it was down there, it took this year's sorghum harvest along for the ride.  UGH.

Upon opening the door, I was now privy to the world's largest, sharpest, lockjaw inducing game of pickup stix.  I needed to come up with a way to contain/organize/store these beasts.  I should have taken a before shot, but I was distracted by the disaster.  What I came up with is sturdy, actually has MORE storage room than the buckets, and keeps the beasts sorted and accessible. It only took me 3 hours too!

Project 6: Less of a project, and more of an adventure.  I was heading to the next town over to deliver eggs and there was a large red pickup off the side of the road with its hazard lights on.  When I was about 200 yards away, he pulled out onto the road.  This usually means that they are the lead vehicle for a large combine or slow double long grain hopper.  So I slowed down, and just as I crested the hill, I saw no machinery, but I did see a herd of horses on the road.  UGH.  Stray livestock.  Good country neighbors don't turn their back on stray livestock.  Someday it might be yours. 
So for the next hour and 15 minutes this total stranger and I slowly used our trucks to herd lost horses.  The alpha stallion was HUGE.  I have NEVER seen an Appaloosa as big as he was.  Where he went, the others followed.  The guy in the red truck was pretty sure what field they escaped from (2 miles away) and who the owner was, but didn't have his contact number.  So over and through barren bean and corn fields, over broken fences, and ditches and down the center of a few dirt roads went the 5.  Once they got moving they knew what direction they wanted to go, so the beasties have done this before.  At one point, we got them near the pasture fence and Mr. Red Truck undid the fencing to let them back in.  The lead stallion would have none of it.  They turned on him and headed back my way.  Putting the truck in reverse for half a mile to the intersection to run interference, the herd followed my truck and at the intersection turned East.  They trotted about  a quarter of a mile down the road and just stopped.  It was then I saw the hidden cut in the high grass.  THE TRAILER entrance!  I parked the truck, and slowly walked past 5 flighty, weighty animals and prayed the gate didn't have a lock on it.  It didn't, just twisted wire.  Pulling the gate open and blowing a mighty whistle, the alpha came running, the rest of the herd following.  Phew! I earned that McD's Frappe!

For our next adventure, I'll take you to Wayne with us! See you then!


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

I know why they call it Fall...

Because you have so much work to do before winter brings its icy chill that you work yourself neigh on to falling over every day! 

The past four weeks have been a blur of activity thanks to some seriously FABULOUS weather.  September into October can either be stunning (which it has been), or go to Hell in a Handbasket (which it hasn't).  The days have been getting alarmingly short rather quickly, but the daylight we have had has brought us light breezes, dry air, and temperatures in the 70s.  I couldn't possibly pass up that combination to work outside and built the addition to the chicken run.

One fine October morning I just started working on it.  Plain and simple, out of the house and started digging holes and sizing up walls.  I can't tell you how nice it is to have the supply of lumber and concrete and all those other building necessities just sitting in the barn, waiting to be used.  Before we settled down, every time we had a project, we had to buy all the materials for that project.  We didn't have room to store things.  I'm not saying I didn't make my normal million trips to the hardware store or lumber yard, but having the basics just around made things a little easier.

I no sooner walked down the hill with my can of marking spray paint and a 2x4x10 and every fiber of my body instantly remembered how hard construction was.  The falling into bed exhausted from a day of construction in the elements, keeping house, volunteer work, and herding a teenager.

I had an idea of what I wanted.  Basically it was a lean-to addition to the main run.  The birds needed more space, more shade, and a wind block.  Even on a sultry summer day, the howling winds would send them, feathers blown asunder, to seek shelter either under or in the coop.  The lean-to design would allow them another 100 square feet, would have windows that would open and close, a real roof, and solid walls.  With the windows open, wind would flow freely.  With the windows shut, air could exchange through the main run and, by extension, the addition without blowing all the feathers off the birds.

I wanted to continue to use the tipping wing on the east side of the old run to provide winter shelter and a rain shield, so the height on the run was determined by the closed position of the wing.  The height of east most end of the new run was determined by how far I was willing to stoop to work in the new run combined with the necessity of making the new roof have a functional slope.  I also wanted to be able to make the most of dimensional lumber whenever possible, with as little waste as possible.  What I ended up with was a high end of just over 4 feet, a low end of just under 4 feet, a run of 8 feet and a roof slope of 7 degrees.

It sounds all so meticulously planned.  It wasn't.  I had the whole thing on a napkin and in my head.  I just had to rally my body to get with the program.  For such a small project, and an easy plan, it was made ridiculously complicated by the speed at which it had to go up.  Sure, I was facing an ever collapsing window of amazing weather, but the real trick in timing was the order things HAD to be done in for the security of the chickens. Besides the normal order of things, Job A then B...  I couldn't take part "C" before "B", and couldn't install windows before cutting out the hardware cloth wall between the new and old sections or I'd be trapped in the new addition.  I couldn't install the windows without the sashes.  I needed the hardware cloth from the old walls to use on the interior of the windows.  Everything had to be ready and in place for the day I would cut that wall down.  Once the security wall came down, there was no going to bed until the addition was a fully secured Ft.Knox as well.

See how that would add stress?

That said, should we start?

The location was locked in, so I just needed to finesse the size.  8 foot wide would allow me to use 8 foot lumber.  Handily enough, I can get 8 foot lumber in my truck.  10 foot boards, I can only fit 4 as they have to sit up on the dash.  12 footers, well, those have to ride diagonally out the passenger window.  So I do prefer to keep the world to 8 feet when I can.  As for Plywood.  Sigh.  4 foot wide pieces will NOT fit in my truck.  It drives me BONKERS.  So while I was digging post holes, I was pondering what to do about the walls and roof.  But I digress.

First things first, the post holes.  I literally placed a scrap 2x4x10 on the ground marked at 8 feet, lining it up with the existing run wall and sprayed where I wanted the post to go.  I did the same for the other end and used a scrap 12 foot piece to make sure they lined up with each other.  I dug out the
 holes, with lots of help from our overly friendly construction overseers group, and tossed in 4x4 treated posts.  These were leftover from another project.  I sunk them about 20- inches deep and set them in concrete.  When they were fully dry a few days later I cut them to the length I wanted.



I painted a 2x6 to the coop run to add as a header and support for the roof on the run side of the addition.


I temporarily screwed a 10 foot piece of 1x2 to the old run and ran it out to the post to determine the slope of the roof.  From there, I was able to attach my 12 foot header from post to post and make it level, cut and attach the 2x4 end roof supports on both ends and trim the 4x4 posts.  Treated and painted 2x4s were laid on the ground and a 2 foot wide piece of hardware cloth was attached to the wood.  It was then tacked down with landscaping staples.  The hardware cloth will simply vanish as the grass grows up through it.

The windows are all salvaged from the local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.  They all needed a good scrape down, sanding and filling, and several coats of white paint.

Here's were it got tricky again.  I needed the windows to be flush mounted with the walls.  The opening had to be smaller than the windows, so that when closed, rain wouldn't find its way in.  My east end windows seemed HUGE! I didn't remember them being so big and swore I had purchased similar, but smaller windows.  After tearing the barn apart, and not finding them, I figured I had just remembered incorrectly and pressed on with fitting the addition to the new windows.








To make the opening for the windows, I measured the interior dimension of the windows.  This is where the 2x4 stud in the wall would be, and where the siding of the wall would be.  I centered my openings and put up the studs.  Once the siding was on, I would make frames to overset the windows and hinges.  The north end window is simply a permanently closed picture window, but the framing was the same.  The window on the south end is a flush mount window, so the studs needed to be right up  to the edge of that window.  Once the studs for the window were in place, it was time for the roof.

Since it was almost, but not quite flat, I decided to treat it as a deck and framed it as such.  The rafters are every two feet on center and there are plenty of cross supports. As for the plywood.  I decided to have them cut it into 2-3x4 foot pieces and 1-2x4 foot piece.  All of which fits easily into my truck.  I decided I wanted a slight overhang on the ends, so 12 feet of plywood left me short, so a scrap piece of 1x10 from the barn allowed me a little wiggle room.  The small difference in thickness is lost once the shingles went on.  The shingles were also from HfH and only cost me 3$ a bundle instead of $40 a bundle.

While this roof didn't need a second hand to put on, it sure did help and was appreciated.  Doc and I managed it in 4 hours with him cutting and me nailing.  I am sure at this point the neighbors thought I was nuts again.  Here was this big roofed monstrosity, attached to a giant BLUE monstrosity, and this one was WHITE!  What must they have thought?!  I know I must  provide great entertainment :)

I took a one day break at this point.  So far (not including concrete dry time) I was up to 4 days.  Saying I was sore was an understatement.  I decided to clean the garage from its summer of making piles and dripping mud.  This is when I found the two windows I KNEW I had purchased earlier.  They were smaller, but the window openings were framed and I was NOT going back!  While I cleaned I pondered the additions walls.  I COULD use plywood, like I had on the main coop.  Placing large pieces up on the walls, tracing the openings and then cutting them out, but I wasn't sure I was up for figuring out the piecing since I had areas that were over 4 foot and many openings.  It just seemed a waste of time and energy.  I decided on board and batten.

The number of 1x10s I needed were about the same cost as the same sq footage of plywood, and was thicker and of better quality.  I could certainly get it into my truck a lot easier.  I could also cut it to the exact length I needed on the chop saw (note to self, the chop saw only cuts to 8 inches- nothing a quick flip and second cut cannot fix.)

Once the walls were up, it started to feel like I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Sadly it was just an oncoming train.  There was no going in for the day when the last board went up.  I had to get at least two coats of paint on it before the rain came the next morning.

Two glorious days of clouds and gentle rain forced me to think about the next step; the elephant in the room step.  The addition had a roof and walls, and window openings, but no safety wires IN the windows.  Once I snipped the wire walls between the two halves, it would have to be a full steam ahead day.  NO stopping until the unit was secure again.  I stood in the old run with the wire cutters in my hand, chickens at my feet.  As soon as they figured out wire cutters aren't for them, they left me and my deep thoughts for the grasshopper infested pasture.  This was it, no going back.

snip, crack....the bolt cutter made short work of the first panel of the wall.

I had the header board ready and prepainted.  This board sandwiched the remaining top of the hardware cloth by the wing to the header board on the addition.  I also had the smaller 1x3 boards that were to cover the raw cut edges of the new opening between the runs.  I did one opening at a time, so I could protect the birds from those sharp edges of the demon wire.  You really have to watch this stuff.  It's amazingly sharp.  At one point I pushed the wire into the new addition, out of my way to make cutting easier.  JUST as I thought to myself, "watch out that it doesn't kick back and smack you", it did.  Right across the end of my nose.  Mercy it bled and bled and bled!  Two wires punctured and scraped.  I looked like I had had a fight with a snake!  Dealing with that took almost half an hour! 



With the panels between the two halves open and safe, I needed to move on to the window openings.  I used the large pieces of hardware cloth for the openings.  I had JUST enough.  The wire was attached with large nail in staples and then covered with wood trim, which further secured the wire to the structure and also covered up those raw edges.




It was now time to move on to the large windows themselves.  The North window simply screwed in place and was eventually trimmed and painted. 

The South window simply screwed into the opening and then the raw window opening was trimmed out.

The East Windows were just a tad more work.  But not much.  Remember the windows themselves are larger than the opening.  To install the windows, I measured and cut a 2x4 to the length of the top of the window, PLUS 7 inches.  I attached this header trim to the top of the window using heavy duty hinges.  I screwed this to the run so that the window was centered on the opening.  I then attached the left, right, and bottom trim - all 2x4s, leaving a gap around the window so it would not be hindered in its swing.

The original plan was to use a hook and chain to lift and hold the windows open at various degrees of open, but the windows were just too heavy.  I have found that a simply scrap of 2x4 is not only easy, but very sturdy as a prop.  I can still get many degrees of open.

I also added barrel latches to secure the windows.

The only remaining thing was to add the battens.  For those I used 6 foot lengths of lap attached with tack nails.  Three coats of paint later and the whole thing was done.

I went back in to add PVC feeders to the joists, not for feed, but for calcium and grit.  (Using them for feed has NEVER worked for us.)

I also have hung a mirror and added their mini ladder to play on. 



I also had to build them a new outdoor play roost ladder as I had to move the old one to open the walls. 

As long as I was dirty, I decided to finish off the nest box in the coop.  What started off as a 3 over 3 nest box, evolved into a two plus a basket over 6.  The basket was such a huge hit, that I removed the hard two boxes and added two more baskets.  I remembered that occasionally rain DOES come in the window above, which used to drip on to the nest box roof, which was now gone.  I rebuilt the roof and simply used pieces of 2x4 as front supports.  It's more popular than ever.

I then remembered that I had two plastic wall mount nest boxes and added those for the girls that just decide to lay al fresco on any given day.  They are a huge hit.  Even the rooster got in on it.  However this was NOT appreciated by the girls waiting in line.
Yes, HE is in there.

When the girls had pretty much denuded the grass in the addition, I added a whole bag of pine shavings.  Since I cannot stand up in the new addition, I will not be practicing deep mulch composting in this portion.  The old portion I add hard mulch and pine shavings to balance food scraps and chicken poo.  When it composts down, I can easily shovel out 10 wheel barrels of fabulous black earth!

The girls are loving their extra space and are crazy happy.  They now have 300 sq feet, which still gives me plenty of room when I let one go broody in the Spring.  It was a super project, but I am sure glad to be done!