Saturday, March 31, 2012

That Easter Bunny!

The Easter Bunny has gone wild here.  She (Queen Latifah Chicken) has laid her eggs (or they just fell out when she wasn't paying attention) under the rooster, in the coop, in the corner treat boxes in the coop, by the feed barrel, under the tree, under the Chicken Buffet, in the hen yard, and on the grass.  She has high points for receiving the most comments about her egg laying habits.  But this is way over the top.

Extreme nesting.  

It's a wet day here in Oregon, gray, windy, with steady rain, sudden gusts, and  brief torrents.  I needed my work rain parka for all of the outside  Things I get to do today.  As I slung it round my shoulders and slid my arms into the sleeves, I noticed a heavy lump in the left chest pocket.  My hand revealed the truth--an egg.  It must have been that Easter Bunny.  She's the only one who ever drops her eggs outside the nest.

I'd better have a chat with her.  First thing you know she'll be laying them in my back pants pocket.  If I can't get her to understand, at least I'd better remember to check my pockets when I come in from the coop.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Getting Even

I can't believe I made it worse.  When I finished a long-overdue correction on our outdoor seating area,  I held up the camera to document my success and was stunned to see that now the trim board was way crooked instead of merely crooked.
Outdoor seating area*--the trellis will come straight
up from the planter box and fasten in to the
structure just above the decorative rail.

The kiwi will need a trellis soon. My brain has been all a-buzz lately looking with my mind's eye while shaping this trellis in my imagination.

The narrow darker brown rail closest to you runs
uphill on the right side.
My tape measure says it's 1" too high.

Imaginations are good for a lot of things, but especially for creating stuff.  That's really the God part of us.  The people part of me has drawn most of the plans and is ready to go--except for the uneven trim .

Now it really goes uphill!

Even though it's drizzling today, my resolve to correct the trim remains strongest of all the Things I get to do today.  And in just a few minutes, really, it is done.  That's when I did the reality check.  Gasp!

Straight at last!

The only real damage from the glitch in my reasoning was nails holes that reveal the truth of my carelessness.  I'm headed off to the store right now to get wood putty to fill them in before my hubby sees them.  Don't tell, OK?  Bet we can slip this one by.

Original holes plus carelessness holes
 That's why wood putty was invented.

*We're looking for a good name for this seating area.  What would you call it? Add your suggestion to the comment section.  Thanks.

Thursday, March 29, 2012


Stand on one foot.  Now, stand on the other foot.  Now, let out a squawk.  That's the Lady-in-waiting dance.  In royal courts, ladies-in-waiting were companions and fancy servants who excelled in etiquette, conversation, dance, and making music.  In the hen club, a lady-in-waiting does all that of her royal counterpart, but in addition, she is ready to lay an egg.

Queen L dodging the paparazzi on the lower right
Miss Lena pacing and tending

Queen Latifah Hen reigned supreme the other day as I was checking off various Things I get to do today from my list. Her shrill shriek had the other hens giving their heads a snap to shake the sharp edges of the sound out of their ears. Since they think I'm the head rooster, I trucked out to the coop to see just exactly what was going on.

Miss Lena mid-cackle as Katy heads toward the nest

Latifah was on the nest, the special throne nest, to be exact.  There are three nest boxes, and occasionally eggs show up in the other two.  The middle box is the preferred, however, and Latifah was taking her time. Lena Horne Hen, Second Lady-in-Waiting, paced back and forth keeping her company, chatting quietly, and intermittently giving a cackle to make everyone aware that something important was happening.

Katy ready to slip in on the right.
When an egg is on the way, a hen needs a nest.

Near as I could tell, the problem was that Miss Katy Perry Chicken, Urgent Lady-in-Waiting, wanted to lay her egg--soon.  Every time she moved toward any of the nest boxes, Queen L would shriek.  It sounded like short-speak for "Off with her head!"  Fortunately there were no soldiers to carry out the orders, and in time Katy was able in sneak into the nest box along side, lay her egg, and get the heck out of there.

It is getting close to Easter.  Latifah, aka, The Easter Bunny, for her habit of dropping her eggs all around the coop and the hen pen, needs to be cut a little slack here.  She had, after all, figured out how to sit on her throne and wait.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Righting the Rain Barrel

Dried mud-coated landscape fabric "carpet
"Sweep and mop the garden paths" was not on my list.  But I did it anyway.  I'm not OCD, but convincing the woman walking by on the path (rather quickly, I might note, saying only "Hi.") would have been difficult.

Things I get to do today included, however, checking out the rain barrel.  But it all started here: Some years ago landscape fabric was placed between the garden beds as weed control. Changes in the garden had left slimy puddles in the paths and borders of weeds. A willing weekend guest offered his outdoor services, and we went to work, pulling up all the fabric, leveling the surface underneath, folding the fabric "inside out," and tacking it back down.  The bottom side of the fabric had a thin coat of mud on it.  How that could happen in Oregon is no mystery.

Barrel, listing slightly to the left,
leaking it contents into buckets

Here's where I get to vindicate myself.  I am totally fine with the mud on the path carpet.  As it dries on a sunny day, I'm OK with the dusty dirt.  But the rain barrel was listing to one side, and we had already had soil shear failure this past week when my rhubarb leaf bird bath tipped over.  If the rain barrel goes over, the damage is real.
Empty, plumb and ready for rain

Righting the rain barrel means it has to be drained first.  Using the available hose on the barrel tap was so slow that the predicted rain would fill it up before all the water had dribbled out.  I decided to let it flow directly into buckets.  But what to do with 55 gallons of water when nothing in the yard is thirsty?  I sloshed it on the garden paths--all seven of them--and broomed them down while the next bucket filled. I was just finishing up when the woman walk hurriedly by.

Swept and mopped.
Ready for bare feet in the summer

Perhaps there should have a sign on the fence that says:


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hot Chicks in a Box

Lazy, sunny, sublime

My babes found the sun.  I planned to build them a bath house so they could flup, flup, flup in the dust, and there would always be dust.  It was on my list of Things I get to do today--someday.  But after long weeks of rain, they were longing for that big, warm ball in the sky, just like every other Oregonian I've talked to lately.

Don't suppose the hens will ever grow tall
enough to need the vertical support

When the Vertical garden beds were built last spring, several were positioned in unused space next to the south side of the house.  I'll bet a nickel that Allen Fell, developer of this great idea, convinced as he was about the practicality and versatility of this garden design, did not foresee this particular use.

Hen Heaven

The earth in these boxes is a bit sandy and also drier than the other beds. The girls piled in, flopped over on their sides and lazily basked in the best of both worlds, earth and sky, eager for a dirt bath in the gentle warmth of the spring sun.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Chicken Pro/Garden Pro

Blue Scotch Kale
stripped to the ribs by hens with good taste

"Short speak" can be confusing.  Pro means professional or pro can be short speak for protection.  Chicken pro means protecting the chickens. I may give that up for spring planting.  Just to drop a hint, here is a close-up of what my previous "Instant Gratification" Garden looks like since the hens have had full run.

Peas ready to cover with 1" of earth

Soft, freshly turned earth calls to a hen like nothing else in the universe.  The worms send out a special tractor beam that just draws them in.  The girls, knowing that I create soft, freshly turned earth, follow me around the yard ready to spring into action.  So right after I planted peas and potatoes, Installing Garden Pro was on my list of Things I get to do today.

Peas planted and pro-tected

I want the peas to come up naturally as a result of earth, water and time causing them to send roots down and stems up.  Chickens can make peas come up faster than anything else I know--up and all over the place in less than ten minutes after planting.

Half-planted potato bed well protected

The potato garden is in the back corner, a place the chickens currently call their own.  They can have it for another couple of weeks, and then the fence goes back up.  Until then it potato pro trumps chicken pro.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Get a Grip

Everybody's eager to get cleaned up
I recently read this "high and mighty" blog about keeping ones tools in good condition--it got me thinking.  And while prettying up the garden paths yesterday, I picked up my "loop hoe." I recoiled instantly.  Ick!  Aack!  The handle was prickly with tiny, furry slivers.  Gloves allowed me to finish my job, but "tend the tool handles" went right up to the top of the Things I get to do today--as in NEXT.

Slivery and nasty to touch,
Much like finger nails on a blackboard

This is a two-person job, it turns out. One person holds the hoe (shovel, rake and pitchfork all got in line right away as well) and rotates it slowly. The other person guides the belt sander back and forth. All the old gray comes right off!  But the loop hoe is still furry and nasty to touch.

A light sanding with finer grit paper is the obvious solution. What does a sanding block for a tool handle look like?

Use a 4" long piece of 3/8" thick foam pipe insulation.  Fold the sandpaper in half and secure it with double-sided tape.  Stuff it into the foam and sand away.  It takes a little practice finding the right grip, but you'll get it.
Lined up by age.  Oldest at the top--Shovel, then rake, pitchfork.
Loop hoe at the bottom--the newest tool.

A generous coating of waterproof wood protector, half an hour in the sun, and another light sanding and they are done.

An interesting observation from this task:  The shovel is perhaps 70 years old.  The handle was gray and silky smooth to touch before this work.  The loop hoe is less than 10 years old, and its handle is barely acceptable to the hand even now.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


I'd been putting it off.  A retired seamstress/dressmaker, I know what kind of fabrics give me pleasure in the handling and process of constructing a garment.  Supple, natural fibers that press nicely and release the fragrance of their origins delight me immensely.  Greenhouse fabric is woven plastic, stiff, unmoving except to slide around, and one would not ever press it.  The Things I get to do today must include having Handy Andy dressmaker  build one Big Mama Dress.

Vertical Garden* retrofit with shelves

Last fall one of the Vertical Garden frames I had built was modified to spend part of its yearly cycle as a greenhouse (see "Zippers and Studs" October 15, 2011).  The shelves are spaced for maximum solar benefit and, when the plant-baby season is over, can be removed to  allow growning-up plants a strong support.

"Fabric" 12' wide and 50' long--don't need that much

But the greenhouse comes first.  Out with the plans.  Remeasure the structure and check against plans. Unroll the fabric.  Measure.  Cut fronts (center and sides), sides and top/back. Install the zippers.  Cut vents.  No words are available to describe the sewing process except that it was way too close to a wrestling match.  No blood and no final bell, but I won--pinned that sucker to the mat (sewing machine) and ended up with the enclosing part of the greenhouse--though there was little satisfaction in the process.

How to get this over her "head"
Where is her head?

Amazingly, the "dress" fit the oddly built dame in the garden.

All snuggled up

All farmers know the basic rule "Make hay while the sun shines."  Get the structure up, then fill all the containers  with seeds eager to sprout and sing in the sunshine.

Unzipped to welcome the sun

Unzipped, the front rolled up, the south side provides a perfect setting for seed song.
Recycled lettuce tubs to be filled
with potting soil and seeds

*Vertical Gardening by Allen Fell, Rodale Press.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Telling a Better Story

 I'm a straight-facts person.  My husband and his family are story tellers and find most undecorated accounts of an event to have undeveloped potential.  With the right details "enhanced," the whole family may be confused, but at least they are laughing.

Try this quote on for size:  "Telling many good-feeling short stories throughout your day will change your point of attraction.  Just remember that the story you tell is the basis of your life.  So tell it the way you want it to be."*

Today's weather--in my mind

Let's tell more stories to create good health, abundance, and joy. Let's describe graphically the details of our creativity, our talents and the best we have to share. Let's practice looking at our future and creating with our thoughts and words the finest outcome we can imagine.   That really means "decorating" and developing the "potential" of all situations.  Time to let go of the "straight-facts," I guess.  Things I get to do today: learn to be a better story teller and really enhance the "facts."

I'd like warm, sunny weather, so here's my better-feeling story:  I see and feel myself standing outside in the freshness of the morning with the warm, loving sun snuggling me all over.  The birds are alive with the early morning twitters, and the whole garden sparkles with potential.  I breathe in the glory of Divine Energy and bask in the delicious miracle of the earth.  I know that one of these days soon warmth will return to my town, and I'm eager for its coming.  I love knowing that everything is in order and will come about when it is ready.  Right now, I'm going to make something cuddly warm to drink and find a good book.  All is well.

*Abraham-Hicks.  Daily Quote.  March 21, 2012.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Swift and Simple

Knitting season has been officially extended by another couple weeks. Maybe it's the groundhog's doing, but it's another good thing about the snowy stuff that came down all day today.  It seems like I got fired up late in the yarn year, so I appreciate the extra time to finger the fibers and needles to see what will come forth.
Adjustable for various skien sizes

Ease in life comes from simple tools that work well.  I've found mine.

In cahoots with the wool winder

I've wanted a yarn swift for some time but have been stubborn about paying nearly $100 for something I "need desperately," would have to store, but would use infrequently.  And then I found the simple version--an Amish style swift.

This baby is truly SWIFT

One quarter of the cost brought it right to my door.  And the yummiest of Things I get to do today is try it out for the first time.  Sweet!

Not the best part, but close:  storage is simple

I'm in love already.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cinderella Planters

We got high-centered--all of us--caught on the fence between winter and spring.  Our hearts surge forward, wanting to plant, garden, and flower; and then it snows on us and pours so much rain that every step toward the garden leaves miniature foot-print-sized lakes behind us overflowing along our route.

Neglected, frosted, ugly planters
But what is a heart to do?  Mine was pumping with the emotion of earth and beauty for the Things I get to do today.  And before me, while the rains held back the tears measured out for today, were the dregs of several planters--left behind--too ugly to be invited anywhere.  Surely I could be distracted from the garden-spring thing by coming to the rescue of these tired plants.  It's an opportunity to make something from nothing.  That's the sort of juicy challenge any Handy Andy would adore.

So get to work.  Grab the gloves.  Pull out all frost-killed plants.  Remove all dead leaves and leggy stems from the remaining live ones.  Divide clumped and overgrown plants.  Repot them like a group photo shoot: short ones on the front edges, medium and tall in the center and back.

Added kale (new dress), primrose (sparkle) and parsley.
The rest (slippers) were salvaged from the two "uglies"

The winter was rough on the houseplants that had migrated into the original arrangements. Even combining the two planters there were not enough growies to fill the larger one that sits on top of my rain barrel.  A little wandering through the yard, however, yielded part of a clump primroses that needed dividing, a handful of Italian Parsley* and one healthy kale.

You can do this, too.  Come on, be a Fairy Godmother to your tired, tattered, and tarnished planters from last season.  Give them new sparkle, find a pretty "dress," and clean up the "slippers."

*See "Italian Generosity" posted November 14, 2011.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lovely Lingerie

Undergarments hold a certain fascination, don't they?  Covering the remaining layer of nakedness provokes a curiosity in the beholder.  What lies beneath the thin cloak?

Alone with the snow

I shivered.  Soft crystals floated from the sky onto my hat and shoulders. The stillness was complete.  When the Things I get to do today includes cross country skiing, the visual pleasures of the quiet, mossy forest are beyond most words.

A beauty in her underwear

 I've been fantasizing about the firs in their thin, slip-like dresses for nearly a month.  Cold and clothed. Wooly but flimsy.  Gray trunks and moss-draped branches.  The lovely undergarments, draped over the tall slender bodies, floated lightly in tints of green tea.   Nature plays the alluring game,  and I'm hooked.  Naked would not be nearly so stunning.
Wooly not warm

Monday, March 19, 2012

Down Side of Down*

Sometimes there's no turning back.   This is one of them.  I'm not fond of making a mess, and I have to admit, right here at the beginning, that had I been able to undo what I had started on this project, I may have done just that.

The down comforter that covers our bed, and us at night, makes me swoon.  It's light and warm and fosters a feeling of cuddled bliss even if the bed is cold on the first edge of the nightly plunge.  I love it.  Except of one little (big) thing.  The pockets of down across the top, that part that is over our neck and shoulders, seem to be really skimpy on fluff stuff.  They are totally stitched around so nothing has migrated with the geese when they went south last fall.  However, regardless of the thin covering, we've certainly survived the winter.  Spring is nearly here.  It could easily be set aside until next winter.  But wait!

A 25-year-old down vest hangs--unused for the last  20 years--in a distant closet.  So many reasons this garment is no longer in active service--too short and too fat are the main ones.  "Too fat" makes it the precise antidote for the "skimpy" comforter.

Vacuum container emptied into plastic bag.
Vacuum filter still totally clogged with down.
My Handy Andy head has been circling the situation and the Things I get to do today looking to find the best way to funnel the down from the vest-flown-south to the top pockets of the comforter.  This blog will spare you the painful, long version of all that happened next.  Short version: slit open down pouches in the vest. Vacuumed out the down.  Plugged up vacuum with down.  Transferred down to large plastic bag.  Down is expanding more and more.  Down must be condensed to be stuffed into small seam opened in the comforter.  Stop to "think" this through again.  Cleaned up vacuum and put it away.

Inside of eviscerated vest.
Down escaping.

Begin again.  Gather vest, comforter and myself to my sewing machine. Open a comforter pocket seam to receive the down.  Slit a pouch in the vest.  Thrust my hand in, forcing down to the end of its pouch.  "Grab" as much as possible.  Slowly extract my hand.  Hold my breath so as not to cause more movement of the down "cloud" surrounding my hand.  Insert hand into comforter.  Release.  Very sl-o-w-ly extract hand.  Repeat.  Sew up the seam pocket.  Turn head away. Breathe.

Finished, puffy-pocketted comforter
I now understand how geese and other birds fly so easily.  Their downy covering is so light it floats up and away.  The birds just flap their wings and use their tails to direct their flight.  Their feet/toes hold on to the branch to keep them from drifting up and away when they are intending to stay put.

*"Down" should really be called "up."  I couldn't get any of it to come down.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Back Out to the Woodshed

Earth-speckled baseplate and firewood
There was mud on my wood.  The wood I stacked and stored lovingly and carefully was all dirty. (Shouldn't the sweet attention I gave it make it stay nice?) And there was mud in the sides and front lip of the woodshed as well. Ick!

Fine tuning is an art.  For some when a project is finished, it's finished.  If there's a problem, well, just too bad because enough effort has been contributed.  But my brain constantly is creating preferences, tweaking, adjusting for practicality and precision whenever possible.

Trench lined and ready for gravel

The woodshed was such a lovely rush--design, build, and fill--that the result of the recent rain startled me.  The wood was safe, finally.  But when I went to admire the project for the fifth or sixth time during the rainy next few days, the mud, mud, mud on the shed and stored wood made a gritty, wet grab for my attention. This mud thing set my mind spinning to fine tune the design's best next step.

Let it rain.  Wood should stay cleaner and drier

It turns out that the muddiest of the Things I get to do today is dig an out-sloping trench and fill it with gravel. Pretty simple solution that will dovetail with the rest of the plan to put in a few stepping stones as well.  Let it rain.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Nested or Perched

We all like storage space in the kitchen.  Haven't met anyone who has too much, though the workmen when we remodeled a number of years ago were certain I would be the one.  When I cleaned out the kitchen cupboards awhile back, it seemed smart to sort everything, donate stuff I didn't use, and make sense of what was put back which would give me more space.

Unruly serving bowls.  Nesting is not their thing

What I found was that some newly-acquired, already much-loved serving bowls were little trouble makers in the cupboard because they were not compliant nesters.  Who knew nesting was a necessary quality in the kitchen.  Turning the unwilling-to-nest into cooperatively organized dishes now stacks up on the Things I get to do today.

They are all very happy to perch

I'm a great believer in turning parts of my world upside down.  Here's a safe but terrific place to start.  Kitchen tip: to stack identical bowls, place one top-down on the shelf and perch the second one on its flat bottom.  Too simple to qualify for a "tip?"  Well, my sweet, cluck-cluck hens enjoyed hearing about it. And it prevents chipped edges on the lower bowl when taking the top one in or out of the cupboard.

Friday, March 16, 2012

This Blogging Thing

Just needed to catch your eye
and tell you something personal*

My techno skills are improving.  Slowly. Many of you are whole gigabytes ahead of my understanding.  But some of you are just like me.  You like to read, and you read things on the computer.  You read this blog.

Here are a few tips I've learned about communicating (with me, if you want to) and responding to the blog.  At the bottom of the day's story there's a line of icons and the "comments."  It tells you how many folks have already had something to say about the post.  If you click on that, you can read those comments. There's a place to either add your "comment" or to "reply" to a comment. Pick the one you want.  Write your comment. Select your "commenting as" (if you are not a follower, just select Anonymous at the bottom of the list, but be sure to sign your name in the post so I know who this anon person is.)

I reply to every comment, but you will know that only if you check back on that blog.  So continue the conversation with me, if you will.  I appreciate your sharing your thoughts.  I'd like to hear from all of you: the ones in Belgium, in Turkey, in Russia, Canada, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brazil, UK, Germany, Portugal,  and in the USA.

Thanks for taking this journey with me into the common and sacred moments of every day life.  We'll find ourselves and each other there.

*We all know that pictures are worth a thousand words.  This picture really says, "I LOVE YOU" to all my readers and to my blog.  Consider yourself hugged today!