Chicken Blog by Natalie

Miniature and Make Believe

Chickenblog.com - 8 hours 21 min ago
Small, tiny, little, and wee. We are making miniatures. Maria and I have become so enamored of the hobby that I decided to add a new label to our side bar. Miniatures will include our Make Believe play with small dolls, tiny figures, little dishes, and wee projects. The label is new to Chickenblog, but the obsession with small things has been with me since I was Maria's age. I still have the tiny dishes, pottery, a knife, scissors, some dolls, even an iron, from visits to Olvera Street, the mercados in Guadalajara, Esquintla, Puebla. Small toys were not only affordable, but easy to keep while traveling, moving, living in small homes. Miniatures are adorable, and have always captivated my imagination. I like them for the challenges in imagination... how to make something small and realistic? I like them for the make-believe appeal... a manageable space, where we can enjoy enacting a story, creating a world all our own. I am feeling a contentment and delight about finally unleashing my mini-obsession!

Last month I saw a picture on Pinterest of a tiny door set near the floor of a home, and it was arranged to look as though a Borrower, or maybe Stuart Little, might at any time come out, grab the morning paper, and greet the new day with a friendly, good morning! Kate's Creative Space calls them Fairy Doors. I didn't want this to be another cute thing to Pin. I wanted to jump in and play! Ironically, I haven't actually added a fairy door to our home, but Maria has had two mini making classes, and she and I have combed our home and craft stores for 1/12 scale delights! And we've been making. We love to tinker, play, and make... and miniatures have inspired all kinds of rethinking, and imagination in our making skills. We are using paper clay, and making breads, rolls, cupcakes, and vegetables. I've made a mop, a feather duster, a pencil set, and chalk, with wood and paints. It's a lot of fun seeing what can be made from a toothpick, or a bit of fabric and thread. We splurged on some little dish sets, and an ironing board, sewing machine, and gardening tools, and fortunately many of these minis can be found second-hand.

As we collected, made, and found objects we added them to a pretty box. And as the box began to fill, we realized that as much fun as it was to bring out our toys and play with them, we were really looking forward to furnishing a little home. Maria and I found a tall book case, with six shelves... or, floors. Each floor will be a room in the house, including two for the barn and stable. For weeks we've had our dishes, animals, crates, books, and ironing board sorted on the shelfs. It looked like moving-in day! We chose our Penny Wooden Doll, to be the home's primary resident. And Maria named her Katherine, Kit. We rounded up farm animals, and Maria brought out a pencil and paper, and gave everyone names... like Radagast, the friendly billy goat, and his companion Gandalf the Grey bunny. Maria likes to have Kit check all the animals before bedtime, she goes down two floors, with her St Bernard, Lucerne, to make sure her little farm is safe for the night. Then Kit is tucked into her doll quilt bed, with her knitting on her nightstand, and Sherlock Holmes to read before she sleeps.




This weekend Maria and I found some long abandoned, old wood furniture pieces. Some were broken, at the bottom of a very deep box of wood blocks, another was in the garage, in a heap of sawdust. They were in pretty sorry shape, but we were instantly sure of one thing: These could be perfect for Kit's home! William gave me a sandpaper lesson. To clean and smooth the pine pieces we started with a 120 grit... a bit rough, good for evening out the surfaces, and clearing out splinters. Next we applied a 150 grit, and this helped to smooth the wood. The next sanding phase we went at with 400 grit, and this one was especially good at getting the wood as polished as possible, so that we can try a painting technique that will make the wood pass for steel. We will try making the oven and stove look like an old powered coated steel, white with red trim, I think. Wish me luck! We spent a long while sanding, scrubbing, and dusting. Cotton swabs make great dusters, and toothpicks were great for detailing. We felt so excited about our find, especially seeing them look better and better.

Before~

After~

Maria and I decided on a blue kitchen, and mixed our own paint to get Beloved Blue. We combined a grey and a bright blue satin finish acrylics from the craft store. We both enjoyed painting the pieces, while discussing details we might add, and how soon before we could put things away in the little house. Maria gets these sweet ideas... like having a pastry bag with icing in it for the cupcakes I made, or making cotton candy! We are starting to talk about lighting options, making circuits, using LEDs. William wants to help us plan other furniture and cut forms with our small mill. Maria has already sketched some good ideas for a hutch. She is learning about scale. Our little make believe place is one inch high for every twelve inches in our everyday lives. She pointed out that this makes Kit a very tall woman, at six inches high! We agreed to not get too fastidious about the scale, or too strictly adhere to historic continuity... a make believe world should be enjoyable, after all. We are inspired by many things, like Tasha Tudor, Stuart Little, The Borrowers, and The Secret World of Arrietty. Even our own Candle Light tradition has been a source of inspiration.

Would you like to see our make believe home, and some things we've been making?







The very appetizing caramel apples Maria made!




Radagast, who is a "very friendly and kindly goat," and his dearest companion, Gandalf the Grey.

Lettuce and carrots, like the bread and hamburger, made of paper clay, then painted with acrylics.

Kit with Lucerne, writing letters, before she reads.

Like Maria, Kit has Sir Conan Doyle's works at her bedside.

We love the Make in Make-Believe~


Five Good Things

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 10/20/2014 - 06:12


It was Red Ribbon Week at school, and though Maria kept forgetting to wear red, she did put her heart and creativity into her poster. "Healthy Me ~ Way to Be" was the theme, and Maria illustrated a girl surrounded by good ideas and suggestions for living a healthy life. She drew a border with books, gardens, play activities, and community building suggestions, like sharing from your garden, and cycling. I like the pictures at the bottom, of the girl reading, and Maria's message, "Reading is good for you! So many books to read! Read a book! Big, and small, funny and spooky... read it all!" I love that these ideas were her own, and that they are a reflection of her school's message... it's not just rhetoric from the week's theme, but the genuine spirit and message our school and community honors and supports in classes, and special programs, throughout the year. We feel fortunate to be here, that Maria can go to to a school with such a healthy vision for its students and community.

Good Things...

1. We have {finally} chosen our house paint color! The important thing is that it has a pretty name, too. We committed with the first five gallon bucket of "Arrowhead Lake." It's blue. And it's bluetiful!

2. It took us 10 months to decide on a house color, and only moments to unanimously agree to paint the barn red!

3. Paul, Janece, and Amira came over with Mediterranean food... and we feasted on the delicious food, and happy company.

4. We watched the Nature episode, "Animal Misfits," which was wonderful. Mudskippers are hilarious and deeply odd, and I want to save the kakapo!

5. Seam rippers. It's not good how often I need this tool, but thank goodness for seam rippers!

Thinking about Maria's poster, I feel inspired to enjoy a nice walk today, to spruce up our Little Free Library, and maybe get around to tending our veggie garden, too. Happy Monday, friends. I hope there are good things awaiting you this week~

Playing House

Chickenblog.com - Sat, 10/18/2014 - 07:58
Last year Maria and I discovered paper clay, and we made mushrooms, and houses, and wee gnomes, and gave little ornaments to friends. It's a simple craft, and gratifying, too. Saturday, while Maria was in her class in miniature making {Oh, yeah! Awesome stuff happening there!} I sat outside with our box of paper clay making supplies, and kept myself busy fiddling with the clay. We hadn't down anything with it since December, but it all came back to me, and I rolled out a tiny collection of capped mushrooms. Then a bitty house, or two.

Mushrooms. Houses. What if... Mushroom Houses?

Still small enough to be built on a sewing pin, but bigger than the mini mushrooms, I built a fungi with a door and chimney, and basically fell in love with the whole concept, and so I made three more! With this paper clay, the larger the pieces are the more challenging it is to keep the clay from cracking, and maybe I should be playing with other clays (FIMO?) but this stuff is so affordable and I love that I can paint it, too. It helped to use a small paint brush, dabbing it in water, and gentle brushing the clay so it would stay pliable and smooth. Also, pieces that split after drying repair quite nicely with a dab of Elmer's glue.

Have you ordered your Paperclay, yet?

After they dried through, and this took a bit longer with the larger pieces, I brought out the acrylic craft paints. Now, I wish I'd made more Mushroom Houses, because this is too much fun!

Two coats of red, one coat of grey, and dabs of bark brown. The spots go on with the end of a flat headed toothpick. Spot. Spot. Spot. Later I will slip a little bit of white wool into the chimney... it will look as if a cozy fire must be burning inside!

I'm not very good at getting uniform shapes, so the houses are folksy little nooks. Charming cottages, with character.

And the Mushroom Homes... well, they have a lot of charm and character, too!


{this moment}

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:27
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Our red barn~

Scarily Sweet Sugar Skulls

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 10/14/2014 - 04:30








Maria's after school cooking class did something not quite edible, but totally kitchen-fun... they made sugar skulls, in the Dia De Los Muertos tradition. I should add "Easy" to this post title: "Scarily Sweet and Easy to Make Sugar Skulls!" Dawn shared the recipe, as well as the online shop where she gets her molds and supplies. I've already ordered the medium mold. The directions are emphatic about two points: You cannot do this on a rainy or humid day, and you want a good quality meringue powder. Dawn brought out a ginormo bowl, opened a five pound bag of granulated sugar, added a 1/4 cup of the meringue powder, and only three tablespoons of water. Easy. Then, bare hands went into the bowl and she mixed it all up. It feels like damp sand. I love the texture. Then it's like filling sandcastle molds at the beach... just pack in the sugar, pressing firmly, leveling the sugar. Have a plate, or cardboard square ready, and place it over the open top of the mold, and flip, so you can steadily raise the mold off the sugar skull. I was surprised at how quickly this all came together, and how easily it held. We brought ours home to dry, and after 24 hours they already feel hard.

Dozens of skulls were already molded, dried, and ready for the students to decorate. I'm sure you can make up your own royal icing, and color it to suit your artistic whims, but if you are looking for instant gratification grab those grocery store icing tubes, with the fun decorator tips and get busy decorating your skull! After the handling, and all those dense globs of dye, no one here is tempted to eat these... eew! There was foil paper for the eyes, and for a rectangle on the forehead, where, traditionally, a deceased loved one's name can be inscribed in icing. As Rosie noted, the students jumped in with wild eagerness to decorate their first skulls, but when that initial burst of enthusiasm subsided and when they were on to their second, or third skull, they settled into patient and fantastic creativity. We saw some cleverly decorated skulls, and some very thickly iced skulls, too. It was all good fun. Properly stored, Dawn says they will last for years... hers is that gorgeous one at the top.

Though my own heritage is Mexican, Dia De Los Muertos is not a tradition we celebrated in our family. For me, these sugar skulls are a craft, and I add a reverent nod for the respect it is meant to symbolize, the remembrances of love ones who have died. The history of Dia De Los Muertos is fascinating... the marriage of cultures, faiths, and art. Now that we have dabbled in this art... maybe in the spring we can try our hand at decorating sugar eggs!

Five Good Things

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 10/13/2014 - 06:37
The Moon, October 7, 2014.

The full moon this month felt exceptionally beautiful. It was bright, and silvery, and really stirred my soul. Early the next morning, I caught some of the lunar eclipse, too. The eclipse was beautiful, but I think seeing the moon rise, the night before, was my favorite. Now, I am eagerly anticipating the October 23 solar eclipse... ten days away! Be sure you are prepared, either by purchasing viewers, or making some safe viewing devises yourself... Make.com has some helpful links and suggestions.
Hopefully the cool, grey weather I have been so wishful and eager for, won't finally arrive and interfere with us getting a full view of the eclipse!

Good Things...

1. The house is as messy as ever, because we are getting so much done! It's frustrating, but a reality... sometimes things get a bit crazier, before they get better. But repairs, improvements, and projects are making steady progress.

2. Our new washer plays a pretty little tune when the cycle is through: "Die Forelle," Franz Schubert. Poor little trout. The tune is pretty, but the lyrics are actually rather disturbing, and this amuses us to no end, so that's good, too.

3. I've been invited to tea, and in the same email was shown great, comforting, sympathy. Ha, I just saw it... "tea and sympathy!" I tell you, it can make a world of difference to my heart and soul when someone says, I understand!

4. Pumpkin dog treats, the ones from Trader Joe's, are a huge hit in the Little Free Library. Maria refilled the jar, again, yesterday.

5. It's foggy. Right now, it's cool, dark, and foggy. It feels so good!

Happy Monday... I suppose we all wish it were still the weekend, but I hope this will be a good day for you~

What's New At The Little Free Library

Chickenblog.com - Sun, 10/12/2014 - 12:21


Never mind the books in the Little Free Library {there are many!} Today we are talking about the treats in the Little Free Library. If you haven't been to a Trader Joe's in recent days you may not know that they are featuring Pumpkin Flavored Everything! Maria and I brought home a box of Pumpkin Flavored Dog Treats for the neighborhood pups. Now, with the classic milk bones, our canine neighbors can enjoy a seasonal pumpkin biscuit. We also strung some LED lights, which look lovely and bright on these dusky fall evenings. I still want to raise some funds so we can buy a bench. My big hope is to host a craft and bake sale, with an interactive activity. {The only things standing in my way are energy and gumption... oh, dear, it may never come together, in that case! Do you ever feel like you're getting nowhere??} That's it. That's my Little Free Library update. I hope you are enjoying your weekend.

{this moment}

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 10/10/2014 - 04:30
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Liz, Delia, Kai, and Beckie~ A random, chance meeting, far from their respective homes~ My aunts, uncle, and mother, and their joyful selfie that makes me smile tearfully... Mono Lake, California~

*In honor of loved ones, our special moments, and memories, I am including this fundraising link for
Walk To End Alzheimer's.
We all want to remember these special moments.

Get Ready For Eclipse Season

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 10/07/2014 - 10:20
Make.com is helping us prepare for an eclipse season! Today, our post is a visit back to one of the most amazing eclipse experiences we've ever had the pleasure to enjoy, and since it occurred during Maker Faire, it was even more fun... it was a fitting and beautiful finish to a weekend dedicated to Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math and sharing! At the end of our second day at Maker Faire, the hot day began to cool suddenly, and shadows shimmered, doubled and turned every edge into crescent shapes. The sun slowly disappeared behind the moon, and everywhere people were pausing to marvel at the occurrence. We got our hands on some safety viewers, and looked up. We shared the viewers with anyone passing by, anyone missing out on the eclipse, and it was like sharing magic. It was like the whole of the rest of the Maker Faire experience, where everyone is sharing and learning, and there is a constant exchange between people who are teaching and learning, giving, and receiving... but in this instance everyone was enjoying the same event, the same science of nature. Somehow, there is a kind of tangible sensation when hundreds of people all direct their attention to a common purpose and all are reveling in the experience, describing, admiring, engaging with each other and with the almost surreal happening. It feels really good, it feels affirming of the positive, thoughtful, inquisitive nature of people. It was inspiring because of the power of nature to unify us in our curiosity and interest, our knowledge, and our eagerness to learn more. The entire weekend holds some of my fondest memories, for the people, the place, the things we saw and learned, and shared, and I hold these moments dear.

We are thrilled to have our photographs featured in Michelle Hlubinka's Make.com article, Packing For Eclipse Season. "The lunar eclipse Wednesday morning kicks off a series of blood moons..." and "then… when the moon swings around to the other side of the Earth in a little less than two weeks, most of the United States (and Mexico) get a peek at a partial solar eclipse on Thursday, October 23rd!" Michelle has suggestions and practical tips for enjoying this month's celestial show, so I hope you will follow the links to her article, and look for her kind remarks about our Young Maker's Club, Love & Rockets! We feel honored to be a part of the good things that happen in the Make community!

Alex, Maria, Bambi, Eli, and Max~
San Mateo, California, May 2012





William's shadow, and the tree's, with the crescent edges created by the partial eclipsing of sun, where a small bit of the sun, like a ring of fire, makes these strange, beautiful forms. Michelle writes,
"... you don’t need to use fancy equipment to play with and witness this beautiful moment. All you need is a tiny hole. Take a piece of opaque board or foil to project the image of the obscured sun, pinhole-style, onto a flat, white surface the right distance away. Forget your hole at home? You can even make a tiny aperture with a curled finger or fist (as William, of Maker Club Love & Rockets showed us.)"

Five Good Things

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 10/06/2014 - 09:49





























Alex and Sarah made costumes and props for the Viking Festival. It was Alex's first visit to any Viking Festival, and we were so engrossed and busy with helping him prepare, that we hadn't given the idea of joining them enough consideration... I had a duh-lightbulb moment after they left, and Maria looked at me incredulously... "So, are we going tomorrow?" she asked. It was Sunday afternoon, and this was a now, or next year situation, so we scrambled, and found our way to the Sons of Norway Lodge.

What a great decision, what a happy discovery. The Viking Festival, encamped in a mixed terrain nook, adjacent to an old hall building, among olive and pepper trees, was small, but rich in activities and sights. We wound our way through stalls and demonstrations, among Vikings, knights, crafters, and traders. We discovered new crafts, inspiring projects, and tempting trinkets. I bought three yards of embroidered cotton trim. I almost bought a drop spindle, because, you know, someday I might be a shepherdess! I still might order a sheaf of wheat, because, you know, plaiting my own straw hat is probably on my bucket list, too. Maria and I were at the traditional Viking foundry, when Alex and Sarah caught up with us. Sarah had to head out, early, which was a shame. Then Bambi was able to leave work, and she met us, so that was a nice surprise. In no time at all, Alex's questions and interest in the traditions and techniques of Viking foundry work earned him a position as an apprentice, helping to heat the little forge for casting Viking charms. Travelers' souvenirs, made in the old way, of plumber's pewter. The experience was fantastic. We have been collecting tools, parts, and knowledge for our own backyard mini-forge and foundry, and this experience was priceless, and fun. I was trying to memorize all the details... soapstone for molds, coke and charcoal for the fire, double bellows pumped in alternation, lead-free plumber's pewter. I am sure Alex remembers more than I do, and the exciting part is that he and Max are on the right course, and this DIY vision is highly attainable.

We were there for only three, maybe four hours. We took away such good ideas, and compelling plans, it was time well spent, and full, and we wish we'd been both days! We must build a Viking tent, and those awesome chairs, a village! I fell in love with the kitchen, the kettles over the fire, the mud and straw bread ovens, the A-frame shelters, the linen tunics and aprons, the many new-to-me crafts... why-o-why didn't I write down the name of the cord making craft? With a small wooden lyre shaped tool these women were turning yarn or string into a woven cord. It was almost like crochet, but not. Gah! I really want to try this, too! I am sure you can imagine, I am so glad Maria nudged me into going to the Viking Festival. Have you guessed? We all want to go, next year.

Good Things...

1. I am still giddy for our cover-goat! Ada made the cover of a local paper, and I beam everyone time I see her face.

2. Alex and Bambi baked chocolate cupcakes... a treat in honor of Bambi's birthday. The unexpected surprise were the kiwis they added to the buttercream frosting! What a tasty flavor!

3. I found consumer eye-candy bliss at Ikea, where all of their Christmas merchandise is on display. I was utterly smitten with all the Swedish colors and themes, and cheer!

4. Little Debbie, our little and elderly hen, was looking terribly out of sorts, but has rallied, and is looking spry and plucky, again.

5. Is this "good?" I dunno, but I seem to be acclimating to our awful weather... _oh, gee, it's only eighty degrees? Goodness, it's practically chilly. What lovely fall weather_ No. Nope. I cannot bear this. Maybe it's a good thing, that I am getting used to the heat, which is better than always feeling like it's too miserably hot, but a real good thing would be rain, and fog, and mountain snow, and wind, and clouds, and pie baking weather!

Are you getting pie baking weather? Have you ever been to a Viking Festival? What good things are on your mind?

Ada Lovelace Cover-Goat

Chickenblog.com - Sun, 10/05/2014 - 11:36
She could not be more surprised, or modest. Ada Lovelace Goat made the cover of the local paper. I brought her a copy, and she glanced at it, but I think her elated expression may have been over her Timothy hay breakfast, and not about being a celebrity. Tasha was only interested in breakfast. Both goats were volunteers at the school district farm, both as greeters and weeders, doing their part to support education and the environment, both worthy of some veneration.

"Veneration? Seriously?" The chickens were even less impressed than Tasha, or Ada. They clucked to remind me of the selfless hours they spent greeting visitors as school farm ambassadors.

The chicas are sweet, though, and they don't harbor any resentments. Mako did demonstrate for me how good a chicken cover shot would have been. Later today, we'll celebrate all the good deeds and hard work of our Bird House farm family. There'll be black licorice for the goats, and chard for the hens!

Maybe the animals are taking this in stride, but I have been giddy over this cover shot. When we rode by the post office, and I saw Ada's darling face, I certainly squealed. Thankfully, I've had the good sense and restraint to resist standing in front of the market, pointing out the paper to the shoppers, smiling wildly, and letting them know, "That's our Ada. That's our cover-goat." That would be silly, right? Yeah, I know. Of course blogging about it, plastering FB, that's totally cool, right?

"Got Your Goat," the caption reads. We think it's all pretty funny.

A Whole New Wall

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 13:28
Something is missing. No one is more distressed about this than Mister Washburn Foo, because all his life there has been a massive screen at this end of the living room, not for movies and entertainment, but for him to scale, and hide behind, and make his sweet Ninja moves from. Now it's gone, and he's a bit traumatized.

Mister Foo wasn't even a fur ball when we put our plans into action and built our big screen. It had long been a dream of ours, and after less than one year in our own home, we made the dream come true, and started having our first movie nights in the carport. Episodes of Planet Earth were our early favorites to screen outside. And then we had our first big screening, when we celebrated Alex's birthday... it had to be Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow! What a blast! We were spread across the lawn and under the stars. It was perfect. Almost. For some horrid reason our yard is a mosquito sanctuary, and by the second, or third, movie night friends were begging us to move the party indoors. We tried all the citronella in the world, and of course, removing all standing water, but in the end, the mosquitos won. We "temporarily" moved the massive screen indoors, and believe me there were many assurances that this was a "temporary" solution. It was odd, at first, and lots of fun, too, when we filled our home with friends and watched favorite movies. After awhile, I even forgot that we had a wall, windows, a fireplace! Those movie nights were such a pleasure... whether for a winter party, or family time at home, we enjoyed our screen a lot.

Last night the entire screen keeled forward, slowed down, and torn a bit, by a chair. But that thing is massive, and we were so relieved that Max and Maria weren't in their usual spot, doing homework on the living room floor. Mister Foo was out of harm's way too. Actually, I looked at him suspiciously, but I don't think it was his doing. Now the screen is down. Our living room looks odd. Bigger, too. We will get around to repairing the screen, and we have other movie night ideas up our sleeves. And we do have a movie barn, don't forget! One way, or another, the Bird House will still be a movie house... But I don't think I'll be such an easy sucker for "temporary" installations in the living room, again!

Now, if only we had the kind of weather that inspires a nice, cozy fire...

{this moment}

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 10/03/2014 - 05:12
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Geoff and William experimenting with the homemade vacuum chamber~ Peeps in Interstellar Space!

Bird House & Barn

Chickenblog.com - Wed, 10/01/2014 - 04:30
... a Farm Report~

Happy October!



Actual fall, seasonal weather, and classic events of the season, may soon be ours to enjoy. The hens have stopped molting. Those poor dears were looking scrappy, and egg production took a dip. Now the ladies are fluffing up again, laying gorgeous eggs, of gorgeous colors. Ten hens, and all but one is laying. Little Debbie is an old lady hen, and we are happy to see her enjoying her golden years. Kamen is another dowager hen, but she still issues forth an egg every now and then... such gumption and resilience, that Kamen!

Goats! Maybe I shouldn't try so hard to get "good" pictures of these two. Sometimes I'll just be content to show them in their true form... ravenous, mobile, darling goats! I keep watching them for signs that we'll have a cold winter, hoping to see them start growing nice thick and wooly coats. Their big adventure this week was going to the school district farm, to greet visitors at the latest and greatest in education. Schools + Farms = Fabulous Learning! Tasha Tudor Goat and Ada Lovelace Goat were well-behaved, and made good efforts at mowing weeds, and making new friends. Maria was as busy as the goats, making friends, making seed bombs, and planting cover crops in the newly plowed field. She is always thrilled to be living her farmer dreams.

I am still neglecting my garden. Sigh. But even without much trying, we find little treasures and surprises popping up! Let me see... Swiss chard, eggs... I think we may begin this new month with a Bird House & Barn quiche!

Cool Stuff William and Alex Are Doing

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 09/30/2014 - 07:18

This week we have been in a making riptide! The strong current of overpowering creativity and project immersion has come from William and Alex, but the tide takes us all in, one way or another. Geoff and I have both been pulled in, helping with sewing, programming, welding, and devising a means to extract air from vacuum molding. What's in the mix? William finished his pirate breeches {britches?}... a sewing project that has had us both at our wits end, and were we ever elated to sew the last button on that one! Simultaneously, he is making a sword, a flintlock pistol, two scabbards (one for Alex,) a waistcoat, modifying shoes, and organizing a Halloween party. The weapons are reproductions (leaving out the functioning component... not a sharp sword, not a firing pistol.) He is creating molds and formulating compounds to make his own parts, like the trigger, the frizzen, the flint. He models parts and patterns for sewing, for wood working and for molding, on the computer, and then comes up with ways to make his ideas in fabric, wood, plastic, epoxy, or vinyl. He's gotten quite expert with his painting methods, too. Many of his wood pieces look just like brass, or steel parts. Alex was invited to a Viking Festival, and decided to go suitably attired and armed: He made a Viking shield and sword, then he hammered steel plates into a Viking helmet, riveting and welding the parts together. Geoff assisted on the TIG welding, and I applied myself to making a Viking tunic, and belt bag.

Our poor neighbors have endured some long {late} hours of workshop frenzy, and the house looks like a... {searching for a poetic phrase}. The house looks like a ginormo mess! Those are the less dignified admissions, and I only mention these to be honest, transparent. I am not a great housekeeper, but I try. I cannot "do it all," but this time, I let go of worry and shame and just enjoyed the ride. I sewed tunics, britches, bags, and hats, and I found glue, buttons, and new ideas, and ordered pizza, and washed enough dishes to get through the day, then went back to braiding hair, modifying loafers into pirate shoes, sharing goats, making hat shields. I watched Geoff direct lessons in TIG welding, and filing steal, then reading Full Metal Alchemist comics with Max and Maria, before unraveling the mysteries and deficiencies of MasterCam. We were all in the current, together, and it was a great feeling. The creativity was an overpowering current and we all took it for an exhilarating ride!

Now, would you like to see some cool stuff? Here we have some works in progress, second-tries, do-overs, and successes, too...

William's blade and the start of the first hand guard, which partially failed, and he had to start over with a new approach.

Apoxie Sculpt flintlock hammer, ready to be drilled and sanded into shape.

Rough cut of flintlock pistol. African mahogany.

Measuring the fitting of the trigger guard.

Trigger mold... "the finished master for the trigger guard."

The chopsticks are called sprues.

The rebuilt sword guard, glued back together, this time with biscuits.

Max and Mister Foo, checking out the anvil.

With an anvil, the children are another step closer to completing their forge!


Trying the hammer.

Measuring seams on the britches.

Details on the sword Alex made. Ask him about aluminum backed plumbing tape! Stuff is amazing!

How many hits to turn steel plates into a helmet?

Helmet panels.


A lot going on. As usual. {By the way, this is our "dining" table.}

William designs things on the computer, then takes his patterns to either wood, fabric, or metal. In this case wood... shaped, and sanded, then painted to look like metal.

He made flaps and I sewed them to the thrift shop loafers, and with the buckle he has a whole new look!

William continues to work on the sword.

Steel blade and the wooden guard {hilt?} that he began in the first image.

Viking Festival time! Gauntlet time!

I added a pouch, and Maria and I added the pocketful of posies. Alex is a Viking with a cell phone, and wallet.

The medallion is Appoxy Sculpted, the armor is home-hammered!

Alex and Sarah bear their shields.

Okay, that's all, for now.

I am going to fold laundry!

Five Good Things

Chickenblog.com - Mon, 09/29/2014 - 10:05


Chango. He has us so well trained it's scary. But he's such a dear old man, how can I refuse him?

What a weekend! It was so full of activity, projects, events, and make-work, it was like an endurance run... not that I could literally tell you what "endurance runs" are like! As constant, relentless and dizzying as it got, I found a good groove, settled into the rhythm, and had a great time. That dining table of ours has a few more dents, lots more paint flecks, and loads of stories! Is it Monday, already? It's almost a relief! Usually, Monday feels like the start of the "work" week, but I am catching my breath, today, and enjoying the simple pleasure of sweeping, washing clothes, buying groceries, and planning an autumn inspired dinner of vegetable soup and roast chicken. Hopefully I can squeeze in time to go through our pictures and eek out some kind of post to share a few the things we've been swimming in... like carving, molding, shaping, modifying, sewing, and painting!

Good Things...

1. Letting go of worry, and immersing myself in the activities at hand. Yes, the house is a mess, but we got so much accomplished, and had such a happy time at it!

2. Connecting with our community, with goats! Ada and Tasha visited a start-up school farm, and were darling ambassadors to all the visitors!

3. Everyone participating... making, thinking, tinkering, creating, improvising, and encouraging.

4. The look of my trunk this morning... full of orange zinnias, pumpkins and a gorgeously odd gourd, a Viking sword and shield, helmet, too, and bread, milk, carrots, leeks, celery, oatmeal. We have plenty.

5. Feeling tired in a good way, pleased with all that has come together, happy to be healthy.

*6. Help. It's so much easier to be la-de-da about all the domestic perils this morning, because I am getting cleaning help!
*Definitely a bonus Good Thing!

Are you glad it's Monday? What's good in your life? I hope you will share~

{this moment}

Chickenblog.com - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 04:30
A single photo, capturing a moment from the week.
A special moment. A moment I want to remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Mama Thomson in the garden~ She is the broody Cuckoo Marans~

What's In Your Color Palette?

Chickenblog.com - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 09:21



What's your favorite color? It seems like when I was younger this was a significant question, one that invariably came up when making a new friend. What's your name? And then, How old are you? And sooner or later, What's your favorite color? Early on, I was blue. Firmly a blue, but secretly, and passionately deep sky blue with rose pink. When I was six, those two colors, side by side, pink and blue, made my heart flutter, gave me ideas about possibilities and loveliness for which I had no words. I was smitten. I had a long and devoted purple phase, and it's still dear to my heart and soul, but so is green, and blue with green, and I also adore a good, deep cranberry, almost hinting at maroon. Just when I think that sky blue and rose pink have lost favor with me, nature shows me a sunset sky in those tones, and I am six, again, struck by that passionate affection, which feels sweet, and limitless.

I still love blue. I cannot live without green. Green's no good without red. A white wall soothes my mind, gives me room to think. Teal, lavender, mustard, aquamarine, a rich chocolatey brown... all welcome, all good one place, or another. But which is my favorite? It is my current obsession to settle on a few colors for hearth and home. Alex gave me the decorating word I needed: Palette. I don't have to choose a favorite color, but for our home I feel like I need to settle on a color palette, because... because it would be nice. For me. I think. I've been a lot of places, in many homes, where I am instantly aware that the colors, the decor, the theme are good, comforting, pleasing, nice to be in. It impresses me, makes me happy, and inevitably makes me feel utterly lost and confused about my own taste, style, theme, and favorite color. You see, at the moment I have painted no less than six things different shades of blue. All of them "pretty," all of them chosen because I liked them, but looking around the yard, thinking about the composition of the whole space, it's making me a bit discomforted, kind of like blaring improvisational jazz, when I am more into a romantic aria. I crave harmony. I want to feel a flow, have some continuity. No surprise, I am mixing metaphors here... like my taste in colors, my taste in music is wide open, and impossible to pin down. But, please, no improvisational jazz, or day-glow, or leopard prints, for me, thank you.

Okay... so, back to the bit about the palette: I am trying to realize a family of colors that make me happy, that I can focus on for our house paint, exterior, and paint for interior rooms. Colors that I can use when we replace our weary and worn sofa, and paint to restore the wood table on the porch, the old potting bench. Colors I can bear in mind when I go to replace our twenty-five year old bath towels. I'll never be match-matchy, no one will ever suspect I hired a color specialist, or enlisted a team of decorators, and I won't lay down a strictly nautical-modernist-contemporary-rustic-aesthetic. But six! different shades of blue?? I'm sort of ranch, kind of cottage, a touch farm house a lot modern-clutter and terribly contemporary confused. My eclectic phase is out of hand! Color palette. Obsessively, I declare, the key to my domestic harmony and satisfaction lies in the discovery and embracing of my color palette!

This is a trivial pursuit of utmost insignificance! I am fully aware of the superficiality, the utter inconsequence of establishing an Aesthetic Me, of discovering my color palette. Not only have I taken to labeling boxes and drawers, shelves, and doors, but soon I will carry swatches, and paint chips, know my Prairie Grey from Seaside Buff, and I will be resolute in discerning the difference between Cozy Cottage and Completely Cluttered. That will be a good day, I think. It will feel settled, and I'll be less confused, less frayed and torn over decisions. But how to reach the point where my palette and I are united, confirmed, agreed? How do I decide my favorite colors for home and hearth, and also the style that goes with them? For to be truly trivial, and at peace, I feel compelled to declare at least a general decorating style to complement my color palette. These questions are filling the empty spaces in my day, talking to me in my sleep, and mocking my six different shades of blues. What is my favorite color? What colors should be in my color palette? Obviously, I am compelled to open a new Pinterest Board. The laundry, and litter box will have to wait. Pressing matters are at hand.

This palette notion, by the way, is very interesting. As soon as I opened up Pinterest with the search for "palette colors," I uncovered a whole new world. Maybe some of you are nodding your heads and thinking, "Uh. Yeah. Didn't she know?" Maybe some of you do know that there are neutrals, and bases, and accents. I am learning a lot. And seeing more. For now, I am drawn to the beach, with all the shades of blues, blue-grays, and suggestions of soft greens, the calm sand tones, with rich accents like the golden kelp. You would think that this would settle the matter, but as soon as I see one winter cabin, or daydream on a Swedish summerhouse... then I am six, again, and struck by a passionate affection for something altogether different, sweet, and comforting. It is... dare I say? Kind of fun? Geoff wants a decision, and soon. He votes for Hunter green, white trim. Said and done. But I plan to add my Pinterest account to his iPhone, and oh-so subtly I am going to lure him into my indecisive, obsession with colors, so we can be confused, together.

Because Awesome Things Happen

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 09/23/2014 - 09:13
If you didn't know what I meant when said I made hencakes this morning, then this picture might clarify things. Hencakes have been a breakfast {lunch, dinner, snack} tradition for quite some time, but never-ever have my hencakes been so marvelously honored and appreciated as they have been today. Without further ado, I offer you Sarah C's exquisitely illustrated Very Small Man Riding Giant Rooster:

I didn't know this day could get much better! Sarah, for seeing the magic in the Hencake, you are officially the first recipient of the Chickenblog Hencake Circle of Awesome, with honors and benefits.

Early Hibernation and Other Autumn Pleasures

Chickenblog.com - Tue, 09/23/2014 - 08:47
We are in fog. It's wonderful. Our neighborhood, the view from the bedroom window, is blanketed, soft, grey. Autumn is really here. There are trees with red and golden leaves, there are pumpkins in home gardens, the markets, dotting the farm field on the bluffs by the sea. Last night I lit a candle, set it in the hallway, and was inspired to organize the counter, there, dust the photographs and vases. This morning I made hencakes... that may have more to do with a good night's sleep than fog, but I am so blissfully pleased and content I will assign all good things to fog, and God. For a moment, my thoughts are insulated, too, and all the worries and sadness of the world are a safe distance away. For me, this season means calm, reflection, whimsy, gratitude, and it fills me with the happy anticipation of peace and light, of home and family holidays, of getting quiet, of giving. If this were a season for making wishes, I would wish that all of our best intentions, all of the lighthearted, and peace-minded celebrations would spread from home to home, from each of us to everywhere, for everyone.

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