Chicken Blog by Natalie

Five Good Things - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 09:35
We put in an art studio! It was just one of those typical weekend warrior projects where you add a new room to your home, then decorate it, and settle in. Not really. What really happened is this... we let Maria decide if it was time to let go of her play kitchen in the closet beneath the stairs. A big part of me was ready to hear her say No! No, please don't donate this play kitchen that I tower over, because I am nearly ten years old, and not a toddler any more! Please let me keep it and remind you of all the young child play we've enjoyed here! But, apparently she is better adjusted and more rational about these things than I am, and with just the right amount of sentimentality and respect, she agreed that she was ready to recreate the nook beneath the stairs, ready to let go of some things she has {sadly} outgrown.

Once she hit upon the idea of having an art studio, she couldn't wait to sort everything out of her kitchen and into a trash bag, a recycling bag, and a donation bag... and one modest box for some of the dearest kitchen treasures {I was so relieved.}

It was a lot of work, and in this awful heat wave, too, but never mind... I will spare you most of the details.

Have I implied, yet, that this was an emotional process for me? She's my youngest baby. The last baby... besides that imp of a cat we call Mister Foo. Apparently, when she hits that double digit, t-e-n, she will be a "tween." Good grief. Not only am I not emotionally stable enough to cope with that time is passing reality, I am not cognitively, nor culturally, receptive to the notion of "tween." Let's just say, I think children are worthy of a childhood, rich, challenging, and evenly paced, and I have no interest in nurturing or hastening the cultural phenomenon of "teens, rebels, angst, and the too old for this, too young for that void" that is thrust on our young people.

Was that a rant?

A little bit, maybe.

Have I implied, yet, that this was an emotional process for me?

Like Maria, I am really excited about this new addition to the Bird House. Drawing, painting, and clay art supplies are now housed in the studio, the space that Maria wanted to create and use. Collecting useful pieces from all over the house, and adding two new sets of pullout drawers, the studio is a tidy and inspiring space, much better suited to her growing love of art. Which is not to say that she's done with cooking or her life long Flower Garden's Restaurant dream: Those dreams and skills are alive and well, and have moved into the real kitchen, with real appliances, real food, and cooking!

Our art-craft-making interests are many. Many! And our supplies are an embarrassment of riches. There is hardly a media, theme, or interest we haven't dabbled in. Metal, welding, blacksmithing, jewelry making, felting, crochet, painting, drawing, stamp making, carpentry, leather, carving, quilting, tailoring, clothes design, sculpture, candle making, polymer clay, mold making, robotics, craftapalooza... and more. So much making, tinkering, playing! Luckily, Maria was clear that the studio space would be for painting and drawing. "Especially drawing." All other make supplies, tools, and treasures will be stashed, stored, and stuffed throughout the rest of the Bird House! And the studio, cozy and tidy, will be the place to find paint, brushes, paper, and Maria, at her table {which she may outgrow in 6 months! Good grief.}

I used to have an utter disdain for labels. I was certain that printing "the obvious" was ridiculously pointless. No more. I have turned completely in another direction, and I am labeling everything. Nothing can be "too obvious." I should label my purse, my toothbrush, my keys. I have labeled my kitchen drawers, and the box I keep on my nightstand. There's no telling where, or when, I will stop identifying all things and spaces, and things in their spaces. I am keenly wagering on this labeling habit to make me a better person, a tidier, lovelier human being.

Foo approves.

When you live with a cat, you know you have something good, something worthwhile, because they will show up and sit on it. This is their way of saying, "Yes, this is a good book. These are important papers. You are right to be interested in this task, so I will lay across it, so you know I approve."

Mister Foo also seemed to be communicating his willingness to be the subject of the first studio art. The inaugural art, if you please.

He can be so obliging. Sometimes.

This morning I found Maria in here. The morning light shines across the hall, from the laundry closet. It's nice. Maria did her homework in here last night. It's nice to see her enjoying her new space happiness.

It's dear to see her embrace her interests, explore new ones, too.

A portrait of my fur baby, by Maria. He looks, almost sweet.

Good things...

1. Spaces to call our own.

2. Going out to dinner with friends... and air conditioning.

3. Cold showers, fans, ice cubes, and the fervent hope that this heat, too, shall pass.

4. Letting go, gracefully, and making way for new things.

5. Care packages from my mommy, because I love being her baby.

Mondays are so much easier to face when I think about the good things, and I love to hear what you are thinking about, too.

Cottage Day Dreams and Dill - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 08:26

The onion is going to flower,
how sweet for the bee.
Collecting dill seeds is soothing meditation.
They slip off cleanly, neatly.
The ease of the task so satisfying
I wish I had more dill weed, dry, and done.

{this moment} - Fri, 09/12/2014 - 06:16
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.

Maria and Natalie, into the lake! It was a good thing~

Our Chickens Our Pets - Wed, 09/10/2014 - 13:48
I love chickens. Just the sight of them makes me smile. Even when I haven't been able to keep some as pets, I have enjoyed seeing them in art, on farms, on salt shakers, and tea towels. This blog is Chickenblog, because when I started blogging I wasn't all too sure what blogging was all about, but I just got my first chickens and they were about all I could think about! Now it's been many years that we have, off and on, kept chickens, and maybe I've gotten enough experience that I am actually in a position to offer advice, to counsel, and to strongly suggest. Today, I am here to strongly suggest to all my chicken keeping friends that they consider taking some steps to protect their chickens from predators. This is serious business. And I hope that our lessons, hard learned, some, will save you losses and heartache in your backyard flock.

Chicken keeping has become a mania! It's the hobby du jour, and I can't blame anyone for wanting to jump on the farm wagon. Chicken raising is fun and easy! You will see this sentiment expressed all over, in book titles, blogposts, and it is true, but it's not the whole story. I think it's only fair to the farmer and the chicks to add some addendum's to the "fun and easy" statement: Chicken raising is fun, when you have time, interest, and resources. Chicken raising is easy, when you are prepared.

Let's say you brought home your chicks, and you kept them happy under their heat lamp, and you guarded their safety throughout their youth, and now! Now, at last, you have big fat hens, and they're laying, and life is beautiful... but if you haven't done this before, if you only skimmed through a book, or glanced wistfully at some pastoral farm scene on a postcard, please go through our checklist, and double check that your dear hens, your backyard flock, are as safe as can be. Predators are lurking. I am particularly addressing friends in Southern California, because a surprising number of people forget that we have: Bobcats, Coyotes, Raccoons, Hawks, Feral Cats, Skunks, and Weasels. We have encountered all of these, and we have suffered losses to some of these. These predators love chicken (and cats, bunnies, ducks, dogs etc...) They are smart. They are persistent. They will, sooner or later, find your darling coop and kill your chickens. You will sleep better at night if you take some precautions.

For a long time we were lucky. We kept hens, and had no problems, whatever precautions we took were sufficient and, so naturally, I patted myself on the back and assumed I had it all figured out. But then we lost a rooster, and it was devastating. I loved him, and I felt like I had let him down. Unfortunately, I failed to comprehend that as "secure" as I believed our chicken housing was, it was inadequate, and the bobcat that killed Zoltar came back for Kamen. This time Alex and Max witnessed the bobcat with his arm in the cage, pulling her through the bars. We called the horse fence wire cage the "shark cage," and it seemed impenetrable, but spaces were plenty big enough for a hungry bobcat, and wily weasels. Weasels were responsible the next losses (please, follow this link to see pictures of the shark cage and to appreciate how ineffective that chicken housing was.) Yes, there are weasels in Southern California, together with raccoons, they have no trouble at all getting through or opening up chicken wire.

Okay. So, we've seen it all, and we've learned the hard way. Some of those predators really took us by surprise, and I appreciate that there will always be a chance of losing pets to predators, but I feel a whole lot better doing as much as I can to protect them. We all sleep better at night, since we've built our enclosure. It's our pride and joy, and I won't deny it cost a lot in time, and materials. It houses goats and chickens, and it's wonderful, but I understand it's not always possible to make a chicken Shangri-la. That's okay... there are still steps we can take to make our hens comfortable, safe, healthy, and happy.

Our Southern California Chicken Safety Checklist

1. Shade, wind cover, rain cover. Don't let your hens overheat, or get blown away. They need protection, even here where we have mostly mild weather. Be sure they can dust bathe in a shady and dry place, and that when they go to roost they will be safe from rain and wind.

2. Roosts. Hens roost. It's good for their feet and posture, it's what they do in the wild, and it's what happy hens do in their coop. I think HenCam is a wonderful resource on all matters Chicken, and Goats! HenCam suggests giving your hens at least six inches of space, per chicken, on the roost. And remember to keep those roosts sheltered from sun, wind, and rain.

3. Airtight is not right! Maybe you live in a colder region and are thinking a tightly sealed coop is going to keep your hens happy and snug, but that's a bad choice. Air circulation is essential to good chicken health. Be sure your coop has vents, a window... these are necessary to move out damp air, to bring in fresh breezes in hot weather, and to help reduce the build up of ammonia gases (chickens poop, all night, it doesn't take long before noxious ammonia fumes can foul the air.)

4. Wire. This is the part that is easy blow it on. We did. Chicken wire is cute, it's chicken wire, and looks like the ideal choice, but it is a poor choice. Chicken wire has an opening large enough for rats and small weasels to enter. Rats can harass hens and kill chicks, and they will ruin your feed, and water. Weasels eat chickens. So, unless you have an enclosed coop in a chicken run, and the coop is solid, with no openings, except the doors you open and shut, and screened windows, do not use chicken wire to keep chickens in and predators out.

Your wire should be 1" x 1/2" welded hardware cloth. Period. No gaps. No gapes. We attached our hardware cloth to posts with a staple gun. And if you can, consider burying the wire at least 12", maybe 18" down, because predators dig. Another option is to create a deep path of heavy stones or pavers around the perimeter of the shelter, to discourage digging under. When we kept hens in our Ikea picnic table, I used two layers of chicken wire, making them overlap to create smaller openings. This was a bit of work, but easier to do on a small coop.

5. Close the coop! If it's easy to remember, then it's easy to forget. I have left many coops open over night, and thankfully those were nights we escaped predation, but it leaves me feeling awful to discover that I forgot to close up the chickens, safe for the night! Now, I have my mobile phone set with an alarm, and I change it when the sun sets earlier in winter. Every evening, just before dusk, the alarm on my computer and my phone alerts me, and I am reminded to count chickens, check feed, and close up for the night. We also have a locking device on the latch. I like to use carabiners to secure the latch on our run. Use good hardware, and imagine you are trying to outwit burglars. Raccoons are crazy clever and dexterous... they will open simple latches with uncanny ease.

6. Free-ranging... it's some of the best parts of keeping chickens. I love to let our hens out, to see them dash across the lawn, and settle in for a spastic, euphoric dustbath. We cannot make our safeguards 100% foolproof, and when they are free-ranging they are vulnerable, so this is an activity we take with an understanding that it is risky. I lost a favorite hen to a hawk, and we were in the yard at the time. Be sure your hens have places to duck and cover when they are loose. Shrubs are good, a wood crate, even a picnic table will give your hens a place to escape. Besides the hawks, we have had bobcat visits in broad daylight. The bobcats are strong and brazen, and we've seen them hang out even after we chase them off, so it's not enough to just give them a scare. Our hens are eager to return to their enclosure when the bobcat has been around.

These days I only let the hens free-range when I am home, and preferably when people are in the yard. So, when I am weeding, or planting, when we can sit and read, or do homework, when outdoor projects are going on, the chickens are out, too. Also, the hens have the goats, Tasha and Ada, for company. I'm not saying our goats are fearless defenders, but they do make a lot of noise and get quite scandalous when something is amiss, so that much is a big help!

7. One more thing... I always talk about my big fat hens, but that's just an aesthetic amusement. Fat-overwight hens are not really easy to detect, but they are easily susceptible to fatal health problems when they are overweight. Again, HenCam has a great post on feeding chickens. A really important thing to know is that treats, like scratch and corn, are just that, treats. I only use scratch, and very sparingly, to call my hens in when I want them to come before they are ready... as a bribe, in other words. In winter, if we are getting cold-cold days, I give them a little more. But if you are feeding your chickens a scratch mix, if it has lots of corn pieces in it: Stop! Yes, they love it, but it fattens them, slows their metabolism, and compromise their health. Chickens don't show that they are overweight in the same ways other pets do, but please believe me, they need a healthy diet, including fresh greens, and even bugs, and a balanced, organic lay crumble for a staple, and the cracked corn and scratch as their special treat.

We love our chickens. And it feels good to do our best for them. Of course, there are many more things to know about raising chickens, caring for them, but I am eager to share these specific safety points, as the bobcats have been on the hunt in our area. I know I am still learning new things, running into new problems, and it is always a relief to find more information and advice. I hope this post is informative, and brings safety to more chickens, and peace of mind to more of my farming friends.

Before Fall, Summer - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 08:51
Summer is good, when the children are out of school, when there are adventures to be had, and roads to travel. I like summer when we can go to see fireflies, visit grandmothers, pick garden tomatoes, and play in the surf. But as soon as classes are back in session, and we've unpacked the last of the camping gear, I wish for it to be fall, body and soul. I crave brisk mornings, foggy evenings, overcast days, and stormy nights. I pine for the kind of weather and activities we aren't likely to ever enjoy, here. Not in Southern California. Not during a drought. And perhaps most especially, not when it's mid-august, or early September. Summer is good, and I say this with a smile that is slightly forced, because what I really like is fall. And what I really know is that "fall" in Southern California can be the hottest, driest, most wind-blown, fire prone, parched and anxious season of the year, and very little like the Pinterest boards I pin to, with frosted, fallen leaves, wool wraps, mist covered lanes, tree lined and romantic.

Yes, I do seem to mostly endure this time of year, the heat, the hotness, the heat. I do pass many moments in reverie of sights and weather that may not come until December, or March. And I bide my time, imagining the first cold day and the first baked pie, the first night when I can lay a quilt on the bed, and tuck myself under it. Those thoughts make me shiver in happy anticipation. And in the meantime, I say to anyone within earshot, the best part of summer, here, is the sky, and those back country views, where the summer storms hover above the mountains, with thunderheads that rise into towering giants. I love looking east, and seeing the show, the grandeur of cumulonimbus. We have lots more summer to go, maybe clear into November, and Santa Anas, those scorching winds that blow off the deserts, through mountain passes and into our homes. But hopefully we'll get more of those billowing clouds and colossal thunderheads that fill the eastern sky. Maybe we'll chase one down, and get rained on, thoroughly soaked, and charged with the goodness of summer.

I love our summer skies.

Those clouds. The hope that a summer storm may wander our way.

Summer has it's merits and good points, but I am so very ready for fall.

Mister Foo understands my state of mind, body, and soul. He knows what it means to endure these days that press us with heat, and lay us flat. Hang in there, Washburn Foo. Before fall, we just gotta survive summer.

Five Good Things - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 08:27

Some good friends asked us to join them in the local mountains, and thank goodness we accepted their offer. I kept thinking of all the house projects we have half finished {or is that half unfinished?} and it was hard to hit the pause button, and get out of town. But there is no end of affirmations about finding balance and making time for loved ones, and for good reason! Our home was just as messy as we left it, the projects just as far from completion, but every bit of our brief getaway with James and Deanne was totally worth it! We enjoyed all the mountain scenery, the sweet hospitality of our friends, the lakeside fun, and relaxing. Oh, yes... relaxing! The water was the perfect temperature of mountain summer cold, the pines smelled good, the stellar bluejays were endlessly entertaining. Parker and Maria sharing their Lego Club magazine, while we puttered around that gorgeous lake, was pretty cute. Probably the hardest part was packing up and leaving for home.

Good things...

1. Catching up with good friends.

2. Catching just enough of a big storm to enjoy it, but not getting more than we could handle.

3. Beautiful clouds, and sunsets and sunrises.

4. Enjoying the blessings and good news that friends have to share.

5. Coming home, even to messes, and getting ready for the new week.

It's hot here. Not to dwell on it, but seriously... it's really ughy-muggy hot. In the mountains I enjoyed looking for any hints of fall. There weren't many to speak of. I'll keep looking, here, there. Soon this heatwave will break, and foggy mornings will become more frequent, and I'll be digging through my dresser for a pair of wool socks. Just imagining the cool of fall, and all the pleasures I enjoy in that season, makes me feel blissful. Is fall hinting where you are? Are you enjoying good things?

{this moment} - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 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.

An evening gold finch visitor, and the pleasure of sharing the birding fun with a sweet friend.

One of Our Cats - Tue, 09/02/2014 - 09:25

While we were on the Oregon trail, my mother-in-law left me a message about Mister Washburn Foo. He's misbehaving, she shared, with concern. He's actually getting on the counter! I tried to sound shocked. I tried to convey a tone of disbelief. I tried to imagine that Foo would put on his company manners, demonstrate a little decorum. But. No. Let's face it, Mister Foo is a mischievous Foo. He is an undisciplined Foo, a do as I may Foo.


Ruth, we apologize. Delia, Rebekah, Janece, Paul M, Eunice, we apologize to you as well. And we thank you for jobs well done, for service under pressure. House sitters and pet sitters are wondrous brave and generous. We at the Bird House are forever indebted to our family and friends, without whom we could not be farmers who travel. Not one cat, but two, and ten chickens, two goats, the fish, and there have been bunnies, rats, and parakeets, too. It's a wonder you all still talk to us!

Five Good Things - Mon, 09/01/2014 - 08:29
Do we ever get ahead, catch up? I was going to delve into more of our domestic perils, as though it were unbelievable that we are still up to our chins in projects and endeavors to get our Bird House into working order. But it can't be surprising, not for most folks, right? Life gives us leaky pipes, and broken washers, dust, dirty laundry, and like my friend Warren reminds me, "recurrent domestic perils!" The good news is, the most maligned and loathed room in the house is looking better and better everyday! And we are, at long last, back in the business of cleaning our dirty laundry!

After the valves were replaced, and the drywall got repaired, it came to me to sand the plastery stuff, and add texture.

Texture comes in a can, in case you didn't know. I didn't know. While the texture dried, I taped all the base boards and sills, and trim bits that were not going to be Thai Teal.

Then, came the paint. Faint! I just cannot find the easy going way when it comes to choosing paint colors, but this time I am really quite pleased. At the hardware store, the kind woman taking orders, seeing my distress, said, "Take the chips you like outside, into the natural light, and you'll see what you're really getting." It was the best advice ever! Choices I thought were good in the store looked nothing like what I hoped for when I looked at them outside. And the one I was least attracted to under the store lights became my favorite, in the sunlight. All of this paint and light business makes me defensive of even trying to share these pictures, because Thai Teal looks good, but it doesn't translate in the photos... especially not with that fluorescent lighting. But never mind! It's pretty. Trust me!

The list of obstacles and setbacks got longer, but never mind! Our washer is installed, and adored. It has pretty chimes, and spins quietly, like a contend domestic goddess. It's been the main attraction for most of our weekend.

Mister Foo, though slightly wary, is quite attracted to the newest member of the work force. He's crouched attentively through several cycles.

Maria and I made our way to Ikea, in search of storage solutions. Lovely, attractive, Swedish solutions. We are trying to compensate for the loss of the narrow bookcase we had crammed in front of the old washer... now the door opens in the front, we need that area clear. We found two wall shelves, and a Fintorp. Oh, I love our Fintorp! We also brought home three jars of lingonberry preserves, and a stuffed panda.

It's a small room, once a dingy beige, haphazardly stashed with whatever we had on hand, and it was the room I least liked in the whole house. It's still small. Too small, and not pictured: the rest of the painting that needs to be done, and the stuff that needs storing-stashing-purging, but! But it's oh-so much nicer, now. It's a cheerful color, that feels welcoming and bright. The Ikea additions make the room look thoughtfully appointed, and will {forever and ever, I hope} inspire order and calm, inner peace, and laundered bliss.

Oh, Fintorp, you are so Swedish, and tidy, so inspiring.

Good Things...

1. Because sometimes we need a big ol' break from our "real lives..." Maria and I indulged our make-believe fantasies, and went to an absolutely marvelous doll house and miniatures shop. Ms Peggie's Place. It was most gratifying.

2. All the ways you can top and improve frozen pizzas!

3. Making new friends who share our admiration {and adulation?} of Tasha Tudor.

4. It's September. Anything that brings us closer to fall is good with me.

5. Mom's Night Out, aka LMNOP, because an evening with friends is good for the body and soul.

This long weekend has about worn us out. Wish we could have another, just to recover from this one, but stuff is getting accomplished, and that feels good. I cannot complain. Nope. Are you enjoying the long weekend? Are you bidding summer a fond farewell, or counting down to the new season, embracing all that lies before us? What's good? Please, share!

{this moment} - Fri, 08/29/2014 - 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.

Max and Maria, and a breakfast treat, with a view. Southern California~

Domestic Perils Is What I Call Them - Wed, 08/27/2014 - 04:30
I love our home. Our big blue house, with the leaky roof, and backcountry views. Our Bird House, where quail, gold finches, orioles, blue birds, cedar waxwings, and yes, even scissor-tailed flycatchers visit. Our home with the projects, parts, bits, and bikes, chickens, and people, our very own dust, and rooms, and spaces. Our shelter and nest, our wide open space where friends come to call, and sometimes stay awhile longer.

And every nest, any bird house, will get dusty. Sometimes, it's sawdust, like you see on the heart. Sometimes it's the laundry, that somehow piles up. We make messes. Everyday messes. Living and breathing messes. We make things, and messes come in the making. And some messes come without warning... like the broken water main beneath the driveway, the broken water heater, the broken window. Oh, I suppose we could have seen that coming! These are the occurrences, the entropy, if you will, the matter out of order, that I call Domestic Perils.

Sunday morning... {What? Only three days ago? My, but we have been busy.} Earlier this week I made waffles. A triple batch! This was a bold act of domestic prowess, which is meant to forfeit the powers of domestic perils, by curtailing the consequences of not having weekday breakfast plans. You see, I wanted to make waffles ahead, freeze them, and have those ready to toast for hurried mornings. And I was feeling quite like a domestic goddess for even thinking of doing this, let alone getting the thing done. Waffles. Breakfast. Planning ahead. I believed I had the dread domestic peril of unpreparedness stopped in its sneaky tracks.

This really did go quite nicely. Just slightly undercooked, then layered between waxed paper, sealed and into the freezer! Voila!

And labeled, too? Oh, sure. Why not?

Please note, at this point in the narrative, I am feeling quite swell. I can foresee a really lovely week of out-the-door-to-school mornings with well-fed children, fairly skipping with happy tummies, and me their loving mother, fully dressed, in something other than my pajamas.

Then. This. Happened. The plug wouldn't leave the socket, and was in fact pulling out of the cord, and dangling and hot, and a full board electrical domestic peril was happening. Frack. Frackity, feckity, feh.

This is a domestic peril of the fatal variety. Our darling waffle maker, the one revered in song and poem, is no more. Rest in peace, dear waffle dragon.

Moment of silence.

We returned from two weeks of camping, and travel, August 10, and on that very day, during the very first load of home-from-camping laundry, our washer quit. I tried all the tricks... unplug, reboot, kick, coddle, prayer, walking away, imploring on bended knee, but the washer only snickered, and locked itself down. A total walk-out. This is a compounding domestic peril, when you have both the dread laundry, which must be cleaned, and a dead machine, which must be repaired. And this can also be a moment to reassess perceptions about a dread domestic peril, because the only thing I like less than doing laundry is not being able to do laundry. This is a compounding domestic peril with paradox! Really yucky.

Fast forward to August 19th: Trusted repairman comes, makes diagnosis, orders part, and informs me we own one of the worst washers ever made. Ever. This is a domestic peril of consumer fate. Fortunately, the washer came with the house, so we feel slightly less pain on hearing this assessment of its worthlessness. {At least we aren't the poor chumps that went out and bought the darn thing. Small comforts, denial, ignorance, and high pain thresholds are paramount to enduring all domestic perils.}

Fast forward to August 21st: My Mom and Dad send a link to a washer they insist on having delivered to the Bird House. This is no kind of domestic peril at all, but the highest kind of love and caring, and we accept this offer, thrilled, elated, and thankful.

Fast forward to yesterday, August 26th: The washer is coming! And William and I clear the space, and I am separating whites and colors, and joy is ringing through my heart and hands, because I can undertake the ginormous task of smiting the foe, dirty laundry! But. No. Seems our valves, especially the hot water valve are too corroded, and will likely break and flood the interior wall if turned, and so appliance delivery and installer guy drives away, until we can fix that. Domestic peril of the aging home variety. Stuff gets old.

A little bit I wanted to cry, or drink a Margarita. Neither felt like a good option, so I went to FB and poured my heart out, whined a bit, and took consoling messages from caring friends. It's like therapy for First World problems, social media is.

Fast forward, again, and Geoff is sweating copper on our dining table. Also on the dining table: sewing machine, because William is learning how to sew a waistcoat, and Maria and I are making clothes for her little dolls, wood working tools from William's flintlock pistol project, as well as cutlass parts. Homework, and back to school papers... etc.

The valves really were corroded, and I am super glad Geoff knows a thing or two about replacing valves, cutting out dry-wall, removing drains... etc. And hardly an eye batted when he said, Dang it, burned the table. Somehow these little remarks, the collateral damage variety of domestic perils, barely register. Did I call it a "dining table?" It's more of a workbench. In the kitchen. Where we take meals.

I asked Geoff if he and I could sweat copper, together, our next date.

The soonest I can get the delivery guys back here is Thursday. The water is turned off, so we had to order pizza for dinner. I think the children would call this a domestic peril twist benefit. But, we have new valves!

And it's all shiny and clean, and good. Oh. Yeah... I will be looking at paint colors, inspired by the new drywall section... because I think a new color is in order... a happy to be in the laundry room shade. {What color would that be, I wonder?}

So. Yeah. There are all kinds of domestic perils and messes, and mishaps. I didn't even get to the other domestic peril chain of misfortunes that is our upstairs deck and living room ceiling. This one involves water leaking, termites, rotting wood, and hoped-for new flooring.

One of the worst perils of the home? Uh, being a blogger may be one of the most detrimental domestic perils we face, because anyone more keen on writing about housework than actually doing housework is gonna be a bit of a problem.

I have compulsive blogging domestic peril avoidance disorder. I got it bad.

I love our home. We have a beautiful view... many lovely, good, and happy views.

{By the way... the children ate all of the frozen waffles. A comforting snack. Sunday night. Domestic perils of internal sabotage.}

Five Good Things - Mon, 08/25/2014 - 04:30
What I would really love is to paint this moment, in oils, on a large canvas. In all seriousness, it should be called Man With Guacamole, and it would be an art sensation... in New York. Or London. Here, at home.

We like to goof. We like to play.

And after we goof over dinner, we like to go outside and draw art cars, and think about making really fantastic things, and talk about making really fantastic things. We did this before Paul continued his motorcycle trip... which began Wisconsin to California, then north to Washington, and across the Great Plains, home.

Dinner was Ruth's treat, and it was fun being altogether, no one cooking, no one doing dishes. It left more time for goofing and playing and talking.

Uncle Paul, and his nephews, Max and Alex.

James, Izzy, Uncle Rich~


Lots of playing and talking.

And goofing.

Good things...

1. Family and friends hanging out.

2. Summer nights when the heat has settled, the sun has set, and it's still light out.

3. Geoff is repairing our dear waffle iron, and my mommy is sending us a new washer: Blessings abound!

4. Geoff bought a new shower head, and it has a hose, so we can easily clean the shower walls! No more silly splashes of buckets tossed against the walls.

5. "Maybe we should just get a new one." Geoff told me the waffle cord overheated and fried everything. Is this a good thing?? Good thing I didn't burn the house down!

Summer is winding down, right? Maybe that's just me. I realize, once I've had my vacation, and the scholars are back at desks, I am ready for FALL! Autumn daydreams, cool nights, misty days, leaves strewn across mossy paths. Hot cider, wool socks, deep quilts heaped upon soft beds! {Yes. Yes, I do get carried away.} Gosh, there's still a solid week of August left! I shouldn't rush the days, they hurtle by as it is.

Are you enjoying good things, or daydreaming of good things? Had some goofiness, lately? I hope you'll share, please~

Happy Weekending, Here is Our Foo Kitty - Sun, 08/24/2014 - 08:25
1. One Foo.

2. Two Foo.

3. Three Foo.

4. Four Foo.

5. Five Foo.

Our Mister Washburn Cookies-n-Cream Ninja Polka Spotted Floppy Booty Foo.
Foot seeking sleep missile, with a kink at the end of his tail.
Fastidiously clean, impishly bad, the chatty cat, so clumsy he trips over his own shadow, and could fall off the floor.
The motor cat, that runs to Maria's side, to nuzzle and snuggle, and knead his way into her open heart. Such a Foo.

Lavender Sachets Smell Like Summer - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 11:32
While William works on sewing his waistcoat, I've been playing with fabric scraps, and dabbling in small projects to share with Maria. I settled on an idea that brought several crafts and projects into one activity. I cut small muslin panels... 2.5" x 4", so we could sew sachets. Then I found the two stamps that Maria and I learned to make at Maker Faire.

Maria's is a flower, and mine a... can you guess? Yeah, a chicken!

We stamped our muslin pieces. We're talking home-grown and folksy, here.

This is the part that got Maria really excited, because we were using our own stamps, and now we were collecting the lavender from our very own garden, and we tried to remember the first time we dried lavender. It was two summers ago, when we started our CandleLight tradition! So, now our own garden, and our own preserving, were helping us to do a new activity. All of our earlier efforts were coming together to make sachets all our very own.

The lavender smells lovely, warm, soothing, like a summer afternoon.

Maria filled the small pouches, and we thought how ideal it was that our black ink pad had faded to a lovely lavender shade.

And just to make the circle complete... leftovers went to our compost aids, the goats! The goats are regular contributors to enrich our garden soil.

Ada and Tasha love dried herbs. We brought them pine needles, and dried leaves, too. We call it trail-mix. Those two are so funny. Any leftover herbs, like Rosemary and lavender can also go in the nest boxes, where they help ward off pests, and give the hens a lovely fragrance to nestle in.

Besides sachets, Maria and I have been making other things with fabric scraps, like the snack bags we use around here all the time. Those are not just handy, but easy to make. And they are a fun way to make use of small and pretty bits of leftover fabric. We have a vision... we are working up to hosting a craft~lemonade~bakery sale to benefit the Little Free Library. The Library is doing very well, our neighbors are terrific contributors, the pups love the water dish, and enjoy the biscuits we leave out. Only one thing is missing... a reading bench! Since some families cannot wait to read their books, we think it would be great to have a sturdy and comfortable spot, beneath the pines, where a person could enjoy reading a chapter, or two. Our sale would be fun, and perhaps interactive, and all the proceeds would go toward the purchase of an outdoor bench. {Only "one thing missing?" Well, actually, I have more plans in mind, so maybe if our little sale makes big sales, we can see about the deck and shade, too. It never hurts to dream, right?}

{this moment} - Fri, 08/22/2014 - 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.

The egg bread loaves William baked for Movie Night... and thinking of all the friends who broke bread with us.

Garden Journal - Thu, 08/21/2014 - 11:35

This garden update is about luck, more than green thumbs, or diligence and management. Pure, dumb luck. My last garden update was a painful confession of all things neglected, stuff gone wrong. I lamented the slow progress of the tomatoes, and the return of our garden nemesis, the Harlequin Beetle. Then we took off on an epic road trip and camping adventure and left the garden to fate and drip irrigation, which is a lovely option when gardening is a hobby, and not our main source of provisions, our winter larder. Thank God our garden is not our main source of provisions!

Some of you may follow SouleMama and her weekly garden updates. They are a family gardening and farming in earnest. They are counting on their crops, and preparing for real winter. Amanda's garden posts are gorgeous displays of bounty, lush fruitfulness, heaping harvests. They're canning, roasting, preserving, freezing, and feasting out there, in Maine. Readers are invited to share their garden updates, and this morning... I couldn't do it. I thought it better to spare anyone pictures of things withered on vines, and languishing in our droughty soil. This isn't a pity party, because I know there is a lot I could do to boost our ratings, improve our topsoil, and increase the yields. I've just been in another mind space this summer, I suppose. It's not so bad turning away from my garden and admiring all the other gardens, enjoying the amazing local resources, without busting my turf to be just as successful. But despite my mild indifference, and paying attention to other activities, and demands, our garden is still being generous...

I only have to look past the fading parts, the overgrown bits, the weeds etc... and lo! We have tomatoes. We have figs. The Fuji apple tree is full, the lemon tree, too. Our first pomegranates are still on the tree, looking promising. Our onions are curing in the barn, and those are tasty! Check out the gourds, and more on the way. We even managed to collect a few pumpkins, and we ate a peach from our new tree. I can find chives, thyme, rosemary, and lavender... anytime of the year! And our Feijoa, those pineapple guavas we planted? If we don't learn to make and can jam from those, it will be a travesty. We'll share them, for sure. We are looking at a Feijoa treasure trove! Lucky, right? I shouldn't dismiss what we have, just because I feel like I haven't done enough for the garden, this year. I shouldn't call it a disaster.

I should collect those tomatoes, and figs, add more lemons to the Free Little Library attic, and cut some Lavender for my nightstand. And I should be very grateful that this winter Southern California farmers and local gardeners will keep us well-fed. How is your garden faring? Do you enjoy summer rain showers and flower beds, had your fill of zucchini, yet, are you growing herbs at your windowsill?

The Wonderful Albany Carousel and Workshop - Wed, 08/20/2014 - 04:30

There were a lot of sights and activities that we looked forward to on the Oregon Trail, but there was one place, one experience that we did not anticipate... and it was easily a great highlight of our entire adventure. I'm talking about visiting the Historic Carousel & Museum in Albany, Oregon. Ron and Delia took us to downtown Albany after dinner, and we walked to the Willamette River along the Dave Clark Trail, to Monteith Riverpark, up and down First Avenue and Second Avenue. All the shops were closed, so was the Carousel Museum, but we pressed our noses against the windows, peering into a maker-artist wonderland! Across the street, at Sybaris Bistro, Janel and her daughters were busy putting things in order, but invited us in to meet Hope, one of the carousel figures, on display in the restaurant. All over downtown there are hints and glimpses, and thoughtful supporters of this amazing project. This meeting absolutely confirmed our plans for Monday: We had to visit the museum, see all of the Carousel figures, get as close as possible to the tools, illustrations, works in progress, and meet the people in the workshop!

All of the details, the history of the project, the plans, hopes, and accomplishments are explained on their website. Basically, they are ten years into a fifteen year project to build an historically inspired carousel, with 52 unique and original hand carved and painted animals. Their vision statement: "To enchant young and old alike with the finest carousel in the world, promote the artistry of carousel building by sharing our skills and talents, and build community by opening our venue to events and activities”. Awesome! This is being accomplished with an all volunteer craftsman, woodcarving, painting, and artist team, and donations. And when we walked inside, met the people and saw their work, we were definitely enchanted.

No two animals are alike. In fact there are sixty-six total animals... fifty-two of them will be in use, with six alternates for days when a figure is getting repaired, or maintained, as well as five more animals for holiday and seasonal themes. A black cat for Halloween! Our Chango approves. And to my delight, how about a Christmas Rooster? He looks amazing! In addition to these there will be two chariots. Following the link to the Animals page will show you a list of all the creations, with illustrations, and details about their inspiration. Each concept is a heartfelt and creative masterpiece... some completed, some in progress, each awe-inspiring.

Harriette! What a darling. This picture show's the romance side of Harriette, this is the more elaborate and detailed face that will be seen when facing the carousel from outside. I love this word and meaning, and when lead painter Gwenn Marchese explained it to me it was an aha! moment for me as I realized that of course a carousel figure might be more interesting on the showing side, where the carvers' and painters' work would enjoy more attention! Harriette the frog is spectacularly whimsical all the way around, and it's fun to read about the meanings and significance of each detail.

Soon this entire workshop, plus the carousel itself, will be in a specially designed and constructed building. Until then, you can visit the Museum and studio, free of charge, and there is a gift shop, too. In the front we saw the animal figures waiting to be painted. Each figure will be stipple painted in at least eight coats of oil paint. This means no brush strokes! It also means a lot of time for drying is necessary between coats of paint. The finish is glossy, smooth, and the colors are rich, and vibrant.

To protect the paint, and to prepare the animals for all those happy riders, each figure will be finished with 3 layers of automotive clear coat. This carousel is a working art piece, and letting people enjoy their ride will be as important as protecting the artistry of the animals. In the paint studio it was important for us to stay behind the barrier, for the pieces to not get touched. That's understandable considering how vulnerable wet oil paints, and drying figures are. We admired the works in progress from a safe distance, then stepped into the wood carving studio!

Here we met woodcarvers, men and women who chip by chip are taking roughed out forms and cutting out the details and features that will turn basswood into a bear, a quail, horses, and chariots. David showed William basic carving techniques, and talked about the forgiveness of working with wood... it's not impossible to fix an error and make adjustments to the plan. In fact some mistakes can turn into something quite lovely. David's wife, Linda, is a painter, but she's been branching out and taking on some carving jobs, too. I love how they've carved grapevines and the basket into the saddle on Martha's back.

Here is a mustang, and you can see the artist's rendering hanging on the wall.

Here's Lady Sophia, with her cat and mouse traveling companions.

The concept art is charming, and so pretty. I love all the details, and personal touches, like the gnome at the back of the reindeer's saddle, and bespectacled Grizzly Berry's optometry basket.

Inspired by a family cow, in Switzerland... I just adore Sally, the darling Brown Swiss cow.

And it's fascinating to see the animal come to life, to see the inspiration on the wall begin to take shape in the wood.

Every stage of development in this project is compelling, and a treat to observe. The finished pieces, like Daisy the elephant, are even more impressive and awe inspiring once you can appreciate all the steps and phases that brought her to life. The new Carousel home will be more than a beautiful attraction and ride; it will be a place to witness the living history of carousels, a working studio where craftsmanship and art can continue to be taught and passed on for new generations.

Hello, Sampson!

I want to return. For sure when the Carousel is operational, and we can see all the animals in their fullest splendor, but I would enjoy another visit, when everything is still coming along, when things are being put together, and people are figuring things out. This isn't a kit, the parts aren't waiting in a warehouse, there are fewer and fewer experts who can provide all the answers. They still need donors, sponsors, supporters, even just people who care about uniquely compelling projects. Challenges. Wonderful challenges... the kind that bring talented people together, and rally communities. I love those kinds of opportunities. I love the tools laid out for use, and people in a circle, thinking and tinkering, and making.

And I deeply admire anyone who wants to make something, who is willing to see what can come of holding a new tool, finding some material, asking questions, and diving in. Every contribution matters. Every part will make a whole, and I think the pleasure of partaking must be gratifying and good.

This is the romance side of The Guardian. {Oh, and also Harriette's adorable backside!} The Guardian is a Hippocampus, a mythological animal. Someone imagined a creature, half fish, half horse. Someone made sketches, and drew lines, developed a saddle concept. Wood carvers pulled The Guardian out of the wood, and painters shaded forms, colored fish and seaweed, and a mermaid's smile. Engineers will come in and add this piece, and all the others, to the fully restored 1909 Carousel mechanism. My favorite places are where art and engineering meet. A carousel is a wonder of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Music, Math... and imagination.

Even if you cannot visit in person, please visit the Albany Historic Carousel and Museum website.
You can also Like them on FaceBook. I am sure those volunteers would love to hear our oohs and ahhs!

Five Good Things - Mon, 08/18/2014 - 09:40
Next time let me be a stag beetle,
lumbering with dignity
under my great horns, encased
in a carapace to balance
the weapons I can't fight with
but can't put down.

~Cecelia Hagen
The alley marquee, near the river walk, Corvallis, Oregon.

We went through Corvallis, between our stay in Albany and our return to the coast, but it was a whirlwind visit. More like a stretch your legs-find a bathroom-grab a cookie-fuel up the car-stop. Corvallis is worthy of a more studied and leisurely visit than this! This is the town where Ron and Delia visit often, to enjoy sights, and for Ron to do his his research and dragonfly work at the University. This is where they brought Alex for Da Vinci Days, for the Mud Bog, and the River Race. I've been keen to visit for years, even before my mom sent us her photographs of the greatest statue ever. And now that I've had a small taste of Corvallis, I am more certain than ever that I will be back. And not just because I found a my favorite franchise bakery: Great Harvest! Seems, I can choose between two great cities... Minneapolis, and Corvallis, when I am hungry for delicious bakery fare. If we return in winter, even late spring, there's a chance we'll be in snow. I actually like this possibility.

Good Things...

1. No bumps or delays... Maria and Alex are back to school, prepared, willing, ready.

2. Google, the Internet, wifi, computers, Wikipedia... I didn't have to limit myself to wondering who's Cecelia Hagen? I found her, and information about her, in just moments.

3. Art, poetry, food, beauty, inspiration, and time to enjoy the unexpected, in new, and usual, places.

4. The laundromat. Quarters. And a dirty laundry, wash, spin, dry, fold partner.

5. Watching The Lego Movie on our big screen, with friends, sharing the laughs, and delighting in all those great they get it moments! Well done, Lego. Well done.

Sunday Foo - Sun, 08/17/2014 - 07:56

Seems everyone is ready to rise and shine, except for Mister Washburn Foo. Some days it's nice to just be a lump, in bed. 

We Did Make It To Oregon - Sat, 08/16/2014 - 04:30

With William as my navigator, Alex and Bambi ready to take over the driving, Maria following on her map, and Max keeping me on schedule, our four day drive to Oregon went quite nicely, and yes, eventually, we did finally arrive at our destination. It was perfect timing, too, because as we reached the outskirts of town, Geoff called to let us know his plane had landed at North Bend! Everyone would be pulling into Ron and Delia's wooded driveway about the same time. And then we wasted no time filling that day, and the following, with all kinds of busyness...

Visited the feed store... pet the kitties, talked to the pig, marveled at the emu, and made eye contact with the goats~
Stopped in at the hardware store, and picked up cables for Mom and Dad's TV and PS3~
Fed the trout at the fishery~
Buttered the garlic bread~
Flew balsa wood gliders~
Moved Delia's tools and supplies into her workspace in the old brewhouse~
Saw the premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy! In 3D. Thank you, Ron!
Picked and inhaled blackberries~
Visited Face Rock~
Were treated to a tasty and elegant brunch at The Dunes... a 25th wedding anniversary gift from Mom and Dad~
Visited the ocean debris art sculptures. Alex helped construct some of these, when he came up to Oregon in 2010. Please visit: Washed Ashore~
And we bought a case of amazing oatmeal from the farmer's market: Oregon Oats, Co. Oh yum!

We also caravanned to Albany, where aunt Becky and Grandmother are settling into their new home. There we celebrated Max's sixteenth birthday and Grandmother's ninety-second birthday! You know I'll have more to share about that... Albany is a place worthy of it's own post, and we had a very nice visit with Grandmother and Becky. Back at Ron and Delia's, Bambi and Maria had a chance to see the jewelry Delia's made, and to enjoy her generosity, too. On our last day, we visited the old town, and I managed to get a nice couple of shots of their beautiful waterfront at sunset, including that lighthouse, silhouetted in the fading light.

We did a lot... even more than I've listed, but I can think of a dozen more things I wished we'd done. Even as early as our first day, I was trying to imagine how soon I could work out a return visit. What I most wish is that we didn't have to squeeze in everything, and hope to make everything worthwhile and meaningful, all at once. A nice thing about being close by is that it's easier to relax, to get comfortable, to be available for small things, and quiet visits. If we were a day away, I know we would drop by, hang out, and not be quite the mass invasion we can be when we move in for five nights! But Ron and Delia took us in good stride, and with a warm welcome. As big a crowd as we were, I'd love to see a visit with my brothers and their families there, too! That would be a good time, and the more the merrier!