Sunday, May 24, 2009

Movin' Right Along.....

... footloose and fancy free... (name that movie).

Other than my recent pity party, things are actually going fairly well.

This was the last week of my daughters curriculum (ALL of us were SO ready for school to be over).

Starting this week my husband has 2 weeks off. It is mandatory and not paid, but we are going to make the best of it. We will probably go on some local trips a.k.a. "Timmy Adventures". A "Timmy Adventure" is an outing completely planned by my husband that usually has at least one catastrophe in it. Like the one time we went for a hike to check out some old cave and I ended up sprayed with bear spray. I may just have to do some "Timmy Adventure" posts.

Art group is proving to be fun and getting me pumped up to produce some work. A gal from the group and I are challenging each other to produce something and bring it to the next months meeting. Last month we challenged each other to bring at least 1 painting to show. I was proud I had 2.5 to bring and I have painted one more since then (I'll be posting these later). This months challenge is to pick a subject to paint and to paint it 3 times using different media or technique. I'm excited, now I just need to pick my subject.

We got our garden in it looks so nice. I filled the whole garden... and last year I said I wasn't going to do a garden again, and then early spring I thought I'd only do a few tomatoes and some chard, maybe some potatoes. It is full, I filled it with chard, spinach, carrots, parsnips, tomatoes, strawberries, onions, broccoli, lettuce, zucchini, and squash. I forgot the potatoes, may still do them if I can figure out the barrel method of growing them and I come across some seed potatoes.

I got my girl signed up for swim team once again, and we are all excited about that. She had to quit her old team do to the cost and worries about my husbands job security. We found a team that just swims in the summer and the cost was just a fraction of what we were paying before, so that is wonderful. So she will be swimming every morning and when we can afford the trip she will be doing meets every weekend all over Montana, all summer. That promises to be fun, we'll take our pop-up and fishing poles and make the most of the trips.

Today we are ripping out brush to put up a fence for our 'someday' goats. We started on it yesterday, and like a genius I wore shorts and a tank top. I got pretty scratched up from the rose bushes and all that other crap growing back there. I know the goats would love to eat all this stuff we are ripping out, but it's gotta be done to put in the fence.

So what are you up to these days?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Thank You

I recently won a few giveaways and I think that some sincere thanks you's are in order. I really don't know how I happened to win 3 so close together, or any for that matter. I'm the girl that always enters and never wins. These were really great! What made these so special is that they were all hand made items, made by the blogger's themselves. So I wanted to say 'thank you' to the 3 lovely ladies that hosted the giveaways.
  • The first giveaway won was from Kate, she was giving away some maple syrup! yum... Her and her husband collected, cooked and bottled the good stuff. I've been meaning to take pictures of it on pancakes and document the happy faces that are chowing down on it, but it's kinda hard to take a picture when you, also, are stuffing your face. I made some very good pancakes the recipe can be found here. (I would recommend only adding 1 tsp of baking soda, not the 1 tbs. that is in the recipe.) Thank you Kate, it has been a long time since I've had maple syrup, it has been wonderful.
  • Next, I won a beautiful plate from Pam, she makes beautiful pottery and is also a home school mom. She also just happens to be the mother of Kate, who made the syrup. Thank you, Pam, for the beautiful plate. I'm contemplating giving it as a gift to a very dear friend of mine for her birthday.... but I really like it... Pam, do you have an online store that I am unaware of?
  • My daughter and I won some wonderful goatsmilk soap from Pricilla. You'll remember her, I painted her kid. Her goats milk soap is rich with a smooth lather and a squeaky clean finish. But what really won me over is her shaving bar. My legs haven't had that nice of a close shave in a long time. Talk about smooth! I also love the scent 'breath easy', if that scent and the massage bar were to get together, I might have to buy it by the batch. Thank you Patty and your milk giving gals.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

My Friend

I used to live in Michigan. It was bleak, and dreary, hazy and muggy, itchy and scratchy (mostly because I'm allergic to poison ivy, which is the state grass, and because there are tons of mosquitoes). I had a few bright spots in all that bleakness, two of them were my husband and daughter and the third one was my friend Jackie.

When I lived in Michigan, Jackie was quite possible the one person that actually kept me from going insane and running back to sunny Colorado. I first met Jackie at the video store she ran in our small town in S.W. Michigan. On that first meeting I thought, "She's kind of a nut case". And she got to prove it, when my daughter was less than a week old my husband and I went in to rent a couple of movies and that 'crazy lady' that runs the store came up and asked to hold my baby. I didn't know what to do, I wasn't sure it was a very good idea. Besides the baby was practically brand new; oh how that made it even more tempting for Jackie. Since I didn't know what else to do, I let her hold my baby. She didn't just stand there with her in her arms and admire her. She held my baby up close and sniffed and kissed and loved her up one side and down the other and walked off around the store with her and talked and talked to her. I looked over at my husband and said, "Do you think I made a mistake letting her hold our baby?" He just shrugged and said, "What do you think she's going to do, run out with her and leave her business unattended?" And all I could think was "God, I hope not".

So this routine continued, every time we went to get movies, Jackie would come and take my baby from me while I was picking out movies. And then it would take forever to get my baby back into my own arms so that we could go home. It took me a little while to get used to some one I didn't know just coming right up and taking my baby and giving her more loving attention than I'd ever seen a person give to another persons child. Eventually, I got used to it and started enjoying that I had a few moments with my arms free to peruse the items on the shelf. I also started talking with Jackie and I came to realize that I really liked her and that she wasn't crazy; or more like, she was crazy in all the ways I could really appreciate.

Fast forward a little over a year. I had finally quit breastfeeding and was feeling cooped up and ready to get out of the house for a few hours a couple days a week. I decided to ask Jackie at the video store for a part time job. After filling out an application and waiting a week or so I got the job. I worked there for about a year (?) and in that time Jackie and I became very close friends. Then Jackie and her husband decided to close the store. Once we were not boss and employee our friendship really blossomed. Over the next couple of years we spent so much time talking while driving the back roads of Michigan and peeing in weird random places, and laughing, crying and a good share of complaining, and comforting and supporting. It turned out that she was/is everything a best friend/bosom buddy/kindred spirit is supposed to be. We could share with each other without being judged, we could be honest with each other about everything, we could tell each other everything and often did/do, we never worried that what we told each other would end up all over town. She is an amazing once in a lifetime friend.

When I moved away 9 years ago, it broke my heart that I couldn't take her with me, that we couldn't just create our own little commune somewhere and live happily ever after. I still want that little commune and that happily ever after. But it probably ain't ever gonna happen, but I'll still hope for it.

We try to visit whenever we can, but it is just so expensive to travel 2,000 miles from one small town to another small town. I haven't seen her in 4 years. In those 4 years her husbands aorta burst and it was an extremely close call for him; she had a brain aneurysm that ruptured while she was at work, and that also was an extremely close call; she had close family that died; her husband was out of work for an extended period of time. The guilt that I feel for not being able to go out there when either one of them were sick, turns my stomach when I allow myself to think about it for too long.

She and her husband had plans to come visit us. In about 4 days she would be in Montana, visiting her son and 3 or 4 days later she would be up here visiting ME! I was soo excited, even though it was only going to be a few days. I had plans of just talking to her face to face for hours on end, nothing else we did mattered as much as doing that. To see her laugh and smile, to reach out and touch her arm, to hug her..... I've missed these things more than I realized or allowed myself to know.

I learned today that she won't be able to take that vacation after all. Corporate ass-holes have put her husband in an uncomfortable position. One that makes going on vacation seem like a very bad idea. It is a huge disappointment for all of us. It really hurts to lose the opportunity to see each other.

I plan on doing what ever I can to make it possible to see Jackie before the summer is over. According to google if I start walking now, I could be there around this time next month.... or maybe I should work on the commune thing so that they can move here and be within EASY walking distance. One way or another I gotta see my friend, it has been way too long.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Can you guess what I got for Mothers day?

Here's another hint..

That's right, I got compost. Not just any compost, but at least 3 yards of well aged cow manure...

I got it on Saturday afternoon. My husband unloaded it from the truck and I mixed it in by hand.

It was a lot of hard work.

But I like hard work...

... for the most part.

"That sure is a lotta poop!"

"Your telling me!"

Thankfully, by the time we had all the compost unloaded and I had churned (turned?) most of the compost into the garden, our neighbor saw my sweet shoveling skills and offered us the use of his rototiller.

This did a way better job of incorporating things than I ever could.... My husband cross tilled the garden and when he was done I started establishing my rows.

They are just like raised beds without the pesky wood framing getting in the way.

Plus, they're really good for doing this!..... What ever it is, it's apparently fun and makes you laugh hysterically. I haven't tried it yet, I'll put it on my 'to do' list.

But for now, I'm happy to just do this.....

It was a good Mothers day weekend.

And a special thanks to my budding photo journalist....

Who took an astronomical number of photos, of manure, chickens, manure, me, manure, hubby, manure, my butt, manure, hubby's butt, manure, plants and .... well, manure.

Friday, May 8, 2009

An Over Worked Kid....loosy goatsy.... a messy kid....

Take your pick of titles for the painting at the end of this post. The point is: I painted! I broke through that invisible barrier and painted. It is an overworked piece, but over worked is better than no work.

So how did I break through it? Well, there were a couple factors. It came to me as I was dozing off after beating myself up about not painting. I decided that I needed to work on paper that was going to be super forgiving. I also needed to just get the feel of things again, slop some paint around, keep it loose and just play. But I was having trouble finding a subject worthy of my interest, something fun and enjoyable. Then, when I thought I was done searching and was just going to give it up for the night, I came across this good looking kid, and I had to paint him.

So to start with I got out some Yupo paper

Yupo is a synthetic paper, it's actually water resistant and your paint doesn't soak into it like it would with cotton paper. It sits on top of the paper and you can get some really cool marbling effects. The other cool thing is you can also completely lift or wash off the paint (unless it's a staining pigment like some of the yellows). It takes the stress off of ruining nice paper. But if you are a 'tight' painter it may cause you more stress.

So I did a quick, light sketch of Kevin with watercolor pencil. (sorry the lighting is bad this late at night)
Then I started laying in color, things were off to a good start.

I was having fun.

This is where I left it for the night. I was happy with it, I was pleased that things were turning out so well.

Then...... it turned out I was the only one in the house that new what I had painted. My husband came home from work and thought I had painted some kind of Rorshach test. He couldn't see the goat. Fine, he was tired, it was late... whatever. But, I was sure my girl who loves goats, reads this blog daily would certainly see it when she got up in the morning.

Nope...... She thought it was some mermaids or something....

enter some frustration, and the desire to make them see what was there; I proceeded to work the painting to death. I'll agree that the above painting needed a little more work, but I went too far, I think. But I am my worst critique.... or maybe my family is...

Now, I could wipe off what I don't like and try again. But I'm not going to do that, I like to see what it was that I didn't like so that I don't do it again..... because I won't remember unless it is staring me in the face.

I want to try this one again, chill out on all the background stuff and get the focus on that adorable kid.

In any case, I did have a lot of fun (maybe a little too much with all that swirly paint) and it's just the first step of many stepping stones. I am so glad that I am moving forward again!

Pricilla and her publicist have a lot more super cute pictures of Kevin hopping all over the place and just being plain adorable, go check it out. Oh, and I shouldn't forget Abby, she is also a very pretty goat that had an adorable kid of her own.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Taking a Dip

Yes, I finally did it.... and it felt so good.

I love seeing the pigments interact with each other, how some pull other pigments into them ...

and others push them away.

It felt good having those brushes in my hand, the sound of water swishing when I rinsed my brush, the colors spreading, pooling, creating their own texture to my painting.

I'm more than half way done with the painting, hopefully more than just I can tell what I painted by the end of it.....

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

What Is My Problem??

I have the 'studio' set back up. It's all there... brushes,..... paint,...... Pandora hooked up to my stereo.....
I even have this book of wonderful deckle edged paper just screaming to be touched with a wet brush and bright pigments.

Actually I have three of these in three different sizes.... I have only painted in one of them... once.... over a year ago.

The same paint from that one painting over a year ago.... it's still on my pallet the way I left it.

This paper, this beautiful hand made cotton paper needs to be loved and painted..... yet so far all I've got is...


It makes me feel like
a pile of lazy chickens.

Monday, May 4, 2009

All My Chickens

I have dreams of being a homesteader. I would love to be able to move out into the country and have acres of pasture and woods and water. To have a big barn full of goats, chickens and pigs; to have a big garden, a small orchard and whatever else I felt my family needed as time wore on. But that is a dream I'm going to have to hang on to for awhile longer, circumstances will not allow that big of a dream just yet. So for now, I am shrinking my dream to scale, to fit where I am now. I have fairly small plot of land but, I'm determined to do as much with it as I am able.

About 7 weeks ago I went to the local ag shop and purchased 10 chicks; 3 buff orpington, 3 barred rocks and 4 production reds. My husband set them up in a kiddie pool with a heat lamp and what he called a heat can. The heat can is just a 60w light bulb inside two coffee cans bolted together, the chicks could then huddle under it if the area where the heat lamp was shining wasn't quite warm enough; essentially it was a momma in a can.

While the chickens were growing we had to build a coop. I wanted a chicken tractor so that I could move them around the yard and let them eat the weeds, bugs and maybe even fertilize my lawn. They can clip down the grass pretty quick, so I may get lucky and not have to mow this year. I also wanted to put them to work in my garden plot giving that old worn out dirt the once over before I started digging in and planting. So, on my husbands days off (which are not many) he built a chicken tractor..... ark.... big giant A-frame thingy.
These are all the progression shots I got... then a couple of people around here had some birthdays and lost interest in photographing every step. What you see is mostly the upper part of the tractor or the coop portion. Down below got fenced in and that is their run area.

The nest boxes; pic. on the left is the nest boxes framed in and the almost finished on the right. We haven't cut the hole for the chickens to get in and nest yet. They won't need that until they are a bit older, right now they are still young and dumb and would think that it was a great place to party, and I don't want to encourage that.

We got the idea for this coop here (scroll down a ways, you'll see the pictures). We made a few changes to the design. The handles for lifting and pushing are mounted underneath for strength. t
The rope for opening and closing the ramp doesn't go through the coop, it goes from the end of the ramp and up through the frame just above the door; we then use a pin to lock it in place at night. We put in 3 nest boxes in a row at the bottom, and then above that, put in an area for storage. Above the storage area is one of the vents, the screen is set back just as deep as the storage space, so we will be able to put in a small fan if need in super hot weather (which we get for about a week, if we are lucky). We also mounted the wheels inside the run, because it seemed stronger, and just take them off once we've placed it where we want it. We don't always take the wheels off, if we can get away with just propping boards around any gaps then we just do that. We also added a window and hung a thermometer in it so we could keep track of the temp inside the coop.

Things we would change about it now that it is built: put a flap over the hinged area of the ramp (when it is open it gets full of chicken poo and litter and makes it difficult to close), put an access door at both ends of the run (having the door at the same end as the ramp and tires is kind of a pain), put the handles on the big coop door closer together and a bit more centered (we have since added a long one that spans the length of the door, it helps some but I'd still rather have the handles done differently).

We placed every thing at one end so that when we lifted the coop to move it, all the weight at the other end would work for us.

The handle that is not painted was a late addition. It is still awkward in its own way but is better than it was without it. There is one long 2x2 that we slide through the two main handles (there are two more on the stationary part of the coop) and that acts as a lock to keep the big door in place and hopefully bear proof. You can see the window on the right, that's where the chickens like to sleep, right in front of it. Like a delicatessen for wild animals.... We put fencing over the window too. If we come across the right size window I'd like to put one at the none nest end so that I could see down the length of the coop without having to open the whole thing up.

We took the piece of wood that was left from cutting the window hole and positioned it over the ramp hinge to keep it clean. It has helped a lot!

This is the extension cord entering into the coop through the storage cubby. We can open the big door and plug in a heat lamp or just a daylight lamp (for our super short winter days) to keep them laying all winter. There are also hooks inside the coop for hanging those lamps and food in the cold months.

Sorry I didn't get pictures of the inside with the roosts. There are 2 roosts, they run the length of the coop and are removable. Right now we only put one in because we had the heat can in there since it still has not been very warm here yet.

If you have any questions or would like additional pictures, let me know, and I'll do my best to answer them or post more pictures.