26 August 2009

popping by

I just wanted to pop in and say, "whoa! its been crazy around here!" We are on vacation and I am cooking up some new blog plans, so I will be back soon... Enjoy the sun!

photo from Lida Rose's photostream

16 August 2009


The chickens have been out in their coop for about 2 months now and over all of that time, they had never once gone into the coop at night to roost. Instead, they would all climb up on the log at the end of the run in a big chicken pile and sleep there for the night. For a while I was going out every night, picking them up one by one and putting them in the coop, but they never seemed to catch on. Then I decided it wasn't going to hurt them to sleep outside and it was a big pain, so I left them alone. At least until a couple of weeks ago, when the neighbors reported having a skunk move in under their shed. Skunks are bad news for chickens, so I was back to tossing them, one by one, into the coop each night. I knew there had to be a way to get them inside.

What's a newbie chicken farmer to do? Why "Google" it, of course. And google it I did. I found gobs of discussions and empathetic chicken owners, but it always came down to a few pieces of advice. First, bribe them with food. So, for about four nights I went out with some sort of yumminess in hand, but no dice. They all just stared at me through sleepy chicken eyes from their chicken pile. Next, I read that chickens can't see well in the dark and so you should put a light in the coop. Tried that for several nights, but just ended up burning through a half-dozen AAA batteries.

And then one night, in desperation, I went out early and made a trail of stale blueberry corn muffins from the log, up the ramp into the coop and left them to their own devices. 20 minutes later, they were all snug inside on the roosts and haven't missed a night since.

I have no idea what the final turning point was, but I am not longer stooping under the raised coop, chasing squawking hens every night to get them inside. Now if I could just get a couple of eggs, I would be a happy chicken farmer...

14 August 2009


One of my all-time favorite stories (I have 5 vintage copies of the book and this version on video, which is my current favorite) and where I will be going for my birthday next spring... anyone care to join me?

more fabulous photos here

12 August 2009

my favorite things

Here are a few things I am loving right now...

These boots make me swoon...

my heart skipped a beat when I saw these vintage wall hangings...

this bike makes me want to get out and ride...

wearing this ring would make me feel bubbly and sparkly, even with jeans and a t-shirt...

the little black dress that just begs you to invent occasions to wear it...

a new light for the bean's room, feminine and unique (and it could be made with the new saw, hmmmm)...

What have you been loving lately?

10 August 2009

basic cuts using a scroll saw

After several days of on again, off again torrential downpour, the sun finally came out on Sunday. So out came the saw and the camera to take some photos for a tutorial/how-to on some of the basic cuts you can do using a scroll saw.

Here is a quick step by step of how I cut the letters out with the saw.

1. As I said in the last post, I printed out a template alphabet on my printer, cut them out and traced the cutout onto 1/4 inch plywood.

2. I then rough cut between each of the letters using the scroll saw, just to seperate them. This made it easier to cut them in more detail.

3. Now the fun begins. With each letter, I did the "easy" cuts first. All of the big, straight lines, external right-angles and big curves. You can see an example in the cuts I drew in below. I did the big curve of the R and the next small angle as cut #1. Then I came from the other edge and made cut #2, connecting with the first cut so that excess is removed. The final cut #3 from the bottom take off the remaining excess.

The scroll saw blades only cut going one direction, so it is easy to make a cut and then back the blade out to reposition the blade, or make another cut. Always hold the piece securely when cutting so the blade doesn't jerk it out of your hand.
4. The internal cuts are a little bit more tricky. Again, you will do the easiest cuts first, the straight cuts. In the photo below, the cuts 1 & 2 were done first. Each time I backed the blade out. For cut #3, I followed the path of #2 again, but about halfway in, I went in a curve to line up with the longer line parallel to the right side. This cut intersected with #1 so that whole piece came off.

Then I made the fourth and final cut taking out the small piece that was left.

5. Center cuts on letters like R, B, Q and O require a few extra steps. First you need to drill a hold in the center of the piece that you are going to cut out. You will need to be sure to use a drill bit that is big enough that the blade can fit through the hole created. If your piece is small like mine, I would recommend clamping the piece to a secure surface. Just make sure the spot you want to drill is not directly over the surface, or you will be drilling a hole in your table.

Next you will need to remove the blade from the saw, insert it through the hole in the piece and then reattach the blade. Once this is done, you will cut from the drilled hole to the edge of the line and follow the line until the piece is completely cut out. In the example below, I used a spiral to connect to and follow the edge of the inner circle in the "O".

When you have finished the cut, the center piece will come off completely, but the main letter will still be stuck around the blade. You will again need to remove the blade to take off the letter.

NOTE: Because I can be a bit accident prone, in addition to shutting off the saw to remove the blade, I also unplug it or shut off my power strip, just to be doubly sure that I won't accidentally cut of an appendage. This may not be necessary for everyone, but when it comes to power tools, my mantra is "know thyself" and adjust accordingly. Most accidents are user errors.

So that is the basics of scroll saw use on this project. After the pieces were cut, I sanded all of the edges and corners. Next I will need to attach magnets, but I haven't found ones that I am happy with. As soon as I do, I will give you an update on the project. Please let me know if you have any questions!

08 August 2009

this weekend's big score

I hit a totally fabulous estate sale today and if I had a bottomless pot of money, I would have come home with so much more. Oh, so much more...

Here is what I did score though:
  • 2 really fun vintage patterns, 50cents each. I will defintely use the little girl dress pattern soon and I am totally digging that swimsuit.

  • 2 crazy vintage cookbooks, $1 each. Mrs. Hawaii's Cookbook I bought for my friend, Jon, who is from Hawaii. It is full of all kinds of kitchy 50s recipes from paradise. The second is a cookbook published by the United Nations in 1960 that features recipes from all of the member nations.

  • And the cream of the crop...the Little People A-Frame House, vintage, including all furniture and family members, $10. The people are even the original wooden ones, not the plastic. Everything is in pretty good shape, the foam mattresses on the bunkbeds have disintegrated and one picnic bench has a crack. I am in love though, totally smitten.

And Avery, well, she loves the little bell...

07 August 2009


Last Saturday, I snuck out of the house before the bean woke up, picked up a couple of coffees and met my friend Aubrey to drive to the raspberry patch at the Common Ground farm for some u-pick yumminess. We brought along her two boys, who were very interested in all of the bugs and the yummy "blueberries".

After a 40 minute drive, full of "are we there yet?" comments and a stop off at the port-a-potties (those coffees were big!) we headed out into the giant raspberry patch with our buckets in hand. Common ground has rows and rows and rows and rows of raspberries. It is a pretty amazing site!

We chose a spot in the middle and went to work. The boys soon lost interest in picking and turned to eating, squishing and hiding in the tall grass. I had a bee crawling in and out of the berries in my basket for quite sometime and he put of with quite a few raspberry "bombs" before flying off to a safer spot.

After about an hour and a half, we had a collective 11lbs and some very hungry boys so we packed it up, paid our fees and headed back to town.

Avery, although not able to participate in our picking, did enjoy the fruits of our labor... raspberries are yummy!

05 August 2009

alphabet soup

I fiddled with my new saw this week, hemmed and hawed about what to make first, drew out several designs and finally settled on something basic. Letters. Avery was at grandma's house last week, methodically removing her alphabet magnets from the fridge and putting them in a basket, then taking them out, putting them back on the fridge and starting over again, so the project seemed timely.

While the classic, fluorescent plastic letters are nostalgic for many of us, I was thinking that if I was going to have them on the fridge all of the time, I would kind of like them to be a little bit classier. I know, maybe I am kind of a toy snob, but I think that they can be fun, educational and look nice.

So, I went to Font Squirrel, which is my new favorite stop for fonts on the web. They have just enough of a selection without having to search through 7 million options. I found a nice, bubbly, cartoonish font called Big Fish. I printed it out at 265pt so that they were big enough for little hands to hold on to. I used regular paper, because that was what I had on hand, but card stock would probably be a better option.

I cut out the letters and then arranged them on my pieces of 1/4 inch plywood. I tried to get them really close together to save wood, then traced the letters onto the wood. Then I went to the saw and got to work, cutting the little guys out. I will do a more thorough tutorial later this week, as the photos I took of the cutting process turned out terrible. I will have to put the saw on the deck tonight and shoot some photos with better light.

I did want to share the final product however and give some of my initial thoughts on the workings of the saw.

Here are some of the letters, which I am very happy with. They are cute and fun and they were really easy to cut out. It took me about an hour to do a full set last night (just the cutting, not including the prep). I sanded the edges a little and was going to paint them, but I kind of like them with just the plain wood, what do you think?

I had a good experience overall with the saw. For those of you who are new or haven't been by for awhile, it is a 16-inch Variable Speed Scroll Saw from Craftsman tools. Here are the things I really liked:
  • It is really quiet, even on higher speeds (this is great with a sleeping baby)
  • I really liked the variable speed option. I started out on a really low speed to get the hang of it, but then found that a medium speed made it easier to cut straight lines
  • It cuts really nice and quick (like I said, it only took me an hour to cut the set)
  • The visibility of the blade and what you are cutting is really good and unobstructed. The blower worked well, once I adjusted it to point at the right spot. I ended up removing the guide foot because it kept getting in the way. I think if I was cutting out bigger pieces it might be more helpful.
  • The pin top blades were great for taking the curves nicely and doing angles. They are really thin, so it was really easy to change directions.
  • To do the center cuts in some of the letters like "O", you have to drill a hole and then remove the blade and insert it through the hole and re-attach it. Once I got the hang of this process, it was really quick to make that switch.
Things that I wasn't as fond of:
  • I used the pin top blade for the whole project. At one point, I tried to switch the blade to a regular blade and it was really challenging. I will talk more about this when I have better photos because the visual really helps.
  • I would like to have a small LED light mounted on the arm, kind of like my sewing machine light. It would really help with the smaller cuts and eyes that are getting older.
  • As I said, I did end up removing the guide foot because it was just in the way. It also was a problem with doing center cuts. I think it could be more useful if you are cutting bigger pieces. I didn't find that I needed it on this project.

So overall, I am really excited about this tool and I have some more projects on the horizon. As I said, I will post a tutorial later this week, when I can get the photos to turn out. I really do want your thoughts on the paint/no paint dilemma, so let me know!

04 August 2009

the economy of the home garden

I just read this post over at Garden Rant and couldn't have agreed more... I posted this in the comments as well, but I just wanted to share with all of you how I made this first year of gardening and chickens affordable:

"I agree that the first year can be a bit of an investment for chickens or gardens, but it a lot of it is up to the individual and the time they have and the creativity they use.

I could have bought the $2000 coop, but instead, chose to build one myself with reused building materials totaling about $75. I too use tons of scraps to feed my chickens and have found that a 50lb bag of food will last me 3-4 months at $10 a bag (from a local feed grower). I got my $2 bale of straw from a local farmer instead of paying $10 at the garden nursery.

The same thing goes for my garden. I used reclaimed lumbar to make raised beds. Scored my shovel, rake and hoe at garage sales for about $3 each. Spent $18 on a load of topsoil that i amended with free manure from a coworkers barn. I went in with a bunch of friends to order seed from High Mowing because the bigger quantities you order the cheaper they are. we just divided them up in envelopes. I also happened to score a flat of "frost bitten" starts from one of the local nurseries for free that have turned out to be just fine and a bunch of tomatoes from an overzealous coworker who had too many.

The economy comes with simplicity and creativity."

It seems funny to quote myself, but as I was writing the comment, I realized that I hadn't shared all of this here, but should. I don't have any problem with people spending big bucks on their garden or chickens, I just know that you don't have to. For me growing my own food was about the adventure of it and the economy too. Why do you garden or raise chickens? Have you taken steps to keep the costs down? I would love to hear from you.