Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Deep Litter Clean-Up

 It has to happen eventually. We practice the deep litter method of chicken keeping which means that we don't fuss with hen house maintenance. But, once a year we do have to clean out the hen house and provide new bedding to start the deep litter process anew. I talked about this at length in this post and I was featured in an article in the November/December 2012 issue of Chickens Magazine discussion of the "Once-a-Year Coop-Cleaning Solution".

The day starts early because this is hot, dirty work and it's best to do it on a hot day so that the coop has a chance to really dry out before the birds go to bed for the night.
 My faithful will-work-for-food farm hand/husband/ aka Chris starts shoveling out the old litter that's been building up over the last year. It's very dry and dusty and not a good thing to breathe so he has a dust filter under that scarf.
Starting a new compost pile with this worth it's weight in gold chicken manure. Yard waste and clippings will be added to this over the course of the next six to eight months, we like to let it age further over the winter and by spring it's more than ready to spread in the garden. 
Next comes the hose out and scrubbing with a mild bleach solution followed by another rinse. Everything gets scrubbed - floors, walls, perches and nest boxes.
This is the food storage area all scrubbed down and almost dry. When dry I dust everything and I do mean everything with diatomaceous earth to ward off bugs including the ground around the outside of the coop and run. 
Once the inside of the coop is dry diatomaceous earth is spread all around on perches and in nest boxes too. A deep layer of peat moss goes down and new coop curtains go up. The hens really like their privacy when laying jumbo eggs! Those same curtains used to be in my kitchen 20 years ago, I tell ya I never throw anything away!
Cinnamon loves her new cushy peat moss flooring.
The hen yard gets a dusting of diatomaceous earth for good measure too. In the 15 years that I've kept chickens I've never had a worm or bug problem and never used any kind of chemical on my birds (knock on wood). I truly believe that this routine and attention to cleanliness has kept them healthy and happy. Plenty of clean water, proper food and healthy natural snacks including fresh herbs from my garden and scraps from our table are provided daily. They have room to peck and jump and lounge around and rarely squabble.

If you're a chicken keeper what method do you use to keep your hens healthy and happy? Would you consider trying deep litter keeping?

Until next time,

Friday, September 5, 2014

What Am I Looking At?

I don't blame you for asking. After all, isn't this supposed to be a quilting, cooking, gardening, country living blog? My day at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento started out to be about quilts I swear! Chris and I planned a day centered around this:
But, they wouldn't let me take one single picture to show you. Not One! You'll just have to take my word for it when I tell you that there were some wonderful old quilts on display from very early Colonial examples through the Victorian era. My favorite was an embroidered crazy quilt which must have been a labor of many, many years with exquisite stitching. I only wish I could show you *alas* and *alack*. 

What I can show you is the gallery next door to the quilt display where some very modern art was on show. This juxtaposition made no sense to me but what do I know?
I thought this sculpture was really interesting and kinda scary. I guess you can tell I'm no art critic. Here's the explanation:
I loved this work because it reminded me of a quilt block of course!
Can't you just imagine this done in batiks? Here's the artist statement for it:
I'd love to show you more of our museum day but at this exact point the camera batteries died. Probably a good thing I wasn't able to take pictures in the quilt gallery if I could only take four shots anyway. What the day taught me is that I need to brush up on my art appreciation before I venture to the Crocker again. I do like to know what I'm looking at, what about you?

Until next time,

Monday, September 1, 2014

Preserving Memories

Here it is, a lifetime of memories stored in cardboard boxes. Over 40 years of birthday parties and Christmas mornings, soccer games and graduations, family road trips and goofy kids just being kids. 

When we were a young couple just starting out we did not have the money necessary to develop the pictures we took of our family events so our solution was to have those pictures made into slides, much cheaper process in those days. Never mind that we didn't own a slide projector or fancy screen to view the slides! When Chris got his first teaching job we had been married six years and were so excited because not only did we have a steady paycheck but we could borrow the school projector and take a look at the family archive! Eventually we saved enough to purchase a slide projector of our very own because I used it to teach my childbirth education classes  but we never had enough to buy those fancy carousel things, always loaded the slides one by one.

Skip ahead 30 thirty years. Look what has taken over the upstairs bedroom. Chris is retired and he has made it his mission to sort, catalog and scan those precious memories to preserve them for our children and ourselves. Thank goodness for the digital age. What used to take up boxes and boxes of space can now be stored on one flash drive. All you need is infinite patience and a will of iron! Sort, label, scan; sort, label scan... day after day, month after month. We have an old computer that's not connected to the internet and not much use for anything but it turns out to be perfect for this task.

When we had the kids all together in Mammoth in July for our big family vacation we were able to give each of them a flash drive with every childhood photo from birth through teen years and beyond. Their grand parents smile proudly on christening days and those first day of school shots march past, each child growing taller and more reluctant to pose until finally the diploma is proudly displayed, baby faces giving way to young men with beards.
And, just to keep them humble we made sure to include shots of those questionable fashion choices!

Make sure that you preserve your family memories while you still can.
Until next time,

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Unbelievably Hectic

That would be the only way to describe the last four months here on Dogwood Lane. One would think that living in the country would mean a peaceful, slow paced kind of life but that just has not been the way the way things have worked out this summer. Those of you who have been long time followers have noticed my absence in the blogosphere and have wondered what had become of me so let me re-cap for you:

MAY saw me afflicted with a case of the shingles. Not something I wanted to broadcast or particularly wanted to write about. Yes, I did get the shingles vaccination about five years ago but unfortunately I am one of the unlucky 30% of the vaccinated who are destined to get the pox anyway! It's over for now but it did make for an uncomfortable, in fact painful and debilitating month.

JUNE was a glorious, happy month celebrating the birth of our darling grand daughter Eve and the second birthday of big sister Paige. I was away from home for three weeks attending to those momentous events. So blessed.
JUNE also saw the kitchen re-model about which I have written quite a bit. If you're tired of hearing about this kitchen I'm sorry but you can't be half as tired as I am. This project just goes on and on. You know how one thing just leads to another? It's a domino effect where as soon as I think we're finished another must do renovation rears it's ugly head! Truly, I love how the whole thing has turned out and I THINK we're done at last. I have some nice side projects coming up to tell you about. 
JULY was taken up with more home renovation and a much needed time out for a wonderful family vacation. Our three sons, their wives and children joined us in Mammoth Lakes, CA for a week of hiking, pool lounging, swimming, boating, laughing and just being together. It was a wonderful, relaxing time. Even 6 week old baby Evie joined us on our hikes! Can you see her little head peeking out from her mommy's front pack?
lft to rt - Jody, Claire, Owen, C.P., Zack, Josiah, Josh, Jedidiah, Chris, Liam, Megan, Eve, Paige
This trip was the highlight of my summer! There just is nothing better than spending time with my family and it's a rare event that brings all of us together. An entire year's planning went into this vacation I can tell you.
On the trail to somewhere great!
AUGUST has brought the usual land management challenges and preparations for the annual Dowell Brothers visit.  My husband's four brothers, two nephews, one significant other and a long lost male cousin made the trek to Dogwood Lane to practice some backwoods crafts and make some family recipes which include gutta and buttermilk pie. What you may ask is gutta? Gutta is a German dish made from ground pork, beef and oats which are boiled together and then fried. Their mother made it all the time when they were growing up and they have a fondness for it. Needless to say you cannot buy gutta in any store that we know of unless you live in Cincinnati, OH. It's very popular in Ohio evidently, where they have gutta festivals. Go figure... Anyway, lot's of testosterone and lot's of laughs flying around for a few days. We really enjoy it when the Dowell boys are in town!
jft-rt nephews John & Jake, husband Chris, cousin Tony, brothers Steve, Mike, Tim, & Larry, friend Suzanne
This finally brings me to today. A new day in a new week. Chris and I are planning a BIG trip in a couple of weeks but for now we're home and back to a our regular and slower routine. What has your summer been like? If it's been anything like mine you need a break!!

Until next time,

Monday, August 4, 2014

Baby Quilts From Panels

I'm sure you've noticed that there's been precious little sewing going on around here the last two months. Lots of good reasons for this of course - new grand baby, new kitchen, summer fun in general. However I did manage to pop in to my Nellies meeting mostly because it was my turn to lead the monthly activity and get some quilting in. Yippee for me!

The projects we worked on were donation quilts for children using polar fleece throws from Ikea. These throws are the backing and self binding for each little quilt with no batting needed. The size of each fleece is 51 X 67" so they're a nice manageable size to quilt through and can be used for anything from a baby quilt to a lap size quilt. At only $3.99/@ a real bargain for our Christmas Basket donations this year. 
Jeannie and I were in charge of this activity and so we purchased about 20 fleece and put together kits which included a child friendly panel and border fabrics. Some of the panels were appropriate for boys, girls and babies. We tried to cover all age and gender groups. The fleece come in a variety of colors although the only pictures I seem to have are of the white ones.
Here's a panel I finished in about an hour with a turquoise fleece which will be cut to about 1/2 inch larger than the quilt, then I'll do some simple quilting and the back will be brought around to the front to create a binding which I'll stitch by machine. Simple, quick, washable, warm and really cute.
Here's a pieced flannel baby quilt which I'll finish the same way. So warm and cuddly.

If you're anything like me you struggle to get those purchased panels straight. They just are not always printed straight and the more we cut the worse it gets. Here's a video from the Fat Quarter Shop that really helped me with that pesky problem.

So I haven't been in the sewing room as much as I would like but I have been getting a little bit done with needle and thread and I hope to be spend more time soon doing what I love most. Linking up to Design Wall Monday for the first time in over a month, *sigh*.

Until next time,

Friday, July 25, 2014

Good Fences Make Good Dogs

I've mentioned before that our pups Shadow and River follow us everywhere and most of the time that's not a problem.

Sweet and innocent faces right? Except when they're not so innocent. When I want them to stay in the yard they don't seem to agree. I've told you about this before and the lengths we've gone to to keep them where they belong. Sometimes I just want to take a walk all by myself without the mighty squirrel hunters. Sometimes I don't want these two scaring every deer within a 10 mile radius.
I submit to you the very latest in cattle gate extension technology - the Cattle Gate 10,000. Able to repel leaping German Shepherds and determined Border Collies. Available in front and back gate models.
As a bonus this amazing gate will also keep deer out of your garden and grand kids under the age of 8 where you put them either inside or outside the fence. This is a limited edition product and NOT available in any store. Put your critters and your kids where ya want em!

What's that you say, "Necessity is the  mother of invention?" Damn straight!

Until next time,

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

State Fair Quilts

 So, last time I was telling you about our family visit to the California State Fair and I left you just as I was entering the quilt exhibit hall. The crafts exhibit halls at the fair grounds are airy and well lit, a beautiful space and I was surprised at how few quilts were on show. Those that were displayed were all exceptional. Unfortunately, as was true with all the exhibits throughout the fair the signage was terrible - tiny and unreadable. I have no idea who made these beautiful quilts so I'll just show them and say to the makers that you all did wonderful work.

I believe that this was the grand prize winner but as you can see the signs are very small so I can't swear to it. The big surprise is that this quilt is entirely done by machine embroidery in the hoop!  Here's a close-up. Hours and hours of work and meticulous attention went into this beauty. Don't fool yourself into thinking that the embroidery machine does all the work when creating something like this.
 There were about 30 quilts or maybe less on display and I took pictures of those that caught my fancy. See if you agree.
I'm a sucker for a simple pattern done well.
Old trucks are all the rage in pictorial quilts right now and this one is done particularly well.
I believe this is a Laundry Basket Quilts pattern which mixes batiks and traditional fabrics, I love the look of this combination.
Speaking of batiks hows this for a twist on tradition? Such a cool modern vibe on the traditional basket quilt.
My secret's out, I seem to be drawn to batiks right now.
Another simple pattern done well but the real star of this quilt is the quilting itself.
Absolutely breathtaking quilting with each zigzag section quilted differently and all the white areas quilted differently. Not a bed quilt but a show piece for sure. Stunning!
This applique quilt was HIGH in the air. So cheerful. I love the varied backgrounds, I wonder who Tilly is? One lucky girl I'm thinking.
Just to give you some idea of what I mean by HIGH in the air.
Zooming in, don't you love the wonky set of these applique blocks? That's what sets this quilt apart from the rest.
That's it for our State Fair quilt show. Hope you enjoyed some quilty inspiration and congratulations to all the fair participants.

Until next time,