Saturday, March 31, 2012


That's right.  Duck.  Or, ducks, to be exact.
We expanded our little homestead by four yesterday.  We had planned to get some ducklings this year but when we heard the sad news that our little local hatchery was going out of business and selling off their breeding stock, we changed our plans a little.

I stopped over and picked up three Pekin ducks, a boy and two girls that we hope will breed and produce eggs.  I also brought home a runner duck just because I've always wanted one and I couldn't resist.  He's the shy splotchy one in the first photo.  He runs, rather than waddles, and walks more upright than other ducks.  He sort of looks like a bowling pin.  I'm sure there will be lots of photos once he gets a little more comfortable around us.

I wasn't planning on having new members of the family so soon, so I made a makeshift run in the unfinished coop that we planned to use for new chicks.  They didn't seem to mind, but you could see their bills watering when they got an eyeful of the green sprouts popping up in the lawn just outside their fence  Soon I'll finish the chicken tractor so they can forage safely in the yard.  (ducks are hawk-magnets here so they can't wander unattended just yet)

Though they are not tame like our chickens, they weren't aggressive when we picked them up, or when my youngest invaded their living quarters.  Given that she is always carrying the chickens around, the ducks should probably get used to the idea now.

The skinnier chickens have already figured out that they can squeeze under the coop and get into the ducks' pen, a flaw that will be corrected today, and helped themselves to the ducks' food.  Greedy little things.  After a food and water re-fill the ducks were contentedly nibbling away, and life was peaceful.

I'm looking forward to getting to know these little guys.  I've already fallen a little in love.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

thank you!

A big thank you to everyone who stopped by my shop update yesterday.  All of my new pieces found wonderful new homes, and I'm so grateful.

What does that have to do with the chicken?  Nothing.
This is Godzilla stuffing her face full of food.  It makes me laugh.  That is all.

A big thank you to Craft mag, also, for sharing my lichen garden necklace yesterday.

It was a good day.

I hope today is good to all of you.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

shop update today

A little peek at what will be in today's shop update.  These will "go live" at noon, CST in my shop.

Thanks for looking!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

didn't strike gold

That great golden yellow I pulled from the dye pot the other day?  Turns out it wasn't the cedar.  What you see in my hand there is a the result of using cedar only.  (I did it twice, just to be sure)  Chokecherry alone gave me a tan also, so is it the combo of the two that produced that yellow color?

I guess I'll have to try again.  Crossing my fingers I strike gold.

I'll be putting some new goods in my shop tomorrow at noon CST if you'd like to stop by.
I'll be sending a reminder via Facebook and Twitter at noon, if you follow me there.

Have a good day, all.

Monday, March 26, 2012

pulling parsnips

Last year's parsnips, finally ready for harvest.  Parsnips need to be hit with frost, or to over-winter, in order to sweeten.  It's best to dig them before the tops start to sprout but, in our case, mother nature wasn't ready to give them up yet.  We tried to dig them out just a few days ago but the ground was still frozen and they weren't budging.

Yesterday my helper accompanied me to the garden and eagerly dug them from the ground.  I'd barely get the soil turned over and he was digging away like a little badger.

After they were all pulled and cleaned, a batch of parsnip muffins were baked.  Perfect for breakfast, along with a fresh egg and a cup of tea.  

A nice way to start the day.
I hope your week is off to a good start too.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

lichen gardens and prehistoric fish

I snuck a little bit of time yesterday afternoon, in between taking in a discussion about raptors at the arboretum and popcorn and movie time in the basement, to do a little work with my fingers.

The other day I had cut a little nugget of that chokecherry wood, sanded it smooth, then rubbed it with beeswax and tung oil, to be ready to become a necklace.  I did a little sewing, a lichen-inspired garden of sorts, on a small bit of wool and fit it inside the wood and strung it up on leather.

I cut this piece of wood so I could keep this little inclusion on the side.  It looks like a prehistoric fish to me, which I totally dig. (naturally)

I'll be putting this little garden in my shop on Wed. of this coming week, along with just a few other pieces I've been working on.  More to come.

Have a good and restful Sunday, everyone.

Friday, March 23, 2012

wood tea? dyeing surprise!

I've been doing a little woodworking this week, mostly making brooch bases and necklaces.  I'm digging into some of the chokecherry wood I cut last year and some of the cedar my friend Lynn sent me when she pruned her trees. 

I love the colors in these woods but the chokecherry especially is prone to checking (cracking).  Checking isn't usually a problem when making small pieces like I am, but when you have wood this pretty you don't want to lose a single piece of it.  I cut most of my pieces running with the grain which helps, but sometimes I can't resist trying to get a slice showing off that center grain.

Above, you can see I'm holding a piece of chokecherry that's been sanded and oiled.  It's so pretty!  But, it cracked, as fruit wood is prone to.  I had read that some wood turners boil their bowl blanks for an hour then dry it in a paper bag to reduce checking.  I figured it was worth a try, and put a number of chunks of wood in my enamel pot and boiled them.

The boiling cherry and cedar wood lent a rather "mulchy" smell to my house, with rabbit cage undertones.  As unappealing as that may sound, it's nothing compared to some of the aromas I've filled this house with while dyeing.

After they were done boiling, I removed the wood pieces and was left with a pot of water that looked like tea.  I have previously used chokecherry bark to dye with and had gotten a lovely buckskin color.  I figured I'd see if this "wood tea" mixture had dyeing potential.  I tossed some silk, organic cotton, and wool in the pot and let it sit overnight.

I pulled the fibers out of the pot this morning and was shocked to see so much color.  The wool (mordanted with alum) was a bright golden yellow.  The cotton fabric and silk were coppery in hue, much like the cedar itself.  Once dipped in an iron overdip, both the cotton and silk faded in color, moving towards tan.

I'm thinking that the cedar was largely responsible for the yellow color, so I'll try a bath of just cedar to see.  (more rabbit cage undertones, coming my way)

I love a good dyeing surprise.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

giving handmade gifts

This past weekend my first-grader was invited to a birthday party for a girl in his class.  He was excited to go, excited about the prospect of cake, and about giving her a gift.  He wanted to give her Barbies and pink, since she she's a big fan of both.

Those of you that have been reading my blog a while know I'm an advocate of handmade gifts.  I want my kids to feel that a handmade gift is just as "good" as store-bought.  I want them to know that whether handmade or store-bought, there needs to be thought behind the gift.  Without the thought, a gift is just stuff.

But sometimes the decision to give handmade can make me waiver a bit, especially when the gift is going to someone we don't know well.  What if she doesn't like it?  What if it embarrasses my son?  What if they think we're too cheap to buy a gift and are offended?  Not everyone shares my view about handmade, of course.

I thought about it a bit, but rather than offering up the 20-mile trip to town for a Barbie outfit as an option, I simply asked my son if he'd like to make the girl a wool flower, and told him he could pick the colors.  He was all for it, and excitedly picked out the most vibrant pinks and purples I have in my stash, certain that these were her favorite colors in the world.

I helped him lay out the fibers and he did the felting.  He picked the beads and I sewed the pieces together.  I put a pinback on it so she could wear it if she liked.  He painted her a birthday card and together we wrapped the flower up gently in tissue paper and twine.

He beamed, holding the little gift on the ride to her house.  I was so proud of him, and happy to have had done the project together, and crossed my fingers and toes that if the present wasn't well-received, that he'd be okay.

As it turned out, she loved the flower, and the family was most impressed that he made it himself.  Hooray!  and whew!

How about you?  Do you value handmade gifts?  Be honest.  Do you hesitate to give handmade gifts yourself or do you embrace them?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

re-growing green onion

I learned something.  I learned that you can regrow onion tops on your green onions!  I don't know how I didn't know this before, but I didn't.

I bought a bunch of green onions/scallions for making kimchi . Instead of cutting up the entire onion, I left a little bit of the green on them, and placed the bulbs in a tiny jar with some water.  The very next day there was already growth.

See the growth on the onions above?  They grew about 1/4" overnight.

3 days later and they were so big I felt guilty for keeping them in a jar with water, so I planted them in a small pot.  As of this morning the stalks are a good 6" taller than when I cut them.  The kids check the status daily of the green things growing in the windowsill, and the fast-growing onions have been a lot of fun for them.

These will tide me over while I'm waiting for my chives to come up.

You learn somethin' new every day.

What did you learn today?

Monday, March 19, 2012

a little building over the break

Spring break is over and we're back in our normal routines.  Our break was a "stay-cation" this year, but was far from boring.  The week began with lots of snow on the ground but with the unseasonably warm weather, it was soon gone, leaving plenty of mud in its place.

We spent tons of time outside playing, working in the yard, and hanging laundry (me, that is).  We visited a park, had a bonfire, and I finally got around to some home projects I've been wanting to make time for, but hadn't.

First up were some new chicken feeders, inspired by a primitive piece I had fallen in love with online.  I made mine out of some leftover planks of cedar, and added a handle to the top for carrying.  Over time it will earn its own patina, which is what I loved so much about the primitive piece.

The girls seem to dig them, and it makes feeding time much more orderly.  The slats across the top keep them from walking in their food.  (because they do that)

Also on my to-do list was an elevated holder for Charlie's food and water dishes.  I used up the end cuts and leftover pieces of board from building the chicken feeders, and a few boards pulled from an old pallet to make this.  It's nothing to look at, but it suits the purpose fine.

All in all, it was a really nice break.  I do love to tinker.

This week I'll be focusing a bit more and hope to have some new craftiness to show you soon.
Have a great start to the week, everyone.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

packing my bag

I made myself a little something last night, a wet-felted wool bag.  It's a big one, 14" wide and 12" tall, not including the handles.

I wasn't totally happy with the handles.  I wanted to be sure they would hold up over time, so I twisted them and sewed them up into a tube of sorts.  The next time I'll do this step in the felting, but this works for me.

It's our spring break and while I wish I could say that I was packing this baby full of reading materials and some sunscreen and heading off to somewhere warmer, we'll be spending our week at home instead.  I'll be taking a little break, working on some home projects, and hanging out with the kids and enjoying this weird streak of warm weather.

I'll be back soon, hopefully with lots of fun stuff to share.

Take care!

Friday, March 09, 2012

got it!

Earlier this week I shared some dye results using red cabbage.  Yesterday I was revisiting it, hoping to recreate the lovely darker blue color, and hoping to remember exactly how I got it in the first place.

Thankfully I was able to remember which tricks I used, and came up with a shade that was close to what I was looking for.  And I've written it down now.

The silk looked so lovely flying against a patch of (short-lived) blue sky.

It's funny how the dye color starts off purple, but with the addition of a tiny bit of ammonia, turns to blue.  A sprinkle of alum, and you can turn the blue back to purple.

Given the chance, I prefer to dye with red cabbage outdoors.  It gets a little rank, especially if you add in the ammonia.  I don't particularly like using ammonia but it does help with both the color development and the colorfastness.

The beautiful pale blues came from an exhaust batch, and for grins I threw in a piece of unbleached cotton drop cloth.  It looks a lot like chambray denim and I have a little project in mind for it.  If it mellows towards a grey color like my other red cabbage projects have, I think it will look especially nice.

I'd love to be able to teach classes on dyeing someday.  Anyone want to come out and play?  It's fun stuff.

Have a great start to your weekend, everyone!

Thursday, March 08, 2012

to believe in the future

I started winter-sowing some seeds a few days ago in empty milk jugs.  The act of planting made me feel like spring wasn't so far off, even if the planters were sitting in a snowdrift.  I started looking around thinking "what else can I make into a mini greenhouse?"  There were some plastic storage bins in my workspace that I was no longer using and I figured they fit the bill.

The bins are about 7" deep which is deep enough to accomodate soil and growing seedlings, and they were mostly clear.  It would have been much easier if the lids were clear also, but this is what I had to work with so I just went with it.

I gathered up the bins, some duct tape, a carpet knife, and my cordless drill. 

I loaded my chuck with a wood screw, but a drill bit would have worked too.

Running the drill in reverse, I punched holes in the lid of the bin.  (why reverse?  Going forward the screw would screw down into the plastic, forcing me to put the drill in reverse to remove it.  In reverse the screw still punctures the plastic without getting stuck)

Lots of holes.  This blue lid will become the bottom of my greenhouse so I wanted plenty of drainage.

I then flipped the box over and did the same to the now top - the clear part of the bin.

I won't be moving these often but I wanted the pieces to be secure if I did need to move my little greenhouse to a new location.  Using the duct tape, I taped the lid to the box.

I cut a flap (carefully) along three sides of the top of the box.

This will be my access point for adding soil and harvesting seedlings.

I taped a stick, slightly longer than the box, to the flap to act as a handle for the lid, and to keep the flap from getting stuck down in the box and smooshing my plants.

I filled my greenhouse with about 4" of potting soil and sowed my seeds.

Betty came over to inspect the latest greenhouse, prompting me to flip the open part of the flap towards the house so she'd be less likely to get in there and eat up my seeds.  Because she totally would.

Our growing season is pretty short here so if this works and I'm able to get a little jump on planting, I'll be one excited girl.

It's said that to plant a garden is to believe in the future.  Right now I'm believing in future salads.  And teas.  And veggies.  I can't wait.


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