Monday, January 30, 2012

Rooster Cogburn settles in

Mr. Rooster Cogburn, our new Americauna rooster, has been settling in nicely over the weekend. I've already integrated him with the rest of our flock, because in the winter we currently only have one water fount that we can thaw out daily, so we really didn't have any option to segregate him longer term like I would have otherwise liked. Although when we ordered our chicks I had thought about ordering a male, or one breed straight run, so that we would have one breed that we could hatch chicks and replace our flock with in the future. My husband, working night shifts, wasn't keen on the thought of having a rooster crowing at daybreak, waking him up, so we ordered just females.

I was surprised when last week he so readily said yes to a free rooster, and I'm just hoping that he'll stay interested in baby chicks and the ability to produce more layers, and not get purturbed if Rooster Cogburn starts crowing early in the morning! So far I've only heard him crow once, and it was almost noon, so I'm hoping he'll stay under the radar for a bit!

When I thought about getting a rooster, the americauna was the first of our breeds that came to mind. In terms of having chicks and becoming more self-sufficient, I would want to keep our breeds pure. With the exception of the Americauna we have, the rest of the breeds are all brown egg layers. Time will tell if I can differentiate breeds from the brown eggs we get, but to keep things safe this first go around, an Americauna rooster would make raising pure americauna chicks as easy as picking only blue/green eggs to incubate.

I think in the future, if we keep enjoying having chickens and want to expand and raise more chicks, I would have 2 flocks of 5-10 birds. Having a couple different breeds in each flock, and a rooster with each flock thats mates are the only producers of their color of egg in that flock, would mean I could have sustaining populations of several breeds. We'll see how that works out long term, but once we have a larger coop (in the next few years maybe?), it would be more possible. I guess it depends on which breeds we end up liking best from the 8 we bought last summer, and whether we do another round of breeds before selecting our final breeds that we want to work with.

I think Rooster Cogburn is settling in nicely with our 13 girls, don't you? I'm linking up today with the Homestead Barn Hop, head on over and see what has been happening on other homesteads!

Friday, January 27, 2012

The new & wonderful Mr. Rooster Cogburn!

Earlier this week I called a nice lady about a free Americauna rooster she had available. Little M and I were supposed to drive over to her place that evening, but the snow was dumping down pretty good a half hour before we should have left, so I called and we rescheduled to last night. We drove over, loaded him up in a small dog crate, and brought him home.

He's so pretty! Long tail feathers, beautiful feathers around his neck, and just overall gorgeous! I don't have any pictures of him yet, but we've settled him in to the coop beside the girls, so they can get to know each other slowly. I expect I'll get some pictures of him this weekend when I can see him in daylight.

We've named him Rooster Cogburn (and chickenshit if he misbehaves!). I sure hope he doesn't misbehave... :) I'm pretty excited to have him - hopefully we'll be able to raise some chicks in the future and be more self-sustaining in the chicken department, only time will tell!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012 in a winter wonderland...

Wednesday last week during the day light hours we got 8 inches of fresh, new, fluffy snow. It was wonderful. My very being had been craving white flakes dumping down all over everything, making the world look brand new and sparkly. It was cold out, so the snow wasn't at all packy, and it just fluffed around when you walked through it.

I'm glad I went for a long walk with the dogs last Monday, before all the snow fell. Steep slopes and a bit of hard packed snow is one thing, but steep slopes and snowshoes and deep fluffy snow is quite another! However, when I got home from work on Friday, as more snow began to fall, my husband convinced me to go on a hike with him and Little M. I ended up with her on my back, and although we took a slightly different route up to that final lookout point, we still went just as far. I was pretty impressed with us, it was a workout! It was gorgeous hiking around with the snow underfoot and the flakes falling thickly from the sky, although when snow cascaded off the heavily laden tree branches onto our heads, Little M was never very impressed!

The total snowfall Friday night was about 4-5 inches (as measured on our back deck), and then on Sunday we got another 4-5 inches. Made getting out of the driveway a bit of a challenge Monday morning, since my husband (the snow blow operator in the house) worked 3 12's Saturday-Monday, so he hadn't done any snow removal since right before the fresh 8-10 inches had fallen over the weekend.

Looking out the windows towards the conifer-covered hillside south of our house, made me realize something. There are times in the fall when my heart aches for the showy reds, yellows, and oranges of fall in the mixed forests of the Canadian Shield where I grew up. This past weekend I realized that in an equally powerful way, the winter scenes in these conifer forests have grabbed hold of my heart. Snow weighing down the dark green limbs, bright green moss hanging off the branches, big flakes pelting down, and that uplifting feeling I get when it snows. Ahhh Winter.

Last night we got another 3-4 inches, so the trend has been snow every other day... Sounds good to me!  Hope you enjoy these snowy pictures as much as I do!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mama's Hike

Earlier this week I had the day off work but already had daycare lined up, so from about 10 to 4 I had the day entirely to myself. I did a bit of writing in the morning, and a bit of electrical work on the house in the afternoon (switching out electrical outlets), but in between I went on a rambling walk with the dogs.

Well, perhaps rambling isn't quite the word to describe my walk, actually, because it definitely involved a straight-up-the-hillside scramble to get to a trail that wraps along the hillside going east from our house. The scramble was greatly aided by wearing my boot chains, because although at that time we had only a little layer of hard packed crusty snow, that hillside is hard to climb even when the temperatures are warm and the soil is dry.

The dogs had a lot of fun, and so did I. It has been many many months since I was out in the woods with only the dogs as company. Far too long! I do enjoy my weekly hikes around with Little M on my back, but there are things that I just can't do with her on my back, and this long scramble up the hillside was one of them!

The dogs and I enjoyed our hike, and at the turn around point we came to a very pretty little knob where I could see out down our valley, and up a little side valley. It was very pretty, and there were a couple ravens there who were calling inquisitively at us as the circled around. I grew up in the woods, albeit woods a long long way from here, and am most comfortable when surrounded by tree trunks blowing in the wind, leaves crinkling under my feet, and fresh open air in my lungs. I'm lucky to live out in the country now rather like I lived then, although this is definitely one of the times in my life that I end up outside the least. Still, its so nice to know that this sense of peace and adventure is merely out my back door.

Monday, January 16, 2012

DIY fabric bins

Last week I pinned a fabric box tutorial that involved fabric & cardboard - both things that I had on hand. It took me a while to get time to make one for myself, but finally on Saturday I took some time in the evening after putting Little M down to bed and quickly put one together. I used the dimensions shown in the tutorial, although it turned out smaller than I had expected. When I make more bins I will enlarge the bottom and side dimensions to give it a larger bottom footprint. The tutorial was easy to follow, though, and I like how this first bin turned out.

We have lots of spots around the house where we could use nice fabric bins, either instead of the temporary cardboard boxes I've been using lately until I bought or made ones that fit us and the space better, or in spots that I have yet to design (buffet behind the couch for toy bins?). I don't have a lot of any fabric type, most of my fabric is from scavenging through my MIL's fabric collection for a quilt I had been thinking of making last year that just never happened. So if I want the bins to match, I may have to get more fabric!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Our Rental House - Unstaged

So one week last fall we had an offer on our rental house. After going back and forth over the price, we were all set to accept their counter, when the buyer withdrew their offer. We were pretty bummed. Two days later, they offered again. Needless to say, I stayed in the valley late to sign papers before driving over to duck camp for the weekend to be with the rest of the family.

Fast forward about a month and a half. It was two weeks until when we were supposed to close. I knew it was perhaps unlikely that we would close on time, because the sale was contingent on the buyer's house closing, and her closing was taking a bit longer than hoped. I started writing a post on how we were two weeks from closing, when my husband walked in the door from work talking about how closing was going to be later than expected. I decided to wait on the post until things seemed more sure.

A week later, just under a week from when we were supposed to close, the sale fell through on her house, so by default, our sale fell through. We had a bunch of difficult reality-checks in early December, and that was one of them.

However, we've moved on. On Christmas eve, the mother of the local fire chief had her house burn down. The house that she raised her 7 kids in. Talk about a truly crazy unfortunate reality check... Luckily no one was hurt, and other than water and smoke damage, a lot of her possessions are salvageable. The firemen were very diligent and managed to save the structure, but the insurance company is still deciding whether to total her house or whether gutting and rebuilding it will be the way to go.

She needed a place to live, and since her house was just down the street and around the corner from ours, she's moved in to our rental for a couple months until her house situation gets figured out. Turns out her daily walking route used to go right by our house, so the transition will be as easy as any such transition could be. She's a really sweet old lady and we are feeling pretty lucky to be able to help her out while helping our finances out at the same time! I'm still hopeful that our house will still sell this summer, but am not expecting anything in the months to come.

I know I never shared the fully staged house photos I had planned, because we weren't completely done our fix-ups and staging when we accepted that offer last fall, so the pictures in this post were taken shortly before we un-staged it prior to our new renter moving in last weekend, so you could see how nice it was looking :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Photos from a busy weekend

Since one of my current goals involves learning to use our newish digital SLR camera on the fully manual setting, I figured that I should set myself up to succeed by 1 - sharing that goal with all of you, and 2 - sharing my photos on here more regularly even when they aren't strictly garden or project-related! Keeping that in mind, here are some pictures I took this past weekend. I think they turned out fairly decently, although I know there is room for improvement - particularly with the white balance settings... :)

Over the weekend Little M and I kept ourselves busy - we went on a couple walks, so that explains the chickens and the scenery shots, and then we decided to change the furniture arrangement up in our living/dining room to see if a different floor plan would work better for us, so that explains the inside shots. Thanks for looking & hope you enjoy them!

Friday, January 6, 2012

My 2012 Household Notebok

I've mentioned that I've been working on it several times in the past couple weeks, but finally I have finished my household notebook! I'm lucky enough to work across the street from a little local business supply store, and they do wonderful things like laminating and binding. What I couldn't just do by myself for this notebook, they could do for me!

Over the past year of blogging, I've seen lots of other bloggers share their household binders. I always thought the principle of having all those important lists, numbers, goals, and recipes in one spot made so much sense, but I wasn't all that keen on using a 3 ring binder. I liked the idea I've seen some people use of having the pages bound, but I was worried I would want to add pages as my home needs changed. What I did to try and work around that is have a couple blank pages at the end of key sections. For example, after my Garden planning page I have a couple extra sheets for extra planning. Likewise after my Chicken info page I have a blank sheet or two so that I can plan another coop, or brainstorm new breeds if I feel the need this year. All told my notebook ended up being almost 120 pages, but since I double sided it that only worked out to about 60 sheets of paper - not too thick & not too thin!

I tried to organize it in an order that made sense to me. Going through the notebook, I've got the following sections:
  • Daily to do list
  • Weekly schedule
  • Cleaning & maintenance checklists
  • Yearly goals
  • Rowing challenges and a table to record my workouts
  • My book list for 2012
  • Monthly & season goal worksheets
  • Sheets for filling out our house projects - room by room
  • Vacation & trip ideas
  • Garden Planning
  • Chicken Info
  • Blogging planning
  • Finance worksheets
  • Daycare & car trip checklists
  • Vehicle maintenance logs
  • 2012 yearly & monthly calendars
  • Meal planning worksheets
  • Preparedness lists
  • Emergency numbers
  • Important contact numbers
  • List of addresses
  • List of birthdays
  • Gift giving records & ideas tables

It's a long list, and in fact I've got a bunch more single sheets that fall under some of these sections that I didn't even mention, but it is an information-packed notebook that I think is really going to be a time saver! I can't count the number of times I've searched high and low for my address list, or forgotten to add an address from one year to the next and had to ask for it again! I'm very hopeful that I'll use this notebook and have all those important bits of information right at my fingertips!

If you look closely at my photos, you might realize that I didn't laminate all of the pages. Laminating was the most expensive part of making this notebook, and while at $1 a page it isn't too expensive, laminating all 60 sheets would been crazy expensive! I chose to laminate the 11 sheets that I would need to reuse over and over and over. I think next time I will take the laminating process a bit slower. If I had cut the sheets to be laminated down a little bit on all sides, then after laminating I could have cut the laminated part down a bit to make the laminated sheets the same 8.5 x 11 size as the rest of the sheets, without messing up the lamination. As it is, this time I will just have to deal with 11 sheets that are slightly larger than the rest. I'll let you know if I can deal with that or if I end up breaking down and redoing those sheets!

For those of you thinking about making a notebook of your own, there are just so many great ideas out there online, and if I had one suggestion of where to start, it would be on Pinterest - do a search for homemaking/homekeeping/etc binder/notebook, and all these great printables will come up, some free, some customizable. I got a lot of my inspiration from Pinterest while I was making up my templates and filling in all the little details that make my notebook so perfect for me :) Happy searching!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sewing Reusable Gift Bags

So last week I promised I would share how I made cloth gift bags with my mother-in-law literally hours before we wrapped & then opened presents for our early Christmas celebration with that side of his family. I figure since this is coming a couple weeks (at least!) late for anyone looking to wrap Christmas presents, and since I don't want to wait to blog about it until a month before next Christmas, I should point out that these would work great in other fabrics for Birthday or Anniversary gift-wrapping too! The best part is that they are reusable, but hey, they can also be really adorable and a gift just in themselves too!

My process was as follows:

First, convince my mother-in-law to bring some of her stash of Christmas-y fabric, pull out her old sewing machine, and get some thread ready to go. I'm not always very good at filling bobbins up with thread, so I convinced her to do that step for me, each and every time the bobbin ran out or I changed thread & fabric colors :) She's great like that!!

My next step was to pick one of the fabrics, fold it roughly in half with the good sides facing each other, and cut a roughly rectangular piece of doubled over fabric. Since we were using fabrics that had missing bits and pieces as they were left overs from other projects, there was a fair bit of creative folding so that we had the largest possible rectangular doubled over area, if that makes any sense to you at all :)

Next I double-checked that I had the good sides facing each other (except for one time when I forgot and sewed it inside out - OOPS! - luckily my MIL came to the rescue and unstitched that one for me!), and I sewed around 2 sides, leaving one side just folded, and one side open to be the top.

Then I folded the top over and sewed it, to end up with a finished looking top. I turned the bag right side out, and tada, a bag!

The next step was making a spot for a drawstring to close the bag once the present was inside. We did this a couple of different ways. The first one, the bag where I actually had 2 fabrics, one as the inside layer and one as the outside, since they weren't thick enough fabrics on their own to not let the present be seen through the bag, this first one I put the drawstring right in the folded over and sewed off top, where there should be a narrow gap that runs around the entire top. The downside to this though was that I had to cut a hole in the side of the top for the drawstrings to come out, and that hole looks a little ragged. The second way was by using little fabric tape sections, which we sewed on top of the bag around the top section. Some of these we sewed two pieces of fabric on, so we could have 2 cords in, one coming out on either side, which really made closing easy. The others we used one piece of fabric and just had one cord to pull on to close the bag. I think a lot of this closure stuff will come down to your personal preference on how you want your bag to look, all of the ones we made each work just fine!

We used ours that night for early Christmas, and took some of the bags home with us and used them for our small family Christmas. Little M also put them to good use to hold her Lizzy doll and sippy cup, not to mention trying them on for size herself :)

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