Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Chicken Palace

So last year we lived with my folks while we found a place to rent.  So as "rent" we built my folks a chicken coop.  Of course, since I never do things by halves, my husband and I built a big one.   When we moved in my parents had 3 chickens and 1 rooster.  Before we finished the coop we were given 8 more hens and another rooster, so we needed a fair sized coop.  
Our flock - We didn't have roosts yet  ;)

So I went to the library and read every book I could find on chickens.  I really like to be prepared before I begin a project.  Then I started drawing up designs.  Now you have to understand that during this time my parents had taken a trip to Israel, Jordan and Egypt.  It was a three week tour for their 36th anniversary.  This left my husband and I at their house in charge of the minor kids, the chickens and their cows.  So some of my planning was done by email from the US to the Middle East (crazy huh). 

So I get my ideas drawn out and we start getting supplies together.  My brother John was helping me do the heavy lifting.  My husband, the carpenter, took a look at my designs and told me why some of it just wouldn't work the way I had planned.  Of course, I was perfectly willing to get advise from him, because he knows a whole lot more about building than I do.  We really wanted this coop to last after all. 
In place, but we didn't have the nest boxes together yet
So we got to work on the floor to start with.  We framed it all out and then went to work framing out the side walls.  My husband figured with a slanted roof that the easiest way to frame out the end walls was to do it with the floor and side walls in place.  So we put the side walls on the floor, made sure it was all level, and built the side walls.  After all of the parts were assembled, we added the plywood to the walls and floor.  We then took the whole thing apart, because we built it in the barn, and it was way to heavy to carry to the place we were going to erect it.

We still didn't have the nest boxes together, so we put wire mesh over the openings so we wouldn't have to worry about coons.  Next we put the nest boxes together.  This took some figuring.  We wanted to have some storage area in the coop that the chickens could not acsess.  So we placed the nest boxes 18 inches above the floor and made a storage area over the top of the nest boxes that was only accessable from the outside of the coop.  We already had reclaimed cabinet door for using to access the nest boxes from the outside, and these were big enough to access the storage area also.

 As you can see there are no dividers in thestorage area.  This storage area has been awesome!  It allows us to keep some of the things we only use in the coop right there handy. Since it is right next to the garden we can store the small tools there also.  We did a lot of learning by trial and error on the nest boxes, and there are things that I would change after using the coop for a couple of minths.  For one thing at the bottom edge of the nest boxes we installed a solid board and we really should have hinged it to make it easier to clean.
 For those of you who don't know chickens, they are not neat birds.  One of the issues that we have had is that they like to roost in the nest boxes.  Although as the weather warms up this is getting less problematic. 

We placed our coop right next to our greenhouse so that the chickens would have somewhere a little drier to scratch when it was really wet.  To keep them from getting into the garden we fenced the greenhouse with chicken wire and made them a ramp to get from the coop to the greenhouse.

We installed the nest boxes after the chickens had been in the coop about 2 weeks.  We had been having to gather the eggs out of the nests that they made in the litter that we had spread on the floor.  It took us a couple of weeks to train them to use the nest boxes, but it was worth the work. 

After we got the nestboxes installed we had to figure out waterproofing for the outside.  We made a trip to Lowes and found some outside paint on clearance (wrong color).  It was brown, not our first or second choice, but the price was definitely better.
My kids were facinated by this whole process.  So we primed and painted everything.
 Of course we needed a pop of color so we painted the doors a bright red.

All in all, the whole project went very well.  And we still have room for a few more chickens!  ;)

Finished inside and out!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Modeling Magic

So I received the molds that my mother and I ordered off of Etsy.  They are really cute.  However, I will state for the record that it PAYS to read the entire listing!!!!  I thought that the molds would have three cavities that would be about 1 inch by 1 1/2 inches.  Had a read the description all the way through I would have known that the cavities were about the size of my thumbprint. 

The molds that we ordered

I think that by sticking the molds in the freezer we can definitely speed up the process. With making nine at a time I think we will be fine with 5 or 6 rounds and if we rotate them I should be able to get the finished in about an hour maybe two. I think this will actually help make my workload for this shower a little lighter. I was starting to get a little overwhelmed at making a full-size cake because I am a perfectionist when it come to decorating. 

Painting the white details of the cameo with a fine paintbrush
  So I made about 125 little chocolates. It took longer than I expected, but except for the first couple they turned out very well. I took a little while to get into a rhythm, but once I did I made fairly quick progress.  Each mold had to be hand painted with the white candy melts. 

My work setup
 I set up in my kitchen  with a tv tray, a chair and my laptop of course so that I could "watch" movies while I worked.  I kept a pot boiling on he stove to help keep the candy melts melted.   I also made use of my reusable hot pack.  It was a great idea because it was just the right temperature to keep the candy melts melted without overcooking them.  I could leave my bowl of white to paint from and my bag of blue on top of the hot pack.  It did a wonderful job of keepin the candy just warm enough to flow without becoming clumpy. 

It definitely was more work to get these done than I expected.  It required 2 sessions, one was six hours the other was five hours.  Not that my sister isn't totally worth the time, but I do have a family, and they like to get some time too.  So I am glad that these candies are finished.  

The finished product

Next on the list is making soaps from the same pattern.  So next weeks post will be "soapy."  Now to figure out how to use this tiny mold for soap.  Now on to the next stop on the journey.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Baby Stuff

Well, the first weekend in March, my husband and I went on to marriage retreat.  I cannot describe to you what a blessing it was.  There was one couple there that has been married for 63 years.  And they were still holding hands.  Now that is the picture of love that I like to see. 

We had a wonderful group and loads fellowship.  Of the 5 couples that attended in our group, four couples stayed in the same hotel.  We would gather after the evening session in the lobby and play games and have snacks and fellowship.  It was great to get to know some of the couples from our new church family better.  We had such a great time together. 

While I was there I was able to get some work done on the quilt I have started for my sister's baby boy.  She is due in May, but we are having a baby shower for her at the end of March, and I really want to get it finished before her shower.  I am making a paper pieced quilt of my own design.  I am going with horses because she loves horses.  I have 2 of the blocks mostly finished now.  I had the fabric sewn for the block but I still needed to do some hand work on each block that I had finished sewing.  For the corners I decided to go with the four seasons.  So I have mostly finished the winter and spring blocks.  I still have to add the mane and tail to each horse, but I got the flowers on the spring block and the snowflakes on the winter block. 

Spring detail: blue birds
Winter detail: snowflakes

Spring detail: flowers
               So after we got home I started working on the summer block.  You know how they say that even the best laid plans go astray, well, somehow I put three of the sections of the block together backwards!  Yes, I said backwards!  Oh, well, they also say live and learn.  All things considered, with having three kids underfoot it has gone together remarkably smoothly.
So I am going to re-draw the pieces for the section with the legs.  There wouldn't be anything left of the paper pattern if I tried to take the stitches out and sew it on the other side.  That is one downside of sewing though the paper, another is that you have to redraw the pattern pieces.  Oh well, again, live and learn.

I am still trying to decide what to do in between the horse blocks.  I had drawn up a pattern, but the more I thing about it the more I don't want to use that pattern.  Which kind of stinks because I  drew out 4 copies (which of course took three tries to get the measurements right.)  At the moment I an contemplating a simple log cabin design.  They are quick and easy to put together and are after all classics.  The complication is deciding what layout I want to use because my other blocks are 16 inches square.  I think I am going to go with a log cabin design with 8 inch blocks, but then again give me a few days and that may change again.  ;)  Anyway, I plan to finish the horse blocks this weekend, along with making royal icing flowers for my nieces birthday cupcakes, oh, and I have to go feed and water chicken and feed cows too.  Nothing like a full schedule to prove how productive you can  really be.

Hang in there folks, it's gong to be a crazy ride for the next couple of weeks! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Growing Things

Well, at my house right now we are not just growing little minds and big minds as far as that goes, I am never too old to learn something new.  We are also growing lots and lots of little plants.  I think that we have a few too many to be honest.  Don't tell anyone, but I think I got a little carried away with the seeds.  ;) 
My sunflowers are going to have to be moved to bigger
pots soon.  They have gotten very leggy in the last week.
These were among the first to sprout, and they are so very cheerful!

These are in my living room window.

At the same time I am very grateful for pinterest, because even though I have so very many seedlings all of my seeds have not yet sprouted.  As seen in the picture below.  All of the jars have water beads in them with seeds.  This way I am not left with a bunch of newspaper pots that I don't know whether they have viable plants in them or not.  It is always my biggest conundrum when it comes to planting my own seeds, most especially since some of the varieties are from seeds that I saved myself.
These won't fit in the living room, and since I don't trust the three year
old not to play with them, their home is in my bedroom window.

Altogether I think we have planted about 12 varieties of heirloom tomatoes as well as broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, kohlrabi, peppers, celery, sunflowers, delphiniums, snapdragons, convulvus (bush morning glories), hollyhocks, larkspur, sage, summer savory, thyme, basil, chamomile, and the list goes on.  So yeah, things are a little crazy at my house right now.  I don't really know how many more newspaper pots I can fit.  I don't have any more windows!  As usual the Lord provides abundantly far more than we could ask or think.