Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Garden gate beginnings

I had planned to wait until the garden gate was finished to blog about it, but today a friend asked me to share the progress as it moved along.  Also, James told me it was time for me to blog again so here I am.

This may be boring to some of you but so far each step of making this has been fun for me.  Instead of starting from scratch and buying all new steel I decided to use something we already had.  We used to have gates at the end of the driveway but we took them down when we removed some fencing.  They've been sitting behind a shed just waiting to be used again.  Here's what they looked like before.
Using a cutting wheel on my grinder I cut off all the curly scrollwork and the rounded side of each gate.  This left me with 2 pieces that look like this.
They're now stacked one on top the other to make one tall gate instead of two short gates.  I chamfered the edges of the flat pieces of steel that were to be welded together.  This gives a larger
area to weld for more strength.  See the beveled edge?  When the 2 pieces came together they created a V.
I've stripped most of the paint from the gate and plan to let it rust.  I like rusty gates and I think rust will look better with the copper.  So here's what it looks like now.  I may remove some of the smaller bars to make it lighter but I won't do that till I know what the final design for the copper is.
I did have to buy one piece of steel to close up the edge where I had removed the arched pieces.  Here you can see the two pieces of plumbing I'm attaching to use for the hinge.
You can also see the homemade clamp (2x4s) I made to make the gate the same on the one side as the other.  I didn't have a pipe clamp so I made do.  Luckily we only had to close it up 1/2 an inch.  I still need to weld the piece to the side but ran out of shielding gas today so hopefully tomorrow I'll get it all welded up and ready for the real fun to begin - covering this "canvas" with a copper design.

I really don't have a plan yet.  I'm not thrilled with any of my drawings and keep waiting for inspiration.  I did, however, make a flower (or sunshine).  I cut out several petals.
I hammered and shaped them into this.
The center pieces are riveted together but the rest of it isn't fastened yet.  That will require brazing, which I've never done.  Hopefully tomorrow.  I've got my oxygen and acetylene tanks and tools and can't wait to give it a try.

That's about it so far.  

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Table for Mom

James is home holding down the fort so I could go to PA to celebrate a late Christmas with my Mom, sisters and nieces, for which I'm very grateful.  It's been a really great visit and my mom and I have gotten a lot accomplished, i.e., stripping wallpaper and painting her bathroom.

One of my sisters suggested I make a side table for Mom to keep near her recliner to store her remote controls.  Since I had no other ideas for a gift I thought, why not?  It took me a while to come up with a plan so it wasn't until a week and a half before I was to head north I decided to get started and see what I ended up with.  It was a lot of fun but I wish I would have begun a little earlier.  I'm pleased with the end result though and my mom says she likes it.   The birds are images I got from the internet and decoupaged onto the painted table.  I painted the branches with some acrylic paints I had a limited supply of.  I wish I had more colors to choose from.  The drawer pull is a large bead a friend gave me and I thought looked like an egg.  The top is some beech tongue and groove flooring some friends gave us.  The whole table was made from wood we already had in our garage, hence a painted table.  You can probably guess my mom loves birds.

Just a note on Keri, in case you're wondering how she's doing.  She responded well to the antibiotics and seems to have made a complete recovery, thank goodness.  If your farm dog eats a lot of poop and loses control of her back end I can recommend a good vet and antibiotic.  Yup, it seems the reason she was so weak was because of her love of a manure diet and parasites.  Yes, I feed her real food.

Friday, December 30, 2016

End of the year

We woke up to a very light dusting this morning.  I'd be happy if that's the biggest snow we get this winter.

I had really thought I'd be able to blog more regularly but I see I haven't written since Cooper died.  Last night a friend gave me a really special gift.  She felted me a Cooper doll.  He's awesome and even has a spot on his side where Cooper did and grass in his mouth.  Jan is an amazing artist.  I wish I had pictures of other things she's felted.
Yesterday I bought myself an early birthday gift from James :)  I can't wait to play with it.
I'm building a garden gate for James for Christmas.  It may be more like a birthday gift though, since it could be another few months till it's done.  I'm so excited about my new welder and imagining all kinds of things I can make.  I can't play with it too much yet because I have to finish building another Christmas gift first.  I'm just a little behind on gifts this year.  Sometimes it takes me a while to get inspired.

My oldest guardian dog, Keri, is having some health issues.  She's not even 6 years old yet so this is very discouraging.  She's been weak in her back end and is very slow moving.  I've seen her fall down
several times but bounces right back up, wagging her tail the whole time like nothing ever happened.  I took her to the vet on Monday and X-rays showed there's no hip dysplasia, tumors, compressions in the spine, or anything else out of the ordinary that could be seen with the naked eye.  They ran some blood tests to see if she might have lyme or some other tick borne disease but none of that is definitive by just blood tests alone.  They came back negative.  So for now we're treating her for parasites that can attack her muscles, by giving her an antibiotic and a pain killer/anti inflammatory.  She's looking a bit stronger and I haven't seen her fall lately, but I can't be sure if it's just the pain meds helping or if she's really getting better.  Yesterday she was wrestling with Rex and acting like a puppy so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.  She loved going to the vet and all the special attention she got.  She would have ridden around in the car with me for hours and been a very happy dog.
I can't believe we're just over a month away from kidding season.  My first girls are due February 10th.  They're looking pretty round now and very healthy.  I think my goats look their healthiest when they're pregnant.

Remember my cute little house lamb, Rudy?  He's now a pretty big guy and still very friendly.  Soon it will be time to take him and the boy goats to the butcher and it'll be a sad day.  The other morning he greeted me at the gate (begging for food, of course) and I noticed pink on his ear.  Someone had bitten the end of his ear off.  I suspect Darla is the culprit.  She and Rudy are always head butting each other and she's a biter.
Every morning I wonder what I'll find when I go out to feed and milk, which is where I should be headed right now.  Hopefully all is calm and well.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

My boy, Cooper


Of course I can't possibly know what an intact male goat understands, feels or loves, but having Cooper as part of our Elk Cliff Farm family for 6 years, I think I can safely say he DID think, feel and love.  I've seen it.  Cooper was smart, he was sweet and he understood his place and what part he played on the farm.  At least that's what I want to believe.

I should also share that he was also loved and accepted by the others in the herd.  When I say herd, I don't mean just the goat herd.  I mean goats, dogs, cows, pigs and donkeys.  The whole crew.  Being a buck he had to be moved from one pasture to another, depending on what time of year it was, so he spent time with the girl goats, cows and donkeys part of the year and the rest of the time with the bulls and pigs.  Cooper got along with everyone.

I could tell lots of stories about him but one of the most significant ones which shows how my girls loved him is...... It was the beginning of breeding season and I was hoping to breed many of the girls with Cato, my young, black buck - Cooper's very good buddy and head-bashing-mate.  The day I saw Luti was in heat I introduced her to Cato and she wanted no part of him.  She stood at the fence begging to be with Cooper.  The two of them had been partners for 4 years and I guess she only had eyes for him, and so it was to be.  This year will be the first year she accepted Cato and that's only because I had Cooper over in our yard with Willo, his most constant and doting companion, which reminds me of another story.

The day I got my 3 mammoth donkeys in 2012 I wasn't sure how they'd react to my goats.  I put them in with my 2 boys, Cooper and Jimmy.  Willo quickly claimed Cooper as hers and the other 2 donkeys weren't allowed near him, nor was she interested in Jimmy.  If the other donkeys went near Cooper she kicked them.  Cooper seemed ok with it because the next morning when he was separated from Willo I found him up against the fence with her on the other side.
  Their relationship has been an interesting and sweet cross species love affair.  Love is love, right?

For a buck, Cooper was rather mild mannered most of the time.  There was only one year he was somewhat aggressive with me.  He would mount anything in sight and was equally attracted to me (or any other breathing object) as he was the girl goats. He was much stronger back then so I kept my distance.  It's hard to picture that this past year as his muscles atrophied and he wanted to be gently cuddled.

Another one of my favorite memories of him was the year I dressed him up as an angel for Halloween.  He was in rut and definitely not angel-like.
I still laugh like crazy when I watch this video.

This morning everyone was at the barn waiting for me.  Everyone but Cooper.  I did my milking and figured I'd find him up at the run-in shelter.  When I didn't find him there I knew we'd lost him.
It was a foggy, wet morning and no goat would stay out in that weather unless they couldn't get to the barn.

I kept asking the dogs and Willo where he was but none of them led me to his body.  I walked for about 30 minutes till I found him.  He was still alive, but barely.  I covered him with a horse blanket until Adam came to help me put him down.  It was really sad but a relief, in a way.

Cooper has offspring all over the place.  I still have two of his girls, Linus and Lily.  I'm going to miss  that stinky character.  He was one of a kind.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Update on Cooper

Several people have asked how Cooper is doing so I thought I'd give a little update.

He's hanging in there.  He seems to have lost all his muscle and is shrinking before my eyes but he still seems to have the will to live so if he's not ready to say goodbye, neither am I.  Every day he wants to eat, he follows the others, albeit very slowly and far behind.  He comes to me every morning begging for some sweet talk and a scratch, which I'm glad to give.

Cooper is a real trouper, that's for sure.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sunrise - Sunset

Today was one of those days we had the pleasure of a beautiful sunrise and sunset.  Usually it seems we get one or the other, but not both in one day.

This morning I awoke to a clicking noise.  I feared James was taking a picture of me sleeping.  Go ahead and sing along, You're So Vain.  I looked up to find him aiming his phone at the large windows framing a beautiful sky of pink and blue spotted clouds. Of course pictures and words can't do it justice.  We sure love our big east facing bedroom windows.  Silhouetted in the windows are banana trees James brought in for the winter.  They love these windows too.
Driving home from Charlottesville this evening I pulled over to the side of the road so my friend could get a picture of the sunset because we knew by the time we got home (5 minutes later) the sun would have set, and we were right.  It's too bad we didn't stop a little earlier because we'd already missed the prettiest sky.
Those of you from Rockbridge County may recognize this spot on 11 South.  I can't imagine living in a place without mountains.

On a sad note, I'm very worried that my old buck, Cooper, isn't going to be with us much longer.  This morning he seemed so weak.  I let him in to have some grain this morning because he was really shivering and begging to come in.  The boys don't normally get pellet feed but sometimes I spoil Cooper because he's skin and bones and the sweetest old man.  When I tried to move him a bit so Raisa could come in he fell down.  I let him lie there against the warm hay bales and eat while I milked.  It's supposed to be very cold this weekend and I don't know how he'll survive that.  He shivers when it's in the 50s.

I can't even tell you how much I love this next photo of Raisa and Cooper sharing spilled food.
When we lose Cooper it will be the first goat we've lost to old age.  I knew we'd experience this one day but we'll see how prepared I am when the day comes.

Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset
Swiftly fly the years,
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears....

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Miss Christmas

I can't decide if she's done or not.  I feel like she might need more color.  It was a lot of fun putting her together.  First I found some heavy duty wire mesh in the garage and made a longer skirt for her.
I had an extra strand of bistro lights so I wired them on next.
I kind of liked her like this but it was a little industrial looking and not very Christmassy so I covered her first with yews, and on top of that, put some branches with pretty little yellow and red leaves.  I don't know what the plant is.  Today those leaves are pretty dried up and if you bump them they fall off.  It still looks pretty, I think.  Next an addition of some pompous grass fluffy seed heads.
I had a scrap of burlap in the basement and made a top for her.  Her belt is magnolia leaves spray painted pewter and her collar is more magnolia leaves painted red.  More leaves were hot  glued to the yew part of the skirt.
I have a feeling I'll be primping her for the next 3 weeks until I think she's beautiful enough for Santa.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Multitasking and ADHD

Some days I get a lot done.  It may not be done well, but it's "kind of" done.   Today is one of those days I have lots going on at once.  Anyone who makes hard cheeses knows there's down time while you wait for curds to set or temperatures to rise.  It's very tempting to find something else to do to fill those gaps until your timer goes off and the curds call you back to give them a stir.  I've ruined many cheeses because I've gotten sidetracked.  I shouldn't say ruined, they're usually still edible (not always) but they're not the cheese I set out to make.

I Googled "Multitasking and ADHD" and learned from all these experts that I need to focus more, set timers and make myself be still and do one task at a time and that what I'm doing is "like playing tennis with two balls:  Your game's not as good as it would be with one ball."  Well, I know this but, "The brain wiring of ADD does make it difficult to focus on only one thing at once.  It's boring and requires a sustained attention that isn't easy if the task is not stimulating or interesting."  So asking someone like me to stay on one task is like asking a toddler to sit and listen to you read him a 100 page book without pictures.  It's hard to sit still when your brain is doing this.

 Which reminds me of this video. 

Of course, while looking for this video I got distracted by a few other cute puppy videos that came up after this one.

While waiting for my cheese curds to do their thing I was able to Bondo some cracks in a foot stool I'm reinforcing, painting and reupholstering for James' office.  This is a perfect example of how my tennis game is not as good as it could be.  I tell myself I want to get this done quickly.  No one is going to look under the stool so there's no need to waste time sanding the Bondo underneath.
I got a coat of primer on the stool and before applying the top coat I got my glue gun out to experiment with some gold wrapping paper for a Christmas decoration I'm considering.  This is close to the stove where my cheese is so I'm able to stir, glue, stir, glue.  This is the chaotic basement kitchen where I spend lots of my time.  As you can see I have my computer nearby so I can play my sister at Words With Friends in between glueing, stirring and painting.  Oh yeah, I should put all those bars of soap (on the right in the foreground) somewhere else too so I can clean up the soap molds from a few days ago.  First I need to wash out the milk containers I have in the sink so there's room to clean them.
Just outside that door you see is something else waiting for me.  It's a hide I'm working on tanning.  It's now gotten stiff because I didn't give it the few hours a day of attention it needs to soften it.  Now I have to dampen it and begin again.  At least it's clean and the hairs are now set.  In none of the articles I read did it say someone with ADHD should own a basement so all their projects don't encroach upon the rest of the house.
Oops, sometimes encroach they will.  I went upstairs to find the cord for my phone so I could upload some pictures for this blog and found it in the living room where my compressor, staple gun and other upholstery tools were taking up space because "someone" forgot to clean up after herself 2 days ago when she finished with them.
When I was uploading pictures I was reminded I'm supposed to send some more pictures of this little girl today to a prospective buyer.  I'll do that when I'm done with this blog post because I'm going to focus.  I am.
Sometimes I laugh to myself about how easily I'm distracted but then sometimes I worry I'll leave Baxter in a hot car, or burn my house down, or flood the basement, or not latch a gate and all my animals will be in the road, or something equally as frightening.  It's not unheard of for James to ask, "did you mean to leave this burner or the oven on?"  It's gotten worse as I've gotten older.  At least I think it has.  I'll have to ask my mom if I was like this as a child.  I don't think so.  I wonder how I ever worked in the corporate world, met deadlines, managed others and had real responsibilities.  Just this minute I took a break from this blog to check Words With Friends to see if my sister played me and saw 4 others are waiting for me to take my turn.  I couldn't do that if I worked in an office.  Could I?  

It's almost time for the cheese to go into the press.  One more coat of paint on the stool, email photos to goat person, make soup (turn off the stove) and then I can play WWF.  The soap molds will have to wait another day.  All in all, a good day and no one was hurt.



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Getting back on my blogging feet

It appears I've been neglecting my blog.  I began keeping it in April of 2009 as a way to keep track of what has happened here on the farm, when I did what, and how I felt about it.  Ok, I'll be honest, sometimes it's a way to show off and brag about my animals, projects, etc.  It's also a nice way to store photos for future reference.

In 2009 I had 119 blog entries.  2010 was my highest, with 215 entries.  Wow, lots must have been happening that year.  Since then it's dropped to 153, 112, 109, 80, 52 (last year) and then so far this year 49.  I've pondered why I don't write as much and I've come up with this.  In 2009 the idea of homesteading was still new to us and everything seemed exciting and what I thought might be of interest to others.  Now I wonder if what happens these days is old news and not so interesting. 

Last night I discovered in my "other" message inbox on Facebook, a message from a man who lives in Alabama who wrote on June 6th, "Are you the Karen Pannabecker with the concrete countertop blog?"  I apologized for not seeing his message sooner and he told me he'd already made his countertop and sent me a picture of a beautiful counter with double sinks.  He then told me my blog was a big help.  Well, wasn't that a nice surprise?  My blog was useful to someone else besides just me.  

A friend and James have been encouraging me to write more so I'm going to try.  Blogging is a good exercise in writing too so I need to work harder so as not to disappoint them or myself.    

This entry is boring and not creative at all but it's necessary for me because putting it in writing means I'm making a commitment.  It puts a little pressure on.  Blogging helps me stay present with what I'm doing during the day and appreciate more fully how special life is here and how many moments during my day are worth more than just a passing thought.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Orange Zebra Chair

Some of my projects make me very happy.  This is one of them.
"Antique Chairs, $25.00" the Facebook yard sale ad read.  Who could resist that, I ask you?  I went to buy just one of them but came home with 2.  I even only took $25.00 with me and my station wagon, which I thought would only hold one chair, to be sure I didn't come home with more than I need.  Well, apparently my car can hold 2 chairs and the seller of the chairs was willing to take a check for the second one :)  Maybe I do need 2 chairs.
These chairs belonged to the seller's grandmother and grandfather.  Can't you just picture your grandparents in these?  They appear a champagne color but when I stripped the one down I saw it once was green.  So, a-shopping I went for fabric.  The plan is for this to go in James' office.  The color palette is grey, orange, brown and white.  I texted him a picture of the fabric and asked, "Is this too wild for you?"  He replied, "Not if you like it.  Looks like a fake animal".

Only in Roanoke, VA can you find a rare orange, grey and cream colored zebra hide.  It was a done deal.  Before ripping it apart I numbered each panel with a marker.
I painted the wood a cream color, then grey on top.  I sanded it a bit so the cream would show through.  I also added more cushioning to the seat.  I took pictures every step of the way, and I mean, EVERY step.  I'll spare you all the pictures but in case you decide to do this yourself you'll understand how very important it is to do this.  Here are just a few.

This last picture shows how they pieced things together above the arm.  I decided to be brave and make that top piece and the one below the arm all one piece.  I now know why they did it in two pieces.  It was much easier that way but I decided I didn't want that many seams.  Luckily, it all worked out and I was able to do it all in one cut.
I can't even begin to tell you how much I learned with this chair but I'll mention just a few things.
If you're going to attempt reupholstering the first thing you need to do is save all the fabric you removed to use as a pattern.  As I said earlier, take pictures.  Watch Youtube videos.  That's how I learned to use the flexible metal tacking strip so I could attach the final back panel, which was originally sewn on.  I had to buy 100 ft. of this tacking strip so I could use 7 feet of it for this chair.

The original chair had decorative upholstery tacks for the trim but I chose to use double welting since I've gotten so much better at this and I like the look.  Also, it tied the dark fabric to the zebra print.
Instead of using cotton piping from the fabric store I used parachute cord which is made from nylon and creates a very tight cording.  Of course, now that I'm getting better at using my sewing machine and zipper foot that makes all the difference in the world.
This whole project cost around $205.00 and I have enough fabric and supplies to cover the second chair too, so 2 chairs for around $230.00.  Not bad.  I plan to build a foot stool or ottoman to match.

I'm in the process of tanning a goat hide.  A real one, not fabric.  I don't know what I'll use it for but I hope it will be used for something I find as much fun as this chair has been for me.




Monday, November 21, 2016

With the cold comes the critters


Mice have moved into my barn.  I was grossed out by the rats we were infested with a while back, that have since moved on (I hope), but these cute little field mice are rather entertaining.  As I milk they pop their heads up over the milking platform to watch, then quickly duck when they get nervous.  They run around my and the goats legs with nervous energy.  This would freak my mom out.  She once asked if I taped up the legs of my jeans so they can't run up them.  I don't.  They don't bother me and the goats ignore them unless a sudden movement startles them.  Still, they continue eating.

What does bother me is the other critter that has been coming around.  I have no video or picture of this next intruder and I don't want to see him.  There have been at least 2 mornings I've found about 1 tablespoon of yellow liquid in my dog's food bowl that smelled very strong of skunk.  I thought that the oddest thing.  Did he just back up to the bowl and use it as a commode?  Why did my dogs not attack him and why would a skunk enter a fence that has 2 giant great pyrenees in there who could rip him apart?  If that doesn't seem strange enough, the 3rd morning I found the calling card in Rex's bowl I found skunk scat in Keri's.  It appeared to have hair in it (yes, I studied it) so I think he's eating some of those adorable field mice.  I shouldn't even type this because I know it's going to come back and haunt me - Keri and Rex have never been sprayed by a skunk.  Maybe they just know better than to mess with it.  I hope so.  I haven't seen evidence of the skunk in almost a week now so I hope he's moved on.

Now I'll share a picture that will make you go awwwww.  The folks who own Mickey and Wendell sent me a text this morning to let me know Mickey had 10 piglets. I miss Mickey, Wendell and babies but I'm glad they're doing well, are loved and are living on a gorgeous pig-friendly farm.  This is her second litter with them.  I think the first time she gave them 13 piglets.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Ms. Magnolia

For two years I've been wanting to have a dress form Christmas tree but I had no dress form.  A few weeks ago I found one on Craigslist for $40.00.  What a steal!  I dressed her up for Halloween but that was pretty pitiful so I won't post a picture here.  Today, though, I'm pretty pleased with how pretty she looks (if I do say so myself).  This is her Autumn outfit.
This is her naked.
A friend is coming to visit early December and I'm hoping she'll help me make her spectacular for Christmas.  She will no longer be Ms. Magnolia.  Maybe she'll be Suzy Snowflake, I'm not sure.

If you've never seen dress forms decorated go to Pinterest and look up dress form Christmas trees.  There are some really beautiful ones.