Monday, September 11, 2017

Building picture frames (warning, not for the faint hearted)

I love little projects that I can complete in a short amount of time, and building picture frames is just that kind of project.  My friend, Laura, asked if I'd build some frames for 2 of her paintings of her dogs.  I'm going to post one of those pictures so it will appear as the first photo on the blog, so when I post this on Facebook that will be the photo displayed with the blog.  You'll understand why I don't want these other photos posted as you read on.  First, here's one of her framed paintings.
 I kind of like this frame because I used some tongue and groove flooring we have leftover and instead of removing the groove part, I used it to slide the hardboard into.  I'd never done this before so it was fun doing something new.
The other frames I made were also made out of tongue and groove flooring but I cut off the tongues and grooves and the hardboard was mounted from the back.  That made for a much deeper profile though.
Now here's where you should stop reading if you don't want to be grossed out.  I don't use my bandsaw very often and sometimes mice build nests inside.  I should have opened it before I used it.
I turned it on and heard a thump and then had a bit of "matter" fall onto the deck of the saw.  I just knew I'd killed a mouse. I hated to open the door and was tempted to continue on and cut the trim I needed because the saw was running just fine.  I couldn't do that though.  I dreaded opening it.  It wasn't a mouse, though it was still very disturbing.

I'm so sorry, snake.  Next time I'll open the door first.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Oscar videos

Raisa and Oscar are doing great.  He seems so much bigger and livelier than our past calves.  Maybe I just forget from year to year.  Every time I try to get a video of him bouncing he stops just as I hit record.  I did get him running a bit.

Lennon and Mo are fascinated with him and keep trying to lick him through the fence.  You'll see in this next video how full Raisa's rear udder is.  Oscar isn't nursing off the back yet and she hasn't let me relieve her.  We go through this every year.

He's still friendly but doesn't stand still for long when I pet him.  Usually around 4 days old they become a bit skittish and I have to win them over, but so far he doesn't seem afraid of me.  They all come around eventually as long as I spend time with them.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Another Boy

I guess it's just not in the cards for me to get that baby girl calf.  Raisa gave me an adorable, healthy and big baby boy this morning.  I missed the birth again but not by much.  She still hadn't passed the afterbirth but I could see the baby had already been up and nursing before I got there.  He's very sturdy.  He's red like her and Franklin but a lighter red, like jerseys tend to be.  He definitely has the Jersey's eyes.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Not the Labor Day I'd hoped for

This will be Raisa's 4th calf born since we got her.  She's around 10 years old so she's probably had 7 or 8 calves in all.  While calving may not be new to her, it still feels new to me.  With each baby born here I revert to a newby farmer.  I doubt myself.  I wonder if she's really pregnant or if I got the breeding date wrong.  I imagine the mother is farther along than she is in her gestation and am sure a baby is going to pop out any minute.  Nine months and 3 days ago I saw Franklin breed Raisa so I was sure she was going to calve this past Friday.  Yes, I understand 3 days late is nothing.  Her past 2 bull calves were born right on their due date so it just feels wrong to have to wait.  Some days she looks very pregnant and then other days not at all.  I take lots of pictures of her these days, from all angles, and then compare them to the day before to see if I can see changes. I do this with goats too.

 Her udder may look big to you but this is really not all that big for her so I keep wondering why she hasn't filled up more if she's 3 days late.  She'll really get huge the day she calves.
 Yes, I take lots of vulva pictures too.  I can't help myself.  How will I know if it's more swollen a day later if I don't have a photo to compare it to?  I know I have many friends who completely understand this.
And so I wait, and wait.  I'll be sure to post many pictures once baby arrives.  I really, really, really want a red girl, not a black boy.  She hasn't had a girl for me yet.  If she has a girl we'll keep her.

We get a lot of fog here, living in a valley on the river, so it can be pretty wet in the mornings when I go out to feed and milk.  On foggy mornings there are almost always sparkling spiderwebs to photograph.
Every morning the animals hover at the gate waiting for me to fill feed bowls.  The lambs holler but Pessa is the bossiest of them all.  She barks at anyone who comes near her.  She MUST be the first to be fed.  The only one she'll share food with is Dagwood, and she's not always sure she wants to share with him.

James took a kayak out while the river was still lightly blanketed in fog.  He took a few (89) pictures too.
More spiderwebs.
Happy Labor Day.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Perhaps I'm Naive

I've recently decided when I hear something negative or read something that irks me on Facebook I'm going to respond in a positive way.  That's what I've been doing this week after the horrible events that happened in Charlottesville.  As I've read posts by friends and family who, in my opinion, don't seem to believe there is still oppression in this country, I've decided to respond with a painting.  I'm calling it Embrace.  I know it accomplishes nothing but it makes me feel better and it's better than saying something I'll be sorry for.  I'd prefer to think about people embracing rather than spewing hate.

As I was painting today I was listening to John Denver.  I heard a song by him that was unfamiliar to me.  It's just as relevant today as it was when he wrote it back in the 80s.  It's called Let Us Begin (What Are We Making Weapons For).  Maybe you already know it.  Perhaps he was naive too but if everyone felt this way the world would be a better place to live.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Keeping it simple

I just got done reading a book, Daily Painting, by Carol Marine.  Look her up, she's a very good artist.  In the book she talks about how important it is to paint often.  If not daily, then as often as you can.  She suggests painting small - many of her paintings are just 6" X 6" - because you're more likely
to take the time to do it if you don't feel overwhelmed by a large canvas that will take hours or days
to cover.  I haven't been painting every day but I do try to paint at least 4 or 5 days.  Monday and Tuesday I painted two small paintings.  I'm not thrilled with them and they could both use more attention but at least I stuck with them until they were recognizable.

Even though I'm not in love with this painting, I do like the subject matter because it brings back memories of a simpler time.  We didn't have stairs but my grandmother did and my aunt had a slinky we could play with.  I thought it was awesome.
I Googled Slinky to see some pictures and learned this about it.  I had no idea it was created almost by accident.


Slinky (1946)
In 1943, Richard James, a naval mechanical engineer stationed at the William Cramp and Sons shipyards in Philadelphia, was developing springs that could support and stabilize sensitive instruments aboard ships in rough seas.[1][2] James accidentally knocked one of the springs from a shelf, and watched as the spring "stepped" in a series of arcs to a stack of books, to a tabletop, and to the floor, where it re-coiled itself and stood upright.[3][4] James's wife Betty later recalled, "He came home and said, 'I think if I got the right property of steel and the right tension; I could make it walk.'"[5] James experimented with different types of steel wire over the next year, and finally found a spring that would walk. Betty was dubious at first, but changed her mind after the toy was fine-tuned and neighborhood children expressed an excited interest in it.[4] She dubbed the toy Slinky (meaning "sleek and graceful"), after finding the word in a dictionary,[3][4] and deciding that the word aptly described the sound of a metal spring expanding and collapsing.[6]
With a US$500 loan, the couple formed James Industries (originally James Spring & Wire Company), had 400 Slinky units made by a local machine shop, hand-wrapped each in yellow paper, and priced them at $1 a piece.[4] Each was 212" tall, and included 98 coils of high-grade blue-black Swedish steel.[7]The Jameses had difficulty selling Slinky to toy stores but, in November 1945, they were granted permission to set up an inclined plane in the toy section of Gimbels department store in Philadelphia to demonstrate the toy. Slinky was a hit, and the first 400 units were sold within ninety minutes.[4][7] In 1946, Slinky was introduced at the American Toy Fair.

For a few days I was singing the slinky song. It's slinky, it's slinky, it's fun, it's a wonderful toy.  It's slinky,
it's slinky, it's fun for a girl and a boy.  

Friday, August 11, 2017

Throw back Thursday, a day late

I'm trying to come up with a name for this painting but it's still so new so I'm going to give it some more thought.
For some reason I became obsessed with finding a vintage sewing pattern to paint.  I don't really know why.  I went on Ebay and found lots of them for around 4 to 7 dollars.  I decided to check our antique mall first.  I lucked out and found a whole box of them (maybe 20?) for $3.00, total.  I had all kinds of ideas for what I wanted to do in this painting but many of my ideas were a little beyond my capabilities so I decided to just go ahead and paint the picture of the 3 girls and see where it went.
At first I couldn't decide whether to make them look more realistic or keep it cartoon-like.  As you can see I kept it like it appears on a pattern, with each form outlined.  It was very relaxing painting this; almost like coloring in a coloring book.

As I went on I couldn't figure out what I was trying to accomplish with this painting.  James asked what I was trying to get across or how it made me feel.  I guess it makes me feel nostalgic for the old days.  My mom sewed many outfits for me and my sisters but I especially found it exciting when she made our Easter dresses.  I like these old fashioned dresses and the innocent-ness of them.  I'm sure I had a dress like that.

If I decide to frame this I may decoupage the pattern itself onto the frame.  We'll see.  I may play with this some more and then decide.  Maybe I'll add a pin cushion to go with the tape measure and scissors.  I like painting the shadows.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Rooster photobomb

I've been in a painting and blogging funk lately.  I haven't known what to paint or blog about.  My painting buddies have been on vacation and I guess I need their inspiration to keep me going.  Oh, I've painted some things, but nothing I've been very happy with.  I've been watching lots of video's of other people painting though and that's fun and sometimes inspiring.

Here's my most recent painting.  The whole thing is done with dots and small lines, sticking with a pretty small color palette.  At first it was fun painting and then it got boring so I added the rooster and, as Bob Ross would say, a happy little cloud.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Back in December I cut my index finger on the table saw.  Six months later, it's still very sensitive. I'm not the most cautious wood worker, but I'm much more careful since that happened.  It's good I need glasses to see what I'm doing because I often forget to wear safety glasses.  The painting I did today was inspired by my carelessness with tools.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Hog testicles, not bad at all

We were invited to dinner last night.  I asked the hostess what we could bring and she said, "nothing".   I hated to show up empty-handed so I thought I'd bring a little something I knew they wouldn't be serving but might compliment the meal.  I knew in advance they were serving pork, not that hog testicles wouldn't be a good addition to any meal.  Well, I know that now, but I didn't know that before I prepared them.

We've asked our butcher to save testicles from a few of our animals but we've never gotten around to trying them, until last night.  This is what they look like before I removed the membrane.
 To give you an idea of the size.  This was a large hog.
Here's what it looks like underneath the membrane, which you must remove or it will be tough.
I soaked it in a brine for a few hours but I don't know if it really needed that or not.  Many recipes on the internet said to, so I did.  I rinsed them and then sliced them into bite sized pieces, then dredged them in a mixture of flour, breadcrumbs and adobo seasoning and fried them in a cast iron skillet with butter.   James and I both tasted them before we took them and both agreed they were acceptable to share.  Actually, they were more than just acceptable.  They were pretty darn good.  Kind of like a chicken nugget.

I was shocked 7 out of 8 people ate them.  Some folks even went back for seconds and thirds.  Only one man wouldn't try them and he said he wasn't going to kiss his wife for a year after eating them.

I should mention, these were good friends we were with. I probably wouldn't have taken these to a dinner with acquaintances.

This was much more successful than our attempt at eating a kidney.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Most of you know I raise the livestock and James raises the vegetables.  We do, however, need each other's help now and then.  The past two days we had to take care of some things that required 4 hands and 2 brains.  Or maybe just one brain and 4 hands.

Yesterday was one of those anxiety-filled mornings of loading and driving a bull and 2 hogs to the butcher.  When we're done I'm always very proud of us but while it's going on it's stressful.  It was no trouble getting Franklin in the trailer.  He charged right in.  Unfortunately, so did Lennon and Mo and it took a while to get them out.  The pigs, Honey and Badger, weren't as easy but eventually we bribed them and they went in a side door.  Our livestock trailer is ancient, rusty and needs me to do some welding and other fixes to prevent animals from escaping while we're driving the curvy, mountainous route to Green Valley Butcher.  We've never had that happen but we always worry about it.  For all of this, James lets me call the shots and does what I ask (open gates, brings more food, helps close trailer doors, etc), because I know the animals best.  In 3 weeks we'll have approximately 200 lbs of pork and 600 lbs of beef so if anyone wants to buy some, let me know.

Today it was James' turn to be the boss.  We installed a drip system in his garden.  He's been working really hard on it this year.  He's put a tall fence around 6 of the gardens, got rid of all the grass paths, which are now mulch, and created smaller paths between rows so you can walk in the
gardens without stepping on things.

This drip system is pretty cool, but the air wasn't while we worked.  I don't know if I stunk more yesterday after mucking out the livestock trailer or today after sweating a bucket or two.  We laid out 4 main water lines and then attached many tiny drip hoses that go between the rows.  It's hard to see them in this picture.
We work pretty well as a team.  At least I think so.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Double decker desk

I could have sworn I blogged about James' desk in the past but I just did a search and couldn't find it.  Last year our friend David made James a beautiful desk out of a slab of cherry, accented with some walnut.  It's the lower desk you see here.  It's a beautiful piece.  David is a true artist.

James does a lot of his writing while standing, so for more than a year he's had an ugly aluminum stand up desk that sat on top of this beautiful one.  As you can see above, it's been replaced with another piece of art.  James and I love it.  It,  too,  has tiny walnut bowties at the cracks in the cherry.  One of the things I really love is the live edge with these little carvings in it.

I was at David's shop this week and saw his most recent cherry bedside tables, which are equally as beautiful.  I love the dainty little feet on them.

The next piece of furniture he's building for us is a dining room table.  I can't wait to see what it looks like.  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Learning to slow down

Gosh, it's been 3 weeks since I've blogged.

The big news here is I've sold all but 2 goats, Luti and Pessa.  I decided it was time to semi-retire and enjoy quiet mornings, milking just Luti and Raisa.  Pessa is permanently retired and she and Luti will live out their senior years here and be companions to Rex.  Linus, Lily, Darla and Cato all went to the same home (which made me very happy) where they will be spoiled and produce milk for many years to come.  I miss them but I'm enjoying spoiling Luti and Pessa by giving them more attention and treats.  I think they're getting used to the idea too.  With fewer animals hopefully we can do a little more traveling.
We just returned from a 4 day trip where we met some friends in Asheville, NC.  What a great trip!  Asheville is such a great city with lots of great food, shops and art galleries.  Here we are at the Asheville Arboretum.
Visiting the art galleries really inspired me.  We saw so much great art.  It made me want to keep working at it.  I started this piece a few weeks back.  Once again, I'm trying to come up with a name for it.  James told me "Melting Pot" is too cliche. If anyone else has some ideas let me know.  I've really loved painting these children's faces.  Strangers are so much more fun to paint than people I know.

While I'm figuring out how to slow down, James is taking a little longer discovering how important it is.  After returning from our trip he's gone crazy working in the garden for many hours at a time, shoveling mulch, weeding and planting.  Because of this his back is crooked again.  Today he was sidelined.  This is kind of what he looks like.
This is the second time this has happened to him; both times after he overdid it in the garden.  Maybe his chiropractor will explain to him how important it is to take it easy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Changing of the guard

I know I've spoken many times on this blog of how good Keri was at her job.  She may have let me think I was the boss, but she probably knew way more about the goings-on in the field than I.  I had no idea how much I'd learn about guardian dogs until we had Keri.  While all our house dogs have been loyal and loving, it's a different kind of relationship than with a guardian dog.  I think Keri would truly have given her life for me and James and the goats.  I won't go on anymore about her as a guardian because I've probably written it all before.

Yesterday was tough.  When I went to the barn I could see she was in pain.  It was hard for her to walk and even lie down.  She couldn't get comfortable and she had no appetite.  She didn't even scold the cows when they were where she doesn't like them, in my way.  James called the vet because I knew I'd cry when I made the dreaded appointment.  They said they could take her at 5:15 so we had
all day to think about it.

Keri loved being in our station wagon, though she hardly ever got to ride in it.  It meant she had me all to herself and she didn't have to share me with the others.    So at 3:00 I picked her up from the field, helped her in the car and drove back to the house.  We sat in the driveway with the doors open for more than an hour and a half and cuddled.  She was uncomfortable but happy.  James came out and she had one of us at each end of her.  I'm pretty sure this was heaven for her.
We headed to the vet with Keri in the back seat.  Even though it was chilly we put the window down for Keri so she could stick her head out when she wanted.
As always, the vets were kind and gentle with Keri and patient with my blubbering.  It was all very peaceful.

I wondered how Rex would be this morning.  When he didn't greet me at the gate I got a bit panicky.  I was afraid he'd climbed over the fence to find Keri.  I called him and he slowly came out of the barn.  He's never done that.  He's always waiting for me.  He went back to his corner and laid back down.  He wasn't interested in his food and he was grumpy with the cows.  I've never seen him boss the cows like that; like Keri, his teacher, did.  It will be interesting to see how he takes over now.  I gave him some extra loving today and told him he was in charge now.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


I'm not up to writing an obituary for Keri tonight because there's too much to say and I'm too sad to say it.  So instead, I'll just post some wonderful memories.