Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Even though Raisa wasn't due for another 3 days I just knew she was going to have a baby yesterday. I spent most of the day with her willing the baby to pop out so I could see the birth.  This is her 3rd calf born here and I wanted so badly to see it happen.  We had a previous engagement last night so I tore myself away for 3 hours.  I couldn't go to bed without checking the field for new life when we got home.

The goats, Rex and I followed the beam of my flashlight to find 4 glowing eyes - 2 up high and 2 down low.  I knew I had missed it once again.  It appeared he had just been born because he was still covered in birthing fluids and Raisa hadn't passed the afterbirth.  I checked to see if it was a boy or girl and wasn't surprised at all that it was once again a boy.  I wonder if I'll ever get a girl from her. Maybe next year she and Franklin can make a beautiful red heifer.  I told Raisa she did a good job and congratulated her then left her to clean him up.

This morning after milking the goats I went to visit her and see him better in the light of day.  He's a cute little guy, of course.  He seems tiny and he's still very curly and slippery but he's been up and around so I imagine he's eating well and healthy.  I asked Raisa what she wanted to name hime.  She said, "mooooo".  I told her that name was overused and maybe we could shorten it and call him Mo.
She didn't argue so that's what I'm going to call him.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A vacation day

This morning James suggested we take a little kayak trip up the river.  We put in at our place and began paddling against the current.  James took the south bank and I took the north.  It was nice floating alone looking at the colors of the rocks beneath the water and the gnarly tree roots grasping the bank at the river's edge.  Eventually I paddled to the left bank when I was ready to talk again.

When I was alone paddling I was thinking - where would I like to go?  I shared with James how I'd like to be in a little cabin on a lake where I could get up and have nothing to do but drink my cup of coffee.  He said, "you know you can do that here"  He said he'd milk the goats and I could do whatever I wanted.  I told him it wasn't the same when I'm at home, that I still feel obligations.

We paddled some more then stopped probably less than half a mile from our place and parked ourselves on our neighbors' gravel beach.  We sat in 6 inches of water and gathered little shells.  We talked and then we didn't.
Slowly any care I had drifted away like the dead crayfish I found who could no longer cling to the rocks.  Poetic, isn't it?  But seriously, my muscles relaxed as I shed my shell and I thought of nothing but our light conversation and how rocks and shells were prettier when they're wet.  Not much more than that.  After an hour or so we hopped back in our kayaks and headed back downstream, only paddling when we neared home and the water had slowed.  We looked to see if we had shells at our beach like they have at our neighbors and we don't.  I wonder why.

Back home, worn out by all our relaxing, I laid on our bed for 30 minutes not wanting to do any more than that.  When that got boring I went out to sit with Raisa, hoping she'd show some sign of labor.  Not today.  She was happy for my company and I was happy to oblige her demands for scratches.

Since I'd decided today was my day off I told myself folding laundry was fun and relaxing.  I think I faked myself out because it was.  I made a blueberry pie for dessert to go with our very easy crockpot dinner of goat shoulder and already made potato salad and cucumber/bean salad.  A very simple meal.

A perfect ending to a perfect day was first walking around the pasture in the dark with the dogs and goats looking for Raisa, followed by an evening dip in the river, which is really warm this time of year.

I doubt sitting on the dock of a lake by a secluded cabin with my coffee cup could have been any better than my little vacation today.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Night watch

Raisa is due to calve in 6 days but like an anxious grandmother I keep thinking she's going to have the baby any hour.  At 9:00 tonight I just had to go out and stare at her.  Finding her in the pasture turned out to be easier than I thought.  The goats and dogs were resting comfortably in the barn when I disturbed them and they thought it was necessary to follow me all through the pasture till I found Raisa.  Luckily she was lying in a path near the cross fence where the bulls hang out.  There's no way I would have found her if she was lying somewhere in the tall grasses.

I laid with her a while and gave her lots of scratches while the dogs and goats watched.  She seemed totally unconcerned that the other animals surrounded her.  Never once did she get up.  I took dozens of pictures but none of them came out very clear.  She seemed happy to have me near.
Her udder is very large but you probably can't tell from this picture.  I, of course, think it looks like a good indication she's going to deliver soon :)  It will continue to get bigger and every day I'll think, "this is it".
After about 30 minutes I decided nothing was happening.  The goats seemed anxious to return to their barn but didn't want to go without me and the dogs so I led them back.
It was very relaxing being out there with my animals in the dark and I think I could have laid with Raisa for hours if it weren't for Keri and Rex wanting my attention and the goats anxiously waiting for me to do something.  I may be doing this for another week.  I really think there will be a baby in a day or 2 but that could be wishful thinking.

It was very hot today and I caught Franklin cooling off in the pig wallow.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Reupholstering an old friend

This chaise lounge has been with us for a long time.  It's been in James' family a very long time and has a story behind it.  It once belonged to Peggy Hopkins Joyce.

According to Wikipedia Peggy Hopkins Joyce (May 26, 1893 – June 12, 1957) was an American actress, artist model and dancer. In addition to her performing career, Joyce was known for her flamboyant life, with numerous engagements, six marriages to wealthy men, subsequent divorces, a series of scandalous affairs, a collection of diamonds and furs, and her generally lavish lifestyle.  There's much more to read about her if you're interested https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peggy_Hopkins_Joyce  She's got quite a story.  There's even a book written about her called Gold Digger.

How did we end up with it?  When James' grandparents were young they moved into an apartment that Peggy Hopkins Joyce had just moved out of after an annulled marriage and left all her furniture there.  The landlord told James' grandparents they could have it.  The whole family has a piece or two of this art deco style furniture.

I blogged about it a while ago when I was removing the veneer that had been peeling off the back.  Just recently I decided it was time to reupholster it and thought I'd give it a shot myself.  I took it apart layer by layer.

It had been squeaking for years every time you sat down on it so I knew the frame needed some repairs. Once I got down to the skeleton I saw how desperately it needed attention.

Because of the shape of it you couldn't just put some glue and a few screws in to tighten it up.  I had to cut a few pieces of wood and make a splint to attach to the inside to act as a scab to secure all the joint cracks on both sides.  I Gorilla Glued and screwed it together and now there is no squeak to be heard.  
I put it back together and added some more foam to the top.  I've done very little upholstering so this was a little bit of a challenge.  It turned out pretty good though if we paid a professional upholsterer for this job I'd have a few complaints.  Funny how that works.   Here it is finished.
I recently bought a pneumatic stapler which made the job go so much faster and easier.
I need practice on the double welting that hides the staples.  It's not nearly as tight as when a professional does it like this.  
Because I'm not good at this I'm struggling to come up with an idea to finish off a dining room chair I've recovered.  It's been in our basement for a long time because the caned back had broken.  I removed the caning and replaced it with, first fabric that shows on the back side.
Then webbing to give it more support.
Then some foam for padding and covered with more fabric.
Now, as you can see, I need a way to finish the back off.  I'd prefer not to use double welting like I did on the chaise lounge because I suck at that.  Hopefully an idea will pop in my head while I sleep tonight.

I also found an old chair at our cabin that I thought would be a good addition to our dining room since I only have 5 chairs.  It had an ugly gold seat that had straw for padding and upholstery tacks holding it to the chair.  I refinished it, cut a board for the seat, added some cushioning and covered it with matching fabric.  It'll work.

I'm about finished with upholstering.  I'd much rather work with wood, concrete or metal than fabric.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Weekend welder

In the last 20 years I bet James and I have said, "we should learn how to weld", at least 20 times.  Finally I had the chance to do that.  Charles Kirkpatrick (master log cabin expert) was doing some work on our cabin.  He told us his son was going to blacksmithing school at the VA Institute of Blacksmithing. As we talked somehow welding came up and he told me VIB offered weekend welding classes.    It sounded perfect.  Just one weekend of hands on training to learn the basics.  Sign me up.  Check out their website http://vablacksmithing.org/about/  They also have a Facebook page that has lots of good pictures.

Ask James how much I loved this class.  He's got to be tired of hearing about it.  In the picture above I'm holding the little stool/table I made yesterday.  Here's a closer look.  It sat out in the rain last night so now it has some pretty orange rust on it.
I had no idea I'd get one-on-one instruction.  It was just me and instructor Dave.  I had to quickly take this picture before he noticed because he doesn't like his picture taken.
Dave was a great teacher for me.  He was very patient and let me make mistakes without correcting me (nothing dangerous) so I had the chance to figure out what it was I was doing wrong on my own.  Instead of saying, "here, do it this way", he'd say, "is that how you want to do it?  Ok".  Then I'd have time to chew on it and see if, in fact, that was the way it should be done.  My first task, after learning about the welding equipment and safety, was to practice welding on a piece of metal.  I did that for about 20 minutes, practicing different techniques, seeing what worked best for me, getting used to the equipment and being able to see what I was doing and wrap my brain around it.
Not only did I like the welding part, I also enjoyed using the other tools and the whole idea of metal fabrication.  It's very much like wood working except for the fact that I couldn't just remove a screw quickly if I made a mistake.  Also, cutting metal takes longer than cutting wood.

After learning to weld together plate steel I cut some square tubing and joined it too.  I practiced different things I learned and joined pieces randomly which would bring up more questions and opportunities to learn.  Saturday was all about learning how things worked.  For me it was probably as enjoyable as a 12 year old going to an amusement park.
You can see in the front how I cut the metal with an acetylene torch.  I was a bit more nervous using the torch than using the welder.  While I was working on my stool there were blacksmith certification students on the other side of the room doing their thing.  I would have loved to watch them work if I had the time.

I had lunch with these young men and their instructor both days and listening to them talk made me want to learn blacksmithing too.  I think I need to wait on that.  One thing at a time.

We went to a party last night and I was talking to someone about building, welding, wood working, etc.  He said he thought more women didn't take classes like these because perhaps they would be intimidated being around men in fields that are traditionally male dominated.  One of the instructors at VIB said he thought that was one of the reasons they get very few women in the blacksmithing certification program.  That's too bad.  I have a feeling this will change in the next 10 years.   I probably would have felt that way 20 or 30 years ago.  Now I'm only intimidated by a big project, rarely by people.  I guess that comes with age and experience.  I was thinking about this today and realized part of it is I have a husband who encourages me to do anything I want.  He never seems to doubt I can do what I set my mind to.

I should finish here and get back to another project I'm working on which needs a little concentration since I've never done it before.  I'll tell you about it when it's done.