Sunday, September 30, 2012

How to Build a Tree House in 146 Simple Steps

JP took off work last week to work on the next big Poplar Ridge project with my Dad:  building a tree house for the girls.  It ended up being a bit larger of a project than any of us anticipated, and it rained most of the week - which was good for our thirsty well, but not so good for being in a tree.  JP drove in to the lumber or hardware store at least once daily for additional supplies, and Lowe's delivered a large pile of wood and insulation on Monday.

Step 1:  Pick out your trees.  These 2 trees, one hickory and one probable ash, are in our side yard, and already serve as shade over our hammock.


Step 2:  Build the house in 2 sections under the barn lean-to because of rain.  They even insulated and began attaching the interior walls while these were on the ground.


Step 3:  Build the roof panels and deck panels under the garage lean-to because of continued rain.


Step 4:  On the first sunny day, drill holes for the massive bolts.


Step 5:  Tighten the massive bolts...it will take several people.  L even helped out.


Step 6:  After the "foundation" is bolted to the trees, lift up the first section of house.



Step 7:  Bolt the front deck and first section of the house to the foundation and each other.

Step 8:  Lift up the second section of the house.

Step 9:  Bolt the 2 sections together.  Aren't the Fall colors starting to be lovely?


Step 10:  Put on the roof panels.

Step 11:  Cover the windows and doors with plastic because the week is over and the tree house is far from done.  Plus they are calling for more rain.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Just Call Me the Queen of Recycling

We have been slowly, but surely clearing out our downstairs storage room since the new BIG deep freeze arrived a few weeks ago.  We keep down there all the inane stuff you normally have in a storage room - suitcases, sleeping bags, random boxes of books and pictures, etc, etc.  I also have shelves of my canned goods in there, boxes of root crops, and several winter squashes.  Then there was the box of burned out compact fluorescent bulbs, the box of used up alkaline batteries, and a pile of random stuff meant for the thrift store...things I didn't want to throw out, but they made it only as far as down the stairs.

This week I not only took a van load of recyclables (newspaper, aluminum, metal, plastic and glass) to the local recycling center, but JP unloaded the box of old bulbs at a Lowe's store, and I dumped the box of batteries off at a battery recycling center in Washington.  I also took a pile of old flower pots up to our local nursery, where they offer them to the public...I actually picked most of them up there a couple of weeks ago to put stuff from my flower beds into while it was under construction.  I took a bag of shoes to a friend, and now I have to ready the rest of the pile for a trip to the thrift store.

I feel pretty good about my attempts to be environmentally conscious...until I think of all those greenhouse gases I burn every time I drive somewhere with a load of things to recycle.

Maybe I've almost broken even in the end?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Good News!

I picked J up early at school today.  She had an appointment with her Pediatric Rheumatologist.  It was a long drive in the lashing rain and construction up to the Big City, and an even longer one home in the beginnings of rush hour traffic.  We received good news there today, however.  The Doctor told us that there was no need to schedule any follow up appointments unless J was having problems.  We are to continue the eye exams every 6 months for an indefinite period of time, but that only requires driving into the Burg...15 minutes vs. 75.

Hooray!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Raising Young Scientists

My friend recently posted about how her daughter successfully gender integrated the recess soccer team.  (You can read about it here.)  My kids enjoy playing soccer on the County League here, but they aren't great (although L made 2 goals in her Sunday game, and J made 1.)  Their eyes do light up, however, if they are presented with a new Science object, especially one they found on one of their nature hikes.

I have to admit that my eyes light up too, when new things to study Scientifically come my way.  We have had the opportunity, living in the country as we do and homeschooling, to make impromptu Science lessons out of many, many things that we find.  Although my days of homeschooling appear to be numbered, I intend to continue studying natural science with the girls for as long as I can walk these hills.

L came in from her outdoor wanderings after lunch, clutching something behind her back.  "It's time to get ready for your Science lesson," I told her.

"No Mommy!  I need to do something first!"  she exclaimed.

I finally pried and wheedled until I discovered what she had clenched in her fist - about half a dozen scraps of landscaping fabric, that were likely part of the casualties from the recent destruction of my flower garden.  "Honey,"  I tried to reason with her, "that's just trash.  I'd rather you didn't bring that into the house."

"I'm going to wash it, Mommy!" she promised, and disappeared downstairs.

A few minutes later, I followed her down to finish up that Science lesson.  I found her sitting at her desk with a magnifying glass, a ruler, paper and pencil.  She was carefully recording measurements of her find, and was examining each piece carefully with the magnifying glass.  She discovered letters on one fragment, and was trying to determine what it said.

During our "real" Science lesson, regarding types of matter - specifically gasses - we used the balance to determine that a filled balloon weighed 4 grams, while an empty balloon only weighed 2 grams and therefore gasses have mass!  I left the balance out for her when I left to pick up J after school.  She told me later that she found that all of the pieces of fabric together weighed only 1 gram.

And so, my budding young Scientist has obviously been paying attention during our school Science lessons, and she enjoys discovering new things enough to thoroughly study a handful of landscaping fabric scraps.  I'm not sure exactly what that means in the big picture, but she made me proud of her today!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

My Day Has Gotten Somewhat Better

Just as I finished digging up part of my perennial bed last night in the drizzle and darkening skies, the sun came out for a couple of glorious minutes.  It could have been lovely to sit on the porch swing as the dusk settled, while the golden clouds around the sun lit the wet grass and shone it to diamonds, but I was too tired to enjoy it much.  I did enjoy a short phone call while I sat on the porch swing - from one of my friends who went West this summer .  She shared the good news that their family will be coming back East...to Indiana...for at least 2 years.

My final challenge last night was to pay the bills.  The checkbook wouldn't balance, however, and there wasn't enough money in it anyway.  I struggled for over an hour before suddenly something clicked, and the checkbook balanced, and I found enough money.  By this time it was well past my bedtime.

So I awoke reluctantly this morning to get J off to school.  L was dragging too...didn't feel well and ate little for breakfast.  I pushed my groggy body, and her little reluctant one:  much to do today, AND the chipper gentleman from the auto body repair shop had promised on the phone yesterday that my van should be done this morning!

L sat on my lap, and we worked through almost all of her school work.  I packed up some things, and a little lunch for her, as she still didn't want to eat, and took off for a visit with my Family Doc at noon.  I figured that we would go from there to pick up the van, but a quick phone call confirmed it wouldn't be ready until 3:30.  So...Plan B:  get groceries now, pick up van after getting J from school.

Arrived at grocery store, and no shopping list could be found.  I couldn't even reconstruct a teeny bit of it.  On to Plan C:  go home and finish Art class, go shopping while J is at soccer practice.

L still hadn't eaten her lunch, and complained of her tummy after all that time in the car.  She snuggled on my lap at home as we looked at paintings by Wasily Kandinsky, Van Gogh, and Edward Hicks and discussed the types of lines found in them.  She ate some applesauce.

Back out to pick up J, then we headed to the library.  I received the phone call on the way there that the van was finally ready.  We picked out books in a hurry.  I chatted briefly with the Library Director, who informed me that someone broke down one of the doors and stole a huge water bottle full of money...the gazebo fund...from our already financially strapped library.  Idiot.

As I was slowly backing out of my parking space, I bumped into a car parked along the road behind me.  ACK!  I wrecked the rental car!  I hit an old purple beater, and I had no way of knowing if I actually did any damage to it, although there was a dent in the rear fender...sorta kinda directly behind my car.  It seems that I'd seen that car there almost every week when we visit the Library.  No one inside claimed it, so I knocked on the door of a house nearby.

"No,"  the woman answering the door said,  "not my car.  My son is a police officer, and he thinks it is abandoned.  They are getting ready to tow it."

One police report, one insurance claim report, and an embarrassed call to Enterprise later, we were ready to roll.  The Police Officer told me that he had cited the other car for illegal parking.  Good to know.

Enterprise told me that I would have to pay my insurance deductible up front when I returned the car.  My insurance representative told me that figure was $1000.  It didn't look like $1000 worth of damage to me - a scuffed area on the bumper about 8 inches long and 2 inches wide.  Whatever. 

The Enterprise Dude came out to assess the car.  He kneeled down and started rubbing at the "damage".  It all wiped off!  All that was left was a tiny scratch that wasn't even through the paint.  "I'm not worried about that.  I'm not charging you a thing!"  (Sigh of relief.)

As we FINALLY loaded our things into our lovely van (which was thoroughly detailed, and hasn't been this clean in a LONG time), JP called and offered to pick up something for dinner.

We arrived home with enough time for J to change into her soccer gear, and JP handed off our food through the van window as we were driving away.

I did the grocery shopping while J had soccer practice.

The builder stopped by while we were out and told my Dad that I had already removed enough from my flower garden for them to work, starting in the AM.

L ate chicken nuggets and peaches for dinner.

I have no (terribly pressing) tasks for tonight, so I can head to bed when I finish this post.

Things are looking up.

I hope I don't regret those chicken nuggets at 2 AM.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Un-Gardening

We have had problems about once a year with the grey water (water from the sinks and showers which does not go into the septic) backing up into the downstairs bathtub.  The builder is guessing that this is occurring from where the grey water pipes crossing over the septic pipes, and then the lot of them settling, causing an uphill area that backs up when there is enough other garbage in the lines. 

A couple of weeks ago, I went downstairs and found dried up yucky stuff in the tub...telltale signs that the water has backed up.  We called the builder, and began carting our shower stuff to the guest bathroom and the extra bathroom for our showers.  Although I'm extremely glad that we have the option of getting our showers elsewhere, the other shower is TINY!   Imagine shaving your legs in a phone booth, and you'll get the idea what I'm dealing with lately!  Our builder called us back after a day or two, estimating that he could be out to work on things by the middle of this week.

I went to our local nursery to pick up some free flower pots over the weekend, because JP warned me that the grey water lines were under my perennial bed.  Last night the builder called back to give me an idea where they would be digging, and said that they would be out tomorrow morning, weather permitting.  It rained all day today...nearly 1 3/4 inches all together. 

So...after I got off work this evening, I picked up a pizza for dinner.  I plopped the girls down in front of a netflix movie with their pizza, and got to work digging.

Here is a picture of what the perennial bed looked like in the Spring.  It has filled out a bit since then.


Here is the scenario now that I have taken down half of the fence and cleared out the lower 3 feet of the bed.  I hope that is enough!


Even after all that rain, the soil under the plants that I dug was only a little moist, and hard as bricks.  I guess that explains why our well is not keeping up with our consumption this summer.

In a couple of weeks, I will get to plant things back all over again, and mulch again too.  So.  Much.  Fun.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Paying Me Back

We found 2 more tiny pullet eggs in the nest boxes today, along with another one (age unknown) out in the field.  It appears that our Barred Rocks have FINALLY starting laying so they can pay me back for all of the feed I've been buying them!  The three young Golden Comets are laying an egg a day regularly, and they are starting to get a bit larger now.

We had omelets for breakfast this morning...yummy!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

One of Those Weeks

The windows are all flung open, letting in the fresh, cool, Fallish air.  J is off to a birthday party, while JP and L took Ole Bessie to get water.**  So the house is quiet, except for the pets.  Lizzie the kitten is sitting on an outside windowsill of the Library where I sit, taunting the dogs, who run from window to window, trying to get to her.


This has been one of those weeks where I don't feel like I managed to accomplish much.  The minutes spun by so fast, that every day it was 10:30 PM before I'd managed to sit down to catch my breath.  Of course "accomplish much", means that I didn't do anything besides homeschool Lauren for 5 days, work 2 shifts, take the girls to violin lessons, piano lessons, and 2 soccer practices.  On top of that, the girls and I went to the pool one evening, I took a CPR class, I drove to and from Washington with my Dad to pick up manure (that we couldn't find), I attended a Library Board meeting, AND I managed to make dinner for everyone every night except one.  I guess it just takes sitting down in the quietness to assess all that I DID manage to accomplish, rather than what I have not.

I've been thinking about those kinds of things this week.  How many of my interactions with the girls, or with JP for that matter are critical ones, rather than positive ones?  What sorts of things have I done in my few extra minutes gleaned here and there...wasted time blogging or playing Plants vs Zombies, or read.  If I have only a limited amount of time in my life, or in one day, shouldn't I spend it doing things that count?

Of course, I've found that in order to "recharge" my brain, I  need some down time.  Sometimes watching Netflix (haven't had any TV reception since the Olympics) or playing computer games can fill that bill, so I won't completely stop playing with Zombies.  But both JP and I have been reading a lot more in the past month...could it be the new Kindles??

So, instead of wasting this lovely day at the computer, I am heading out to the clothesline to hang out clothes, and then down to the garden to do some weeding and hopefully plant some Fall lettuces.  I have some painting to do, and then, if time permits, I'll finish weeding, fertilizing and mulching the trees in the orchard.  I find that I dread these activities so much that they drag me down just thinking about them...until I actually do them, and then I enjoy myself AND feel incredibly fulfilled.

Enjoy your weekend, my friends.  Use your time wisely, but let yourself unwind too.  It takes a good mix of play and work to be whole, I think.  My goal is to NOT be wholly nuts.

**This might be an unusual sounding adventure to some, but probably 50% of the pickup trucks in our area carry "Water Buffaloes" around in the back - and not the wild beast type, these are plastic containers designed to hold hundreds of gallons of water.  Because most of our county has been mined under for coal, there are many, many people who have lost their wells.  If you have a Buffalo, you can fill it at a potable water filling station for $.25/ 50 gallons.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

First and Last

This weekend presented several firsts and lasts for the girls.  Saturday morning, they attended "Pony Camp" at our friend's farm.  They have been attending most Saturday mornings since July.  They have learned about the horses, how to groom them, and saddle them.  Recently they have spent more and more time riding without a lead.  Several of their young friends come too, so it is a great social event as well.  I usually try to take some reading material along, but this week I spent some time getting some video taken for JP to watch.  Yesterday it was raining so hard, that it was hard to hear over the sound of the rain pounding on the roof of the barn.

We brought J home from "Pony Camp", then L and I changed and headed to the Library for the annual Teddy Bear Picnic.  This was L's last Teddy Bear Picnic, since she is now 6 years old.  It made me a little sad, since I've been taking the girls to the Teddy Bear Picnics for the past 8 years!  They do bear related crafts, listen to stories about bears, and have a brown bag lunch with bear type food:  peanut butter and honey sandwiches, Teddy Grahams, etc.

L and I stayed after the Picnic for me to do some of my Library Board related duties...we attended the dedication and grand opening of the new Gazebo that was erected this summer out side of the Library.  We eventually got so cold and damp, that we headed home, where we snuggled up in sweatpants and watched a movie.

Today was a lovely day - sunny and cool, the perfect kind of day for the first soccer games of the season!  Both girls played very well, and although their teams did not win, they both had fun.  That's what it's all about after all!

Now it is time to gear up for another week of school.  I completely overwhelmed and tearful by the end of last week, dealing with all of changes of L's cyber school, along with the unanticipated stress of an accident and having my van out of commission for a while.  But my headache and sore neck finally resolved last night, so I'm tentatively optimistic about the next week.

Deep breaths...

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Deerfly

The girls and I just finished listening to Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass.  Among other things, we learned about Rocking-Horseflies and Bread-and-Butterflies.  It made me think of the Disney "Dumbo" movie, where those crazy crows sing "I've seen an elephant fly!"

This evening, the girls and I saw a deer fly...right up close!

It flew after bouncing off my van.
Phoebe's Boo Boo
Believe me when I tell you that the deer was much worse off than the van.

We are all fine, and thankful both for good insurance, and for Old Bessie so that both JP and I have wheels while Phoebe the van is in the shop.

The girls never made it to soccer practice tonight...bother.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Project

My friend offered us a large porch swing that had been sitting in her mother's barn for an unknown amount of time.  Despite its age, it appeared to be in fairly good shape, and was big enough to fit all 4 of us.

I MEANT to work on it last Fall, so we could sit in it and enjoy the Autumn colors last year.  Didn't happen.

I finally had JP pull it out of our barn a couple of weeks ago and I set to work.

First I power washed it, then removed 6 broken slats, and tightened up some loose ones.

My dad got in on the action, and replaced a piece that was rotted on the side, and cut new slats for me.  He also glued and clamped the back to the base in several places where it was wiggly.  Finally, JP bolted the front to the back using 24" threaded rods to stabilize everything further.


Here is how it looked after all of the repairs and cleaning.

I then covered every square inch of it with 2 coats of Forest Green porch and floor paint.  See...it matches the barn!


  This morning, JP and I finally hung the swing below our deck, and we all tried it out.


Hooray!  Now we have a comfy place to sit and swing when the weather cools off in a few weeks.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Great Chicken Experiment - Part A

A couple of weeks ago, I sat down and started adding up all the receipts that I have kept since beginning this experiment with raising chickens for food and eggs.  The rough total, not including the cost of the solar electric net fencing, the supplies for the new hen house, and the electricity to run a heat lamp for 2 months) came to over $500.  That made each chicken worth at least $12!  In my mind, it doesn't quite make all the work and expenses worth while.  So...we decided that sooner rather than later, we should cut our losses and butcher any non-essential chickens before their value went up even more.

So...yesterday was butchering day on Poplar Ridge.  It was hot, humid and without a breeze when we started, but by the end of the task (a mere 2 hours later,) a few sprinkles of rain  helped to cool us off.

We randomly chose half of the pullets, 17 in all, to butcher.  The dressed weight as they were ready to go into the freezer averaged only 2 lbs 4 oz.  One rooster didn't make the cut for keepers, so now we have a pretty mixed flock of 20 pullets:  Barred Plymouth Rocks, Golden Comets, and one Silver Laced Wynadotte. 

L caught chickens randomly, except that we had to decide which rooster would stay.  My Dad or JP butchered them and dunked them in scalding water, then we all worked to pluck them into the bucket of the tractor.


When they were all bare nekked, the adults worked to dress them.  All the entrails and nasty bits went into the tractor bucket, and L washed off the meat before depositing them into a large ice chest.

JP and I further washed and trimmed 11 birds in the house, then packed them in zip lock bags and stuck them in the deep freeze.  Except for the big one...must have been the rooster...which weighed in at 3 1/2 lbs. and didn't fit in a zip lock.  We considered butterflying and grilling it last night, but the thought of chicken to eat was not too appealing when we thought about it.

Instead, we washed EVERYTHING:  the tractor, the ice chest, the knives, sink, counters, canner, clothes, and ourselves  thoroughly and ordered Chinese.  (I got the sesame beef!)

So next year, we will implement The Great Chicken Experiment - Part B.  This involves at least 2 hens sitting on fertilized eggs to save the cost of buying chicks and using a heat lamp.  We still have to figure out how to decrease the cost of chick feed, but we have been supplementing more and more with table scraps.

Chicken farming, I have decided, is for the birds!