Being a Trackhoe

I imagine I’m not the only mom who has to reinforce the knees of her child’s pants because said child spends most of his time on his ‘tracks’ pretending to be a trackhoe.  Leif was more than excited to unwrap his new trackhoe shirt and wouldn’t take it off for three days!  It was a really simple project.  I pulled up  trackhoe images from the internet and found one that I liked.  Then I used a pencil to draw it on the shirt.  I used black fabric paint to outline the image and let it dry for the night.  Then I went back and filled it in with color (again using fabric paint).  Easy peasy!

Hello 2013 and repurposing your tree

Happy New Year my loyal readers!  I hope you have all had joyous holidays!!

We have had a very slow and relaxed time here in the hollar reading books, knitting, playing family games, snuggling kittens…  I felt so lazy 🙂  It’s very hard for me to just chill.

Speaking of kittens, they have been fitting in very well around here.  In fact, last night I found all four cats snuggling on the couch and no one was hissing about it!  There has been a bit of a competition for the only sleeping basket, though.

Cookie Dough and Oreo fit in there nicely together.   It’s a great spot for snuggling and for practicing their ninja fighting skills on each other.

Max, however, felt it was his job to show the little guys how he could make himself into a perfect circle.

Of course, Isabella wanted in on the action.  Max wasn’t too sure about this.

So far, there is no clear winner in the Basket Wars.  Luckily, those not in the basket are finding other comfortable ways to get some sleep.  Well, maybe not so comfortable.

Meowwww!  Ninja attack move #286.

Oh yes, repurposing your holiday trees.  Some years we will get a tree with a root ball so that we can plant it in the yard when the holidays are over.  This year, we got a cut tree and decided to recycle it by making fragrant pine fire-starting bundles.  Everyone helped snip branches, arrange, and tie the bundles.  Kaia even cleaned out the lint trap in the dryer and stuffed some lint into each bundle (lint is a great fire starter).

Many Blessings in the New Year!

Any plans for the year to come?

Holiday Blessings to all of you!

I’ve been so excited to share this with you, but I had to wait until my mother opened her Christmas gifts.  My sister and I recreated a picture from ~30+ years ago with as many details as possible.  We are very proud of it! 🙂  I still had the old desk.  We borrowed the chair from a friend.  I made a faux fireplace.  My sister found the school girl outfit on ebay.  And, of course, I had to get myself some new boots!  What do you think?


So proud

So we have these two adorable foster kittens, right?

Well, Kaia has decided that she needs to keep them and that they need to be hers.  She has been on a campaign to convince us of why this is a good idea.  She wrote lists of the pros and cons of adding two kittens to our family.  She debated all the cons:  asking neighbors if they would be ok watching extra animals when we are out of town, offering to help feed the animals and clean the litter boxes.  And today, she sat out in front of our local grocer and played her penny whistle to earn money.

Her sign says “Your generosity will help me adopt two kittens”  She made over $100 in one hour!  I’m so proud of my little introverted child.  She’s really stepped into new and scary situations lately and has done so with grace. (And a wee bit of sass, as you’ll see at the end of the video.)

Gratuitous kitten pictures

These two foster kittens have pretty much taken over our lives.  They are too sweet and snuggly not to play with them all the time.  In fact, I have them on my lap as I type this.

Here are a few pictures of our last week…

Attempting to convince the big man that he should be adopted.



Snuggling with the little man


Our two older cats are learning to get along with the two babies.


Are all kittens this floppy?

Max has adjusted very well to the babies and loves his snuggles.  (Or maybe he’s just getting too old to run away)

Or maybe he likes the heat of kitten blankets.


“This is my cute face!”

Taking over Max’s basket

And this is why I am having such a hard time working on my knitting right now.


Curled up in the hood of my jacket

And then there were three.



And then I just gave up and let them have it.

The fosters have taken over the house.

There may be no escaping!


Lion Tamer in training

“I know I smell salmon in there!!  Lemme at it!”

All snuggled up by the fire.



Hmmm… Why, you ask, does the big doggie sleep on the hard floor instead of her cozy bed? Because of the giant, fuzzy monster that has taken over the bed!!! You see him?? He’s right there!!! On the bed!! He’s huge and has glowing green eyes!!

You  need me to zoom in?

A little boys dream

We are having our horribly rutted and bumpy road redone… Finally!  I’m so excited.  But even more excited than me is my little construction-obsessed boy.  He would have stayed out there all day watching the backhoe dig if I’d let him.

In case you can’t tell, his left hand is his stabilizer and his right hand is his bucket.

Overheard in the Car Today

Leif – (walking up to me with his hands on his hips and a stern look on his face) “Do you think I might want some marshmallows?”

Me – “Well, I bet you do.”

Leif – “Good.  Then you may bring me some.  I’ll be with the kitties, and by with the kitties I mean in my room!”


Later on –

Toby – (seeing Leif making a mess with his yogurt on the kitchen table) “Let me get you a napkin.”

Leif – “I already have a napkin, and by napkin I mean my tongue!!”



(I think someone’s been watching too much Phineas and Ferb!  And by Phineas and Ferb I mean Dr. Doofinshmirtz)

Overheard in the Car Today

Leif (singing and dancing) – “Mightin Machines!  Friggin Mightin Machines!  Workin’ for you, doin’ mightin things, they’re , uh uh, Mightin Machines!”

(I find it interesting that my son would assume they said “friggin mighty machines”, instead of “big and mighty machines”.)

Overheard in the Car Today

(Well, actually in the living room)


Leif – “DADDY!  DADDY! Mommy’s knitting you some blue and yellow socks FOR A PRESENT!!!”

Me (whispered to Leif) – “Leif, that’s a secret.  Don’t tell daddy!”

Leif – “Never mind, Daddy.  It’s a surprise!!”


Whew!  Glad we avoided that slip up!

A lovely weekend with my baby girl!

Kaia and I just got back from a fabulous weekend at the Renaissance Festival!  We had such an amazing time exploring, playing, learning, laughing…

We were given magical fairy rocks by Twig the Fairy.

The Queen showed us the proper way to great another woman during the Renaissance times (air kisses)  🙂


We watched a candle making demonstration.  First some yellow…

Then some pink and red…

Then some blue and purple, and start carving while the wax is hot…

The candle maker has been doing this for 27 years.  His designs were beautiful!

We took home this amazing piece!!  You can see a video of how this type of candle carving is done here.

We got to visit with Mother Goose and her menagerie. (This is one of Kaia’s friends, whose family joined us for the weekend.)


We had our hair braided, like good princesses.


We watched glass blowing demonstrations.

And took home this fabulous mug, the actual piece he was making the the picture above.


The girls were pulled around the fair in a wagon by handsome pirates.

And they danced with Madame Rose, who also taught them the proper way to curtsey.


So much fun and such amazing weather for our trip.

I hope your weekend was just as fabulous!


Corn necklaces

Halloween Family Night with home made treats and family games.  (Twix, toffee, butterfingers, and fruit drops… none tasted the like store brand, but they were all yummy!)

Happy Sunshine Kitties


New winter hats

Spy Training


Crystal vase and bowl mushrooms

And we are only half way through Fall!!!

Night out on the town with Mom!

For my mom’s birthday, she and I headed out to a local art studio, Canvas Paint & Mingle, to learn how to paint poppies!!  I brought the hard cider and chocolate, and we joined five other ladies for a wonderful evening!  Anna Blair, our teacher, took us step by step through the process of creating a master piece. 🙂  Since the kids have been born, my mom and I haven’t has as much time to hang out together by ourselves.  So, it was really nice for the two of us to get out and enjoy some time together.

Here’s mom, being all artsy:

We had such a fabulous time!  I can’t wait to try my hand at another design!!

My Vortex Shawl

I started this during the Summer thinking it would be a fun little side project.  Little did I know that it would consume me for months!  This thing was a beast.  I don’t think I’ve ever made anything so large, or knit with such thin yarn (I’m a worsted and bulky kind of girl).  But, I love how it turned out.  Now I just hope I wear it!  You can see my details on Ravelry.

I pinned it to the bed and sprayed it lightly with water to help it keep it’s shape.

The Blue Enchantress

Kaia has become smitten with the Juniper series by Monica Furlong.  She decided, like the main character in the first book, that she wanted to create her own cloak.  Over the past month and a half, she has been cutting, stitching, harvesting, and producing an amazing creation.

Of course, we didn’t plan to sheer the sheep and weave the wool, like Juniper did.  We just went to Jo Ann’s fabric store and bought some 🙂  But, she did harvest herbs from our land to stuff in the secret pockets. (Lavender, thyme, lambs ear, rose petals, and a few others)


And she used a button that Toby made for her out of Maple and Black Walnut.

And she made the button loop out of yarn that a friend of ours spun from her angora bunny.

I think it’s fabulous and I’m so proud of her!  She’s quite a lady!!

Rainbow of eggs!

A picture just doesn’t do justice.  The eggs we are getting every day are so full of color.  I go out to check the nesting boxes at least 3 times a day, just in case a new egg has been laid!  I think we still have 4 or 5 that aren’t laying.  So, we will soon have even more colors to add to the bunch!  No more eggs from the grocery store!!!

Learning his name

Leif is very interested in his alphabet.  He’s often telling me things like, “Hey, Mom, fish starts with ffff, fff, ‘F'”.  And he’s super excited about writing his name.  He’s still young and working on his hand/eye coordination, and keeping a steady hand.  So, I started by writing his name on a chalk board and having him trace it with water (we used a little wooden stick with a sponge on the end that we got at a craft store).  The smiley faces helped him remember where to start his letter.

He noticed that we were writing his name in all capital letters and wanted to do it “the right way”.  Smiley faces didn’t work as well here.  So, I used little green dots as starting points instead.

Yes, it was a very exciting morning!

Aerial Showcase!

I did it!  I did my first official performance on silks!!  I have to say, I am pretty proud of myself.  I certainly wouldn’t call myself an extrovert.  So, getting up infront of a crowd and performing was a tad bit nerve wracking.  But, I did it!  Heck, I might even do it again!  I really am enjoying doing silks.  I feel like it’s become a great way to express myself… like dancing in air!

Our newest member

A beautiful Lavender Orpington Rooster!  (Thank you so much, Sadie!)  Kaia and I went through a list of names.  We wanted something that sounded powerful and regal… Albus (as in Dumbledore), Arthur Pendragon…. but we ultimately settled on Zeus.  I think it fits him very well!

I know, we already have a rooster.  But, he’s so little!  We love Millhouse, but I really wanted a full sized rooster to protect the chickens when they are free ranging, as well as to hear that full sized crow.  (He’s still working on his crow.  He’s going through his adolescent voice-cracking phase right now.)  So far, the two of them are getting along pretty well.  They’ve pecked at each other a little bit, but mostly leave each other alone.

I have to say, I was a little offended that Zeus got right down to work.  He didn’t even have time for proper introductions or margaritas before he was up on the ladies doing his duties!  He’s going to be a great roo, though.  He’s almost like a border collie, the way he herds the other chickens to keep them in line!

Happy Chickens!

Sand over pine shavings and straw

When we first got chickens, over 6 years ago now, we began by using straw in their coop. They loved to kick it around and pick out any seeds.  But I quickly learned that it got wet and soggy with their droppings.  Once it was wet and soggy, it was also super stinky and much heavier, making it much more effort to clean out the coop (which happened every month or two).  So,I moved on to pine shavings.  I tried using the deep litter method, piling the shavings up over their poop and letting it compost.  Then, I only needed to clean the coop 2 or 3 times a year.  The pine shavings absorbed the moisture and smell of their droppings much better, but it was stil a stinky, time consuming mess to clean.  (And I always ended up feeling pretty rough (respiratory) afterwards).  I thought, “there has to be another way.”

When I saw this post on sand in the chicken coop, I thought I might have found my answer.  I cleaned the pine shavings out of the coop, sprayed the roosts and corners with a dilute Neem oil spray (to kill any mites or pests), and replaced the pine shavings with sand!  I got a truck load of river sand for $24 and used about 1/4 of it for my 108 square foot coop.  This much sand will probably last me 2+ years!  (so far, much cheaper than pine or straw!)

When I got up in the morning, all of the poop was piled on top of the sand and was easily removed with a scoop (I used a kitty litter scoop, but plan on making something a little bigger, with a longer handle, for ease of getting under the roosts).  The poop goes into a bucket that is then dumped into the compost pile.  I rake out the sand and it’s as good as new!  No smell, no mess, and very easy clean up!  Plus, the sand scrubs the chicken’s feet nice and clean, instead of sticking to them in a stinky clump.  This is even more important when you have feather footed ladies, like my Silkies and Marans.

Zinnea was happy to inspect her new digs.  So happy, in fact, that she decided not to lay in her laying boxes, but waited until night time and plopped the egg down on the sand! 🙂




Soap Makin’

This time of year, as the garden settles down and the weather cools, I always start the soap makin’!  Anyone who receives holiday gifts from me can pretty much expect a bar of soap. 🙂

This year, I thought I’d deviate from my tried and true recipe and experiment with a new one I found.  It sounded so delicious!!  Pumpkin & Coconut Milk Salt Bar…. like the kind of soap you’d find at a high end spa, or something like that.  Well, I don’t know what I did wrong with it, but it turned out a flop.  When I tried to cut it, it just broke into crumbly pieces.

It still smells delicious.  Kaia recommended we break it up and put it into little jars, with ribbons and little spoons, so that people could using it as a soapy salt scrub.  She’s my resourceful little one!

So, feeling the need to redeem myself and went back to my favorite recipe.  We whipped up a batch of Candy Cane soap (using peppermint and spearmint essential oils). But, this time, just before pouring it into the mold, I took out two cups of soap and colored it.  Into one cup of soap, I added a tablespoon of madder root powder.  In another cup I added 2 teaspoons of Spirulina powder.  The result was red and green…

These were put into squirt bottles.  Once I poured the main soap into the mold, we used the squirt bottles to make dots with the colors.

Then, we dragged a bamboo skewer through the dots to create hearts.

We made a double batch and poured the extra into a Tupperware.

Then, with the small amount of the colored soap we had left over, we poured it into silicone molds and swirled it up!

Usually, this recipe has cured enough in 24 hours that you can pop it out of its mold and cut it.  Not this time.  Even after 3 days it still felt like modeling clay.  I ruined a few pieces just trying to get them out of the molds.  I even stuck it in the freezer to try to harden it up.  What is it with me and soap these days??!!  So frustrating!

Anyhoo,  I still ended up with some pretty nice soap.  I love how the hearts turned out.  If I try it again, I think I’ll make the circles smaller so that there are more hearts on each soap.  I just hope it finishes hardening up fully!

Leif’s new vest

Well, I couldn’t make Kaia a sweater without making something for Leif.  He loved her owls so much he insisted that I knit him a vest with an owl on it.  I think it turned out nicely.  I knit it a size too big so he could wear it for more than one winter.

The pattern can be found on ravelry here.

Tincturing Black Walnut

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra) trees are all around here.  This time of year they are thumping on roofs, smashing into cars, and sending the squirrels into a frenzy.  I was first introduced to Black Walnut as a medicine over 15 years ago while in herb school, though it wasn’t until we moved onto our little homestead, and had outdoor animals to take care of, that I really got to know it.

Black Walnut is traditionally used as an anthelmintic (That’s your vocabulary word of the day.  Use it the next time you are talking to your vet or doctor about worms and they’ll think you are super smart! 🙂  )  That basically means that it works by expelling parasitic worms from the body.

Animals that spend most of their lives out doors (in our case, our farm dog and our chickens) are super prone to getting worms.  I’ve talked about my use of Black Walnut with Suki and heart worm (see the comment section of that post), but I also use Black Walnut as a dewormer for our chickens.  Twice a year, in the spring and late summer, when the weather is humid and muggy, I give them a Black Walnut preventative in their water (60 drops in a gallon of water) for two weeks.  If I ever notice those classic symptoms of a wormy chicken (sluggish, droopy wings, decrease in laying), I will give them another week of it.  It works wonderfully!

Black walnut tincture can cost $10-$15 an ounce in the store…. I can make a quart of it (32 ounces) for about $10.  That’s about .31 cents an ounce!

So, how do you do it?  It’s easy!

Here’s what you need:

  • Black Walnuts (I used about 12 to make a quart of tincture)  You can harvest them this time of year.  It’s easiest to grab them off the ground after they have fallen, because they grow pretty high up in the trees.
  • Alcohol (I like to use 100 proof vodka, but any alcohol that is 80 to 100 proof, or 40-50% alcohol is fine.  Since my chickens aren’t picky about the taste of their tinctures, I just use the cheep stuff.  This 1.75L bottle cost me $18)
  • A large jar (I’m using a 1/2 gallon mason jar)
  • Sharp knife
  • Wax paper
  • Gloves (though you can see, mine are mysteriously absent from this picture.  Oh, yeah.  I wasn’t wearing any.)

The state of your black walnuts is important.  You want them nice and green.  A black spot like this on the outside:

will look like this inside.  Ewwwww!  Though the chickens might not mind tinctured worms, I do!

This is what you want your walnuts to look like when you cut off the hull (or outer layer).

Cut the hull off of the walnuts and put the hulls in your jar.  You will see the black walnut start to darken before your eyes!  Seriously!  It starts oxidizing immediately!!

I begin pouring the alcohol into the jar as I’m cutting the hulls.  This keeps them from oxidizing so rapidly in the air, and puts all the good medicine in the alcohol.

So, the gloves.  Yeah.  It’s a good idea to wear gloves while you are cutting Black Walnuts as they can stain really badly.  I forgot to pick any up at the store, so I just went for it.  I think, from all the Black Walnut juice that I soaked up through my skin, I can safely say that I am now free of worms!

By the end of the cutting process the color of the alcohol had already changed dramatically, as had my fingers.


Once you cut the hulls, put them in the jar and cover them with the alcohol, you want to put the top on the jar.  A layer of wax paper goes in between the glass and the lid.  This keeps the alcohol from reacting with the metal.

You will also want to label your tincture!!  Always label!!  ‘Cause you might just forget what you put in there and what a waste it would be to have to throw it all out because you didn’t label it.  On my labels, I always put the name of the plant, along with the percentage of alcohol, and when it will be ready to strain.  (Sometimes, on you might see things on tincture bottles like 1:2 or 1:5…. that is the scientific method of tincturing and it means amount of herb:amount of alcohol or menstrum used.  We’re not doing that here.  We’re keeping it simple.)

Put your tincture in a shady place indoors and shake it gently for the next two weeks.  Here is mine, happily resting on the kitchen counter.  (Yes, those are many bottles of home made hard apple/peach cider that you see in the background!!  You are very observant!)

About 15 minutes after taking the above picture, Leif asked if he could be in one of the pictures with the Black Walnut.  Check out the color difference already!!

And my hands…… My fingers are about 10 shades darker as I type this!!

After letting the tincture sit for 2 weeks, you can strain the hulls out.  I use muslin/cheese cloth to get all the little bits out of the fluid.  Save your tincture in a clean, labeled jar (don’t forget that layer of wax paper) and store in a cool, dark place.  You can bottle it up in little dropper jars for easy use.

See, wasn’t that easy???

(The happy, worm-free ladies say ‘hello!’)

Oh, and unlike many of the chemical dewormers for chickens that are on the market today, you can still eat the eggs of your chickens while they are taking Black Walnut tincture!!


ABC Game

Leif is ecstatic about school this year.  Every day, including weekends, he asks me when we are going to do his school work.  He’s like a little puppy who needs to have a task 🙂

Today, I made him an ABC Game.  I spread out his ABC deck in alphabetical order.  Then he picked a card from out of a bag.  The cards were lower and upper case ABC’s.  He would tell me the name of the letter and the sounds it makes, then match it to the ones that were on the floor.  He LOVED it!  We even got the remote controlled cars into it, rolling the next card to him… Ahhhh, the simple things 🙂