Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Bee Garden, Underway

It's no surprise, really, that I'm starting a bee garden. I've been very concerned about the demise of the bees since I first heard of it on (probably) The Discovery Channel (when we had TDC, and before it got all smutty).

The Bees, people. It's a scary thing.

So after musing for a few years about where to put such a garden, starting out in the front perennial bed and not so much liking the way the Russian Sage completely took over (but, those happy little bees were so HAPPY!) I decided to let the bee garden overrun the side of the fence facing the busyish road. Not only was this an annoying spot to mow (so I hear, I'm not sure I ever did actually mow this swatch) but then other people could enjoy it, too.

Plus Lola has yet to be stung by a bee, so I am not 100% comfortable with said bee garden too close to our running-jumping-playing areas. I should be clear, however, that a happy be is a non-stingy bee, as we discovered with our Russian Sage. All those cute little bees completely ignored us.

So now that we are finally into May, the May after the 2nd wettest April in Minnesota History, I'm finally on day 2 of The Bee Garden. Because it has rained every other stinking day.

It's the funniest thing. Nugget, the Barred Rock hen, is a smart one; she has figured out that when I'm gardening there are good things to eat. She follows me around the yard/garden/through-the-fence whenever I'm out there working the earth. I'm half-tempted to let her out of the yard when I'm working on the Bee Garden just because I know she would stay so close to me (and it would be funny - there are a lot of cars zooming by).

As you can see, this is a pretty long stretch of yard. I pulled up all the grass, about a foot's width or so. So far, all I have in there are two lonely Anise Hyssop plants and a bunch of Mammoth Sunflower seeds because I might as well attract the birds, too. And, Mammoth Sunflower stalks are very good for chicken herding. I threw down a random mix of "butterfly" wild flowers, too, because I know I won't have the budget to really stock this garden with all the perennials I want this year. Some of my Russian Sage will be transplanted, and the Dear Husband said that we have baby Milkweed growing in the big garden that I'll transplant. Which is good because the Milkweed I tried growing from seed did NOT grow. Neither did the Verbena. I did get two weeny little Bee Balm plants though, that might just survive.

I'm very excited for this project, yes I am!

Friday, May 2, 2014


I haven't been blogging, as you can see. I was super sick pretty much all winter and conserved all my energy into getting better. Finally pulling out into the spring and all that means. I didn't even knit, I just had no energy to do so. I finally picked up my needles again last week, which I take as a sign that I'm truly getting better.

Plus the sun is out today for the first time in months and months. It is a glorious thing.

Here are some highlights of this week:

I just love socks. My cat loves yarn.
MayDay Loot. . . and a banana.
My beautiful boy looking so old. . . He's channeling Olaf The Snowman.
Our house is all things Frozen (the movie) these days. Let it Go. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

~Super Kawaii~ part 2

I had to run to my favorite craft store this morning for seam rippers to fix those Chococat pants' length but of course after I checked out, I got a text from my dear husband that he had found the other ones. Oh well, the presence of two seam rippers in the house just means I have much more sewing fun to come, right?

Those Kereppi pants whipped right up, with nary a glance at the directions, and with seams much more steady than yesterday. I think PJ pants are the perfect learn-to-sew project. I certainly learned a few things, one of which is that my iron has an automatic shut-off if its left on for too long. I've never left it on so long that it had to switch itself off, the ironing of things is not my favorite activity.

Really, so great, but all the stuff!! Sewing needs so many odds and ends, I'm going to have to learn to stock up on certain things so that I don't have to keep making trips to the craft store. . . and maybe get a big, beautiful basket to stash it all in.

I'm feeling so much more confident in my abilities, I'm sure it's going to be a fun year!

Okay I'm off to finish Lola's new winter hat. . . but first I think I'll make some Oyster Cracker snacks - yum!

Friday, January 3, 2014

~Super Kawaii~

Well I did it!! Not only did I spend more than three minutes in the fabric section of JoAnns and NOT get nauseated (for real, it's a scary place) BUT I did something with the fabric I bought! So proud of myself.

Or, as my husband said "Wow! I'm surprised you had the patience to do it."

For real, he said that. After pretending to be indignant, I had to agree.

Okay, I did get a teeny bit overwhelmed and irritated in JoAnns, but it was mainly because there were MILES of fleece, and the flannel that was available for boys was, of course, stereotypical superheroes with a little SpongeBob and Simpsons thrown in; so original, flannel makers, so creative. Lucky for me I found an awesome section of Sanrio flannel (in the girls section, of course) and nabbed him some Chococat on a grey background, and some super cute Keroppi for my girl.

Also the flannel was kind of crappy. I had to look really closely at it to detect any flannely goodness. The red piece of flannel in the picture above I got at Crafty Planet, where apparently they know where to get the good stuff, because it's just gorgeous. JoAnns flannel, not so much.

Then came home and stared for a bit, putting off the actual making of the pants by prewashing the fabric like a good sewing-school girl, then plowed ahead.

But first watched THIS tutorial a few times, for moral support (and because the lady reminds me of Kenneth from 30 Rock, who, by the way, I think JoAnns should hire to do all their future sewing tutorials. Kenneth would rock the tutorials). Also because the pattern directions I bought assumed I already knew lots of stuff, so it left out lots of important details, and added lots of unimportant details.

After I cut out the pattern I faced reality that I had to thread the machine. So horrifying and scary especially since I couldn't be bothered to find the actual manual that came with it. . . lucky for me it was online.  This part was what put me off sewing the last time I sewed. All that crazy obstacle course threading and threatening language.

I did okay, though, so I rewarded myself with some monster cookies and milk:

Then practiced my stitches like a good sewing school girl - and look at those zig-zags!! Gorgeous!! I wasn't about to spend $44 on the only pair of pinking shears in the store, and apparently if you don't shell out for the pinking shears you have to zig zag otherwise all your hard work will unravel. So there you go:

Just for future reference, using red thread might seem nice and complementary to black and gray Chococat fabric, but instead it will highlight how very inexperienced and wobbly your lines are. Fine.

Also, I now understand why those who sew tend to covet their own work rooms. Sewing crap takes up a lot of room. Hmm.

Oh, and for the finished product? Well. . . I got too excited to wait for the boy to get home to have them try on the pants, so I hemmed them too short and can't find my seam ripper. Honest mistake, the kid has the waist line of a 4 year old but the height of a 10 year old. I got the waist right, but was a little off on the length.

He declared them perfect and didn't want me to touch them with a seam ripper, so instead of the finished pants, here's a picture of him in his new hat:

That 3-hour hat is super basic, but apparently all the hats and mittens I knit last year have disappeared (and, um, have huge holes in them due to my inexperience at the time) it's about to get Arctic Vortex freezing here in Minnesota, so much so that my favorite governor ever Mark Dayton cancelled school across the state for Monday.

Plenty of time to make more pants, because despite the rambling and lack of good pictures, I really enjoyed myself. Plus I was SO TIRED by the time I was done that I consider sewing an aerobic workout (seriously, I was post-treadmill flushed and had to keep reminding myself to breathe).

Oh and that gorgeous piece of red flannel? I have a skirt in mind for that. . . for myself! Yay me!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2014 Goals

In December, everything is too much. Don't get me wrong, I really love the holiday season, the excitement, the fresh tree, the cranberries. . . but then about 4 days before Christmas I get this sense of impending doom when the season overwhelms me. This is very much why our house gets de-Christmassed right around the 26th every year. Have I mentioned that I'm just a tad antisocial? Yeah, that might have something to do with it, too.

Fortunately for me, the kids headed back to school today (wah for them) while I still have a few days of winter break left to get started on my goals for the year. I never, ever do resolutions, but I always have goals for myself. 2013 was such a monumental year of change; Chickens! Knitting! I can't believe I didn't knit a year ago. . . seriously, it is so much a part of who I am now that I really can't figure out what I did with all my time.

Well, without dwelling on the past, here's to the future!!

That's right, my future involves breakfast, then that baby sitting across the table from me. The Singer. Now, I don't know why, but sewing machines scare the crap out of me, especially when they're older than I am. Some part of my brain keeps telling me that I would learn better if I had a fancy new machine, but the much bigger, practical part of my brain says I need to know if sewing is going to be a legitimate part of my life before I spend the money.

 This won't be my first sewing attempt:

Okay, yeah, that's not me. . . but it IS the project I started before I got to stressed out by The Machine and my dear husband Abe had to take over. Curtains for the two bedrooms and for the kitchen, too. Easy Shmeasy, but the thread kept breaking, and sewing through room-darkening fabric was rather tough. Of course, looking at that sweet little boy next to Abe, I am starting to think that it was maybe just my timing that was off. Toddlerhood is not exactly a time to start a new endeavor.

But now that sweet boy is about to be eight (EIGHT!!) and has some sudden mighty particular tastes in clothes. Only hoodies. Only skinny pants. I can't find pants to make him happy (he's on the extremely slim side) so maybe I'll work up to making him pants. Maybe by next December, though, let's be real.

So today I'm taking a bit of a deep breath before I plunge in, and learning from how I learned to knit, doing some research, too. Thank goodness for YouTube!!

Happy 2014 to you!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Chickens' First Snow

Little Frog enjoying the snow last night

Snowy Shenanigans

Early morning in the yard

Nugget & My Sharona breaking their fast

Jack Chillin' in the Coop

Gorgeous sundog on my way to work.

Not Impressed.

We got our first BIG SNOW yesterday, which amounted to 6 inches or so. Not such a big deal, but the first snow is always a bit exciting. . . but the chickens were not impressed.

It sure was pretty when I went to take care of them this morning, but cold. The windchill was hovering at minus 17 but it was just a quick in-and-out with a couple scoops of food. The cold didn't seem to bother them a bit, and the plastic wrapped around the two sides seems to cut the wind perfectly. We are keeping their heat lamp on during these bitterly cold days, despite the To Heat or Not To Heat controversy that surrounds this practice. Given the iciness of the 3 eggs I grabbed today, I think we are going to err on the side of (relative) warmth.

After work, I tried to coax them out of their coop, but they seemed confused to say the least, and while daring Nugget did peck a bit at the snow, she only ventured half a talon onto it. That's fine girls, stay in there. You'll get bored soon enough!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December Snow and Things

December 3rd
Snow is here, lightly now. Last year by this time we had nearly a foot of snow, but that was the Neverending Winter, which wore on even my Winterloving patience. Right now it's wet and sloppy and just slippery enough that I need to watch my step in the morning when I go out to check on the chickens. I am thinking I might need some "barn mittens," too, okay to get dirty, but will keep my hands warm even if they get slopped on.

The hens enjoying a little left-over Spanish rice. Yum!
The number one question I've gotten lately besides Dear God What Is That Thing?!? is. . . 

"So, do chickens do okay in the winter?"

Which, honestly, I might have wondered myself pre-chicken, if I hadn't been such a huge Little House on the Prairie fan. Ma's chickens always did fine. Because Chickens Are Birds. 

Yes they are. And they do fine. Those feathers are thick and warm, and as long as they stay dry they are happy. We do have a heat lamp that we turn on if the temp dips into a hard freeze like the one coming in a couple days: 

But overall they're fine. We did wrap their run in plastic (cheap shower curtain liners work perfectly) just on the North and West side where most of the blowing occurs, but the other sides stay open because they need plenty of ventilation. Apparently it's worse for a chicken to be wet than to be cold.

And with this sloppy wet snow we've been having the last day or so, they are perfectly content to stay inside their run. We usually let them free-range the backyard after we get home in the afternoon, and generally they're clamoring to get out before we even open the back door (I think they can hear the garage door open when a car pulls up) but they are showing no interest in leaving right now.

Despite the cold, my herb garden is finally sprouting! The cilantro is the bravest, although those spindly little shoots do not convince me that we'll be able to enjoy them much. The basil, if you look really closely, is just teeny, tiny budlings right now. I had no idea basil grew so slowly (I have never, ever had luck with basil). Nothing from the parsley yet, and the pretty-much-dead thyme seems to be holding on. Who knows if these herbs will make it, but I'm determined to try. It seems my green thumb needs a little something to work on, even in the winter.