Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Baby Chicks!!!

Billy the mail man called me at about 9:30 this morning to let me know he had the chicks and was about ten minutes from our place!  As soon as he arrived we could hear them chirping away!  I let the kids open the box warning them that there may be some dead ones. There was one dead and one that we though for dead but could still see breathing. The other eight were just as lively as could be!  We got them under the heat lamp right away!

Barely awake children not able to open the box of baby chicks fast enough!

The not so alive one was revived with a little heat and some gentle caressing and nudging just like a mama hen might do, by a friend who also touched some water to its beak.  My friend shall be called, the chick whisperer!  It took about two hours before she was up on her own two feet which is awesome because she wasn't moving at all when we got her!

I'm pretty sure I have the happiest kids in the world!

This is one of the Bantams.  It is black with white tipped wings!
  UPDATE: This one is Shadow Smile because my five year old is cool like that. 
UPDATE: Shadow Smile did not make it; she died at about one week. She was a Black Frizzle Cochin Bantam 
This fella's name is Flufatrox and everyone's favorite already with its super fluffy beautiful self.
UPDATE: I believe Flufatrox is an Easter Egger!
Her name shall be, Yellow Wing!
UPDATE:  I believe Yellow Wing is a New Hampshire Red.
UPDATE: Actually she's a Buckeye. 

UPDATE:  Camolot nicknamed Camo is a Golden Campine. 
No name yet for our light colored striped girl.
UPDATE:  My step son named her Samwise Gamgee.  She is a Partridge Silkie Bantam
This fully black Bantam has not been named yet.  My son just pointed out some leg fluff!  I'll figure out all their breeds later, I just wanted to get some pictures up first!
UPDATE: This one is a little stinker and keeps pecking the other chicks in the eye ALL the time!
UPDATE:  We named her Silver.  She is a Black Silkie Bantam.
UPDATE: She was a he.
This chick has some beautiful markings on its face and body.  We haven't named her yet.
UPDATE:  Her name is Crystal
UPDATE:  Crystal is a GoldenCampine
Another Bantam, this one is all black with a tiny white patch on its head and bum!  We haven't named her yet.
  UPDATE: This one's name is Luna since the white on her head looks like the moon!
UPDATE:  Luna is a Barred Plymoth Rock Bantam
Such a beauty, this is another chick with a stripe down its back, darker in color than it's matching buddy. We haven't named her yet.
  UPDATE: This one's name is Rusty!
UPDATE:  Rusty is a Partride Silkie Bantam and is a ROOSTER! 

I have identified 4 of the 5 bantams, one dead.  I think one of the striped chicks may be our other bantam!  We aren't getting anything done today, just staring at and caressing chicks, loving every second of it!

My son Anthony

My daughter Caitlin

Friday, August 26, 2011

Football is Ruining My Life

What does football have to do with the ol' Workshop you say? This is a blog about projects and getting stuff done eh? Well, I'll give you a hint, it has the same to do with Great Dana's Workshop as does swimming lessons, the kids' need to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner, laundry, dirty bathrooms, appointments and all the other day to day things I do.  Football is to the workshop what a little rain is to a picnic, it doesn't shut things down it just changes the rules of the game a little.

We finally decided to take the plunge and commit to a season of youth football for our nine year old!  He wanted to play last year, the first that he could have, but I was not willing to shell out the time or money at that point.  They practice five nights a week for two and a half hours a night for the last few weeks of summer break.  Did you catch that?  Summer break.  SUMMER BREAK aka family, schedule free, get stuff done and go have fun time.  Once school starts up they go to three practices a week plus Saturday games - definitely a time commitment.  Some parents are concerned with the physical danger of football and the possibility of their little tyke getting hurt but football is pretty darn safe when properly geared up, really. My concern is simply the magnitude of TIME they put into the sport. 

In case you think I'm a real jerk, making a big deal about how my kid's sport is ruining my life, I'm just being dramatic so chill out.  Having my kid in football goes against my grain a little bit just because of how serious they take the sport at such a young age. But here I am with a kid who wants to do one of the most time consuming sports where the coaches are most likely to be yelling.  And my kid loves it!  His coaches are an amazing group of men who have a beautiful balance between pushing the kids and encouraging them.  The more they make my son sweat and the more they yell, the more he loves football.  Don't get me wrong, I still get my feathers ruffled if I sense too much cut throat going on and I reserve the right to be that defensive mom ready to throw down but we really landed on a great team where I have only seen the kids treated with respect and I have no choice but to loosen up and watch the process.

I have watched my cautious, quiet kid put on his pads six hours before practice, run harder than he thought he could, push himself, banter and joke with his peers and get into the sport with a serious determination and focus.  He walks with more confidence and only sometimes makes the mistake of crossing over to the arrogant side of things where I have to gently remind him I can still beat him in arm wrestling. 

Despite the fact that I am rarely in a position to walk away from the stuff we are doing during the day at 5:30, once I get to practice I really enjoy myself, it's the sort of thing memories are made of; kids sports are good for the soul.  When my daughter is not at her soccer practice (yes, it gets hectic) she plays nonstop with the posse of other younger siblings and between watching practice and visiting with the other parents I even get some reading time in.  I've been so busy this summer I have grossly neglected my running so I have taken advantage of the forced down time and started jogging around the track a couple days of the week.

My husband has been out of town for work four out of five nights this and last week but when he is back in action at home we can take turns going to football practice and I will get the house to myself sometimes.  Even though I anticipate the home alone time, so far when he has been here we usually both end up on the sidelines because who can resist!  Maybe as time goes on and the rain sets in I won't feel like I'm missing out so much if I miss a practice.  For now, I have to go easy on myself and acknowledge that while stuff just isn't getting done around the house at a pace I prefer, life is getting done and that's what it's all about anyway.  The workshop is the icing, not the cake.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tall Tomatoes

Pruned tomato plant tied up to two stakes.
If you lived in the Northwest and tried to grow tomatoes last year you probably know that a lot of us didn't actually get to harvest our crop.  The tomatoes received Late Blight (a fungus) and died a quick and morbid slimy death.  If your tomatoes survived, well, I didn't really ask so feel free to not say anything.  Oregon had a cool and damp summer last year.  It took a while for our tomatoes to do their thing and most of mine just didn't get to finish their thing.  I had a few volunteer tomatoes out front that survived but all the ones I actually purchases and thoughtfully planted turned to slime.  Besides the cool weather, I don't think my plants had enough air circulating through their branches last year.  They were all sort of falling onto each other which is why I am finally really done with the puny wire tomato holders.  I am far too cheap to buy the sturdy cages; it would take years of productive harvests to get a return on my tomatoes after shelling out $20 per cage!  I haven't gotten around to making my own cages and since space is so limited around my place anyway this year I am growing my staple garden veggie, the tomato, up!

To keep the bulky tomato vines sleek and tall I have been pinching off the suckers anywhere a new leaf is starting in between two existing branches. As they grow I am tying the plants up to a cedar stake or two using twine.  I found my sticks in a discount grocery store of all places but you should be able to get them at any plant store or just use anything tall and sturdy.   When you tie the branches up you have to do it like you mean it.  You grab all the sprawling branches and tie them all together around the stake.  Don't worry if your twine is on leaves or looks restrictive.  The plant will look fresh and vibrant even around the tie the next day.  I think I overdid the pruning on some of my tomato plants especially the cherry tomatoes where they don't get so out of control and bulky to begin with.  I understand pruning tomatoes is an art and you can do it as little or as much as suites you.  Other than a few puny plants so far I am satisfied with the progress my tomatoes are making.  

My grandpa gave me a couple of his supports. (I will be making some of my own and will get some pictures when I do.)  I have not been pruning the tomato plants in these cages. They are doing well with perhaps more fruit at a smaller size.  Since my tomatoes are in different soil compositions (some amended dirt from my yard, some imported soil in raised beds), receiving different distributions of shade and sun and not all the same variety I can't really be sure as to which method is the most efficient but the more compact growing tall method pleases me.  Perhaps the answer for me will be somewhere in between: a caged but controlled plant.  We will see what I yield!
Un-pruned tomato plant with homemade cage. There are more tomatoes hiding in there!
They are not quite as large as the tomatoes from the pruned plants.
My "flower bed" tomato plants
While so many regions are experiencing record breaking high temperatures this summer, here in the Pacific Northwest, we are really flirting with another cool season.  I don't mind summer temps in the 70's but the tomatoes (and children) really would prefer some more consistent 80's and even some 90's like the good old days!  That said, I think we are going to get just enough warm days yet to make these green tomatoes turn red without the blight!  I just have a feeling it's going to work out!    

For an update on how the tomatoes are going check this out!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bedroom Closet Shelves

A couple months ago my daughter was allergy tested and deemed highly allergic to dust mites as well as handed an asthma diagnosis.  Her symptoms were months of a persistent cough, especially at night (nestled in with all those dust mites) and during high energy activity.  So, in an effort to reduce the amount of dust mites she comes in contact with, in addition to getting a fancy anti-allergy bed cover, changing her sheets weekly, and the whole air filter thing, I thought we had better get her dust harboring dress up clothes and stuffed animals out from under her bed.

Every time I mention my house, I will probably mention the fact that it came with zero storage.  Putting shelving in all the kids' closets is part of the plan anyway so I got to work!  This is the closet before which looks nasty when I post it for other people to see, good thing it got a fresh coat of paint!
I left the top shelf above the hanger and just added shelving under.  Why mess with something that's already there?
Small Board 8 in. Next to Existing 12 in. Top Board Creating Total Depth of 20 in. to Match Shelves Below
I purchased a sheet of pre-sanded 3/4 in. x 4 ft. x 8 ft. plywood for about $20 since I didn't have anything on hand that I could use and I did this project on too much of a whim to take the time to go to the salvage yard.  I took down the hanging rod and cut the plywood into a board the distance between the floor and the existing top shelf, cutting a small indentation at the top to fit next to the existing top shelf support.  I cut the rod to fit in the new smaller non shelf section.
Side Board Cut to Fit Around Support Already Existing For Top Shelf
I pretty much just duplicated the method used for the existing top shelf.  I made supports out of 1 x 4's to rest each shelve on although 1 x 2's would have been sufficient.

I measured the shelves to fit the baskets I planned to store on them (smart I know, that's why I'm blogging)! The bottom three shelves are about 13.5 inches tall, the top two 11 inches.  I decided to make the shelves 20 inches deep, deep enough to store my baskets and a good amount of belongings but not so deep things will get lost in the shelves.  I used some 3/4 in. plywood scraps I had left over from a salvaged book case for the shelves.  Using 1.5 inch drywall screws and a level I attach the shelf supports to the wall drilling into the stud behind the drywall whenever possible. I cheated and besides tapping on the drywall to hear where the studs were, I took my first hint from where the nails were on the existing top shelf supports.

At heart I am a perfectionist which if not curbed would keep me from ever doing anything.  I prefer to live by the whole idea, "If something is worth doing it's worth doing half assed!"  There are some things in which I choose the line of thinking, "I worked too hard on this to not re-do this mistake."  This wasn't one of those things.  I cut the top board 3/4 in. too short not compensating for the side board width.  I didn't want to cut a new one because I just didn't and I didn't want to cut into my nice wood which I will be able to use for something else.  I had no more scraps the right size.  Instead of re-doing it I nailed a 1 x 1 which is actually something like 3/4 x 3/4 to the gap.
A Little Piece of  1 x 1 Trim to Fill in My Gap on the Top Shelf
To finish it off I used finishing nails to secure the shelves to the 1 x 4 supports, puttied over the nails and screws and painted the whole space white.  If I wanted to get all fancy I could have put a thin piece of trim on the front of all the shelves and the side board, but this is just a closet.  This is the final product all filled up with STUFF that was otherwise collecting dust under my daughters bed and cluttering her room.
The room went from looking like an over full space to a somewhat simple bedroom.  My girl's asthma cleard up with some initial aggressive asthma and anti-allergy treatment and we haven't had to give her ongoing treatment thus far.  We still do our best to keep her space as dust free as possible.