30 June 2014

Doghouse

Our inherited doghouse.
Being in the doghouse usually has a negative connotation unless A) you're a dog and B) you're a little kid who enjoys spending time in the doghouse with your dog.
Since Raven was meant to be part-time guard dog for our new flock (even though they're well protected behind a fortress), the girls and I decided to fix up the dilapidated doghouse we inherited when we bought the house.  One new wall, new shingles and a fresh coat of paint later, Raven seems to be enjoying her updated space, conveniently located next to the coop.
Now let's hope she doesn't fall asleep on the job.

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29 June 2014

Someone Else

A good fifteen inches.
While running my first half marathon, I kept thinking how heavy my braid felt.  Fortunately, I had an appointment the following Monday to take care of it.
As short as I could convince myself to go. Maybe someday I'll do a pixie cut...
This isn't the first time I've donated hair to Locks of Love and every time I do, I initially feel a little lost, not knowing what to do without all that hair to hide behind. Short hair isn't my best look but I can sacrifice so someone else can have the hair I grew. Mine'll come back before I know it.


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27 June 2014

Three Little Birds

So ugly they're cute!
The week before a trip is always busy but I decided to go ahead and take Raven out for a run (even though I could have really used the quiet time to finish proofreading my upcoming novel). There's never a dull morning jog: dogs chasing us, Raven slipping from her collar and racing home, curious deer observing from afar and playful foxes are just a few of the experiences we've had.  This morning, it was a nestful of baby birds.
I wouldn't have noticed the three little birds sleeping soundly in a fallen nest except when they heard us coming, they eagerly threw open their mouths, hoping for food.  I'm assuming their bed tumbled from a tree during our last windy thunderstorm a few days ago, though they were no where near ANY trees.  I debated what to do.  I know a lot of people think nature should just take it's course, to which I think, I'm a part of nature too and I'm going to do something about it.
Easiest chicks I've ever fed!
I jogged home with a dog leash in one hand and a nest in the other.  The poor chicks hunkered down and slept like the jostling was only wind blowing against their bough.  Once home, I fed them some mash (these aren't the first baby birds I've rescued) and they have been sleeping soundly since.  I will probably try to find a local rescue who will be able to take care of them so I don't have to worry about feedings during vacation.

Always a good thing when I choose to go for a run...

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26 June 2014

Vanilla Mousse and Berry Parfait

We've had a bounteous year for berries so we decided to use some of our bumper crop in a dessert for some guests.  It had the best of everything: fruit, mousse, chocolate and cookies. Can't go wrong with that combination!
It's a great dessert for the kids to help with too.
Vanilla Mousse and Berry Parfait

Ingredients:

1 instant vanilla pudding, 4 serving size
3/4 cups cold milk
3 ounces cream cheese
8 ounces cool whip, thawed
4 cups berries, rinsed and sliced as needed
About 15 graham crackers, crushed (or half a homemade recipe)
1 cup white chocolate, melted

Whisk together the pudding and milk for two minutes.  Soften the cream cheese and mix in thoroughly with the pudding.  Carefully fold in the cool whip (you can reserve some for the top, if desired).  Layer the parfait with the graham cracker crumbs, pudding, fruit and drizzle all with the white chocolate.  Repeat.  At the last layer, sprinkle a few graham cracker crumbs on top and drizzle with remaining chocolate and a dollop of cook whip (optional).  Keep refrigerated until served.
Enjoy!

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24 June 2014

You Forgot Something

Uh, Snickers? You forgot something!
After taking care of a few things outside, I walked to the back door when something caught my eye. I'd know that tuft of calico hair anywhere: Snicker's tail.  My heart skipped a beat, wondering if the fox who'd given us trouble last year had returned (she'd even tried snatching Snickers who smartly jumped onto a garbage can out of the wily fox's jaws). But before I could panic, up trotted Snickers like nothing had happened.  I grabbed her and gave her tail an examination.  Yep. Definitely hers. Oddly, she didn't seem to notice her tail was an inch shorter, so I didn't bother telling her (she'd probably only be self-conscious about it anyway).
I'm guessing she got it chopped off by the door but it's a mystery who did it.  None of the girls are strong enough to swing it closed and I think I would have noticed a yowling cat who'd had part of her body clipped off.

If only animals could speak, huh?  I'd have a lot of questions.

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22 June 2014

Fuel for Fire

The horses always like hanging around when we're working nearby.
Now that we've had our first full winter in our big Indiana home, it has been decided that a wood burning stove would be a nice addition, not only to help save on the cost of heating the home but also for the warmth and nostalgia of sitting by a crackling fire. 
I love it when sisters help each other.
Since we have more than enough trees, it's just a matter of collecting, chopping and splitting the available wood.  It's hard to say how much fuel for fire we'll need but the girls have helped us start our collection beginning with the ash that decided to topple over last Halloween.
It has been hard, sweaty, bug-biting work but we're not usually the type to shirk labor that will benefit us and others.  Plus, it's been a great reminder of the wonderful friends and neighbors we have who've loaned us chainsaws and log splitters and sold us our well-used truck in the first place.
Though I hope cold weather is a long way off, we're preparing for it now and are glad for all the help we can get.

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20 June 2014

Eating Fresh

While Jack was gone at scout camp, the girls and I checked on a bramble of raspberries Jack uncovered when he chopped down a few dead ceder trees.  They weren't quite ripe yet so I decided to take them over to our little mulberry tree and see if there were any more for syrup.  I was collecting them in a bowl but the girls just kept snarfing them down, literally off the branches.
How's that for eating fresh?

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17 June 2014

Chicken Fortress


After our sweet neighbor surprised the girls with three adorable chicks (I'd given approval and promptly forgot I'd said "yes"), I knew we weren't going to build a chicken coop.  We were going to build a chicken fortress.
Stoney coming to inspect our work.
Last year, an entire flock of chickens and two geese were devoured by a selfish, greedy fox within a matter of days.  Really though, I couldn't blame her.  I knew she had kits nearby and was probably just stocking up the pantry.  Still, I really wish she would have stuck with squirrels and rabbits.
Kate doing us the honor of predator testing the hardware cloth.
First things first: fencing.  We decided to move the coop into a spacious dog run since it already had some protection from a chain link fence.  I spent an hour or so every day cinching hardware cloth onto the chain link and tacking up 2x4s to support it.  Hardware cloth costs and arm and a leg but is one of the few products that actually deters predators (they can't reach their greedy hands through the holes, nor any sharp teeth).  Plus, there's a sturdy tree in the middle so with a fencing apron and thick rooms beneath the ground and rocks stacked along the edge, I think it will discourage any diggers.  That was just the beginning.
Getting started on the coop.
Jack helped construct a small but comfortable chicken coop for the hens and rooster (I'm hoping Claire's barred rock is the only boy, if at all...), complete with a nesting box, ramp and easy access doors.  As far as I can tell, they seem to be enjoying it (and I haven't even hung a perch yet!).
Evie showing her girl, Little Rose or Rosie around.
Jack and I worked for several hours the night before we went camping to finish up the final structural details of the coop and run while the girls delightedly played with the happy chickens.  At first I thought it'd be too small for a flock but after seeing their three little bodies inside, there's probably room for fifty fat hens.
Fencing on the sides and top too.  Nobody's getting in or out.  Unless we accidentally forget to shut the door.
The entire run is encased in hardware cloth and fencing and cost a lot more than any rational person probably would on a run and coop for three chickens but after watching the girls play with their poultry, I'm reminded why it was worth the effort.
Bring it, Mrs. Fox.  I'll be waiting (and hoping I don't have to eat my words later).


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16 June 2014

A Day in the Life

Though Jack often is away at work, slaying dragons working to provide for his family, his heart is never far from us.  Thankfully, we were able to celebrate a father's day weekend in honor of him and all the other wonderful fathers and father figures in the world.
I told him I didn't want to go camping unless we could finish the chicken coop.  They were getting too big to live in the trough much longer and I didn't want to leave them even partially unprotected, knowing the calamity a few hungry raccoons and foxes can cause.  Sweet Jack worked with me past dark hammering up fencing, reinforcing it with rocks and knitting it all together with wire.
We were able to visit the temple down in Louisville, KY as a family.  It is always sweet to be on temple grounds and be reminded families can be together forever.
We stopped at Hoosier National Forest off Lake Monroe and snagged a primitive yet swanky cabin right on the water.  We hiked around a bit, fished and enjoyed the quiet scenery.
The girls insisted on swimming though there wasn't a beach at the park we were stationed so we took a one lane back road, almost got rammed by some gorgeous free ranging cattle, made a few wrong turns and eventually found our way to Paynetown beach.  The water was freezing and though I refused to get wet, Jack took the girls swimming until their teeth were chattering.
Evie likes her marshmallows BLACK.
We warmed up by the fire and roasted marshmallows before a late bedtime.  Jack gave us a good show, flinging a fiery marshmallow off his stick when he turned to see why Kate was crying.  I even caught it on film.
I woke up early and read by the lakeshore while everyone else slept.  When the girls finally did wake, Jack waited on us for breakfast and packed up while we ate.
Since we'd never been to Brown County park, we took a slight detour on the way home and stopped to hike around a tiny lake.  I carried Kate since Jack's back was still sore from hanging stones on the front of the house and Jack willingly took the dog.  He won't admit it, but he likes Raven too.
I spotted some tiny mudpuppies in a stream and in a matter of minutes, Jack had a one wriggling in his hands for the girls to see.  Evelyn decided she wanted to catch one too and instead slid down the mud and soaked her socks in the stream.
While I was disgruntled by her echoing shrieks, Jack calmed her down by wiping the mud off and showing the girls the teeming life in the stream.  Soon she forgot she was wet and miserable.
Sunday was fairly quiet--we welcomed a rest from the activity and excitement. Though the weekend was replete with adventure, it's not at all atypical in a day in the life of Jack.  He's already off helping at a scout camp, probably having the time of his life showing those boys how to have an adventure.
All us girls are happy to have Jack!
Hope you all had a Happy Father's Day!

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12 June 2014

Like Kitty, Like Kids

The cats are always climbing something.
So naturally the girls want to scale everything in creation as well.
Snickers coaching the girls on the art of climbing.
Like kitty, like kids.

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