Saturday, May 25, 2013

Bears and Bees

I named this bear Adam, as he is the first of his kind. He stands 5'6" tall and is 3'7" at his widest point. He is carved from white spruce.

This is the bear I thought I was going to able to carve on my first try some 14 years ago. Better late than never.

Eyes, claws and teeth are all hand carved. I used "Ebony" and "Sedona Red" stains in the mouth and I also dry-brushed some white enamel onto the teeth before I applied several coats of matte clear sealer.

The beehive was made of cedar boards and a cedar shake roof. I carved a cartoon-ish bee character on each side of every super.


Also, here's a quick teaser for our next post! Check back to see the full video of us unloading our package bees.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Green Cleaning - DIY Laundry Detergent

This DIY cleaning series I've been planning on writing for the past couple of weeks has really been an eye opening experience for me. I've always been a closet label snob, I instinctively reach for the more expensive brands and have to force myself to buy value brands of things, like shredded cheese and butter. In my opinion, some cheaper products just aren't right, like bread and ketchup; but I'm just starting to realize that all products, cheap and expensive, just can't compare to homemade.

I've always had a problem branching out to the cheaper products for fear there's some flaw hidden by a fifty cent discount, there's always a small part of me that cringes over the irreversible damage these mystery ingredients are bound to create. That's what's so great about these green cleaning products, there are no mysteries or dangerous chemicals and it actually works well. The little pessimist in my brain has nothing to say! Plus, it opens a whole new range of possibilities; I can make my own shampoo and conditioner, soap, body scrubs, lotions, glass cleaner, all-purpose cleaner, "febreze" copy, carpet powder, laundry detergent, and more, I'm sure.

I was pretty nervous about the laundry detergent before we made it; I love soft, clean-smelling clothes and I wasn't sure these ingredients would be able to deliver. I used my search engine to find some recipes and after deciding I'd rather have a  powdered version, I gathered my ingredients and got started.

The recipe I used as inspiration was recipe #4 from this website.

2 cups bar soap (finely grated)
1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup Borax
1 cup Baking Soda
Mix well and store in an airtight plastic container.
Use two to three table spoons per load.

I altered it a little by adding baking soda and I used whatever soap I had lying around, call me lazy, but I'm not interested in buying special products to make my "quick and easy" green recipes, thanks. The recipe says to avoid heavily perfumed soaps and suggests using Fels Naptha Soap, but I ended up using my husbands Old Spice bar soap and it works great. I'm hoping to eventually start making our own soap, so that'll solve that problem.

It's not a very messy job, but it is a pain to hand-grate the bars of soap (I used a bar and a half, one Old Spice and half of one Dial.). I would like to dedicate our current blender to non-food projects and upgrade! I'm hoping Santa, or hubby, figures out I want a Vitamix for Christmas.

The only gripe I have about this detergent is when I washed my large comforter with it, it left little balls of powder in places. I'm pretty sure I could solve that by putting the detergent in before the comforter or just washing smaller loads. I haven't seen any residue on normal sized loads. Also, this particular recipe makes a pretty small batch, as you'll see in the photo, so I'll probably make a triple batch so it will last for about three months. I'm guessing we'll use this much in about a month, but I may be way off, I've never been good at estimating. 

I know for a fact that this detergent works like a charm. It's amazing how when you want a batch of really dirty clothes, it seems like everyone must have wrapped themselves in bubble wrap and hid in a corner! Well, I found my super dirty clothes in the form of towels. Towels that were put underneath a leaking duck container. If any of you own ducks, you probably don't need any other description than that, but let me tell you, ducks are not clean birds. They like to make a little duck swamp of poop, food, and water. Imagine that soaked into three or four towels and your bathroom carpet. Yuck! We have since moved them to a different room with a different container, thank goodness! One wash and dry cycle later, those towels were good as new, and I'm totally sold.

Check back soon to see what we use for stain remover! I've been looking for set stains for weeks now, I even tried to create them by pouring chocolate sauce on old onesies, but they've all gone missing. I just need to pop that bubble wrap.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bird houses - Craig's Post

We have 14 bird feeders we maintain through the winter and will be adding a few Oriole and humming bird feeders as it warms up a little more. I never would have imagined we were the "bird watcher" types, but we love them! 

We were out of state for a few years and our resident bird population dwindled. The numbers are back on the rise and we want to encourage them to stay closer so we built some bird houses.

We looked online and found this model 

It is suited for Nuthatches, Chickadees and Downey Woodpeckers. We built 22 of these, 11 left hole entry units and 11, right.

We also built 4 Bluebird house of this design 

We finished hanging all 26 of them on April 6th. So far we have no tenants.

We have made one of two bat houses, so far. We plan on building several Wren houses today; as well as a few squirrel houses, and at least one Barn Owl nest box.

Check back to see our progress.

Also coming up, a post to introduce Charlotte and the family, the long-awaited green cleaning post, and updates for the chickens, ducks, and rabbits. We've been busy bees these last few weeks and now have over 43 animals in our house! Speaking of bees, as long as they're still available, the hubby and I will be buying my parents honey bees for their anniversary! Happy anniversary, guys! We love you!!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Craig's Post - Carvings

After weeks of asking, my dad finally agreed to write his own post. Here are his words and his pictures.

I just set up a dark blue backdrop to try to get some better pictures.

I have three new carvings to show today and I'm going to post more pictures of the last carvings, as well. I have been using supposedly hundred year old, huge, spruce telephone poles for my last few carvings. This particular section of pole was full of nails where I imagine many "Lost Dog" signs had been hung. I pulled them from the log before I carved the section into this Angry Bear. After finishing the bear, I put all of the nails back into it. A few even went back into their original places.

The Angry Bear stands 4' 2" tall and 19" wide.

I also carved a Bear holding a "Welcome" sign that stands 44" tall and 16" across.

The Angel Bear is complete with a halo and removable wings. She stands 36" tall and 18" wide, with her puffy cloud.

The Fish Bear is 30" tall and 13" wide.

Dress Up stands 4' 4" tall.

Starry Nights is 4' tall and 21" across. I included a picture of the back that shows the rotted out center. I saved as much of the stable interior as I could. These pictures will hopefully show the trees and turquoise "stars" a little more clearly.


It's not part of his post, but it's my blog, so here's a sneak peak at what he's working on! I can't wait to see how it goes!

Accidents happen! Ouch! 

Sunday, March 31, 2013

April Fools...

We were pranked early when we went to pick up our chicks early Tuesday morning. My husband ran inside the post office to get the chicks and came out several minutes later with two large boxes. I was a little surprised the hatchery would send such a large box, but it was way too early in the morning to think much beyond that. After he handed me the box, I peeked into the breathing holes and saw a duck bill! I told Bronson the hatchery had put a duck in by mistake,  which we were pretty excited about at first because we had already talked about picking up a duckling or two from the farm and fleet store. Then I noticed ALL of the "chickens" had duck bills. Confused, I looked at the recipient address on the box and found that the post office had given us the shipment of 80 ducklings the farm and fleet store had ordered! After jokingly discussing taking them home and a good laugh, Bronson ran back inside and exchanged them for our much more appropriately sized box of baby chicks.

The chicks all made it alive, which was a nice surprise. I had been preparing myself for the worst, but they seemed fairly comfortable. The packaging was nice and secure with plenty of fluffy paper stuff inside. After introducing them to the brooder and showing them the food and water, they settled in nicely. Then we went back to town and bought two of the ducks from the store. They're all adorable and I love the ducks!

We decided to buy a new tank for the chicks, our first batch of chicks are growing very fast and I don't think the babies would be safe with them. Whether they'd have to worry more about bullying or simply being trampled, I'm fairly sure they wouldn't make it. I'm a little nervous about integrating the two ages together when we move them out to the coop, but I'll have a better idea about that after a little google research.

We used the feeders we bought for the first batch of chicks, after washing them thoroughly, of course. I ordered nipple waterers online and Bronson built a waterer out of pvc pipe and an apple juice jug. We haven't put it in the tank yet, the glue needed to dry overnight, so I'm excited to see how it works. Keeping the water clean has been a pain and the chickens don't make any effort to avoid stepping in it, so it'll be nice to keep it off the ground.

The baby chicks have been pasty for the past couple of days, but I was expecting that. Things are slowly clearing up as they get more comfortable to the new environment. The ducks and chicks are doing fine together. The chicks were very confused and curious at first, but the ducks are bigger and avoided confrontation. They all seem to be living comfortably after getting used to each other.

As for the older chicks, as soon as they were big enough, they started jumping onto the waterers and feeders and trying to fly out. We solved that issue by taking out the feeders and putting in the large hanging feeder, we're exchanging the waterers with the pvc pipe, and then we threw a lid on the whole thing. Bronson and my dad made the lid out of some scrap wood we had lying around, 4 hinges, and some hardware cloth.
Those Easter Eggers on the right aren't dead. Their in a state of Euphoria over the sand we put in the brooder!

They continue to grow at a ridiculous pace. These first pictures were taken when we transferred them to the bigger tank last week.

These pictures were taken yesterday, March 30th. Within one week, they've somehow become awkward teens.

It's been a very busy two weeks for us, I spent all of last week testing DIY cleaning products, including: glass cleaner, laundry detergent, stain remover, and more. So check back soon to see what I found.