Thursday, April 28, 2011

Some of my favorite vintage pieces

And wonderfully, the each have a special story. With all the talk about vintage lately, I thought I'd share a couple of my dearest ones. I'd say "a few" but I'm having trouble locating one particularly cherished piece.

Vintage necklace

Isn't this one grand? Purchased when I was a grad student living happily on $5K per year, it was and is a treasure to me even though it was not expensive. Judging from the underlying structure and the materials, it's clearly handmade, but for some reason I loved it then and still do now.

Now this next set of beads is truly special. They were my maternal grandmother's, and I don't know much about them except that one day when she was still alive, she went through her jewelry box and picked out some special pieces for me to have. I adored her, and it meant the world to me, even though some of the pieces would never probably leave my jewelry box, but they were there, reminding me of her each time I opened it.

Grandma's beads

They're obviously encased lampwork beads speckled with goldstone, probably imported (from where?), but I'm not sure of the vintage. There's a large seed bead in between each of them and the beads have brass filigree bead caps. I loved the multi-colored look, and the gradation in bead size. I have worn this necklace many times, and cherish it. I can't help but wonder about the occasion when she got them, whether grandpa gave them to her or she picked them out herself, and what she wore them with.

The piece I wish I could find is a brooch my Grandma wore when I was an infant, consisting of a proud Michigan slice of cherry wood (tastefully done in plastic) with a vibrant cluster of lucite or glass cherries protruding from it. When she held me in her arms as a baby I reportedly played with it. I know I have it, I just need to find it.

Are you sentimentally attached to some vintage pieces of your own? Do they have a special story to tell?

New reptilian slide in my Etsy shop

The beautiful spring light is drawing me outside to photograph jewelry again.

Brown and Eggplant Reptilian Slide
See this new slide in my Etsy Shop (SOLD).

This one is made from kyanite, one of my new reptilian beads in brown, eggplant, and a touch of silvered glass, and my own oxidized silver finding with a long chain. I am slowly parting with my cherished stash of delicious blue kyanite, and it's hard. But I couldn't resist as it matched the silvered blue glass in this bead perfectly.

Even the Lady of the Garden wanted to try it on for size.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gittin er Done

Custom Meanie ring

I'm making some progress here! Now that the girls are all settled into their own quarters I'm beginning to see some progress in other tasks on my list, even with a steady stream of weekend guests for the last three weekends. I've finished a custom bead order, shipping tomorrow, and finished this lovely Meanie ring as a belated Christmas gift for a friend. I wish Meanies grew on bushes - how fun it would be to go outside and gather a bunch!

Custom Meanie ring

Cyndie does such wonderful work with this ring setting, don't you think? I just love it, and it's super comfortable to wear too.

Custom Meanie ring

I've also finished a little repair job on some friend's earrings (soldering a very tiny catch), and am very pleased that I didn't melt them into a blob. The catch even works pretty well now.

Ranch fencing for glass storage

I'm also trying to get some order in my torching area, and glass storage is a big issue. When I first started torching I used far less glass, and the system of 2" PVC pipes I used to organize it just isn't large enough any more. I really liked the system that Lori Greenberg described in this blog post, but until recently had not been able to identify any local sources for what I learned is called "ribbed rail fencing". Until last week. I found a source and bought 2-16' lengths, and cut them down into 12" lengths. While the sections aren't the same size, I think it will work just fine as there are some colors I like to keep more of than others. Now I'm on the hunt at and Craigslist to find a cabinet with doors (ideally glass) to hold these sections - I want my glass to stay free of dust and rodentia.

The spring garden is also coming along, with pruning and clean up of gopher snack remnants (they love the roots of bronze sedge, BTW), first batch of potatoes planted, along with radishes, cucumbers, onions, basil and beets. After a little web research I'm leaning more toward a potato bag than a potato tower, but I'm hedging my bets and putting some in big black pots too. Now if the sun would just do her part and make herself a more regular part of our days up here I'd be happier.

It's a small start, and I'm hoping for more torch time in the next few weeks. It's been too long.

Friday, April 15, 2011

She's my little blue coop...

It's done! Totally done. OK, maybe not totally, but we just have to actually attach the roof, but we've decided to make it a removable roof so we're going to crank it down using turnbuckles. Someday we'll figure out why we thought this was such a great idea, but today we're just going with our intuition. But the SunTop and drip edge are finished on the roof.

So here it is, our completed home for our three Lakinsmith Laying Squad Ladies:

VIP entrance. Note the stylish staircase, courtesy of yours truly, made from recycled OSB siding and some odd wood I found lying around.

Completed coop, "housekeeping" entrance
Servant's entrance.

Ramp and chicken entrance

You can see the new nipple watering system I'm trying out just inside the door. I'm thrilled to report that within 30 minutes of hanging a test bottle with the nipple (thank you, Schweppes) on it, all three girls were using it! I wasn't sure how to hang it, so I cut a small hole in the toe of some old pantyhose and Bob's your uncle, it was done. If this works out I have a larger scale design ready to go using 4" PVC pipe. Won't be using pantyhose for that one, I'm afraid.

Nipple waterer

The girls have fared well this week for 3 nights on their own in the coop. It was cold, but we've got a light in there at night and it's working out ok. At least I haven't found them frozen solid to their perch in the morning.

They seem a little scared to be out there, however, and want to stay inside most of the time. I visit a few times a day and they come out, and I'm putting their food and regular waterer out there during the day as a lure to get them out for some fresh air.

Dining al fresco
Food just tastes better outside, don't you think?

What's that noise??!?!
I have learned that a good way to get them to pose for a picture is to make a strange sound. That war cry that Xena, Warrior Princess used to do is what got me this great shot.

Anyway, the weekend is here, friends are coming, the weather is getting nicer and nicer, and we're off to the flea market tomorrow to get into some trouble.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ladies' Night Out!

Inside of the coop
Inside of the girls' new coop. Fortunately it met with their immediate approval. I'm sure glad I ran those paint swatches by them first.

The coop is almost complete - just need to install the drip edge on the 3/4" plywood roof, then attach the PVC framework that the Suntop (wavy PVC) roof will attach to, and attach the roof to the coop, and then the Suntop. Latches were installed on the Housekeeper's entrance and the chain and hooks are ready to be installed on the hinged ventilation window up front. Painting is complete, perches are installed, and when that roof is done we're calling it a day.

Today I got a very inexpensive 24" piece of 4" PVC that I plan to make into a nipple-style hanging waterer, using gerbil waterer-type nipples I found on eBay. A test run with an empty laundry soap jug showed that the nipples work well, and we should be able to fit about a gallon of water in there. I got a couple of nipples, and plan to rig up something else for outside in the run, like an even larger container with PVC pipe coming out the bottom, and nipples attached to that.

Tonight is the girls' first night out in their coop, and I'm a nervous mom. I was so ready for them to graduate, and so very tired of the dust they make in the house. Then there was the poop. It's going to be 40 out there tonight, but I've got a light for heat and the roof is temporarily in place, and presumably they are more or less fully feathered out at about 5 weeks. They are safe, behind chain link and hardware cloth, but I do worry about the cold. Hopefully they'll snuggle together under the light and keep each other's little chicken spirits up by telling happy stories about the time they spent in our kitchen.

Meanwhile (to get my mind off this), it seems that there are a lot of hidden benefits to keeping laying hens. There's the health aspects, particularly those that show that the eggs raised this way are astonishingly more healthy for you than those you get from the store. 4-6 times more Vitamin D? 1/3 less cholesterol? I'm sold. And then there are the esoteric benefits, the "feel good factor" that comes from interacting with animals, and being closer to the earth, and spending more time outdoors.

But there are other benefits, I've learned. Like the fact that chicken feathers (the ones that fall out) can be used to make all kinds of useful things like circuit boards and petroleum-free plastic. The girls have largely been retaining their newly grown plumage so far, but as they grow I'm sure there will be some falling out. While in all seriousness this is not a perk for our small home operation, imagine what this might mean for larger ones? Being able to sell the waste products from your production operation is a huge deal.

Now here's a rough financial breakdown. The bottom line up front is that this is not likely to save much grocery money!
It will "only" take us 2 years to break even on our investment in the girls and their new condo once they start laying. Assuming eggs are about $3 a dozen, and assuming that our modest flock of 3 will produce 2.5 eggs per day. And their laying days are another 5 months or so away, which is another heap o' chicken food I didn't factor into the mix. It's a good thing we recycled lots of scrap lumber from around home, or we'd be in for a lot more in this adventure.

Tomorrow I'll share a picture of the cuuuutest little ramp I built today. It was hardly necessary for practical reasons since the coop is only about a foot off the ground, but totally necessary for the aesthetic. Wait until you see it.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A taste of freedom

I installed the hardware cloth on the lower part of the inside of the chain link dog run we're converting for the girls today, and my career potential as a hand model is over. Kim, I don't know how you wrangle that steel wire, girl. Wow. I'll spare you the wound shots, but dang, I should have worn gloves. The first thing I promptly did was to use my (rusty) tin snips to create a small ravine in the flesh of my palm, which would later fill with dirt as I slithered about the ground wiring galvanized mesh to the chain link. I'm thinking I need to research my medical records for the date I last received a tetanus shot. Ahh, my fine feathered girlfriends, I hope that one day you will consider the enormity of my sacrifice as you soon devote your life to producing our breakfast.

I got about half of the 50 running feet completely done (anchored top, middle and bottom), after anchoring the rest at the top I needed some reward. I fetched the chicks in their brooder and gave them their first taste of what will ultimately become their world.

Wanting to introduce them in the gentlest way possible, I set the brooder down inside the closed run, and opened the small hatch we use to coax them out for playtime. I left the run and stayed just outside to observe. Lucille, the New Hampshire Red (at least that's my name for her so far) showed no hesitation and hopped out to begin exploring her new digs. The others, not so much. Somehow it was not the celebratory dancing around and wing raising to the heavens that I had anticipated.

A taste of freedom

It took a few minutes for them to realize that they were indeed free to roam (a bit), and eventually all three were outside. But they were not at ease, and stuck close together as they pecked around at something that was, for the first time, not a painting drop cloth under their feet. It was real earth, and gravel, and tree flotsam, and lots of interesting things to peck.

It kept them busy for a few minutes, but very soon I noted that psycho chicken (not her given name at this point, but certainly a strong contender, and OMG check out that great Talking Heads cover video from the 80's!) had hopped back into the brooder cage. Soon to follow was Lucille, and finally my dear Princess (see prior disclaimer about names), and before I knew it, they had all called it a day and were ready to go back in the house.

Before they retreated I got a nice glam shot of my favorite princess, perched on yours truly, her favorite landing spot. Isn't her little comb just adorable? It's all fun and good until someone is covered in poop.

Well. I guess this Outdoors thing is going to have to go in stages if I hope to not completely destroy their tiny avian psyches. But I'm not dragging this out too long, as the LandLady is weary.

But on a bright note, I've been wondering if Psycho Chicken is one of the Easter Egger mutts, but I'm seeing signs of the pea comb and cheek tufts that would indicate she's a true Ameraucana instead. Cool! I'm not really concerned either way, and have always made room in my heart for mutts, but that does not excuse the general psychotic ranting and raving she's been doing. It's really starting to drive every creature in this house a bit mad.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How Glorious a Greeting the Sun Gives the Mountains!

Thanks to John Muir for a most fitting quote. It has been just beautiful around here, and the sprigs of green and wafts of pollen in the air have convinced me that spring is here to stay. It's a fortunate thing, because while I'm getting more and more fond of the little flock encamped in our kitchen, I'm getting more than a little weary of their messes. I'm weary of sweeping the pine shavings and chick down from our floor and changing water bowls multiple times a day, and dealing with poop. I'm ready for them to move to their own house.

"I am weary of chickens. How they look up at us with their small eyes as though we were unimportant." - Pablo Naruda

"Well they do. And we are. It's just hard to take it from a damn chicken!" - Greg Brown

The girls get outside almost every day now, and seem to really love it. I spied them popping up and down in their box yesterday and it looked just like a little chicken puppet show, with a wandering dog extra in the background.

They're getting big and I'm sure feel a bit crowded in their little brooder, so the great coop race is on, and we're hoping to have their permanent digs ready for occupancy this weekend. The coop is largely constructed, save for the parts that must be added once the walls are assembled onto the base. This plan is a bit odd in that details like doors, ventilation, supporting beams are added to the OSB walls before they are erected.

Friends were visiting over the weekend for the opening of salmon season, and the Lovely Miss Heidi helped me with the painting. It will be tight quarters in there once it's all put together and will be tough to access. I would have loved to buy some wonderfully colorful paint for the coop and trim, but instead settled for re-purposing some leftover blue paint we had in the garage, so, for now, until the house is repainted, the coop will match.

Chicks, Day 19

We are reinforcing the chain link enclosed run with some hardware cloth near the bottom because I've read some horror stories about raccoons grabbing chickens through the chain link and pulling them through. The roof of the run is nearly enclosed with chain link as well. It may not be required as the hen entrance won't be more than about a foot off the ground, but I will build a special little ramp for them.

Details like automatic feeding and watering are being worked out, and we may even be close to having some names for our girls. On my shopping list is roofing, more hardware cloth, PVC for a water reservoir, and ramp materials. How exciting that their Independence Day is almost here!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Flashback Friday

It's been quite a while since we spent a New Year's holiday camping and crabbing on Tomales Bay. I miss that place.

Bite Me in the Mist
Bite Me in the morning mist.

Baby Starfish
Treasures in the tidepools, and lush vegetation everywhere.


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