Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Chicken report

Some of the more entertaining critters on the farmlet are the chickens, especially the older Hyline hens. They are absolutely everywhere, often underfoot, and in places you just don't expect to see them.

For example, last weekend someone left the door open when we were moving in, and I stepped into the hall only to find a chicken wandering around the laundry room. Of course I didn't have my camera on me!

One of the Hyline girls tried to invite herself into my in-laws camper.

She sort of looks like she's about to hop right in!

In addition to laying eggs - we get an average of 3 eggs per day from the 5 hens that are currently old enough to lay - the girls eat bugs, grass, and provide endless entertainment for the cats. When I was weeding the garden, I snagged a couple of assistants to eat the bugs I was uncovering.

Assistant gardener chicken!

We currently have nine chickens, although we started with 11. We have 5 20 month old Hyline hens which we picked up from a local place that sells organic eggs. Egg production starts to taper off around 18 months, so it apparently doesn't make financial sense to keep them after that time. We got them for $3 each, and they have produced well for us. I may pick up a few more from the farmer, since it's great to have hens that are already laying while we're waiting for the babies to grow.

The other chickens, who are about 4 months old and therefore too young to lay, include two Rhode Island Red pullets and two Americaunas. I'm pretty sure that one of the Americaunas is a cockrel - if that's the case, we'll wait for him to attain a good weight, and then he'll have his one bad day. Cockrels can be extremely aggressive (I've been attacked before) and the crowing isn't something we want to deal with. So, he'll grace our table after having had an excellent life roaming free on our land.

(NOTE: If you think this is a horrible thing to do, it's not a decision we've come by lightly. We've ended up with two other cockrels and have given them away. The problem is, nobody wants them. Check your local Craigslist to see how many you can get for free. There's an excellent, thoughtful post over at Throwback at Trapper Creek entitled "Grow a Pair" that pretty much sums up my views on what's going to happen to any cockerels we end up with. Coq au vin, anyone?)

I should note that we actually started out with six of the younger chickens, who we refer to, as a group, "the nuggets." (Yeah, I know, I have a sick sense of humor.) One of them died of unknown causes about a month ago. Another got taken by one of the two local red-shouldered hawks that I think has a nest nearby. Nature is at work around here, although not necessarily in ways that I might wish for! So we're down to 3 hens from that batch, which isn't nearly enough to supply us with eggs, which is why we may adopt more of the older Hyline hens for now.

But in the meantime, the chickens continue to provide eggs and hours of entertainment. I'm sitting here on the couch watching the horses and hens out the back window - it's very peaceful!
The girls dust bathing at the front of the house.

Yeah, it's all worth it

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog, or if you’ve been one of the very kind people who have helped us out, you’ll know how much time and money we’ve poured into this house project (and hey, this is only the beginning!). At times, we’ve wondered if we’re doing the right thing – after all, a 1951 ranch house in desperate need of repair isn’t exactly our dream house. If we’re honest, we pictured something more along the lines of a nice Tudor-looking place, or perhaps a nice turn-of-the-century classic South Texas home. And no matter how much wiring we fix, plumbing we redo, or paint we apply, it will still be a 1951 ranch house, even though we plan to eventually change the front of it a bit.

Plus, it’s not home. We’ve lived in our current house for 8 years. The kids have pretty much grown up here. We’ve done all the work on this house ourselves, with the exception of gutting the kitchen. We added a deck, renovated both bathrooms, put a French door in the bedroom, and totally renovated the kitchen. It’s our home. We love it, and we have lots of great memories here. We’re excited about the new place, but we have to leave our home for it. That’s a little hard.

And, it’s been one thing after another with the new place. The electric. The plumbing. A new water heater. We had some idea of what we were getting into when we bought the place, but in retrospect, we had no clue the magnitude of some of the issues. We really had no good concept of just how many steps it takes from ripping out drywall to putting it back up and getting on that final coat of paint and saying it's stick-a-fork-in-it-DONE. And really, in any smidge of spare time we’ve had, we’ve done nothing but work on the house since we bought it. Not to mention roping in all our friends and relatives and having them help us too.

So you might understand why we've had a few moments of "What the heck are we DOING???" in the last few months. I don't think we've really quite admitted it out loud to each other, but the sentiment has been there a few times. So last weekend, we finally, finally got to take advantage of the thing that led us to buying this house in the first place.

We took the horses for a trail ride.

Ok, I know, it doesn't sound like much, but it's the first time I've ridden since before Christmas and the first time since the hubby's ridden since we last went foxhunting. And while the day was gorgeous, we were both tired and didn't have much time, but we figured that we deserved it after all the hard work. So off we went - 20 minutes from snagging the horses to being in the saddle headed out the gate, and man oh man is that a nice thing!

The hubby on Red and me on Saga; the east side of the house is in the background.

Yeah, we could get used to this... riding right out the back gate and onto the trails. Wow!

Saga, I confess, was a pill - jigging and throwing his head. Red was his good solid self, if a bit more energetic than usual. We had no idea where we were going, so we randomly followed a few trails, taking rights and lefts without paying much attention to where we were going. About halfway into the ride, we met another girl on a handsome Palamino named Amarillo who took us on a bit of a tour. She showed us a bunch of trails and an actual riding arena that's on city property! I admit that it doesn't have improved footing, but it's got 4 fenced sides and is about the right size for a dressage arena (a bit bigger maybe) so I will be making use of it when the footing is good.

Speaking of footing, the trails are just amazing. A few rough spots to be sure, but mostly excellent footing, and plenty of room for trotting and cantering. It's mostly flat but there are some gentle hills we can work on, so I'm no longer worried about how I'm going to condition Saga when we get back into eventing. As long as the footing is decent, we've got plenty of space to ride!

Headed home after a 1.5 hour ride.

The hubby and I were out for nearly 1.5 hours and there are PLENTY of trails that we didn't get to go on. I can't wait to explore more!

UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, I've been on two more rides: one by myself on the land right next to the house, about 20 minutes of flatwork, and another 30 minute trail ride with my stepdaughter. Have I mentioned how incredibly awesome it is to be able to do this on a moment's notice???

The trials and tribulations of moving

While I never expected moving to be easy, exactly, there have been some unforeseen speedbumps in the last couple of weeks that have almost nothing to do with the house itself and everything to do with a finely-orchestrated battalion of individuals and activities that must happen in order for us to move in.

It started with the gas service. Back in November when we bought the house, we had all the utilities for the new house transferred to our names. However, unbeknownst to us, the gas company apparently decided that one family can't possibly have two houses for any length of time, and so they randomly decided to turn off the gas at the old house on February 1. Of course, they didn't think we'd need any notice or warning that they were turning off the gas, so one night (handily, when the hubby was out of town), I noticed that our furnace seemed to be struggling. Twenty minutes of diagnostics finally led me to try turning on the stove (also gas), which promptly would not light. And of course, I figured this out at 7:20 p.m., 20 minutes after the gas company's support desk closed. Did I mention it was supposed to freeze that night and that we had no heat? Near tears, I called the hubby, who promptly deemed this an emergency and called the emergency hotline, which you're supposed to use for reporting gas leaks. Bless them, the gas company came out at 10:30 p.m. and turned the heat back on. They might have screwed up by turning off the gas in the first place, but at least they fixed it promptly!

Unfortunately, we haven't been so lucky with the cable company, which provides our Internet service. Since you can't have a single account with two houses on it, they had to shut off service to the old house and turn it on at the new one. They assured us that they could do all this Wednesday morning, but we changed our appointment to Friday due to the snow in our area. However, they turned off the Internet three days early, and no amount of begging, pleading, or complaining could get them to turn it back on at the old house in any sort of timely manner. So they will turn it on at the new place on Thursday, sometime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Nice concise window of opportunity, don't you think?

In addition, the snow meant that the tile guys we hired to tile the hall Tuesday afternoon couldn't make it, so they tried to reschedule for Thursday. But we can't do Thursday because the new upright deep freeze is due to arrive on Friday, and 24 hours isn't enough time for the mastic and grout to cure before running such a large appliance over the freshly-laid tile. Argh!

So hopefully, the tile guys are out there right now laying tile in the hallway. Tomorrow the Internet service gets turned on, and Friday the freezer is being delivered. Saturday the kids and I officially move in, then the parents-in-law head out on Monday for their next destination.

Assuming everything goes as planned, of course. :)

P.S. In case you're wondering, I'm writing this from the local Barnes and Noble. Thank goodness for free wifi!

UPDATE: I wrote this a week ago but am just now getting to posting it. I'll get more up-to-date soon, I promise!


Yesterday, it snowed for the first time in our part of the world in over 6 years. It actually snowed on and off for most of the day, which was awesome, but for the most part it didn’t stick because the ground was so warm (it was 80 degrees here on Sunday).

My mother-in-law managed to capture some excellent pictures of the farmlet in the snow, along with the poor horses who are stuck in the carport stall again.

The snow actually makes the roof look kinda normal!

Winter wonderland at the guest house.

Horses through the snowflakes, snug and dry under the carport.

Saga contemplates the bizarre white stuff falling from the sky.

And in case you're wondering, no, the kiddos didn't get a snow day, but they did build a small snowman on the back deck at our old house when they got home from school. Of course, it's melted already!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Moving (yeah, seriously!)

This weekend, we moved in.

Well, OK, we moved all of the stuff out of the old house that we didn't need to stage it for sale. Which still leaves a goodly amount of furniture, but the new house also has furniture, and it almost looks like someone could live there!

I really, really need to thank Fuzzypony and Foxfire, not to mention the parents-in-law, for all the incredible help they gave us this weekend. On a half-hours' notice (a window in the constant drizzle on Saturday), Foxfire and his wife, along with Fuzzypony, arrived at our house with their trucks to help move the majority of the furniture. I have to say, we are incredibly lucky to have friends like ours; not many folks out there would do something like this. So from the bottom of my (and the hubby's) heart, THANK YOU. There is a steak dinner with your name on it when we finally finish getting settled - but before next year, I promise!

The new washer and dryer were delivered on Friday. Notice the stack of laundry already waiting to be done - we don't waste much time around here.

Moving everything and setting it up in the new house took most of Saturday. We actually ended up making three trips with our truck along with one trip with all three trucks. There's still a lot of stuff to go, but mostly it's furniture that has to stay until the house is sold, or clothes, or stuff in drawers. We get to pack that over the next week or so.

My stepson's room.

My stepdaughter's purple room gets some furniture!

Our bedroom, which will eventually be the guest bedroom.

The den. This has been the "tool room," and if you saw it in that state, you'll agree that this is a pretty impressive transformation.

Other side of the den. Our old leather couches actually look pretty good in here! We can sit on the couch and watch the horses and chickens out the back window... who needs TV?

Sunday we focused on getting the house up north put back together after moving Saturday. We re-organized my stepdaughter's room and turned my stepson's room into an office, since we really needed his bed in the new house. My stepdaughter's bed is staying here until the house sells, but M.C. was kind enough to loan us her futon, so she'll be sleeping on that for the foreseeable future. Thank you M.C.! We cleaned up the living room and reorganized the furniture in there too - it look so bare now, but then we did have it pretty packed with funiture! The strangest thing, though, is that the fridge is bare. We usually have it covered with magnets from trips we've taken, report cards, school calendars, and other odds-and-ends, but now, it's... bare. How depressing.

And the garage! OMG my hubby and Foxfire, along with my father-in-law, cleaned our garage out! I had no idea that we had so much room in there! There's even a floor! Too bad we're moving; we could have used that space to park cars or something. As for what they did with all that stuff... nobody's told me, and I'm not asking.

Since most potential buyers aren't interested in keeping chickens, we had to tear out the chicken coop and the garden in the back yard, and haul that off to the dump. It took the hubby and Foxfire about an hour to do all this, which is just amazing. We finally made it down to the dump, along with yet another load of stuff in the other three vehicles, at about 3 p.m. on Sunday. At that point, we were all pretty exhausted, but the hubby and I managed to find energy for one more thing... the whole purpose of why we bought the property.

We rode the horses. Out the gate, to the trails right behind the house. For an hour and a half. It was awesome.

But, that's for another entry. When we got back, my parents-in-law - who, BTW, are THE BEST PARENTS-IN-LAW EVER - had made us dinner, complete with a bottle of wine, and set it up for us on the "dining room table" (i.e. a plastic folding table, since our real table is still at the house up north). So, the hubby and I got to eat our very first dinner together at the new house. Unfortunately, we weren't able to stay, since we had to head back north to take care of some things on the old house. So the first night in the old house will have to wait.

Lasagna dinner, courtesy of my incredibly awesome parents-in-law. Don't you wish you had parents-in-law like mine???

Unfortunately, my hubby is out of town for the next few weeks, so the kiddos and I will be moving down, for real, this weekend, although I may spend a few nights there this week. But we're so close to moving, and it's very exciting to actually have the new place start looking like our home!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bone Voyage!

Today, REBA III, my service puppy-in-training from Canine Companions for Independence, goes to advanced training. She's in Oceanside, CA, with her "weekend mom," who kindly flew there with her yesterday and will attend the turn-in ceremony today.

Reba arrived as a 7.5 week old 8 pound puppy the Friday before Thanksgiving, 2008. She was adorable.

She was never really a retriever, but like to chew on things and carry them around. Her favorite when she was little was my husband's size 12 black cowboy boots. Fortunately the boots survived puppyhood.

I loved her antics, like here where she tried to cram herself into a bed that was waaay too small for her.

Like most Labradors, food was high on her priority list. Here, she's waiting for someone to pick up her bowl and fill it.

She went to work with me pretty much every day and had a great sense of time. Every day at 5 she'd let me know it was time to go home and FEED HER.

She loved to sleep upside-down. Often this involved ridiculous poses and bared teeth.

How can you resist this much cuteness?

Occasionally she did manage to look like she had some dignity.

Or was a REAL puppy-in-training.

But not often.

Did I mention that she liked to sleep upside-down?

Really, really liked to sleep upside-down?

Of course, when you sleep in funny poses, your mom takes funny pictures of you. I call this the Vampire Labrador pose. Fierce, no?

And the ears... you could pet them all day, and style them. Here she displays near-perfect ear-floppage.

Reba will have another 6 months of advanced training (if she doesn't get thrown out before then for eating twist-ties) before being placed with someone. I sure hope she behaves herself and is a good student so that she can graduate! If not, she'll come back to Austin and be placed with a co-worker of mine, so either way, she'll have a wonderful life!

Even so, I'm gonna miss this face.

Good luck, little Lablet! We'll miss you!

How to put in carpet tack strips

If you're reading the title of this blog post and thinking, 'Why is putting in carpet tack strips newsworthy enough to deserve it's own blog entry?' well then, you've probably never done it before.

See, installing carpet tack strips is a big, huge, pain in the butt. It beats just about any other project we've done in terms of frustrating, and if you get it wrong, you've got chunks out of your slab from the concrete nails and chunks out of your fingers from the tacks. Not fun.

I invite you to review this short article on how to install carpet. See the first picture of the guy hammering on a tack strip, followed by the photo of the neatly attached tack strip? There are even concrete nails pre-installed in the strip so you can just hammer them into the slab, and volia! your tackstrip is installed.

Ha. Ha. Ha. NOTHING could be further from the truth of how it actually happens.

First of all, when you have a 60 year old slab, any attempt to hammer a nail into the concrete is going to result in a small divet in the concrete shattering into a million little pieces. So, wear safety glasses. Next, those little tack strips are the flimsiest, crappiest pieces of wood possible, so if you the likelihood of breaking or splintering the wood is high. And remember, this is what's holding your carpet down, so you've got to get it more or less right. Finally, those little tacks that stick straight up are FANTASTIC for grabbing an unsuspecting bit of skin and ripping it wide open. I'm fairly certain that you're required to bleed on your new carpet for it to install correctly.

Enter the Ramset, a relatively benign looking piece of equipment that actually uses 22 caliber shells to drive nails into concrete.

Because we needed ANOTHER tool. Really we did! Oh well, at least it won't take up much space.

Yeah, you read right. It uses 22 caliber shells.

Does this make it a firepower tool?

Basically you load the thing up with a shell and a special nail (in the orange box), put on your ear protection, put on some more ear protection (oh and don't forget your safety goggles), clear everyone from the house, and then gently tap on the end of the Ramset until the powder explodes. They you hope you haven't blown a hole through the tack strip or chipped the concrete. Lather, rinse, repeat. It drives the nail in correctly about 2/3 of the time... if you're lucky.

So the hubby managed to install the tack strips and then the carpeting in the guest bedroom, which will be our bedroom until we get to the addition. I should note that installing carpet is another job that we've done before and swore we wouldn't do again... so I'm still not sure how it happened that we were installing carpet at 9:30 on a Thursday night, but it's done now. And after we were done, I had to paint over the powder burns from the Ramset.

Powder burns on the fresh paint from the Ramset. There is something vaguely unsettling about this...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

What we did for Valentine's day

Valentine's day was Sunday, and the hubby and I went out to our favorite sushi restaurant for dinner. As it happens, the kiddos and their grandparents also went out to the same sushi restaurant... just not at the same time. Thank goodness.

Our second round of sushi arrived with these cute little guys:

Kissing Wasabi turtles! I'm pretty sure this should go on Cute Overload or something.

After our delicious dinner, we went to do the thing that couples who are madly in love and renovating houses frequently do for Valentine's day... we went appliance shopping! Lowe's was having a sale on all Energy Star appliances, so we thought this might be a good time to snag a new front-loading washer and dryer. There's really nothing wrong with our current washer and dryer, but to conserve on space in the new utility room (not to mention conserve water), we wanted to see if we could find something stackable. And yes, you can stack front-loaders.

Alas, Lowe's was closed, so we had to do our shopping online from home. After a thrilling hour of comparative online shopping, we picked out a Samsung washer and dryer, which will be delivered on Friday. I'm looking forward to it, because having the washer and dryer installed means that the utility room will be painted and the floor will be done!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


A huge part of this last weekend was trying to finish up as much of the painting as possible so we can start moving stuff in. The kids were a big help with this one, and we ended up taking lots of pictures of the process... so I'll just let the pictures explain!

Kiddo #2's room is complete! Check out that beautiful blue wall. He loves it!

He's already moved all his games in his closet.

Kiddo #1's room, which has been done for a bit, now includes a fuzzy purple reading chair. The purple is taking over! Fortunately it hasn't escaped the bedroom yet. :)

My mother-in-law painting the hallway.

Husband's dad doing even more painting.

Kiddo #2 demonstrates the lovely painted hallway.

Painting the entrance to the guest bedroom.

The painted guest bedroom, which will be our bedroom until we put the addition on.

Me texturing the utility room.

Elias didn't help with painting... but he's cute!

I think we're now officially rednecks

You've probably heard Jeff Foxworthy's "You might be a redneck if..." Well, I think we have a new one to add to the list:

"You might be a redneck if you keep your horses in your carport."

Unfortunately, we now qualify:
The boys in their new digs under the carport. Not exactly the ideal barn situation.

But we have good reason. We've gotten over 10 inches of rain in the last week, and had no days to dry out. The horse's pasture is a slick, wet mess, so they're not getting turned out, and their sacrifice paddock is well... sacrificed. We needed someplace where we could get the horses' feet out of the wet and muck, otherwise we're going to have some serious abscesses and thrush to deal with.

You can't see it here, but some of the ruts are nearly 12 inches deep. Not great for feet, legs, or shoes.

The area under their shed. The only dry parts are where the round bale was and the back left corner... but I couldn't get in there with a wheelbarrow to muck. This is definitely not the sort of conditions I want our horses kept in.

We put down rubber mats under the shavings, but Red was a bit antsy and pulled them up pretty quickly with his pacing. Saga just stood there munching on his hay. We'll continue to try to use them to protect the horse's legs and feet from the concrete, but we also bedded it pretty deeply. It's not a long-term solution, but it will work for now.

As for Anie, she's wondering how her snoozing spot under the carport was usurped. Fortunately, she's pretty amiable about her sleeping arrangements.

The biggest benefit to the new arrangement, as far as I can tell, is that I get to pet the horses each and every time I walk in the door to the house. :)