Friday, February 22, 2013

Recent Sights From A Long Walk

Mossy Stream

More Moss and Lichen on a conglomerate rock.

Even the daffodils had trouble holding their heads up on this gloomy day.

Trembling leaves.

Happy chickens.

Best Buddies.

More happy chickens.

I've got my eye on you!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

One Step Closer

I know that a post about an attic ladder is not the most thrilling of subjects but I've been wanting to show ya'll this for some time now.  Now, I can't really take credit for this because Jack is the one that came up with this ingenious design and carefully crafted product.  I though it was very cool and might give some of you an idea if you need something similar.  It was also a very clever solution to a situation that had, embarrassingly, become quite a point of contention between me and Jack.  A little history for you:  this ladder is in the pantry where the only attic access is.  This is also why the photos are so close and don't show the whole ladder at once.  I crammed myself back up in the corner of the pantry as far as I could but just couldn't get a better shot.  Anyway, I never really used my small attic for much storage (because I just don't have a lot of stuff) but when Jack moved in we needed a little more room in a somewhat protected environment, plus I did need a good place to store seasonal decorations etc. and the attic was a good place.  So, Jack decked most of it and installed some hanging rods.  Now, I had always used an extension ladder to get up there on the few times I needed to but Jack was coming and going from there like some kind of 4-lane highway and his constant dragging the extension ladder in and out of the house got to be a tad....tiresome.  Add to that the fact that I eventually installed the beautiful cork flooring and if THAT got scraped up I was going to have a serious meltdown and you know that all extension ladders have those jagged, sharp cleats on the feet to keep them from sliding.  Well, after about 2 significantly ugly confrontations over this issue I said we must come up with a solution and this is what Jack built.
When not in use the ladder slides up against the wall and does not protrude any more than about 4 inches.  The height of the ladder was calculated to accommodate this and doesn't stick up too far into the attic hatch.

It can easily be pulled out with one hand to the correct angle for climbing.  Notice the carpet stapled carefully to the bottom of the ladder to avoid any scratching of my beautiful cork.  Also, Jack attached a chain (you can see at the 3rd step from the bottom) that goes back to the wall.  This assures the ladder does not slip further out once you are on it.  If you look closely, or enlarge the photo, you can also see each step was installed at an angle that would be horizontal in the pulled out position and each step is reinforced with a metal bracket.

The top corners of the ladder are also beveled and padded to avoid scratching the wall.  Do not look at the untrimmed attic hole.  I'll get to that eventually.  The ladder is also handy for reaching items in the highest storage cubby holes that are behind that wall on the right.  (That's where we store the toilet paper!)
So, the ladder never has to leave this room but yet, is never in the way and is very easy to climb even while holding a box or two.

I think this ladder probably saved our relationship.  I know that sounds funny but seriously.....Jack had a very hard time understanding why I got so upset about him using the extension ladder and I couldn't understand why he couldn't see what he was going to tear up.  I have had to put so much of myself into this house and have worked so hard to make it look nice (what parts are actually finished) that the idea of someone being flippant about it about gives me a coronary.  I know he didn't mean to and I know I get a little on edge sometimes, to say the least, but I was proud we worked together and came up with a really nifty and useful solution.  Now if I can just get all the visitors here to stop gawking over the stupid ladder and look at the rest of the house! haha!! Just kidding!....  We don't ever have any visitors!

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Although we did have a spurt of house completion before the wedding last fall, it seems to me that the past year to year and a half has mostly been focused on improving the garden and getting the chicken's digs completed and such.  Now, while that is still not totally finished, it's far enough along that I want to switch back to a serious effort to finish the house in this new year.  Really I don't lack much and with this being the first year that I've ever been sure I would not go back to work in construction (or out of town for same) I feel like I can really get this done.
So, this is my list for 2013:
1.  Finish the dividing wall in the living room. (both sides actually).  I have already purchased the slate tile that will cover this so it's just a matter of doing it.
2.  Construct and finish the small hearth that goes under the gas fireplace.  That is what that is on the wall there by the way, not another TV as a lot of people think.
3.  Finish the sheetrock on either side and make or have made the built-in bookcases for each side.
4.  Install the hardwood floors throughout the living and dining area.

There are a few things left to do in the kitchen but not an overwhelming amount.  Maybe.
1.  Pour concrete countertops and concrete bar tops on dividing wall.
2.  Finish running dark metal wall covering through living area.
3.  Trim out pantry cased opening.
4.  Install cork flooring throughout kitchen.
5.  Install dropped lighting over countertops by stove.  (wiring is there already).
6.  Install dishwasher.
7.  Finish dividing wall/ back splashes on this side with glass and stone tilework.

Hmm, that does seem like a lot doesn't it?  Oh well!  ha!

I would really like to finish the exterior stonework and landscaping also; or at least get the landscaping started!  A lot of people think this is finish and it is far from it actually.  So, this area would include:
1.  Finish the stonework around the basement area.  I started this a couple of years ago and have never finished.  Once that is done I can build the concrete retaining walls that will form planting beds around this end and cover all that blockwork (that you can't really see in this photo).
2.  Finish the stone planting bed on this end that will also contain a solar batch-style water heater.
3.  Pour the concrete curb 2 feet out from the length of the house that will form a planting bed next to the house.  This curb will absorb the fall of the rain runoff from the roof and also form the interior edge of the stone walkway leading to the parking area.
4.  Get rid of the ramp at the deck and install at least part of the flagstone patio there and permanent steps leading onto the deck.
5.  Install proper stone and wood columns under the overhang by the deck.

Basically, the stepstone walkway you see here will go away and be replaced with a 4 foot wide flagstone/ brick walkway, a large flagstone patio and probably a water feature of some sort.  I would like a shallow pool with a fountain maybe.  The planting bed next to the house will evergreens and possibly fruiting plants of some sort.  The planting bed formed in that inside corner of the house (far lower left) will be a kitchen garden with herbs/ medicinals and possibly fruit of some sort.  More flower beds and the tea grove are off to the right.

So, that's quite a lot of stuff!  I will admit it is fairly overwhelming when I think about it but the trick is to just take one project at a time and not think about the others for the time being.  I had thought I might do some craft/ art shows this year but really, I don't have time if I want to do all this other.  It takes a lot of effort and time to build up enough stock for a show and I really need to get this house finished if I'm going to enjoy it before I croak.

Do any of ya'll have any big projects in the works for this year?!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Looking Back...And Ahead

The purple crocus down by the creek have finally awoken to signal the earliest signs of a much anticipated spring.  We still flip-flop between cold, dreary and thunderously rainy days to warm, agonizingly bright sunny days.  Currently, it's one of those bright, sunny ones but with a forecast of snow flurries tonight.  Such is Alabama and all this does wonders for my sinuses and bronchitis, which is still clinging for dear life.
So, in an effort to cheer myself by looking at what all we've accomplished this past year and what I want to get done this coming year, I offer you the standard Blog Year in Review!

In the Garden:
1.  We established a sizable asparagus bed with 1 year old plants.  I'm really looking forward to being able to cut a few stalks this spring.  If it comes up, that is. 
2.  I redid my existing strawberry bed with plants more acclimated and bred for our southern climate.  It shows some promise already.
3.  Established a small grove of tea plants.  They are still alive anyway and hopefully will show quite a bit of growth this year.
4.  Planted yet another apple tree to replace the one decimated by moles (or whatever) this past year.

In The House:
1.  As you may see in the photo above, all of the incoming power and cable/ Internet is now underground.  Jack did most all this himself while I was busy with Christmas production.  I had only a temporary power line so Jack bought the required line for a 200 amp service, fished some rope for pulling through the conduit underground and I did help him get the wire pulled through.  At 200 amps you can imagine it was a pretty stout mass of wire.  After this was done he ran another line in my studio that can carry a second kiln.  This all was a significant accomplishment that I had been putting off for some time and was very happy to get it done.  Just so happened that the phone company came out the next week to upgrade things for us (no charge) and happily ran new Internet/ phone cable through that dedicated underground conduit.  Now there are NO overhead wires anywhere around the house.
2.  Installed new kitchen cabinets!  Yay!
3.  Installed duct work and electrical for range hood vent and completely closed up the dividing wall in the kitchen.
4.  Painted main kitchen wall and trimmed out all windows.
5.  Started wall covering on west end of kitchen.
6.  We finished the clerestory area of the house completely!!  Way, way overdue.
7.  Also finished all the painting/ siding and miscellaneous on exterior of the house.  Even installed the porch light fixtures.

Chickens/ Land/ Misc.:

1.  Added a bitty coop to the Big Run so batches of young chicks can be more easily separated from grown hens and have more room.
2.  Built a large wood drying and storage shed.  Again, this was most all Jack, but then I did most all the kitchen.
3.  Established my pottery business to a greater degree by securing 3 more outlets for sales and enlarging my product line/ new glazes etc.
4.  Added to the landscaping by enlarging my daffodil and iris collections.

There may be a few other things that have slipped my mind at the moment but I think that is the majority of it.  Seeing how long this post already is (more stuff done than I thought!) I think I'll do a separate post on what we want to do this year.  Now, if I could just get well enough to work before any more of this year slips away!

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Sick Of Sick

Ah, gratuitous photos of pottery!  If you are thinking, 'well, she must not have anything else to share with us because she's putting up pottery pics', then you'd be correct.  Seems I got over the shingles just in time for Willie to die and me to come down with a wonderfully effective case of bronchitis.  I thought I was going to be able to shrug it off but when I woke up this morning Jack was even saying, maybe you need to go to the doctor.  And he hates doctors more than me.  I figured if he said that I must really look like hell.

The doctor thought it was walking pneumonia at first but the blood test came back negative.  I guess that's good.  I mean, I guess bronchitis is better than pneumonia.  So, the beating continues....but I've have rough times before and they eventually come to an end and I suspect this one will too.  Geez Louise, I've already added waaayy too much stuff to the "things that suck" label on here!
At any rate, all this has given me some time to read and enjoy the PBS series Craft In America in between coughing and feverous fits.  Jack bought me the whole set of DVDs on that. (the craft series not the fits)
 I highly recommend it.
Oh, he also got me some elderberry extract today too!  And I'm going to make a point of harvesting those berries this summer myself.

Monday, February 04, 2013


I guess the title would make more sense if you could see the avocado seed in the above photo a bit closer.  They basically crack open to allow the roots and stem to come out.  It's pretty cool.  If you have superb patience and can wait 5-7 years you can actually get an avocado off the resulting tree too!  Don't know if mine will last that long but I wanted to try this just to see what would happen.  It's pretty amazing the amount of food you can grow from scraps.  I'll try to do a more extensive post on that before long.  I've been growing green onions from scraps and they are a number of other things that work too.

My orchid now has 6 blooms on it!  SIX!!!  It's so pretty.  I may venture to buy another type one day.

Little Willie had a little bit of a setback the other day, kinda my fault, but she bounced back and is doing pretty good now.  I think she is still pretty sore and tired though.  She has to rest a lot if I take her out in the garden with me.  She tries hard to scratch and look for bugs and stuff and I help her out by digging a little for her.  She enjoys that and I think she is slowly getting better.  I think when spring finally arrives we'll all feel better.  I am SO over this winter and cold weather and I am really looking forward to warmer days.  I think most everybody is.  What about you?

Edit:  Found Willie dead this morning.  Not really sure what happened but looking back she was having some difficulty.  As I stated, Willie never developed quite right physically and she may have had more unseen problems there.  She wasn't eating as well as I wanted and had to rest a lot.  I guess she had more issues than I could see.