Category Archives: Animals

Well hello there!

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It has been awhile, hasn’t it? I’ve been wanting to post again, but then when I think about how to start, it fills me with this vague anxiousness. So I’m just gonna jump back in and start talking. 🙂

A lot going on in my corner of the world right now. Some of it isn’t great–my mother is ill so I’ve been spending two days a week down in CT caring for her–but most of it’s pretty good and holding steady. The highlights:

  • My long-time writing partner and I started a publishing company on January 1, which is keeping me (us) super busy. I enjoy using the left side of my brain to run the business instead of focusing strictly on writing, which I don’t particularly enjoy on its own.
  • Since my work hours are more regular, I use the weekends to work on my sewing. I really enjoy sewing blouses, and that blue one above is the best I’ve made so far.
  • Knitting I mostly do at night while watching my TV programs or during a lunch break, which means I’m not knitting as much as I used to. The hat above is one of my favorite knits of the winter, the Mortice Lock Hat. I’ve also been working on a Isabell Kraemer cardigan (“Dexter“), which is coming along nicely but slowly. I’m using some Drops alpaca in a silvery gray…it’s going to look great against the blue of my new blouse! More on this knit later. I’m also trying to catch up on gift knitting…a few babies born this winter are in need of my craft. 😉
  • I completed the Whole 30 diet in January, which is why I included that slice of pizza above. I don’t think I lost weight, but one thing I did learn the hard way is that my body does not like wheat. I’ve suspected this for awhile, but it is good to know for sure that wheat causes me such problems. I was also able to kick my sugar habit, woo hoo!
  • My son is heading to high school this fall, which has sent me into a tizzy because I swear, he just graduated from kindergarten. This week was spent choosing classes, and I’m pleased he’ll be taking Latin as his foreign language (he has taken Spanish since grade school). I met with one of the Latin teachers a few weeks ago, and she seemed really passionate about her class…my fingers are crossed she’ll be his teacher!
  • And the big news is that we’re heading to Europe this summer for two weeks! I’m very excited about this because we’ll be spending time with my husband’s family in Munich, as well as traveling to Berlin with my brother and his wife. I’ve never been to Berlin and am looking forward to exploring the museums and historical sites.

Spring seems to have arrived early here in Massachusetts. Bulbs started popping up through the earth mid-February, and today it was in the low 70s! The rest of the week will be cooler, but definitely spring-y.

I’m glad to be back and will post more detail about some of the projects I’ve been working on. What are you up to?

Rrrrrrrrrip … done!

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That’s my Garland Yoke sweater. It took me a little over an hour to rip it out and re-ball the yarn, which I did while watching Project Runway. Enough time had passed between my finishing knitting the sweater and deciding that I’d never wear it so that ripping it out wasn’t painful — in fact, it was very satisfying. Perhaps it’s because I enjoy the act of knitting more than the creation of something knitted, if that makes sense.

I added an afternoon walk yesterday to my daily list of mood boosters and even though it was gray and stodgy outside, the fresh air helped and I was less moody by the end of the evening. Last night I slept well and deeply, so I’m going to take another walk in a few minutes. Today it’s crisp and bright outside.

I was going to post a photo of how Winston greeted us when O and I arrived home this afternoon, but on second thought, the photo may be disturbing to some. He had caught a mouse in the bathroom and couldn’t seem to understand why it wasn’t playing with him anymore. We called my husband downstairs to show him the great job Winston had done — Mr. Hail Britannia is not a big fan of cats, but he does respect a good mouser. Our previous cats have all been pacifists, much to his dismay. Winston is slowly earning his respect.

Kwik Sew 3614 shorts … and September!



Way back in July I noticed a dearth of shorts in my wardrobe. I’m not a big fan of shorts … specifically, I’m not a big fan of how shorts look on me. Mostly because I don’t tan at all and my white legs scare people, but also because I don’t like wearing anything higher than just above my knee. Since I have a spiffy new sewing machine, I decided to make some shorts that met my requirements and I feel comfortable wearing on the hotter days of summer.

Enter Kwik Sew 3614, a pattern I first read about on Sewn. Elizabeth had mentioned how members of Pattern Review raved about the fly construction instruction on these shorts, and after making a couple pairs, I have to agree — fly fronts can be tricky, but it’s smooth sailing with this pattern.

My first pair was constructed out of lavender-colored cotton twill I purchased a few years ago from Fabric Place. I traced and cut a size L and followed the directions for view A (the longest version) exactly, making no modifications. The shorts came out well and I’ve worn them a lot this summer. My only dislikes were having hook and eye closures on the closure tab. I decided with my next pair I’d use a button and buttonhole.

My second pair are the ones I’m wearing in the photos above. I can’t remember where I got the fabric, a navy blue cotton twill … either Joann’s or Sewfisticated Fabrics in Framingham. The button/buttonhole closure works much better. For future shorts I plan to use a contrasting facing on the waistband, as well as softer pocket fabric. I used matching twill to make pockets for both pairs of shorts. They’re fine, but maybe a little bulkier than I’d like.

This is a great pattern and I will definitely get my money’s worth from it as I have plans for olive, white, and red shorts for next summer.

Since I took a bit of a blog break for the last six weeks, here’s what else is going on. My mother and I took a week-long trip to central Maine in August and had a wonderful time. I didn’t take any pictures (bah!) except for a shot of my yarn haul from Halcyon Yarn in Bath.  I’ll do a run down of what I purchased in a separate post.

I’ve been a bit down because my father and stepmother are going through a painful divorce. It’s not a bitter one, just very sad because of the circumstances. I’m hoping that once the smoke clears, things will get better.

Then my husband’s car died. We were down to one car for the last few years, so it has been necessary to do some car shopping. It looks like I’ll be getting a new VW Jetta by the end of the week. It’s funny because VW was not on my “car-buying radar” until I rented one a couple weeks ago and fell in love. Even better, my son loves it and my husband, while not a fan of practical four-door sedans, admits that it’s a smooth, responsive ride.

And oh, that cat you see above? That’s Winston. I’l write more about him in another post, but we decided after a year of having no cats it was time to welcome a new cat into our home … and hearts. We adore Winston … he is a sweet, lovable, friendly guy. And even better,  he doesn’t chase my yarn.

What have you been up to this summer? Are you glad it’s September?

Close to nature

Where do I begin? I suppose where I left off. Camp pickup two weekends ago was uneventful. I was one of the first parents there, and O was standing at the door of his cabin waiting for me. 🙂 Hugs all around. He had a great time and really liked his counselors; his only complaint was “too much swimming.” My boy is not fond of being in water, never has been. Most of his local friends were on vacation by the time he returned home, which actually worked out as it gave him some time to decompress from camp. Most of them are coming home this weekend, so this week Mom’s Taxi Service will be at full gear until O leaves for Texas next week.

Summer has been pretty quiet, which I like. Lots of slow, hot days filled with nothing but time. O thinks it’s going by too quickly, and now that I look at the calendar and realize that August is this weekend, I suppose he’s right.

OK, so moving on to the exciting bits. This week I went to make muffins and when I pulled the tin out of stove drawer, I noticed mouse droppings. Ewwww. Before you think I’m a terrible housekeeper, please note that our house is older and has lots of nooks, crannies, and holes that critters just love. I’m not frightened of mice–they’re kind of cute, actually–but I don’t want them around my food, so I had to put out a trap. The next morning, I found the little guy behind the stove. No more have been caught so I’m hoping we had one errant mouse in the house. The rest of the week I spent decontaminating our stove and the areas around it.

Then late last night I was sitting on the sofa when I noticed a noise coming from the living room coat closet. The door was cracked, and boom — out flew a BAT!!!! I feel much differently about bats than I do mice … you should have seen me bolt upstairs, screaming for my husband who was already in bed. Poor guy was sound asleep, but he knows how freaked out I am around bats due to some unfortunate childhood bat experiences while living in an old house in Vermont. He and O did some research on the computers upstairs to figure out the best way to get the bat outside, then they ventured downstairs to find the unwanted guest lurking behind the living room drapes. When they tried to scoop the bat into a box, he flew across the room and landed at the top of a bookshelf. By then the bat (and the boys) was tired enough that the second scoop went more smoothly and the errant visitor was released into the night. Shudder. We’ve had a long-standing wildlife removal appointment scheduled for this Tuesday, and I cannot WAIT to have these bats gone from our attic. And while last night’s bat visitation terrified me, I’m glad I saw from where it emerged because now we know where we have an exit hole into the house.

Yes, I’m a total wimp when it comes to certain species of wildlife in my house. I own my wimpiness. 😉

Crafting

Lots of sewing going on this summer in my studio. I now feel very comfortable with my new sewing machine, the Baby Lock Melody. A couple of weeks ago I ordered a flat felling presser foot for it through my local dealer and just about keeled over when I got the bill for it, almost $25. Ouch! So I decided to order one of those 32-piece presser foot collections from Amazon, along with a ruffler attachment. I paid a little over what I paid for the one foot through my dealer, so I figured if a few of the presser feet worked, I’d be ahead of the game, esp. the ruffler, which is pricey.

We have Amazon Prime, so everything got here quickly. The ruffler was easy to install and worked beautifully. The 32 presser feet came in a sturdy cardboard box and every foot was labeled on the front so I knew what each one would do. The feet are all metal with a few understandable exceptions, such as the teflon foot for sewing leather and vinyl. Last night I used the piping/welting foot to install piping around a mixer stand cover I made for out kitchen:

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I was very happy with how the piping came out especially as it was my first try. I used instructions from About.com to put this together, but ended up using my own measurements for the pattern. I added an outer pocket (which I tried to pattern match and you can see in the bottom photo) to hold the flat beater attachments, and created a lining with fabric from an old cotton Jacquard drape. All in all, I’m quite happy with it although I may make another just to improve on my design. 🙂

I finished the Pebble Beach shawl, which is blocked and ready to go. It has been so hot, though, that the thought of posing with a merino wool shawl draped over my shoulders … ugh. I’ll do a separate post on the shawl when it cools off.

What are you working on this summer?

 

One more day

Hawk on walk

Yesterday during our walk to pick up the car at the repair garage, I spotted this hawk fluttering around the ground. We couldn’t figure out if it was injured or hunting … we could also hear some angry birdsong coming from the firs. I wanted to get a little closer, but those talons!

So yes, one more day! Tomorrow I’m picking O up from camp. I miss him so much and can’t wait to hear of his experiences. I did get a letter from him on Wednesday, and I was surprised by how long it was. It looks like he kept adding to it each day. He’s a very good and entertaining writer. It sounds like he’s had a good time, except for the swimming. Although the weather has been warm here in New England, lakes and ocean water really don’t get warm until August … and even then, I wouldn’t call them “warm” … more like comfortable. Plus, O is not the most enthusiastic swimmer. He said the two weeks at camp would have been the best two weeks of his year … except for the twice daily swims, which he says ruin everything for him.

I would feel sorry for him, but I took swimming lessons as a child in the cold Atlantic Ocean. No pity party here. 😉

Camp pickup is between 9 and 11, so I’ll leave Boston around 6ish, which should give me time for some coffee and exercise breaks (need to stretch out my back frequently). I’ll be giving O’s local friend a ride home, too, so we’ll make a brief stop at my father’s house on the lake to say hi and pick up Aunt Pam’s yarn :-), then be back on our way home.

Crafting

I finished sewing a pair of shorts yesterday, waa-hoo. They came out great! When my head photographer returns home, I’ll get some good photos for my review. I am not a big shorts-wearer, but on especially warm days they’re necessary. I love these shorts because they completely cover my thighs but don’t make my legs look like sausages. Flush with success, I dug out some olive green twill from my stash for a second pair. But first, I want to finish a gift project (silk pillowcases). This is a wedding gift for a friend who is now pregnant, which gives you an idea how behind I am in sewing!

Knitting … not much to report here. I spent a couple hours yesterday tinking three rows (over 400 stitches each row) of my Pebble Beach shawl as I had two extra stitches. The problem was a wrong increase stitch. Sigh. When will I learn? Anyway, all is well, though I will probably not finish the shawl this weekend.

I discovered a new-blog-for-me this week, Ikatbag. This mother of three has craft skills that are a-m-a-z-i-n-g — she’s a whiz with cardboard and all sorts of crafts, but also sews without commercial patterns. In fact, she has never used a commercial pattern to draft her clothing! Oh, and she studied physics in college and does all sorts of cool science projects with her kids and creates the most stupendous birthday parties for her daughters … seriously, I would get palpitations doing half as much as she does in a day!

I’ll leave you with a video of me trying to get a hawk’s attention by talking to it as I would a cat. D’oh.

Hawk on ground

Sugar blues

O’s face looks completely normal now, not even a rash. The only itchy bits are on his arms and legs. We’re hoping everything will be healed up by the time he leaves for camp on Sunday.

Yesterday we went out to Target and bought what he needed to get him through two weeks at camp — mostly underwear and socks. We figure he can double up a couple days on stuff like shorts and sweatshirts, but not so much on underwear and socks. I also found some swimming trunks in his size for $6.50, so into the basket they went … saves me some time at the sewing machine this week. He was rather grumpy during our shopping expedition, as was I (sugar withdrawal), and we forgot to buy a couple extra beach towels. Otherwise we’re all set to pack him up … except for the stuff I have to sew.  Oh, and he needs a haircut. Hopefully we can squeeze in an appointment before the end of the week.

I survived Monday without eating any sugar. My sugar cravings hit mostly in the evening, so the last couple hours before bedtime were misery. As I was driving past Bedford Farms on the way back from the gym, it took every ounce of self control not to drive in there and order a cup of Muddy River ice cream … I would have dived in with gusto! I stuck with it, though, bypassing my evening cup of warm chocolate malt Ovaltine with more than a little regret. My thinking was definitely foggier yesterday … I’m hoping after a few days, I’ll be able to think a little more clearly. Just happy I’m not teaching this week; I’m not sure my students would appreciate my incoherent thinking!

A couple days ago when I was waiting for a prescription to be filled at the grocery store, I spent some time looking through the paperback books and actually bought one. I usually take books like this out of the library or buy them used, but I was so in the mood for a summer read. It’s a James Patterson bio/thriller called Zoo, and as usual with his novels, it’s fast paced and just what i need intellectually right now … meaning I don’t have to think too hard as I read a couple chapters before bed each night. The only problem is, I’ve been having disturbing dreams. The other night I dreamed a rabid bat attacked me, so I fed it to a flying skunk. (Yes, you read that right.) And last night marauding bears and tigers made their appearances … so I’m not sure this is the best reading before bed. Maybe I’ll have to finish it up by reading in the morning. (Just learned this book as been made into a tv miniseries, which I think I’ll skip.)

Crafting

Not much to report on the sewing front. Taped the pdf pattern for O’s board shorts together. Today I’ll be cutting out the fabric. I also signed up for a free sewing class in early July at my local dealer. She told me I probably won’t learn that much, but I figure if I learn a couple tips or two, it’ll be worth my time.

Pebble Beach shawl

Because of my sugar withdrawal yesterday, I had to rip back on my Pebble Beach shawl a couple times. (Missed a couple yarnovers, grrr.) It stinks when I have to rip back a row because now each row is over 200 stitches. Yes, I know I should use a lifeline, but weirdly enough I don’t mind tinking, especially when the yarn is easy to work with as this yarn is. It’s hard to see but the color of the yarn is starting to change from cream to pale mint. Lace is so not pretty before it has been blocked. 😉

One of the pattern books I ordered off eBay showed up yesterday. It’s from the 1960s, a collection of cabled cardigans put out by Reynolds yarn under the name “Mary of Holland.” I did a bit of poking around to find out who, exactly, Mary of Holland is, since the pattern book doesn’t say. The only thing Dutch about these sweaters are their names: Rotterdam, Utrecht, Dordrecht, even The Hague.

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The model on the cover looks a lot like my college friend Staycee. 🙂

I thought the cabled designs were really pretty. I’m sure my brother will deem them “Denchy.” 😉

I wear the crown

I now wear a shiny, new off-white crown. I’ll do you a favor and not show it to you. You know that urban legend that redheads need more anesthesia than normal because they have more nerve endings? It’s true … not for every redhead, but certainly true in my case. Two injections of novocaine and I was still feeling the pain. My mouth never got that numb, either. My dentist (who is great, I love her!) can’t get over how much I need. Enough to knock out an elephant …

Anyway, I have a working tooth, and that’s great. I rewarded myself with a quick stop at the bead shop down the street before I picked up O from his friend’s house. (See more about beads below.)

O’s poison ivy is getting a little worse. Today we tried aloe vera and cucumbers, as well as the OTC products I bought yesterday. The cucumber seems to help with itching the best, especially when we pureed it in the Vitamix, spread out out over his arms, and let it sit for awhile. Hey, gotta love a 59 cent treatment!

My brother called this evening and we had a nice chat. He’s out in Oregon as a “Hot Shot” firefighter, putting out blazes caused by lightning strikes and drought. After a couple weeks of fires (which translates into $$$ for him), he’s off to the coast for a few days for some R&R. I’m looking forward to him returning to the east coast this fall — we talked about doing an overnight hike up in the White Mountains, so I’m going to look into an AMC membership. (He wants to stay in one of the AMC huts.) I will definitely be staying away from Mt. Washington this time.  😉

Mr. Raccoon was back last night, trying to knock over our garbage bins. I know raccoons can be pests, but he’s just the cutest guy. Tried to get pictures for O, but when he heard me at the window, he took off.

Crafting

I’ve done some more “research” on Cecelia Campochiaro‘s new knitting book, Sequence Knitting. Ravelry has a page for the patterns contained in the book, which gives one a good idea of the types of fabrics that can be created, as well as photos of simple patterns for accessories. The hats excited me because some of my favorite winter caps are ones where the fabric seems textured. Example: Anne Hanson’s Fartlek.

I forgot to mention the other reason why this book appeals to me and that’s because Campochiaro works in the computer/tech field in Silicon Valley. She started playing around with binary sequences in her knitting and discovered that certain sequences produced interesting textures and fabrics. I’m somewhat left-brained and like math, so this concept *really* tickles that side of my brain.

Craftsy sent me an e-mail today that some classes in my wish list were priced at $19.99 or less until the weekend. One of them was Betz White’s bag making class, so I signed up for it.  I have some drapery fabric remnants in my stash that would make fantastic, hard-wearing bags. Tracy, your excellent results spurred me to sign up, so thank you!

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Another Craftsy class I’m taking is Laura Nelkin’s Knitting With Beads, thus why I stopped at the bead shop this a.m. (Nelkin is a dead-ringer for Annabella Sciorra … she even sounds like her!) When I was at Stitches East last fall, I bought a skein of cream and turquoise gradient laceweight, and I’m thinking it would look lovely as a beaded shawl. I also got the idea in my head to do another mohair cardigan, but this one with slip-stitch beading around the cuffs, neckband, and lower edge/hem.

ETA: Started knitting Helen Stewart’s Pebble Beach Shawl tonight with my gradient lace-weight. So far, enjoying the pattern!

Utilitarian, fashionable … or both?

Heart Pops Hat

Heart Pops Hat

Kelly Cardigan

Adding moisture to the air

New hygrometer

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Back garage, winter 2015

 

Greetings from snowy eastern Massachusetts!

I’ve been trying to up my game with my knitting this winter, although I was thinking about it this morning and wondering why. You see, I tend to knit a lot of utilitarian items: wooly socks, felted mittens, hats that can be easily spotted by drivers on the road, thick wooly sweaters…these are the types of garments I wear 95 percent of the time. However, I long for a wardrobe that’s stylish — I look at knitters like Leslie and the Rainey Sisters and think, “If only I thought a little more about fashion!” (Haa, just noticed that the Rainey Sisters knit the Heart Pops hat I talk about further on … guess I’m on the right trail!)

As I left the house this a.m., bundled up in simple wool socks, a reflective knit hat, and my bright red mittens–my first ham-handed attempt at felting, complete with wonky acrylic cuffs!–I came to the conclusion that it’s okay to be more of a utilitarian knitter. I’m happy with these items. They work for me and the life I lead here in New England. I’m just never going to be a wearer of delicate lace shawls or high-style cardigans. By the way, the hats above are from a free pattern I downloaded at WEBS called Heart Pops. I’ve been knitting these up in stray balls of yarn I’ve found around the house. I’m not a pink girl, but I’m really loving the pink and white version — so cute!

So all this thinking about fashion is why I chose to knit the Kelly Cardigan from Erica Knight in an effort to look a little bit more, in the words of Project Runway, “fashion forward.” It’s a simple cardigan design, but knitted in mohair/silk yarn, it’s luxurious … and warm! The yarn is Aloft from KnitPicks in the color “carbon.” I would have liked to knit this in Rowan Kidsilk Haze, but I’m sticking to my Yarn Diet in 2015 like white on rice. I’m happy with Aloft … the only part that’s fiddly with laceweight silk/mohair yarn held double is knitting the first row on the cast-on stitches. After that, it’s smooth sailing, unless one has to tink back or rip out stitches. Luckily that hasn’t been an issue for me as this pattern is simple and smooth sailing. You don’t even have to knit buttonholes (snaps are used), although I am going to sew on some jet and crystal ones for some additional pizzazz. I think I could get addicted to knitting with mohair/silk yarn — it’s like knitting a cloud!

The air here has been so dry. A couple weeks ago I was at my doctor getting an asthma check and she told me our interior humidity should be around 40%. We have a large humidifier upstairs, but nothing downstairs, where I spend most of my day. My husband bought a hygrometer, and yikes! Our humidity level was around 20%. So I borrowed a trick from my mother-in-law … when we used to ski out west where the air is even drier than it is here back east, she would fill pots with water and boil them on the stove to add moisture to the air. I go one step further and add cinnamon sticks, cloves, and leftover Meyer lemons. Mmm, our house smells so good! We all notice a big difference with the additional moisture. My skin isn’t as dry and flaky, and none of us have had any nosebleeds this winter. (I also leave bowls of water around the house near our heating vents … not sure if this helps but the water does seem to evaporate fairly quickly.)

Lastly, some photos of the snow in our side and backyards. We’re supposed to get 3 to 6 inches more this Friday. My son has not had a full week of school since the holidays. He may be making up time until July at the rate we’re going with this weather! The snow has not kept the cardinals away this winter … I’m seeing more of them at the feeders. They’re so pretty, but boy! they’re bossy! It’s hard to believe that in a little over a month it’ll be time to plant my peas. Will the snow be melted enough to do so?

Another goodbye

 

Yesterday we said a sad goodbye to the last our cats, Phoebe (1998-2015). She had been struggling with thyroid issues for the past couple years, so we knew her time with us was coming to an end. I had told myself that when she was having more bad days than good ones, it would be time … and this week was that week. Very sad but she had a good long life and passed away peacefully while getting her ears rubbed. She was in heaven even before she got there. 🙂

I’ve had to euthanize a few pets in my lifetime. It’s a decision I hate making, but a necessary one as I feel suffering is even worse. I would much rather know that my pet died peacefully and without pain, surrounded by people who loved her than … well, the alternatives. We’ll just leave it at that.

Of course, it was sad waking up this morning without an animal to feed, walk, or water for the the first time in 30something years. On the other hand, for the first time in awhile, I did not wake up in the middle of the night needing to puff on my inhaler. When I was a child, I was terribly sensitive to cat dander … by the time I reached my teens, the irritation seemed to disappear. Now my asthma is back full-force and it occurs to me that the allergens that used to bother me — dust, cat dander, dairy products — are back in play. We shall see.

When we were talking to the vet before Phoebe’s passing, he noted that she was polydactyl, that is, double-pawed, and asked us if we were aware that meant she descended from the Mayflower. He said that a double-pawed cat was brought over on the ship and thus double-pawed cats today are all descended from that cat! I did a bit of journalistic research, and while I couldn’t find specific evidence that polydactyl cats descend from one specific Mayflower kitty, I did learn that polydactyl cats were introduced to New England through ships coming from England and they’re more common here than they are in other parts of the U.S. Through my father’s side I descend from a number of Mayflower passengers — I’m something like a 16th or 17th generation New Englander! — so it’s quite fitting that our beloved cat was a real Yankee, too.

 

Project Chicken (Coop)

The old coop, before — summer 2014

Looking at the coop straight on, summer 2014

We have an old chicken coop in our backyard. For a couple years I’ve been itching to raise some chickens but two things have held me back: the state of the coop and my son’s reluctance.

This year, the planets aligned. O and his friends are always looking for schemes to earn pocket money, so they all agreed to clean out the coop for me. And because we’ve been through some tough times with our pets in the past couple years, O has grown to understand that animals and pets have shorter lifespans than their owners. The thought of losing a few chickens to predators–a very real possibility around here given that our property borders a habitat teeming with coyotes, fishers, raccoons, and hawks–isn’t as horrific to him as it would have been a few years ago. Plus, that has been motivating him to research the best ways to secure our coop.

It goes without saying that our coop needs a lot of work, so much so that I considered buying a prefab coop. The prefab coops I like, however, are a couple hundred dollars so I figure it’s better to do some DIY on the structure we have in place.

Today it’s overgrown with vines and we need to do some serious tree branch pruning. The structure is very sound. There’s a wooden floor inside, along with nesting boxes. We’ll replace the chicken-wire covered window openings with real shed windows that open for ventilation, and build a door. The structure doesn’t have electricity but we can run an extension cord from our garage. As for the outdoor enclosure that’s currently fenced with chicken wire … I’m not so sure. It would be nice to have a completely enclosed run, but our neighbor doesn’t have one and they have only lost one chicken in the last couple years. Other to-do items: the coop will need scraping and painting after the windows and door are installed and the coop has been cleaned out.

O is having a sleepover tonight and the boys have their first paying job, clearing out some of the brush and branches around the structure. Our plan is to have a coop ready for chicks mid-spring … that gives us the fall, winter, and early spring to get it into shape. As for chickens, I have my heart set on Araucanas, the chickens that lay pastel-colored eggs. Word is they’ve got friendly dispositions, are good layers, and are cold-hardy.

Do you own chickens? Any advice? The one thing that’s creeping me out is the thought of snakes getting in the coop to eat eggs. I don’t mind seeing them out in the open, but I’ll seriously freak out if I’m gathering eggs and put my hand on a snake! An acquaintance has told me, however, that her chickens kill snakes … around here, the snakes are too small to be a real threat to eggs.