Friday, May 29, 2009

The Chicken Coop

This is the original chicken coop that is in our backyard. Our house was built around 1874-1876 with an addition around 1910. We figure the coop is at least that old. (We also have a smokehouse, a barn and a railroad track back there.)

The left side of the chicken coop is the side we believe housed the chickens. There is a small chicken door on the front and there are several small windows around the top that have screens. When we first bought the house, we even found a couple of completely intact, flattened, mummified chicken carcasses. They were under some old bags of cement that were in there. (It was nasty.)

We didn't want to use this section of the coop because it is closer to our house. And our pool is usually right next to the coop.

So Joe suggested we use the backside of the coop, which only had three walls.

It was the home of our bicycles and the bricks from one of the fireplaces in our basement that collapsed when they were digging out the dirt floor to pour concrete.

We added the third wall, a door, and some chicken wire for ventilation (and some Plexiglas inserts for winter).

The cinder block is so Spenser and Sawyer can look in the window. I bricked a little landing outside the door.

And then we added the chicken run. We wanted it to be six feet tall, but after we got all the stakes in the ground, it ended up being about 5 1/2. We added strawberry netting around the top to keep chickens in and, hopefully, other creatures out.

We had to add the blue tarp because the neighbors' dogs are going wild over our chickens. Like, trying-to-dig-under-the-fence, climb-over-the-fence, I'm-going-to-eat-you wild. It has not been pretty. The tarp is not helping. They can still smell them.

The chickens are quite happy to have their new little home outside. They are still pretty tiny, so their roosting bars are just branches that are still close to the ground. We will raise them as they grow.

And I think this is Popcorn (popcorn chicken, ha ha). She's one of the friendliest girls we have. We think it's because she needed extra TLC when she was injured.

And here's my chicken horror story of the week:

I think it was late Wednesday morning I went outside to check on the chickens. Joe was at work, the boys were in school, Spenser and Sawyer were awaiting their lunch (at 10:30 a.m.) in the kitchen.

When I opened the door to the coop, a few chickens got the brilliant idea to run towards me and the open door. In a panic, I pulled the door shut behind me. As I opened their chicken door, checked their food, and turned around to change their water, I realized I was locked inside. When I shut the door with sudden force, the wood turned and locked me in.

I looked out the window to see if my neighbor was out. He wasn't. (Plus, the Plexiglas was still covering the window because it was cold and rainy.) I looked at the top opening around the roof, but it was too high up and Joe stapled the chicken wire down pretty good to keep out predators. I looked at the chicken door, unsure that my shoulders and/or hips would fit through. And then I saw all the poop on the ramp and decided to look for an alternate escape plan.

I tried to bang on the door with my hip, but it didn't help. So, I kicked it a few times. Thankfully the jolt of my kick turned the wood and the door opened.

In reality I was only in there for a few minutes, but it felt like forever.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Busy Week

On Tuesday night, I swore in as Councilwoman. I was completely nervous.

And immediately following, I attended my first town council meeting. (I was completely lost. Do I look it?)

This week is the local fireman's carnival. And last night was the parade. I rode in the back of the truck and threw candy. This is the corner where my family was sitting. They got extra candy. (My parents, sister and her children, brother and his family, and a good friend and her family were there with Joe and the kids.)

We laughed a lot as we rode around.

To my surprise, there were lots of town members who gave me the "thumbs up" sign when we drove by. One man (whom I don't know), called me by name and gave me thumbs up. It was pretty cool. The town is very supportive and it makes me love it even more than I already do.

And what's the parade without the Ghostbusters ambulance thing that cracks us up every time we see it??

Or the Dixie band and all those crazy, moving stuffed animals on top?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vintage Dress II

Here is Vintage Dress II. Just like the last dress, this one was too large and I had to alter it to fit me.

But there's one problem. I didn't try it on without clothes on underneath and, after all was said and done, I realized it is a little short. It hits right above my knee. It has a generous hem, which I could have taken out. Except I had already serged it and cut off the excess before I tried it on. Apparently I don't know where my knees are.

Oh well. Live and learn.

(Photos courtesy of Carter, 10. Joe had left early for work and Taylor was too grumpy this morning so I didn't bother to ask him.)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chicken Boots

We are getting ready to move our chickens outdoors. We have been working on our coop. We decided to enclose a part of our existing 130+ year-old coop for our birds (photos to come).

I decided if I'm going to be cleaning chicken poop, I'm still going to look halfway decent. When I found these plaid rain boots, I knew it would be a fun way to clean chicken poop. Well, maybe not fun. Is there a fun way to clean chicken poop? So far I don't seem to be enjoying it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Around the House

On Saturday we finally planted our garden. Joe had to till the ground a few times, since we didn't use that spot in a couple of years. So the tilling was spread out over a couple of Saturdays.

He showed the boys how to plant.

Everyone got their own plants and got to work.

Even the littlest helpers joined in.

And then they dug for worms. The best part.

And here is Spenser. I call her Chicken Girl. She does love her chickens. She is fearless.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Vintage Dress I

On Tuesday morning Sawyer and I went thrifting for a little bit while Spenser was in preschool. I went in looking for Pyrex (did not find anything I couldn't live without) and vintage sheets (nothing at all) and spied a very cool vintage, polyester dress. It had a very cool pattern all over it. I was drawn to it and kept coming back to look at it. However, it was several sizes too large.

I started looking around and found several more, but they were all too big, too. Disappointed (and still completely drawn to that first dress), I decided I would buy it anyway and another one. I figured I would try to alter the one I didn't like as much (the half-price vintage Alan Green pink dress above) before I attempted the other one.

Yesterday, as I was without internet all day, I decided to alter the pink dress. I think I tried this dress on a few dozen times before I finally sewed my first stitch. Which resulted in removal of said stitches. And a few more try-ons and a few more pinnings and a few more stitches and a few more stitch removals, etc. It was a long process. Finally, after a final basting and fitting, I serged it.

The darts in the chest are kind of at a funky location now, but I don't think it's completely terrible. After it was completely sewn, I added a fisheye dart on each side of the back zipper to make it a little more fitted in the waist.

I like this dress. Even if I look completely flat-chested in it. It's not too far from the truth.

I'm hoping to work on dress #2 this weekend.

* * *

I want to thank you for your sweet, supportive, and encouraging comments about the election. I am terribly excited to start working for town council. Unfortunately I don't get to swear in until our first meeting, Tuesday, May 26th, so I have to wait.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

What a Day!

As you know, election day was yesterday. My children wore their campaign shirts to school (except Taylor); and Spenser, Sawyer and I wore our shirts to preschool and to run errands. It was a long day. The younger boys had a half-day of school, so as soon as they came home, we walked over to town hall so I could vote. I think it's important for children to see their parents vote.

And then we waited. The kids rode their bikes. I pulled a few weeds and found a fresh snakeskin snuggled around my lavender plants. And then we ate dinner. And waited. And went to Carter's band concert. And waited some more.

Shortly after 9:00 p.m., the phone rang. It was the election supervisor. When he confirmed he was talking to me, he said, "Congratulations. You are our newest council member." I was stunned, humbled, happy, excited, scared, freaking out.

I visited a few elderly neighbors to let them know and they hugged me. It was good.

* * * * * Now, here are a few random facts:

  • A teacher at school told Mason (6) that his campaign shirt was inappropriate for school. Joe called and talked to the principal and, well let's just say, that the principal loved the shirts and was not happy about the teacher's comment.

  • Shortly after hearing the news of my election, I thought, "I should call Mom-Mom." And then I remembered. And got a little teary-eyed. She would have been so happy for me.

  • This morning I took a victory lap around town in my campaign shirt. It was the best (and fastest) run I've had in awhile. I think it helped that it was only 45 degrees outside at 6:10 a.m.

  • My phone has not stopped ringing this morning. I started this post over three hours ago.

  • I placed second highest with votes. 130 people voted. I received 92 votes. Ninety-two. Humbling. The first received 95 votes, and is an incumbent. The third and final slot received 79.(Also an incumbent.)

  • As happy and excited as I am, I feel bad for the other three candidates. I can't help it. It's just who I am.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Things rarely go slowly in this house. Thursday I enjoyed a Mothers Day brunch with Spenser (and Sawyer) at preschool. Thursday evening we attended Taylor's spring band concert. Friday I cleaned the house. Or attempted to clean it. It's dirty already. Saturday we bought plants for our garden and Taylor mowed the yard for his first time. (His maiden voyage. It was Joe's happy day.) And Saturday night Joe took Taylor, Carter, and Jackson to see the Orioles whip the Yankees' butts.

Someone at Joe's work had four box seat tickets and a parking pass for Saturday night's game and no one wanted to drive down from Pennsylvania to go. He offered the tickets to Joe and Joe graciously accepted. The boys had never been to a major league game before. (The tickets retailed for $75 each.) They loved it. And the funny thing is, the people from PA who didn't want to drive to MD for the game probably are closer to Baltimore than we are.

Sunday was low-key. After church we went to my parents' house for lunch.

And we ate too much ... (Chocolate-chip-cookie-dough cupcakes made by my brother's fiancee.)

And these are the grocery totes I appliqued for my mother. They may look very familiar. I wasn't feeling very crafty on Saturday night and was thinking more about getting on the treadmill when I put the kids to bed. (We also bought our moms yellow rose bushes.)

Election day is tomorrow so I went on a quick 2-mile campaign run this morning before the boys left for school.

Joe and the children gave me a gift certificate for a local spa for a deep-tissue massage and manicure and a dozen rainbow roses for Mothers Day. Joe thought I could use some time alone after the election. (What is time alone?? I'm not familiar with this concept.)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The I-Can't-Believe-I'm-So-Stupid Skirt

There were a few quiet moments yesterday where I wasn't cleaning chicken poop or kid poop and Spenser and Sawyer were sitting at the dining room table putting together puzzles. It was at that time I got the brainiac idea to sew a quick skirt. (Insert laugh at the quick skirt part.)

I grabbed some vintage fabric (which I think was supposed to be this dress, but I didn't have enough fabric) and got to work. It was going to be another simple Simplicity 7229 skirt, but something went awry. I sewed up the side seams and then it came time to press for the waist casing, I couldn't tell which end was the waist and which was the hem. After turning the skirt up and down about eight times, I realized when I sewed the side seams, I had sewn the top to the bottom and the bottom to the top. Nice job, moron.

So I had to cut off the seams completely because I had serged them and there was no way on this earth I was going to pick out all those stitches, even if this was the last little bit of this vintage fabric.

And so there you have it. The I-Can't-Believe-I'm-So-Stupid Skirt.

(I added a pocket, too, because I wore this dress to church on Sunday and kept asking myself, "Lera, why don't you add more pockets to your clothes?" and "Why don't you sew more non-print clothing to embellish?")

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


I've had owls on the brain for a few days. I don't even know why. I think of owls as being more of an autumnal thing. Again, I don't know why except that owls and Halloween seem to go together. Maybe this cooler, wet, overcast weather has confused me into thinking it's fall and not spring.

I had to run a few errands yesterday during preschool and saw this plain, orange shirt on clearance. As soon as I saw it, I knew it needed an owl on the front. (If I could freezer-paper stencil, that would have been awesome.)

Jackson (the model with the Halloween finger that has been a prop in nearly every household prank lately) said the owl looks more like a tail-less cat in My Neighbor Totoro.

I've also been thinking about Mothers Day. I think I'm going to applique some pre-made canvas totes for my mother to use for shopping. While I was appliqueing the shirt, I decided to make some owl ones for my mother and myself while I had everything out.

I don't really know what else to give her. And I have no clue about my mother-in-law. Any creative suggestions?

Note: The Totoro-looking owl template is from here and the one perched on a branch is from here.

Friday, May 01, 2009


The "Meet the Candidates" forum is over. Thank goodness. It was a stressful night. It started promptly at 7 p.m. When I looked at my watch at 7:36, I couldn't believe only 36 minutes had passed. It felt like days. I could feel my knees shaking most of the night.

I wore this dress. With these shoes. A yellow pendant. And my favorite red, three-quarter-sleeve cashmere cardigan.

I haven't caught the re-broadcast yet. I'm not sure if I want to watch it. I don't want to re-live the agony.

Today is "Twin Day" at the boys' school. Our friend, Lorenzo, wanted to be twins with Jackson, so we turned it into "Triplet Day" instead. Lorenzo's shirt has an arrow pointing in each direction. Just like the campaign shirts, these were made from boys' under shirts and iron-on transfers.

* One of our chickies (Popcorn) has an injury. When I came down to check on them this morning, the rest of the flock was acting kind of strange and were all huddled away from the light. I saw one "resting" by the light. Upon closer inspection I noticed Popcorn had a piece of chicken wire stabbing her in the back of the neck. It was a bloody mess. Literally. She was stuck. Joe had to remove her. We had to separate her from her friends because they were pecking at the dried blood. Mason cried. It's his chickie. I think she'll need lots of TLC today. (We also put a glob of Neosporin on it and added animal antibiotic to her water.) I hope she makes it. For Mason's sake.

* Saturday night I have another 5K. Joe, my sister, and my brother's fiancee are running, too. As long as it doesn't rain too hard, I think it will be great. I'm looking forward to it now, which is a change, because I've been dreading it for months.

* Evening campaigning with the family is going well. As long as we bring water and snacks, they are happy. Meeting town members has been fun. It's a little strange when they already know me.