Monday, June 29, 2009

El Dorado County Fair

In our pursuit of shetland sheep to eat all our blackberries away - we ventured to the El Dorado County Fair the other weekend. We made a bee line for the agricultural section and checked out all the cute sheep, goats, chickens, pigs, rabbits, emus and cows. They are all presented by 4-H kids and its great to see how well the produce these animals and how proud they are of them. Its sad to watch them all be auctioned off, though, I don't know how they do that part. They seem like great kids though, very cool.

After that we headed over to the textile section to meet up with a lady whom I had contacted to find out more about raising sheep. She is a dynamo, I would put her at 80 something and she has a herd of 34 sheep and cares for them as well as spins their wool and teaches. At the fair she was doing a sheep to shawl presentation where they sheer the sheep in the morning and then wash, dye, spin and weave a shawl, all in the space of 4 hours. It was amazing to watch.

Anyway, we went with the intention of EVENTUALLY getting a few sheep to eat down the land, this lady had us all planned out with our heard stock, our breeding plan as well as sheering, spinning and weaving lessons. Phew - not sure I am of  the age to start sitting behind a spinning wheel....makes for quite a Friday night!! So we will see what we end up with, we are off to her farm, Spinweb, next week and will scope out the kind of setup she has and how much work these guys take.

The rest of the fair was pretty cool, there was dancing and petting of animals and puppies and blacksmithing and art and photography. I don't think I had been

to a county fair before, it was quite fun and entertaining.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Newest Addition to the Family

Well, we (Jo) did it again, another addition to the family. At the moment he is unnamed though my mom loves the name Ryder...we will see if it sticks, my vote is for Basil. So Noname, as we will call him for now was found in Georgia along with his brother Wiley who is now part of Amy Daum's family, and is a suspected result of a house foreclosure. They seemed to have been kicked out and have been living on the street for about 2 months before strolling onto the Chattahoochee Hills property where Rich Temple picked them up and relocated them to Virginia.

So far he seems to have a fabulous temperament and though painfully skinny, settling in well with Puzzle and learning the ropes quickly. I think he will be the perfect addition to the East Coast portion of our family and we are excited for the day when he makes his move West with Jo and Miss Puzzle and can meet his West coast family (who run free and naked all day long, little hooligans).

So welcome little Noname, we are thrilled to have you and your crazy long tail!!

Update to post - 8-5-2009 - His name is Grady.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Growing Surprises

Buying a property that has been "developed" before rather than raw land is turning out to be an adventure.  In some respects its sad because we are finding all the trash that they dumped and buried around the property but in other ways its exciting because trees, bushes and plants have been placed and we are constantly surprised each day as to what is growing around the farm.

Kyle found Mint on the way to the cottage (aka - falling down hay barn) and I found Lemon Balm by the front porch. We also have pear and apple trees that are growing lots of fruit and need I mention the nightmare invasion of the blackberries!!! We also have 2 trees by the front walkway to the house, in our ignorance we though they were lime trees - now we think they might be Avocado Trees - WOOOHOOOO! And much to Kyle's excitement we found a grape vine in great health on the side of the house. Its now his baby and he pets and talks to it daily, he talks to it more than he talks to me...

Here are some plants that I planted and haven't killed yet (I still don't know what I am doing RIGHT with these and WRONG with the others).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Last year at the beginning of June we ventured up to Oregon one weekend and picked up our newly acquired little caravan. It is a burro and is 17' long. We christened him GIMLEY as he is tough, short and keeps on trucking. He is fabulous and though we haven't been able to use him as much as we would like, he is fantastic to have, our little home away from home.

Here is a shot of Gimley inside - HAHAHA - just kidding. Not quite so grand.

Our first trip with Gimley was to the Eastern Sierra's the very week Ziggy arrived, so Ziggy has a little connection with Gimley, it was his first home. Since then Gimley has come in very handy for somewhere to live when we first bought the property as the house was not habitable. He was warm and cozy and a god send, really. Its nice to have something we can travel with the dogs in, it makes road trips really fun. Not to mention inexpensive.

Gimley's next trip is to see Super Diamond in July - can't wait to rock it out in Gimley!!

That Camper Tub - where did it go?

So, I wrote a while ago about stripping down the old camper that was left on the property and converting it into a flat bed trailer for our tractor. That is still in the works but while pulling apart the camper we recycled just about every part of it. The glass in the windows was extracted from their frames and recycled and all the aluminum is off to the metal recycler. Some parts, the carpet, was not able to be recycled but the appliances were taken and stripped down and we kept the sink and tub.

 And this is what the tub looked like above and this is the new tub repurposed below.

I would definitely do things a little differently, I had a better idea for the siding but got to the Depot and got swept away with this cool, industrial looking siding and the stupid tub was all funky sized on each side so it took some wiggling to make things fit but hey, I got a free, nice looking planter. Unfortunately the Butterfly bush I planted in it, itsn't thrilled with its new home, I am hoping it settles and starts to like it, we will see. My green thrumb is more a yellowy, beige at the moment, I am working on it and learing along the way!!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Amazing Resort in CT

Connecticut probably isn't on the top of everyone's "must sees" vacation list BUT this place is unbelievable. It is a resort that is comprised of 19 cottages each with its own theme in impeccable taste.

Check out Winvan in Litchfield Hills, CT.There is a Helicopter Cottage (yes, with a real helicopter that you sleep in inside it), a TreeHouse, a Cave, a Stable, A golf cottage, a Forest many, so beautifully done.

So if you are interested in heading up to see some foliage this fall, check out this place, its fabulous and looks like it is well worth the trip. Also gives you some great ideas for your own home, some neat hardware and fun decorating ideas to change it up.

For those who have to pick up and dispose of in public

oli-logoCheck out Olive, they provide green doggy options, in particular doggy poop bags that biodegrade in 40 days!!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


Not that type of Grass...the green, lawn type. My whole life I have adored grass as a horse rider, always loving those green, lush fields to gallop across. The smell of cut grass, the waves of the blades in the wind, the contrast of the vivid color against a blue sky....oh how poetic.

I hate the stuff now. Of course things have really changed. I live in the west now and I see how much human management of a lawn is required, how much intense watering and fertilizing necessary to keep that lush green fluffy stuff in front of your house. A total waste of resources and time. If you want grass, move to Maryland.

We have a lot of grass on the farm, I can't wait to get rid of it. Especially around the house. It doesn't help that its not pretty grass and is turning yellow but the fox tails are out of control. They are everywhere and attach themselves to the dogs every chance they get. We finally clipped Denali the other day only to find some fox tails had worked their way under his skin. We extracted them but now he is easier to check him. They also get dragged into the house and since we had this wonderful inside/outside carpet (which we thought was a brilliant idea, cheap, well wearing, warmer in the winter) the fox tails attach themselves to it and work their way into the pile and require individual, hand extraction during vacuuming, gotta love that!!

It is taking about 2 days to mow and weed wack the property so we are hoping that by planting some crops and ridding the grass around the house and Xeriscaping we can take back control and make our property less water reliant and only irrigate where needed for the crops and hopefully the majority of that resource will be derived from rainwater catchment and greywater reuse.

So how to persuade others that live in drought ridden areas that they don't need green lawns - its amazing how prevalent they are out here.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Soil Testing

Wow, I have been absent for a while. A quick trip back to the East Coast and all gets out of whack. it was a whirlwind, working up in Baltimore and then fitting in a some time with my mom and Miss Puzzle and seeing some great friends too. And a huge thanks to Katie W. for puppy sitting - and putting up with their antics while both Kyle and I were gone. Apparently they forced her to feed them cookies non-stop, made her sleep on the coach with them with Ziggy on her chest.....apparently they are quite persuasive.

The other weekend my other great Geologist friend, Jess, came up and we did some soil sampling at the farm. We took two samples from two different spots on the farm to have analyzed to determine what we need to do to prep the soil for growing. We went to the middle of each of the areas to be tested and dug down 6-8 inches and filled our little bags. We recorded the GPS coordinates of the sampling spots and labeled the bags accordingly and then sent them off the to lab.

Sunland Labs in Rancho Cordova

The results are IN!!!

The one area where there has been years of steady drainage from our overflowing spring (we need to capture that water and store it  now for irrigation) is perfect growing soil. It has the right Ph balance for blueberries and is perfectly primed and ready to plant. The other is area is drier and more clay based, it will need some sulfur and compost tilled into it but at least we know and can start prepping that area so in a year or so when we want to expand it will be ready.

We are still researching the blueberry farm possibilities for our land. I think our next move it to take a trip to Oregon to Fall Creek Nursery and have a chat with their experts for some guidance. And to contact the North American Blueberry Council to find out more about the market, wholesalers and organic requirements.

Anyway, its getting exciting and, though we never bought the land intending to really do anything with it, now we are finding ways to make it pay for itself and be productive, its very exciting. I can see why this farming thing is addictive. Something so satisfying to having the land be so productive.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Recycled Shipping Container Harbinger House

This house was created out of 5 shipping containers, its eco-friendly, affordable and very cute and better yet was erected in less than 5 hours.....more details and pics HERE.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Restoring Bathtubs

As we remodeled Kyle's little cabin bathroom in Sonora last weekend, we took out the old cast iron tub and replaced with a new streamline shower that fits a lot better in the smallish bathroom. It was sad to see the great ole cast iron baby outta there but I have an idea.....of course.

I want to try to refurbish it and use it in our spare bathroom or the cottage at the new house. Its a fabulous old tub with the claw and ball feet and it was made in 1913, how great is that. My idea is a refinish it, maybe in just pure white inside and out and black feet. Then have a cooper rail for the shower curtain and other copper details throughout. I am excited to have a go at re-doing this tub and bringing it back to all its glory. If that doesn't work I will just leave it on the front lawn and plant some half dead flowers in it...JUST KIDDING!!!

There are many DIY refurbishing directions on-line, I trust THIS OLD HOUSE and Kevin O'Connor (even if I am insanely jealous because he has my dream job, he actually gets to hang with my hero Norm), so might follow their direction. I am sure it will be messy and of course I battle with all the chemicals that I will probably be required to use, but would this be a smaller impact than just buying a new one, not like I can easily recycle this tub, it has immense value to me in its age, history and the satisfaction to me to have re-used this in our new home. And new clawfoot tubs go for over $1,700....of course everything I read recommends you do not do it yourself, really hard to get a smooth coat....$350-$500 to have it professionally done, it might be worth it. I have to recognize that there are some things I don't have in my hokey, little DIY repetoire.

Where do you guys draw the line at DIY????

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Stealing a Post

This will be Ziggy's new bed (of course he will still sleep on our bed) but how awesome is this.....

Ziggy's New Bed

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What NOT to do

Living in an old trailer is actually becoming a blessing in disguise - it is showing us VERY quickly what NOT to to and have in our new house. From sockets and light fixtures being in the wrong spot to poor insulation and horrible windows, it is the fastest way to identify key things not to repeat in the new house.

In the kitchen we have this pantry cupboard, which sounds fantastic as its a big, deep cupboard that can hold a ton of stuff. But you can't find ANYTHING!! Its dark, too deep and we lose stuff in its depth which makes my whole plan to eat everything in the cupboard before we go shopping again, really hard. So as you can imagine when I saw this picture I fell in love!!

Other things is the lack of light switches, they are ALL in the wrong spots.

We put down cheap indoor/outdoor carpeting, thank you Beaulieu Carpet of America and Mr. Carl Bouckaert - you can't beat 42 cents/sq ft when you just need something on the floor for a year. BUT - with all the fox tails that are coming in on the dogs, they get ingrained into the carpet and won't vacuum out so I have to go on my hands and knees and pull them out individually.

The biggest thing I am looking forward to in the new house is having wide hallways and doorways. At the moment we have to dress in 3 different rooms, hanging stuff is in the bedroom, the dresser in the spare bedroom and the armoir is in the dining room, most of the furniture can't make is down the hallway and around the corner into our bedroom. It will be nice to dress in one room, I can't wait.

Of course things will never be perfect, that is the lovely thing about life, constantly improving and evolving but it sure is nice to be aware in advance of things that you wan't to avoid because they have become HUGE pet peeves!!!