June 22, 2018

The Sad Side Of The Circle Of Life...

The Little Raccoon

If you read my daily posts with your kiddos, you may want to read this by yourself, first...

Each Morning, Handsome wakes up before I do. He makes a pot of coffee and lets the dogs outside. Yesterday, he noticed that Tag was particularly interested in something on our septic mound north of the house. He went over to see what had Tag's attention to find a young raccoon that had recently died. Tag was only sniffing it. and Handsome quickly ushered him (and Bella) back into the house.

When I came downstairs, he told me about it and said he'd dispose of the body when he went outside later. I've always had a soft spot for raccoons. To the extent that I had figurines and paintings of them in my earliest apartments. 

I put down my coffee and walked out to the mound alone to see for myself. I found the little raccoon lying on its stomach, as though it were sleeping. I knelt down next to it, and turned it over to see if I could tell what happened.

I could see it was a little female, and other than blood coming from her ear, I didn't notice anything else that would explain her passing. I went back to the house, feeling bad for her.

After drinking half of my coffee, I told Handsome that I wanted to bury the little raccoon myself. I grabbed a pair of gloves and a small carton, and headed outside. I picked a beautiful, fully-opened daisy from the garden, grabbed one of our shovels, and walked back to get her.

Once there, I lifted the little raccoon up, placed her on the towels I brought with me from the barn, and headed up to the edge of the woods on the west edge of our property. At the top of the hill was a beautiful patch of red clover, so I picked some of those, too, and walked with her into the woods.

Rest In Peace, Little Raccoon.

It took a while for me to find a spot that would be easy to dig, as we're on the "cuesta" side of the Niagara Escarpment where we live. What that means is we have very rocky soil, thanks to the glaciers. I found a nice spot along a little rock wall, and under some hickory trees. There I dug a hole to bury the raccoon.

First I lined the hole with the toweling, and then I laid her on top, placing the clover next to her. It looked like she'd simply gone to sleep. I tucked the toweling over her and gently covered her with dirt.
 
A Quiet Spot In The Woods
 
There were broken pavers in the rock wall, so I grabbed four pieces and placed them over her to make sure no predators dug her up again. I put the daisy I'd brought with me between them, and then I stood and cried. It seems the older I get, the more the passing of a life affects me. Whether its a human or an animal makes no difference. I stood there for the longest time, with tears running down my cheeks.
 
Handsome and I talked about this throughout the day, as we tried to understand what happened to her. He said he noticed marks on her hind quarters that I apparently missed. When I was examining her, I wanted to know if it was a little boy or girl, so I guess I didn't see that. I was also completely taken with her pretty face, and the fact that her paws looked like she was trying to protect herself. I never noticed her hind quarters.

She weighed about two pounds, and we decided that it was likely that a flying predator - an owl or hawk - tried to carry her off by her back end, and that she may have been too heavy for the bird to hold. She was probably dropped, which would explain how she ultimately died. This is the sad side of the Circle of Life.
 
I'm sure she has brothers and sisters. I'll think about them and hope they grow big and healthy. Some will say they're just raccoons. I know they're raccoons...sweet, funny, intelligent, rascally raccoons. I'm sorry that the little one I buried today won't be romping around and growing up with them. 
 
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June 21, 2018

Improving The Compass Barn...

Liljegren's Compass Barn
 
I was asked what a "compass barn" was yesterday. I thought I'd explain to you, too. When we purchased our farmhouse, there were three outbuildings on our five acre property. One is our large pole barn building (which we just completed paving); the wood shed (great for "Wednesday night beatings". I'm just kidding. Really.); and a machine shed (this building).

I found the metal compass in 2017, and Shelly spotted me on the tall ladder, so this acrophobic, but nimble sexagenarian could climb up and hang it. ("Don't look down. Don't look down.") Upon returning to terra firma, I christened our machine shed, The Compass Barn.

Inside Our Compass Barn

After the paving was finished in our larger building, we decided that we'd also improve the dirt floor in the Compass Barn. It was pretty unlevel and the sod was humped up in front of the barn doors, making it difficult to drive into the building.

I'm not ready to agree on reinforcing the walls of the barn. The light coming in between the boards is one of the things that makes me love it so. See the light shining on the floor. Yeah. That's what I'm talking about. However, I fully agreed that the floor could use a little upgrade.

Another View Inside Our Compass Barn

That square of concrete in the photo is a concrete pad that will act as a footing for a jackpost to support the hand-hewn beam that spans the building. The flooring is a material called "screening" over a sand base, and it's been wet and compacted.

My vantage point from these photos is through a doorway into a room that has a concrete floor. It housed a hog or two in its day, but it's completely cleaned out now. It has a loft above it, and I'm using the area below the loft as my potting shed.

There are also two windows in the "potting shed" area, and my plan is to take some old barn boards to make window boxes that I can hang under each window to fill with pretty flowers for the rest of the summer. I'd like to work on those while I can still enjoy them this summer. We'll see what I can find for boards around here. I find everything about this building charming!
 
Re-Grading The Drive
 
Last winter, the area out in front of the Compass Barn retained water, which froze the doors in place when it got really cold. We wanted to take care of that, as long as we were working over there.

The area is now regraded, and there will be gravel placed first, for drainage. Then, we'll have new black dirt trucked in to grade over the top. We're going to plant grass seed (and I'm hoping it will be mixed with clover) so we have a grass drive into the barn.
 
Our View Up The Hill In Front Of The Barn
 
The guys checked out the grade with a transit when they were all finished, and told us there's a 28" drop from the dirt fill up the hill, down to where I'm standing to take this picture. Add the gravel and dirt, and we don't think there will be any standing water from now on. It will run right down the hill past the barn, and it's going to look beautiful, too!

Tomorrow is a studio day. I'm working on setting up my first Primitive Gatherings "Twilight Garden" Summer Block of the Week. I want to get that done before Week Two arrives! I'm hoping to show you photos of it tomorrow. Gotta run!

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June 20, 2018

Mini Charm Pack Pincushions...

Brynwood Mini Charm Pincushions
 
I played in the studio for a little while yesterday. I made pincushions from Moda™ mini charm packs. In the interest of full disclosure, this is an idea that was shared with us by Lisa Bongean at our once-a-month Sit & Sew group at Primitive Gatherings. It was such a great idea, that you know I had to share it with you, too.

Lisa showed us the one she made - and gave us each a mini charm pack of one of her fabric lines, at our last get together. I knew I was going to make some of my own when I got home. Here they are (along with a little tutorial so you can make your own)!

Assembling Mini Charm Pincushions

If you sew or quilt, I know you have at least one mini charm pack. They're 2 1/2" squares representing a designer's full assortment of any given line. To make these pincushions, you cut 3/4" strips from each piece. Of course, this means you'll still have 1 3/4" left to make more!!

For my first one, I cut a 3/4" strip off every single square in the assortment. Then, using a 1/4" seam, I joined them all together by color from light to dark (or dark to light). Once they're all joined, give them a press with a steam iron and trim to square them up, if needed.

Adding Twill Tape To Mini Charm Pincushion

The newer twill tapes that Moda™ uses to tie their jelly rolls have a design that looks like measuring tape, but mine are still binding my unused jelly rolls. I do have some that I've saved from the rolls I've already used, so I pulled them out for this project.

Center the twill tape along the length of your joined fabrics, and sew along each side of the tape. Once the twill tape is sewn to the fabrics, choose a nice backing fabric for your pincushion. Sew them front to back, right sides together, but leave at least 1" of one end open to add your filling of crushed walnut shells. 

Turn right-side-out and press, including the area you'll eventually sew shut. Fill with crushed walnut shells and hand sew the opening closed.
 
Finished Mini Charm Pincushion

It's that simple! If you use the entire assortment in your mini charm pack, your finished pincushion with be looooong! There were three prints in each color for this one. So, I decided to play a little longer.
 
Little Version of Mini Charm Pincushion

The next one I made was only one of each color (with the exception of the gold one on the left end). It's a mini mini charm pack pincushion! (Of course, you could make it "mini-er" by using fewer colors.)

Three Sizes of Mini Charm Pincushions
 
In no time at all, I'd made three different lengths. The longest one used three of each colorway, creating a pincushion that was just over 14" long. The middle one used two of each colorway and ended up about 10" long, and the last one with one of each colorway was about 5" long. I still have enough 3/4" pieces of some of the squares to make one or more, depending on how many colors I use.
 
Added bonus? Well, I'm so glad you asked! Because each strip of fabric sews up to 1/4" long, you can actually use your pincushion as a pretty close estimation of a ruler! Four strips equals 1". Cool, right? 
 
Well, what are you waiting for? Grab your mini charm packs and get sewing! If you make your own, please take a picture and post it on my "Brynwood Needleworks" Facebook page. (Just ask to join if you're not already in the group.) I'd love to see what you make!
 
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June 19, 2018

Tuesdays With Tag - Paving The Barn...

Scopin' Out The Big Barn
 
Hi, Everybody!

Boy, did we have a busy weekend! I spent the weekend supervisin' Mom and Dad while they cleaned out part of the barn. Right now, it's only partially paved with concrete, and Dad decided he needs a full concrete floor (with goods reason).

Corgi Approved

Dad and Mom toiled for over four hours movin' stuff, so the workmen could start work yesterday mornin'. By the end of their work day, I declared the place "clean".
 
Ready For Concrete

The guys got here early yesterday mornin', and they spent their work day levelin' and bracin' the floor. It's ready and waitin' for cement that will be here before lunch today.

When it's all dry, Dad plans to build a drum room in part of the barn. That way, he won't have to carry his drums in and out of the house. It will be lots easier to load and unload his truck when he has rehearsals or gigs. Cool, huh?

Cleaned Compass Barn Floor
 
The Compass Barn still had packin' materials from last year. Mom and her nephew, Ethan had stacked, tied and recycled a bunch of it already, but when it started to get cold last year, Mom figured that there'd be little mousies nestin', and she didn't want to kick them out in the cold. She especially didn't want them tryin' to move into the farmhouse (which they didn't). 
 
Anyway, Mom and Dad wanted to add another job for our pavin' guys, so they agreed to level and gravel that floor, too. That meant that the rest of the packin' stuff had to go...in 92º weather. Did I tell you it was rainin' earlier in the day? It was steamy, too. Woof!
 
So, anyway, it's all cleaned now...and only one, little mouse got relocated. I didn't actually see it, but I came in after it skeedaddled and I smelled it! I tracked all over the perimeter to the barn door. I knew it had been there! After everythin' was cleared out, I gave it a final, good goin' over, and declared it "ready to pave".
 
Incoming Storm
 
Our workmen (and Mom and Dad) got it all prepped just in time. Mom took this picture of the skies to the north of our house. We lease part of our property to our nice, farmer neighbor to the north. (Actually, I'm quite intimate with these fields...See HERE.) Isn't his corn lookin' good? Pretty soon, I'll get lost snufflin' around in there!

As soon as the guys drove out of the yard, it started to rain again. As much as I like hangin' around outside, gettin' rained on isn't my idea of good times. We retired to the house to enjoy the rest of our day indoors. Worked for Bella and me!

The guys will be back tomorrow with their cement truck. I'll be supervisin' from the covered comfort of our big porch. (Mom's afraid I'll try to leave my pawprints in the wet cement. Wouldn't that be awesome!!??)
 
I'll see you again in seven. 'til then...  
"Chase A Dream - Or A Squirrel".
 

June 18, 2018

It's Home...

Our Farmhouse Butcher Block

When we purchased our "new" 100 year old butcher block the end of last month, I wrote about it HERE.  We made arrangements with the shop to have it delivered the next time they were in our area. Friday was the day!!

Two strong, young men, Dan and Cowboy (the tall one) carried it into the house, which we never could have accomplished on our own. But with their strong, young muscles, in no time at all, it was in our kitchen.

Our Farmhouse Butcher Block

When we do our kitchen installation, this will be the centerpiece of our layout. For now, it's situated in our work area near our gas range.

It can't be used yet, as it spent a considerable time in a woodworker's shop space prior to coming to us. That means it's not food prep ready. We'll start with a nice sanding, and then follow the instructions we found on the Internet to complete cleaning.

We've already given it a good scrubbing (Dawn dish soap, water and scrubbies), but we'll repeat that process again. Following that, we'll spray it with a vinegar/water mixture, and then rub it with a lemon juice/salt paste, allowing it to dry between each step.

Once that's done, and all cleaned off, we'll seal the refurbished surface with food-grade mineral oil. Then, we'll be able to use it for food prep in our kitchen. We'll do that this week, as I'm so anxious to be able to put it to work.

Our Farmhouse Kitchen

We changed things up in the kitchen a bit, andt it's actually more functional this way. My plan is to paint the oak china cabinet that's next to our fridge. I'm not set on the color yet, but I'll tackle that in a few weeks.

Kitchen Toward Windows
 
As the sun set behind our hillside on Friday, the last rays of sunshine settled on our beautiful butcher block. The other (blue) piece that I had in our kitchen will now be sold for someone else to love. Right now, the butcher block commands my attention every time I walk through or into the room. I can't help but smile. Lucky farmhouse. Lucky, lucky me.
 
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June 16, 2018

Primitive Gatherings Summer Blocks Of The Week...

Primitive Gatherings "Twilight Garden" Block 1

Don't chastise me, please. Going to those monthly Sit & Sews at Primitive Gatherings is to blame for this. I saw a number of Lisa's blocks for this quilt at the last get together and couldn't resist participating. I purchased the summer-long set; the thread kit; the pre-cut, pre-fused 1/4" circles (there are 1500!!! of them in this quilt); and the supplies kit.

My first kit, along with the ground fabric for all 18 blocks, arrived on Wednesday. There were three choices for ground fabric color (red, navy and gray), and all the motifs are kitted with the same color wools. I chose the gray to fit in with the farmhouse colors - and a happy medium when Labrador and Corgi hair sticks to it. sigh

Lisa suggested that, even if I don't have time to stitch each one as they arrive, it's a good idea to at least set them up (fuse, cut, and place) until I do have time to sit down. I'm definitely going to do that.

Primitive Gatherings "Summer Freebie" Block of the Week - Block 1
 
There is also a summer-long free block of the week. If you stop into the shop and make a $25 purchase, you get the kit free. Otherwise it's $5 a week for the pattern and fabrics. However, if you signed up for the Twilight Garden Summer Block of the Week, the free kit is included with every weekly installment of the larger quilt.
 
I've committed to keeping up to date with the little block of the week. Each finished one is approximately 3" x 5". This one arrived Wednesday, and I finished stitching it yesterday. One down...
 
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June 15, 2018

A Little Studio Fun...

Sewing Box

I just got this cool sewing box that needed a little TLC and updating...and a couple of new screws. I'm going to take a trip to the hardware store today for those screws, but I started fitting out the inside yesterday.

The box is in really great shape, so I have to decide whether or not I'm going to adhere fabric to the inside, or just place fabric in the bottom of each compartment. What would you do?

Silk Roses Pincushion
 
I knew I wanted a small pincushion inside, so I took an embroidery that I had doodled a while ago, and sewed a green wool back to it. Finished and filled with crushed walnut shells, it measures a sweet 3.5" x 2.5". It now fits perfectly into the small box that my friend, Gisselle made for me.
 
I'll keep working on this over the next few weeks because I'd like to take it with me to Kentucky for my week of stitching. Let me know if you have any good ideas for fitting it out. I'll share more photos as I progress.

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June 14, 2018

This Is What's Next...

Acorn Pincushion Kit

I'm going to attempt this stumpwork kit before I head to Kentucky next month. I want to have a little working knowledge so I'm not completely (only partially) clueless for my week long class. Loving pincushions as I do, it seems appropriate that I should have (another) one with an acorn motif.

Acorn Pincushion Supplies
 
I'll also be working on setting up the borders for my Wooly Critters quilt. I need to choose the wool colors, and trace all the motifs for the final border. I'll set it all up first, and then stitch when I have time. 
 
I may as well keep working on applique', as I've toughened up my finger tips again. Believe me, it's a painful process! Now that they're calloused, it'll be easier to keep stitching. I'll pull wool colors today, and plan to stitch on the acorns in the evening.

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June 13, 2018

"Flax Farm" Renamed...

"Flax Farm" Table Mat Renamed "Hickory Hill Farm" Table Mat

It's Finished!!

If you haven't seen this in process, the pattern is called "Flax Farm" from Primitive Gatherings. I modified about a third of the design, adding our Compass Barn, our dogs, and bluebirds. The backing fabric, a striped flannel, came in the pattern kit, and I really like it.

Table Mat Completed
 
I'm tickled with the way it turned out (Handsome likes it, too!), and now that it has my modifications, I've decided to go ahead and change the name to "Hickory Hill Farm".
 
It now occupies a place of honor on our dining room table. The perfect place, where I can see it every day...and smile. On to my next project...
 
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June 12, 2018

Tuesdays With Tag - Another Reason To Hang Out In The Yard...

Fireside Dog
 
Hi, Everybody!
 
Yup. I'm comin' to you this week from our backyard...at night!
 We have a new addition to our yard. Dad surprised Mom with a brand new firepit!
 
Our Farmhouse Firepit

Bella and I watched as Mom and Dad put it together, and then we all helped move it to the upper yard. We're gonna have a concrete pad poured for it, but for now, it's sittin' on the concrete we have for our burn barrel.

Dad brought down wood from our shed, and before dark, we had a roarin' fire goin'. It was so nice. We all sat around, lookin' at the Milky Way and fireflies. Mom made s'mores, but she wouldn't share. Dogs can't have chocolate, you know.
 
Night Shift Guard Dog
 
Since that first night, Mom and Dad have even made dinner on the swing-out grill. They didn't share that either, but it smelled tasty! 
 
I think one of these days, they should share with us, too. It's okay though. For now, we're happy just lyin' around, listenin' to the night noises (like the bird that goes "EEEK!"), and sniffin' damp grass by a warm fire. Not too close, though. We don't wanna get burned. It would give a whole new meanin' to "Handsome, Can you put the dog out?" hee hee

I'll see you again in seven. 'til then...  
"Chase A Dream - Or A Squirrel".
 
 

June 11, 2018

A Wonderful Surprise...

Milwaukee Symphony Performs the Score to West Side Story

I've only a little bit of my embroidery project (Flax Farm) to finish, and had planned to do it yesterday. My plans changed when Handsome told me he had a surprise. Instead of stitching, we got in the car and headed to Milwaukee to see the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for an afternoon of music.

MSO Program

The Symphony was performing the music score to West Side Story, while the actual movie played on the screen above them.
 
William Eddins' Biography
 
Guest Conductor William Eddins led the MSO in a stirring performance, moving me to tears more than once. Leonard Bernstein's score is timeless, as is the reinterpreted version of Romeo and Juliet. 

Handsome and I left the Performing Arts Center, as we have done so many times in years past, and headed to our favorite after-symphony restaurant (Mama Mia's on Greenfield Avenue in West Allis, WI). We enjoyed manicotti and their signature garlic fry bread before driving back to the farm. 

I'll finish my piece today. Yesterday was dedicated to music with my beloved. Oh, and we decided we'll get season tickets again. We realized how much we've missed our Symphony dates. It's good to be flexible.

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