Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve, An Autumn Hike

It's been awhile since we've taken a hike at The Nature Conservancy's Big Darby Headwaters Nature Preserve but it's one of our favorite places of all time so we will have to increase our visitation! We actually refrain from making comparisons about natural areas because the wonder and complexity of nature makes each place infinitely unique. Our last hike was on an exquisite summer day awash with sun and butterflies. Today, with cool temps, a heavy sky and sparse flowers and foliage, things like animal signs and natural patterns made themselves prominent.

 We find joy and fascination in:

...an agricultural field transitioning to forest...

 ...the vacated home of a ground-nesting songbird...

...fresh (and we mean FRESH) White-Tailed Deer scat...

...a plant in a location that proves high is not always dry...

...Goldenrod, friend to many-a-butterfly...

...wonderfully beautiful seed dispersal...

Dogbane: check this out!

Now, into the woods!

Mixed media: Cedar Waxwing feather on Oak leaves:

Yep, White-Tailed Deer are excited that Autumn is here!

Jennifer is partial to Shagbark Hickory and notes that Brown Creepers (songbird) build nests under loose bark like this. Amazing...

Trees are more than lumber.

Osage-Orange fence posts being integrated into the forest. Kind of reminds us of the stone sculptures of Easter Island.

Deer hair-leaf mosaic:

We think that the American Robin invented wattle and daub home construction:

We took only photographs and left only footprints as we exited along the Coyote's path...

...enjoying the serenity of a sunset over our favorite mixed media.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Putting in an interior doorway: Part 2

You may remember from Putting in an interior doorway: Part 1 that we had opened up a hole in the wall and cleaned up the plaster mess and then took a break. We quickly tired of slipping through the opening sideways due to the stud still in place so...back to work it was.

Since this is a load-bearing wall we had to build a header to span the new opening and jack studs to hold the header up. Here you can see the header and, on either side, jack studs.

Here is the opening with the mid-way stud removed and header/jack studs in place. Now for trim.

I decided to use 2 by 6's for the jack studs because that gave us the exact width to span the wall thickness and therefore eliminate the need for trim on the top and sides of the opening. We just needed a   threshold and face trim. For the threshold I used a 1 inch thick native oak board, cut it to length, beveled each of the long sides and then cleaned it up a bit with a belt sander. Here's the result (it covered up a lot of ugly):

For face trim, Jennifer told me to get artistic and reminded me that we had stockpiled some salvaged rough-cut native hardwood boards with bark edges. Below you can see one of those boards being sized-up on the left side of the opening.

A lot more sizing, cutting, fitting, belt-sanding and I'd finished one side. Here's the threshold with the base of the face trim:

And here's the whole darn thing - these wide planks covered up a whole lot of ugly quick (we will see if Jennifer likes it when she gets home from work!):

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Lavender Salve

Sweet almond, jojoba and coconut oil; mango and cocoa butter; beeswax; lavender and lavandin essential oils....these are the ingredients for our favorite salve!  I am in the process of preparing some of our homemade hand salve for sale.  The containers are ready...the tins will be available after I design the label and determine pricing.  Just in time for winter dry skin season too!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Putting in an interior doorway: Part 1

Our house is over 100 years old and there was an addition made in the 50s or so (we guess) that added a kitchen, bath, bedroom, etc.  This section of the house is on the back and is accessible via the kitchen.  Since we put our woodstove in the living room (on the front of the house), we've talked about adding a doorway so the heat can flow into the back as well.  The appropriate wall is a load bearing wall so it's essential we do this correctly.   (Good thing for Steve!)

Steve started the ciphering early this week by drilling a bunch of holes to determine our stud placement. The age of our house makes many of these standard measurements, non standard (and electronic stud finders don't work on plaster walls). Who knew such long drill bits even existed?  Just one of the many gifts left from the prior owners.

(Some of the pictures aren't so hot...the camera doesn't like dark interiors, but you will still get the idea.)

Next Steve measured and drew a line marking where to cut our opening.

He was ready to go!

He cut the outline of the door first while I used the shop vacuum to suck up dust, etc.

The chipping out of the plaster was easy, but messy.

Insulation!  We didn't foresee this.  It was an exterior wall, but the opposite side is dry walled (with plaster on top).  hmm.  Lots of mysteries in this house.

The insulation made the air dirty no matter how much I vacuumed, but we kept at it.

Look at those native boards!  Steve thinks we might have horsehair plaster too.  Interesting history.

Here's the door way cut from one side.  Since it's a load bearing wall, the 2x4s come out last.

Here's one view with the door cut.

And looking the other way.  It's great!  Already the heat is dispersing marvelously.  Next we support the  ceilings, remove the middle 2x4 and put in a new 2x6 header to span the opening.

Friday, November 2, 2012

What to do with an old box (for kiddos)!

This summer my co-workers and I (Jennifer) taught about soil and the soil food web as part of our summer program series for kiddos.  I focused on soil herbivores and omnivores and wrote a little puppet show highlighting these cool creatures, but alas - no puppets existed for soil herbivores other than a snail.  Imagine that!  Knowing we had many miscellaneous craft supplies stored away at work and I had a nice big box from our new dual flush toilet, I made a set for the soil creatures and drew/colored 2 dimensional soil herbivores and omnivores.  Check it out...

This is such an easy project to make at home and is a great learning tool!  I laminated the soil creatures for resilience during many programs, but it is not necessary for home use.  Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of the back but that is the control station for the puppets.  I cut a slit in the box behind each creature that needed to move and attached with duct tape a perpendicular piece of cardboard to the creature.  I then pushed that piece of cardboard through the slit (from the front) and voila - a handle to move the animal when operated by a young hand! I made the slits large enough so the creatures moved with ease up and down and back and forward.

I added some other creatures for fun and so loved seeing kiddos make up their own story with the creatures after mine.  Yay for creative learning!

The soil creatures highlighted are: millipede, springtail, snail, fungus, bacteria, carrion beetle, earthworm and pillbug.

Other creatures included for fun are: bat, downy woodpeckers, salamander and monarch.

I would love to see anyone else's creation should you make something like this!