Freebie Doggie Toybox

Today’s post is another DIY container, but this time instead of holding flowers it’s purpose is to corral the numerous dog toys that are always around our yard.  It started with this free crate I picked up at a work event.  The vendor said they had a huge stash of them and wanted to eliminate some so I could keep it.

I first thought about putting cedar boards around it but I couldn’t find a quick and easy way to keep them attached so I moved on to a free covering option I already had in my fabric stash – burlap.  I dug out a large scrap piece left over from previous projects and cut did a quick dry ‘test’ fit.  Then I trimmed it down and grabbed some twine to secure it to the crate.  I pulled apart some of the fibers and threaded the twine through so I could tie it.

The cats decided now was a good time to ‘help’ even though this project wasn’t for them.  Apparently burlap is a good spot for a kitty nap…

I conferred with the Hubs about the best way to wrap the box and secure the liner inside.  He made a few suggestions and then just told me to hand it over so he could work on it while he watched a movie and I edited client images.  Knowing his vast knowledge of knot tying and securing loads from almost 20 years in the Coast Guard I happily accepted the offer.  About an hour later he presented me with this.

He wove the twine through the top edge of the fabric and the holes on the crate pulling it taunt as he went so everything stayed smooth on the outside.  This will keep the fabric from pulling up every time the dogs pull out a toy.

Meanwhile, Stella was still hard at work on that nap…

I took a break from editing photos and placed the box in the backyard.  I was able to fit the toys we had in two smaller baskets into this one container so I went with the spot next to the firewood storage where it’s more out of sight and helps cover the electrical conduit.

It sits under the eave of the house so it’s mostly protected from rain, but because we didn’t cover the bottom any water that does get in it will be able to drain out easily.

Seeing it in place, I’m glad I went with the burlap instead of the cedar.  It blends in more, even when it’s filled with the dog’s brightly colored toys.  I showed the dogs where their new toys and they didn’t waste any time rooting through the pile to find their favorites and head off into the yard with them.  Now if only I could train them to pick up the toys and put them back in the box!

It’s a pretty nice upgrade for spending nada and it keeps the yard a little cleaner. 🙂

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Catching Up

My lady slipper orchids are blooming in the rain garden!

It’s been a while since my last post because we’ve been pretty darn busy around here the past several weeks.  So here’s a quick run-down of what’s been going on.

The yard is in bloom finally, after a long wet spring.

At the beginning of the year I moved into a new position at work, which requires learning several new software platforms and skills.  It took a while for my old position to be filled so for a while I was basically doing both jobs.  The gal who filled my previous position has been with the company for a few years and worked in our department, but she too had a lot of learning to do in her new role.  When she needed to be out for a bit due to emergency surgery over the spring, I had to help out by stepping back into that role while also continuing to do my new job.  It was a bit chaotic and didn’t leave much time or energy for other things.  Luckily it was only for a few weeks and now she’s recovered and back without restriction so we can both settle into our usual duties.

The new pillows we picked up on our trip look great around the fire pit!

We took a quick trip to visit my Mother-In-Law in Portland, where we did some shopping for the house, attended a beekeeping class (something we’re planning to try next year) and I organized a styled photo shoot.  The Hubs and I also took care of a couple small projects around Mom’s house while we were there.  Since we still had snow on the ground when we left and returned to a snow storm – it was a nice break to enjoy some spring weather and blooms!

The new chicks have traded fluff for feathers and recently moved out to the big yard with the older chickens.  It seems like everyone is adjusting well.

When we returned from our trip we added to our chicken flock with two batches of baby chicks!  These little fluff balls have been living in the garage in a large brooder we made from a stock tank planter I had.  In addition to multiple feedings a day we worked hard to make sure they were handled often as well so they will be friendly when they are adults.  To make room for them outside, the Hubs made a massive addition to the coop, doubling their indoor space and tripling the number of nest boxes.  We’re still putting the finishing touches on that project but I’ll share it soon.

Still buried in snow, this is how the green house looked when we got back from our trip.

I spent many hours getting the green house cleared out and prepped for the season after our trip.  I attended the annual VIP plant sale at my favorite nursery toward the end of April, but the blooms had to hide out in the green house for a few more weeks before it was safe for them to be outside.  While I waited on the weather, the edible crops were all started in the green house and the Hubs revamped the hydroponic system for the tomatoes with bigger tubing so it’s more efficient.  Now everything is growing and we’re already enjoying some of the bounty from our lettuce, spinach and dill plants!

And here’s how it looked after the plant sale – at least until I could plant everything in the yard.
The yard is coming together – here’s a sneak peek at the updates the Hubs made to the egg table and another project I’ll share soon.

We did several projects around the yard as we prepared for the summer season.  I revamped a serving cart for the deck, upcycled an old milk can into a planter and created planters out of old conveyor belt scoops for the new chicken coop expansion.  The Hubs extended his egg table with a spot to store his new smoker and built me potato crates which will double our crop this year.  We sold the old patio furniture to make way for a new dining table and a set of loungers for the deck we installed last summer.  We also started installing a gazebo style covering over the hot tub on that deck.  We hope to have that completed soon – but need to arrange some extra helpers to get the roof on.  Out front, I styled the vintage cart on the front porch for spring and then for summer with patriotic colors.

The new table is a perfect fit for our deck and it expands if we have a big group over.
The firepit is cleaned out and ready for use.
The new lounge chairs (with a hiding kitty) and partially installed gazebo on the big deck.  I’ll be landscaping around this deck later this summer and plan to mirror the rock bed around the other deck.
I updated the wood storage for the fire pit with some cinder blocks that we took out when the Hubs expanded the chicken coop. It was an easy, and free upgrade that also hides the electrical conduit for the hot tub.
I white washed terra-cotta pots to decorate the whiskey barrel tables and filled them with marigolds to ward off the bugs. I also placed small tiki torches on each table as a backup.
I’ve had this thermometer since last summer and we finally found a spot for it right next to the door.

Inside, I changed up a few things, including curtains in all the bedrooms, the rugs in our master bath, swapping Brinley’s kennel for a new entry bench.  Last weekend we took advantage of the neighborhood traffic for a neighbor’s estate sale and had a yard sale to clear out some extra clutter that accumulated around the house over the winter.  We were mildly successful in that goal, but there’s still lots to purge, which is why I only picked up a few small décor items when I attended the spring Alaska Chicks Vintage Market.

I picked up these vintage bells at the market and think they pair well with my wreath on the front door.

Whew – seeing it all written out makes me realize just how much we crammed into a few weeks!  As my Mother-in-Law says “No grass grows under our feet!”  And now that summer is in full swing we’ve got a whole new round of projects and activities planned.  Stay tuned over the next few weeks to see the projects I mentioned plus others that are still in the works!  Hopefully I’ll be able to keep you updated more regularly now.  In the meantime I’ll leave you with more pictures of those silly chicks, who just moved out to the big yard.  🙂

Snack time at the feeder with the fluffy butt club.
We have several Novogens in this batch that will be great egg layers.
And there are a couple Dominiques for some variety.
My favorites are the Easter eggers who will lay greenish blue eggs and have fun little feather beards!
The dogs act as constant security for the cluckers.
They are quite used to us and often come running to meet us at the gate, or investigate our feet to see if they are edible. 🙂
Our flock is now up to 20 chickens so it’s a good thing the Hubs got that expansion completed!

Introducing Stella

Over the weekend our little family grew by four paws and a set of whiskers!  The Hubs and I had been talking about getting a kitten for a while and had looked at several online but nothing had lined up just right.  Then he spotted an ad online for someone rehoming kittens from an “opps” litter and one was an adorable grey tiger female.

We called and confirmed she was still available and made arrangements to see her later that day.  She purred while I held her, cuddled, was talkative and seemed interested in both me and the Hubs.  Just like our other fur babies it just felt right and she came home with us that evening.

Her previous home had several large dogs and other cats so we figured she would adapt well to our pack quickly.  For the dogs it was love at first sight.  Tequila follows her around just hoping she will play with her.  Brinley enjoys her sprints up and down the hallway and even a playful swat on the nose when she gets too close. Stoli has been a bit more reserved usual, letting Stella come to him as she pleases.  She’s got them all wrapped around her little paw.  In fact, she can walk right up to any of them and rub her face against them anytime she likes.

Luna on the other hand is not impressed with her new sibling, voicing her thoughts with several hisses and grows.   Stella has respected the message by keeping her distance.  She’s got plenty of interaction with the dogs and a whole new house of things to investigate instead, while Mom follows her around with a camera.  Luckily she quickly got used to that too.

Her previous home called her “Miss Thing” just as a way to distinguish her from her almost identical brother but we decided to rename her Stella.  It’s the perfect bridge between our alcoholic doggie names and the Latin roots of Luna’s name which means Moon.  Stella is Latin for Star, so the cats have celestial names, but it also can be short for the Belgin beer, Stella Artois which continues our alcohol theme on that side.

Since she’s arrived it’s been cuteness overload.  From the perfect kitty pose & stare to that adorable little tongue.

All that play and investigating makes for a tired kitty.  So little cat naps are frequent and just as adorable.

She likes to cuddle and has snuggled with both of us quite a bit, purring all the while.  While the Hubs was watching the Olypmics, she discovered the corner of the couch is the perfect spot size for her to curl up and still be close to Daddy while also providing a great view of the tv.

That is until she falls asleep. 🙂  I’m sure you’ll be seeing lots more of her in the coming weeks as she continues to establish her place in the pack.  We plan to keep her inside for a while and will introduce her to the yard when she’s a bit bigger and spring begins to arrive.  Then she’ll have a whole new territory to investigate – including meeting the chickens and learning to mouse so she can earn her keep with more than sweet snuggles and purrs.

Christmas Recap

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!  Here’s a recap of how our holiday went at the DB&DT house.  Christmas eve was Stoli’s 5th birthday so we celebrated by giving the dogs their plaid ‘bling’ from Scotland which included bandanas for the girls and a fancy bow tie collar for Stoli.  They looked pretty snazzy as we delivered Christmas gifts to a couple of neighbors during an afternoon walk.

Lucky for the Hubs and I our kiddos aren’t in a big hurry to wake up on Christmas morning, so we slept in a bit and then go to opening presents.  Luna was sure this pile was all for her and when I told her it wasn’t she had to investigate each to confirm.

We always get three of everything so the dogs are equal and put them in matching or coordinated bags.  Since Luna was pouting that not everything was for her, we started with the dogs’ gifts, letting them take turns ‘opening’ one.  Stoli was so polite and kept looking at daddy for the ok to pull out the gift.  Tequila on the other hand was ready to dive in and find the goodies.

Daddy tried to help Stoli by bouncing the toys out of the bags, but that just led to Brinley swooping in and snagging them.

He eventually got the hang of things and started reaching in like his sisters, although sometimes he still wanted Daddy to help.

Tequila was ready for another and dove right in as soon as it was ready.  Then she supervised her brother doing the same during his turn, albeit a bit more gingerly.

While the dogs were entertained with their first round of toys for a bit Luna got to open a few presents.  She wasn’t sure at first, but having seen the dogs open their gifts she decided to investigate.  You know that old adage about curiosity and cats… 🙂

Moments later she was pawing her new toy out of the bag with a bit of help from Daddy.  This one makes noise which attracted the dogs’ attention so we let her play with it for a bit before moving on to the next gift.

Up next was the biggest gift, which means it was the biggest bag too.  Honestly, the bags are kinda her favorite part of presents – at least when opening gifts anyway.

She went right in to check it out while her siblings watched.

Now that the dogs were back to being interested in presents we moved on to the ones I had DIYed for them, with a special yummy surprise at the bottom.  Always the gentleman, Stoli again asked Daddy for permission before diving in.

The smell of the bone at the bottom drew him in and he spent several minutes with his head buried in the bag pushing the fleece braid rope out of the way to sniff the bone while his big sister watched.

Apparently he was taking too long for Brinley because she decided to come help so Daddy switched to her gift.

Next Tequila opened a combined gift from their Aunt & Uncle, then assisted Luna with her gift from the same relative.

Daddy opened the dogs bones so they were busy with that, leaving Luna to finish up her gifts uninterrupted.

The dogs had a pretty good haul at this point, and they still had a few gifts to go!

While the fur babies were all busy with their new favorite toys, we opened our gifts and connected with family on the phone.  While the spending money I received is quite handy I think these two guys are my favorite gifts this year.  The big elf is from my Mother-in-Law and the smaller one is from my sister.  There is still one more gift coming from my sister that will be a close second – two new Rae Dunn mugs that say Bark & Woof!  They will be perfect for our house! 🙂

We spent the rest of the day snuggling on the couch watching movies while I got caught up on some of my favorite blogs.  It was a great way to spend the holiday together, resting and enjoying each other’s company.  Hopefully we can do a little more of that this weekend as we celebrate the new year!

Purdy-ing Up the Chicken Yard – Again

Remember when I decided to make the chicken yard pretty last year?  Well I’m at it again.  This time I went with planters that are up high and out of ‘chicken reach’ so they should be pretty safe.

I didn’t want to spend a lot for this little project since it is just a chicken yard and I am a self-proclaimed bargainista, but I still wanted it to be cute.  I’d seen wall planters made of various materials and realized they were just simple pockets of fabric.  I’m not a sewer so I brainstormed what might provide an inexpensive, already sewn fabric pocket.  Then the light bulb went off – a fabric shoe organizer!

I snagged this one at Fred Meyer for around $10.  I only needed 4 pockets but I figured it the idea panned out I could always make more for other spots too.  It was an added bonus that it was a cool grey fabric rather than the typical canvas ones I’ve seen that would show dirt immediately.

Luckily each row was exactly 4 pockets!  I cut off one row, leaving the seam and trim at the bottom.  From there I cut down the center of the stitching on the trim between each pocket to create 4 individual pockets.

I filled each with dirt and a plant while on skype with my mom on a sunny afternoon and then recruited the Hubs to help me hang them.  We folded over the top section of fabric for a bit more strength and just screwed them into the post using deck screws.

Although the screws are noticeable from the side angle, they blend in when you look at the planters from the front of the yard which is the typical way they will be seen.  Plus as the plants grow they should help hide them even more.  Hopefully they will have enough time to really fill in and start to trail over before the season wraps.

I also decided to give the block planters at the bottom of the posts another try.  The canvas curtains I made last summer didn’t survive well so this time we used scrap clear panels left over from building the green house.  It keeps the sight lines open for both the cluckers and the dogs, but prevents the chickens from decimating the plants.

The chickens were not to pleased with this innovation and kept trying to  peck at the leaves through the plastic!  They eventually gave up and went on about their clucking business elsewhere in the yard.  This time around I filled the blocks with mint, transplanted from the rain garden where it ended up after being in the herb container 2 summers ago.  Those who have grown mint, know it is super hardy so it can take some tough love, will return year after year and should spread to fill in a bit more.  I will have to watch that it doesn’t spread out from the blocks but it’s easy enough to remove if I catch it early so I’m not to worried.  Plus it will help keep things smelling pretty – because this is a chicken yard and there is always a constant supply of “fertilizer”!

Because we used scrap panels each is a bit different size so the panels don’t all line up with each other.  It doesn’t really bother me in person but looking at this image I really notice it.  If it still bugs me in a few weeks I’ll have the hubs cut the two larger ones down to match.

I put another clear panel on the front of the yard and added marigolds there for a bit of color.  Now if I could just get that darn walkway covered with gravel like I’ve been planning this space might start to really look complete.  Hopefully that will happen before the end of the season, but if not it will be on the list again next summer. 🙂

Snow Day!

stoliToday is Tequila’s birthday, which coincidentally coincides with National Love Your Pet Day (AKA – everyday in the DBDT household)!  Although we didn’t do anything special to celebrate, I did take a break from photography work to play in the snow with the herd.

tequilaHere in Alaska we don’t get many “snow days” off from work or school because life continues on no matter how much snow there is in this region.  Luckily, President’s Day provided a perfect opportunity to pretend that it was a snow day and stay home – only venturing out as far as the yard for some fun.

Each of the fur babies has a favorite toy to play with outside.  Tequila loves her frisbee, Stoli has a stuffed soccer ball with handles and Brinley is ALL ABOUT HER TENNIS BALL!  It’s a good thing we have a long driveway where I can use the ball chucker to throw it down the drive way for her.

run3Today Stoli decided it was more fun to try to steal her ball than play with his own.  But try as he might, he just couldn’t seem to beat her to the ball, or get her to drop it by bouncing around her.  Eventually he gave up and was content to just run back and forth.

run6run2runrun7Sometimes I’m not sure he knew where he was running to, but he was having plenty of fun regardless.  And all that running keeps him warm despite that short haired coat of his.

stolirunEach time I’d angle the chucker back for a throw this is the face I’d see.  Complete and total concentration.

readyUnfortunately that didn’t always translate into finding where the ball went when my aim was a bit off and it landed in a snow bank.  bsnowShe did attempt several methods to find those errant balls.  It was quite hysterical to watch her dig and plow her way through the snow in her quest, especially since the snow was as deep as she is tall in most spots!

snorkelrearsnorkel2snorkelsnorkelupThen she’d look up in frustration to see if I had guidance to give.  I’d point her in one direction or another until she realized this was a lost cause.

bA few times big sister attempted to help, snorkeling through the snow and retracing the paths that Brinley had made, carving them a bit wider as she went.

snorkelhelptstrailtequilatrailShe didn’t have any luck finding the missing balls either and decided to go back to her frisbee.

tplay2tplaytplay3And while all this was going on Miss Luna decided to come out to the porch and supervise.

lunaThat’s as far as she made it since she doesn’t like to get her paws in that cold white stuff and it’s definitely deeper than she’s interested in.

Apparently all that fun wore everyone out because a few minutes after we came inside everyone was out cold.

sleepsleep2Including Luna!  It’s hard work supervising all that chaos. 🙂

sleep3

A New Roof for the Chicken Yard

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Hi everyone!  I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.  Now that we’re through the big holiday I thought I’d catch you up on several projects that happened around the house in the past few months as we prepared for winter.  The first was replacing the netting over the chicken yard with something sturdier.  The netting had started to tear in several spots and had actually come loose from where it was attached to the wall of the house, leaving our flock vulnerable to attack from above.  The Hubs wanted something more permanent that would stand up to snow, so he found these metal fencing panels at a local fence company.

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First he removed the old netting (note the large ball of it on the roost to the right in the photo above).  Then he cut the panels to fit the space and zip tied them together where there were seams.  He also used zip ties to secure the panels to the support beams of the run.

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Over by the run door he had to get creative to make enough room for the door to open but still work against the laundry room window.  He decided to create an angled panel for this section and it works pretty well.

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He had to trim down the hen house doors so they open underneath the support beam on the front of the run.  It’s so much nicer being able to open these doors all the way without worrying about the edges catching the netting overhead!

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He also added a small metal flashing to act as a gutter along the roof of the run.  This keeps the large amount of water that comes off the run’s roof from flooding the chicken yard, which was a constant problem this summer.  Now it drains right over the blocks I placed around the yard.  This might be too much water for the plants in the blocks next summer, so I’ll have to watch it and decide if I need to set up a water barrel to collect the water and reuse it for the chickens or watering the garden.

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We may eventually cover the panels with clear plastic roofing panels, like those used on greenhouses, to help reduce water pooling more but for now the upgrade is the perfect protection for our cluckers and blends in well with the panels we used for the sides of the yard.

snow

And it’s been holding up to the snow very well, even when it gets a bit thick.  Looks like another great job by the Hubs!  It’s a good thing he found me so he has reasons to use all those mad skills he’s got. 😉

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