Welcome Home Brinley!

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This weekend we brought little Miss Brinley home!  We flew down to Portland to pick her up and bring her back to Alaska and had a great few days away from work and projects to get to know her and bond before introducing her to her siblings.  We were too busy playing and getting to meet her when we first met with her to get pictures but on the ride home she slept in my lap quite content to snuggle.

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AWe stopped to pick up puppy food and dinner for us, so while her Daddy and Mimi went into the store I stayed outside to let her stretch and play in the sun with her new toy.

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And she snuck in a few belly rubs too!

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Once at Mimi’s house she investigated the basket of toys that belongs to her Aunt Honey.  Honey didn’t seem much amused by this but didn’t voice any objections either.

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After playing for a bit her Daddy shared his water with her for a quick drink and then everyone watched the animals on the TV for a few minutes.

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All that playing made for one tired puppy, so she had to take a little nap.

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And so did Daddy.  Having a puppy sure wears you out!

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Daddy took her out to go potty a few times overnight and by morning she had somehow moved into the bed rather than her kennel.

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The next day was spent exploring Mimi’s garden.  There was lots to see and explore including every inch of the area under the plants and the hose that made fun puddles on the patio!

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Every so often we’d take a break to rest and just enjoy the view.  But soon we’d be on the go again.

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Eventually she needed a nap to recharge while us humans enjoyed some lunch.

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After the nap she tried to play with Aunt Honey, but she wasn’t in the mood.

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So we played with some of Honey’s toys instead.  A family friend came over for dinner with their dog but she was older and didn’t want to play even though Brinley did her best to say she was friendly over and over again.

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All that excitement sure wore her out so she slept pretty well that night.

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The last day included more exploring in the garden, a couple quick trips in the car and lots of snuggles from Mimi.

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She loaded up in Aunt Honey’s carrier to make the trip to Alaska and was a hit with everyone who met her, from the ticket counter to security.

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She was still very tired from the excitement of the day and fought to stay awake, even if that meant just letting her head hang on the opening so she could see what was going on in the terminal.  She eventually fell sound asleep and slept for the majority of the flight home!

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Since she’s been home she’s getting to know her siblings who were very excited to meet her.  With a moving mass of 4 canines this is the best picture of the interactions I could get thus far!  There have been a few moments of learning who’s alpha and who’s not, but it’s going well.  Sometimes her brother and sister tire of her insistence to play but her new friend Paige – a friend’s dog we are watching – has been exceptionally patient and gentle with her so they have cuddled quite a bit.

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Her kitty sister has met her briefly, but is in hiding until Paige leaves in a few days.  I’m sure there will be a period of adjustment for both when that happens.  For now, she’s coming to work with me during the week so she can have quick potty breaks and walks every two hours along with a romp at the park during lunch.  There will surely be many more pictures taken in the coming days and weeks so stay tuned for those! 🙂

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Cluck Club Update

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There are some new faces in our chicken coop!  We brought home four new hens after seeing an ad on Craigslist from someone who was moving and couldn’t take them.  The ad mentioned that they were already laying eggs so I contacted the poster to find out if they were social.  He responded via text with a photo of his young son holding one of the chickens.  He knew his children would be upset that the chickens were going to a new home but after I described our coop and setup he was sure that they would be happy with us, so we arranged for the hubs and I to stop by after work and pick them up before the weekend.

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The new ladies have settled in quite well.  We kept them separated from the other chickens the first day and tried to introduce the two groups the next, but it was very clear that the two would not do well together so we found a new home for the previous flock with another local chicken family where they could be free range and happy.

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We did keep Miss Biscuit who was at the bottom of the pecking order in the last flock as evidenced by her missing feathers and ruffled appearance.  It seems she holds the same position with her new coop mates but after a few squawks and flaps she knows her place and gives them space so everyone seems to be getting along well.  The dogs are loving their new siblings and often go stand at the fence just to watch them.

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These new ladies are very social and friendly.  They come right up to us and stop and wait to be picked up when we come near them.  They were also in right in the middle of things as we did a little tweaking on the yard this weekend, checking out the ladder, hoping in and out of the hen house as we were working in it and inspecting every little detail.

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I leveled out the piles of dirt left from the trenches the hubs dug when he installed the chicken yard, so now everything is mostly level and ready for the grass to grow back.  I pulled as much of the rock and gravel as I could out of the dirt while leveling so those piles will be added to the landscaping going in around the back deck.  I also added cinderblocks around the entire perimeter of the yard which will be planted with lobelia soon to attract potential prey for our flock, and just make things a little prettier.

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The hubs added a few boards over the hen house doors to hold the netting up so it doesn’t catch on the tops of the doors when they open.  It’s not the prettiest setup but it works for now.

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My favorite new chicken is Charlotte, an Easter Egger who has these fun fluffy feathers around her face and lays greenish blue eggs!  The hubs’ favorite is the black and white chicken, Fluffy.  We may change their names once we get to know their personalities more, which we’re doing quickly thanks to their willingness to be held and petted.

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The change has brought a new color variety to our egg cartons too!  Biscuit continues to lay her speckled brown eggs, while the two black chickens, Split and Splat, lay dark brown eggs.  Fluffy lays a light brown egg which is actually a white egg with small brown spots when inspected closely, and of course Charlotte’s green egg.  Sure makes our old plain white eggs seem kinda boring!

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Next up for the coop is some touch up painting, tilling the yard and creating a fun sign for the fence while the hubs builds a new storage area for their food and treats.  Watch for future posts as those projects are completed!

The New Chicken Yard

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Today is the 3rd anniversary of the blog!  It’s amazing to think of how far we’ve come since this journey began, but I’m glad you’re here to share it.  To celebrate I’m sharing a big project that the hubs recently did, the new chicken yard!  Although their coop was pretty big we spoil our critters and wanted them to have lots of room to spread their wings and do their little chicky thing.  Plus happy chicks = constant egg production so we’re all about keeping these ladies happy.

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To get things started the hubs rented this mini excavator to dig a trench around the perimeter of the space.  Although I’m practicing no-spend April he isn’t and since it was his idea and project it doesn’t impact my no-spend goal.  He did have costs for the equipment rental, posts and concrete but the main panels were freebies from Craigslist last fall and we had a gate building kit left over from installing the yard fence so he did save where he could.

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The dogs were pretty interested in this new contraption and wanted to hop on for a ride.  When they realized that wasn’t going to happen they decided to hop into the side by side which was parked nearby with supplies in the back.  Apparently Stoli thought he was going to drive Tequila and his expression when I told him he couldn’t reach the pedals was priceless!

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Here’s how things looked once the trenches were dug.  Like with any project it always looks worse before it looks better.  The chickens were pretty interested in what was going on and watched from inside the coop run, hoping we’d let them out to investigate.

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Next came installing the posts and panels.  The hubs cut a groove in the sides of each post so the panels would nest in the groove for added stability.  I felt bad that I wasn’t able to help much with the install due to photography sessions but I will say he did an amazing job for putting this together almost 100% on his own.

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Above is what things looked like when I left for sessions and below is what I saw when I got home that evening!  All of the posts and panels were installed and concreted in which makes the entire thing SUPER sturdy and predator proof.

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A few days later I helped install this thin bird netting over the top so that eagles and owls can’t attack from above.

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And here’s the finished project with the gate installed.  I’ve started lining both sides of the yard with cinderblocks, which I’ll plant with simple flowers to make things pretty and attract flying insects the chicks might enjoy catching.  It will also help keep the digs a foot back from the fence when they come to visit, which I’m sure the chicks appreciate.

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Now that they have more space I moved their outdoor roost and dirt bath tub from the run out into the yard. The hubs also plans to build a new storage area for the chicken supplies to replace the plastic one we currently have and I’m planning a few aesthetic improvements such as a coop sign, pavers next to the coop door and planting a rose bush to help keep the area smelling pretty too.

I don’t think the chicks will notice most of those things but I’ll appreciate them. They are just happy to have more freedom and room to run around but they are still creatures of habit and all gather back in the hen house each evening to roost, which makes this momma happy. 🙂

Our Family is Growing by Four Paws!

PupBy the title of this post you can guess what the big announcement I promised is!  We’ve been talking about adding a third dog to our family for a few weeks now.  We’ve had time to grieve the loss of Bacardi and feel ready to welcome a new heeler to our home.  For us, pets are family and that means they stay until their last days so we always make sure that any new addition will get along with our other fur babies and be able to adapt to our busy lifestyle before we commit.

We started looking around locally for a young heeler that we could adopt who would be a good fit.  Since most heeler owners in Alaska brought their dogs here from the lower 48 and cherish them dearly there aren’t many who end up needing a new home.  Although we found a couple, there wasn’t a perfect match so we started looking at breeders as well.  We contacted several and found one that we liked in Oregon, just a few hours from the hub’s mom’s house.

This breeder matches puppies with new families based on personality and what is desired from the pet – companion, working dog, etc.  She had just had a litter of pups when we contacted her so we put our name on the list and eagerly awaited the puppies 4 week birthday when the breeder starts to pair pups with prospective families.  Luckily, because we were very open in what we wanted we were matched with this adorable female blue heeler, who will be joining our family Mother’s Day weekend!  How perfect is that?!

The hubs and I will fly down to pick her up and have a quick visit with his mom while there.  The breeder has already been taking the pups on car rides and starting house breaking with good success so hopefully she will adapt quickly to us and her new siblings.

While we wait we’re trying to decide on a name to continue our alcohol theme.  A few of the current contenders are Brinley (from Brinley’s Goldcoast Rum), Brandy and Julep.  We’ve also considered Grenadine, Hennessey, Disaronno, Grigio, Kahlua and Chardonnay but decided they don’t quite fit her.  I also like the names Mojito and Martini but they both sound like names for small dogs to me.  We’re still considering other options so if you have a suggestion we’d love to hear it, especially if it’s rum related since that’s my alcohol of choice on the rare occasions we do drink!  It is pretty ironic that we have alcohol named pets since we aren’t big drinkers, but they are strong lickers! 🙂

Little Moments

Being a photographer, I naturally have a TON of pictures of our fur babies, but it’s not as easy to get those great shots as you might think.  Such was the case when I attempted to get a few new shots of the dogs last weekend.  I had just gotten home from a portrait session and the snow was starting to fall but there was great light.  I thought, “This is a perfect opportunity to get some pictures of them with the wood pile, which will make a unique background I haven’t done before.”  Giddy with the mental image in my head of two smiling pups in front of this interesting background I call the dogs outside and we play for a few minutes as we make our way out to the wood pile.

Once there they are definitely game to investigate the stacks of logs, but forget about posing.  There’s just too much to see and sniff!  Tequila puts her paws up on one of the stacks and I wait for her to look over at me, but whatever was across the driveway was obviously more interesting and .2 seconds later she was over there checking it out.
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I figured I’d give them more time to play since they hadn’t been out for a while and then try again once they burned off some energy.  Ten minutes later I get them both in front of the wood pile, tongues out and excitement in their eyes.  I decided to try to get a shot before crouching down to their level in case this doesn’t last.  In the instant it takes to put my camera to my eye their faces change to this.  Sigh.
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So I tell them to stay, get down to their level and try to catch their interest without causing them to move from the spot they are in.  This is when they decide to play a game with mom called Look Here, Look There.  Tequila went first.
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Stoli went next.
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Then they looked in tandem, but in different directions over my shoulders.
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And then in opposite directions away…
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I said treat to get them focused and Tequila played along but Stoli had to check the other side too, just in case.  Deep breath.
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Tequila decided she’d had enough and went to explore, but Stoli hung out for a moment so I snapped a few solo shots even though he refused to look at me and threw in a snaggle lip for good measure.

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Tequila came back about then and climbed up on top of the wood pile. While not the background I envisioned, it’s still a fun shot so I get into position and bam, she has to check the woods behind her.
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Next she posed but wouldn’t look at me.
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Then gave in and did look at me, just in time for a huge snowflake to cover her eye.
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Finally I get this shot as she watches a car approach on the road, not bad but still not what I wanted.
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So I move around to where she’s looking and draw her attention up.  Yes!  This will work!  Until she wiggles the moment I press the shutter button…Really?!
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Seeing sister on the wood pile, Stoli wants in on the action and climbs up when Tequila runs off but continues their game of don’t look at mom.
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I get him to sit but still, no looking at mom.  And now we’re going to make faces.  Not the cute kind.  The frustrating kind. This is the I’m cold and I don’t want to be sitting in the snow face.
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This is the what is sister doing that I’m missing out on because I’m stuck here so I’m going to snort my displeasure face.
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This is the whatever face…
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So I say whatever myself and tell them “Go Play” to which they happily bound off into the falling snow running and growling like wild crazed animals.  Heathens I tell you, heathens!

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Cold and disappointed I round them up and tell them to head inside.  A few hours later I download the images just to see what I might be able to salvage and find these two little gems hidden between all the faces above.
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Still not the shot I envisioned, but both make my momma’s heart smile.  And that’s why I always overshoot, because it’s those little in-between moments that turn out the best. But that’s how life is, it’s the little fleeting moments that you forget as quickly as they happen that make it all worth while. 🙂

A Cluck Club Update

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Happy New Year!  I hope you had a fun and safe celebration.  Here at the DB&DT house we welcomed two new members to the cluck club on New Year’s day.  Although we started with 4 chickens we lost one when some of them decided to jump the fence of the expanded yard off their run back in the fall.  We’re not sure exactly what happened, but believe the younger dogs saw them out and attempted to ‘play’ with them which led to one chicken having a heart attack as there were no obvious wounds or blood when she was discovered.

Since then the three remaining hens have been kept in their contained run and have been doing well, even with the below 0* temps we had for a stint.   Since there was room for a few more we decided to add two.  Luckily the same friend we got the original group from was still downsizing his flock so we didn’t have to worry about bringing in hens from a different batch.

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The new ladies are settling in and learning the routine of our roost pretty quickly. We give them scraps to scratch and peck through every evening so the original group come running when we open the door, but the newer hens weren’t too sure about coming down the ramp with us and the dogs around.

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Eventually they figured it out and joined in the exploring for special treats.  We’ve named them Chicken Patty and Chicken Dumpling, continuing our “chicken foods” theme.

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Patty is the black hen looking up in the center of the picture above and dumpling is the mostly white hen also looking over her flock mate’s fluffy rear.  Everyone seems to get along, but I’m sure there was some adjustment in the pecking order when we weren’t looking.

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Since our original group started laying we’ve been getting eggs about every other day.  Some are white and some are brown, but they’ve all been tasty.  One day I discovered this massive egg in the nest box!  It was twice the size of the eggs we had been getting and had a wavy shell.

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It was so big that we couldn’t even close the egg carton!  The two eggs in the foreground are store bought, the slightly smaller one on the right in the background is the egg that is seen next to the giant above.  Although both the hubs and I have raised chickens before, neither of us had ever seen anything like it before.

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Eventually we did crack it open just to see what the heck was going on with this monster egg.  Inside we found a second egg, shell and all!  We asked our vet about it and she explained that this can happen when an egg forms but the hen doesn’t lay the egg and a second egg forms around the first egg!

Egg3Apparently our hens are super fertile because in addition to this unique egg, most of theirs have also been double yokes.  We don’t plan to increase the flock via hatching (hence no rooster), so as long as that fertility means they continue to produce eggs regularly we’re happy.  But I’m curious if any other backyard flock owners have had similar discoveries.  I’d love to hear about them if you have!

Another Year Over & a New One Just Begun

The new year is almost here so I’m pausing to reflect and take a look back at the past year here at DB&DT and I’m amazed at just how much we accomplished!

The laundry room started the list with the new cabinet, then continued with some new wall art, simplified décor and a dry rack.

The biggest project by far was the wall-to-wall desk in the office, which I enjoy using every day.   Across from the desk we organized the shelves, updated the knobs and added a paper roll holder to the crafting table.

Updating the mantel and adding a gallery wall around the newly mounted TV in the family room have made the space feel more like home, while the raised dog bowls in the dining room are keeping things cleaner.

The bedrooms also saw some changes.  In the master we built a footboard bench plus a second to replace the first when it was damaged and added something rustic and vintage. The guest room came together with a new closet organizer, swapping out the huge dresser for the newly refinished hope chest (which I just realized I haven’t shared yet!), a new focal point and some found and DIY’d décor.  The ‘spare room’ began its transformation into a ‘foster room’ with the great decrapification, DIY trundle bed and vintage décor.

Outside, we finished the gravel patio, fire pit, egg table and added deck seating.  We also got the garden set up, started a raspberry patch and welcomed the cluck club to their new coop.

2015 also brought some sadness with the passing of my Mema and our baby Bacardi, but I’m grateful for all the blessings we are ending the year with.

Here’s a few projects I’ve got planned for 2016:

  • Art display boards, a desk, nightstand, display shelves and closet system to finish up the foster room.
  • Better coat storage in the laundry room
  • Adding faux shiplap and my salvaged windmill to the dining room
  • Installing sliding barn doors to the office
  • Updating the garden box and front flowerbeds
  • Adding landscaping around the deck
  • DIY collage for the hallway

But tonight I plan to relax at home with my fur babies and the hubs.  I wish you a wonderful end to the year and a very bright 2016!