Star Flower Mystery Revealed

The Bad News: I haven’t made significant progress on my mystery Star Flower pattern, due to the distraction of a different secret project that needs to be finished sooner (to be revealed later).

The Good News: I’ve made enough progress (sewing the two finished stars together) to end the suspense for all of you who can’t wait any longer for the riddle to be solved… and for those who might want to embark on this project for Christmas gifting.

And the answer is…

 

drum roll please…

 

Fingerless Gloves!

vogue-fingerless-gloves-top

vogue-fingerless-gloves-bottom

My sister commissioned me for this project because she fell in love with this pattern she found online: Vogue Fingerless Gloves. Aren’t they so very fancy?

vogue-fingerless-gloves-had

The yarn I used is Madelinetosh Pashmina (the color is Baltic), a gorgeous sport-weight hand-dyed blend of superwash merino, silk & cashmere. It looks like one skein should be way more than enough to finish.

Most of the projects on Ravelry found that the finished size was a little on the snug side, and recommended that you go up a needle size (which I did). I would say otherwise (depending on your gauge of course) that the finished size is a women’s small. Mine fit me just right (and hopefully my sister as well) and I would guess they are women’s size Medium.

I also used the magic loop method instead of 5 double points, and I found it less fiddly and much easier to keep track of where I was in the pattern than some others mentioned. And a cable cast on gave me a more precise flower in the center the second time around.

Overall, I would highly recommend this pattern, if you are not afraid of lace knitting. (Or even if you are, you will learn a lot!)  And just think of all the other possibilities for these lovely star flowers that you all came up with in your guesses! :-)

Chicken Townhouses

It’s been over a week now since all of the girls have been free ranging together during the day, and I think it’s going as well as possible. We’ve moved Gloria’s coop right next to the new coop, to take advantage of a bit of roof cover, as well as hopefully promote more of a flock mentality. Gloria has had a weird laying week, I think mostly due to all-day access to food with less calcium (soft egg shells) and several missed days, but she seems to be getting back to normal now.

chicken-coop-townhouses

Alberta and Frances still seem a little edgy around Gloria, but I haven’t seen any violence, and they are letting her get much closer than before:

mae-feeding-chickens

In fact, they all are hanging out in the same area of the yard most of the time:

chickens-bushes

But Frances prefers to spend most of her time napping up high somewhere out of pecking reach, so of course Alberta usually joins her. Here is their current favorite roost:

napping-chickens-grey

I feel like a weight of responsibility has been lifted from me… no longer needing to babysit or referee. Perhaps I can actually get back to some serious knitting and spinning in my free time now… just in time for Autumn’s cooler evenings and Christmas crafting!

coop building : part 5 : Finished! With dragons!

My dream coop is finished! And it far exceeds my dreams… of course, because my Dad built it! We made a few finishing touches the last couple of days, but it was close enough to move Alberta and Frances in on Friday night. As much time as they’ve been hanging out in there during the building process, I think they were a bit surprised to have a sleep over. I was curious where they would sleep, since they haven’t been roosting to sleep yet inside, just cuddled up in a corner, so I assumed they would do the same in the coop. I purposely didn’t put any pine shavings in the nesting boxes yet, so they wouldn’t get into the habit of sleeping in those. I went out to check on them when it got dark, and they were curled up in the corner by the front door. They were a little freaked out, so I cuddled them a bit and sang them a song, which seemed to settle them down. I’m sure the many night noises were disturbing, and they were probably visited by curious cats peeking in. My husband also spotted a whole family of raccoons strolling through in the middle of the night, but he said they seemed more interested in Gloria’s little coop. (poor Gloria! But at least she is used to their visits).

Without further ado…. here are photos of the finished coop (& courtyard):

coop-front

And from the front with my other silly kids:

coop-front-kids

From the side, with all the girls (I had to bribe them with corn to get them all in the photo):

coop-chickens

And here’s how it will look wide open on our favorite pleasant free-ranging days:

coop-open3

I thought it needed some decoration, to give it a bit of chicken personality, and to match the white paint on the window. I was thinking of little chickens, but when I told my husband about it, he said (jokingly, I think) “Why not a dragon?” I laughed, but after trying my sketches in paint on wood and not being happy with them, I started playing with the paint the way it seemed to want to be applied on the wood, and my chicken became very dragon-like. So now we have 3 guardian chicken-dragon sigils on the doors and windows. May they scare away away all predators of evil intent! Long live House Fluffy! (named after our sweet pullet that got killed by a raccoon, and the reason we’ve become so vigilant about predator proofing.)

Closeups of the chicken dragons:

chicken coop decoration painting

chicken coop painted decoration

chicken coop painted decoration

Mae wanted to try painting on wood also… of course the local art critics had to look on:

mae-painting

The kids tried the coop out first by eating dinner in there. Mae thought it would be fun to have a sleepover with the chickens sometime… until she laid down and looked up to see what was right over her head… maybe not. :-)

kids-in-coop

The next morning, the little girls hopped up on their roosts to have a look around:

roosts-morning

Yes, Alberta, you can get up now!

alberta-morning

Gloria didn’t mind hopping up there for a bit when there was food to tempt her:

gloria-coop-food

Hanging Feeders at last! No more poop in the water! (I hope.)

hanging-feeders

Lots of lovely dirt to scratch around and bathe in (come on up and join the party, worms!)

coop-dirt

Extra clips on the closed latches (simple, but effective) also double as a way to keep the door open while free-ranging.

door-open

The ramp, with the door closed. (the handle matches the slide-in coop window) We thought about installing a pulley system for this door, as in the original design, but it will probably remain open most of the time, so we didn’t bother with it. It just slides up, and we put in a pin to hold it there. The ramp and the coop floor are both made from boards that my Dad made himself from hemlock trees on his property. (cool, huh?)

ramp-door2

Now, our biggest challenge ahead of us will be how to move Gloria in. I’m fine with them living separately right now, at least for the next few weeks as the little girls finish their growing up. I don’t want them to free-range unattended during the day as they are still small enough to be stalked by cats, and Gloria needs to have access to her nesting box. But the bigger issue is that Frances and Alberta are still incredibly scared of Gloria, and freak out whenever she gets close. They have good reason to be, since she can act totally nonchalant most of the time, then “attack” them out of nowhere. I’m trying to understand her perspective. I don’t think she means to hurt them, and mostly I think she wants to just hang out with them (besides making sure they don’t receive better treats). But she is a bit of a tyrant, perhaps because they are smaller, and they still seem like intruders, only coming into the yard periodically. I’m hoping that as they reach their full size, and start free-ranging all day with her, this dynamic will change, but what if it doesn’t? I keep trying to tell her that all of this effort and intrusion started as a gift to her… so she can have friends and a nicer place to live, but I don’t think she believes me.

If things don’t change naturally, is there a point when I should just move her over there during the night, and close up the other coop? I shudder to think of doing that right now, the little ones might have a heart attack. Are they ever going to feel less threatened by her? Any advice about this transition is welcome. :-)

 

 

coop building : part 4 : doors, windows, roosts and nesting boxes

“We” are making great progress on the coop! According to my Dad, we are 1 week ahead of schedule!

Here’s my Dad building the courtyard door:

building-coop-door

And here’s the nesting box framed in:

nesting-box1

We followed Willow Creek Farm’s idea of opening it from the side instead of the top, to make it less heavy and easier for the kids to gather eggs:

nesting-box1-open

Here it is with it’s roof base and latches on:

nesting-box-window

We’re going to use composite roofing material on top instead of metal panels, (also like Willow Creek Farm) since my Dad has leftover roofing materials from building his house. And we’re using 3 latches, 2 that turn on the sides, and a simple one in the middle where we can attach a raccoon-proof clip or lock. Jonah wants a combination lock, but I think that’s over-doing it just a bit. The raccoons around here are clever, but I don’t think they know their numbers.

And after much deliberation about how to divide up the box, we decided to experiment by making one bigger section, the size Gloria’s is now, since that’s what she’s used to, and one smaller cozier section, and we’ll see which they prefer. We can always move the divider later if we want.

dad-girls-watching

Also, in these photos, you can see the window has been framed in, with hardware cloth, and we’re planning to repurpose an old window from our basement remodel on the outside that we’ll keep propped open in warmer weather and closed when it gets cold and/or rainy.

Additionally in these photos, you may have noticed that the girls are “slightly” excited about moving in, and still taking their supervisory roles quite seriously.

Gloria is also supervising, but still keeping her distance… or more accurately, the little girls are keeping their distance from her (What’s that look like now? Are we possibly down to 3 feet? No, probably still 4 with the elevation factor):

dad-all-girls

They really love to roost on their floor beams, but the rest of us are much more excited about their future roosts: natural maple branches just installed today! Aren’t they gorgeous?

natural-roosts

They are wary of them, but they have been eyeing them quite a bit, so we’re guessing that once the floor boards get installed, it won’t take them long to hop up there and try them out. You can see in the background that their coop/ramp door has been framed in as well.

And, saving the best for last… our beautiful coop and courtyard doors:

coop-doors-windows

I love the black hardware my Dad picked out. I think it’s very classy, and it will match the black roofs. We’re going to use extra clips on these latches as well, to foil racoons. And the coop window has a slot to slide in a piece of wood when it gets cold. The overlapping cedar siding on the coop door is the same as what’s going around the coop walls. We are not staining it, so eventually it will turn grey (like the fence behind it) but I think this will look nice in contrast with the stained trim and framing.

In other exciting news, Frances is out of her dress! She is still getting tail feathers plucked occasionally by Alberta, but it doesn’t seem as regular or bloody, and her new, sturdier feathers have grown out enough to provide as much coverage as she’s going to get:

frances-tail-feathers2

Tail feather envy. So unfair:

frances-tail-feathers3

But, I think she looks very sweet from the front:

frances-barred-rock

And Alberta in action, always gorgeous of course:

alberta-gold-laced-wyandotte

gold-laced-wyandotte-16weeks

Another girl joins the roosting party:

mae-girls-coop

Never seen green chicken feet before?

mae-frances-coop

Mae recently decided to take over one of her Grandpa’s work benches to start her own restaurant.

mae-work-table

Her dishes are very creative. Who knew that sawdust could be so delicious?

mud-sawdust-creations

coop building : part 3 : courtyard walls and house floor beams

We decided that the run of this coop is way too nice to be called a run, so we are calling it a courtyard. Here is this weekend’s progress report:

courtyard-walls-coop-floor

All of the hardware cloth has been installed around the “courtyard”. The roof framing is complete, and the main house framing is complete as well. Frances and Alberta are getting more and more excited about living here. They spent a great deal of time in the courtyard this weekend. Once the hardware cloth started going up, I think it made them feel safe. And they discovered that the house floor frames make an excellent roost. This is where the nesting box opening will be:

frances-perching

Trying too choose a bedroom, perhaps?

frances-perching2

I’m sure they will be sleeping in the same one, regardless:

girls-perching2

This is where the ramp will be… but maybe it should also be the powder room?

girls-perching

Mae also had some very sweet cuddle time with the girls in the hammock today:

mae-girls-hammock
mae-frances2 mae-frances mae-frances-sleeping

Frances’s lazy feet while she’s lounging always crack me up:

lazy-chicken-feet

coop building : part 2 : framing

My sweet Papa has been working hard all week on building our coop, and it’s continuing to look amazing and progress quickly. The base was finished on Wednesday. And here’s the exterior framing work (basically finished) from the last 2 days:

Thursday:

exterior-framing

Friday:

kids-coop-framed

All I’ve really done (after working all day) has been some staining. But that’s about my skill level when it comes to building anyway: painting, staining, maybe an occasional nail hammering or screw drilling. I have to put in a plug here for the stain we’ve been using. It’s called Vermont Natural Coatings Exterior Penetrating Wood Stain and it’s a Top Green Building product, non-toxic, no odor, dries super fast, and it looks and works great! We are using the “Lakeside Cedar” color and I think it makes the white wood studs match the cedar base fairly well:

stained-board

We’re trying to pre-stain the lumber as much as possible, both to get all of the edges, and because it’s easier than doing the tall areas once it’s built. The kids have even helped with some staining:

mae-staining

The girls definitely still want to be involved too, and don’t mind walking on the hardware cloth now.

frances-coop-floor

I’m hoping this is becoming a bonding experience between the new girls and Gloria. It seems like she wants to be with them, but she’s still quite bossy, so they don’t let her get very close…. but maybe at little closer each day? I think their down to about 4′ of comfortable personal space. Perhaps this photo is a good sign of peaceful days to come?

all-hens-coop