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Strawberry Gutters

After we planted everything last year, several friends sent us pictures of strawberries growing in gutters. In theory, it looked like a great idea. Unfortunately, we didn’t see one single picture that showed what, exactly, those gutters were attached to. This past winter we’ve given it lots of thought, looked around the property, and finally figured out how we were going to do it.

One option was to attach them to the side of the animal shelter. It’s wood, so it would be easy enough to attach the gutters. But it’s also where the chickens live, and we didn’t want them eating the berries before we got to them.

The next idea was to build some sort of frame to hang them on. What kind of frame, how would we build it, and how strong would it have to be to hold these gutters? And where would we put this frame that the dogs wouldn’t accidentally knock it over as they ran around? It would also have to be sturdy enough to withstand the occasional, but very strong, windstorm. Sounded like more work than we wanted to put into this little project.

The final idea was the winner! We would hang them on the side of the dog kennel. It’s 10 x 10 and made of chain link. If we got gutters and wire, it should be pretty easy to hang them. Except, any time I think that, it ends up being 10 times as hard as I thought it would be. Not this time! It ended up being my favorite kind of project: Super-easy! (OK, Charlie did all the work, but it was super-easy for him, too.)

First, he drilled holes in the plastic rain gutter. Some people have said their strawberries dry out quickly when using the gutters, but we are in Washington, and nothing much dries out. We figured it would be better to have drainage, and maybe have to use the hose from time to time, instead of having our berries drown. If you don’t have a drill, I imagine a hammer and nail would do the trick. Just pound in the nail, then pull it out again, until you have a row of holes.

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We got some wire at Lowe’s, and Charlie cut it into pieces equal to one time around the circle. Then, he simply twisted one end around the chain link, wrapped it around the gutter, then twisted the other end around the chain link. It took 3 pieces of wire per gutter. One piece at each end, and one in the middle. We’ll be keeping an eye out for any sagging. If we see any, we’ll just string up some more wire.

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Once the gutters were hung, Charlie filled them with soil. Then, he planted the strawberry starts. He fit 20 in each gutter.

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He had some netting left over from his garden cages, so he draped that over the gutters. We’re hoping that will keep birds away.

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Charlie installed a total of 4 gutters, 2 each on the 2 sunny sides of the kennel. That would be a total of 80 strawberry plants, but somewhere two plants got lost, so we get 78. That’s still a heck of a lot of strawberries if our little project works.

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I’ll keep you posted on our strawberry progress. If it’s something you want to try, it can be completed in an afternoon. The whole project took Charlie about 2 hours, and that includes hanging the gutters, mixing the soil, planting the berries and cleaning up. A chain link fence works really well. I think a wooden fence could work, as well. You’d just have to screw in some hooks to hold the wire, or loop the wire over the top of the fence boards. Either way, no separate frame needed, and that’s good news.

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Farm Seasons

Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall are for city folk. I’ve decided the farm seasons are Spinning/Ordering, Planting/Shearing, Harvesting/Preserving and Holidays. There are chores for every season, and we’re getting the hang of the flow of things. We measure the success of our timing by watching the farms that have been around awhile. It’s quite satisfying to spend a day tilling, then head into town and see all the other farms spent the day tilling, too. Old-time holidays like St. Distaff’s Day also help us with our timing.

The Spinning/Ordering season comes at the beginning of the year. It’s too cold and wet to start planting, the harvesting and preserving is done, the holidays are over, and it’s time to gear up and get ready for spring. My fleeces get washed and carded, and I spend my days indoors, in my warm cozy house, spinning my yarn for projects.

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As the winter stretches on, we start heading to the mailbox in anticipation. Seed catalogs! They arrive when we’re tired of being cold and are looking forward to spring arriving. We look over what we had last year, what worked, what didn’t, and what we want to try this year. Different seeds are available at different times, so the seed ordering happens in stages. I think they do that on purpose, so we have something to look forward to throughout the cold days.Homestead Plan

More sunshine means Planting/Shearing season has arrived. I’ve been spreading alpaca and chicken poop over the garden beds all winter. After the first week of sunshine, Charlie was out with the tiller getting the beds ready.  Charlie has already started planting some seeds in the sunroom, and will begin transferring them to the garden around mid-April when the threat of frost has passed – we hope.

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It’s also time to schedule shearing. Alpacas don’t do well in the heat if they’re in full fleece. Imagine wearing a fur coat all summer. Yeah, they don’t like it, either. This is the first year we’ll be responsible for shearing our boys, and it’s been scheduled for May. I’m excited to get Spike’s and Tajo’s fiber directly from them, but I’m also nervous about getting them through the day.  Fortunately, there are professional shearers who come do the tough part for us. We’ll be visiting other farms to help with their shearing as well.

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 Harvesting/Preserving season is definitely the most labor-intensive for me. Charlie does such a great job with the garden, there’s a TON of stuff to bring in. I have to harvest and preserve the fruits and vegetables when they’re ready, not when I get around to it. This can mean days in a row of picking, hauling, cleaning, slicing, chopping, blanching, pickling, jamming and canning. I love doing all of this. This year, I’m getting a pressure canner, so I can can more of the veggies, instead of freezing. I’m also getting a gel mat for the kitchen. Standing on the tile floor for days at a time makes my feet very unhappy. It’s worth the pain in the feet, and very rewarding, when the shelves are full of jars, and the freezer is full of containers of produce to use later.

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Finally, we get the holidays! The garden beds are empty and covered for the winter. Food is stored for the winter. And it’s time for a change of pace. Nature forces us to slow down now by becoming too cold and wet to do anything else. Last year, we tried to do a fully homegrown Thanksgiving, but some things still had to be store-bought. Like the turkey. This year, we’re starting to plan earlier, and expect to pull off Thanksgiving 100% from the farm. That will take up a good portion of November. I made most our holiday gifts last year, and plan to do it again this year. I’ll start some of the long-term projects in October, but most things will be put together in December. There will also be the holiday baking that HAS to happen. This year Raymond and Reta Jean should be able to help out a lot, and I’m really looking forward to that. Even though it’s still a busy time, it’s a slower pace, and time to spend with family.

Over the past year, we’ve learned so much about life on the farm. We’re rested from the winter and ready to get to work. Temperatures are rising and grass is growing.  I’m sure we’ll learn more this year, and make plenty of mistakes. And through it all, we’ll be having a ball and loving life!

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Spring Stroll

When you live in the desert, spring means it’s going to get hot. Soon! When you live in the woods, spring means everything is coming alive. I took a stroll around the house and went a little camera happy.

Can’t focus on spring and not have lots of flowers. Cherry blossoms and daffodils are everywhere!

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Besides flowers, green is filling in everywhere. The ponds and creeks are full now, following all that Washington rain.

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Here are our cliffs, with shrubs growing out of the top.  Not really. Look again. We have a few trees around here that have been cut down, or taken down by lightning. If left alone, they start growing again from the top. It looks cool though, doesn’t it?

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Charlie has gotten his seeds planted, and they’re getting ready to go in the ground.

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Last year, some of our plants were thoroughly enjoyed by the local birds and critters. We see a lot of  plastic plant tunnels around here, but we didn’t want that. Charlie did some research and made these cool garden cages. PVC and netting allows water and sun to get in, but keeps the wild birds – as well as our renegade chickens – out. (I’ll post more about garden prep later.)

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These are the “little” chicks. They’re growing fast and doing great. Another week or so and they’ll be moved into the big yard.

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The big girls have been watching me closely on my stroll, and they’re waiting for treats. I’m just food to them, but they provide food for us so we’re all cool.

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And they’re right, I brought treats. I tossed meal worms around the yard for the chickens. Then I threw some in trough so the ducks could get them, without fighting the chickens. You can see how that worked out.

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I think the ducks prefer worms they suck out of the mud anyway. They’ll just go find their own, thankyouverymuch!

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Spike and Tajo are getting fluffier and fluffier. It will be time for shearing soon, and I’ll have my very own home-grown fiber to work with.

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After I left the animals, I decided to go bounce on the dock and take fun pictures. Water, ripples and reflections.

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And, of course, I have to introduce our newest additions. Charlie and Tori picked up 6 Khaki Campbell ducklings last week. They’re very teeny, and very sweet. Raymond and Reta Jean love them. Once the chicks are moved into the big yard, the ducklings will be moved to the “middle school.” By summer, we’ll have a yard full of feathered friends…and all kinds of pretty eggs.

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What I can’t show you is the trees full of chirping birds. They chirp and sing all day. Once they quiet down for the evening, the frogs and crickets pick up the song. I also can’t show you how fresh and pretty everything smells.  All I can show you is how beautiful it is, and hope your imagination can fill in the rest.

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Evolution of a Project

I never claim to know exactly what I’m doing – especially when it comes to fiber projects. I have an idea what I want to happen, but I’ve come to accept that these things make some of their own decisions and I just have to follow it. People don’t always understand my imagination. Heck, I don’t understand my imagination. But, as Charlie has said, it’s best just to let me go with it.

This project started with a ball of alpaca yarn and my desire to make an envelope-type pouch for P.J. to keep his important papers in. What it ended up being wasn’t even close.

First, I crocheted a long rectangle, but I realized it wasn’t going to be big enough. I didn’t have another ball of this yarn, so I decided to just play with what I had. I threw it into the wash to felt it and make it more solid. It not only felted, it got REALLY fuzzy. Definitely not something P.J. would want.

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But, hey, maybe it could be a little purse. I had crocheted a little hole into one end for a clasp, so it would be easy enough to find a cute button, stitch up the sides and add a strap.

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Tori happened to walk in and said, “That would make a cute little purse. If you don’t want to make it for P.J., I’d like it.” Now, making something for Tori opens up all kinds of possibilities.  I think it needs a little hair cut before I do anything.

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I decided it looked like an owl. Really. I knew exactly what I wanted it to look like, I just had to figure out how I was going to do that. I went on a search for owls online and found one that I thought would work perfectly. The head will be on the flap part, the body will be on the lower part, and I’ll find a button for the beak. I think.  (To read more about needle felting designs, read this: http://redmonwoods.com/2014/10/17/needle-felting-my-slippers/ )

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I select my colors and get to work. I have no idea how I’m going to make the wings look like wings, so I start with the face.

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So far, so good. Sort of. The hole I made for the button has wandered over into the eye, but I think I can fix that.

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I really don’t want the feathers to be solid fiber. I want them to at least look a little bit like feathers. I decide to make little loops out of the fiber, then needle felt it like that. And it works! I wasn’t sure it would attach completely, but after lots of stabbing it’s holding great. I used shades of light brown, dark brown, blue, purple and gray to give it some more depth and variety. For not having any idea how I was going to make it work, I’m pretty proud of how it’s turning out.

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After all of this, I need a beak that will look like a beak. A plastic triangle button would be my last resort. We attended a gem show, and a vendor had arrowheads. Those would be perfect! But none of them seem to be the right size. Charlie remembers the Mountain Man show will be a couple of weeks later, and they may have different kinds of buttons. He was right. We found several booths with bone, antler and stone buttons. We ended up buying about 10 different buttons  because we just couldn’t decide which would work best.

A little blanket stitch around the edges to hold the purse together, and a button made from antler, and my little project is almost finished. It just needs a strap, but I showed it to Tori and haven’t seen it since. I think she already has it in her backpack, full of her stuff.

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I think it came out pretty darn cute!

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Field Trip – Poultry Show

This weekend was the annual big poultry show. Around here that’s a big deal. We have farm chickens. The chickens at the show are Super Model chickens.

Some are the same breeds as ours, but bred to be super-special. Especially the roosters. They’re REALLY big and scary looking. And they crow really loudly.

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Then there are the little roosters. They’re very cute, but don’t want to be. They want to be big, scary roosters. When they crow, it’s more of a “cock-a-diddle-derrrrr.” But they get credit for trying.

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The girls are fancy, too.

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And those are just the “regular” breeds. Once you get to the fancy breeds, then you see the real stars.

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Tori says if a pomeranian and a shih-tzu had a baby, it would look like this chicken.

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There were also some pretty sweet ducks.

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And even a pigeon or two.

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There were no chicks or ducklings for sale, which made us a little sad. We’re pretty much done with chicks for this season, but we’re excited to get some more ducks.

I was too tired to hit the quilt show or the Nordic Festival, but next weekend we have the goat show! I love spring!!

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Chick Moving Day!

We got our chicks just 5 weeks ago. They were so cute and fuzzy and tiny.

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They grew really fast, and have outgrown their tub. More importantly, they’re able to escape and get into Charlie’s veggies. This is not good for anybody.

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Fortunately, it got warm really fast this year, too. I’ve been watching the weather, on different channels, for several days now. All the weather reports promise me there will be no more freezing. The chicks have almost all their grown-up feathers, and there are 14 of them to create body heat, so they should be fine outside. Time to load ’em up and head ’em out.  By the time I got their food and water dishes set up in the outside run, one of the girls was already waiting for me.

Tori helped me load them into a basket and move them to their new home. I shut them in the coop, with the windows and door shut, for about an hour. There’s a big world out there, and I didn’t want them to freak out too much before they had a chance to calm down from the move. Once I opened their door, it was a matter of waiting for them to emerge. Our hens that are self-created free-rangers hear the chicks and want to know what’s going on. I wonder if they’re talking to them in chickenese, and telling them they’ll love the great outdoors.

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We didn’t have to wait too long for the first brave chicks to cross the threshold, and soon they were all coming out.

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Once they were out, I wanted to make sure they could find their food and water. I should have known that wouldn’t take long.

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The chicks were so excited to be outside, enjoying the sunshine, and eating, they were just cheeping away. This made Spike, Tajo and the hens very curious. They all came to check out the new neighbors.

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So far, everybody seems happy. The chicks will only be in the run for a couple of weeks. Once they’re big enough to hold their own, they’ll be moved in with the big girls. I’m glad they’re already starting to make friends.

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Water From The Woods

Want to see something cool? We’re not on public water, or even a well. Our water comes directly from the creek that runs through the property! Well, maybe not directly, but pretty darn close.

Ricci Creek runs right through the property. The dogs play in it, frogs live in it, and blackberries grow alongside it. Upstream, water from the creek is diverted for residential use. First stop is a little man-made pond.

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A PVC pipe runs from the pond to the sand pit.

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More PVC is rigged up with drilled holes to spray water into the sand pit. When I went out today, only about half the holes were clear. The pit has pretty steep sides, and I get really wet when I climb in to clear the holes, so I’ll only do it when Charlie is home to help me out. It’s a very complicated, precise procedure for clearing those little holes. I scrounge around the area until I find an appropriately-sized stick, then I poke the stick in the little holes until I clear out the dirt, leaves and sticks. As the holes clear, the water comes out, and it’s very wet and cold!

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The water from the PVC pipes filters through the pit, then down the giant pipe.

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From the pit (see the corner of it in the picture below) the water magically travels underground to a very large tank (see the large tree trunk in the top center of the picture) waaaay down the path.  OK, it’s probably not magic, but I can’t take a picture of whatever the water runs through, so we’ll pretend. That’s not a bear or a deer, there. It’s Peanut. She loves visits to the water pit.

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This is the big water tank. It runs water to at least 5 homes along the street. We just happen to be first in line.

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The big tank pumps into a smaller tank in the garage…

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which then pumps water into the house. Ta da!

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Since we’re first in line for the water, we’re also the first to experience the “trickle” when the pipes get clogged. Fortunately, we’re able to easily fix it, and most of the neighbors never know how close they were to not having water. In the fall, we sometimes have pretty brownish water. We’ve learned that’s not from chemicals or rust, it’s from leaves falling into the first pond, and discoloring the water. Some people may think that’s icky, but we find it kind of charming.

Last month, we had a ton of rain, the pond overflowed, and the pipes got all filled up with dirt. We still managed to have water, but somebody had to come out, disassemble the system, flush it out, and put it all back together. Again, we thought it was cool.

Interestingly, even though we have an apparently endless, free source of water, we find ourselves being pretty protective of it. We use our water barrels to collect rain water for the garden and animals, only run the dishwasher when it’s full, and do our best not to be wasteful.

Most of us grow up knowing we can just head to the grocery store for whatever we need. I know I never gave a whole lot of thought to where all those things came from. We’re 20 minutes from the grocery store, and can still make a run to town for whatever we need, but it’s different now. Growing our own food, gathering our eggs, and getting water from a local creek makes us appreciate the processes of nature so much more. And it’s fun to see how many aisles we can skip in the grocery store because we’re providing for ourselves!

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March is Brain Injury Awareness Month

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and as someone who lives with a brain injury, I feel like I would be remiss if I missed the opportunity to help educate the public. I’ve written about this before, but it’s time to do it again.

My injury occurred December, 2010. I was trying to prevent a fight in the school’s computer lab, lost my balance, fell, and hit my head on a computer table, as I went down. It took several months, and many conversations with students before I fully realized what had happened. At first, I thought I had hit my head once and had remained conscious. Over time, I learned that I actually hit my head twice – once on the table top and once on the metal leg brace – and lost consciousness momentarily.

At the time, I was training for my very first triathlon. I rode my bike 3 miles to the city pool every morning and swam 1 mile before riding through the parking lot to my teaching job. My teacher friend, Molly, ran every day with our students, while I rode along on my bike. That week, I think we were up to 8 miles. After school, I would ride my bike home, stopping for any quick errands I needed to run.

The day of my injury, I didn’t ride my bike home. I had to wait for school to let out, and then have my daughter Tori pick me up and take me to the doctor. Everyone figured it was a “bump on the head” and my life would return to normal shortly. That is, after all, what we are all raised to believe from books, movies, and TV shows.  That, however, is not reality.

I was diagnosed with “mTBI” or mild traumatic brain injury. The “mild” simply means consciousness was only lost momentarily, if at all. Many mild injuries also don’t result in bruising, bleeding, or swelling in the brain. They shake the brain, damage nerves and neural pathways, and cause many issues that may not immediately be attributed to the brain injury.

While every injury is different, these are some of the main symptoms found even in a mild injury:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Irritability
  • Sensitivity to noise or light
  • Balance problems
  • Decreased concentration and attention span
  • Decreased speed of thinking
  • Memory problems
  • Nausea
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Emotional mood swings

Interestingly, some of these take some time to show up, and some hang on longer than others. I’m lucky, and so is my family, that I haven’t had any real issues with irritability. I think that has made everything else a lot easier. Fatigue seems to be my primary focus. I feel like even saying that makes it sound like maybe I should “just get over it.” But here’s the thing…See that whole list of symptoms? If I get worn down, all of those issues are worse.

So many things that used to be automatic, now take my full concentration. I use an electric toothbrush at home, but a manual toothbrush if I’m travelling. I recently visited my dad, and every single morning found myself waiting for my toothbrush to turn off. Just today, I got lost in town because I couldn’t remember how to get to Angel View. This is more involved than it may initially sound. Angel View was the go-to thrift store in Palm Springs for years. I’ve been in Monroe, WA for 2 years now, and we don’t have an Angel View. We have a Goodwill. I could have driven around forever looking for Angel View. I finally drove past the big Goodwill sign, and remembered that was actually what I was looking for.  All that thinking and forgetting and remembering takes a lot of effort, and wears you out fast. Think about if you’ve ever had to take a long, difficult test. The level of concentration that required, is the level of concentration I require to get through the day.

I wear rings to help prevent myself from chewing and tearing at my fingernails. I read book series to help keep track of characters. I don’t remember peoples’ names (something I used to be very good at), and sometimes I walk away from a conversation and don’t realize until later that maybe the conversation wasn’t actually over. I have what’s called “emotional lability,” which means I may break out crying at any moment, for no reason. Some people also have uncontrollable laughing, but I haven’t had that yet. I have to read the aisle signs at the grocery store to find what I’m looking for  At the end of every aisle, I have to take a minute and look both ways to determine where I am in the store. I’m also more sensitive. I went to the wrong car in the parking lot one day, and a lady chuckled at me a bit. She wasn’t being unkind, and I’m sure she meant no harm, but that didn’t matter at the time. I was devastated and sobbed the all the way home because “that lady laughed at me!” I have panic attacks, and some days don’t get out of bed because it’s just too hard.

If you look at me, or any other brain injury patient, it’s easy to think, “she looks fine.” Think about it. Most of the things I’ve just described, nobody is going to notice. If I’m going to start crying, I remove myself from the situation. My family keeps an eye on me, and helps me out if I get in a jam. Brain injuries are one of those “invisible injuries.” If you know someone with a brain injury and they seem fine one day, but the next day tell you they can’t do something, they aren’t faking. That’s just the way it works.

The life we’ve built since my injury is not something we ever thought we’d be doing. The dogs wake me up every morning, then I’m greeted by the alpacas, chickens and ducks. I feed everybody, collect eggs, and work on whatever project I’ve taken on. I’m surrounded by peace and beauty. Unless the grandbabies are visiting – then I’m surrounded by giggling, chattering, hugs and kisses.

Many brain injury patients lose their friends and families, because it’s so difficult to understand somebody who doesn’t understand themselves. Years ago, I joked that Charlie was like my own personal seat belt. Today, that’s even more true. He takes care of me and protects me in difficult situations, but still ensures I can do everything I want to. I’m so lucky that the people in my life have taken the time to learn what I need, and stood by me, and we’ve worked together to build a life that is truly a blessing.

For more information about brain injuries, visit this website:

http://www.biausa.org/living-with-brain-injury.htm

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Felted Soap

If you Google “Felted Soap,” you’ll find lots of beautiful pieces. On the one hand, I’m jealous of such artistic talent, but on the other hand, I would never use soap that was so beautiful. I wouldn’t even want to put it in my guest bathroom for fear someone would use it. Sort of defeats the purpose of soap.

Like everything, I hope to get better at making felted soap. For now, I’m happy to learn that the basic process is super-easy. (“Super-easy” seems to be a theme for the projects I like.)  The general idea is you wrap wool or alpaca around a bar of soap, get it wet, and rub/agitate it until the fiber attaches to itself, around the soap.

The key to felted soap, is the soap. You can use homemade or store-bought soap. It takes a good amount of lather to work its way through the felt, so you want a soap that gets good and sudsy. I found Kirk’s Natural Soap at the grocery store at a cost of 3 bars for under $5. It suds up really well, and works great for felting!

What you need:

Bar Soap

Carded/combed fiber

Colored felting fiber for decoration/design (optional)

Baking pan or shallow dish

Warm water with small amount of Dawn

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A few weeks ago I dyed some alpaca fiber with turmeric. It made a really pretty yellow, and I used that for this project.  (Check out how to dye with turmeric here:  http://redmonwoods.com/2015/02/09/turmeric-dye/ ) I wanted a basic rainbow of color around the soap, so I used small strips of colored fiber, also.

The first step is to lay out the fiber. The first layer will be the outermost layer on your soap. I set the bar of soap in the pan to get a look at how far across the fiber needs to be. Once the outer layer of colored fiber is laid out, add your main fiber on top of that, in the same direction.

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Continue to lay out thin layers of fiber in opposite directions.

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Wet the fiber with warm, slightly soapy water, and lay the bar soap on top. Then, wrap the fiber around the soap, as tightly as possible.

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Gently rub the “design” on your soap, in order to get it to felt, without moving around too much.

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After 10-15 minutes, the outer design will be attached enough to hold into place. Now, you can rub the whole bar, gently at first to get it loosely attached. Once the fiber doesn’t lift up, you can rub it vigorously, just like lathering up in the shower. I spin it in one hand, while resting the end in the other hand, for about 10 turns, then flip it and spin in the other direction. This takes about another 10 minutes. The soap will start working through the fiber and gets lathery enough that I stand over the sink so I can fling the excess soap off my hands as I work.

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The fiber will form itself around the soap and become like a solid piece of fabric. Once everything is sticking together, set the bar aside for a day or 2 to dry.

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The final product is soap, wrapped up in its own, natural fiber, wash cloth!

Notes:

You can make your outer design whatever you want, or nothing at all.

Lots of people like using liquid body wash with a scrubby. This gives you the soap and scrubby in one.

Felted soap works great for travelling! No need to worry about getting liquid soap through airport security.

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Peanut and Tajo – Partners

The longer we live in the country, the more seriously Peanut takes her responsibility to protect us all. She escorts me out to perform my chores, and will not return to the house without me. The only time she lets me out of her sight is if she’s chasing something down. Usually it’s a bunny or a deer, but she’s chased off her share of coyotes, as well.

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Some of our hens have learned to hop the fence and be truly free-range chickens. They hop back over to eat and go to bed, but the rest of the day they roam the yard. Peanut keeps an eye on them through the windows, and barks for me to let her out if she sees something she needs to tend to. The chickens have gotten so used to her, they don’t even flinch as she circles around them to make sure everyone is safe. Once she’s certain the yard is clear, she returns to me, whether I’m inside or out.

Alpacas, by nature, are fairly gentle and timid. They know they have no defenses against predators, so they count on others to protect them. They have an alert signal that I can hear from anywhere on the property, including inside with the doors closed. It sounds like a shrieky, loose fan belt, over and over and over. Spike doesn’t really care what’s going on, as long as nothing gets too close. Tajo, on the other hand, will alert if he sees anything out of the ordinary, no matter how far away it may be.

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It used to be that Tajo would alert until Charlie or I came out and chased off whatever threat he imagined. Bunnies, birds, deer, or the real threat of coyotes – until the danger was gone, Tajo would let us know it was still there.

Peanut and Tajo have formed a very unlikely, very sweet relationship. Any sound from Tajo, and Peanut is clamoring to get outside. Even if it’s the middle of the night. Especially if it’s the middle of the night. As soon as I open the back door, Tajo runs to the front fence to get Peanut’s attention. Once he knows Peanut sees him, he will then run and face the direction of the threat. Peanut takes the cue, and off she goes to deal with the intruder. Instead of continuing to alert like he used to, now Tajo will relax and return to his peaceful activities, as soon as he sees Peanut on the job.

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When the threat is gone, Peanut circles back around to check on Tajo and make sure everything is OK. She’ll trot back and forth between Tajo and the scary area a few more times before heading back to the house.

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The whole interaction is amazing to me because these two, initially, didn’t trust each other, and now there is a real communication between them.  I’ve watched this same behavior several times, and it’s always the same. Peanut knows Tajo is waiting for her, and Tajo knows she’s going to come and make sure he’s safe. Tajo points Peanut in the right direction, and she doesn’t come back until the threat is gone. If I head outside alone, Tajo will continue to alert until whatever has come around is gone. If Peanut comes out, he quiets down as soon as he sees her. I think that kind of trust, between animals that are typically predator and prey, is pretty special. But then, Peanut and Tajo have always been special!