Friday, April 18, 2014

The Broody Box

As somebody who considers anything below 79F "sock weather", I can seriously relate to chicks needing warmth to thrive. Hell yeah! Even I would consider a heating lamp over my nest absolutely creature comfort.

So, in preparation for the arrival of our babies (special ordered silkies) we had to create a brooder box for them to keep them warm, safe from cats and dog, and contained.

We started with a large-ish plastic bin. We picked the clear plastic for entirely selfish reasons - we wanted to be able to see our baby birds from every angle, and we're glad we went this route because OMIGOD they are cute!

Our plastic bin came with a handy warning label that you cannot put babies into it with the lid on, so we cut a hole into the lid and covered the opening with some hardware cloth.

We wanted to make sure that neither cat nor dog could get their paws onto the peepers while at the same time allowing for plenty of ventilation. The top was easy to cut with a sharp knife. Not quite like "buttah" but not too bad either. Just stab and slice, and keep going.

Working with hardware cloth is painful - it seems to consist entirely out of sharp edges and stabby spikes - but it is so much more solid and thus safer for your chicks than chicken wire. I used a pair of pliers to tuck back the pointy ends so nobody would get hurt.

I used a drill to drill holes along the perimeter of the opening and then used thin wire to 'sew' the hardware cloth to the top.

Chicken wire should really be renamed to something like Veggie wire; it's good for keeping out birds from your veggie beds but you're not supposed to use it for anything chicken related, really, because it's too flimsy and doesn't offer protection from predators. Go, figure!

I drilled two more and bigger holes into either side of the box and ran a dowel through it for a quick and easy roost.

Final touches were the water bottle which was fashioned from a simple water bottle to which we attached a drinking nipple (drill hole into lid, screw in nipple - done!) and a store-bought feeder. We line our brooder box with paper towels so the peepers don't slip and develop a case of spraddle leg, and then top it off with a layer of pine shavings (Remember - No cedar shavings; they are toxic for chicks).

All set and ready for some baby birds!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Cluck Yeah!

Life's been crazy - that seems to be the norm over here these days and I'm not particularly crazy about it - and while there's not been a peep from me here ,life did not come to a stand-still. Oh no, no such luck.

Biggest news - chicken are legal now!

Thanks to the initiative of Lauren Trad and "Hens in Jax" and the wide-spread support throughout town, Jacksonville is finally embarking on a limited two-year pilot project allowing up to 5 hens (no roosters) in combination with single family homes in residential areas. A few neighborhoods opted out but fortunately for us, Historic Springfield is on board!

In order to snatch up one of the 300 coveted backyard hen permits, Little Man and I signed up for the required class (we both enjoyed that very much thanks to the fun speakers), received our chicken class certificate, and then filed for our permit the next day. In less than a week we were holding our backyard hen permit in our hot, sweaty hands.

Cluck yeah!

Why chicken?
For the heck of it.
 I mean, we are not in it -just- for the eggs. At the end of the day it'd be cheaper to keep on buying organic eggs at the store, especially with our silkies who are not known for consistent egg production, but it's not nearly as much fun and as rewarding.

We ordered our Silkie chicks and while waiting for our chicks to arrive, we did major research on which coop for our hens, planned where to put it, did some slight rearranging in our backyard and got going on building a home for our feathered pets with benefits here at our little old house.

More on that later!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Oh No, You Didn't!

Oh yes, we did.

I know I said that 2013 would be all about getting our Little Old House's exterior spruced up. A whole new color for the ol' gal.

I wrote a detailed email about how we chose our color scheme here and even created some clip art to show everything went together, both on our house and for the big picture aka our blog of the 'hood.

Then this happened - husband finally spoke up that he really didn't like the colors we'd agreed on, and all our plans went, well, to hell in a handbasket. Back to the drawing board it was. After all, the exterior is such a big project that you better 'like' if not 'love' what you put on there since repainting it wasn't going to happen.

We spent weeks painting different shades of blue on the back of our house, until we finally broke down and mixed out own because they all were either too blue, too light, too dark, too grey, too green - well, you get the idea.

Then summer rolled around and all of our plans came to a screeching halt.
Sloshing halt, really, because last year's summer was hot and rainy and miserable.
Mosquitoes grew to the size of helicopters, it was hotter than Hades, and if it wasn't, it sure was pouring buckets whenever we had spare time to actually do paint the house.

The back of our house continued to look like this throughout the remainder of the year. Fall came, and with it nicer weather. It was still wet - wetter than in past years - but there were plenty of nice weekends, just right for painting, and yet.
No painting got done.
We deliberately procrastinated.
No kidding.
I was so not ready to pull the trigger, no matter how much I hated the scruffy look of our little old house.
Then, just a little over a week ago, I caught myself playing with the Sherwin-Williams Color Visualizer, and I realized that while we found a blue we liked, I never quite liked it for our house.

Our little old house just isn't a house that wants to be blue.
History repeating, eh? Now it was my turn with the 'I don't hate it, but ...' spiel.

Before confronting the husband with what had been nagging on my mind for the past months, I kept on playing. I'd recently hit a Craftsman style streak (more on that sometime within the next couple of weeks) and dug deep into the concept of Craftsman style sensibilities. While our house is not a proper Craftsman-style house - its architecture is a bit muddled down - it's a bit Craftsman and Bungalow influenced. We'd already talked about emphasizing rafter tails and such, but playing with the color program I decided to give our little old house a Craftsman make-over, even going so far as to playing with a two-tone color scheme.

And BAM!
That's when I found it: THE color scheme (no, really, this is it).
The moment I painted on the two-tone color scheme on the back of the house (virtually, of course), the architecture of the back of our house where all original features have been lost due to the enclosing of the two small back porches and the second-story addition which now houses our master bath and the dressing room started to make sense again instead of looking bland and faceless!

 I know that it's difficult to understand my excitement over this color scheme when all you have to look at are these pictures. They really could be better ... you know, this one was taken in really rotten weather and it doesn't do anything to prettify the back of our little old house (nor does the stack of wood leaning against the a/c compressor).
 This one - taken and modified online with the color scheme - I snapped to show the husband how the two-tone color scheme would look on the side of our house. He was a bit concerned at first about having a two-tone house in green (a dark sage green/ Sherwin-William's "Oakmoss") and gold (a rich, earthy gold / Sherwin-William's "Bosc Pear") next to a green house and a yellow house, but these colors are very different from the colors of the other two houses so there's nothing to poke fun at.

The real kicker came when I bought two testers with these colors to try them on the house. Nothing is more important than to test your paint on the object of your desire - no, really. Light, sun exposure and shade, and even the texture of your siding make a -huge-  difference in how you perceive your color and how true it will look compared to your paint chip. In all cases prior to this, every color I'd picked required massive ttweaking - going darker, going lighter, going greyer, etc.

These two?
Spot. On.
 And then I discovered this gem in one of my books - a historic craftsman influenced historic house with a two-tone color scheme (green on top) and and off-white/yellow at the bottom. Score!

I'm so stinkin' excited to get started painting I'm rotating on the spot while waiting for an available weekend with good weather!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Plug'er Up!

 Getting our porch light to actually light up again did require running a new cable. Running the new cable became a much more interesting project than our electrician anticipated, and in the end we ended up with a couple of holes drilled into our porch ceiling.

You know, like this ...

[I like seeing a peek of the original porch ceiling color - who would have thought it used to be such a bold shade?]

I'm a little embarrassed to say it has indeed taken me -this- long to find a round-to-it to plug up these unsightly holes. I blame their location - out of sight, out of mind - because I don't often walk across my porch looking up at the ceiling.

Aaaaaanyways ... today was the day! I even had everything in place to take care of business. No extra runs to the home improvement store necessary!

After cutting a piece of shim to size plugging up the narrow slit and plugging the drill hole with a piece of dowel I decided to mix up a small batch of Bondo to fill up the remaining spaces. I wanted to carve the channels of the beadboard into the patched surface and Bondo would take better to this kind of treatment than ordinary wood filler.

Here we are, with all holes plugged up. It's looking better already - who'd have thought!
Next: paint! However, since that's exterior paint we're talking about this opens a whole other pandora box ... stay tuned!

Monday, February 3, 2014

NomNom: Little Old House Bread Pudding

This Sunday I made bread pudding for breakfast, so I thought I'd share this little special treat with you. It's been a while since I last posted a recipe here at the Little Old House blog, so here we go.

Bread pudding is a really simple thing to make: bread, eggs, butter, brown sugar, a splash of vanilla, and maybe a handful of raisins, for kicks and giggles. Together with some crispy bacon, sweet butter, and maple syrup this is top notch comfort food, especially when the weather is miserable (or to celebrate the sun after a cold and dreary week).

There are plenty of recipes for bread pudding out there, and because I usually wing it and don't have actual measurements for the ingredients I throw into it other than a general list of things that simply belong, this is not what this "recipe" is about.

It's about using the right bread. Traditionally bread pudding calls for stale bread. I have used plain wheat toast, whole wheat toast, Challa bread, but nothing, nothing, NO-THING turns bread pudding into the decadent, "one more spoon!" kind of treat than using croissants.


Use them.
For your bread pudding.
You won't regret it.

Friday, January 31, 2014


Remember how thrilled I was when I came across these little guys here in the house on Walnut Court that Preservation SOS loved on to make sure it would be preserved?

 If not, you can read the original blog post here!

These nifty little brass corners are "dust corner" - a rather simple, yet ingenious and very decorative way to keep your stairs cleaner. Nailed into the corners of your steps, they prevent dust from accumulating in those tight spots and make sweeping down your stairs a breeze! They became popular in the 1890s but remained popular for quite a while.

Our little old house is bereft of many original features so if there is an opportunity to add a little flair of bygone times, I get giddy like a little school girl and just can't wait to get started. Fortunately, life is a real master at throwing me curve balls and so this project fell to the wayside and was delayed quite a bit.

Until now!

Upstair's steps before the attack - clearly in need of a few touch-ups (does anybody else always yell "Don't hold on to the wall!" to their children? Sheeesh ...)and they are already painted a low maintenance grey). The steps got dinged up a bit when we got rid of my vintage school desk. It was lovely, a solid piece of heavy duty furniture, but there was no room for it downstairs and that's where all the action happens so I decided to let it go.

Back to the dust corners. I'd ordered a first batch of corners from VanDykes restorers (here, if you are curious) waaaaay back and then got sidetracked with all kinds of other projects.
It happens.
A lot.

The dust corner kit comes complete with a handy little doodad that helps you set the nails ... if only it weren't for the really hard, old wood. That made nailing the little corners more of a task than I expected. After messing up one I have now resorted to pre-drilling a small hole before even attempting to hammer in the brass nails that come as part of each corner.

Setting them is really easy - they fit neatly into the corner where side rail, riser and step meet, and the metal is soft enough to mold it deeper into the corner by simply pushing down on it gently with your thumb. Set the nail, a few swift taps and you're done!

It does indeed keep the dust from collecting in the corners and adds a sweet unexpected touch to the stairs - I can't wait to add it to the remaining steps (and already placed the order for 38 more corners ... oy).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Just In Time For Spring

Well, okay, maybe not in time for spring which seems to be ways out but at least in time for the new year I did some blog cleaning removing all those fake comments with handy-dandy links to commercial sites.
Nuh-uh, sorry, but that stuff doesn't fly here.
Besides, vinyl replacement windows? Vinyl fences?
You could at least pretend you actually read this blog but nooo ....
Too bad.

Now it's all cleaned up, and things are ready to go for another year at the Little Old House. I have been quite amiss in updating you all on what's going on over here and, granted, it's not all that much, because somehow, around Christmas, everything comes to a screeching halt and that ol' engine has one heck of a time getting back to speed.

So, we've been busy with work, little art projects, little sewing projects, Little Man's acceptance into the Duke TIP program, cub scouts and the impending cross-over to boy scouts, and much, much more.

We are slowly getting back into the swing of DIY things so chaos should be picking up here soon enough!