Getting repairs done


February was a great time to get repair work done. Not too cold, not much rain, no snow. Our picnic table, made of plastic wood, would never rot, but apparently could break. When we had the serious flooding last year, the table had sunk into the saturated sand on one side and the torsional stress cracked a couple of seat supports. The price of replacement plastic wood was prohibitively expensive so I fashioned replacement parts with a cedar 2×4. It’s really nice having all the necessary tools on hand.




The next item on my to do list was reseating some loose tiles in the guest bathroom. I have no idea why these two tiles became loose: earthquake, floods, take your pick. I had to put this off for quite a while because I didn’t have any spare tiles. So I slowly worked out the grout over the course of several months and when I was sure they were both completely loose, I lifted them cleaned off all the old mortar and reset them.






After that, I decided I needed to build a bench seat for the cab of my truck, so I could carry both dogs in the cab along with Peter. I had some scrap 3/4 inch plywood, 3 inch thick foam from a project that never happened, and some leftover fabric from some curtains I made when we lived in Illinois. Once that was assembled I fashioned a strap with a carabiner to secure the bench to an anchor in the truck.

Version 2



D’Argo thought it was awesome. He jumped in, sniffed it from end to end, picked his side, and lay down. He was all set. Oscar was nervous and confused, but he has since decided it’s pretty comfy. Oscar usually sprawls out and falls asleep. D’Argo sits up and watches out the side window. Dog approved!





While I was searching in my fabric stash for the bench cover, I came across some upholstery fabric and piping (from the same aborted project as the foam) and discovered I had more than enough material to reupholster our shabby ottoman.  I immediately started taking the old cover apart for a pattern, removing thousands of staples, and again inflaming my tennis elbow.





I realized I wasn’t going to be putting those staples back by hand. So I finally gave in and bought a compressed air stapler. I had never used any compressed air power tools and I was amazed at how smooth and easy it was to use. Putting the ottoman back together was a breeze.







It turned out really well, and was an immediate favorite perch for D’Argo. The boys also appreciate the boost to get on our bed.




The final spring repair was to replace the french door screen. We initially had a curtain screen, but the velcro had come loose from the frame, there was a tear near the opening, and grasshoppers had chewed holes in the fabric. So I decided to spend a little extra and purchase a retractible screen. According to the instructions, it could be installed in 20 minutes. I was under no such illusion. Something always goes wrong. I expected the clearance between the door frame and the stone facade would be insufficient. That was easy to fix with scrap wood I had on hand from the kitchen renovation. It took half a day. I got it all installed then found that one of the screws to hold the stop in place was stripped. While I was rooting around looking for a replacement part, there was a commotion in the back yard. D’Argo, vigilant, headed full tilt for the open back door. Although there are stripes on the screen to let you know it’s there, they were not seen by a certain terrier running at full speed. D’Argo crashed through. Luckily, because of the missing screw, the screens gave way without damage. I’m quite certain D’Argo didn’t know what hit him, but from that moment on he’s been cautious around the back door.

Coping with stress?

Back in December, someone had posted a link to a painting club. Just for fun I “liked” the page. Now and again they would post short e-pamphlets on different painting techniques, and ads for art classes. One of the classes caught my eye: painting acrylic pet portraits. It’s something I’d always wanted to try and I already had the acrylic paints for my carvings, so I gave it a try. They turned out great, and I was hooked. I went on to take three or four other Craftsy classes, exploring other media. That’s when I discovered pan pastels and a talent for painting portraits. I may have gone a little crazy. I’ve been quite prolific. The panda was my first pastel but I quickly moved on to other species.






I sold this elephant portrait to a friend who saw it on Facebook.






Black and white renderings are some of my favorites.







I did two versions of the tiger. Black and white….






…and color







Of course I had to try painting my own animals.











One of my hens, Jasmine.

Oscar has been the most challenging and I’ve actually produced 4 paintings of him, but haven’t been completely satisfied.






After Jasmine, I worked up the courage to paint other birds. A Spoon-billed Sandpiper…






A Cardinal…



This is just a sampling. I’ve done many more, including portraits of friends’ dogs. Peter wonders where this sudden surge of artistic creation comes from, and suspects it’s a coping mechanism to deal with the stress of him being in school. Maybe. Or maybe I just needed a new creative outlet that offers satisfaction at a much faster pace than the hours upon hours it takes to create a carved and painted bird. Whatever the reason, I absolutely love this art form and I continue to turn out painting after painting, even now that Peter has graduated.  If I can turn a profit at some point, then: Hurray!

How a chicken got her name.

I won’t post a picture with this one because it’s a bit too gruesome.  One day back in April, I was sitting quietly in the living room while the chickens roamed around outside of the fenced yard.  This was the middle of the day.

I heard a sudden commotion in the back yard.  A chicken giving an alarm call.  I ran to the back door to check. I could see several chickens spread out around the yard motionless, except for one who was high-tailing it for the fenced yard. Curious as to what caused the commotion, I took one more step out the back door.  A coyote, who was blocked from my view, took off for the woods.  Terrified, I gather up my girls and put them back into the safety of their yard and went  in search of the one that had taken “flight”.

It took me a while, but I finally found her in the far corner cowering in some weeds. It looked at first as if she had gotten away clean, but when she turned around, I realized just how close she had come to being a coyote’s dinner.  Half her tail feathers and a lot of her back and bottom body feathers were missing and she had a bad gash under her pygostyle (pope’s nose).

There was no way to catch her until nightfall, so I waited and arranged to have Sara come by to help with the veterinary care. After dark we nabbed her from her perch in the coop and took her inside to clean her up and start her on antibiotics.  I was all for calling her Lucky, but Sara had seen too many Luckies in her years of veterinary practice who were anything but lucky.  Peter suggested Roadrunner and it stuck.

It took about two weeks for the wound to heal and all the feathers to return, but she’s fully recovered and no worse for the experience. I’m able to tell her apart by the fresh black and white tail feathers. At least I will until she molts.

What still baffles me is why the coyote went for a Barred Rock hen, when far more obvious white Leghorn hens were sticking out like sore thumbs in the yard? Prey of convenience, I guess.

An amazing dog

Poor little Oscar sustained a rather hideous injury on Labor Day.  Excited by the arrival of one of his favorite guests, Oscar decided jumping on the fence was a good way to show his enthusiasm. Unfortunately, his paw slipped through the wiring and caught his caudal pad, partially tearing it from his wrist. Fortunately, the guest he was so excited about was my good friend Sara, a veterinarian, who always travels with a med kit. With some medications I had on hand and her bandages, we got him treated. Considering how much it hurt, he was amazingly cooperative.

The injury requires daily dressing changes. Remove the old bandage, clean, blow dry, and redress. He wasn’t impressed with the blow drier, so I had Peter rewarding him for staying still during the process. It became a nightly ritual. On the fifth day, I went into the bathroom (not the dogs’ favorite place because that’s where they get their baths), and got all my supplies ready. I opened the door and there was Oscar waiting in the hallway. I asked him if he’d like to come in, fully expecting him to slink off down the hall, but to my utter surprise, he walked in and lay down on the towel and propped his injured leg on the other towel.

The next night, he was in the living room when I got everything ready. I walked in and he looked up at me. I said, and these are my exact words, “Oscar, I need you in the bathroom”. He proceeded to get up, walk down the hall and into the bathroom. I stood there with my jaw sagging for a moment, and he popped his head out the door with a “well, aren’t you coming?” look.

Yes, dogs recognize and respond to patterns, and yes, they respond strongly to positive reinforcement, and yes, I’ve been working very hard to develop optimism in my dogs, but this just blew me away. All I can think is, “What an amazing, trusting, confident dog!” and “Thank the Good Dog the injury wasn’t sustained by D’Argo!”