A Wood Stove and Other Things

Organic tree fertilizerWhile we are busy trying to sell our home in the valley so we can permanently move up to our mountain property, we have been able to sneak up to the future homestead a few times these past few weeks to get a few chores done.

One important task to accomplish was feeding our fruit and nut trees.  We stopped at an organic nursery on our way up to the future homestead and found a great organic fertilizer. It has kelp and worm compost and other wonderful things in it, providing not just the NPK that you find in chemical fertilizers, but lots of micronutrients such as boron and copper that are essential for tree health!  We also raked away the last of the leaves and pine needles to prevent any pests from over-wintering in them, and widened the watering berm a bit because the drip line has expanded with the ever-growing trees.  We did a drastic pruning this year, so the trees are actually shorter, but we need to make sure that the trees have a strong scaffolding shape for the future. Unfortunately we got a borer in the largest cherry tree last year, so we cut out as much of the damaged wood as possible and are keeping our fingers crossed that the tree will survive.cap and vent for an outhouse

Another necessary chore was to put a rain cap on the outhouse vent.  When using a venting an outhousecomposting toilet (which is essentially what an outhouse is), excessive moisture is the biggest enemy!  Instead of human waste composting with minimal smell, excessively wet waste will stink to high heavens and become a putrid sludge instead of compost.

If you are eating right now, I apologize.  😉

We found several caps at our local hardware box store and decided on the one in the picture above one.  It appears that it will do a great job allowing for air flow, yet keep rain out of the vent pipe. Just what we need! Though we haven’t had much rain here in California this winter (we are in our fourth year of drought), the weather report said that quite a bit of rain was expected in the next couple of days, and they were right!  We got the vent on just in time!

february blooming almond tree

Almond tree blossoms in February

Speaking of the weather and the orchard trees:  it has been just too warm up on our future homestead!  Our almond tree is blooming and the pomegranate is starting to leaf out!  This is way too early.  We shouldn’t see this until at least the end of February and more often well into March.  Unfortunately, this probably means we won’t get any almonds this year because a freeze or very heavy downpour of rain will either kill the blossoms or knock them off of the tree entirely.  Oh well.  The tree is only starting it’s third year in our orchard, so I didn’t expect much of a harvest anyway.  Last year it had two almonds that fell off the tree mid-summer.

pomegranate tree leafing out

The pomegranate trees are already getting leaves!

Last, but by no means least, is our new wood stove!  Isn’t she cute?  It’s a little tiny thing, but just perfect for cooking on!  We decided to fire her up right away to burn off that new cooking on a small wood stovepaint smell.  Boy did it stink!  Phew!  According to the instructions that came with the wood stove, we will have to do this a few more times before the burned paint smell is gone, but that’s not a problem.  So now, when our home in the valley is sold and we move up to our mountain property and start building our new homestead, we will have a great way to cook outside without having to use up a lot of expensive propane!

While bringing some wood over to the new wood stove to burn, I found this mushroom on one of the logs!  Isn’t it beautiful?wood stove 7 This wood has been piled up for a couple of years and there were several other types of fungi growing on the wood – slowly but surely decomposing the cellulose – adding nutrients to the organic layer of duff on the forest floor.  Mother Nature at her best!

Thanks for coming over for a visit!



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Snowman Kit

Snowman Kits

Making a snowman kit is easy and fun!  They make great gifts for kids and even the adults love them!  If you have snow on your front doorstep more often than not in the winter – why not make one (or two) for the household.  Give him or her a name and he can come out to play every winter!   The first picture is one of Caden with his snoman, and here is a picture of a kit I made for my other grandson, Silas, last year: Snowman Kit

You will need:

1/4 yard of fleece for the scarf

2 glass “gems” for the eyes

3 or 4 buttons

1  two ounce pkg of Sculpey III

1 package of golf tees

two sticks for arms, about 1 foot long

one for nose about 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter and 4-5 inches long

one pair of mittens, either store bought or hand made with felt or knitted!

velcro or snaps or buttons or ribbons!

vinyl for carrier – about 9″ wide and 40″ long

drawstring – 2 feet Snowman Kit

Please read through these entire instructions first – that way you will have a general idea of what you are doing!

So, here we go…….  🙂      The first thing I did was make the “coal” pieces for the mouth.  I used Sculpey III, but you can use whichever make it and bake it clay you choose.  It’s best to work the clay first by kneading it a bit.  Be careful – the black and dark gray colors can stain your clothing!  I made 4 pieces in random shapes, baked it at 275 degrees for about 30 minutes.  After the “coal” was cooled, a golf tee is glued to the center back of each piece.  The golf tee is what holds each piece into the snowman.  Now you need to glue a golf tee onto the back of each glass “eye”.  But first use a permanent marker to blacken the end of the tee.

Snowman Kit

You can check out what the face will look like on snow using a paper plate!

This makes it look like a pupil.  If you don’t blacken the end of the tee, that’s okay, but I think the eyes look kinda creepy if you don’t!  Once you have your eyes glued to the tee, move on to the buttons and glue a golf tee onto the center back of each of them.  For glue I used the E6000 Industrial Strength Adhesive.  This stuff is wonderful and will glue almost anything together!  Just make sure you have adequate ventilation while you are gluing because the fumes are noxious!  🙁  You may prefer to use a glue gun.  Whatever floats your boat!

Snowman KitNow, take the short, fat piece of stick and whittle one end down so that it is in a cone shape.  You don’t have to be too accurate or perfect – imperfection, in my opinion, is better!  At this point you can paint or stain the nose orange, to represent a carrot, but I like my noses left natural.  The sticks for the arms are great if you can find some with a fork on the end, as the fork holds on the mittens a bit better, especially if there is a breeze.

Your pieces and parts are now done!  On to making the scarf, which doubles as the pieces and parts holder!

Snowman KitFirst, turn the edges down on both long sides and sew a seam.  If you are working with fleece, you don’t have to worry about raw edges!  If you are working with fabric that will ravel, either zigzag the edges, use nonfray glue, or turn the edges twice and sew the seam.  Once the seam is sewn, fold the scarf in half lengthwise, right side out, and place all of your pieces and parts along the scarf so you can figure out where to Make A Snowman Kitput them.  I prefer to put the nose in the middle, but you can put each piece wherever you choose.  Make sure there will be enough room in each pocket for each kind of part you have made, leaving an empty pocket in between.  In other words, you will need a pocket for the nose, one for the eyes, one for the buttons, one for the coal and one for the mittens.  Once you have determined where the pockets will be, sew a seam Make A Snowman Kitcrosswise (making the pocket).  Now sew a crosswise seam 3 inches from each end of the scarf.  You can cut the material (easiest to do if you are using fleece) to make fringe at both  ends of the scarf. If you prefer, you could always add yarn fringe.  Finally, sew the length of the scarf, skipping each pocket, and back-tacking for each start and stop.  You should now have a scarf that has five open pockets.  Now is the time to attach your preferred method to close four of those pockets – the ones for the mittens, eyes, buttons and coal.  The pocket for the mittens really doesn’t need a closure, but since I was using ribbon (which will dangle when the scarf is on the snowman) I wanted it to look more even so I put a ribbon closure there also.  The pocket for the nose doesn’t need a closure!  You can sew in velcro tabs, buttons, snaps or ribbons.

Make a Snowman KitThe final step is to make a carrier for the entire snowman kit!  I found this really cute vinyl tablecloth at WalMart and thought it would make an adorable carrier! It’s fairly waterproof so it can be left on the snow and the contents shouldn’t get wet!  I simply cut it into one long piece four inches wider than the nose for the width, and for the length I measured the arms and added five inches – twice.  So, for the snowman kit pictured, the width    Make A Snowman Kitwas 9″ and the length was about 38 inches (each arm is about 14 inches long, so 14 x 2 = 28, plus 5 x 2 = 10, for a total of 38)  I folded the vinyl in half, inside out, and sewed up each long seam.  On one side of the long seam, however, at about 1-1/4 inch from the top, stop – back-tack, leave about a 1/4 inch gap, then back tack again and finish the seam.  This is for the opening in the pocket that will carry the drawstring.  Now turn down the top  Make A Snowman Kitdown about 3/4 inch and sew a seam all the way around.  You might want to do this twice – just to make sure it won’t stretch or tear. Once all of the sewing is done – throw the whole vinyl carrier in the dryer for just a few minutes.  The hot dryer will take the wrinkles out of the vinyl. Insert the cording and you are done!  I also put jingle bells on the end of the cording – just for kicks and giggles!

Make A Snowman Kit

Fold up the scarf with the pieces and parts inside their pockets and slide down into the carrier, slip the arms in and cinch up the drawstring!

I hope you make one!  They are so much fun and can easily be made while the kids are in school or snuggled in bed at night!  And don’t forget to give them a great name!  Crystal or Snowball or Frosty or Twinkle……………..

Snowman Kit for Etsy



Here is a picture of some of the future (soon to be made) snowman kits I will be putting in my Etsy store this next week!


Here are a couple more pictures of my grandkids with their snowman kits.  Have  you noticed that the actual snowman hasn’t changed in any of the pictures with my grandkids – just his/her accessories!  Now that’s what I call Lazy!    😉   

Make A Snowman Kit!






Snowman Kit









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Keeping the Christmas Spirit Alive 365

Harvesting Sunflower Seeds

Harvesting SunflowersCaden’s sunflower seeds were ready to harvest, so I had his mom and dad (my son) bring him over to cut the heads off the stalks.  The sunflower plants were more than twice his size, so he cut the stalk in half first, then cut the stalk closer to the head of the actual sunflower.  We set them in an open paper bag outside to finish drying.  Harvesting Sunflowers

I also cut down the four sunflowers that I had growing.  The largest head turned out to be 15″ across!  These were the Mammoth Sunflower Seeds I was given for free from Barra Vineyards in Mendocino County.  I can still taste their Moscato ……..mmmmmmmm

Anyway, I also put these sunflowers in a paper bag to dry a few more days.  From what I have read, it is very important to thoroughly dry the sunflower heads by keeping them in a warm, dry place (outside in an open paper bag), turning them over once or twice a day, until the seeds start to fall out by themselves. The last thing you want is for the seed heads to start molding!Harvesting sunflower seeds

Once I could tell the seeds were dry, I sat in front of the TV one evening and literally rubbed over the seeds with the palm of my hand and they just fell out of the seed head. It was this easy because once the seeds are dry they shrink just a little and the head releases them.  I did have to pick out just a few, but not many.  The seeds were all placed in a colander so they could dry on the kitchen counter just a bit more for a couple of days, giving the seeds a quick stir every time I passed by.  I left the center of each head intact because those seeds were pretty small, and I figured the birds would benefit from them more than I would, so I gave them to Caden to place on the bird feeder in his backyard.

Soaking sunflower seeds

I had to put a pie plate over the seeds soaking in the salt water so the seeds would stay submerged.

I tasted a couple of the seeds and they were pretty good raw, but I decided to roast them with some salt because that is the way my dear hubby likes them.  I found some simple directions on the National Sunflower Association‘s website on how to salt and roast the seeds.  I soaked the seeds overnight in two quarts of water with 1/2 cup of sea salt, as directed, then roasted them at 300 degrees for about 30 minutes the next day.

We had a lot of seeds and I didn’t want them to go bad before we could eat them all, so I decided the best thing I could do with all those seeds was to share them!  I thought it might be fun for Caden to give away two bags of the roasted, salted seeds – one to Ms. Stewart, his 1st Grade Teacher last year, and the other to his dad for his birthday. It was in Ms. Stewart’s class that Caden first planted his sunflower seeds, that we later transplanted into my garden.  You can see those poor, sun starved seedlings HERE.  Those spindly plants survived thrived in my backyard garden, growing two decent sized seed heads!   Harvesting and Processing Sunflower Seeds

To present the seeds, I thought it would be fun to make a label that could then be attached onto the front of a closable sandwich baggie.  I used the computer to print “Caden’s Sunflower Seeds”  and underneath “Roasted and Salted” (see below), overlaying his picture, essentially making a custom label!  The label was printed on paper that is sticky on one side.  All Caden had to do was to stick the label onto the sandwich baggie and then fill the baggie with the roasted and salted sunflower seeds.  This was a fun way to finalize his experience growing sunflower seeds.  I think Caden is proud of his final product and I hope Ms. Stewart likes her gift!  I know his dad will.Harvesting and Preparing Sunflower seeds

Hmmmmm…… This was a such a fun project for me and my grandson, perhaps we can do something similar with pumpkin seeds next month!



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Hobby Stick Horse

How to make a hobby horseLast spring I was busy helping Nikki, my daughter-in-law, make birthday party favors for her daughter (my granddaughter) Emery.  The party theme was “My Little Pony” and instead of buying a whole bunch of candy or cheap little trinkets that would be thrown away and forgotten, it was decided to make a stick horse for each child.

How to make a hobby horse

These are all the pieces and parts you will need to cut out. I have already sewn the ears and the gusset together.  All you need for the head is about 1/2 yard of fabric and stuffing!

Nikki found a wonderful tutorial online and it’s called the “strapping stick horse”, click here to see it.  This is where you get the pattern and a full tutorial with instructions and great pictures on how to make a “strapping stick horse”, or hobby horse, as I call it!

I am showing how we modified the horse a bit from the original, as you will see in the pictures, to make it easier to put together.  In our version, the mouth is not open, and we didn’t take the time to embroidery the eyes and nostrils (too much embroidery, too little time, too many hobby horses!), but instead used buttons and googly eyes.  If you are making only one or two of these you will have plenty of time to embroidery!

How to make a hobby horse

First things first – sew together the ears, iron them flat.

After I sewed the first one together, I realized that I could make them faster using an assembly line: all the ears first, then all the gussets, etc..  I also realized that it was easier for me to change around the order (from the original tutorial) each part of the face was sewn together.  I found that if I sewed the ears together first, next sewed the gusset in, next sewed the ears into the slits, then lastly sewing in the mane while closing up the back of the head – this was the easiest way to make sure the ears were even.

DIY hobby horse

This is where the ears are sewn into the slits. I waited until the gusset was sewn in before I cut the slits so that they would be even on the head.

The first one I made in the order of the original tutorial, and I found that it was really hard to get the ears even on the forehead.  Once you have the sewing done, you can follow the tutorial for embroidering the eyes and nose (or using buttons like I did) and then stuffing the head, inserting and securing the stick.  Probably the easiest way to secure the wad of stuffing and fabric on the end of the stick is to  drill a hole (or two) through the stick as well as the groove around the stick,  Use thick quilting thread and once you have secured the fabric in the groove, pass the thread through the hole once or twice also.  I have found that after a short amount of use, unless you drill the hole and pass the thread through it, the stick may come out of the head.

How to make a hobby stick horse

Once the ears are sewn in, you will be making the yarn “mane” and then sewing that in down the back of the head. Pin, pin, pin! That’s all I can say.

You can make the horse’s gusset a different color so it looks like a Palomino, and you can even use a pinkish color for the inside of the ears!  I think the horses “mane” looks best when two or more colors are used.  As far as customizing these, another thought would be to buy fabric and yarn to match your child’s favorite “My Little Pony”!

After having made several of these, I can tell you that it is hard working with very “stretchy” fabric, unless you are a sewing pro.  Also, when you are finished sewing the head together and are stuffing the head, try to stuff with as big a wad as possible at a time.

How to make a Hobby horse

This is the horse all sewn, ready for stuffing. If you are going to embroidery the eyes and nose, you should do that now. If you are using buttons for the eyes and nose, you can either sew them on now or after the head is stuffed.


Little wads make the head look a bit lumpy and bumpy. 😉  When sewing on the halter, again, we went the easy route.  You can see in the pictures below that we did a simplified version of a halter.


Let me tell you – those things were a hit and when all was said and done cost less than most party favors!  They also make great Christmas presents!  You don’t have to buy any batteries for it (your kids are the batteries), it doesn’t make any noise (but your kids certainly will), you don’t have to feed it and you can “park” it behind the door!


  • Caden Caden My grandson, Caden, all smiles with his stick horse. He picked out one with a curly blonde mane and a red halter. Yes, that is a jump house in the background. No, we didn't allow them in the jump house with their horses! 🙂
  • Mia Mia Mia, my wonderful first grandchild, with her yellow haltered stick horse. Each child got to pick out their own horse and I don't think there were any that were exactly the same! Looks like there some ridin' going on in the background
  • Amanda Amanda Amanda, my beautiful grand-niece, enjoying her stick horse. I loved that the horses had different colored halters and manes. Some of the manes were curly and some were straight. Some were only one color of yarn and some had multiple colors.
  • Group shot Group shot Here are some of the kids with their stick horse party favors! That's my little granddaughter, Emery (the birthday girl), in the front wearing pink (what else?)
  • My sister My sister This is my sister, Machell, trying out one of the horses! Sometimes I claim her, sometimes I don't, but I love her anyway!


But here’s the funny part – the whole time I was sewing these horse heads together, I had a song stuck in my head. Don’t they call that an “ear worm”?  Anyway, let me explain.  Any of you who have seen the series of “The Godfather” movies will remember the scene when the guy wakes up in the morning, throws back his bed covers and discovers the head of his very expensive racehorse.  Remember?  (eeewwwww)  Well, as I was making these horse heads the theme song for “The Godfather” was on a continuous loop through my head!  So, if you’ll forgive me, I just HAD to reenact that scene:





For any of you who would like to have a stick horse similar to this one but don’t want to bother making one, I am going to make several and place them in my Etsy store soon, so stay tuned!

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