Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

According To Plan.

Posted on | February 21, 2015 | 3 Comments

The Great Backyard Bird Count was a bust.  Sure, the blue jay arrived to hit up the the peanuts.

But most of the little birds were absent because a mockingbird arrived, too.  And that mockingbird spent all his time guarding the feeders, swooping on any bird that attempted to get to the seed.

Which nixed my plan of hunkering down next to the wood stove, counting birds at the feeders, catching up on my Mother Earth subscription, and sipping coffee all day.  Instead, the kids and I spent the morning making cookies for Valentine’s Day.  Not because cookies can solve all your problems.  But cookies certainly don’t make them worse.  Kudos to Pinterest for successfully providing recipes for “fast and easy Valentine’s Day cookies.”  Almost all of them were “fast and easy.”  Almost all.   This one failed.  I mean, it looked cute in the picture:

Pink Pinwheel Sugar Cookies from

And it was “fast and easy”.  It just came out like this:

Of course, I wasn’t the only one who had a Pinterest pinwheel problem.  Luckily, I’ve suffered through years of sugar cookie disasters.  I think sugar cookies hate me.  Perhaps they sense the whole time that I am making them, I am thinking about how my time could be better spent making something chocolatey.  Regardless, I’ve learned that whenever cookies expand into a gooey misshapen blob they can fixed by taking a cookie cutter straight to them while the cookies are still soft.  Cut the cookies into the cute shapes and pretend everything went according to plan.  Voila!  Swirly Valentine’s Day heart cookies.

I’m not sure if this success means I am so brilliant at making cookies that I can salvage anything.  Or so terrible at making cookies that I have to use cookie cutters as a cookie-making handicap.  Probably just a sign that I should stick to chocolate.  Chocolate loves me. Chocolate cookies always come out right.

While we were warm and toasty, basking in the smell of baking cookies, the outside temperatures dropped, the wind chill picked up, and a winter storm blew in.  Cold temps are excellent for bird watching.  The feeders are usually jammed with birds filling up their tummies.  Except, you know, this.

School was released early.  Then cancelled.  Then all of the state shut down.  Because, you know, this:

I suppose I could have gone sledding with the boys.

Except snow is cold and I’m not really that kind of gal.  So I hit the craft closet to work through some unfinished crafts.  I finished 2 of the 3 gourd birdhouses.  I painted wren silhouettes on one of them.

And used a mosaic theme on the other.

I was happy with both of them and didn’t sweat the small mistakes.  I expect them to fade quite a bit after being outside so I didn’t need perfection.  Plus I don’t think the wrens will mind.  The real plan is to get the wrens to use the gourds instead of the potted plants on the deck.  I still had one more birdhouse to paint, but when I was googling birdhouse designs I got distracted by garden signs.  There is nothing more exciting than discovering a craft that you already have all the supplies for.  Well, there are more exciting things.  But not for a middle-aged mother stuck at home with all her kids on a freezing cold day.  Then “exciting” is kind of limited.  Anyway.

I already had the out the paint.  I also had plenty of broken down pallet pieces and leftover boards.  One board even had a post still attached.

The huge upside of snow is the lack of need for dropcloths to protect surfaces from spray paint.  A dropcloth that melts away!  Bonus!

With homemade stencils and some vegetable stamps I made 2 new signs for the garden.

For local friends I still have the stencils and letters I made and used for the signs if you’d like to use them, too.  I still plan to make one that says this:

Because can you have too many corny signs in your garden?  I think not.  It’s like talking to your plants even when you’re not there.

But I quit before I made the third sign because the kids were bothering me.  Also it seemed unfair to finish the garden signs when I didn’t finish the wren houses.  I’m an equal opportunity unfinisher.  So I put Little to work on making ice candles.  Water, food dye, and a full recycling bin was enough for this activity.

Don’t forget to put something floating in the center of the dyed water to leave room for the candle.

After leaving them out overnight, use some hot water to remove the recyclables.  Which leaves just the ice candles behind.  Be sure to put them on a tray or sheet with a lip because they will melt while they’re in the house.  But after burning them for a while just put them back outside to refreeze until the next use.

Since Little was still bored I got out the soap and lotion making supplies.  Not that he is amused by soap making.  But he loves using the digital kitchen scale to measure all the ingredients.  In his generation if it has buttons, it is entertaining.

I tried to make it educational by explaining the use of tare and the difference between measuring liquids by volume or weight.  But the first was easier to explain than the second so we just practiced with tare a few times.  It’s a snow day, people.  Let’s not go crazy with the education.  We settled on making lotion bars because we already had all those ingredients, my hands are in the desperately chapped stage of winter, and Little House in the Suburbs had a great recipe. We even had cute molds to shape the lotion bars so I was very happy with the results.  Even if the boys went a bit crazy with essential oils.

Finishing a project was exhausting.  Plus now Pretty was bored.  So I put her to work on felting.  I’m still making felted owls.

But I wanted an entire sheet of white felted fleece.  I planned to cut circles out of the large white piece and felt them to the owl bodies for tummies.  I’ve never made an entire piece of felting.  I wanted to use this site’s idea but I didn’t have bubble wrap or a pole to agitate the fleece so I had to settle for this method.  I also didn’t have the tray or an unused welcome mat called for in that method so we veered off plan. Which is always dangerous disastrous exciting.  We stacked the layers of  fleece on the counter accordingly:

We surrounded the fleece with dog towels before pouring boiling soapy water over the entire mess.

Then we “agitated” it with cooling racks.

We alternated hot and cold, rubbed and rolled it, and rinsed it all out.  I want to say it turned out as a nice solid sheet of white felting.  But it was a bit holey….

kind of ragged….

….but just fine for owl tummies.

And that was enough work on that project.  Because, you know:

Image result for i never finish anyth

In a burst of enthusiasm the school system scheduled a make up day for students.  Then they canceled it because you know, still this:

We made some soft pretzels because we have an awesome easy recipe and cooking counts as math and science.  Also I’m tired of making 3 meals a day.  Every freakin’ snow day.  All week long.  Let them eat soft pretzels.  Which is healthier than cake.  Probably.  Maybe. Who really cares?

I rescued some old frames from the shed and sent Big to fetch the old roll of barbed wire from the front pasture….

so we could experiment with barbed wire art and make something like this:

This custom window features a beautiful design that is in an original antique frame. It is Meticulously crafted piece by piece with aged barb wire. A beautiful design with flourish and character. Animals, Birds, Names, Logos, Instruments, States, People, Trees, Signs. Pet passed away and you still have a picture? yeh man no problem! send it and I’ll bring it back to life with barbed wire. If you want that old barn wood type deal look, I'm telling you I got it. Name it I'll Frame it! yeh man.

But there weren’t any how-to instructions attached to the website and there was a really, really, really steep learning curve.  Really steep.

Um, I’ll just work on that never again later.

So I took the kids out for lunch, ice skating, and to the 25 cent book sale at the local used book store.  Because we might kill each other otherwise deserved it.  Then I was lucky enough to go to work which, despite an office that included frozen water pipes, icy driveways, and slippery sidewalks, at least the only person I had to keep entertained was myself.  And my craft closet was too far away to tempt me into any more projects.  When I came home, we were back to square one.  I lingered over my coffee cup, trying to make a plan for the day.

When what should appear, 1 week after the Great Backyard Bird Count, and for the first time ever at our feeders?

3 Eastern towhees.  I rushed out to refill the feeders and replenish the suet.  Which kind of scared them away.  I’m sure they’re coming back.  Probably.  Maybe.  Dang it.

When I finally forced myself away from the windows and out to the barn, I found another surprise.  Despite the date carefully marked on the calendar and all the birthing supplies set out in preparation, the first goat kid arrived 3 days early.

Carmen had her baby birthed, cleaned up, and bouncing around by the time I showed up.  She managed without any help and during freezing night time temperatures.  That’s how the herd queen rolls.

It’s a little doe.  Welcome, Carla.

Which made me realize that even the best laid plans can be overrated.  Who needs a plan?  We’re winging it from here on out.  Whatever happens, happens, people.  Which is not a challenge, Mother Nature.  Not a challenge at all.


3 Responses to “According To Plan.”

  1. Ellen
    February 22nd, 2015 @ 5:27 am

    The gourd houses are gorgeous! Did you paint these freehand? Will you just be keeping them for your own use, or selling them?

    Good luck keeping the wren nests out of your potted plants, though : )

  2. admin
    February 22nd, 2015 @ 6:02 am

    I painted them freehand but it was really easy to draw the design with pencil and erase any stray marks afterwards. I just have the 3 so I’m keeping them for around here. However, we decided we’ll plant some more gourd vines this year so we’ll have more to paint next winter.

  3. Lin
    February 23rd, 2015 @ 5:46 pm

    I love your “best laid plans”—yours result in a sweet little fluffy guy—mine is my kid lost his job and I need to help pay his rent for 6 months. Ugh.

    I’ll take the goat, thank you.

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