The Homestead Zoo Update

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Everyday here on the Homestead is an opportunity to see some very different critters than what are usually seen within city limits.  

There have been some additions to the cast of ‘regulars’ that roam the Homestead….

Frank the Fox recently moved into the area.  He is a single guy looking to pick up pretty chicks..but he’ll settle for my ducks.  He lopes through daily looking for the perfect opportunity to snag a tasty duck confit…. I have not seen him successfully nab one yet, but he has made off with something smaller a while back, most likely a squirrel.

Harry the Hairy Woodpecker along with the Mrs. (that is Harriette above) are daily visitors to the bird seed and suet feeders I have hung out.  Harry hasn’t quite grasped the concept of the regular bird seed feeder though as he pounded a hole in it trying to get at the seed inside instead of reaching into the already made holes…..he must be in government services…

Along with Mr. & Mrs. Hairy Woodpecker, their smaller cousins Donald & Dorothy Downy Woodpeckers are also regulars to the feeders.  They often get into a fight amongst themselves though and I have requested they have a meeting with a marriage counsellor to iron out their differences, we all need to get along here at the Homestead.

The Rockettes equivalent of the nature world would have to be the flocks of Chickadees that flit through the trees showing off their agile acrobatic feats.  Never sitting still long enough, I was amazed that I captured 3 on the feeder at one time.

Ned the White Breasted Nuthatch is the local mafia boss (doesn’t he look like a ‘Don’?), he monopolizes the bird feeder and is very territorial against other Nuthatches, the Chickadees and will even go up against the larger Hairy Woodpeckers for feeder control.

Rowdy Roddy Red Squirrel is nothing but a pain in the a#$! critter.  Raiding the bird feeders, trying to tear holes in roofs, these little rats with furry tails are the bane of most home/cottage owners in the north.  I have made arrangements with Ned the Mafia Boss to ‘take care of him’ for me….

If you have not seen my previous post during the summer about my brood of ducks and the making of a duck feather pillow, check it out….but I am glad to still have them hanging around.  Although they should have booked their flights already to warmer climes as pretty soon, they will be having a hard time paddling in the frozen lake.

John Deer is a regular visitor too…he keeps mowing down my lilies and columbine plant, but I fixed him, I just chopped them down to the ground for winter the other day…so he can look elsewhere for food, the garden buffet is now closed for the winter.

I also have Steven the Skunk, but thankfully, he shows up under the cover of darkness and is thrilled with his new job of aerating my lawn looking for grubs….and no, I do not have a picture of him.  You can guess why I haven’t attempted to get one….

Peter & Paula Pileated Woodpeckers are quite shy but they come around ocassionally gracing us with their red-spiked mohawk do’s.  They are quite large and are at their happiest when they are boring into sick trees looking for insects.

Bruce the Bluejay is a cocky and brash fellow.  He loves pretty much anything you toss his way, but he is very, very fond of peanuts.  He revels in stealing them from Chester Chipmunk.

Speaking of Chester, he has recently retired to his burrow for the winter, I have not seen him in a couple weeks now.  He hoarded his way through at least 2  20lb bags of bird seed and peanuts this summer…he will not be able to fit through his tunnel in spring he will be so fat from eating all winter.

Larry & Loretta Loon have now donned their winter plumage, but here they are still sporting their summer spotted tunics.  They will be departing soon with the ducks, I think they are flying the same cheap, red-eye carrier….

I hope you enjoyed a trip through the Homestead Zoo….its been a fun year seeing all critters around here.  There are many more nomads roaming through now on their southern migration, but the majority of the ones displayed today spend the winters here.  Hardy souls they are.  I am almost ready for my southern migration too….

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And the winner is….

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Congrats to Chris from Saskatchewan!!!  She is the lucky winner of the random draw of correct answers for the La Gitana Creations Microsuede Handbag.

She correctly identified the mystery critter below, which is a North American Freshwater Leach.  Fish, Loons and Diving Ducks think they are pretty darn tasty…and Fishermen swear by them as bait (as one of our contest entries mentioned).

Hubby fished the critter out of the lake a few weeks ago, so of course, I took it as a great photo op moment.

Thanks to all who entered!  Chris, I will get your new handbag packaged up and sent via Canada Post out to you, please send me your complete address via email to: info@deborahlsykes.com and I will get it posted this week.

Congratulations!

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Tile Backplash Project – Part TWO

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Where did I leave off…..oh yeah…drywall done, taped, primed and painted.  After arriving at the Homestead Friday and even though he had just spent 3 ½ hours in a car, hubby got to work hanging the upper cabinets back up on the wall.  He really is a hard worker, I am totally blessed to have him as my hubby. 

It took just over an hour to get the cabinets back up, which went off without a hitch.  I then rewashed the glassware and dishes that I had wrapped in newspaper as they were packed them away until we could get them back in the cabinets.  At least everything going back would be spic ‘n span clean and I wouldn’t have to use paper plates anymore.

The remainder of the evening was spent relaxing and enjoying our staple Friday night, home-made pizza, with BIG anticipation for tomorrow – tile day! Woo-Hoo!  The project was nearing completion, even with an out-of-the-way side trip careening through the countryside drywall re-do. 

Saturday morning dawned (and late I might add, I am not happy about this darkness until almost 7:30 a.m.) and once we had our bellies full of breakfast, we got to work prepping for tile.  Hubby had purchased a new tool for the job as what home reno project isn’t complete without the requisite new tool to go along with it? 

In this case, it was a tile cutting saw.  Looking very similar to a small table saw, only it comes with a diamond tipped blade and a water reservoir to keep the blade cool while it cuts the tiles.  Awesome deal at the local, big box hardware store too.  It will come in handy when we get around to revamping the bathroom back home. 

Back to the task at hand though…I had picked out some gorgeous, porcelain tiles from aforementioned big box hardware store, approx. 3” x 6” tiles and I wanted them laid out in a Subway pattern.  This is a very straight forward pattern with minimal cuts.  I could have gone for a Herringbone pattern, but hubby surely would have nixed that idea (and quite possible me as well) once he saw how many diagonal cuts would have been needed…not to mention the extra tile necessary for such a pattern. 

He mixed up the thinset (gray, goopy, sloppy tile adhesive) and got started slopping the stuff on the floor, counter, walls…everywhere where there was an empty space, thinset was glopped on.  There really has to be a better way of getting this stuff OUT of the bucket and ONTO the walls with minimal mess.  If anyone has any ideas, pass them along, even if its too late for this project it will come in handy on the next one.  Once the thinset was in place, and working one small area at a time, he started getting the tiles in place. 

WOW…what a difference!  Even with the little tile spacers stuck everywhere, it was a huge improvement over what had been on the wall. 

Just after 7 hours later and with all the tile installed (again, with minimal cursing) and cleanup done for the day, we collapsed on the sofa with some well-deserved cold beer and piping hot beef sammies with oven fries, just in time to catch another spectacular, Northern Ontario sunset…

Sunday was a little later of a start, mainly because I was hugging my pillow for too long, but once breakfast was over with, it was time to get the grout on the wall tile.  We pulled the stove back out (I think we set a record for how many times a stove can pulled out and put back in place within 3 weeks), covered the floor and counter with drop sheets and were ready to go.  Hubby mixed up a batch of grout, which is apparently just as goopy as thinset, maybe even more so as the stuff was just going everywhere while he was applying it.  

My job was to follow along behind with a bucket of clean, warm water and a big sponge and wipe the tiles down.  It is imperative after applying grout that you clean the tiles thoroughly, replacing the water often and just keep going over and over and over and over the tiles again until you think you are going to wipe the newly installed tiles off the wall.  Then wipe some more.  Trust me, you may think you got it all off…but once it dries, it is harder to get off if you don’t spend the 2 weeks wiping with a sponge (yes, I am exaggerating, but it really does feel like your sponging off tile for that long). 

Several hours later, the tile job was DONE.  YAY.  WOO-HOO!  But we still had some finishing touches to get done.  Mainly re-installing the outlets that were left hanging, putting up a new florescent fixture above the sink (on a switch too!) and getting my new hood fan installed over the stove – DOUBLE WOO-HOO on that as I no longer would have to try and cook in Braille, I would be able to SEE what I was doing.  For those needing a reminder of the Before look…ugh…here you go:

Now….AFTER…

All in all, for a relatively small project, it wasn’t that bad.  The biggest inconvenience is being without a kitchen sink, but we managed to get through that hurdle in just one weekend.  All told, it took 3 weekends to get done, and the cost was under $500 (not counting the new tool), not bad considering drywall had to be replaced, new insulation, vapour barrier, etc.

I now have a functional kitchen with wall tile that I can CLEAN and extra lights so that I can see what I am cooking. 

I now want to give a BIG THANK YOU to my hubby who worked tirelessly through the entire project….even working through his birthday too.  I am married to the best guy in the world….even if he keeps trying to steal my pillow…

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Do You Know What This Is?

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It is contest time! 

Want to win this as a prize?

La Gitana Creations Microsuede Handbag

If you can correctly identify the mystery critter below, leave your answer in the comments section and a winner will be drawn at random from correct answers given.  Draw will be held next Tuesday, October 30th.

Kudos to those that immediately know what this is… 

Family Members are excluded from this contest, one entry per person, comments will not be shown until Tuesday morning.

 

Mystery Critter

 

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Homestead Halloween

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Next door to the Homestead is a recreational Cottage Camp, a small, 5 cottage operation run by a lovely couple that took it over late last year.  They also have 4 lovely little girls….Melanie, Annie, Piper and Mira.  Melanie is the oldest at 7 and Mira the youngest who is getting close to 3.  They are well-behaved kids who absolutely adore fishing as much as their parents do.  Watching them charge out onto the dock with their miniature fishing poles in hand, and seeing their excited, happy faces when they ‘land the big one’ (usually a 3″ bluegill or rockbass) this past summer was priceless.

They also are very adept at catching minnows and storing them in buckets all day until their parents tell them its time to release them back into the lake so they have something to catch tomorrow (catch and release being taught at such a young age is an important lesson learned in conservation).

As much as the girls enjoy their ‘cottage living’ lifestyle, it does come with challenges living so far out from the nearest city/town.  There are about a dozen cottages/homes on the road and not all of them have people living in them year round.  Us included as we will be closing up the Homestead sometime in December until we return around mid-March.

With not many neighbours, the girls are limited in their trick or treating ventures.  Since Halloween falls on a Wednesday this year, we will not be here either as we will be back home during the work week.  But I wanted to make the girls first Halloween here a memorable one. 

Inspiration came in the form of the typical, Halloween, trick or treat bag.  Only on a much smaller scale.  Created from leftover Quilter’s Fat Quarters I had stashed in my sewing room, I whipped up 4, small bags to hold some treats for them with the added bonus of the girls being able to re-use the bags to hold any other treasures after their treats were eaten (hopefully not the frogs they chased during the summer).

With girls being girls and liking all things cute and cuddly, I used a kitten print pattern and a contrasting upper band.  Keeping all four bags the same was the main goal to avoid potential arguments of who likes what fabric better.  Complete with name tags so no one gets confused as to whose is whose.  Except maybe for Mira, as I don’t think she can read yet.  Her mother will have to referee if she insists one of her sister’s is actually hers.

Hopefully this makes up for less than stellar door knocking that awaits them.  I am looking forward to seeing their faces when we drop them off this weekend and hope they enjoy their first Halloween in their new surroundings. 

As for everyone else, hope you all enjoy a Safe and Happy Halloween!

 

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Replacing a Tile Backplash-Part ONE

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Sounds fairly simple doesn’t it?  But sometimes the easiest of plans often go awry….

Awry…what an interesting word too, and the best one that describes our *minor* kitchen reno as the definition of Awry is: ‘Away from the appropriate, planned, or expected course’…clearly, that was happening here.

When we bought the Homestead a year ago, the previous owner ‘prettied’ up the place to sell.  We knew this going into it as it was obvious from the first look at it.  So we were going to live with the little odd things for the time being until we got the major stuff done and out of the way (like the ROOF)….

This was one of those ‘little’ things that has turned into an unexpected BIGGER project.

The tile the previous owner chose was a slate floor tile…for a backsplash (DUH!),  BIG, 12″ x 12″ pieces of gray-black, absorbant sponges slapped on the wall.  Literally that is what they must have done.  No spacing of tiles, no grout, just slap the thinset on and have at ‘er.  Oh, and let’s cut itty-bitty pieces in to fill in those annoying gaps when a row of 12″ tiles does not evenly space out on the wall.

Yay. Done. Stick a For Sale sign up and get the place SOLD!

Here is the tile before (looks WAY better in pictures than close up, trust me)…

 

After a year of trying to live with it, I had had enough.  Especially after trying to cook anything remotely fatty and it splatters from here to Alberta.  Remember I said absorbant sponge for wall tile? Well, if the bears could have gained access to the inside of my Homestead, they’d be licking the slate tile clean trying to get the bacon grease out of it.

Hammer, chisel and prybar in hand, we start trying to pop the tiles off the wall.  This is the point where I am hoping the previous work crew had done a LOUSY job and that the tiles would practically leap off the walls in fear of seeing the hammer and chisel.  Nope, stubborn things were so well secured to the wall that the drywall started coming off in hunks with the tiles….

Greeeaat…..

So we abandoned the idea of being ‘careful and cautious’ and just started yanking and prying the tiles off leaving behind huge holes and a clear view of the not-so-well-done vapour-barriered walls…perfect, another job to add to the to-do list.  We may as well take the upper and lower cabinets out and pull the sink and coutertop to remove that drywall too, no sense doing a half-a$$ed job says hubby. 

Once all the drywall was down and cleared out, we surveyed the walls.  One wall was a short-width one, ceiling height by about 4′.  The other was the longer 8+’ expanse that housed all the cabinets and sink as well as the stove.  We zipped to the local lumber store and ordered drywall to be delivered the following week as my Impy certainly wouldn’t be able to hold 10′ x 4′ sheets of drywall.

Next up was taking the flimsy layers of vapour barrier down (3 pieces, as thin as plastic wrap and not a piece of Tuck tape to be found anywhere) and clearing out the mouse shredded insulation from another spot (that was disgusting) as well as a knot hole in one of the original 2×4′s that was an ant grave yard ?? Have no idea, your guess is as good as mine….Hubby rewired 2 electrical outlets (that were not even connected to anything when we bought the place, but they certainly looked nice!) and also put in new wire for an over-the-sink light and one for a stove hood fan (which was non-existent, who doesn’t put a hood fan in?!)

Preventative Measures to Keep Mice Out

With the electrical done and the new insulation packed in where it needed to be, we stapled AND Tuck taped the new vapour barrier up and were done for the weekend.  YAY!The drywall was being delivered next week, so it was time for a well deserved break…with a beer… or two…or three….

The following weekend, the drywall was delivered promptly at 9 am on Friday, by the end of the day, all 3 sheets were up and taped and the first coat of mud slapped on.  Perfect! moving along at breakneck speed we were.  Friday night was beautiful, no wind and mild temps, so we relaxed with a fire and watched the stars appear in the sky until we couldn’t keep our peepers open any longer…which was around 9 pm…woo-hoo..party animals we are.

We spent Saturday doing a second coat of mud, then I started painting primer where the cabinets and wall tile were going, leaving the rest open as hubby needed to still do a third coat of mud on the exposed wall areas.   As the paint and mud were drying, we got to work on installing the new countertop into the existing cabinets.  What fun!  ok, maybe not..there is a reason you hire people to do certain things…..but with minimal cursing, the job got done…and of course, hubby is an extremely quick learner when it comes to acquiring a new skill.  With the new counter top in and the sink back in action (have you ever tried to do dishes in an itty-bitty bathroom sink? there is another new skill learned there, trying to avoid breaking the mugs in a porcelain sink), we were able to have a somewhat normal dinner and thankfully a countertop to work on.

As luck would have it, I had to leave early Sunday morning to come back home and work (sorry sweetie), but hubby managed to finish the third coat of mud, finish priming the walls and got the 2 coats of finished paint done (he worked so hard, I may have to make his favourite dessert this week).

Next up, the upper cabinets get to be re-installed, THEN, we can actually start putting up the new wall tile….woo-hoo!

Update to come next week…..

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Bushels of Bulbs

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It is that time of year again.  After the garden beds have been pulled of the weeds and annuals and the perennials have been cut back, it is time to plant bulbs in the ground so your gardens ‘makeup face’ is fresh and new come early Spring.

Walk into any grocery store, hardware store, or big box store right now and you are guaranteed to see bushels of bulbs in hundreds of varieties.

Daffodils come in a myriad of bloom types, Tulips from Holland show off their vibrant colours, and Crocus’s and Snowdrops offer the first glimpses of green, often when snow is still on the ground.

Bulbs may be wrinkly and ugly  looking when you plant them in the ground, but they hold the promise of a colourful Spring in 6-7 months time.

Prepare the chosen location by turning the soil of over well and adding compost.  Do not add any manure as the richness of it will burn the bulbs.  Dig down to the depth recommended on the packaging and setting the tips of the bulbs pointing skyward.  

Group them together either in mixed or same types or ‘scatter’ them to mimic naturalization.  Once set in the ground, cover and then water thoroughly.  You want the bulbs to get a good head start on root setting before the cold of winter sets in.  If you live in an area filled with four-footed, grazing critters (aka DEER), make sure you plant deer-resistant varieties, otherwise, you are just offering them a buffet come Spring when they are starving for any new, green growth.

Then, when you are absolutely at your wits end in March, desperate for some colour after the months and months of brown and gray hues of winter, they peek forth with smiling faces showing the promise of Summer to come.

So get out and dig in the dirt today, you will thank me come Spring time!

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Knuts for Knitting

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Ever get the bug for something and you can’t stop? 

That is me lately… I have not been able to put down the knitting needles since mid-August.  The cooler weather of Fall that arrived has prodded me further into action.

I just finished a beautiful, hooded cowl for my daughter (below), that was made using an Alpaca blended yarn.  First time ever working with Alpaca….man, talk about a hairy yarn.  I felt like I had 5 cats sleeping on my lap whenever I was working on it.  Definitely a ‘messy’ yarn, but extremely warm and works up beautifully.  My best friend was the vaccuum after each knitting session…..

Laura’s Hoodie

I am currently working on a pattern that will be a mitt/hat/scarf set for when I am out and about showing houses this winter.  Ask any real estate what they hate most about showing houses in the winter….it is that their hands are always freezing because they are trying to open lockboxes with numb hands.  Hopefully these will keep my fingers toasty so that I can get into the darn things.

My New Mitts…in progress

So far in the past month and half I have made 2 hats, 4 pairs of mitts and a scarf, all of these done for when I am at the Homestead.  It gets a LOT colder there than it does at home so I made some lightweight ones for ‘not-as-cold’ days and then some extra-wooly-warm ones for those ‘freeze-your-butt-off’ days.  You can never have enough mitts and hats around when it is Minus Whatever Celsius in the Great White North.

By the way, if you didn’t know this already, -40C is the same as -40F…when it gets that freaking cold….cold is C-O-L-D.

Anyone else out there a knit (or crochet) fanatic?  Would love to hear what you are working on….so feel free to email or link a pic in the comment section.

Oh, and if you haven’t discovered the following website yet, your missing out!  Get on over to www.ravelry.com and check it out, you will soon be lost in a sea of yarn, patterns and wanna-do projects.

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DIY Drink Coasters

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If you are a knitter or a crochet person (like me), then you will definitely see the benefits to these simple drink coasters.

I always have tons of leftover wool from projects.  Never enough to DO anything with as you typically just buy the amount you need for any given project.  Patterns always give you leeway and there is always some leftover.

I came upon this idea long, long ago…so long I forgot about it until I sat at the Homestead over the weekend knitting mittens (which would lead to more scrap wool) and surveyed how many of these things I have here….I counted 12 throughout the various rooms…but it always seems like I never have enough sometimes to go around when company comes.

So I need to make some more and thought, why the heck shouldn’t I pass along this little tidbit of Decorator DIY to my readers?

So here you go….

Materials Needed:

Scrap yarn of various colours, worsted weight works really well for the canvas size

Plastic Canvas sheets (optimum size is 6 squares/inch), they come in various sized sheets from places like Michael’s Craft Stores.

Large eyed darning needle or tapestry needle

Coloured felt squares

Directions:

Cut plastic canvas into 4″ x 4″ squares, taking care to have an even edge all the way around.  Using different coloured yarns, fill the squares of the plastic canvas with half stitches just like you are needlepointing a project.  Fill the whole canvas and tuck the ends underneath to secure them. 

Cut a 4″ x 4″ felt square and place on the back of the plastic square.  Whipstich around the edge to secure and tuck in ends…VOILA…instant drink coaster.

Be creative with your designs, you don’t have to have plain colours.  As is evident by this one…and yes, this one is mine :)

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