Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chickens Welcome Spring (Almost)...and so do Some Turkeys (not ours)

Today was the first day where the sunshine and weather allowed me to put the chickens out.  At first skeptical they then quickly remembered what they had been missing for what seemed like 6 months of winter!  One of our Buff Orpingtons, a heritage breed, was the first to check it out, then venture out.

One of our Partridge Rocks...

A Black Star...

For those of you that buy eggs from us and are fans of the blue green eggs, please take the time to thank this chicken, our Aracauna, named Badger after a character in Fantastic Mr. Fox

The chicken in the center is out Silver Penciled Hamburg...

The chicken on the left is our Black Cochin, a feather footed breed and the chicken on the left is our Golden Polish.  Her head feathers are starting to look nice again.  Early in the winter I had to giver her a haircut because every time she drank water they got wet and froze.

The chicken in the center is our Dominique which is a heritage breed that is originally from New England.

You'll be happy to know that "Roadrunner Boese" who we got from our friends Pat and Dick because their chickens picked on her has been accepted by flock.  Last summer we also had to keep her and "Sunbutter," the little Old English Game hen (bought at the fair and standing in the bottom left center of this photo), together when outside (inside the others could have cared less) because our flock was picking on them as well, being outsiders and all.  After a winter of bonding with all the other girls they now can go outside together.  "Roadrunner" is standing in the door to the outside and when I came home all the chickens could have cared less that either of them were with the flock outside.

The white chicken in the back center of this photo is our Brahma bantam chicken that we bought at the fair last year.  They did not accept her then either but now do.  This makes me so happy.

These are not chickens but some wild turkeys that I found patrolling the yard last week.  Last year we would see them almost every day including the birth of chicks.  It's nice to see them again, yet another sign of spring!

Bee Death

On my lunch today I ran home to make sure that the bees could get out of the hive for some nice weather flight and to put the sugar feeder on it until the pollen starts.  Sadly I found that the entire hive was dead.  Was it disease, starvation, succumbing to the extreme temps this winter or something else???  I had to go back to work so I didn't inspect it too closely.  When I got home I opened it up and took a very close look.  All the bees were dead but there were by no means all the bees in the hive (10's of thousands) but rather only 1000's of dead bees.  So what happened to them?  The frames in the hive were surprisingly VERY heavy with honey so it seemed that starvation was not possible. 
For long time readers of the blog you will remember that last summer my one hive (not by choice) became two hives and then I once again combined them.  Re-read that post here: http://czarofthewoodsfarm.blogspot.com/2010/10/bee-update-and-then-there-were-two.html
Thank you to my beekeeping mentor, Steve, for taking the evidence that I presented to him today and told me the following.  What most likely happened, he feels and makes great sense, is that when I had to re-combine the 2 hives into one at the end of last summer they never worked out who was to be queen.  This probably caused there to be no queen and many of the bees left.  Without a queen there is no reason to be there.  I also found a new queen cell hanging in the hive today which means that the bees that were left were creating a new queen by feeding her royal jelly so that she would become queen.  Sadly she never had a chance to emerge, perhaps due to cold weather.  Had she have perhaps they would have been okay but Steve also pointed out that since all the drones were gone there would have been no reproduction going on.  This would explain why there was so much honey and comb.  All the bees worked hard to make it but once they couldn't figure out the queen situation many left, the rest died, leaving it all behind.
Sadly I have to start over but when I order/purchase new bees they will be happy to find all that yummy food waiting for them.  Steve, thanks for all your help.  I would bee lost without your knowledge and willingness to help me with our bees.

Update on Ceiling Vaulting Project

I couldn't resist posting this photo of Traveler as he walked down the hall just as I took a photo of our new pendant light in the hallway.  On to the update below...

We have undetaken the project of vaulting our front living room.  The first step was to move 18 inches (deep) of blown in cotton insulation.  Not looking forward to this...

However, a stroke of genius on my part made it so much easier...yep, that's a leaf blower!  If you haven't ever cleaned your gutters using a leaf blower you must do it.  Takes a several hour project and makes it into a 20 minute project.  That is where this idea sprung from!

The room prior to any demolition but after having moved most of the furniture out.  Only a few baskets of magazines moved together and a table needed to be moved and onto the demo phase...

And just like that the virgin ceiling had a big hole in it...no turning back now!

Demo continues...
That's our in house contractor, Jerry (aka my Dad), who makes all of this possible with his skill and mind blowing know how!

This mess is why we enclosed the room off form the rest of the house to avoid dust.  YUCK!

This is what the ceiling looks like with all the drywall removed.  Notice that the joists are ~ 24 inches apart.  the next step is to leave every 4th joist removing the 2 in between and then move 2 together.  You want to make sure that the integrity of the wall remains as these help to hold the outside wall and roof up.  Moving them further apart will open it up and make it look less busy so the eye looks up into...a vaulted ceiling.

Next we continue to move the rest of the joists.  Then put into new baffles in the ceiling for ventilation, followed by insulation, new drywall way up along the angled roof line, electricity, lights on the joists and tongue and groove cladding on the ceiling.  Will keep you updated.

New Horse at the Farm

Ember's owner decided to move her to a new barn where there is an indoor arena, etc.  While we miss her greatly, our good friend Helen's sister, Emma, is now keeping her horse Divo here.  He is a handsome Arabian just like our horse Czar. 

Divo and Czar became fast friends and can't stand being away from one another despite Czar being 24 years older than 2 yr old Divo.  Divo, welcome to Czar of the Woods Farm!

The Melt = Spring is on Its Way! = Mud

I don't know about you but the longer days and sunshine have done me a world of good.  I couldn't resist taking these photos as the sun glistened off the creek that runs through our back pasture as a result of snow melting runoff.

This sunrise greeted us this morning.  Hard no to start the day out on a good note with a greeting like this!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Kitchen Remodel

When we first moved in one of the things that we were most excited about was tackling the kitchen.  It needed help.  We are going for a modern farm house kitchen look.  Some befores and after...

Before (before we even moved in actually-these were taken on our first walk thru)

And after(s)...notice the new countertops (made from ceramic tile), the new peninsula on the end and the new pendant old school farm lights.   Someday we will probably paint the cupboards white but for now we are living with them this way...

Before: notice that this was actually the previous owner's dining room.  We made the whole thing our kitchen.
After(s): To turn 2 rooms into one large kitchen we took out the carpet and put in all new floors throughout what used to be the dining room and what already was the kitchen.  This was a very easy way to make what looked to be 2 rooms into one large room.

Thanks to my Dad for all his help on this project including building the shelf you see above.  Next project inside before the weather gets too nice is vaulting the ceiling in our front living room.  

Our first meal in the new kitchen: homemade gluten free pizzas with beets (YUM!), cheese, brie, cilantro and proscutto.  Sarah is an amazing cook and I am so happy that she finally has a nice kitchen with counter space to work on (although she still finds herself using the small part that she used prior to the remodel! HA!)


Pretty much every day I see a herd of 8 deer walk across the back pasture.  It is a beautiful site.  Even though they have eaten many of the seedlings that I planted last year!  That is the tug of war of owning a farm, even a hobby farm such as this.  Beauty is tempered by reality.
This photo was taken at the beginning of February...

Update on Mirka

Many of you have asked how Mirka, our "foster" pitbull, is doing and if she is still here.  She is, and she is doing well.  All the foster homes in pitbull rescue groups were full when she and Traveler decided that they didn't like each other (which was quite a while ago now) so she is still here.  We keep them separate, which isn't ideal, but it works.  When he is out she is in her crate (which she loves) and when she is out he sleep in his crate (he also loves his) in the bedroom or on the bed.  The longer she stays the more difficult it would be to ever consider her leaving.  Once the weather breaks we will work with the two of them outside so that they are not in any cramped space that could lead to any aggression.  They are both wonderful, loving dogs that love people but both want to be top dog.  We'll see.  Anyway, here are some photos.  Mirka is very cat-like in that she sleeps like it is going out of style and her favorite thing is to curl up in a ball as close to you/on you as possible.

Friday, March 4, 2011

I've Been Framed: Notes on Collecting and Framed Items

All my life I have been a collector, it is in my genes.  To me it is one of life's great pleasures.  Sometime, I will go into this more.  What I want to focus on here are the things that I collect that go in frames.  For years I have been collecting items that need to be framed in order to be displayed, many vintage things: posters, photographs, paintings, family photos, and maps.  My sketches, my photos, my brothers photos, or those of my mom.  Silk screened prints, rock posters, autographed photos, or perhaps an item that you wouldn't typically frame-most recently I framed a vintage looking empty potato bag.  The bag was given to us full of potatoes by our friends Pat and Dick that grow all sorts of vegetables.  From the moment they gave me the bag I absolutely loved the look of it.  The design was perfect and the colors would go perfectly in our kitchen (see photo below).  Everything that we frame has meaning, in how it was begotten, because of who gave it to us or what it is.  Sometimes it's just cool.  It need not be more, but it should have some meaning or story or reason why you were drawn to it.
The problem with collecting things that need to be framed is that you need the space to display them (and framing them can be expensive, there are however cheap means to doing so).  When we moved to the farm in December 2009 this was one of the things that I was most excited about; having a place to display all this art and antiques.  No longer would they live in a box full of other items waiting to be framed.

One of my favorite interior designers, Thomas O'Brien, writes about collecting, and how he designed the interior of his home "The Academy" in his perfect book: American Modern .  What he says about it is exactly how I feel about it.  The following are excerpts from his book: "A key part of the way I design has to do with collecting and combining.  You can generically call this decoration, but to my way of thinking this is the real landscape of a home; all the things that are most looked at, touched, appreciated, and cultivated.  I will find objects to fit a required space, and I will also pick things that I love and then figure out where to put them later.  That's how rooms begin to layer together, with different perspectives captured in the pieces of a collection; their varied histories, when they were found, and why they were chosen."
He continues: "Like every collector with more things than space, I had been saving furniture and art...for years in storage."  Enter our house.  He closes this topic by saying the following "So, the mix here is diverse; the house is certainly full, not spare.  But it's not at all filled with props.  And it's not all rare.  Everything has meaning."  I couldn't agree more.  Each thing we have framed and displayed has meaning.  You look at it and it's us.  One of a kind stuff.  You're not going to find it in mass quantity at some box department store.
Here are photos of some of the things (I still have a box full of items but it is getting smaller) that I have collected over the years...and finally have displayed at Czar of the Woods Farm.  Enjoy!  I didn't get into all the amazing photos that my mom, a talented hobby photographer, and my brother, a professional free-lance photographer, have given us over the years.  One day I will post about those.

This is a spyrograph that my brother Todd and his wife Jenna made using a vintage spyrograph kit and used as a birthday card for me.  It is framed and hangs in our hallway.

This is a sketch that I drew when I worked in theatre.  I, one day, found myself having to sit and wait 100ft up in the air on the catwalk in the flyspace at UB's mainstage theatre.  Luckily I had a sketch pad and pen with me.  This is what I drew and for some reason have always cherished this drawing.  It was the album cover for a demo that my band, the Stephen Hero, put out ~12 years ago.  It hangs near our front door.

We bought potatoes from our friends Pat and Dick and they came in this amazing bag.  I love the old timey farm quality of it.  We framed it and it hangs in our kitchen which is a perfect spot.

This is an antique atlas from 1931 and it too has this perfect old timey farm feel to it.  The whole book is in the frame and it too is in our kitchen.

I collect old maps and this is one of my favorites due to the cover.  Love the simple design and color scheme.

This is a post card that my Dad sent to my mom before they were married when my Dad was shipping off to Vietnam in the late 60's.  He was in the Air Force.  This is one of my favorite things.  Gives me a glimpse of who my parents were before they were my parents.

The main piece in our dining room is a very large table that we created from an 8ft long section of a bowling alley lane.  We call it the Big Lebowski.  How fitting then that on the wall next to it is a photo that I took in college of Town Edge Bowling Alley in Kaisertown, NY.  Shortly after this, even though the lanes are still in operation, they took this sign down.  I wish I had that!  I had this photo blown up quite large.  For some reason it reminds me of Texas...

And yes, my framed photo of the Dude, Jeff Bridges (aka Jeff Lebowski), from the film the Big Lebowski along with some other bowling related items...
These items are in the "bowling alley" dining room as well.  The framed photo is one of my favorites that we have.  It's of a local bowling alley as well.  Love the composition in her photo.  The small copper box is very much an antique.  We used to carry our wedding rings on our wedding day.  Love it!
And yet another set of photos from my mom that she gave to us.  She very quickly became a very good photographer after getting her first real camera not long ago.  

Bought this poster from the inaugural season of the Shaw Festival for $5 at a garage sale!  LOVE this piece and I would imagine it is worth quite a bit.

This is a vintage stencil of the United States...not sure what year...love that Mexico is spelled wrong on it.  This hangs in our foyer.

These are two original photos of my maternal grandfather, Leo, from World War II in Italy.  He was in the army and painted the ambulances.  The creative/artistic side that is so much a part of our family can very much be attributed to him.

We designed our bathroom to have a 1950's retro look to it (white, grey, black and pink) and I have 2 of my favorite photos that myself took hanging in there.  They are from a trip to NYC.

This is another of my favorite maps.  It is a flight map for Lufthansa Airlines from 1957.  I love the cities on it and all the lines.  Such a cool piece of design!

In our kitchen hangs this vintage Milk Ad magazine.

Quite possible the oldest thing we own and the keystone piece of our living room is this school house map dating back to the late 1800's  It is AMAZING!  Pat and Dick gave it to us when they thought it needed a new home where it could be displayed.  THANK YOU!

I look at this piece every day when I leave the house.  It is the vintage hair piece that my wife, Sarah, wore in her hair on our wedding day.  For our first wedding anniversary back in 2007 I framed it and gave it to her as a gift.  Every time I look at it it brings me back to that perfect day!