Friday, February 16, 2018

Bird Watching Raffle Basket

So as you know I am the leader of the Team Clover 4-H Club.  Each year so far we have had a Local Basket Part  to help cover the cost of our community service project.  We raffle off baskets that are not just you typical raffle baskets but rather large overflowing baskets and some things are not even baskets at all.  For example we have a chainsaw carving of a bear,  A Bluestone garden bench and more.  Each basket has a theme and each basket has to be "big" by my standards to make it into our basket party.  Why?  Well if you are looking to have a big return give away big, so we do.

One of those "Big" baskets that has been part of the last few years is the Bird Watching Basket.  Why bird watching?  Simple our first 4-H year was themed around birds so we chose that as a basket the first year and it did wonderfully for us and again last year.  So yes we will do it again this year.  Guess we are going with the if something isn't broke don't fix it motto.

Being in the country we have lots of access to bird watching by simply looking out our windows.  And although most of the time you do not need fancy feeders to see birds here, myself and I'm sure like most bird watchers we still have them.  So the basket party gives them a chance to get some of those nice supplies for almost no cost and helps out their community as well. 
What would you put in a bird watching basket?  There really are lots of choices from seed to binoculars.   Our bird basket has lots of donated items and each year the Hubby and I put our brains together to design and make a large feeder to host as the "basket" to store all those wonderful items.  Last year it was a log pedestal feeder, the year before that was the large hanging feeder and this year we have the Metal Framed Garden Shelf Feeder. 
Each year we also like to add some one of a kind items to our basket like our DIY Hummingbird Feeders.  These are feeders that we made in the club the first year but had such an amazing response to them we make one to add to the "basket" each year.  This year we went with the "beach" theme in our design.  We also add lots of bird feed from suet cakes to seeds and even supply some smaller feeders too.  We also have some pretty amazing houses for the birdies too.  The gourd house is my favorite of all the types of houses we have done for the baskets by far.   We were donated gourds last year to the club that we made into bird houses.  This was an extra gourd and since we all liked them so much I decided to make one up for this basket.  Just another one of a kind touch that gives our baskets such a great response.
Are you planning a Basket Party (raffle)?  Then the Bird Watching Basket might be a basket to consider.  You don't have to be handy and make your items as we did but if you are in an area where bird watching is available this basket could turn out to be one of your best ticket sellers.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Maple Season

Yummy!  I can taste it already or I can't wait to taste it, either way its just so delicious.  And after 3 years of making it in the "new" sap house you can definitely smell it in there.  The sap house is not heated and one of its walls is literally still plastic but for some reason you can go in there and it just smells so sweet and delicious and makes me want french toast with Maple Syrup on it....... 

The "New" sap house
.....It is also the smell that tipped me over the edge as to whether or not to make syrup this year.   With the kids getting older and us needing to be places all the time things have gotten busy for the Bull family.  I now work a few days a week and the Hubby never stops working so squeezing in Maple Season was a question of do we want to do it or not?  Well, of course we want to do it so I guess it more of a can we squeeze it in or not?   I was on the verge of saying we are not doing it this year and making up all the excuses to talk myself out of doing it.  Like we don't need to do it this year we have enough left from last year to get us though till next year.  Or we can take a break from it and do it next year and all other rationalizations to justify not doing it.  Then about a week before Mother Nature said it Maple Season I walked into the Sap House, I don't even know why just because it was that time of year I guess.  That delicious smell was there even after a year it was still there.  That was it at that point when I knew we would at least have to make a little this year.  So the Hubby and I talked it over and of course at that point I was all for making some  you know because of all the rationalizations like its so healthy for us, and if we don't make it we might not have enough to supply the person who sells it for us and even more importantly like the kids would miss out on licking the last little bits off the spoon when we empty out the sap pans.  Oh yeah and we would not be able to sample the sap straight out of the tree or have Sap Cicles (frozen sap) and Maple Peanuts if we have extra syrup left we can make them and they are so delicious.   All of which will be great memories for my kids to look back on <3

I'm not even going to lie I sampled the sap the first day we tapped and soon as I snapped that photo I ate the deliciously, yummy sap icicle pictured above and it was just as good as I knew it would be.
So needless to say here we go making Maple Syrup again.  I'm so glad I walked in there that day.  Now I cant wait till we are cooking it again and we can walk into the sap house to the smell of sap steaming away.
So here we are a few days into this years Maple Season and we are right back with all our taps in the trees (more then we need lol) the sap lines are run and dripping.  The firewood is getting split and piled up.  Sometime later today I will go out and make our first Sap Collection of the year and all that work will be worth it.  We might not have time for Maple Season but its the one thing we all love this time of year so we are going to do it anyway. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Local Basket Party

Its time to work on our Community Service Project so that means in order to afford our CSP it is is also fund raising time for our 4-H club.  Each year so far the fund raiser for our club has been a Local Basket Party.  The proceeds raised then cover any cost we will need for our project.  Photos of last year's CSP are below.  The club made and installed fencing around the Honor Pavers at the American Legion.  As you can see in the photos the pavers were exposed on the ground and even though they were laid out in a decorative fashion and had names on them most people walked on them as though they were a sidewalk.  Proceeds from last years fund raiser also covered the cost of a sign to let onlookers know not to step on them.  These few items have made for great decorative items around the pavers but not only that I have had countless people tell me they did not realize they were not meant to be a sidewalk.
*NOTE members pictured below were not walking on pavers but rather around them.  We forgot to get a before image so this was the closest we had.

Any way on to the LOCAL BASKET PARTY.  These really are a great fund raiser for not only the club but the community and they are fun too.  I know  you are wondering what is the difference in a Local Basket Party and Raffle baskets?  Well its sort of like having baskets to raffle off but a whole lot more awesome for our community.  Since we are working on our "community" service project we do our best to support our community as much as possible through the whole process.  First we collect items from local businesses to fill our baskets with local items through donations and member purchases. 
Members selling tickets at the Downsville Diner~ who also donated items to the cause.
We go to local businesses once the baskets are completed to sell tickets (advertising for them in the process).  We try to only sell tickets to our local community which allows them to take advantage of the great items our area has to offer them.  And if all that is not great enough community support, the day of the Local Basket Party (ticket drawing day) we hold the basket party at the local American Legion's dinner/fundraiser where we help them set up, server and clean up.  Which in turn also brings in additional customers for them.

Some of the members who helped server and sell tickets at the Legions benefit dinner.
Oh and don't forget that all this great community support takes place before we even do our Community Service Project.  This year we will be purchasing and making picnic tables and benches for Downsville's Covered Bridge Park.  The seating there has seen better days and most of the tables are not even safe to set at.
Lets just say these kids should be quite proud of all they do for their community before they even do their community service for the year.  I know as their leader I could not be prouder of them.

Monday, January 29, 2018

A warm January

Usually in January it is cold here.  We have a few days of warmth to thaw things out a bit and then its right back to cold winter.  This year January has been surprisingly warm.  We had our January thaw like always and then we were cold again as expected.  What was not expected was the 52 degrees we had this last week and multiple days above 45 degrees in the last 2 weeks. The kids little ice pond has really not been a pond all month.  Even in the image above its a slushy mess and those are sweaters the kids are wearing not winter coats. 
The snow was melting fast and even the brook is open enough that the ducks have moved off their pond to play in the fresh water.  You know it has to be a warm January when Ticky Ticky (our cat for those who do not know) was outside wandering around.  The first snowflake of the season usually has her housebound till spring.

We were literally having tee shirt weather in the middle of winter! It has been so nice.  Almost seemed like perhaps we were heading into spring extra early this year.  The weather was even cooperating with all the frosty mornings and warm sunny days (one can wish cant she) but the reality is tomorrow we will have snow again and I'm sure the cold will return and stay for a while longer.  Thankfully its almost February and that is one month close to spring.  The sun warms us more each day and winter will succumb to the warmth.  Until that happens I will just be glad we had all these nice days of fun in the winter sun.

Stained Glass Bugs

Stained glass grasshopper 

So we are in the middle of a Bug themed 4-H year and we are looking for projects that we can do in the winter.  It doesn't take much searching time to know there are lots of awesome ideas out there that the kids would love to do.  The problem is they either require you to work outdoors or take multiple days to finish.  Our club only meets once a month and we have lots of members under the age of 10 so they do not want to be waiting months to make one project.  Oh yeah and it will be cold in February when we have our next meeting so we needed a one day indoor project and something we haven't done already.  There was a challenge worth searching for.  After polling the members as to what they wanted to do and much searching on the internet I came up with a Stained Glass Bug sun catcher.   
Now I know what your thinking and yes I just said we have kids under the age of 10 that we are going to try to teach this to but we also have lots of great helpers at our meetings so they should be okay to do the project as well. 
Now the fun part teaching myself first. We wont see the results from the 4-H members for a few weeks but I did find my learning experience fun so now I will share it with all of you.
First thing I had to do was get the supplies we were going to need and of course I was pretty sure I had none of them.  Well guess what, I had almost everything we need right at home?  Its shocking and even I'm not to sure how but I had scissors, pliers and unknown to me I had solder.  Thanks to the Hubby for letting me know the copper pipes that supply our plumbing require solder and flux to repair, both of which are needed for stained glass.  The one big obvious item we didn't have was stained glass and it was not an investment I wanted to run right out and make as its kind of pricey and what if the kids couldn't do it after I bought it.  Thankfully I do have a neighbor who is already skilled in stained glass and was willing to give the club a few pieces of hers to work with.  Big Thanks!!!! to my neighbor Sue!!!!
Now if you are looking at the pictures you are right I did not mention all the supplies needed so if you are thinking of giving stained glass a try here is what you are going to need:
Stained glass, Copper Foil Tape, Solder, Soldering Gun, Glass Cutter, Clamps, Scissors, and I recommend basic safety items like glasses and a mask (it smokes a bit).
First ever stained glass project

And here it is my first masterpiece.......Omg it was so awful and yes I kept it as its a great learning experience.  As you can tell by the grasshopper I have gotten much better with my soldering ability and honestly I can not wait to try to make even more.  This might be a new favorite hobby....till spring hits and I can go out side anyway.

First thing you have to do is figure out what shape you want and then cut the glass.  If you are unsure if how to cut the glass to shape I recommend Youtube as I probably watched 10 different videos on there before I tried it myself.  And yes they make it look easy but after you try it you will see it really is not that hard to do.  As for my bug, I went with a betel shape as it seemed like an easy project with only 3 pieces to attach.  I drew it out myself and then just cut the glass according to what I though it should look like.  Guess its a betel shape right?

Next up was putting the copper foil around it.  This is an important step as the solder will have to adhere to the copper to connect the pieces.  I had to be sure to center the glass on the foil so that it would evenly overlap on each side.  After the tape is in place it is important to smooth out the edges and corners of the foil.  This can be done with a wooden or plastic surface.  I used a wooded clothespin that I had taken apart.

Next step was applying the flux to the foil.  The flux is needed to help the solder flow over the foil edges.  It literally takes just seconds to do.

Now the soldering starts.  Fist you will need to put a small bead of solder on the edges you are trying to connect.  My project was small so it really only took 2 beads but larger projects will have more connecting areas and need more joints soldered.

Well it wasn't the best quality solder job but it was still much better then the first attempt I had.  I did decide that I would have preferred more then 2 solder seams though as they stick out a lot compared to the thin edges.  Also I should have probably done a better job smoothing out my foil edges but it will work for a first real attempt.  Keep in mind you need to do each side of the foil tape and you will need to apply the flux to the other side as well.  Another thing to think about is the glass will be getting hotter as you solders so turn it over with care.  I used pliers to flip mine.


Next was soldering the edges (or tinning as they call it in the stained glass world).  This little bug was already quite warm and holding it in my hand while hot solder was running at me was just not my thing so I got out the clamps and rigged them to support each other.  The solder will only stick to the copper tape and not the plastic camps so I did not have to worry about that but the solder did drip off once and splatter however it did not get me.  Just be aware that the "drips" could happen and result in a potential burn.
Also I did reapply the flux to the sides to make the solder flow quickly and due to the size of my bug it really was done in seconds.

Adding legs to the bug was just a test run for me as I really didn't research how others had done it but I assumed it was just simply attaching solder to the body. That process worked well for the size bug I made but when I attached them the grasshopper above it was not as stable as I would have liked.  I have since found another method for attaching legs by tinning heavier copper wire (applying flux then coating the wire with solder) and attaching that to the body.  The heavier wire does hold shape better then the solder however I don't have an image of that to share.

And there you have it my first stained glass bug.  I know its far from perfect but I'm still quite happy with it.  I have made a few other ones since this and the grasshopper and my solder seams have improved quite a bit so maybe by the time the 4-H meeting gets here in February I will at least know what I'm trying to teach the kids.  Who knows maybe they will be better at it then me?

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Pruning Apple Trees

We signed for the property Dec. 2, 2005 and moved in completely Feb. 1, 2006.  Middle of winter not ideal for moving but we did it anyway.  Its also not the time to see how many apple trees are going very close to the house.  So at that time we had no idea we would have such wonderful apples to harvest each year.  Honestly with all the huge pine trees that had taken over around the house we didn't even really know there were so many yummy apple trees here.
At first we really did not pay much attention the trees other then they were apple trees so they were spared in our clearing out around the house.  We were too busy getting things done here.  We had a new baby (our first), we were newlyweds and getting a manageable hold on our fixer upper house was taking all our times so apples really were not the priority. 
With in a few years we started noticing the apples and the color was not all just red but yellow and green ones too and the taste....Delicious!  Needless to say the apples became part of our regular harvest.

Harvesting the Macintosh Tree.  Its tall!
One of the yellow apple trees by the house.  Too Tall!

Harvesting them was not an easy task at all though.  Over years of neglect the trees have grown out of control.  Just to reach the bottom limbs on the Macintosh tree it took all 3 extensions of our roof rake attached the apple picker we made using a basket form a drop light and a broom handle......these trees are tall. 
Trying to keep one of our smaller apple trees from becoming the giants the rest have grown to be. 
Each year we say we are going to prune them and each year we run out of time for one reason or another.  Then last fall happened and we were a crazy busy family with so much happening that the apples all pretty much had to fall to be harvested.  With lots of critters both ours and the wild ones we barely got any of a very good harvest year.  I literally had to buy apples just to make a pie.  That was the last time for that!  With temps nearing 50 degrees (in Jan?!?) the Hubby headed out to get the job done.  We will need to keep after these trees now and hopefully we will also be able to prune enough top out of them to get them down to a manageable height before we are too old to get up there on ladders.

This is our Granny Smith Apple Tree.  It did not come with a tag on it when we bought the property but judging from the taste and the fact the the big apples stay green guess they must be Granny Smith?  They sure make a great pie either way.
We know it will take a few years to trim the trees down with out harming them but this is a step in a much needed direction.
And don't worry we are not wasting all those limbs.  One good thing leads to another and right now we have some very happy goats.  They are stripping the bark of them fast as we can put them in there.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Bird Seed Grocery Bag

How many of our readers are bird watchers?  We love watching the wild birds here.  So much that we devoted our whole first year with our 4-H club to learning all about birds. My kids basically know the name of every wild bird that stops by the feeders now.  So it was a great learning experience for them as well. 
We did not always have tons of birds to feed here.  Back in 2006 (our first winter here) I put out the feeders and nothing came to them (maybe a chickadee or 2 but really not many).  My mom always fed the birds as did her mom so not having them here was a bit of a let down for me. I was determined to have birds to watch all year round.   It took a few years to get them to move in from the woods to the feeders but with persistence each year more and more came.  So many that now we have tons of them visiting each day.  In an effort to keep them coming back year after year we also have to buy lots of seed for them.  Lots like 40lbs of sunflower seeds and this will not be enough for the whole winter even when mixed with two other smaller seed bags. 
So with tons of feed bags (from feeding our critters) and bird seed bags we have been having fun finding uses for the sacks.  We have had quite a few projects from them too.  They have been used for everything.  From props on parade floats to aprons for our 4-H members to use at meetings.  And of course this particular bag was just too pretty not to keep for myself so I turned it into something I would use regularly, a grocery shopping bag.
This bag looks great and works perfect too.  The bag will hold just as much as 3 of those wimpy plastic shopping bags and since I customized it with a longer handle then most shopping bags I can still put larger items in it and still carry it on my shoulder.

Want to make  your own, here is what you will need and some step by step pictures of making mine:
Sewing machine
Sunflower Seed Bag.

Step 1
Cut the bottom off your your bag and turn it inside out.  I then trimmed the bottom till I had the correct size/image on the bag that I wanted for the completed bag.

If  you need to keep the back right side out to cut the images correctly you could do that I could see the image though the bag on this particular one so inside out worked for me.

Step 2
Seam all the way around the bottom of the bag to give it a double layer for the bottom seam. This step is optional but I did it to give the bag more strength for the heavier loads.  Then sew the bottom of the bag together again along the new seam.

Step 3
Open you bag (still inside out) and form the base by pulling the corners out till you have the desired width you would like your bag.  Do the same for both sides and then sew them straight across.

Step 4
On each side cut off the excess corner.  I did a double seam and a zigzag stitch on the edges to prevent any unraveling of the bag.

Step 5
Turn your bag right side out and adjust your corners to for the correct shape.


Step 6
Trim the top off your bag till you have the desired size height to your bag.  Allow enough extra to put a double fold on the top seam.

Step 7
Make your straps from the extra material that was cut from the top and bottom of the bag.  I chose the slimmer piece from the top and then cut my bottom material down to match so each one would be the same width as a finished product. If you wanted to you could skip this step and add a purchased canvas strap for your bag. 
To make my handles I simply folded each edge in 1/2 inch and then folded the whole thing in half.  Then I put a seam on each side of it to complete the strap.  Remember you will need 2 straps.

Step 7
Attach your straps to your bag.  I chose to have longer straps on my bag but if you wish them to be shorter you may want to cut your straps down a bit.  I sewed my straps to my bag using an X and then I even went back and reinforced a few of the seams for strength.  Once you have attached all 4 corners of the straps your bag is completed.  

You can enjoy knowing that not only made it yourself but you are helping save the planet one wimpy shopping bag at a time.  Or thanks to the size of my bag, 3 shopping bags at a time.