Morning head count!

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving to my friends in the US! I hope you have a wonderful day today. 😊

My goodness, this group really loves it when I put kibble on the cat house roof!

It’s mostly the older kittens and adult cats. I even got to pet Broccoli! But only because she didn’t want to leave the food. The kibble I leave up there gets inhaled pretty quickly!

The younger kittens mostly prefer more ground level food. The kittens under the cat house take “ground level” to the extreme. 😄

Altogether, I counted 29 heads this morning – and I never had a chance to peek into the entry of the cats’ house. Usually, there’s at least one more in there, eating at the tray just inside, but not always.

Meanwhile, the self-sequestered cats in my office are very obviously happier, now that Bitty is gone. Amazing how such a little fuzz ball could stress the other cats out so much. Butterscotch, I can sort of understand. By the time we got her fixed and discovered her uterus was “tattery and falling apart”, kittens must have meant nothing but pain to her. But Nosencrantz? Why was Nosencrantz so freaked out? But then, everything seems to freak Nosencrantz out, hence her alternative name, Anxiety Bear.

We need to find her a home with no other cats. She likes people. Oddly, most of the other cats don’t like her, either. When even David will suddenly up and attack her – David!!!! – while she’s just up on her favourite perch by the ceiling, minding her own business, there is something odd.

We’ve got some very nice weather happening for the next while. Today, we’re supposed to reach a high of 1C/34F. Tomorrow, we’re supposed to reach 4C/39F! Then 3C/37F the day after.

My brother heard back from the roofing company. Because the weather is so good, there’s still a chance they’ll be able to get a crew up here. Fingers crossed!

In other things, I’m feeling somewhat better today. Some pain killers and lying down for a couple of hours yesterday helped. I even went to bed “early” and got almost 7 hours of sleep. Which is about 3 hours more than I usually get. 😄

Still, I’m going to be taking it easy today. When visiting my mother to do errands, we talked so much, my throat was sore by the time I left. I’m not used to talking much, so that didn’t take long. 😄 Now, that sore throat is worse, and I’m starting to feel like I’m coming down with a cold. A good day to stay inside, and drink lots of hot drinks with lemon and honey, while getting crafty! I found most of what I needed at the dollar store to make our annual Christmas decorations, but I’m not willing to drive to the city for the stuff I couldn’t find, so I’ll make do with what I’ve got on hand.

These are my first experiments. They’re called “berlingots”, which is the name of a hard candy of a similar shape, or sometimes Dragon Boats. These were made on a cardboard form that started off as a rectangle of 2″ x 6″, but I’ll be making ones for the tree probably from a 3″ x 9″ strip. I don’t think I want to get any larger than that. Or I’ll make both sizes, with the smaller ones for the top of the tree, and larger for the bottom. We have a pretty small tree. It is currently hanging flat against the dining room door, several feet above ground, to get the cats used to it being there. I was able to bring the tree up from storage in the basement, but I had to get the girls to haul the bins of decorations up. I can’t carry those up the stairs; my knees aren’t stable enough anymore. I think I’ll be leaving most of the decorating to the girls, since pretty much all of it will involve climbing up and down the little step ladder to hang things out of cat reach! 😂

Anyhow; for the decorations, I’ll be using more seasonal yard to wrap on them, and I want to find things I can pin to the points, such as beads, or maybe I’ll make some tassels. Each one will be different.

So that will be my project for today, if all goes to plan.

For now, though, I think it’s time to get the kettle on again, and make some more hot lemonade!

The Re-Farmer

I made a thing

With the colder temperatures and chill winds, I haven’t been able to wear my usual ball cap outside. No ear protection. Getting wind in my ears causes me headaches. But I like my ball cap, and having a visor to shade my eyes.

So I made a thing.

Nosencrantz seems perplexed.

After looking at different styles online, I combined the features I liked, and this is what I came up with.

I have just come back from feeding the outside cats for the night, and testing it out.

It works rather well!

The Re-Farmer

A sweet gift

My younger daughter has been slowly working on cleaning up the spring moisture mess in the basement for the last while, but also just being down there to stay in the cool.

Today, I found out she has been having fun with my wood carving tools, which I have not been able to use myself for quite some time. Her first experimentation was to finish off a fork I’d started some time ago, but stopped because the wood really sucked to work with. This is her second project, and her first made from scratch.

She make a shawl pin for me! Something to use to keep my reading jacket closed, instead of the hair pins I’ve been using.

I absolutely adore the teeny little frog she carved into the top!

What a fantastic job she did, and I absolutely love it!!

The Re-Farmer

Wood carving: completing the set

Having made an olive server, using my new gouge, I thought it would be good to use some of the remaining wood to make a spreader and olive fork.

After cutting a length off, the first thing I did was split the wood down the middle.

Here, you can clearly see the rotted out core that I had to work around with the olive server.

The utensils I wanted to make would be well away from that core, though, so this was okay. I split off some excess wood from the opposite sides, then debarked the remains.

In sketching out the spreader and fork, I decided not to include the knot at one end. It may have added visual interest, but I just didn’t want to fight with it.

Once rough sketches were made, I rough cut away excess wood. A band saw would make the job easier, but I don’t have one that works, so I made do with a little Japanese pull saw that I got last summer, and a coping saw. The coping saw has been a problem, as it won’t lock at the handle end anymore, so it tries to rotate while I’m using it!

For the spreader, I added another rough sketch on what would become the top. I wanted a slightly wider bit at the start of the spreader blade as a sort of stopper, more for visual interest than anything else. I wasn’t too worried about matching the sketch closely, since it would depend more on how much I had to cut away from the core of the wood.

Next up was using carving blades to do more shaping and trim away excess wood at the core, to take out that rotten strip.

Then I broke out the Dremel.

After trying out different tips, I ended up just using the sanding tips. They are a course grit and did a good job of taking off the excess wood, grinding away the remaining saw cuts, and shaping it more.

Then it was back to the carving knives for more delicate clean up and shaping, then sanding.

Ready for oiling!

That knot in the blade was why I switched to the Dremel. I like how it looks in there, but my goodness, it was brutal to work around!

Next, the olive fork.

For this, I just went straight to the Dremel and used the sanding tips to rough shape it.

I then used carving knives to clean it up and work on the tines end to narrow it down even more. Once it reached the point where I would otherwise have started sanding, I made the tines.

My Dremel set includes tips for carving and engraving, and I used one of them to drill a hole where I wanted the tines to join. Then I used a cutting wheel down the length of it.

There was a knot right in the middle. The Dremel cutter did NOT like going through that knot!! 😀

After that, it was back to doing more detailed shaping until it was ready to sand.

Doing those tines was a real pain in the butt!

It actually worked out much better than I thought it would, though.

For both the spreader and the olive fork, I worked my way through increasingly fine grits of sandpaper, finishing with 220 grit. Because that’s the finest grit sandpaper I have.

There they are, ready for oiling!

You can see the edges of the knot that was cut through to make the tines much more clearly, after oiling!

The slightly wider bit on the spreader turned out to be a perfect thumb rest!

When sanding the blade of the spreader, I actually had to be a careful not to make it too sharp. It’s meant for spreading, not cutting! It’s remarkable how sharp a wooden blade can get.

A closer look at the tines of the olive fork.

Then I wiped off all the sanding dust that got onto the oiled surface! 😀

They fit! I had not actually planned this, but it makes sense, since they’re from the same piece of wood, but I’m really happy to discover they fit so perfectly inside the olive server.

I am quite pleased with these. Not only with how they turned out, but how quickly they worked up, too.

Now to think about what to make next! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

This year’s decorations; what’s working, and what isn’t!

I’ve already posted photos of dehydrating orange slices and using them to make decorations for Christmas this year. I will post more on those in a moment.

The other experiment I tried was to make a baking soda and cornstarch dough (which I wrote about here), which was supposed to be good to roll out and use cookie cutters on. These are supposed to result in a bright white final product, that was also quite hard and durable, which would take paint or other embellishments well. The dough ended up way too soft and sticky, so my daughters used it to make more sculptural stuff, though one did try and do some cookie cutter ones when the dough seemed to have dried up enough for it.

After leaving them to dry for a while, we ended up having to put them in a cool oven (they were supposed to dry slowly, to avoid cracking), because… cats.

Cats who leave paw prints behind, as they do dastardly things!

All of the cookie cutter ones have had to be thrown out. They just crumbled.

Plus, the cats seem to be desperate to get at them! I had to take them out of the oven to put the decorated orange slices in, and had to get really creative in covering them, while still giving them air flow to dry. There is still some hope for the more sculptural pieces, but they will need at least a few more days to fully dry.

If we can keep the cats out.

As for the orange slices, the cats have been after them, too! They ended up knocking over the tray on the table they were laid out on.

I’m happy to say that the glue worked very well.

Several of the decorations were scattered on the floor and, while the glue was not yet completely dry, it held! This was a bottle of WeldBond that came with a case of crafting materials given to us. I have no idea how many years it was there, but it was long enough that the plastic and cardboard pieces of the original packaging came apart.

Clearly, the cats are not put off by the orange slices and cinnamon sticks.

Today, I decided to add ground spices to 7 of the 13 slices.

First, I rigged up a cardboard box that I could use to spray them with adhesive.

I also decided to use a combination of ground cloves, allspice and nutmeg, with a tiny sieve to apply them evenly.

After crowding the decorations close together, I tried to spray just the orange slices, not the strings, then dusted them with the ground spice mix.

They are now set aside for the spray adhesive to set. The box set up allowed me to put something over them in case a cat decided to jump into it.

Since I started writing this, I’ve had to go put the cover back and add weight to it, because the cats had already knocked it off.

The main thing about doing this craft was that citrus and all these spices that smell so good to humans are supposed to deter cats.

Our cats apparently did not get that memo.

*sigh*

I’m still holding out hope to having a tree, somehow, but these spicy, fragrant decorations are definitely not going to keep them away. If anything, it seems to be attracting them, instead!

Ah, well.

At least they look pretty!

The Re-Farmer

This year’s decorations, in the works

Today, I finally started working on the Christmas decorations I was planning to make with the dehydrated orange slices I’d prepared earlier.

Of course, things didn’t work out to plan! 😀

Do they ever? 😉

I was going to use cinnamon sticks, plus some little decorations I’d saved from Christmas crackers over the years – they would have been the perfect size – to decorate the orange slices.

I couldn’t find them.

Many of these were collected before we moved, and now I’m second guessing myself. Did I bring them along with my other craft stuff, or did I give them away before the move? I had to pare things down quite a lot for the move.

And yet… I’m sure I saw them since the move, as I’ve had to reorganize my crafting materials a couple of times, since unpacking them.

No worries, though, I decided to use some pine cones I’d gathered from our spruces a while back.

I didn’t have enough to put two on each slice, though. We kept finding them with our feet, around the house, before I discovered one of our cats digging in the container they were in, stealing a pine cone, and running off!

I had enough left for this project, though. I just made sure the biggest cones went on the smaller slices, and paired up the smallest cones on the bigger slices.

Now, I just need to see if the adhesive will work. If not, I’ll break out the hot glue gun, but it’s not like anything is going to stick to dried orange slices very well! 😀

I haven’t decided if I will do more to these or now. I might use a spray adhesive on them, and dust them with ground cloves. It’s more about making them smell unappetizing to cats than anything else! 😀

The Re-Farmer

This year’s decorations start: dehydrated orange slices

For many years, I would craft new decorations for our Christmas tree. It was a good opportunity to use small projects to try out new techniques and ideas. Our tree is basically a mad chaos of different styles and materials, and I love it!

Life got in the way, and I stopped doing this for many years. I was able to do a few last year, and I’m hoping to be able to continue this yearly tradition.

With so many cats in the house, though, we’re going to have a much smaller tree, set high off the ground! We’re still trying to figure out how to manage that, but the cats have inspired ideas for this year’s decorations.

Cats are supposed to not like citrus, so I will be using dried orange slices as the foundation of the decorations.

Last night, I sliced two naval oranges and laid them out on a rack in a baking pan. I set our oven to “warm” (170F) and left them overnight. I did have the opportunity to turn them a couple of times, since I was up anyway, investigating the crashing and banging that woke me up (I found Layendecker on the fridge, and a decorative jar with seashells on it was on the floor in the dining room; I’ll have to figure out how to remove the broken seashells to replace them. 😦 ).

This morning, one of my daughters took a dried slice and showed it to some cats.

I don’t think they’re going to work as cat repellent! 😀

I plan to include cinnamon sticks in the decorations, too – something else that cats are supposed to not like. I don’t think it’ll help, since in the past, we’ve had cats try and steal our cinnamon apple dough decorations, right off the tree!

Well, even if it doesn’t work, we’ll have new decorations for the tree this year! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Wood carving: lilac wood hair pin

I am actually not sure I would even call making this hair pin “carving”! I used the natural shape of the piece of wood, and just sort of whittled away a bit. The wood was already very close to the size needed.

I didn’t take a “before” picture, but you can see what the branch I’d cut the piece from in this photo.

It’s being grasped by Nicco. 🙂

Though the wood is from a branch that broke off in a storm more than 6 months ago, the bark was surprisingly green as I whittled it off. I think the humidity in the basement might actually have something to do with that.

Here is the finished hair pin, before oiling.

I cut the piece above where it branched off, to take advantage of the angled shape. You can see near the point, where there had been another bit of twig growing out.

I used the Dremel and the engraving tip to create the holes, so my daughter can use them to hang dangle-y bits. The natural hole at the end was where another twig had been growing out, and I included it, without trying to sand out the roughness, just for interest.

The tiny knots from the twigs where the only thing that made it more difficult to work on.

After general shaping with a carving knife, I used the tiny engraving tip on the Dremel to make the holes, and a small drum sander tip to get into the bends, where it was more difficult to safely get into with a knife. After that, it was must a matter of sanding it smooth.

Here is how it looked after oiling.

I love how the oil brings out the details in the rings.

The whole thing, including time spent playing with kittens instead, took about 2 hours.

My daughter loves it!

I’m really happy with how this turned out, and how quick it was to make! I hadn’t thought of making hair pins (which can also be used as shawl pins), but they are prefect for some of the smaller pieces of branches. I think I’ll be making more of these!

The Re-Farmer

Spoon carving progress

Today, I got some really good progress on my practice carving, using the spoon blank that came with my carving kit.

Also, the basement is nice and cool. 🙂

I was down to cutting the last few divots out of the morel mushroom on the end of the spoon, so that didn’t take long. I also tried to deepen the bowl of the spoon itself.

Working on the inside of the spoon is a challenge. The tip of the sloyd knife kept gouging areas I wasn’t working on. The direction the wood grain is also means that, in two spots opposite each other, the wood did not cut as well or as smoothly, leaving more gouges, no matter how carefully I tried to follow the instructions from the various videos I’d looked up for beginner carvers.

The rough shaping of the outside of the bowl and handle are… well… rough. LOL

Here is how it looked, after I finished with the carving tools. The next step, was to “cheat” and use my Dremel.

I have a Dremel engraver, which I tested out on the divots of the morel. That did not work at all, which is really what I expected. I figured it was worth a try, though.

Also, that thing is incredibly loud, and scare the crap out of the kittens and Beep Beep!!

The other Dremel I have is a basic low end rotating tool. (The engraver doesn’t rotate, so there is nothing interchangeable about them.) I used a drum sander to smooth out and shape the bowl and handle.

This also took off more of the excess wood to add more shaping.

For the details in the morel, I’m going to have to pick up a fine, abrasive tip. None of the tips that came with my kit are remotely close to being usable for this.

I decided on a swoopy handle, just for effect, but it has turned out to be a great thumb rest. It fits remarkably comfortably in the hand.

This is after sanding the spoon with three grades of sandpaper. Unfortunately, even the edges of the sandpaper tends to leave little gouges inside the spoon’s bowl.

I also had an unexpected issue to deal with, though not a surprising one. The humidity is so high in the basement, both the sandpaper and the wood itself was affected. The wood dust had a tendency to clump up. It wasn’t too much of a problem, but I think it affected how well the sandpaper was able to do the job. Some things actually work better with wet sandpaper. This is not one of them! 😀

This is now it looks after I stopped for the day. After I get a new Dremel tip to finish detailing the morel, I’ll continue to sand with finer grades of sandpaper, singe the morel to add colour, then finish with mineral oil. I did some searches on food grade oils for wood, and it basically came down to mineral oil. Other oils recommended are derived from nuts or seeds, and they go rancid over time. Beeswax is something else that can be used, but it can start cracking and flaking and, of course, you couldn’t use it with anything hot (among the things I hope to carve are cups and small bowls).

Once finished, I plan to offer it to my mother, since she requested I carve her a mushroom. Talking to her since then, it turns out she wants a Portebello (she didn’t know the English name for it), but I hope she’ll be happy with a morel for now. I know she likes morels, too. Most likely, she’ll reject it, but you never know. I might get her on one of her good days.

The Re-Farmer

ps: after finishing this, I checked the weather before heading outside. Turns out the temperatures are still going up, and we’re even hotter now, in the early evening, than before!

First attempt at wood carving

I just couldn’t wait to try out the new carving knives! I ended up using only two of them, though.

After looking at the bits and pieces in the basement, I chose a small piece of lilac to practice on.

It is resting on the leather breastplate my husband made for me.

I was not about to use the carving blades on that bark, though…

I used my K-Bar instead. The wood was surprisingly green, for something that was cleaned up from storm damage some 8 months ago!

I didn’t think to get a picture of the safety glove. There is a pair of them, and they can be worn on either hand. It fit remarkably well, considering I have big, wide man-hands.

Hhhmmm… that may be why it fit well… 😀

It was also very comfortable to wear. I thought it might be really coarse and scratchy, but not at all. It felt like a normal glove.

These are the two carving knives I used. I can’t remember what either of them are called right now.

I started by practicing push and pull cuts to flatten a piece at each end…

…though only one end showed the colours inside; the stick was slightly thicker at the other end.

Then I practiced different methods of making V cuts.

Detail work is going to need a lot more practice. 😉

After that, I worked on the spiral around the piece, using that to practice different ways of cutting and switching up between the two blades.

I’m rather happy with how it turned out, considering I’ve never carved before. The lilac would was nice to carve with. The blades themselves…

I can see myself wanting to pick up higher quality ones in the future, if I find myself carving more often. While not the cheapest set I saw, it was hardly the highest end, either. I found myself sharpening them almost from the start. The edge held fairly well after I did, so it seems they didn’t arrive as sharp as they could have. Still, they did the job quite well for the learning process it is.

Next time, I’ll find something different to use that curved blade on. 😀

Altogether, I’m glad I picked this up!

The Re-Farmer