Suddenly Chicks!

You know what they say about March; In like a lion, middle like a lion, end like a lion. March is just a lion, chewing you up and spitting you out, wet and slobbery. March just isn’t a fun month in general.

March is a month filled with hours of work, and while I like my work, it’s still work. Around this farmy I have already started 90 tomato seedlings and I’m working on my 60 pepper pots across 5 different varieties. Next is the kale and cauliflower, each taking their own several dozen cubic inches of soil. All this while the snows hit the ground; we got several inches over the last 48 hours with more on the way. It will be the weekend after this one before we have weather warm enough to exist outside again… And at that point it will be time to plant cold weather crops. Peas, green onions, spinach and radishes all get planted outside as soon as the snow reliably melts. I am still working to finish setting up the seed shelves and yet they are already shockingly full.

Of course, when the snow melts the city inspections start. And our lawn, with it’s consistently high water levels and frequent foot traffic, tends to look the worst on the block. So we are making some changes this year, ranging from rain gardens to stone pathways and re-seeding much of the lawn and ripping out weeds. All of this will happen in the inches of muck my lawn produces. And the frequent, cold rains will also mean animal bedding will get soiled more easily and cages will need to be cleaned more often. It’s a lot of work for one month.

So what is the best thing to add to that mixture? A sudden shipment of baby chicks, highlighted by everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong! Sounds great, right?

You see, last fall we ordered some expensive chicks from a wonderful show breeder but G never bothered to send the payment when I asked him to. By the time the payment reached the breeder it was too late; they weren’t going to have another hatch for the fall. Instead I would have to wait for spring or cancel. So waiting for spring it was.

Well, “spring” in some places means “The first week of March” and my own chickens were laying, but I hadn’t heard back in a while. I sent an email; ‘Any idea of when I would get my chicks?’ I asked.’Soon!’ I heard back. Then two days later I was told they were already on their way, shipped overnight, right into an incoming blizzard.

So I ran into problem one; I had no notice and therefore no setup for them. I quickly arranged a brooder with a heat lamp, and then plugged in my USPS tracking number. It said they’d be here at 3PM that day. I waited for the phone call but it never came. In fact 3PM came and went, and then 4PM, and then I called the post office.

‘They’re not here. They never made it this far. They got held up over night and will be here on the truck in the morning.’ the post office said. Yikes.

So I set that aside, worrying for my expensive chicks, and set about thinking about how to get chick feed. I didn’t want to have someone drive all the way out to my usual feed store for one bag of feed, so I thought I would go down the street to a local hardware store to pick up a bag of their feed. I don’t normally shop there, having gotten some bad results from a drill G bought there (and returned) a few years back, but they were close so I thought I’d give them a shot. I would go out, grab the chicks, then grab their feed, then go home and set them up. I went to bed anxious but with a plan.

The next day we got the chicks first thing in the morning and 3/10 were dead on arrival. They were packaged with care, in appropriate shipping conditions and with some electrolyte gel in cups glued to the inside so they had something to keep them hydrated. But none of that really does any good when the post office delivers them a day late, and doesn’t heat them over night. And the post office doesn’t offer chick refunds unless they reach their destination later than 72 hours from when they were shipped either. Unfortunately, aside from massively expensive transportation services, USPS is the only way to ship chicks. They’re the only game in town and they know it, so there’s not much I can do. The breeder offered to refund me the chick cost, but of course to order them again would require another $40 in shipping, so refunding the chicks is pointless and expensive and the breeder didn’t do anything but their best to ship them safely.

We got home and set them up, shivering into a warm brooder as fast as we could. Then, after seeing that they were in a warm spot, D and I went to the hardware store to buy their chick starter. A 50lb bag was a bit expensive at $19.50, but we bought it and rushed home.

As I went to open the bag, I was trying to shake the crumbs out of the corners so they didn’t spill on the floor but I was having some trouble, so I just cut it open anyhow. It very suddenly became apparent why they wouldn’t come out of the corners. The whole bag was filled with moth eggs. The crumbs in the corners were stuck to moth webbing. The entire bag smelled funny, who knows how long it was on the shelf.
We immediately went back to the store to return it and they opened the only other bag of chick starter on their shelves; it was also ridden with moths and smelled bad. Upset, I took my refund and left. D told me I was too harsh with my words, but I disagree as I was firm but not abusive. Given that their store chose to sell nearly rancid, old, bug-filled food I think I was within reason to be much worse. It was, frankly, expired. It could have killed my chicks given their extremely fragile state, and it was chick food meant for fragile birds. There’s no excuse for keeping feed bags on your shelf for that long under such poor storage conditions, especially when they are already more expensive then other stores. Someone less observant or experienced might have fed the spoiled feed and lost a lot more than some damaged proteins in their feed, they could have lost whole clutches of chicks. A $20 refund won’t make up for that sort of a loss.

Now I had to find a new source of chick feed, which ultimately meant driving all the way out to one of my usual feed stores. So I gave the chicks some water to drink to get them started and away we went. The stores I usually go to are a 40 minute drive away, but we got there, got the feed and got home as fast as we reasonably could.

Home at last, with the chick feed and several additional bags of our regular animal feed (so as not to waste the long trip) I finally settled down to try to care for these emergency chicks. All but one had perked up quickly with just a bit of water and heat. The one that did not was prone and cold, still, unmoving but alive.

Since then I have spent the last 24 hours nursing this chick and we’ve seen some improvements. It’s opening it’s eyes more often, and preening a bit. It’s standing steadily instead of collapsing at random. When it chooses to make noise, which is rare, it’s voice is loud and clear and robust like the other chicks… Yet it is not properly eating on it’s own yet, and it does it’s best to remain asleep and unmoving whenever possible. We have been feeding it a rich electrolyte mixture to get it going and the improvements have been minuscule yet present. I even managed to get a few bites of chick starter into it. I remain vigilant and hopeful, yet there’s not much I can do if it doesn’t start to eat on it’s own. The other chicks are all thriving, and I can hear them chirping away in my basement, cozy in their brooder box.

And now it’s about time to go give another dose of the nutrient mixture to our unwell chick and hope for the best.

I hope March proves to be a little more gentle, maybe even lamb-like, by the end of it, but I suspect it will continue to be more like the jaws of a lion; challenging, difficult, painful and wet. Time to buckle down and work hard!


Start your engines….

It’s spring again on the homestead. Or, it’s almost spring on the homestead. We’re still getting regular frosts but they’ve been interspersed with beautiful, sunny, 40-6*F days in which I go out and start doing work. Most of February is boring and uneventful… We’ve been folding a lot of seed pots and doing a lot of cleanup, but otherwise not much happens until the end of the month.

Now that we’re getting those few warm and sunny days, the ground can start to be gently worked. Compost can get mixed into beds, chickens begin to lay again, beds can be tilled and mulched to capture the last of the nitrogen from the upcoming snows, cages can be cleaned from their frozen winter layovers. Rabbits can be bred without the fear of cold. Dead weed stalks can be pulled. With the absence of both greenery and snow, lawns can be cleaned of any trash, broken pots, loose bags, small tools etc that were previously covered up, consumed by grass and time or otherwise forgotten about.

We moved a bale of straw out to start rotting for our potato boxes this year (rapid mold growth from lack of previous decomposition was a big problem last year), re-tied the trellises as needed, and plotted out new garden spaces. It’s our hope to dig a rain garden in the back lawn and plant it in such a way that it helps drain water from the rest of our lawn. Despite all of our work, the lawn is frankly lacking in drainage. We are living on former swampland, after all. We’re where the water stops and we have to deal with it. Thirsty plants that need a lot of water in a slight depression in our lawn will have lots of water for a long time. And with their water uptake, storage and filtration, the rest of our lawn might be a little less mucky. We also have plans to put in a more permanent pathway for walking on down the center of the lawn. We’re all sick of our boots sucking into the mud.

For me, all of this happens rapidly. A few days of beautiful sun with no rain, and then back to being bundled up indoors while the ground freezes so hard that it cracks and breaks apart. On these warm days with nothing growing I also allow the chickens to range across the entire lawn. They love the opportunity to eat the bugs out of the garden beds and compost that I till up. When the cold weather and snow sets back in they won’t even want to leave their coop, let alone venture across the entire lawn.

This early spring management is especially important for us this year as last year we had a lot of trouble with some little monsters known as wireworms. They devoured our potato crop and made a small dent in our radishes as well. They’re common in lawns across the US and are the larval stage of the click beetle, a fun little bug enjoyed by children that is fairly harmless but makes a solid snapping sound when threatened, handled, or laid on it’s back. The larvae, however, devour root vegetables at an shocking rate and is a demon to a gardener/farmer like me. My goal is to manage them effectively without pesticides. One way to do that is to till the soil frequently in cold weather as they do not like cold, regularly disturbed dirt. By keeping the soil cool and chilly and mobile, they may migrate out of the beds and into other spaces. We also have a “grub buster” globe filled with beneficial nematodes that might prey on the wireworms as well as the fleas we dealt with over the fall that we fear may return in the spring and the white grubs we sometimes find in our beds. When it warms up and the tilling is no longer beneficial to deter the wireworms, we will spray the nematodes on the beds and across much of the lawn and hope for the best. We don’t have a lot of other spaces in which to plant potatoes.

The rats are also becoming active again with spring. We’ve moved all our feed bags into metal bins, we set out various baits for much of the winter as well, but there’s only so much that can be done to exclude. We’ve never left feed sitting out for the chickens and rabbits either, the rats don’t seem to mess with the compost and we cleared out the majority of their living spaces. Yet there they remain. We are determined to be rid of them.

Fleas, rats and worms. Such is the nitty gritty of farm life.

But at least the sun is absolutely wonderful feeling these days. I will desperately enjoy it until it becomes so hot that I crisp up like a lobster.

Next week it will be cold and snowy and wet again with very little sun to be seen. Then I will be back indoors, starting seeds in pots under lamps in my basement like the grower of illicit goods. Currently I have leeks, basil and thyme sprouted and growing with celery, parsley and oregano planted but not yet germinated. Next it is a massive number of paste tomatoes and several varieties of peppers. Before you know it many of these plants will be going into the ground. Wish me luck!

The spirit of Upcycling (And the best seed pots)

Today I have been exploring the various ways I can apply the spirit of upcycling to my life.

Upcycling (from

verb (used with object)upcycled, upcycling.

to process (used goods or waste material) so as to produce something that is often better than the original: “I upcycled a stained tablecloth into curtains.”

This week I am sick with a nasty cold. It may be more than that. I went to see a doctor and got some medication that is helping me recover. They actually prescribed me antibiotics for fear that I might be developing pneumonia again. Once you get pneumonia once, it makes the risk for getting future bacterial infections worse.

So lately I have been fairly inactive, relying on my partners to help with most of the critical outdoor chores. But now that I am on the mend I am able to start doing anything again and I am able to upcycle my time stuck semi couch-ridden while also upcycling a pile of newspapers. While I am an getting better I am still a little short of breath when I do simple tasks. So I’m spending my time doing important tasks with my hands instead, upcycling a bad situation into a better and useful one.

Today I am making these seed pots;


A stack of 40 newspaper seed pots

These are some of the best upcycled seed pots I’ve ever used. They wick water up like a peat pot and are surprisingly sturdy for paper. Unlike a peat pot they actually break down in one season and so don’t restrict root growth as much if you plant the whole pot, plus break apart with some water and a few pokes to free the roots completely for planting. There are some newspaper seed pots that are round and rolled on a can but they come apart easily and the round pots make it harder to conserve space per square foot.

Some time ago I read about someone complaining how millennials don’t listen to people with experience but hypocritically also complained that they refused to do things without trying to research them online first. (The irony of this person demanding millennials learn from their online post was lost on them as well.)
Some places on the internet are garbage, but like all other upcycling, it can be something great instead depending on how you use it! Most millennials (and many others) find the internet to be an incredible resource, and for many of us it’s our only viable resource to learn things. Here’s an idea, upcycle your internet usage. It’s more than OK to learn things online, in fact, it’s awesome! Trade out garbage and depressing websites for productive learning! Not only is it a great resource to learn from people more experienced than you, but it’s also a great resource to learn about how to experiment in ways that more experienced people might not. It’s where I learned to make these, and they are great. You can find the instructions on how to make them here;


I get the newspapers from my father, who is in his mid 70’s and appreciates reading the newspaper as a daily lifeline to the world. He often saves them in large quantities for me and brings them to my house in batches of several weeks worth of newspaper at once. Our local newspaper uses soy based inks in their printing so the news pages are safe to use in the garden. (Always check with your newspaper supplier about this, some inks leach toxins into the soil like heavy metals. If you don’t know anyone who has newspapers, consider asking on places like the Craigslist free section or your local freecycle group.)

As I folded up the seed pots I couldn’t help but see the troubles of the world on those pages. Racist rants trying to rephrase a protest of police brutality as disrespect for our military. Sabre rattling between nuclear powers, their egos threatening the lives of millions of people they will never meet. Companies caught in security scandals putting their millions of clients whole financial futures at risk to save a few dollars per person. Painful calls of misogyny from beauty articles demanding women be young, thin and sexy or else they’re worthless. Cries to buy luxury fuel-guzzling vehicles for “low-low prices” of a whole years worth of income that the average person I know can’t possibly afford to give up. Sales of over-priced sick puppy-mill dogs from breeders just looking to make a buck in the classifieds. Countless pages upon pages of obituaries, mostly old but some too-young, each one with a little advertisement at the end that seemed to say: “This dead person’s family used *COMPANY*’s funeral service! If someone you love is dead, you should give them your money while you are grieving too!”.

It gave me plenty of time to notice all this as I folded and folded and folded. I watched TV and chatted with my partners, sometimes playing games or doing other small chores in between folding paper. It was also our weekly cartoon night where we all meet up with some other friends to watch Japanese animation and we all folded papers for a bit. And while I was folding I couldn’t help but reflect on the grander implications of what we were doing.

All that hatred and anger. The egos, the consumption, the greed, the negligence. All the terrible ills and death of the world were getting folded up and put aside. Over the next few months, all of those horrible things will be upcycled and used to grow something beautiful. Something that’s the exact opposite of what’s written on all of those pages. Something that feeds both peoples bodies and souls. Something that brings life and heals the planet.

Those pages will grow food. They will grow peppers and beans. They will grow tomatoes that go into jars and remind us of the rich summer in the middle of a gloomy winter. They will go into gifts for others that bring joy through the year. They will go into growing flowers and feeding bees and rabbits and even grasshoppers and deer. They will break down into the soil and feed the worms and nematodes and grubs in the dirt. They are bits of carbon that will have come out of the air and return to the soil.

No matter how much hatred and anger and pain is printed on them, they can be used to heal.

What a thought provoking day of upcycling.

Ultimately we made 100 seed pots in one day while heavily distracted. Which makes these pots not only great to grow in but fast to produce. If you have some days off that you’re probably just going to be watching TV or something for a good chunk of them anyhow, consider setting yourself down with a flat surface on your lap and folding some seed pots. A 100 pack of 2″ plastic seed cups is nearly $25 on Amazon. I need possibly as many as 400 pots this year, so I will be saving myself $100 by doing this while I’d otherwise just be sick in bed. And in exchange it will nourish my soil, increasing carbon and biomass, and turn something ugly into something wonderful.

Frugal. Ecological. Healing. Nourshing to land, body, soul, and the whole world. Everything gardening, and upcycling, should be. I hope you give these awesome pots a try and do a little upcycling yourself.

So much for quiet!

Winters are usually a very quiet time on the farm. Not this one, though! We have had much happen since our vacation after Yule. We got a new rabbit, a New Zealand Red, laying the foundation for a new breeding program we have in the works. She is a sweet girl with extra soft fur. We have planned the garden extensively (which will be in another post), and gotten much done in the way of general maintenance.

This week in particular saw a thaw after weeks of negative temperatures. We actually temperatures reach 63*F at one point, allowing everything to melt into thick mud and deep puddles. My eternally-wet back lawn had a few inches of water across most of it. I have mentioned this before, but we often do not realize what an influence we humans have on the earth. The land my suburb is on was once a swampy wetland. When we get deep thaws and heavy rains, the lay of the land still dictates that the water run here, where our houses and lawns are. We have terraformed the land to try to prevent this, to dry the land out and build our box-houses, but nature does not listen. This is where the water goes, and where it tries to stop, just short of actually making it to our sewer grates, sitting thick upon the clay pack in our back lawns. Though I have desperately tried to manage it, there’s not very much to be done. Fighting mother nature is an endless task, and one that as a species we can hardly avoid any more. I live in this box, this is the land I have available to work.

So during the thaw we took the time to clean the animal pens. All of them. The coop, the outside and inside rabbit cages, and the pen that our “chicks” live in. They are adults at this point in truth, and we moved the ladies out with the flock. The boys will stay in and feed a bit longer before becoming soups. One in particular is large and pushy. He will make a good roast I believe.

We also bred some rabbits. Our bucks have been inactive lately, and our does somewhat unwilling. It is a challenge getting rabbits to breed sometimes. The boys try, the ladies lift, but I am not seeing consistent enough falls. I am concerned and digging into why.

And our bees are alive! They did a lot of removing corpses during the brief thaw. There were a LOT of dead bees. I cracked them open long enough to try to give them some extra food in the form of a candy board but my spray bottle stopped functioning. We got the board in, but all three of us got stung for our efforts. Dan is currently with a friend in an urgent care facility getting his treated. He got stung between the thumb and forefinger and his whole hand swelled up. The other stings were just tiny, like a bug bite, and swelled up to the size of a quarter, or even a half-dollar, but nothing to be afraid of. I hope he isn’t developing a bad allergy to bees. That happens sometimes to bee keepers who are exposed to too much bee proteins, but no venom. This is only his third sting in his life, but his father kept bees for years. I worry.

Still, despite that setback our compost pile grew substantially and the rabbits now sit in clean cages. And the bees were cared for. They have a better shot of making it through the winter now.

We also processed several too-old kits we kept around because of how busy we were in December and how cold it was in the first half of January. We now have rabbit in the freezer for the first time in a couple months, an unusual scenario. We pieced them out this time, pulling off legs, loins, backstraps, etc, and wrapping them then freezing them. All that’s left after this is a spine and rib cage with scraps and bits on it.

We took those bits and popped them in a pot with lots of water and a single teaspoon of salt, boiling them for hours and hours. At the end of it all we had some of the most intensely flavored stock I have ever had, and a meat and bone meal for the chickens… A warm high-protein snack that’s good for the middle of winter. The chickens had a blast during the thaw, especially with their new snacks.

Now we’re deep in an ice storm, but everyone is cozy and warm in their freshly cleaned homes, bellies full of good, fresh food. It’s been good work on the livestock front this week.

Later I will update you about the garden plans for spring. Much work has been done there as well!

Stay safe in the storms this week!

A Yule Prep Poem

Twas the week before Yule and all through the house
Every creature was stirring, even in the henhouse.
The stocking were hung o’er the chimney with care
In hopes they’d look nice when the guests were all there.

Only the dogs were nestled snug in their beds
While visions of raccoons danced in their heads
While Dan shook rugs outside with a flap,
We were all super busy, no time for a nap!

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
The dogs ran to the window to see what was the matter.
Scrambling about they barked and they bayed,
It was just UPS with stuff for which we had paid.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But the man who I had lived with all through the year!

Removing his coat, so lively and quick,
He took off his boots so the floor wouldn’t be slick.
The chores had built up, and home from work he had came,
He told me to list them all out by name.

“The bathroom. The hallways. The tables and kitchen. The basement, the couches, the windows and cookin’
From the floors and baseboards to the top of the walls. We have to clean it up, clean it up, clean it up, ALL!”

I was so happy to have help, I felt I could fly,
I was grateful for housemates who’d work while the moon’s in the sky.
So through some rooms of the house they flew,
cleaning the games shelf, and the basement too.

And with the spare time I was able to cook,
Following recipes from an old book.
The house would be full when the guests came around,
Some of them may even be from out of town.

We baked loaves of bread that were nearly a foot,
We swept out the fireplace of all it’s soot.
We did dishes and scrubbed despite our sore backs,
We tucked travel gear away into packs.

We had to be ready for the night of the faeries,
We even made pies, some out of berries.
We found some old things, lost arrows and bows,
It froze cold outside and continued to snow.

Despite all the work, we gritted our teeth,
We even found time to hang up the wreath!
We washed the dogs cause they were quite smelly,
And wrapped up our gifts, some jars full of jelly.

We tidied up games, put cards on the shelf,
I cooked us some dinner though I was tired, myself.
Laundry was done, and clothing stitched up with thread,
The fridge even got cleaned, though it was something to dread.

We spent days on it, it was tons of work.
And at times, though we acted like jerks,
We got it all done, as outside it froze.
By the end we ached from our head to our toes.

And even though it caused us to bristle,
We even made it outside to cut down dead thistles.
And finally we slept, our house shining and bright.
And we wished each other a happy Yule, and goodnight!

Home-made Holiday Gifts; Wood ornaments

Every year we try to make holiday presents for Yule. This year is no different. This year I borrowed a wood burning kit from my sister to use for making these;


These ornaments or keychains (or however you want to use them) are extremely easy to make. You simply use a saw (I used my circular saw) to cut slices of a stick. Then you drill a tiny hole in the top, and burn in your design. When you’re done, slip a ribbon through, add and secure a wood bead (if you like) and tie it closed.

You can see several different designs here. A star and a snowflake are simple and generic but they get more customized than that. One is a paintbrush and pencil crossed for an artist friend. One is a computer screen with YULE written on it in binary code for a friend who is a programmer. A third is an ornate cross and has a crown of thorns on the other side for a friend who is deeply Catholic (but celebrates my heathen holidays with me anyhow). There’ll be many more by the time I’m done. We usually have around 20-25 people over for Yule and each one receives a gift of some sort as a spiritual requirement for the holiday. That adds up, even if you only spend $10 per person. So we try to aim for home-made gifts as a frugal but thoughtful alternative. Plus it’s very in-tune with both the natural focus of the holiday and our desire to re-use and upcycle common items.

Here’s a step by step of how to make these neat little ornaments.

You’ll need…

  • A relatively smooth, straight and evenly round stick or small log of appropriate size
  • A saw of some sort to make clean cuts in the wood
  • A drill with a very small drill bit
  • A pencil
  • A scarp of thin cardboard with a straight edge
  • Sandpaper
  • A wood burning kit (These run from $25-$50 depending on what you get)
  • Ribbon, string or wire for the loops
  • Beads or other stringable decorations (optional)
  • Tung oil or other wood finisher (optional)

First, find a stick that you want to use that’s straight and smooth.


Some notes about the kind of stick you should use. The wood type isn’t really as relevant as the literal shape of the stick. You want to pick a stick that has a fairly consistent width and is as straight as possible with very few knots and knobs. Make sure it’s long enough to cut enough discs of the sizes you’d like with enough extra to hold safely while you’re cutting. You also need a stick that is VERY dry and has been stored indoors for some months. A wood that’s very dark in color will have less contrast then a wood that’s very light, especially if you choose to oil it.

Next, pick a consistent width for your tokens and mark off one disc of wood. Cut and repeat until you have as many as you want to make. You can wing this but if consistency matters to you it pays to mark and cut carefully.


Inconsistent cutting because I winged these means wild angles and different widths.

Next, put your drill to work making a small hole in the top of each one. Be careful about your angles. If your drill goes between the wood and the bark, the bark will probably peel away.


Note the red staining on the lower disc on the right. That came from the blade of the circular saw. It’s just a surface scuff and will be sanded off later.

Bring your discs to a flat work surface and start to sand them. Sand both sides and lightly sand the bark edge as well. This makes the surfaces smooth and clean and nice to handle. it’ll also keep the wood from flaking. If you cut a piece wildly uneven (like I did), you can use the sandpaper to help even those out. Don’t over-sand the bark edges. You’re just trying to rub away some roughness, not take off layers of the bark. The whole piece of wood should feel almost soft.


Now you’re ready to burn in some patterns. You’ll need a good wood burning kit. Choose a simple round pointed tip and set up your wood burner. I was using a Walnut Hollow kit, but there was a serious problem with it. The cord is extremely short, and it pulled itself off of the table onto the floor. One of the nibs broke and it snapped off inside of it. I have yet to restore the functionality of this wood burner. I had a backup, but in general, be very careful not to make my mistake.

A wood burner is just a hot metal pen, so you can draw anything with it if you’re careful. I did lots of designs, you can get extremely creative. I did a bear, a cat, a fox, a computer, a cross, theater masks, stars, etc. Just draw it out with a pencil first and then burn it in… But right now I will be showing you how to burn in a simple but pretty snowflake.

First, burn the ends of the hole open so they are clean and easy to work with. Then line up your straight bit of cardboard in the middle of the wood disc, across the hole to the bottom. I used a torn off tab from a box of cookies. Anything is fine as long as it’s straight and disposable.


Burn a straight line from top to bottom, then do the same thing at a 90* angle so you have a big cross in the middle. At 45* angles from that, still using your straight edge, burn an X shape that’s about half the length inside it.

Next, you simply start filling it out with the crystal structure. Whatever you do on one long line, do the same thing to all the others. They can be straight lines or at angles pointing outward or even X shapes, so long as they are symmetrical across all the long lines. On this one I went for pointed angles on the long branches, and then pointed angles on the ends of the short branches, with straight lines under it. A good rule of thumb is two branches on each line.

I filled up some of the extra space with a moon and some stars. Stars generally have five points so a simple round, pointed nib can make a fuzzy star shape by simply burning five equally spaced points as tightly together as you can.


At this point, I oiled all of the pieces I was doing. I used some tung oil that I had sitting around and an old scrap of towel to apply it. When you apply an oil like tung oil to the wood, it will dramatically change the base color of the wood. It will make it dark and rich, but it will also reduce the contrast. You may want to go over your wood burn again to make sure it comes out dark enough.

When you are done oiling you may find some of the edges of the wood are a little flaky, especially if you have a large grain sandpaper. That’s OK. Just use the side of your wood burning pen to burn those edges down flat.


You can see what the oil looks like on these various patterns as well, and you may notice some flaking on the edges. Note that the very center of the wood may absorb the oil differently than the rest of the wood disc. If this is very bothersome, gently and quickly burn over just the center to darken it just a bit.

Now I’ll show you how I attached the bead. Start by deciding how low you want the ornament to hang, then double it (because the ribbon will be a loop). Then add an inch or two depending on the size of bead you’re using, and another couple inches for the knot on the top. These were a larger sized set of beads so about 2 inches would be right. I just guessed at a ribbon length, personally. Cut your ribbon and run it through the hole. You may have to fold it or use a needle threader or some such to make it go through if the hole is very small like mine were. String your bead over both ends of the ribbon.


Part the ends of the ribbon down over the top of the bead, then bring them up through the bottom of the bead again one at a time so they form loops on opposite sides. Then simply tighten the loops with the beads close to the wood disc and it will hold very securely. Tie a knot at the top and you’re done!


Let them sit for a time to absorb the oils, but at this point your gift is done. Cute, pretty and simple. Possibly most importantly, nearly free (if you don’t completely break your wood burning tool in the process).

I hope you enjoy crafting these!



What if you make a mistake!?

If it’s a deep enough burn, you should probably just start over with a new disc. I mean, these are made out of sticks from your wood pile, after all. But if you have a light burn or don’t want to make a new disc you can actually just sand the burns out. It may take a while to actually get through the burn marks, but any blemishes on the surface of the wood can simply be sanded out with a little elbow grease and then re-oiled.

Happy crafting, friends! Until next time!

My door is open, if you want it to be.

Content warning for conversion therapy, suicide and politics.
Today I read an interesting political article that lifted my spirits a bit. This post has a happy ending if you can make it through, for me at least.

The article talks about a man who is a farmer, protesting a republican political candidate. A good ‘ol boy if I ever saw one. He stood with his preachers, and his community, as they banged on their pulpits, preaching not of love but of how human beings simply existing were perverted and distasteful. They were speaking of gay people in this case, a community I am a part of.

This regular occurrence was common in his home. But one day he found out his daughter, Patti, was gay. A friend of hers told her family, “outing” her. This was a daughter that he loved and cherished. That he’d raised in a church that pounded their pulpit and called his child a pervert. A child who had only ever done good. He devalued her, repeated back what he learned at his church. Hate and anger. He apologized, he regretted what he said, but the damage was done.

Patti came to him crying, asking him to help her get help to stop being gay. Nobody asks to be born a certain way, of course. This was someone in pain, told that who she was was terrible for her difference. She didn’t want to BE different, so she asked her father to get her “help” to fix her. Of course, that’s impossible. It’s like asking for someone to get you help to stop enjoying eating food. Such things can only cause trauma to a person.

The father in question took Patti to see doctors, but these things have been studied again and again. You can never “cure” or even CHANGE being gay, only create trauma around the experience. So they told him what any sane person driven by scientific evidence would do. They told him there was no such thing as a cure, that it was normal, that they couldn’t change who she was. Every medical professional they went to said the same thing. And the reality is, it’s the truth. We have no way to rewire an entire biological system. We have no “cure” for “experiencing the world differently”. Nor do we truly need one. But everyone around her treated people like her as a monster… What other option did she have but to seek a “cure” for being who she was?

Her father found his daughter, Patti, on March 22nd. She had committed suicide. He said that she did it because she was tired of being gay, not because she was tired of loving other girls, but because she was tired of how she was treated. Of being ridiculed and demonized.

When he tried to return to his church, after so much loss and suffering, there was a guest preacher. And after a mere 10 minutes the preacher began to tell the church about how terrible being gay was. There was no sympathy and compassion for his loss, no comfort after the death of his daughter Patti. Only more hatred.

Sometimes, I hear some pretty terrible things from the farming and homesteading communities. I hear questions that stem from ignorance, like “Why do liberals hate farming?” “Why does the left hate Christians or families?” “Why do *insert generalized city/left folks here* hate *insert generalize country/right folks here*?”.
I want you to know that the answer is really simple. We don’t. I know countless city folks who love farming and farms. Many of the people I know have “farmers make food” stickers. They’re interested in how agriculture effects our country. They’re parents with children who love nature. They want to see “flyover” territory be secure and successful. They want to see farmers get fair wages, the want to see red states have wealth. They want people in small towns to have local businesses and for those same people to have equal rights. They care a LOT.

There is an anger there, however. The kind that stems from years of abuse, the kind that admittedly leads to many being abusive right back. The anger isn’t personal towards individual people or specific groups, like farmers or Christians. The anger is towards the anger they’ve experienced from others. They rage at a system that causes a community to demonize differences. They hate teachings that cause other people to live in fear. They hate a hatred that makes a father treat his own daughter with hate. They hate a world that pushes a young girl to commit suicide. They hate the voices that end their lives, and countless others across the world.

This story is tragic. That system, that hatred ingrained in those communities, OUR communities, causes people to die. It causes families to be ripped apart. It caused a father to loose his daughter. I hate that. We hate that. It disgusts us and it should disgust everyone.

This story has a quiet little high note at the end, however.

This father suffered a tremendous loss. But after that day at church he stopped going back to that church. He couldn’t believe that his God would send such a loving child to hell simply for how she was born.

The reason his letter came to my attention was he is now advocating for people like his daughter in his deep-red state. The politician in question referred to members of the queer community as perverts and sinners. The politician in question also has a high profile set of sexual misconduct accusations. And this father sees the hypocrisy in his words. He hopes that people will think twice before voting for a man that calls his daughter a pervert, and emboldens the people that drove her suicide. He regret his past actions deeply and pushes back against anti-gay movements in his own small towns and farming communities. He’s a farmer. He’s one of US, and his suffering deserves to be heard.

Nathan Mathis. You’re a brave soul. There was a point in time when I would have probably been disgusted by who you were. There may be people you’ve hurt who will probably never forgive what you’ve been, a straw on a camels back, a drop in a bucket of anger that can never be forgotten. They’re not obligated to, we’re not obligated to forgive people who have hurt us, and that’s OK. But *I* forgive you. I’ll mourn with you. And I think you’ll find that, in general, we hateful leftist perverts are a pretty forgiving bunch all around. Even the bible says “reform ye, therefore, and turn back, for your sins being blotted out”, by and large, we’ve learned that we live it. We don’t actually WANT to hate anyone, and, indeed, we rarely do wish ill on others. We’re willing to see someone who has changed for the better and care for them again, to embrace them, to love them again. Nathan, you’re welcome in MY house any day, even if your neighbors won’t let me into theirs.

I recently heard somewhere that doing the right thing is a choice, a choice to do the right thing followed by an action doing the right thing. That you can’t do the right thing unless you are consciously trying. People’s mistakes happen in offhand ways, swept up in the moment without consideration or reason, they do bad things. It’s easy to end up on the wrong path, doing things that are wrong, without even realizing it. “Oops! Sorry I hurt you, I didn’t mean to.” By contrast; “I did the right thing without noticing!”, “Why, the next thing I knew, I was doing good things!”, “in a moment of carelessness, I helped someone! Whoops!”. You never hear those things. Goodness cannot exist without the intent to be good. You can’t do good things unless you actively try to.

My door, and countless others, are open to anyone who genuinely wants to be better, to anyone who decides that they want to do good things and who tries to. To anyone who wants to know how they can stop hurting others, to anyone who wants to help others. To anyone who genuinely wants to connect and share compassion. If you want to be good and then you do it, my door is open to you. I believe that Nathan has decided that he wants to do good, and is trying to do it.

And Patti Sue Mathis. I’ll say your name. You’re a victim as much as any other. You didn’t deserve the end you had. I hope your name will be remembered by many people. But I also hope you know that, wherever you are, there’s a little more light in the world because you were in it. Because of your legacy of loss, there’s a few more people who will see love instead of hate. I hope wherever you are, you’re at peace. And I hope you know that you mattered.

Someday, I hope that we have more Nathans. I hope we have more people who decide to do good in the world.

And you don’t have to take my lefty feminist words that it’s a good thing to do. This old man, a farmer, a father, a christian and a republican, is asking you to do good as well. I hope his message spreads, far and wide.

You can read his letter here;

And the article about his protest here;

Good luck, Nathan. I’m rooting for you.