I’m experiencing withdrawal…

The past week or so of unseasonably warm weather beckons me outdoors… to a multitude of gardening tasks. Primarily: clean-up, raking, weeding, turning compost, transplanting/pruning, and on and on! I’m exhausted just thinking about it – and the old bones are feeling it!

That leaves little time for creating (and I desperately need to create!). Well, besides creating gardening plans, that is! I try to keep a level head, focused, prioritizing a To-Do list and most importantly, taking little bites! After all, it’s the tortoise that won the race! For me, it’s a matter of perspective… knowing that there will ALWAYS be something to-do on a list somewhere!!

In the meantime, I managed to make a little Frenchy dairy goat – in all fairness – long overdue, considering all the sheepies that are foremost on my mind!

She stands proudly looking about curiously, as most goats do!

You could make your very own dairy goat ‘topiary’ too!

How-To: First, draw a dairy goat (had to be recently freshened, that is, have an udder – heehee) on a piece of muslin – remember, front & back! If you’re not great at ‘drawing’, there’s many goat diagrams available in goat books, etc that you could use for a pattern/trace. Next, I sewed the two pieces together and stuffed it (leave an inch or so opening to ‘stuff’) with fiberfil (and some dried fragrant herbs?). I then painted my goat with acrylic paint – here’s where you can get creative… because there are many colors/patterns of dairy goats… or, paint it to resemble your own goat!

I applied a fine coat of mod podge & tinted wax, and used a wooden dowel for a base (but you could use a natural tree branch too). I wrapped my dowel in a spring green butcher’s twine, but you could paint it, leave it natural, or wrap in ribbon, yarn, etc.

For the base, I recycled a vintage child’s alphabet block by drilling a hole in the top to accept the dowel. Any ‘base’ would do – be creative! I stamped the letter ‘C’ for chevre (goat in French) and a paper image of a goat onto the block. Last, I added a fabric scrap ‘banner’ with ‘chevre’ stamped onto it.


I also made a spring-tyme bunny. I added a wooly tail, seed beads for eyes, embroidery floss nose/mouth and needle-felted the topiary wooly green ball around the dowel. (The dowel is wrapped with ribbon.) I stitched on a few randomly placed vintage mother-of-pearl buttons and glued a pink ribbon rose atop each button.

Well… got to go… daylight’s burning… and the great outdoors is calling!

Finally…a bunny topiary!

I finally finished a bunny-themed ‘topiary’. You see, I never do anything from start to finish. Usually there’s several projects underway, including routine household things to-do, not to mention barnyard chores. I often steal away a few minutes here and there and hardly ever sit idle…unless I’ve collapsed into bed.

Anyway, this tabletop bunny topiary is made from items I found in my ‘stash’.

The bunny and carrot are made from a paper pattern I drew onto a brown paper bag and cut out from muslin. After I sewed the bunny, I tea stained the fabric and used acrylic black paint (thinned w/a little water) for accent…I wanted a little Dutch Dwarf rabbit. I stuffed the bunny and carrot with fiberfil and some dried lavender (just because) and applied a thin layer of mod podge to the surface, and brown shoe polish to ‘age’ it a bit. I used two different shades of orange and terra cotta on the carrot.

The bunny has a black bead for eyes, pink embroidery floss stitched nose, and a needle felted wool tail.

I tied on several strips of #6-cut green wool strips from my rug hooking snippet stash for the carrot-top greens.

I cut a red-twig dogwood branch from my yard to make the topiary ‘stem’ and used an old piece of porch ‘trim’ for the base. The topiary stands approx 16-inches tall and the bunny is about 8-inches long. Here’s my pattern.

I’ve been working on several additional topiary forms.

This one also has a branch as my ‘stem’, but I made a sphere with a grapevine form and wrapped it with spring green fabric strips dipped in mod podge. I like the irregular form. Anyway…the point of this discussion is that you can use/make any topiary shape you desire!

 I also made little fabric rosebuds from about a 6-inch X 1/4-inch strip of pink material (fold the strip in half lengthwise, tie a knot in one end and roll it up – place a stitch or dab of glue on the end) and glued them onto the finished form with fabric glue…and a few leaves? You could add as many spheres or conical shapes as you desire! Now all I need is a bunny for a topper (still think’n about Easter?) and a base of some sort.

I like to recycle/repurpose items found around the house. Old wood porch banister, candlesticks, textile bobbins, an old milk pitcher…lots of possibilities. Now where did I put that sheet moss?

I hope this inspires you to create a topiary for yourself to help chase away the gray winter blahs and think Spring!


Pet Condo

When we built our house twenty years ago, one of the first outbuildings we designed/constructed was our ‘pet condo’. Our condo houses our two farm dogs, our egg-laying chickens during winter (when they’re not out on free-range) and our two bunnies.

Visitors to my shop (I have a cottage business, Sheepy Hollow Herbs, LLC) often wander…stroll the gardens and visit my barnyard menagerie. They often ask if they can ‘move in’  (lol), and find the utility of the pet condo very interesting, and make a mental note to construct something similar one day to meet their animal housing needs.

The shed itself is 2 X 4 frame construction built on a platform or deck. The shed dimension overall is 8-feet X 16-feet. We used cedar panels on the exterior and installed 2 windows, shingled roof. The lattice on either end is decorative, but we’ve drilled several holes though the building for ventilation – it’s difficult to see – and covered them on the inside with hardware cloth (to keep unwanted visitors out). We painted the shed barn red with white trim – it could use a freshening! tee hee  Yes, that’s pavers inside the dog run and in front of the shed. My hubby has a THING about concrete…

The condo or shed consists of a dog pen on the west side – see the pic above – their in-out access hole is covered with a rubber flap. The dog’s space inside occupies the back half of the shed (approx 4′ X 4′). Most of the day, Bo is out wandering or guarding the sheep & goats. Riley, my German Shepherd, guards me and the farm and usually is by my side at all times. Actually, she requires no fencing to keep her home-bound!

The opposite side of the shed houses our egg laying chickens. Inside the shed is another compartment with 9-nesting boxes total, 3 rows across, 3 high, with feeder & water bucket. Outside, the chickens have a small scratching pen. We re-seed it every Spring, and within a few weeks, they’ve scratched it bare again!

We also house 2 bunnies in the shed (my lionhead has his own stand-alone hutch). Two, side-by-side simple wire rabbit cages (from any TSC Supply), nesting box, with custum built pull-out litter catch-pans underneath. We’ve cut an access hole through the wall of the ‘condo’ to an outdoor cage/hutch which hangs on the exterior wall.  It’s simple 2 X 4 frame construction built onto the exterior, a shingled shed-type roof with a hinged drop down door on both pens, hardware cloth/wire floor. No catch-pan needed here.

We also have a built-in multi-compartment feed storage bin for chicken/rabbit/dog and wild bird seed. Everything you need in one spot. The building itself is insulated and only on the coldest Winter nights, we hang a heat lamp inside and actually keeps the water from freezing. It’s simple, attractive and utilitarian! (if I do say so myself.)

Hope this provides you with some ideas for your own ‘pet condo’!

Awww…what was I thinking?


Sunday morning I visited our local Armada Flea Market. Aside from seasonal farm fresh produce, ‘yard tag sale’ stuff (ya know – one man’s junk is another man’s treasure), occasional collectables and antiques, there’s also kittens, puppies, chickens and —– bunnies.

As I was leaving, I noticed this little furry thing, perhaps a chinchilla?? My fatal mistake was to allow myself to hold him when the ‘kind man’ handed him to me. YIKES! I was smitten. This little Lionhead bunny has the softest fur and the gentlest demeanor. I was HOOKED! What’s one more bunny? I don’t have a steely blue/gray one? He is little, and I have an empty hutch!??

Here’s some info I found on the Lionhead Rabbit’s website.

“Lionhead Rabbits are an exciting new rabbit! Even though they are a recognized breed in England, they are not yet a recognized breed with the American Rabbit Breeders Association (ARBA). Currently both Purebred and Hybrid Lionheads can be shown at ARBA shows under the Purposed Working Standard for the breed. They will have their first official showing with the ARBA in 2004. The American version of the Lionhead Rabbit will have erect ears and adults should remain under 3 3/4 pounds to be shown.

These little rabbits have a mane of wool encircling their head much like a male African Lion. (Both male & female Lionheads have a mane). Unlike other wool rabbit breeds, the Lionhead Rabbit has normal fur on the rest of their bodies. They are very friendly, easy to train and make excellent pets. Once they reach adulthood, they do not require the extensive grooming that some of the other wool breeds do.”

So, I’ll be working on a name for my latest addition to the barnyard menagerie!

Aside from my bunny episode, I want to mention that my friend Deb and I visited the Hadley Spinning Guild last Thursday. The guide membership is offered free to the community and meets once a month at the Metamora Public Library. Deb and I packed-up our spinning wheels and drove over to Metamora (about a 35 min drive from Armada/Allenton). We had a wonderful evening ‘sharing’ with this group of talented fiber artists!!!!! You can find out more about the guild at http://hadleyfiberartsguild.com

I also have a recipe to share – Gingersnaps! Gingersnaps are one of my family’s favorite cookies, especially this time of year with the molasses, ginger, cinnamon & cloves…just smells sooooo good while they’re baking in the oven. I usually serve them during my Holiday Open House (coming up November 13 & 14) and they’re, let’s say, much appreciated. gingersnaps

The recipe is quick and simple: 2 1/4 cups flour, 2 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp salt 1 cup brown sugar, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 1/4 cup molasses, 1 egg. Optional: You’ll need a bit of granulated sugar to roll the cookie in before you place on the baking sheet. Sift together dry ingredients (flour, soda & spices) in a bowl. In another mixing bowl, add brown sugar, oil, molasses and egg — mix well. Add the flour/spices and beat well. Shape dough into 1″ balls (I use a spoon and roll in my hands) and roll in sugar if desired. Place 1 1/2 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 375 degrees F, 10 minutes. Makes about 4 dozen. Stores well, good dunkers too!