Yipper

One of my favorite trail walks meanders past a small prairie dog colony, and facing the colony is a memorial bench in honor of “Molly.”  Molly was a dog, and I am sure she loved to watch “her” prairie dogs.  A few months ago, I saw something I had not seen before, and which I later learned was the characteristic prairie dog “jump yip.”  This was early summer, and I suspect one of the jumpers was pretty young: it jumped, yipped, and promptly fell over.  And because it was so much fun (?) it would do it again . . .

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Around the same time, on one of my other favorite walks, I met Nick LoFaro, a metal artist who was putting the finishing touches to an enormous sculpture called “Poseidon”:

 

 

Poseidon

A few months later, I commissioned my own (much smaller) sculpture from Nick.  I wanted the jump yip, but Nick could not build in the jump and still have it look like a prairie dog . . .  so he made him into the sentinel.  But I still call him “Yipper”:

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Why yes, there are spoons and forks and gears and all sorts of reclaimed metal parts!  I am especially fond of the drill bit for the tail, and the blue marbles for his eyes.  These days, he either hangs out as a guardian/sentinel on our tiny front balcony overlooking the commons area, or in our equally tiny backyard overlooking the next subdivision.  And just think:  we are art collectors!

The Greater Good

In the summer, my day starts around 5 AM, when I open every window and door in the house.  We are the only house in our neighborhood without air conditioning, so my goal is to get the indoor temperature below 70°F.  And then we close everything around 9 AM, and hope that at the peak, the temperature inside doesn’t go above 82° (or so).  In our previous house, we would turn on the central air at 82°, mainly because the poor little guinea pigs looked pretty wilted at that point …

We made the decision not to have air conditioning when we built this house because we could not justify the environmental impact; call it our “greater good” conscience.  Along with early rising is also early gardening: as I yank weeds at 6:30 in the morning, I have been thinking about Karl Marx:  “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”  My inner snarkiness has resulted in various areas of The Commons now having names:  Cindy’s Folly (a $2000 dream of abundant wildflowers in glorious display is actually 200 feet of exposed black weed barrier with holes for anemic annuals and weeds)  . . .  L&B’s Stupid Strip ((they wanted real grass in the verge next to their house, except the HOA owns only HALF of the strip, so there is now 3 feet of weedy grass — and they think “The HOA” should take care of the weeds because hey the verge isn’t actually their private property) . . .  Joe’s NIMBY (he wanted the frontage but dang it’s a really long frontage and he shouldn’t have to be responsible for shoveling the walkway in the winter let alone picking weeds in the summer) . . .  Adrienne’s Private Dog Park (I mean, where else do you expect Otto the dog to do his business and if no one really uses that walkway then what’s wrong with doing the cleanup just once a week?) . . .

HOA

From gogladly.com

The Greater Good.  From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.  My little corner of the world really can do better, and I am doing a terrible job of containing my frustration and annoyance.  Worst of all, I have turned into a bigger whinger than I had thought possible.

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On really bad days, I visit our local prairie dog colony, where I recently saw the “jump yip” for the first time.  I thought they were just happy to hurry me out of the neighborhood, but the scientists do not have a consensus on the meaning of the jump yip:  warning?  celebratory dance?  seeing if other prairie dogs are being vigilant?  just because?  What we do know is that prairie dogs live in a cooperative community …  And I do not.

So …  on really bad days, I whinge, and yank weeds, and then I remember to smile smile smile, because someone once said that if you smile enough, the smile may become real.  And perhaps I will believe again in the Greater Good.

Dalton Quilt

Pattern:  Dalton, from Kristi Schroeder’s Southwest Modern: From Marfa to New Mexico: 18 Travel-Inspired Quilts.

Modifications:  Along with trying to use up my yarn stash before I die, I would also like to use up by fabric stash.  This quilt-as-you-go version of Dalton is a collision between Southwest and shabby chic (lots of red fabric from French General), with bits from Mom’s old clothes.  The backing, the batting, and the binding are also from scraps.  

Floor Quilts:  I moved my piano into our walk-out basement where the temperature is a lovely 70 degrees in the heat of the summer.  Since the floor is polished concrete, it is also a difficult acoustic space.  I have an audience of stuffed teddy bears down there to help with sound absorption, and probably will make more floor quilts as needed.  

Fixer Upper: When It Goes Wrong

HGTV is my go-to station while running on the treadmill, and my favorite show is probably Fixer Upper, starring America’s sweetheart couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines.  I don’t know when that couple sleeps, especially Joanna:  wife, mother, baker, designer, blogger.  I hope they really are as nice as they appear on the show; I would hate for them to implode the way the Flip or Flop couple did.

Anyway.  Joanna Gaines has great taste; I may not always like her design choices, but I can also see that other people do, and I can admire without wanting my house to look like her staged houses.  But then there is the Chapman House:

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Credit: Rachel Whyte, from HGTV.com/shows/fixer-upper/a-first-home-for-avid-dog-lovers-pictures

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Photo credit: Jennifer Boomer/Getty Images, from HGTV.com/shows/fixer-upper/a-first-home-for-avid-dog-lovers-pictures

The original house was a ranch style house with an atrocious second-story addition …  not much you can do about it, but the exterior renovation on this part of the house looks good.

The porch, on the other hand … I am going to assume Joanna had a temporary blackout.  Why would she think a gigantic unpainted rustic porch more appropriate to a Colorado mountain cabin would be a good thing to tack on a mid-century ranch?  This is the sort of addition that on another HGTV show would be the first thing to be torn down.  I can think of different porch designs that she (or rather, an architect) could have added to the front to balance the house.  This is not it.

The Chapman House porch reminds me of another spectacularly bad renovation in my neighborhood:

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The Ski Jump House

This house is part of a post-war development where most of the houses were uninspiring Minimal Traditional style homes ranging from 800 – 1000 square feet.  The neighborhood is a bit run-down with most of the houses being student rentals, but that is probably changing just because of the ridiculous housing boom in the city.  The original house can still be seen, with new windows, new French doors, new stucco, and of course, the enormous ski jump masquerading as a porch.  This house has been a work-in-progress for a year; I wish they had stopped a year ago.   Or done something like this house, a block down the street, renovated with added square footage over the same time period:

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The owners kept the integrity of the original house, and respected the over all spirit of the post-war neighborhood.  Well done.

A Maker

Just recently, a couple of weeks in fact, I became aware of the term “maker” as applied to crafters/artisans/diyers . . . .  I like it.  I am a maker of things useful and otherwise, interesting and otherwise, beautiful and otherwise.  I make.

Cavy On

A Floor Mat for the Guinea Pigs!

Pattern:  The letters are from the Moda “Spell it with Fabric” blog hop, reduced to 3/4 size.

Fabric:  The blue background fabrics are from Amy Butler’s “Daisy Chain” collection; other fabrics are stash scraps.

The Cavies (aka guinea pigs Tula and Chia) live in the basement in the summer; their house is at the bottom of the staircase.  I made this floor quilt for the landing in front of the cage, partly for The College Kid’s amusement, but mostly because I have never made fabric letters.  The backing fabrics are Joel Dewberry home decor weight scraps, the batting is also made up of scraps from other projects, and the binding is made from one of Mom’s nightgowns.  This was a fun project, and the letters were addictive to make.  I also sewed a whole set of letters at full size for one of Emily Dickinson’s pithy poems . . . .  that one is a “someday” quilt.

Fences

Our subdivision used to be farmland.  I have a copy of an early 20th-century parcels map, and if I squint hard enough, I can almost make out the owner’s name.  The last owner used the land as horse pasture, and she still lives in her Minimal Traditional farmhouse at the north end of the development.  An artist and her husband live two houses up from us, and they were the very first residents of this subdivision.  They were vintners before they relocated, and she told me she wanted to be able to see and touch her neighbors.  She can just about do that: we are all about 6 feet from each other — and that might be a generous estimate.

One year on, we also have fences, some more obnoxious than others.  Fences define, separate, protect, tantalize.  The “best” sort veils the house, giving the curious a carefully calibrated glimpse of the house and the property in much the same way as a half-drawn curtain at a window.  And of course, the inhabitants, for their part, get a properly filtered view of the world.  A small tour of the fences in our neighborhood:

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This house is on a corner, and they do have a toddler and a yappy dog, so perhaps all good reasons for a solid fence.

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Open metal fencing that matches the balcony railing.  The renters do not have a dog, but the Wyoming owners do.  Someday we may even meet them (the owners, that is).

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The split-personality fence: the rustic post-and-rail fencing matches those along the bike trail, but the solid wood fencing along the front is an odd choice.

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The Moat Fence (not quite finished), because this house is The Fort and it guards the entrance from the bike path into the subdivision.  This is the biggest house in the subdivision, and is on the biggest lot.  The owners, being friends of the developer, did not have to follow any of the standard house plans.  Apparently they also did not have to follow any HOA guidelines — not that there are any right now, but even if there were, they would not have had to follow them.  They are that special.  The Moat shields the owners from prying hoi polloi eyes, but only partially.  I guess if they had actually completed the perimeter fence, they would lose the view that originally prompted them to build on this piece of land.

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And the award for the most practical fence goes to The Shed Fence.  One dog, one child, and apparently Many Belongings requiring more space than provided by 4 bedrooms and a basement.  The mellow HOA didn’t know anything about this one either.  The neighbors’ view from the other side:

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I really think we need clotheslines.   Continue reading

Reduce Reuse Recycle Project: Part 4

When we remodelled the kitchen at our old house, the designer made a measurement mistake that made it impossible for us to reuse the old island top on top of the new island base.  We put the countertop in the garage and every once in a while, I would call up our favorite contractor (whose heart is in carpentry) and ask him to build us a base of some sort.  A few years later, we now have a repurposed quartz countertop coffee table!

Basement sitting room

Basement sitting room

He built the base from maple scraps he found at our local Habitat store, and I think it goes beautifully with the dark table top.

We found the auditorium chairs at Wool Hat; the store owners got them from an elementary school somewhere on the eastern plains.  I recovered the seats with fabric from old curtains, and to prevent the chairs from tipping, our contractor gave us some teak slats (saved from a remodelling job at a 1970s house) that we screwed to the base.  The chairs are remarkably comfortable if you are the right size, say a child or a small adult 🙂

And now, the basement really is finished!