Is there an old charcoal iron under that ribbon?

Today I’d like to show off another interesting thrift store find that’s on the list to be fixed up. “Fixed up” is good term since I have no idea how to do this, and restoration implies a plan or expectation of a good result.

So, I believe this is an antique charcoal iron that has been painted to serve as a home décor item. The metal and wooden handle have been painted, and ribbon and fabric has been glued to the iron. Here is a similar, unaltered iron. If you would like to read more about charcoal irons, check out Oldandinteresting.com.


The rooster at the front of the iron is actually a lever that holds the iron closed. The iron would hold hot coals, allowing it to stay warm and be used longer than previous irons. These were solid and would be heated, and once cool would have to be heated up again. The coals, along with the vents on the side of the iron, kept the iron hot longer.

Of course, it could also be a reproduction. This seems like an odd item to reproduce or fake, but it’s always possible. Either way it’s an interesting piece that I look forward to experimenting on.

How do I remove the paint? I put a thick poultice of dish soap and water on the ribbon for a few hours, trying to dissolve the glue, but it didn’t really work. I tried scratching the paint and ribbon, but it seemed too harsh on the metal.

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First eggs from the bantam Sebrights!

Over the weekend we went up to the Smoky Mountains for a car event at Fontana Lodge. If you haven’t been to this area, you should check it out – especially if you are into driving. The Tail of the Dragon and The Cherohala Skyway are both awesome drives, and the Cherohala is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I love this area, but I’m rambling – let’s talk chickens.
Upon getting home, I visited with the dogs and then walked out to check on the chickens, and was greeted with 3 fresh eggs – the first they have laid since I got them a couple of months ago. The three brown eggs are bantam eggs, the large white egg is from the grocery, and is about 3x or 4x the bantam size.
Silver Sebrights aren’t known as great layers, so we aren’t sure how many/how often to expect yet, but three eggs are a good start.

Meet Hewie, Dewie & Lewie, our new Silver Sebrights!

It’s been a busy week! Dad is in town, and next week I start a new job, so several projects needed to be completed, one of which is the chicken coop.

Finally! Around two years ago we started researching quail. That idea went through several changes – at one point it had turned into a duck adventure – but finally the confusion cleared and now we have a small coop/run large enough for a handful of bantams.

Pro’s of going with bantams:

  • They are compact – we live in city and on a fairly small lot.
  • Less sound/smell/mess – hopefully, we will see.
  • Will allow me to move the coop closer to the house for easier maintenance.
  • Will get me used to the idea of taking care of animals (other than feeding wild birds and the indoor dogs.)

And the con’s:

  • Expensive for their size, aka not worth the money since they don’t lay eggs often. (Ours aren’t laying yet, and while they will lay less than standard hens, they will give me good experience)
  • Poor layers. (Again, this is more of a con for an established farmer or someone solely wanting the chickens for the eggs)

We ended up bringing home three female Silver Sebrights. Wow they are pretty. We didn’t expect to bring home something so fancy, but I guess most bantams are show birds anyway. They may as well be pretty to look at. Hewie is on the left – she is a bit larger and seems to be the leader. Dewie and Lewie seem to be chill. Dewie is in the middle and has darker plumage. Lewie is on the right.

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Here are some notes on Sebrights provided by MyPetChicken.com.

The coop is more or less a mix of plans that looked like they would work for our space. We started with a very sturdy, homemade dog house. From there we cut out floors, doors and covered it with 1/2″ hardware cloth. Roosting boxes were made from old plastic milk crates that were cut in half and mounted to the wall.

new chicken coop
The new chicken coop near the end of construction.

The run is made of untreated 2×4’s and is wrapped with a sturdy chicken wire. Since our chickens are close to the house, and securely locked in the coop at night we decided that chicken wire would be ok.  In any other case we would have used the 1/2″ wire on the run as well.

It’s not complete yet, but as we learn more we can tweak it a bit. So far the chickens seem content, and the dogs have not torn the coop down so I consider it a success!

chickens pinterest

 

 

 

Rendering fat for making bird suet.

Earlier this year, a friend offered us several bags of fat from their uncles processed pigs. Being avid birders, we immediately thought of using the fat for suet, and gladly accepted.

As usual, we had more ideas than time, and the suet sat in the freezer for almost a year. Finally we allocated time for the project, and researched suet recipes online. Usually when trying something new, I will look for similar recipes. In my mind, consistency like this means a greater chance of success.  For suet ideas and ingredients, I relied on a several sites.  Wildbirdscoop.com  and The Farmers Almanac will get you started.

My ingredients changed last minute –  over the last few months, I kept scraps of bread, leftover nuts and such to be chopped up and added to the suet. Unfortunately, I moved it from the freezer to the fridge too early and it molded. That went into the trash, and I scanned the kitchen for items to include. The final ingredient list included peanut butter, oats, a standard bird seed mix, and a partial quart bag of West Virginia blackberries.

My tips for ingredients are to make sure everything is dry and similar in size so that your suet will stay together in a single piece.  In the first batch, I added berries that were too wet, which caused the suet to crumble, which is messy, and will lead to the suet falling from your feeder.

You need to have your ingredients ready before you render your fat, as you will need to add it to the warm fat so it can be molded into the size and shape you desire.  We tried 2 forms for the completed suet: a mini muffin tin and a 9×9 Pyrex dish (both lined with plastic wrap).

Once your rendered fat is strained and still warm, we added our “good stuff” ingredients, which were berries, oats, and bread – basically everything but the store bought bird seed. Once that was mixed in, I added bird seed in small, half-cup batches, until the mix looked thick and filled with ingredients for the birds. By this time, the mixture had cooled, and I carefully made small balls of suet and flattened each ball in the mini muffin tin. Once that was full, the remainder went into the pyrex dish.

Important note: some recipes say you should render the fat 2 times so it ends up harder. I would recommend this!  I only rendered once, and the result was very soft suet. The mini muffin suet blocks work well, but will melt quickly. I keep them in the freezer until needed. The pyrex dish never got hard, and since its in a large dish it had to be divided into smaller chucks. The pro of having softer suet it that it can be rubbed onto tree bark, which the wood peckers loved, but for general use, I would render twice.

For the process of rendering the fat, which I had never done, I relied on Good Cookery, which has provided an instructional video.

I won’t transcribe the entire rendering process, mostly because I found myself referring to that video while I actually rendered the fat, pausing when needed, to ensure that my product was looking similar.

Here are a few pics of the finished product, with some pics of the fat as it’s rendered.

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Room-temperature suet and water warming on the stove top.
Starting off with room temperature suet, with about an inch of water in the pan.
Rendering fat on stove top.
The suet will start to turn slightly translucent as the fat is rendered out.
Fat turns dark as it cooks down.
The fat will turn to a dark golden brown as it cooks down. This is almost done!
Separating rendered fat from cracklings using a collander.
The fat is rendered. Time to separate the fat from the cracklings using a colander.
melted, rendered fat
The melted fat will turn a pale cream color as it cools. This is the time to mix in additional bird foods.
Rendered fat with additional bird treats stirred in.
Now we have added seeds, nuts and blackberries.
Finished bird suet.
Suet was spooned into a plastic wrapped muffin tin to make easy to handle standard pieces.
Finished bird suet waiting to be frozen.
These suet chunks are cool and ready to be stored in the freezer until ready to use.
Fresh bird suet from rendered fat.
Close up of finished suet ball for birds. Use on pinterest.

The “New” thrift store table.

Any thrift store pickers out there? Last week I came across this small table at a local thrift store. Originally I planned on finding a project that could be fixed up and resold, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that this guy was staying with me.

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This table wants to be a table, it wants to be used, and for me, there is no better feeling than finding something thats been abandoned and helping it live again.  Check out the patch on the edge of the top. It amazes me how carefully cut the patch is. It makes me believe that this table was truly appreciated and cared for by someone.

And it was only $3.03!

If anyone can tell what kind of wood this is, or knows anything about the construction or knob, or age,  let me know.

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Tennessee Warblers stopping by the birdbath. October 2017.

Just wanted to post this video of the Tennessee Warblers visiting the backyard. There are about a dozen that show up around 5pm to eat and play in the birdbath. They have only been visiting for a couple of weeks, so I wonder if they have started migrating south for winter.  I guess it’s that time of year.

Our busy birdbath, and tips from our birdbath design experiments.

 

 

It’s been a dry month in this part of Georgia. Leaves are drying up and falling, much earlier than usual.  We had lots of rain with Hurricane Irma, and today we have rain with Nate passing over us, but in between was bone dry. Dust clouds follow the lawn mowers, and lots of birds have been flocking to the birdbath.

This month there are several new birds, or at least rare birds, that are hanging out. About a dozen warblers come in daily. I believe they are Tennessee Warblers , but I’m not 100% sure.  Redstarts and Hooded Warblers have also stopped by often.

You can see Tennessee Warblers and a Redstart in the video below.

 

 

 

The birdbath in the video is homemade, and started life as an experimental fire pit. During the experiment it filled with water and birds immediately started visiting it, ignoring the 2 store bought birdbaths in the yard.  After researching birdbaths online, adjustments were made and birds absolutely love it – even though it is a little dumpy looking.  Dad helped me set this one up a few years ago. When we finished, we sat down before gathering up the tools, and looked over to see a bird work its way down through the branches to get in the water. We were completely shocked.

The reasons I think the birds like this one, versus the store bought baths are listed below. This info came from several sources, and lots of trial and error, but Cornell is a good resource for birding if you’d like to research further.

Mark’s Birdbath Tips:

  • Natural is better. Birds need to feel at home and trust the space.
  • Birds can see water from above easier if the birdbath has a darker bottom.
  • A bath with a rough bottom is easier for birds to land and stand on.
  • Add rocks to vary the puddle size so its welcoming to birds of different sizes.
  • Shallow is best. The deepest part of this bath is only about 2-3″ deep, and in those spots I have rocks providing a slope so nothing gets trapped without an exit.
  • Add a fountain so there is a trickle. It does not need to be strong, but the sound will attract birds. The pump I use is about $20 at Lowe’s and is simple to set up.
  • Don’t put your pump at the bottom of the pond – it can get clogged with sediment and burn up. Set it on a block or a brick to keep it off the bottom.
  • Provide natural cover, like branches and plants, so the birds can check out the surroundings before jumping into the pool. They need to trust the area first.

I found that most birdbaths at stores were designed around humans, not necessarily birds. For this reason, I got a pond liner and altered it to fit my needs. See the diagram below. Since it worked well, we followed the same tips and built an even larger version for my dad in West Virginia. It too gets more birds than his previous birdbaths.

About the birdbath in the video.

We started with a simple pond liner from Lowe’s and dug a pit just slightly shorter than the height of the liner.

birdbath diagram

Because most pond liners are too deep for a birdbath, we bought hardware cloth wire and made a shelf about 3 inches from the TOP of the pond. This is to hold rocks and give a “bottom” to the bath, but will still allow you to have a large reservoir of water. Don’t Secure the wire yet, just set it in and measure the distance from the bottom of the liner to the wire. Note that I forgot to label the wire in the image, but its roughly the same as the “water level” line.

That measurement will be the height of the supports you need for the basin that sits on top and serves as the main part of the bath. I used a cinder block standing on its end. If its an odd size,stack bricks or even use an upside down bucket for support.

Add a brick or something similar for your pump to sit on. The liner we used had a ledge built on to the sides that was perfect for the pump.

Once that support is in, you can place your wire back into the liner. The wire should be resting at the top of the support. Remember – you aren’t looking for perfection here. As long as your support is stable you’re good.

Cut a hole in the wire large enough for the pump, the hoses, and your hand to fit into.

Make sure the hole in the wire is above the spot or brick where your pump will go. We screwed the wire to the top lip of the birdbath. Pre-drill these so it doesn’t crack the liner.

Next Add a layer of bricks, or in our case a half cinder block on top of the support, sandwiching the wire in between.

Add your basin on top of this. Ours was a homemade concrete bowl, but on dad’s we used a dark saucer, about 15″ wide from Lowe’s that was meant to sit under a flower pot.

Make sure the stack is stable. If yes, you are ready to add the pump through the hole in the wire.  The hose from the pump will run into the basin. The basin will fill and then pour over into the pond liner.

Add a little water to the basin and test the pump. You will want to add a rock, or small piece of wood under the basin so the water pours where you want it to.

If everything tests well, fill the liner up  so that there are about 2-3 inches of water over the wire.  You can add rocks to the basin, and to the wire on top of the wire in the pond liner. This way you get two good layers to your birdbath. Rocks and natural items can be added to hide any of the wire or support as well.

Add a tree branch or plants for the birds to perch on while they wait to bathe. This seems unimportant, but after dad told me to do this I started seeing more birds. I believe it gives them a feeling of safety.

That’s pretty much it. We have set up the yard to give birds lots of cover and opportunities to feed as well.  Hopefully these tips help out with your birdbath design.

Cardinal photos used with permission of Cindy Barnes Reed Photography. @cindybarnesreed on instagram.

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