Life continues here.  Now that both kids are being homeschooled, they (and Evia) are free to spend the entire summer here.  In fact, I suspect they will stay until the first snow, and perhaps even longer.

Evia is trying her hand at chickens and currently has a flock of about a dozen.  The chicken coop/play house is roughed in but awaiting tin and a roof.  Apparently I finally found my limit – I simply can’t figure out how to put the sheeting up on the rafters by myself.  Pain getting old.  Anyhow, the flooring on the 2nd floor (the playhouse area), serves to keep the chickens mostly dry during rains.  They are interesting creatures, eager to leave the coop in the morning, free ranging about 25 yards during the day, then return to the coop at night, pretty much on their own.  Evia just opens the door in the morning, and scoots a few in at night before closing them up.  We are cautious with Xena, since her “playing” could easily kill one.  Still, she seems more protective than anything else.

Speaking of Xena being protective – that seems to be her primary instinct.  Xena is a Caucasian Ovcharka (Caucasian Shepherd) – a breed from Eastern Europe.  She is pretty nocturnal, seeing her job as protecting the farm at night.  She has finally figured out not to bark at her echo, which helps (lol).  Frank, our youngest son (now 8) is her primary charge.  If Frank is outside, Xena is generally with him.  Frank walks from the lake to the house, Xena escorts him then returns to the others at the lake.  If we take a ride in the Kubota, she will lead – making sure the path is safe. Yesterday I was brush-hogging some paths, she led, and at one point spotted a calf about 30 feet in front of us. This particular calf is currently blind, due to something called “Pink Eye” (it will hopefully recover at least partial sight in a few weeks).  If you have the stomach for it, expand and zoom into the calf’s head and you will see the problem.  “Devils Eyes” would be a more appropriate name…  Anyhow, Xena went up to it, and physically pushed the calf out of the path of the tractor.  Good dog.

I’m suffering my third round of Poison Ivy this year – worst year ever.  This round is pretty mild, just blisters on my forearms, between my fingers, on only one foot, and around one eye.  The eye is the worst part (currently typing with a poultice covering it).  Hopefully I’ll get past this in another week or so.

Met with a spray foam insulation guy yesterday.  Going to get 3 inches of closed cell foam sprayed on all the walls and ceiling for the workshop.  Once that is done, I’ll be ready to wire it up, install interior walls, and carve out an office.  The workshop side will receive a LOT of stuff we currently have piled up anywhere there is space – like excess bee hives, the honey extractor, construction tools, farm chemicals, etc.  This guy also does roof repair, so tongue-in-cheek I mentioned I had a roof problem and took him to see the chicken coop:  “See… no roof!  This is a problem!”.  He laughed and agreed he could probably help (and tin up the sides).  It will be nice to call that project a wrap.  Hopefully all of that work will be completed by the end of the month.

Off to make soap with Gabby tonight.  We spent last night playing around on soapcalc.net until we came up with a formula that she likes:  25% Coconut Oil, 30% Olive Oil, 20% Beeswax, 25% Beef Tallow.  This mornings first step is to render some some beef fat into Tallow!  Should be ready to make the soap this evening.  Like making steel, there are 7 major factors into blending the oils to make a soap, and they tend to conflict with each other (most creamy soaps are not bubbly, and some highly conditioning soaps don’t clean particularly well), so its a balancing act.  FYI: Steel making has a similar trade-offs between things like toughness, flexibility, ability to grind an edge, ability to keep an edge, etc.  Its why stainless steel knives are initially sharp, but a real problem to resharpen once they dull (and all knives dull).  A good carbon steel knife (non-stainless levels of carbon) is a softer metal – it will dull sooner, but is easy to sharpen (but also needs to be kept dry since it will rust).  Alas, that is a whole different post.  I will leave with one comment:  If you value your knives – hand wash and dry them, never put them in a dishwasher.