Monthly Archives: May 2011

18th Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show

On Thursday afternoon, I drove down to CO to drop off our kiddos with a babysitter. Then came home and threw some  things together, and My Cowboy and I left for  our annual trip to the Rocky Mountain Leather Trade Show in Sheridan, WY. 
We started up a small road through the canyon, and over the mountain. It was getting dark, and then we hit fog. Thick fog. Then the normally-decent road turned to dirt. I didn’t realize they were doing road construction on it… so we poked along through the potholes and darkness and fog.
I was on a high from the excitement of finally being on our long-awaited trip. But My Cowboy was tired. He had just worked a long, tiring day, and he was just trying to keep his eyes open.
We were only about 2 hours from home when we finally gave up and stopped for the night. I told My Cowboy that we may as well enjoy our trip, instead of fighting sleep!
The next morning we left by 6 am, like the true early-birds that we are. I love driving early in the morning. Nothing quite like it.
It was cloudy.
Dark and mysterious.
Gloomy and foreboding. 
Well, cloudy, anyways.
It was pretty, tho. I love driving through Wyoming. See how empty the FREEWAY is??? This is how driving should be.

 Pretty little lakes…

 And tired old cowboys.

 …and gigantic Wyoming jackalopes.  (That’s a cross between a jack rabbit and an antelope, in case you aren’t from WY.)

 Here is another example of my obscure, slightly twisted sense of humor…
In case you don’t get it – I get a kick out of the ‘green’ wind farm directly behind a power plant that is belching smoke!! Ha ha! I love it!!

And here we are at the leather show itself.

 My Cowboy checking out the knives…

 Somehow I managed to snap photos of leather piles, and not many tools. But I do love the leather. It smells so good. The whole place smells like leather.
There is leather-suppliers, tool suppliers, hardware suppliers, saddle-tree suppliers, leather soap/cream suppliers, leather-dye suppliers, etc. It is fun of you build saddles. Or are married to someone who builds saddles.

Then there is a room christened the ‘World Leather Debut’.  In it are the best of the best, in leather making. Craftsmen and women enter their best items for judging. It is always a popular room. I love the gorgeous items they make. I can’t wait to see a saddle sitting there some year with a little sign that says:
“Cliff Schrock – Maker”.

Meanwhile, check out this stuff…
Beautiful woolly chaps. Not that the white wool would be practical, or anything! :)

 Amazing guitar.

 I love the detail on the back of this saddle.

 This gave me a good idea for the fox that is living under my barn, and desiring my chickens. The mannequin that was holding this handbag had the rest of the fox fur draped around her neck! lol!

 Awesome boots!

Check out the tiny miniature saddle! I love mini’s. They had several there, but this one was the fanciest.
 And here is a briefcase for all you businessmen who don’t need chaps or a saddle! It was amazing. Simply amazing. It won first place in its category. No wonder. It was THE best piece of workmanship in the whole room, I thought. Nice, clean lines, and straight, neat stitches. Plus all that carving.
 This won first place in several categories, I think. Anyways, for floral carving, that’s for sure. It was superb.

And that’s it, folks!
Sadly, it poured rain the entire time we were there, so I didn’t get to go yard-saling…but I am sure you aren’t interested in small details like that. We did enjoy ourselves. Here’s to saddle makers everywhere!! …and the cowboys that need em.

diy pallet chicken coop

DIY Pallet Chicken Coop

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I like chickens a lot. Maybe because, when I was small, I remember walking out to my mother’s chicken house, and gathering eggs…I’m not sure why I like them so much, but every spring I look at the signs that say: “Chicks here!” and want them so badly. We recently got a Murdoch’s  Farm & Ranch store in our town. I love Farm & Ranch stores, by the way. Anyways, so when they started advertising ‘Chick Days’, I stopped in a few times to let the kids look at the chicks. At least that was my excuse! It was actually a good excuse for ME to get my chick fix.DIY chicken coop from scrap lumber. #doityourself #diy


I have tried 3 times to keep chickens here, and they always get eaten – either by fox, coon, or skunk. I had told myself firmly that it was a waste of time, money and energy to try again. But on the third trip to Murdoch’s, I caved. I got 3 Red Star, 3 Buff’s, and 3 Wyandottes. I like variety. I also was trying to get cold-hardy birds, since they will be living in a drafty coop most of the year. If they survive.

I knew the set-up I had been using was not going to work, so I set out to build me a coop. Now, as you know, I am not a carpenter. I do, however, believe anyone can do anything if they want to bad enough. I think more ‘skill’, and ‘talent’ is in our hard work, than in natural ability. I think anyone can be a musician, great cook, cowboy, writer, or, yes, even a carpenter, with enough learning, perseverance, and hard work. I know certain people can naturally do certain things alot easier than others. But usually its more experience or desire than actual talent.

Case in point: My Cowboy never wanted to be a carpenter. Never enjoyed it. But he is an excellent carpenter. He can build anything, without a plan. And it lasts, believe me. Why is he so good? Because he started when young, and worked with his dad, who taught him all he needed to know, little by little, hard day of work after hard day of work.

Me? Why, I had a dad who despised carpentry, never built anything he didn’t have to, and therefore most of my family is slightly lacking in carpenter skills. (except for a few brothers who actually enjoy it, and learned later. ) So I had no examples, and certainly no help building things. But I have built my first freestanding, semi-solid, totally un-square, sorta-kinda-cute, and totally functional structure! It held my chickies for the first time last night, and despite the multitude of cracks, they (the chicks) are still all there this morning! I hope the critters don’t find a way in – cause I have certainly tried to make it critter-proof, if not weather proof.  It does keep out the rain, thankfully, as it rained last night. Here is how to build a coop on the cheap frugal, with minimal zero expertise…

I dug about 24 of these 1×4’s out of the ranch dump. They are from a fallen windbreak, I think. They are 8 ft. each. I had to jerk out about 4-6 old nails out of each one.

Then I got 3 old pallets that were sturdy, and nailed the boards over the cracks. Instant studs! Yay!

I cut out a section of the one pallet for a nest-box entrance, and made a nest box out of scraps I found in the barn.

I missed taking pics of whole sections of the process, but anyways, here it is – the nest box isn’t finished yet, and it need some paint. The roof is longer in the back to help protect the nest box from rain/snow. (that sounds good, anyways…the real reason was because i didn’t want to cut metal, and this piece was basically the right size.)

 The front. I did have to frame this, since I just couldn’t wrap my brain around how to cut/fasten a door in a pallet. It was pretty easy, tho. Took me two tries to get the angle right on the door cross-support.

The inside. here you can see the pallets. I used some corner braces to fasten it to the floor. I couldn’t think of any other way. Didn’t have long enough screws to screw through the oak stringers.
Check out my skylight! I wasn’t sure how to build a window, so I found this piece of clear roofing, and it works great as a skylight. Some days I will have to leave them in the coop all day, and I wanted them to get light.

Frank painted it last night. Well, some of it. See the nest box out the back? It missed getting painted, but I will finish it soon. I am quite pleased with my little coop. Not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but functional, and not totally sloppy-looking. And I didn’t have any help from the master carpenter, aka: My Cowboy.  The cord is for the heat lamp, in case you wondered. Its still pretty cold here at night. (30º – 40º)

I was so worried last night, I kept waking and wondering if the fox/coons had found a way in to the coop…I went  out this morning and there they all were – hale and hearty.   I got that Tom Hanks/Castaway moment of “I can build! I have made a chicken coop!” Ha ha!

I had several things I wanted in my coop.
1. Easy access to the nest box from the outside. Check.
2. Natural light source, so I wouldn’t have to run a light. Check. I have to have a heat lamp, but don’t want to have to run a light when they are grown.
3. Door big enough for an adult to get in, if necessary. Check.
4. Somewhat rustic/cute. Check.
5. Critter-proof. Check.
I am satisfied.

Dutch Oven Bread

I grew up making soft bread from scratch. the crust was barely golden brown… we didn’t want it crunchy and hard! perfectly soft and fluffy and delicious! And its still my favorite kind of bread.
I found this intriguing bread recipe a few days ago, and decided to try it. It is the epitome of simplicity. It is hole-y inside, with a very chewy crust. Very chewy. I recently discovered that My Cowboy like bread with a chewy crust. It was a real eye-opener to me, since I never was crazy about getting sore jaws from chewing. But hey, if he likes it, more power to him. :) So I decided to try this recipe. Plus – it sounded so simple, I couldn’t resist! Now, I took lots of pictures of the process, but it really isn’t hard at all. Simplest bread ever, and I thought I had already perfected the simplest bread in the world!  
Basically, you dump all the ingredients into the mixer (or bowl, and stir)and mix till well mixed.
2. Cover with plastic wrap overnight.
3. Turn onto a floured counter in the morning, fold a few times.
4. Plop into covered casserole dish or dutch oven.
5. Bake 30 minutes covered, 15 min. uncovered.
6. Cool one hour before eating.
But, here is the photos;
Put 1 1/2 cups water into a bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon yeast. (yes, that’s right! 1/4 teaspoon! Its essentially a type of sourdough bread)

 Throw in 3 cups flour. White, wheat, or a combination.
Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Use a spoon if you don’t like to eyeball it. I hate measuring.

 Stir with a spoon if you don’t have a stand mixer.

 It is very sticky when its mixed. Do not try to make it like regular dough. Just put in the 3 cups and don’t mess with it.

 Once its mixed well, cover with plastic wrap.

 Let it set on the counter overnight, or 12-18 hours. In the morning it should look like this:

 See the bubbles on the top?

 Turn it onto a floured surface, and make sure you use a fair amount of flour, since it is so sticky. Use a spatula to take it out of the pan. Sprinkle flour on top, and…

 …fold it over 3-4 times. You’re not kneading it here – be gentle.

 Then sprinkle flour on a clean cloth. Place the dough on the towel, cover, and let it set 1-2 hours. (use a bit more flour than I did here…

 Or you will get this when you try to put it in the pan! When you put it in the pan, scoot your hand under the towel, and gently slide it in the pan upside down.

 Shake it a bit if needed, to get it centered in the pan.

 Bake, covered, at 450* for 30 minutes.Use a dutch oven, or any large covered casserole dish.

 After 30 minutes, take the lid off, and let it bake 15 minutes more, or until browned to your desired brown-ness. Even if the crust is really dark, the middle will be soft and chewy. here it is, starting the last 15 min.  uncovered.

 Done! Mmmm! I was surprised how much I liked this bread. It would make great garlic/cheese bread.


Dutch Oven Bread

1 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 teaspoon yeast
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
Preheat oven to 450* with  the dutch oven/casserole dish inside the oven.
Mix the ingredients together. Dough will be sticky.
Cover with plastic wrap and let set in a warm room (70*) for 12-18 hours.
Turn onto a floured surface and fold over several times.
Place on a floured towel, seam side down,  and cover with towel for 1-2 hours.
Gently slide your hand under the dough, and lay in in the dutch oven, seam side up.
Bake for 30 min. covered. Bake an additional 15 min. uncovered.
Remove from pan and cool one hour before cutting.