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Nesting

May 04, 2016   //  Posted in: Backyard   //  By: Emily   //  7 responses
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First of all, thanks for hanging out with me as I spent the last few months publishing old posts (and especially for bearing through the last few weeks of fall/holiday content… I really tried to force-fit those projects into a shorter timeframe so that no one was overly inundated with Halloween and Christmas projects for weeks and weeks, but I realize that getting 5-10 posts a day was probably overwhelming… and it made me eyeroll at myself.)

Anyways… I’m back!

And what have I been doing? Lots of stuff, but let’s start with the broad topic of nature. I’ve been watching a family of robins build a nest in the Rhododendron located just 2 feet outside our living room window. In terms of showcasing their natural instincts, these birdies actually picked a pretty solid spot. It’s dry (beneath the eave), well-camo’ed from predators, and in a location that other forms of wildlife don’t often approach (not even Cody would get to the babies if they fell from the nest). Oh, except for the fact that they’re just realizing that HUMAN BEINGS are going to be a CONSTANT DISRUPTION to their routine. Mama Robin doesn’t seem to like us yet. And for that… sorry Charlie, hope you guys adapt to having setting up camp so close to curious eyes.

On Thursday we noticed the birds assessing the area, and by Friday morning there were a few branches in position so I set up the camera all weekend and snapped photos periodically to document its growth. Just yesterday morning I caught them in the nest and not too terrified by my presence – it looks like they’re getting the place move-in ready, and we’re probably not too far from being able to drag a chair up to the window and peek inside at the eggs.

Robins building a nest in our rhododendron, a 5 day sequence.

We had robins living in a nest in our pergola at the old house and learned a lot watching them care for the babies, so I hope this is a fun opportunity to be eye-witnesses to their habits and growth.

In other wildlife news, we’re also hosting a nest of vulture eggs in the barn (effing vultures!), which really puts our tiny Robin’s nest in perspective. Our barn, which is built on the side of a steep embankment has gone through its share of maintenance and repairs in the last few years, in part to shoo a family of vultures who considered the space home via access through a hole in its roof. The barn’s a two-story structure; the “upper” level is what we access most often, while the “lower” level sits partially underground, with windows and doors that overlook the woodsy embankment. The lower level of the barn is a space we still haven’t spent a lot of time or money, it’s still structured as stables from when the previous owners raised horses on the property.

Anyways, vultures.

As we periodically do, Pete was looking around in the lower level of the barn over the weekend, scoping out who or what may have taken refuge there over the winter, when he realized that one of the windows was broken and GIANT ANGRY BIRD, GET OUT NOW, FAST.

Pete thought that the bird was trapped in there during the winter and needed help getting out, so it wasn’t until he returned armed with an evacuation strategy that included a broom and a garbage can lid shield (painting a good picture?) that he saw the nest and two giant eggs nestled inside. Well, crap. Vultures have good instincts too, because even though this nest was very much accessible at ground level (not in a high peak like a church steeple, or on a cliffside), with the doors to the barn shut and locked, not even a squirrel could have easily gained access through the only opening, the broken window.

Assuming you’re not familiar with the breeding tendencies of these giant birds, we’re counting on these eggs and the resulting offspring to be holding up our ability to access the lower level barn for the next 2-3 months (maybe more, maybe less depending on when the eggs actually came to be). The conservationist with whom we spoke suggested we just leave them be since Turkey Vultures are really only looking for carnage (not apt to snatch our toddler from the ground or bother us in any way). And technically, the DEC says it’s illegal to move the nest or eggs, so even if we can get near the eggs again without getting pooped on, there’s not really anything we can do. We’ll do our thing and let them do theirs and live harmoniously so no one is too pissed off. Those birds have a wingspan as wide as I am tall, you know? Not about to mess with them.

The good news? We’re about to be hosts to some of the most ugly-cute little birds you’ll ever see. I hope I can sneak a picture as good as this. (Photo courtesy of Roberta Dell’Anno)

Hope to see one of these baby turkey vultures myself; this photo was taken by Roberta Dell'Anno. Thanks Roberta!

While we’re talking about nesting, I might as well put this right here:

Baby coming 2016.

A totally different kind of nesting to be done inside and out over the course of the next 2 months!

This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in December 2014.

It’s the time of the year filled with holiday parties, Secret Santas, and gift exchanges. Spruce up that special present – whether it be personal for a spouse, professional for a boss, or maybe just a bag of holiday-theme Hershey’s Kisses for the neighbor – add a custom name tag that the recipient will be able to reuse year-after-year as a personalized ornament.

The gift tags I made were little snowmen (I made 5 gift tags using 1 package of white clay, 1 package of black, and 1 package of orange).

Make a custom clay gift tag that can be used as a personalized ornament.

If you’re looking for printable tags, there are a bunch of free ideas available:

For more clay ornaments, be sure to look at these ideas:

Step 1

Start by softening white oven-bake clay in your hands, and then rolling it flat to 1/8″ thickness.

Step 2

Cut three circles from the clay in varied sizes. I used a knife to freehand my circles, but use coins as a template if you need a guide.

DIY holiday gift tag/ornament - a clay snowman.

Step 3

Compress your body layers together gently by hand to fuse the clay together again.

DIY holiday gift tag/ornament - a clay snowman.

Step 4

Add black eyes, arms, and a carrot nose using other colors of oven-bake clay.

Just a tip, use a sharp pencil tip to indent where the the different color clay pieces will go. When you place these pieces onto the snowman body, press them a little bit to initiate a bond between the colors. If they are tacky and stick in place, they will bake together.

DIY holiday gift tag/ornament - a clay snowman.

Step 5 

On the base of your snowman, use alphabet stamps to engrave the name of the recipient. On the top hat, poke a small hole so that you can tie the tag to the gift, and so it can be reused as an ornament.

DIY holiday gift tag/ornament - a clay snowman.

Step 6

Bake according to your product instructions – the clay I used (with the thickest parts measuring 1/4″) required 20-minutes of bake time at 275-degrees.

Step 7

Once cooled, thread the ribbon rough the top of the ornament and attach it to your gift package! Your recipient will be able to reuse it as an ornament on his or her Christmas tree.

Make a custom clay gift tag that can be used as a personalized ornament.

Baby’s First Christmas Ornament (So cute.)

April 30, 2016   //  Posted in: DIY, DIY Network Projects, For the Kids, Holiday-Related Projects   //  By: Emily   //  Leave a comment
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This post was originally published on DIY Network’s blog Made + Remade in December 2014.

The “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments that my parents had collected for my sister and I are some of the ornaments that I appreciated seeing year after year. There are tons of products on the market that you can buy to commemorate the occasion, but if you’re feeling crafty, it’s easy to make your own, a customized piece that both you and your family will adore for decades to come. (A great gift idea too!)

Baby's first Christmas ornament – an easy DIY craft using a photo and oven bake clay.

With a few materials and a little creativity, you can make your own truly custom piece for remembering this first year. My daughter was born in late 2013, and I was in no way prepared to make a memorable ornament in time for the holidays, so that’s why mine is dated for last year.

Step 1

Begin by choosing oven bake clay of your choice. Soften it in your hands and then roll it smooth to a 1/8 thickness with a rolling pin.

Baby's first Christmas ornament – an easy DIY craft using a photo and oven bake clay.

Step 2

Customize the shape of your ornament using a cookie cutter that you love, like a star.

Baby's first Christmas ornament – an easy DIY craft using a photo and oven bake clay.

Step 3

On the backside of the clay ornament, use your ABC letters to imprint message. Because the clay is soft, ordinary rubber stamp letters worked well for me.

Baby's first Christmas ornament – an easy DIY craft using a photo and oven bake clay. 

Step 4

Flip the ornament over and add adornments to the front of the ornament while you can still lay it flat. I created a slight impression in the clay with a smaller star cutter, and then hand-rolled small clay balls to create a decorative border that would frame my photograph after the clay was baked and cured.

Baby's first Christmas ornament – an easy DIY craft using a photo and oven bake clay.

Step 5

The details on the front of the ornament are going to make it pretty fragile at this point, but flip it over once more to apply the finishing touches of the year, scribed using a rolled out piece of clay in a contrasting color. Also, use the pointed end of an unfurled metal paper clip to bore a hole in the top of your unbaked ornament. That’ll be where you lace the ribbon.

Baby's first Christmas ornament – an easy DIY craft using a photo and oven bake clay.

Step 6

Bake according to instructions, and once cool, trim your photograph to fit into the space. I used the smallest star cutter that I own as a guide for making it even. Secure it in place with hot glue applied to each corner. 

Baby's first Christmas ornament – an easy DIY craft using a photo and oven bake clay.

Step 7

Thread a ribbon in the hole you left in the top of the ornament, and hang it on display (forever).

Baby's first Christmas ornament – an easy DIY craft using a photo and oven bake clay.