Friday, February 13, 2015

Cozy Llama Shed

Instead of building something out of straw, in November we built something to hold straw–well, hay mostly but also a few bales of straw for bedding. The primary purpose of this new construction is to provide shelter for our three llamas. In Logan we had such a structure, which they used on a regular basis whenever it rained or snowed, or if the wind was roaring out of the north. Here in Torrey, winter winds hail from the west, so the new building faces east. This one is at least one third better than their previous digs. I say that because, like the Logan version, it has two sections to protect the llamas, but it also has one wing to keep the hay dry and sweet under a roof. In addition, this building has a concrete floor, electricity for lights, a freeze-proof water spigot and a heated watering trough.

The floor of the llama shed is concrete, so the first step was to form the slab and put down gravel.

Tyler Torgerson's crew did the concrete work. Posts to support the roof were eventually placed on the exposed All Thread rods.

The surface of the slab has a rough texture. Our hope is that this will wear down the llamas' toe nails when they come inside to eat. This means we won't need to trim their nails when it's time to hit the trail.

Talk about the Ritz. Stegner (not pictured), Charlie and Arion don't acknowledge the improvements, but they certainly seem willing to enjoy them.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015


A quick Google search reveals many famous lasts—last call, last words, last meal. And, if you play games of trivia, you might encounter questions like, what was the last state to join the union? Hawaii. Or, what is the last Greek letter? Omega. Or even, what was the last act to perform at Woodstock? Jimi Hendrix.

We are not on any list of famous lasts, but one might ask, what was the last room to be finish? The answer would be the office bathroom. This sequence of completion was due to the fact that, during the interior plaster phase, we needed a bathroom with hot water, a toilet and a sink while we worked on the rest of the house. Even after we received a certificate of occupancy, that little bathroom was a functioning bathroom in every way, unless one counted the one bare straw and three lath walls.  So, last July, we took our last straw bale house step by removing the fixtures and plastering the walls. 

After applying the first two coats, we visited family for a week and then returned to continue work. Since a new plaster layer will not adhere to a dry surface, Scott used our garden sprayer to moisten the walls with water.

The plaster went on beautifully despite the restricted work space. Scott said he felt like had practiced enough on the rest of the house that he now knew how to do it.

Scott used Ultramarine Blue oxide pigment from The Earth Pigments Company in Cortaro, Arizona, to make the paint.

After six years of construction, we had lots of left over materials which we used in this project, plus a few things we bought specifically for it. The mirror was purchased four years earlier from a little antique shop in Scipio, Utah.

The sink (notice the hot and cold handles) came from Habitat for Humanity's ReStore in Salt Lake. It cost a grand total of ten dollars.

The backsplash is left-over bamboo matting used earlier for the ceiling in the kitchen and sun room. The counter top is a piece of cement form used in the foundation of the house. The cement contractor didn't have any forms in the size necessary for our straw bale foundation, so we ended up with a huge stack of cement covered 5/8" plywood. We've used it for a number of things. This particular piece, after foundation work, sat under a pile of straw bales for three years. We just sanded it smooth, stained it with gel coat and applied 6 coats of Varathane.

We salvaged the cabinet door from a load of things our neighbor was sending to the dump. The cabinet itself is made from oak plywood left over from the bookcase we built in the living room.

The rest of the room is a typical bathroom, no need for details, but at last we can say we are done with the house. Now it's on to other projects, some of which involve more plaster and more straw!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

An End

As you might have noticed, we have been conspicuously absent from the blogosphere since our last post about Rusty. That is because, even though he did everything we asked him to do—two surgeries, physical therapy, new feeding regimes, medication—he didn’t make it.  It may seem strange to some folks, but we have had and continue to have a very difficult time getting beyond that.

If you are animal people, you know that you might, someday, have one non-human family member who is that special creature you’ll never see the likes of again. And that was Rusty.

He had this little felt mouse that was much more than a mouthful. When Rusty wanted to play, he would carry that thing down the hallways, yowling through the felt until Scott or I would chase him down the stairs. (He trained us well.) There he would drop the toy and wait for us to toss it. At that point, Rusty would pounce into action, snag the mouse with his front claws and dig away at it with his back ones. Then he’d jump up and wait for the next toss and attack.

Other times it was the “stairs game.”  As one of us would head for the basement, Rusty would dive onto his side and plunge his head between two newel posts. Our expected response was to vigorously rub his head while he feigned ferocity by play-attacking our hand.

Each day when it was time for me to come home from work, Scott reported that Rusty (and the other cats) waited at the top of the stairs for me to arrive. When he heard the car pull into the driveway, he knew it was my car. How is it that cats can tell time and recognize a particular car’s sound?

On cold winter evenings, I wear a hot pink, velour robe, shaped much like a potato sack with a zipper in the front and with openings for my feet, hands and head. This construction keeps all of my body heat contained within the robe. We called it a “spud” and Rusty considered it his personal winter hot house…but only when I ensconced inside it. Wherever I was sitting, if I was wearing the spud, Rusty would climb on my lap, paw at the zipper until it opened, and then crawl inside, snuggling into the warmest spot, usually with his nose against my neck. We were both toasty warm, except for that little cool spot where his nose touched me.

He was a good sleeper. If a patch of sun appeared anywhere on the floor, that’s where you could find him. I’m sure I could compile a large tome of photos showing him sleeping in various places in the sun. He luxuriated in the light and the warmth.

Rusty had an amazing tail. It was the signal of his emotional state. Whenever he was excited, for whatever reason, his tail puffed up into that condition cats usually exhibit in fear or anger. In Rusty, it was just excitement—for the chase, the bug on the rug, the bird at the window, the food, the game, life…

We had Rusty for eighteen years. Every single night he slept in the crook of my left elbow. When it was time to get up in the morning, he stood over me and stared at my eyes until they opened. If I was a little slow in noticing, he gently placed his right foot on my cheek to let me know he was waiting. His face was the one I woke up to each day for all of those years, even before I saw Scott’s face. Now, every morning, there is an empty space on my left—instead of my Rusty boy.

Rusty almost 10  years after he joined the family

Rusty sitting on the counter top in our old kitchen

Rusty and the pink robe

Rusty and family waiting at the top of the stairs for Mary to come home.

Rusty sitting on top of Sten in one of the many cat beds

Rusty and Missy looking out the yurt window

Mr. Blue Eyes

Rusty sleeping in the yurt

Rusty standing by one of our favorite books, Puss 'n' Boots

Rusty sleeping in the sun

Rusty sleeping on the sleeping bag

Rusty in his cuddle cup one week before he died