Handyman Heath has struck again, this time leaving a beautifully constructed horizontal cedar fence in his wake.

Yes, while I was spending my Friday night gallivanting with girlfriends Heath was getting acquainted with a handsome set of post hole diggers. Twenty four hours, three 2-foot holes, 240 pounds of concrete and $270 later we found ourselves the winners of a sort of fencing match.

It was our (Heath’s) first attempt at legit fence construction, but the final result couldn’t be more beautiful. Before the fancy fence, a significant portion of our backyard was visible from the street, as a 3.5-foot chain link fence didn’t lend us much in the way of privacy. And while I do post photos of our backyard for the world to see on this magnificent creature we call the Internet, I felt funny about so much of it being on display to every passerby in the neighborhood at any time of day or night. So after a bit of eye lash batting and finger hair twirling, I convinced Heath to gift me with this enchanting piece of back yard privacy.

Heath considers himself a novice craftsman, but proved to have a knack for fence building. To other “fencers” he offers this advice:

1) Keep a pickaxe handy. Blackland prairie soil (what we have here in Austin) is not easy to dig into. It’s hard and it’s thick, and you will save yourself a lot of trouble if you have the right tools. In this case, a pickaxe was the ideal weapon for tackling this muddy mess. Plus swinging a pickaxe back and forth is an easy way to get instant street cred on the East side.

2.) Make sure the faces of the fence post are even. While everything may be nice and level, the faces of the posts have to be flush with one another. Otherwise, you run into trouble when it comes time to put on the horizontal planks. A difference of an inch or two between the faces will result in a wonky, bendy-looking fence, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.

3.) Check that the wooden planks you select for the fence aren’t warped. This one got us a couple of times and forced a few unexpected return trips to Home Depot. A warped board will affect the leveled appearance of the fence. Instead of clean, even lines between each slat, you will wind up with variation that can diminish the entire clean and streamlined look of the project.

Building the fence was a big piece of completing the back yard puzzle, and while it will probably never be “finished” this, along with some extra weekend gardening, made the new house feel a little more like home.

Heath picked up these concrete pavers from Gramps after a recent trip to Denton. I wasn’t sure how I wanted to use them in the yard but finally settled on burying them as a type of garden border.

Silver Cassia shrub purchased this weekend from The Natural Gardener

The air conditioner got a make over with these concrete blocks and bright planters.

Moss Phlox

The windows hanging in the back ground were found as garbage on a neighbor’s curb.

Frannie Sue isn’t allowed out of the coop while we still have chain link around the yard. She’s hoping this “building tall fences” trend continues so she can have free range of the yard again.

The veggies at the new house finally start to take shape.

The entire front of the house has a planter that’s quickly filling with anemone-like succulents.

The vegetable garden slowly taking shape.

Hot Chicks

Meet some new hot chicks.

Those of us at the doodle house were feeling the pain of losing our beloved Marion recently. So, like any grieving chicken parents, we picked up some new ladies recently to help us:
1) ease our wounds
2) give eventual company to surviving Francis Sue
3) provide us with blogging material.

Clearly, points 1 and 2 are the most important. Point 3 is just a lucky perk. Meet the new ladies.

Keeping in step with our naming-chickens-after-grandparents theme, this little lady has been dubbed Patsy. She is the leader of the 2 youngest chicks. She’s a hot blonde with a lot of attitude. Welcome to the family.

Elouise, here, is a soft-spoken gentle soul who gets along swimmingly with all her fellow chicks.

This is Chick. We picked up Chick  before the other two babes, and we bonded with her instantly. We never gave her an official name, but she doesn’t really need one. She comes when you call and loves humans to an  unusual degree–she is more like a dog when you get right down to business.

So there it is. The hot new chicks of the doodle house. Stay tuned for more developments.

They grow up so fast

Little Francis Sue has joined the egg layers club. Yesterday we found two tiny bright white eggs in the coop.

Her egg laying days could not have come at a better time since Marion is on hiatus from her egg laying. Her embryos are nowhere to be found, at least not in the coop; although it’s possible she could have stashed them somewhere in the yard as she is known to do. If she did take a vacation from laying, I can’t blame her. It’s too hot outside to do anything but think about being inside.

At any rate, here’s a toast to Francis Sue’s coming of age and the promise of many omelettes to come.

birds of a feather

Chicken Run, it turns out, is the story of my life. But instead of playing the determined, capable and charismatic chicken (as I always assumed I would if cast in a barn-themed movie), I would play the evil, ruthless chicken-hunting villain determined to keep the chickens cooped. That is certainly how Frannie Sue  perceives my life at least.

How do I know this? For the past couple of weeks, mornings at the doodle house have consisted of invigorating little games of “Chase the Chicken,” in which I, or Heath, spend a good 5 minutes herding Frannie Sue (and it’s always Frannie Sue) from the front yard—into which she has somehow managed to appear—back into the rear.

Despite being constantly fed and tended to, Frannie Sue is determined to escape (so determined, in fact, I’ve considered renaming her Andy Dufresne), and she always finds a way. Over the fence. Through a hole. Beamed by Scotty…what have you. This was all well and good because for one reason or another, Frannie Sue called her escape quits once she hit the front yard. This is either because:
1.) She is a “chicken” in the sense that she is too afraid and cowardly to proceed any further.
2.) She is an idiot.
3.) She is as loyal a bird as Stella is a doodle and can’t bare any real separation as she fears the inevitable anxiety it would cause.

I’d like to give credit to either choices 1 or 3 as they imply some sort of forward thinking on the chicken’s part, but in all actuality, number 2 is probably our best bet.

Or so I thought, until…


I arrived home yesterday afternoon to find not one, but TWO CHICKENS pecking around the front yard. I was heart broken.

Marion, how could you? I thought we had moved beyond our rocky history and started fresh?  I thought you knew we were here to provide a port in the storm, protection from neighborhood cats, constant eating of your babies. We gave you a new friend with whom to play and this is how you repay me? 

Francis Sue, you tricky little devil. You recruited your mentor, your mother-figure, your friend, to join you on your quest to escape The Doodle House. Escaping alone wasn’t good enough, so you poisoned the well and got innocent, sweet Marion to join you. There will be consequences.

I put my devastation aside for a moment to engage in “Chase the Chicken, Level 2” and got the ladies back into doodle territory ASAP. My plan worked well enough, but I was still left with a tricky predicament. What’s a girl to do with 2 renegade chickens?

The way I see it, I’ve got 3 choices:

• I can do nothing and hope the chickens continue to abandon their escape plan once they reach yardus frontus. It’s a risky choice but one that takes the delicate feelings of the chickens into consideration.
• I can clip their wings which seems logical enough but I’m a bit squeamish and unqualified to perform such a complicated surgery. Plus it would only add to the trauma I seem to have at some point caused them.
•  Keep ’em cooped. Good for the yard, bad for chicken morale.

Such are the stresses of my life and the lives of those at The Doodle House. Chickens, I beg you, keep the shenanigans on this side of the fence and spare yourselves the drama that may be to come.

Chickies meet the hen

Francis Sue (2.0) and Helen (2.0) finally saw the sun this weekend. Their fuzz turned to feathers, which means the chicks were able to move on to bigger and better things–the doodle house back yard.

We’d heard that the first meeting of new chicks with old hens can sometimes be tricky and territorial, but the three all took to one another like a fish to water.

Frannie Sue likes to jump on top of Marion.

And while we are at it, here are a few of the garden.

Heath’s greens are pretty impressive. We’ve enjoyed many a fresh salad with his lettuce, spinach and chard.

One of Heath’s favorite new hobbies is going on walks and comparing his tomatoes to our neighbors’. We don’t have any fruit yet but will keep you posted.

New friends

To mend our broken hearts after the passing of Ruby and to give Marion a new playmate, we stocked the house with two new friends this weekend: A buff orpington named Helen (because she is a hot blonde chick like Helen of Troy) and a black minorca named Francis Sue (after my grandmother, another hot chick).

They have another two weeks of living life under the roof of the doodle house before they are permitted to brave the dangerous outdoors. Waking up to dainty little cheeps sure beats the the horrific call of the rooster, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that both of these new friends carry only dos equis chromosomes.