The Story of Zoe the Broken Kitty

One year ago, one of the contractors I work with brought in an animal carrier with a very small cat in it.  He lives up in the surrounding hills of Pocatello where there are lots of owls, coyotes, and hawks.  One morning he looked out and saw something funny shaped in his yard.  He got a bit closer and saw that it was an injured cat.  She was not using her back legs at all and was dragging herself around.  He brought her into the cabinet shop to see if anyone could help her.  She was so small and so hungry.  We kept her at the shop and she loved the attention.  She did have issues though because she could only drag herself around and every morning when we would come in there was a trail of where she had explored the night before.  There were a few people at the shop that really showed an interest but after a couple of weeks they didn't put as much effort into it as I was.  They were hinting that a decision needed to be made because she would never live a full life.  We called her broken kitty.  I took her into the vet to have her tested for feline aids or leukemia and see what their opinion was of why she  didn't use her back legs at all.  They didn't take any x rays but said that nothing felt broken and her blood work was fine.  I took her back to the shop and a few days later my partner Heidi convinced me to bring her home to try and rehab her in a better environment than a cabinet shop.  The day we brought her home we named her Zoe,  which means Life.  Click on the following link to see this video I made of her life one year later.

Enjoy and pass it along to everyone who loves animals!!!!

My Sincerest Apologies

I owe a very sincere my cats.  They did the impossible and proved me wrong and now spend the majority of their time out in the new "catio".  If any of you have ever owned a cat, then you know how cats are ungrateful, snotty, and in some cases ignorant.  Have you ever been at a grocery store or pet store and out of the corner of your eye you spot the perfect cat toy.  You pay a ridiculous amount for the toy, because you know that your cat will really like this one this time.  So you get home and your loving cat greets you at the door and you can't wait to open the new addition to their toy bin.  You even go as far as to go and get your camera and make sure there are fresh batteries in it-because you really don't want to miss this!  You get settled, you open their new toy, and you roll it across the floor.....  and you get nuthin!  They are so disgusted with you they can't even stand to be in the same room with you.  Then not ten minutes later, to add insult to injury, you hear them playing in the other room.  They have discovered that there was a water bottle lid left on the table and that is their new pride and joy.  Cats.
So we decided to build this catio for them to go out and enjoy the sunshine-as brief as it may be in Idaho right now-and now it is hard to get them back in the house.

Here is a view from the tunnel we built.  I removed the screen from a basement window and cut a 1/4" piece of plywood to replace it.  Then I purchased a small pet door...($20 at Home Depot).  I then hung some shelving that I made out of 8" wide MDF and wrapped with remnant carpet, so they jump up on a series of 3 shelves to reach the pet door. The tunnel itself is very simple: the base is a 2 x 6 pressure treated piece of lumber. Which was also purchased at the Home Depot and if you go back to where they cut lumber for customers they have an off-cut bin and you can get shorter lengths of lumber for really cheap.  I bought 3 total 2 x 6 that were 5' long for only $1.00 each! I then just used some furring strips to create the U-shape.  I used the same furring strips as a top rail support and then just wrap with chicken wire.  I used staples to attach the wire to the wood framing.

You will soon find that the cats sometimes enjoy the tunnel more than the enclosure itself.  It is almost to the point where I have to build another tunnel to avoid a traffic standstill.

This is Lucy enjoying the sunshine.

So here it is.  You can see the tunnel on the left hand side of the enclosure.  The overall size is 11' x 11' x 4' tall.  I installed a door with a latch so we can go if we want to.  We have some chairs set up so we could coax them out.  But once they understood the concept, there was no stopping them!  I used standard 2x4's for the framing because I have a gallon of Olympic outdoor paint that I still need to apply to protect the wood from the weather.  Pressure treated lumber would have been best to use, but if you are on a budget then you can use standard framing studs like I did....but you will need to apply a protective finish.  I used steel fencing for the base exterior, again using the staples to keep it in place.  I also used the green fence posts that integrate with the steel fencing.  I drove four posts into the ground.  Then I built four individual frames to construct the sides, back, and face.  Then I just simply bolted the framed walls to the posts that were driven into the ground. 
I would highly suggest this to anyone who is nervous about letting your house cats out.  If you live on a busy road, or up in the mountains where there is wildlife, or even if you don't have either of these scenarios and you just want your cat to be safe.  I can't believe how much they have enjoyed this so far.  You will not regret creating your very own catio! 

Feel free to email me if you have any questions about the construction, materials, or need help designing one for your home.     

Spring Time

I love that spring has finally sprung!  I have been extremely busy both at work and at home.  Too busy!  I haven't had a lot of time to sit down and write a post for weeks.  I have been waiting for the Idaho State University Center for New Directions to release photos of the Women and Work conference so I can write about my experience.  Also Vision 12 (local public access tv) was there to record the whole thing.  Yes, that is right folks-I will have gone from HGTV right to Vision 12!  It was a very fun experience though and was very successful, I will post both video and photos just as soon as I can. 
Work has been so very busy.  I have been working with awesome clients this year so far and it really looks like the construction is picking up.  We have sold jobs and are booked clear through June!  Everyone seems to be ready for their kitchen and bath rennovations.....which is great for me!
I have been working on quite a few projects at home.  I have been taking photos of progress of all of them that I have going....(I love to start new projects)  One of which is a catio.  Sounds a bit strange, and it probably is, but I care for my animals and my cats really want to go outside and eat grass and enjoy the sunshine....but I am afraid of them getting in fights with other cats or getting out of the yard and not be able to find their way back in.   So we are building an outdoor cat patio...or catio.  So far I have invested about $200 dollars and about 10 hours, and when it is all said and done I will be very happy with it.  And I am absolutely positive that the cats will never use it, but we will see.

Two Weeks until Idaho State Conference

There are only two weeks to finish preparing my keynote address for the twelve annual Women and Work Conference at Idaho State University.  I have been given about 40 minutes for my presentation which will be in power point format and I will also be including highlights from HGTV's All American Handyman.  There is an expected crowd of 250 local women planning on attending.  I am not sure if I will be nervous or not...I have never spoke in front of a crowd that large before, but I am very excited for this opportunity though so I think it will be so fun and I won't worry about the crowd.  That is going to be my approach anyway.  It is going to be held in the Bengal Theatre in the Pond Student Union Building.  I have been sifting through old family photos trying to find a picture of me playing in the sawdust or playing with scrap wood blocks when I was a toddler-but no such luck yet.  Apparently my parents only got the camera out when I was naked.....seriously summers in Idaho aren't that warm-why was I always naked?  I have put a lot of work into the presentation and I hope that it is entertaining and motivates young women to pursue a career in a non-traditional field.  Click on the following link to hear Marlene Darling explain about the conference.....

I will also be putting together a hands on career exploration workshop for a group to experience being a woodworker for a half hour.  I have a couple of ideas in mind, but either way, they will be able to take a functional piece of woodworking home with them that they created themselves.

Day 70--Going Strong and Looking Good!


So it has been exactly 10 weeks and counting since I received my Women's Carhartt gear.  I have been wearing and testing these articles religiously for the past two and a half months, and I have been very impressed, but you wouldn't expect anything less from such a trusted and tough brand like Carhartt.  They are still constructed of the same quality fabric and function as the men's line, only these are especially made for women and designed to fit our bodies.  They have performed amazingly!
This is a picture of me sanding panels before I begin to assemble a door pack.  I am wearing the Easy Fit Sandstone Carpenter Pant with double knee.  These are the best.  They feature a total of 7 pockets, a hammer loop, and 4 other very handy loops that are perfect for screwdrivers or tools with similar shapes.  They are brown in color and the double knee is a must if you are out in the field a lot.  They are very warm, but most of all they are so comfortable!  As a cabinet maker, you are up and down off of ladders all day-crawling in and out of cabinets, and generally rolling all over the floor.  It is so nice to have pants that perform along with you when you need them to.  I have a feeling that these will last for years.  Currently, I am still able to blow the sawdust off and step out to meet with clients and I am very presentable.  Even if they become tattered after a few years and get really good and broken in, I will still meet with clients in them!  I know I would feel good about getting cabinets from a true cabinet maker and not a salesman in a suit and tie.

Carhartt is the most durable brand money can buy!

What I would like to emphasize to women is that Carhartt now makes the same great styles you have been wearing, but in a women's cut.  You don't have to deal with the flattened butt.  If you are a female carpenter and you do any work in a shop setting or any type of on-site or field work, then you know how important it is to have a pair of good jeans that can take the abuse and also have all the function you need.  You don't have to buy pants that are too big in the thigh so it fits in the waist.  Lets face it, typically men don't have a tendency to "fill"out the seat of the pants.  So they have come up many styles of great working pants that allow us to be fitted and flattered in the correct areas. 

So, lets talk about this coat.  It is the Sandstone Sierra Jacket with Sherpa lining (blue dusk).  The Idaho winter has been non-typical as I am sure it has been in other places as well, but winter has finally hit and I cannot say enough about this coat.  It is so warm!  It has two side pockets and two interior pockets, one of the interior pockets has a zipper which is very nice.  I can wear this coat meetings with contractors or clients, when I am headed out on install, or when I am at home and need to run out to fill up the log dolly for the wood burning stove.  I have gotten so many compliments on the color as well.  It is a bit shorter on the length so that you can access your tool belt or pockets.  I was a bit concerned that the wind would get up there and cool me down, but I actually really like the length. 
All in all, I am a true believer in the Women's Carhartt line of clothing. I want to encourage women to go out buy Women's Carhartt.  I give them a high rating.  They have so much to offer to fit each body type, and great color choices.  Just because we may be women that work in the construction industry, doesn't mean we have to lose our identity as females in the workforce.  Embrace that you are a female and you can still perform your tasks as you did each day.....only now you will look really really good!

I will continue to wear and use them as much as I possibly can, and I will update you on their wear and how they are performing. 

Let the Plants Have Light!

Another gift I made was to add a shelf to a large picture window in my living room.  We have quite a few plants and at our old house we had an enclosed porch with nothing but windows.  They loved the sun room!  The plants have been placed to try and collect as much light as possible, but it's nothing compared to what they use to have.  So, Heidi asked me to make a shelf to hold plants that could be placed about half way up the widow.  So this is what I came up with...

It gives the plants the sunshine they need and actually provides some privacy at the same time.  They are slowly coming back to life with their new home.

The upcycled part about this gift is that I used an old piece of grey barnwood sitting in the back yard of the cabinet shop I work at.  To achieve this look, I used one of my favorite techniques....skip planning.  I take set the depth of the thickness planer so it just barely shaves the surface so it will reveal some of the raw wood, but still keep some of the original live barnwood surface as well.  I did add a stain to give it some depth, but it is a very beautiful way to bring old grey barnwood back to life!

Upcycled Gifts

So in this tough economy it is always great to have an eye to re purpose or upcycle items that most would consider to be garbage or no longer have life left in it.  This year for Christmas gifts, that is just what I did.  I was driving along and saw these pretty neat chairs setting on the sidewalk on their way to the landfill.  They had some good qualities and some bad qualities....but I saw past the bad and had a vision of what they could potentially be.... 

So this is what the before looks like.  They are a nice wrought iron looking heavy duty chair.  But had really bad vinyl seats.

This is the after result.  The center of the seat is Walnut that is put together in a quilted pattern with the grain alternating.  The outside of the seat is Rustic Cherry.  It takes a long time to get the center of the seat glued up.  I would sit next to the fire for hours and hours and glue the blocks is my version of "knitting" by the fire!

After I got everything all glued together, mitered, and sanded was time to dish out the material for the, uh, ummm, for the behind- or the sitters "seat".  This takes some imagination, a dust mask, some time, and a very large grinder to get a good dish.  But I had fun transforming these into functional chairs and saving them from taking up space in the landfill.  I didn't quite beat the deadline of Christmas Eve....I was out in my shop late into the night applying the sixth coat of a 3-part oil finish.  They are very smooth to the touch.

The only downside to these chairs now.......There are only 3!