Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pocatello Farmer's Market Gets a New Barn

This week we made a trip to Pocatello to deliver a new 'office' for the Pocatello Farmer's Market.  The farmer's market is in a cute downtown area next to the railroad tracks called "Old Town."  It's been running for 20 years straight! 

The people at Swore Farms who run the farmer's market called me a couple of months ago with their requests.  They wanted a fancy, traditional red barn shed that could function as their office and storage area.  They wanted to be able to lock everything up tight for the night.  So we designed a lightweight awning that can fold down over the windows and be locked from the inside.  The middle window is made of 2 plexiglass panels that can slide apart when they are open for business.  It also has a customer service counter. 

The top half of the dutch door can also be opened to reveal another customer service counter.  And the back side of the door can be used to post announcements.  The final touch: a fancy copper rooster weathervane on top of a traditional barn cupola!

Our new friends at Swore Farms are very happy with their new office/barn/shed. And we are very happy to have discovered the quaint farmer's market in downtown, old town Pocatello!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Featured Project: Fancy Shed

Cuppola with weathervane
Last year a horse-loving local dentist called asking for help to solve a delimma.  He had just installed a huge metal building on his horse property in Mapleton.  The building was totally open, like an enormous carport where he keeps his tractor and hay for his horses.  But because he doesn't live very close to his little ranch and the structure is so wide open he just didn't feel comfortable leaving anything of value in his building.

The customer wanted to build a shed that would be a secure place where he could store tack and other valuables. He wanted it to be fairly large, strong enough to withstand the elements, and taller than a regular shed so it would blend well with his barn. For colors, he wanted a traditional red barn with white trim.  He wanted it to look really fancy with a cupola and weather vane on top as well as a loft inside.

Matching cupolas
The customer also requested that we help spruce up his big red metal building by putting a matching cupola on top of it too.  We were able to find an exact color match in the Behr Brand Premium Solid Color Deck, Fence and Siding Weatherproofing Wood Stain that we use for all of our sheds.

Special delivery!
In just a few weeks, Fancy Builder was able to solve this horseman's dilemma.  The shed was so tall we knew when we delivered it on our trailer, it wouldn't fit under the power cables. To get around this, Fancy Builder simply produced it in two parts.  When we finally put them together, they fit just like two puzzle pieces.

Our customer loved the shed so much he is even planning to insulate it later on so he will be able to camp out in it when the mares are foaling.  Here is a little from the last e-mail he sent to me:

"Just wanted to thank you for the shed.  I am very happy with it and look forward to putting it to use.  I love the cupulas on both the shed and barn.  Thanks again." -Horseman from Mapleton, UT

The perfect shed for this customer

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Get Outside and Play! 6 Ideas to Enjoy Summer With the Kids.

Childhood is a magical and irreplaceable time for your kids, but it can be lots of fun for parents to let loose and laugh with their families. Playing with your kids helps create great memories as well as develop important social skills. Are you enjoying the long summer? Here's our family's top six ideas to play together while it's still warm outside.

Laughter is the best medicine,
preventative and otherwise. 
1) Are your kids lucky enough to have a playhouse? Go the fabric store and pick out fabric for curtains and ribbons for tie-backs. Use nails with large heads and let the kids help hang them.

Still waiting for your dream outbuilding? Any doorway, window, or opening can become playful when your kids hang fabric, stringed beads, weighted down ribbons (hot glue pretty glass 'rocks' to the ends or tie something on the ends like metal nuts or beads), or even paper chains from doorways.

2) Choose a shady area for a sand box. Spoons, garden implements, and plastic dinnerware can all be part of the fun. Don't forget the buried treasure!

3) Build or buy some kid-sized furniture. Giving kids a place to eat, sit for for tea-parties, or just hang out on a couch can spur creative make-believe and fun.

4) Teach your kids old-fashioned games, like "Off the Ground Tag." You can use cardboard boxes, blankets, or anything to make an area to play. If you step on the ground, you're it! "Freeze Tag" and "Ghost in the Graveyard" are two more fun choices.

5) Sleep outside (or in the playhouse) on a hot summer night.

6) Hang up a 'zip line' for transporting things from the play set, deck, or designated area on the ground.  Send secret messages to each other.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

3 Ideas to Feed Your Family Healthier Foods

It seems like today's world is filled with news stories about unsafe food, movies about how food has become immoral and mechanized, economic hardship making it difficult to feed our families, and a confusing array of products that may or may not help any of these situations. Rather than navigate grocery store aisles deliberating between cage-free or organic eggs, locally grown, seasonal or year-round shipped produce, many people are taking their food into their own hands. From small-scale vegetable patches to backyard chickens, the options for growing and harvesting your own food has become an increasingly popular and smart way to take back your family's food.

Regardless if you have a tiny patio or acres of land, here are some ideas to get you thinking about ways to begin providing your very own food. 

Mmm... fresh peppers
for salsa and casseroles
Grow a vegetable garden. Often the afterthought of a landscape plan, vegetables can be beautiful and functional. Free plans from Better Homes and Gardens make it easy to plan and plant something that will feed your family healthy food and be a joy to look at. Since we've talked so much about the importance of play with your children, it shouldn't come as a surprise that there's even vegetable gardens are a great place to involve your kids. This plan offers a simple children's vegetable garden with plants that will continue to produce and require minimal upkeep. Think of the fun and lessons after an entire summer of growing and eating from your very own garden. 

Keep backyard chickens. Eggs from backyard chickens are different from the eggs you buy at the store. The fresh yolks are tastier and colored bright orange, thanks to the hens' access to greens and the bugs and other goodies they snatch up in their scratching. Needless to say, even when fenced out of the garden itself, they keep pest populations down. At season's end, you can turn your chickens loose in the garden for a time-honored solution to clean it your garden and prevent pests from overwintering. If you're concerned neighbors may not like chickens are much as you do, try ducks. Ducks lay delicious eggs without making such a ruckus. You do not, contrary to popular belief, need to provide them with a pond. Their manure is less conspicuous than that of a chicken's, sinking effectively into your increasingly green, well-fed lawn. Finally, your coop can serve double duty to enhance your landscape and house your egg-producing darlings. 

Grafting can make one apple tree
bear several varieties of fruit

Plant a fruit tree. While it will take a few years for your tree to bear fruit, you'll be rewarded with a remarkable supply of fruit for twenty to fifty years to come. Dwarf and semi-dwarf trees make it possible for anyone with an average-sized yard to grow fruit trees. Plant trees in the spring or fall and begin to enjoy the fruits of your labors in three to five years.

Visit www.fancybuilder.com for pictures and pricing on playful outbuildings to enhance your landscape including coops, gazebos, playhouses, and more.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Featured Project: Krohns Castle Playhouse

Krohns Castle
Three two-story, connected structures. A princess tower with pointy roof. A castle tower with turrets. Could you imagine a more unique and amazing playhouse to let children's imaginations run wild? I'm not sure we could.

Sketch of Krohns Castle
Fancy Builder was contacted in 2009 to construct this play castle worthy of a young Queen Guinevere. The Utah family requested an extra-special structure with lots of additions to encourage imagination and active play.

After several conversations, Fancy Builder provided a playhouse drawing including three structures with a climbing wall, a drawbridge between structures, a swing set, and several other activity areas. The family was thrilled and signed a contract to move forward.

Krohns Castle in the yard
Sergei set to work building the playhouse while the family anxiously awaited delivery. After about a month and a half, the beautiful Krohns Castle was finally complete. Fancy Builder delivered the custom playhouse to its new home in the backyard. The family was delighted.

It took a few extra days to get all of the different elements perfect (we had to make a minor change to the swing set, waterproof the structure, and tweak some minor details) but when we were finished, everyone couldn't have been more pleased.

Some of the features the family were most excited about include the rope bridge between structures, sure to be the best spot for speeches and tricky escapes from dragons.

We also added a pulley system with a bucket to create a way to send secret messages and play silly tricks on each other.

Last we heard, the family was loving their playhouse and creating great lifelong memories there. We wish them well!

See more of our playhouses and prices by visiting Fancy Builder's website.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

2 Quick (and Cheap) Projects to Encourage Play

While (of course) we think every kid should have one of our playhouses in the backyard, we understand that's not realistic. But it's still important to find ways to play.

We already wrote about the great book The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative, Activities Lead to Healthier, Happier Children here, but here's a quote that really sums it up:

"Over the past two decades, children have lost 12 hours of free time a week, including 8 hours of unstructured play and outdoor activities.  In contrast, the amount of time spent in organized sports has doubled, and the number of minutes children devote to passive spectator leisure, not counting TV but including sports viewing, has increased fivefold from 30 minutes to over 3 hours. The health consequences for children resulting from the disappearance of play (obesity, attention deficit disorder) are already apparent."

So what are some things you can do to to encourage important, imaginative play? There are lots of ways using things you already have around the house or simple inexpensive materials. Some are even things we do in our playhouses. Here's our two simple ideas you could do today.

Chalkboard paint. It's not quite as functional as a "real" chalkboard, but chalkboard paint is an inexpensive and easy way to add playful elements to your house. Our current favorite way to incorporate it is to give each child a place to write themselves reminders or draw pictures. This can be in their rooms, lined up in a mud room, or anywhere you have the space. Here's some easy instructions: 
Ung Drill from Ikea

-Grab a cute frame (we found this Ung Drill frame at Ikea for $24.99)
-Roll painter's tape into rolls and put on the back of the picture template from the frame. Position the frame where you want it to be. (Alternatively, you can use the template to cut a piece of MDF or plywood to avoid painting your wall.) 
-Tape off the area around the template. Paint inside the template. Let it dry and apply another coat. Repeat once more for a total of three coats. 
-Allow to cure for 24 hours. Frame. 
-It's handy to add a small molding ledge or a nail to hang a cute bag off of to hold chalk and an eraser. 
-Watch your kids' artistic sides shine! 

A quick and easy play area
Create a mini-retreat. You don't have to have a giant area or a specialized structure to give your children a place to let their imaginations run wild. Something as simple as hanging a canopy in a corner of a bedroom can create opportunities for adventure and make-believe. 

So go play! It's good for you.