Saturday, October 29, 2016

Thrifted Stools DIY

In the baby home, we had several old bar stools that were heaving a dying sigh. At least one of them wobbled so much anyone sitting on it sort of looked like they were dancing from all the side-to-side motion that went on! So when I found a few sturdy, inexpensive stools at a small local thrift shop, I snatched them up. (Delightful Treasures on the corner of 14th and Malan in Gezina, for any Pretorians who are reading this - check them out!)

One of them had a rip, so after a friend's suggestion, I decided to reupholster them.

I liked this tan chevron fabric that I found at Metro, the home and crafting store in town. It was a pretty simple process. I unscrewed the tops, pried out the staples holding the lining/covering fabric on the bottom, and covered the existing black leather (probably fake leather - I don't remember) with the fabric, fastening it down with my staple gun. I decided to cover the chairs with thin but strong clear plastic sheeting (also from Metro). It was a bit tricky getting the corners right, and they aren't perfect, but I don't think my mistakes are too noticeable. Then I stapled the underlining back on and a friend with a power screwdriver put the stools back together for me. This was my first project in South Africa and I didn't have any tools yet! 

I was quite happy with the result. They've held up well over the last year and a half, despite lots of use.

Our "dining room!"

Friday, October 28, 2016

Chicken Coop

I realized I never posted about my chicken coop, and I wanted to include it on my projects page, so I figured I'd put some pictures on here! Unfortunately I left my plans back in South Africa if I saved them at all - it was mostly just some scribbling on a piece of paper, and a lot of improvisation, as pallet boards are not all the same width. I will at least draw up a diagram with some measurements when I go back!

This is the "before" picture. The idea was to clear out the jungle and put the chicken coop and run on the left. I was really grateful that we had a gardener to help clear out all those plants! It took a long time as a number of them needed to be relocated rather than just destroyed.

Honestly, I think it took several weeks just to get it to look like this:

After I had drawn up a basic plan, I started assembling the frame (on the other side of the house, where there was more light to work in the evening). I used something kind of like 2x2's, only they weren't quite square, and the measurements were in millimeters. It looks flimsy, and at times I doubted my choice in materials, but they were a lot cheaper than 2x4's, and with reinforcement they are holding up just fine.

This was before I had my own power drill, so I borrowed from a friend. I had to replace so many of their drill bits! This was one of my first projects with a drill.

It's a mess. I am thankful for everyone at MBH that put up with it! This picture shows late one night after I had assembled the frame and the floor. My original plan was to line the floor with chicken wire so the poop would fall through, but that plan failed because I couldn't pull the wire taut enough. Turns out chicken poop is big and it would have just been a nasty mess (even more so because they like to hang out underneath the coop...picture lots of poop and shavings falling on their heads), so I'm glad I decided to go with the boards. It's easy enough to clean if I keep a layer of shavings on the floor. For a while I lined it with cardboard as well, but that became too much work.

At this point I enlisted our house dad to help me carry it to its final resting place before it became too heavy to move. Here it is with the back wall on!

Here I am putting up the sides. Note my adorable "helper" watching me work!

I didn't take too many pictures for a while, but here it is with the sides, roof, and entry door. It was so hard getting the top even before I nailed the roof on! Did I mention I cut everything for this coop with a hand saw? A power saw is the next item on my tool wish list!

I wanted to build a living roof on top to economize on space and keep the coop cool. The edge boards for that, and the wood for the frame, were the only pieces of lumber I bought. Before nailing the boards in place, I took a piece of thick, clear plastic (bought it at the fabric store - I think they use it for upholstery) and tacked it down around the edge of the roof. I made the nail holes in the overhang so water wouldn't leak into the inside of the coop. Then I put down an old towel in an attempt to keep the moisture in. It didn't work. Maybe if I had better soil and lived in a wetter climate I'd actually be able to grow something, but usually it is the driest of all my gardening spots. Except when it rains a lot. It does drain well (the water seeps out the front edge, through the towel so I don't lose dirt as well) - well enough to grow mushrooms, at times - but nothing I WANT to grow seems to grow there! I think I need to find a more water-retentive soil medium.

Also, I had the doors on by this stage. Because they are made from recycled, low-quality wood, they are not super-perfect AT ALL. When it rains, they swell and stay open a crack until they dry, and when they're REALLY dry, sometimes the latch can come open and once a chicken now I wedge a piece of paracord into the latch hole to make sure it is tight. It's...rustic.

This is what it looked like when it was finished and filled with dirt.

All painted and pretty! The red paint was great to work with. The white paint was very cheap oil paint and took four coats to cover the wood. Those doors took up quite a few hours of my life, but I was quite happy with the results. The posts are L-shaped pallet wood brackets to cover the skinny 2x2 posts. Sometimes they weren't quite straight and I had to wedge in scrap wood and screw it all together to make it sturdy. The little ladder in the front came from who-knows-where - it's too short for a bunkbed! - and is just the right size to give me access to the roof.

I have chicken wire over the windows to keep the chickens from pecking at the flowers in the window boxes. My African friends think it's hilarious that my chickens have window boxes with flowers, but I love them - even if they don't retain moisture any better than the roof...

The side door latches so I can keep chickens out (when I'm cleaning) or in (when I was training them to go into the coop at night).

I used masking tape and a ruler to do these doors. This blog post was my inspiration!

This door was meant to give me access to the nesting boxes. Turns out it's way easier to just go in the front door!

After I removed the back rail, though, this door makes cleaning the nesting boxes much easier. Especially since all they like to do in the back box is poop.

I used an old branch from the yard as a roost. It looks cool, but honestly, I just didn't want to buy yet another piece of lumber!

I put a roof over the top of my nesting boxes. They need an enclosed space, so it's a good thing there is a roof, but this is my least favorite thing in the coop to clean. They get SO much poop on that thing and it's really hard to scrape off the wood. I can't put shavings on top because they would just fall off. So I generally line it with an old feed sack - I have to wedge it underneath the roof. It keeps it from getting too gross, I can scrape the poop off, and I change it out every so often. Kudos to Mama Linda for the idea of using a feed sack underneath the roost!

I ended up putting a net over the roof to keep hungry birds away.

The coop itself took a bit more work and required help from our 1Hope handyman, and the MBH gardener who is studying farming. I can build things, but I'm not very good at sinking fence poles, and I don't have the tools to drill into concrete. I did build the doors myself, and I helped assemble the coop, with a lot of zip ties, baling wire, and a staple gun. We put a roof over the coop to keep stray cats away.

Silly chickens would rather roost on the floor!

Happy chickens in the shade underneath the coop. I later got an automatic feeder and a waterer, and they are SUCH a time saver.

One of the biggest after-construction problems is that it looks like this after it rains:

Apparently we significantly disturbed the natural water flow of this corner of land when we removed the plants and smoothed out the area for the chicken coop. It does dissipate quickly, but it makes taking out the trash a very wet affair on days when it rains heavily. We do have a little brick path under all that water (actually, that is probably part of what makes that side lower) but no drain.

I love having chickens in the city! It's so much fun. They provide us with a lot of entertainment and many eggs.

Monday, October 24, 2016


Hello everyone!

So, as some of you know, the date of my planned return to South Africa is quickly approaching. I have tickets for November 29th - five weeks from tomorrow! I can't believe how quickly time has flown by.

Currently, I am only 42% funded when it comes to monthly support. That's a pretty good chunk of my goal and I'm so grateful to everyone who has helped to get me this far! To avoid a lot of struggles and financial headaches later, I really shouldn't go back until I am fully supported or at least very close to being fully supported. Unfortunately, unless there are a lot of last-minute people out there, I probably will have to change my tickets. I debated on just canceling them and re-booking when I have the funds, but changing them costs $50 + difference in ticket, and canceling costs $200 (although the rest of the amount would be refunded).

I would love to return quickly, although Christmas with my family would be nice too! It is hard to be so attached to two places. I've enjoyed my time at home very much, but I miss being busy with babies and being around my friends in SA.

I can change my ticket anytime before my departure date, but for my sanity, I've decided to give myself at least a two-week buffer. If my support is not raised by November 15th, I will change my tickets for sometime in January. If there is anyone out there interested in supporting me monthly, please talk to me as soon as possible! If you have more questions about the ministry, the organization I work for, my proposed budget, how on earth to navigate the donation website, etc, please feel free to contact me as I’m always glad to chat.

Love to you all!

Auntie Abbie

Baby T turned ONE this month! I need to get back so I can kiss his fat cheeks!

Monday, October 17, 2016

I'm just one person...

So, it's been a long journey for me over the last few years. It's hard to pinpoint where everything started. Was it when I read Kisses from Katie and thought, "Wow, it would be really awesome to go to Africa!"? Was it when I read blog posts from many different blogs and gradually became aware of the orphan crisis around the world - when I was moved to tears over children who were the weight of tiny babies, neglected in cribs? Who knows...but it resulted in several trips to Bulgaria and my moving indefinitely to South Africa.

Learning about orrphans and neglected/abandoned/vulnerable children worldwide changed me. I didn't know I could feel so deeply about someone on the other side of the world that I had never met. I remember one night I saw my little niece's picture - before I even knew her or her mother (my friend-to-be)  and thought of her growing up in a mental institution. I cried over my computer that night over the fact that no one wanted her and her time was running out to be adopted.

I read story after story like hers (although I connected with her the most deeply, for some reason). It's enough to wreck the world of a young 20-something who can't really do much to help, at least in the way of traveling overseas and snatching everyone up to come home and live with her. There was suffering going on every minute of every day, and what could I do to stop it? Very little - it would be like trying to empty the ocean with an eyedropper.

I traveled to Bulgaria. I saw children with hydrocephalus (water on the brain) who had heads the size of watermelons, relegated to their cribs to live out their short lives. I was mobbed by a crowd of preschoolers who just wanted someone to pay attention to them. I saw malnourished children and lonely orphanages. I saw people who probably didn't care, and a lot of people who did care but didn't know how to make things better or even have a good understanding of what that would mean. (Yes! We have a great orphanage! We take good care of the kids! We have all these resources! Yes, but you still aren't a family.) I walked the grounds of an orphanage infamous for its gross abuse and neglect of children. A friend and I circled it and prayed. I could sense spiritual oppression. The weight of the situation shook me as I gazed on stories upon stories of massive, Cold War era concrete block, and thought of all the little lives trapped inside - lives precious in the sight of God.

I wasn't old enough to adopt children from overseas. Now I'm old enough and I'm still not in a situation where I'm able to do so. Even if I could take several children and give them a family, the sheer overwhelming nature of the crisis felt like it was swallowing me up. Yes, adoption changes the world of each child. But what about all the others?

I've seen more since then. I've seen how, often, children struggle to transition into families, and I grieve for what their early lives did to them. I've seen mothers give babies up, make empty promises, and I've battled anger and unforgiveness. I've visited a group home and seen a once flourishing little girl who has forgotten how to talk and been deemed "unadoptable" - seen how she sits in a wheelchair all day and can only receive visits once a month because it "spoils" her.

I've wondered - is it better to not break through that barrier, sometimes? Is it worse to open her eyes to love if it hurts worse afterwards? Is there a better solution? Can anything be done?

Knowing is a burden. When you know, you care, and when you care, you hurt. I wrestled with this hurt for several years - the hurt, and my general helplessness.

And I'm learning to trust. It's a gradual process. Living overseas and working at the baby home helps tremendously to combat the choking feeling of everyone is suffering and I can't do anything! But still...orphan care is wrought with suffering. Although I grieve over the orphans across the globe, the ones I don't know, the ones who are neglected and not fat and happy and well-loved and generally headed for families, like our babies are...the cases close to home hurt too.

I texted my friend on a particularly rough day at the baby home. There had been unexpected developments in the case of a little one who was as dear to me as my own child. I couldn't handle this, emotionally.

How do you do this? How are you so tough?

You don't need to be tough. You just need to trust that God is sovereign.

Very simple, and a truth I already knew, but one she knew I needed to hear again. And I realized - there aren't only two options when it comes to suffering in orphan care: be tough and emotionally capable of handling this, or fall apart over the pain of it all.

I was never meant to bear the weight of the world on my shoulders.

I don't need to be tough enough and capable enough and clever enough to come up with a solution to rescue every child in need.

I don't need to be a constant emotional wreck when I look at the grief and horror in the world, because it's not my job to fix it.

That's not saying that grief doesn't have a time and a place. I look back, and know I would cry over those situations all over again.

But world, your weight of sin and death and pain is not mine to bear. I have a God who is working out His perfect plan. I have a God who has called me to lay down my life to care for others, and I will joyfully do it...whatever it looks like over the years to come. I will not stem the tide of grief in this hard world. I am one small person. But I will trust my God. I will fulfill the small piece of work He has for me. And I will follow Him where He leads.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

How to Donate

So I've gotten some questions about how to donate - it's kind of hard to find my name on the 1Hope website, so I thought I'd do a quick blog post with screenshots to explain.

UPDATE: They have updated the site and it is now much more user friendly! (Thanks 1Hope USA, it looks great!)

This is the page that you go to when you click on the thermometer in the right-hand column of this blog. First it asks you the amount you would like to donate - there are a few suggested donation amounts, or you can input a custom amount in that section. Second, it asks you if you want to donate to a specific ministry. If you click the down arrow, you will see my name - click on that.

Note: There is another girl named Abi. I'm sure she'd love to get donations too, but I'm "MBH Caregiver Abbie Caple."

After that, it allows you to select if you would like to give one time, or annually, quarterly or monthly.

From then on the form is pretty self-explanatory. If this electronic stuff is too much for you, you can send a paper check to 1Hope Ministries International/1 League #60277/Irvine, CA 92602 (USA). Just make sure to put "Abbie Caple" in the memo.

Thanks to everyone who is helping me to get back to South Africa! For more information on what I do, check out the "About Me" page or look back through some old blog posts.