Sunday, May 25, 2014

Done!! - More or less...

What might have been overheard in the chicken yard this afternoon...
Dovey: "Whoa!  Whoa!!  Hey, Esther look!!
Esther: "At what?  Do you have another worm?"
Dovey:  "No, you silly goose!  Look!!"
Esther: "I'm NOT a goose! What are you talking about?
Dovey: "The coop!! LOOK!!"
Esther:  "Whoa!!  What happened!?!  Wait... what?"
Dovey: "This is weird!!  Last nite when we went to bed the coop was wood, now its red!!  It's freakin' me out!!"
Henry: (running panicked circles around the yard)  "It's Chick-Fil-A, man!! We've been marked!! We're doomed!!:"
Aurora: (resigned to doom)  "Well, it could be worse."
Henry:  "How could it possible be worse?"
Aurora:  "There could be a big, yellow 'M' on the wall!"
All 15:  "Aaaahhhhh!!! That's 1000 times worse!!"
Wilma:  "No, no, wait! We're layers, remember?  I think we're safe!"
Houdini: "Yeah, yeah. That right! Layers! We're layers!
Dovey:  "Ok, but it's still weirding me out!"
Esther:  "Hey, look! A chicken!"
Fred: "Esther... C'mon, really?"

Well, maybe it wasn't quite like that, but you get the idea.  This was a busy weekend, so far.  Between Friday and Saturday we put 100 feet of 6 foot tall fence around the yard and added a "people" gate.  We also started spraying paint on.  After Church today, I finished painting and De got out the white paint and worked up the trim around the door, window, and access to the laying boxes.  When the paint was sufficiently dry I let the birds out.  There was pushing and shoving at the pop-hole so I guess they were ready.

It any case their coop has come along way!  I've got a pic from before I started work after we dragged it in place, and one taken just today from a similar angle. Nice to see it done and ready to go.

Next up:  The garden, paint the bar, add more fence and a gate to the chicken yard.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


The yard at 3:45 AM
Hailstorm last night!  At 3:40 AM to be precise.  There may have been larger hail in the area in the past, but I don't remember it. It measured 1" and maybe a wee bit more.

I got photos of the hail and yard as soon as it was safe to go out.  The rest of the pics were taken after work.

1 Inch Hail!
I'll be getting to know our insurance agent pretty well.  We had 'ding' damage to all four vehicles sitting outside, one has a windshield crack too.

The house also took a beating.  Roof vents look like someone took a bat to them, shingles have divots, screens have holes as does the vinyl siding.  There will be lots of repairs to be done.

I'm happy (and maybe a little proud) to report my crooked little chicken coop sustained no damage at all, and the chickens seem none the worse for the wear.  Even with the time for damage assessment, I managed to get 4 fence posts in and by sundown on Friday we're hoping to have 100 feet of 6 foot tall fence up that will form part of the permanent (as permanent as things get on a homestead) chicken yard.  I'll have pics when the fence is up.
Roof vent took a beating

Even with all the damage, nothing is "non-functional". We are all safe and uninjured,  The livestock is fine, I hadn't put garden plants out yet so no losses there. Once again, even in the aftermath of a storm, we have a lot to be thankful for.  We are blessed!

Col. 1:9-12,

Dark spots are holes

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I'll say it again...

I am blessed!  What an amazing weekend.  Yesterday I posted the chickens came home, and I'll get to that and the pics later, but I wanted to take a moment to count my blessings:
  1. A Church that forms a foundation of a community filled with family and friends. What an amazing thing!  The worship was joyous, the sermon was meaningful, the teaching was good, and the fellowship was encouraging.
  2. A Church Small Group with which to share joys and sorrows, celebrations and tears, support and accountability.  Another blessing for which there are no words to describe.
  3. A wife who loves and supports the whole homesteading thing.  No cajoling or "selling" here (except maybe the idea of goats in the future.).  What a blessing to have her at my side as we steward and enjoy all the things we've been blessed with.
  4. A wonderful family - Two daughters and one son, all grown.  Psalms127:3 talks about children being a gift from the Lord.  De and I were given wonderful gifts.
  5. Two young men, one a confirmed son-in-law in-training and an other who is working his way into that into position, that are God-loving Christians who have captured my daughters hearts.  Knowing that my "little girls" are involved with Christian men is immensely satisfying.  To top it off, both are willing and even eager to dig in a help around the homestead.  Between helping to get the coop ready, doing the hard part of getting the mower deck on the tractor, and mowing my large yard, and just being a part of the family they were both a huge blessing this weekend.
  6. Family again - A niece who was willing to brood our chickens.  Just one example of the generosity a Christ-center family offers to one another.
  7. Land to steward, a comfortable house, a good job, and an endless list of other material blessings.  There's no other way to put it:  I am blessed!
After Church and dinner today we built a make-shift playpen for the chickens to allow them to get outside.  The rest of the roll of hardware cloth and two hog panels.  Its good for supervised excursion only, but we were able to let them out for a couple of hours.  Here's the older granddaughter watching the birds.  De and I both missed getting a video of a hysterically funny moment where she was walking around imitating the chickens.

When we were ready to let the birds out. We just reached in, opened the pop hole and waited.  It didn't take long!  In just a minute the first birds made their first foray onto the Grand Boardwalk.  I did have to eventually shoo two out, but the other 13 found their way out pretty quickly.  They were obviously happy to be out and about.

 The Chicken Veranda was hit, too.  (Or at least I'm choosing to interpret their actions that way.)   It was a hoot to watch them hunting around, scratching, attacking the grass and any bugs unlucky enough to be hanging around in the pen.  They are a very animated bunch.

I was especially amused by the 7 bird communal dust bath.  What a hoot!  Seven birds all trying to get into a space just bigger than a square foot.  Fluffing, throwing dust, rolling around in a way I didn't remember chickens rolling in my childhood. They appear to be just about as happy as a chicken can get.

I think we've made some headway with our mystery bird.  De's research indicates it may be an 'Easter Egger'.  At least that is what the websites she's found seemed to indicate.

There is one other thing we are looking into.  There seems to be one bird, the female Golden Polish that was limping around a bit and might be showing some evidence of being pecked.  Early research shows that putting some Vick's vapor rub (or a generic equivalent) on the bird sometimes helps.  I am interested in other opinions.  How do you all handle birds that are being picked on?

The next stage of our journey is underway!  We are very excited and looking forward to wherever the Lord will lead us as we continue down the homesteading path.

Col. 1:9-12


    Saturday, May 17, 2014

    And Finally They Arrive!

    The chickens are here!  Over the last couple of days we managed to get the last touches on the coop done. At the advise of a long-time chicken raising friend I put down an inexpensive plastic tarp before I put the wood chips in.  The idea is that when it comes time to clean up you can either clean down to the tarp, which protects the floor, or just take the tarp with all the chips up and start fresh with a new one.  We actually nailed it up at selected points about 4 inches up the sides to make sure we 'caught' all the chips when they went down.

     After the tarp was down we brought in the wood chips.  We spread it at a depth of about 4 inches all the way around.  I suspect it will 'mat' down some as the weeks go on.

    One of the things I didn't get a good picture of was the 8 inch tall "threshold" we put on the on the inner door.  The door is seen in the pic with the roost.  That helps keep the chips in place when we go in and out.  You can see the door is hung high enough to clear the chips.

    The "People" Side of the Door.
    The "Chicken" Side of the Door.
    I thought I would throw in a couple pictures of the inner door.  The latch material is pretty standard, but the handles are a little unique.  They are essentially muffler clamps.  There is one on each side of the door.  The latch is only on the outside of the door.  The handles are an example of using something I had in the shop rather than buying some just for that purpose.

    The feeder and waterer went in next.  The long term plan is to use the nipple waterers instead of the tank type, but I needed to get water in sooner rather than later.

     Finally we went to my nieces house and picked up the chickens!  Full feathered, although a little thin in some areas.  It didn't take them long to find the feeder and the waterer.  I was a little worried about that.  They are scratching, enjoying the sun coming in the window, and just acting like chickens.

    The Golden Polish pair (Fred and Wilma) are getting their crests.  The others are looking good too!

    I'm so happy to have all the "kids" home, and I'm VERY grateful to my niece for raising them up for me.

    Time to call it a day, but I wanted to get these pictures up and let everyone know the birds are home.

    Lots more good stuff today.  But it will wait until tomorrow's post.

    Col. 1:9-12,


    Friday, May 16, 2014

    Tomorrow is the day!

    With Chicken Veranda with Grand Boardwalk all ready to go
    Tomorrow is the day!  I'll go fetch the chickens tomorrow afternoon. The broken glass has been replaced, the door hardware is all in, all the tools and trash have been cleared out of the inside, the Chicken Veranda is in and the Grand Boardwalk (some of might call it a 'ramp") is ready to go!  A week of rain and drizzle has slowed the progress, but I'm still getting it done just in time.  My lawn is suitable for grazing (25 years ago it was a pasture for polled Herefords.), so I better get the mower deck on too.

    I don't believe I'm going to get the inside whitewashed right away, but I have everything I need to do it.  I have wood chips, and a feeder and waterer to put in early tomorrow afternoon.  Rural King has barn paint on sale, so I'll get some of that tomorrow, too.  Fencing is next, I'll probably start that this weekend, too.

    The grandkids are here this weekend, and they are very excited.  The last time they saw the birds they were still mostly covered in down.  To tell you the truth I'm excited too.  They'll be lots of photos of the whole process and of everyone getting acquainted.

    Oh, the name of the place!  How about "Crooked House Layers Club"?  (I am still thinking and am open to suggestions.)

    Col. 1:9-12,


    Monday, May 12, 2014

    Almost There!

    After spending the better part of Saturday working the 'Ride 101 Lakes' event (see Another Public Service Event Done!) I was afraid there wouldn't be a lot of work done on the coop this weekend.  I was wrong!  After Church on Sunday the extended family (25 of us, I think) met for a Mother's day dinner and celebration, (and a giant, indoor Nerf dart war for all ages at the request of one of the Moms - My 85 year Mom demonstrated her ability to handle a Nerf dart pistol by nailing one of my brothers square in the chest.  As a family we are bit unique that way.)  I was able to get some work time in.

     After some 30 minutes I was joined by my son and daughter #1's boyfriend.  That's when things started to happen.  I was busy enough I didn't may pictures while it was happening, but I have several of the work we were able to get done.  It still looks like a construction site, and there will have to be a sizable clean-up effort before the chickens arrive.

    It was great to have the two guys helping.  Extra hands make a world of difference.  We got the door between the chickens' area the "people area" done pretty quickly. 

    I decided to use hardware cloth to close out the areas I didn't the birds going into. The plan is to be able to store a little feed and other things right there in the coop on the shelf. I also wanted to be able to open the main door to allow the coop to cool off in the summer and still keep the chickens in the coop and yard.   I'm hoping to get things set up so I  can feed, water and collect eggs without going right in with the chickens.  That will come later, right now it will be a more conventional feed and watering system.

    After we finished the inner door and the hardware cloth we were ready to close out the last wall.  We got that up pretty quickly with two holding and one driving in nails. That was a job I worried about getting done working by myself.  There is a 3 1/2" gap between the rafters and the roof I'll close off with hardware cloth with hinged door so we can close up some or all of the them up in the winter.  The dark circles are knots in the plywood.  I couldn't see spending a lot of extra on plywood with really nice face sheets for a chicken coop, and have decided that the red barn paint will cover a a multitude of material and construction sins.   I figure I'm gonna need a LOT of paint.  After getting the outside door hung and the corner closed out we left it mostly done! 

    Next up: Replace the broken window glass, close out the space above the door, put in the "chicken veranda" and chicken ramp in and out, close out around the base, and paint, paint, paint.  After reading a very informative post on "5 Acres & A Dream" regarding whitewash, we're planning on whitewashing the inside. I believe I'll have a temporary chicken fence for several days before I get the permanent fence up.

    I've been reading up on introducing chickens to a new coop.  I'm up for any comments on how others have done this, but it sounds like putting them in the coop for a couple of days (with plenty of feed and water, of course) before letting them out is the thing to do.  After that, I understand they can be let out, knowing you'll probably have to "help" them back in at the end of the day for awhile.

    I'm getting excited!  Moving day is planned for something like this Friday.  There is still plenty to do, but I'm getting close.  They'll be lots of pics when the "blessed event" occurs, and good or bad it will all be posted here.

    Col. 1:9-12,


    Saturday, May 10, 2014

    Another Public Service Event Done!

    I've mentioned before that one of the ways I give back to my local community is to lead our county's Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES).  ARES is organized by the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) and is dedicated to providing communication services between incident sites, county EMA offices, local hospitals, Red Cross emergency shelters and the like.  This is especially important for more rural communities where even a moderate sized incident can overwhelm local services.  The county ARES lead is called the Emergency Coordinator.  County Coordinators report to District Coordinators who in turn report to State, Section and National Coordinators.  Operators donate their time and provide their own radio equipment. They also provide their own generators, portable antenna towers, antennas, gasoline and the like.

    In addition to drills and exercises to prepare for real emergency events that we hope come never or rarely, we also provide communication services for community non-profit organizations.  Anything that is spread out over a large area is right up our alley.  Spring is our busy season for these events because the groups who plan outdoor activities want to get them done before it can get hot enough to 'scare' people away.  I posted earlier about the Indiana Trail 100 race (Maybe It's Just Me...) .  We also do the March of Dimes and Diabetes Walks.  Next week is the Pokagon Triathlon that runs out of Pokagon State Park.  This week was the "Ride 101 Lakes" bike ride.

    The Ride 101 Lakes bike ride is a fundraising function for the local Community Foundation.  Some 200+ riders sign up to do one of five different rides from a short Family Ride geared for parents with young kids to a 112 mile ride geared towards diehard riders who have "been there and done that".  Intermediate rides are roughly 10 miles,  30 miles, and 60 miles.  The bulk of the riders are on the shorter three rides.  The youngest riders are less than 10, some by a quite a bit.  The oldest riders top 70. It is the ARES team job, working with local EMA and sheriff department personnel to keep all these riders safe.  The longest ride covers three states (we are in the NE corner of the state) and a total of five counties.   We station team members at critical intersections, Stop And Go (SAG) rest areas, and have a "sweeper" that follows the last rider on each route.  The whole thing is coordinated by a central Net Control station that ties it all together.  The Net Control Station is also in contact with the event organizers.  The last riders often finish after 6PM after a 9AM start, and we look after them the whole time.  It makes for a long day, but both the organizers and riders are always very grateful for our care.

    I think it important for Christians to serve the community both inside and outside the local Churches.  This my way (and several others - five of us belong to the same church) of getting out of the "fortress" and into the community to make a difference.

    Enough for one day.  I'm bushed and we all need  to get up bright and early for the 8:30 service tomorrow.  Since to tomorrow is Mother's Day, remember to thank your mothers.  If she raised you in a Christian home and "prayed" you though teething, the teenage years, and into your adulthood thank God too.  You'll never get a better gift short of the Cross.

    Col. 1:9-12,


    Sunday, May 4, 2014

    More progress on the coop!

    The first bit of the last wall in place
     A little more progress on the coop today.  After Church this morning and visiting kids right afterward we were able to spend some time working on it.  The goal was to get a start on the last wall and get the chicken door, the 'pop hole' as I've learned its called, in place.  De was working with me and it was great sharing the project her and to have the helping hands.

    In the pic you see some framework below the wall extending out toward the front.  I'll be adding some deck boards I have lying around and it will end up being my "chicken veranda".  I didn't start out with the idea of building a porch for the girls, and I'm definitely drawing the line at a chicken porch swing.  The chicken veranda is yet another of my "architectural conveniences" that have become part and parcel of the project. 

    I bring this up and point them out for two reasons: First, part of the spirit of my blog is in showing that anyone can accomplish projects like this no matter how meager their skills, and a few problems and issues along the way are part and parcel of learning.  Not perfect is ok, and this project is definitely not perfect.  Fortunately for me, I'm pretty sure chickens have reasonably low expectations when it comes to art and esthetics.  Second, in my first post-college job my first boss and mentor taught me a somewhat professionally questionable but tried and true engineering axiom that applies here: 'If you can't fix it, feature it!'.  I'm hoping someone will pipe up and excitedly write to assure me, "Why yes, Mark!  All chickens love porches and yours will be both thrilled and grateful throughout their career as layers right up to the time they make the transition from coop to canner."  Have I mentioned I'm also hoping Zyla the dog will drag back something rare and valuable from her trips to the woods instead of deer legs, that Pluto will soon be reinstated as a planet, and that the next national election will result in a Congress who refuses to live on credit, who appreciate people that like to take care of themselves, and who believes much of previous congress's efforts over the last 40 years have all the lasting value and social appeal of a dead raccoon under the porch?  No?  Perhaps another post...

    In any case, we turned to on the pop hole and, to paraphrase what may be the only socially redeeming bit of wisdom ever to come from 'Larry the Cable Guy', "Got 'er done!".  It's a cable and pulley arrangement like I've seen elsewhere, and for all its somewhat craggy appearance works like a charm!  (That's kind of a stupid saying, but you all know what I mean so I'll hope you'll let it go this time.)

    Door closed and chickens safe
    Door open!  Chickens free to move about the veranda

    I've been considering coming up with a name, like a hotelchain, for this testament to odd angles that expresses its most noble features.  I'm sure De would be willing to paint some signage on it for me.  Something like "Holli-donked Inn" or  "No Braced like Home".  I dunno,  I'll keep working on it.

    Take care all - Col. 1:9-12


    The Chickens are coming! The chickens are coming!

    The good news is my chickens, being raised from chicks by a wonderful niece, are doing well.  The other good news is that my 15 chickens (13 hens, 1 rooster, and 1 we’re not sure on yet) will be ready to come home 3 weeks sooner than was originally planned, and that means next weekend.   I visited Friday and got some pics.  Here is part of the flock.  When De and I picked out the flock, we selected 5 Buff Orpingtons, 5 Red Stars, and 3 Araucanas/Ameraucanas.  We allowed Daughter #2 to pick the rooster and she selected Golden Polish just on looks.  We picked a hen of the same breed as a matched set.  One of the Red Stars didn't make it, and the white bird (we still haven't figured out the breed) was thrown in as a bonus by the chick company.  You can see most of them in the pic and they really are not chicks anymore.  Time was drawing near for "the chickens to come home to roost".  (I knew I would find somewhere to use that little saying.  I can still hear my Dad saying those words when talking about folks who had made poor choices and were reaping the consequences.)

    De has already named the Golden Polish "couple" Fred and Wilma.  We're not sure which of the two great nephew is holding, but he/she is starting to develop the crown.  Right now its a little 'thin' on top and looks a little like someone who might be writing a blog with the initials HCH. 

    All this leads me to the topic of the coop.  As it sat Thursday when the homecoming news came in, my coop had the full floor done. Period.  And one full wall with a huge hole for nesting boxes.  And a couple of parts of walls and some framework for shelves and nesting boxes. And an adequate pile of lumber sitting next it.  I needed to get busy.  I was able to take part of Friday and the bulk of today (Saturday) to work on it.   Progress!  First off were the nesting boxes.  I got those done as the sun went down on Friday.  It was too dark for pics then, but De got some this morning.  There are six boxes across the back of the coop.  I'm not sure I need six, but it was "architecturally convenient" to build it that way.  The boxes will be accessible from outside the coop and the run.  You can see in the pic that carpentry is not my forte, and I'm a somewhat messy carpenter at that.  Still, it all got done!

    The next challenge was the roost.  I took a great idea from Dan and Leigh over at "5 Acres & A Dream" and went with the roosting tree concept.  It just so happened that on my list of chores this spring is to take down sickly pine tree on the edge of our property along the road.  I had found a "donor"!  We planted a row of them years ago.  They all died within two years except this one, and it was slowing dying from the bottom up.  No longer completely green, it was time for a felling.  

    A little chainsaw work took care of that chore, and then it was time to pick out a section that had branches set up in a way that looked like it would work for chickens.  After trimming back the ends of the branches, spending some quality time with my tape measure, and doing some head scratching I selected a section out of the middle towards the bottom.  Back to the chainsaw.  I didn't want to trim too close and wanted to save the final trimming for when I had it set.  At over 7 feet tall and from the bottom 1/4th of the tree, it was a bunch to lug around.  I finally rolled it up into the truck and hauled it off to the coop.  After some more measuring, trimming and hauling it was finally up in place.  Much like the roost at "5 Acres", I secured the top with residential pipe hanging strap.  Since I set it within a couple feet of a wall I had to trim out a flat side.  I also took one trimmed branch and nailed from the truck to the wall.  It looks cool me me.  I'm hoping it looks inviting to a chicken!  Being a newbie (growing up our chickens free ranged and roosted in the barn, usually part way up a hay loft.)  I'm kind of going on what I see on other blogs.

    Getting the roost done meant I'm ready for doors and the outside walls. Then its time to fence in the run.  We're planning on a large yard (25 feet by maybe something like 60 feet.  Maybe a little more.  Here's where I am so for:  Floor done, nesting boxes done (you can see the fronts in the back of the coop below), shelf done, and West wall (on the left) done.  There's still a bunch construction trash lying around, and the combination of old and new lumber makes is harder to see what is what.  In any case,  I'm getting closer!

    Take care all,  I'll have more as it comes, and I have a handful of other ideas for posts.  That is when I'm not working at my regular job, working on something for the Church, running the county ARES team,spending time with the family, fixing one of the vehicles....  You get the picture!

    Col. 1: 9-12,