Thursday, October 29, 2015

For the Folks at the Day Job

I'm taking some time away from the "day job" this week and part of next.  A vacation policy change meant that a number of us 'old timers' can no longer carry over vacation so we're all on a mad scramble to 'burn it'.  I've gotten far less outside work done than I had hoped, but have done pretty well on catching up on inside chores.  I have high hopes it will be the other way around next week.

I have a few friends at work that have been trading vacation pictures as we're off visiting family and friends and just getting away.  There were pictures of the Smokey Mountains and the ocean off Myrtle Beach.  There were pictures of sunrises over the water in Vermont with mountains in the background and picturesque docks and piers.  Not me.  Most of this year has been work-at-home vacations.  This is not a bad thing by any means, but the opportunities for scenes from far away places are pretty thin.  

Lucky for me, most of these friends have very limited experience with gardens larger than large patio pots and no experience with livestock of any kind.  That makes the chickens fascinating.  When I threatened to post a picture of my rooster instead of the ocean or mountains they were all in.  Below is what I emailed out, with references to the company deleted.  (After retirement day comes I'll spill the beans on what I do for a living.  Until then it'll just be "The day job".  Nothing "James Bond" or anything, but still best not shared with the broader audience.)


Ok,  Here are a few of shots of Ivan Crossbeak the new "Roo" in the family.
Seen from a distance with some of his "girls", he's a pretty handsome looking bird.  Really!  As birds go he's a 'looker' (from afar).

Up close: Not so much. Crossbeak!! Crossbeak!!

The closer you get, the worse it becomes.  I think its the "buttercup" comb combined with the crossbeak.  Ugh!  Still, he does have beautiful coloring.

As you recall, Ivan took over as the flock "Roo" for Fred, his "Daddy".  His "Mama" was one of the buff colored birds in the first picture.  Fred was a really pretty bird who would be around today if he hadn't decided it was ok to bully (meaning 'leave scars on the legs of') De and the daughters.  Not Cool!
Here's Fred in is heyday.
This is Fred today.  A far less colorful, but much cooler bird!  He's pretty laid back these days, and is just chillin' out waiting for his turn in the "hot tub".  There's probably an object lesson there, but I think I'll leave it alone.

De and I will be in Indy tomorrow.  But I may put together some more shots this evening.  For some reason I've got a couple of birds that like to lay in the barn behind where I keep my chainsaw.  I heard a couple of them in there as I came inside that were singing the "guess what I did" egg song, so now I gotta craw back there and go find the eggs.  I got one pic and will see if I can get some more while I'm digging around.

 So that's what I sent.  They seemed pleased with the submission, and so for no one has howled about sending beautiful Fred to 'freezer camp'.  I suppose that means I'll have to do better next time.  :-)

I do work with a great group of folks, and the ones I share pics with are especially wonderful.  One more way that I've been blessed.

Col. 1:9-12,


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Hen House Lessons-Learned

Yesterday dawned cool and clear and I, somewhat later than the sun, arose ready to get completely through my lengthy list of fall tasks.  As experienced homesteaders have already figured out, I got one (just one) mostly done.  But it was a good one, and I got a chance to reflect on some chicken coop lessons-learned while I was doing it.

#1 - It seemed like a good idea at the time 
When we built our coop a friend suggested we put a cheap plastic tarp down on the floor before I put in the bedding (pine shavings in our case).  The theory was when you did your once-a-year right-down-to-the-floor cleaning you just haul the tarp out and, as if by magic, the rest of it comes right along.  At the time it seemed like sheer genius and I went with it.  The reality was a)  Having the cheapo plastic tarp on the floor snagging your pitchfork or shovel made it much harder to do the in-between weekly cleanings. b)  Near as I can tell, there was far more muscle than magic associated with getting the floor clean.   Pitch it down far enough to get to the edges (that means most of it), rip it free from wall, roll it up into a messy bundle, and draaaag it out leaking the contents all along the way.  Lesson Learned - The new stuff went down right on the floor where it belongs.

#2 - This'll work, won't it?
Since we refurbed an existing structure when we built our coop we had less choice in the floor plan than we would if we had started from scratch.  Getting a decent perch in he limited floor space was one of the challenges.  What we ended up doing is getting a section out of a pine tree that needed come down anyway to sit in the corner.  In reality this worked pretty well with a couple of exceptions.  Since tree was pretty much a what-you-see-is-what-you-get affair, some of branches where less than optimally placed.  The birds liked it, and still do, but some of those less than optimally places branches had the unseemly habit of catching your clothes, or shovel, or your head.  Lesson Learned - I don't care how much the birds liked their pine-tree perch  Au naturel, we need to get in there, too.  Yesterday there was some tree trimming.

The 'snags' sticking right out towards the door.  You can also see the "magic carpet"  (See #1)

A little tree trimming does wonders for access!

#3 They must know what they're doing!
When we outfitted the coop we looked over the available options for feeders and selected one a common commercial version.  It fit, mostly, in the space we allocated for it.  After awhile, though, the flaw in that design became clear.  Our store-bought feeder seems to be inviting the birds to waste feed.  Big time.

Yep, all the stuff on the 'magic carpet' is not pine shavings.  You can see the "Magic carpet" here too.
 There had to be a better way.  We found it at the local hardware store in the plumbing section.  After a little bit of sawing and gluing we assembled our alternative.

3" PVC cut and assembled

Installed before putting the new bedding in.

We set them to be filled from the "Foyer".
Feed and water ready for use!
Lesson Learned:  The jury is still out on this on since we just put it together, but the home built solution gets great reviews from other folks. It frees up space and will be no worse than the "store bought" option for waste.  I do plan on also adding some plumbing so that the water bowl can be filled from the foyer, too.

#4 And while you're at it.
The last job was not really a lesson-learned thing.  It was just a job the needed to be done.  A few weeks ago the glazing on one of the window panes gave up and let the window out with predictable results.  Yesterday, as part of getting ready for winter, the pane got replaced.

Guess which pane is the new one....

I still have the rest of list to do, but getting this done just about makes the coop ready for winter. 

It was a beautiful day to be outside, and a lot work got done.  We are blessed.

Col. 1:9-12,