Life update

Third week April, look over the barn on the right hand side of the picture and you can
see the snow in the mountains.  This is very late for us to have snow.  I wouldn’t
mind it but for all the rain we keep getting.  The pasture likes all the rain!

The weather is totally hosing me.  I know I could not be a full time farmer.  I am already bald, I think the stress of the weather alone would do me in.  I have not really been able to do any real farm work.  It has either been raining, freezing or the wind is blowing 30-50 mph.  Wind is the issue today.  Actually, I am hoping the wind blows for the next four days and dries some of the ground out.  I could dig post holes this weekend if the wind will die down, no rain comes and I can rent a tractor for this Saturday.  That is a lot of ifs.  I am not holding my breath.  This is killing me and really pushing my schedule back.  I wanted to be done with the fencing by the end of June.  At this rate I won’t even get started until the middle of May.  Mother nature is being naughty.

We decided to lock the sheep back into their Winter pasture area.  They were going all over the place which was not so bad, but they started to get out into the CRP (means I need to go tighten that gate and drive in a couple of metal posts) but the biggest problem was discovered on Friday morning by me.  I was opening the passenger door of my new car (to empty out the trash so the wife could ride with me) when I noticed these crescent shaped superficial marks on the side of my car.  The light had to hit the marks just right but there were lots of marks and they all followed the same path and were in a six inch swath.  It took me about five minutes to realize that the marks were rub marks.  Our young ram, Lucky, had been rubbing his new horns on my car to get the velvet off of them!!!  His horns are only about three inches long now.  The moron, doesn’t he know that is unacceptable.  Use the fence like everyone else or the underside of the bridge.

On Monday we had a quail crisis.  My daughter called me on the cell phone to say the quail had something funny on one of its legs and wasn’t walking.  I told her to clean it off so she could see what was wrong.  She was worried about causing the quail to die, I informed her that you cannot fix something if you don’t know what is wrong, so she went out and did the inspection.  The quail had broken her leg.  After thinking for a while we think it was the cats.  The cats wander in and out of the coop all day.  They kill wild quail and this cage had a wire bottom so we think one of the cats jumped up and tried to get at the quail, it panicked and broke its leg.  So I had to put it out of its misery.  So now no more quail.  That just did not work out well.  So we are not going to do quail again.  I told Sarah she could have a rabbit (a single rabbit!) if she got her grades up and cleaned out the cage.  So we will see.

My chicken butler arrived and I am stoked.  I figure it will only take me a couple of hours to install it.  I am just going to add some spacers to move it away from the wall and in line with the door opening. I am going to do that this weekend.  The chicken butler is going to have priority.  If there is no wind I will cut the last two holes in the garbage can holder/outhouse.  There is so much dust with the wind blowing it is hard to see where you are cutting.  On a major positive note the garbage men just opened the door, emptied our can and put it back in the enclosure and shut the door!!  We have the best garbage men.

The baby chicks are starting to get big.  I even opened up the door so they could go into their own outside pen, but none of them seem interested in going outside yet.  Need a no wind warm day to entice them.   I planted grass in their yard this fall and it is already eight inches tall.  I figure that replanting the grass in there will end up being a yearly occurrence.  Our trees don’t even want to leaf out yet it is so cold.  The only real color we have is the Winter pears are in bloom.  I am not sure who is going to pollinate them but they are really blooming.

Winter pears in bloom

Chicken Butler ordered

Well I finally did it, I ordered the Chicken Butler for my coop.  It is an automatic door with a light sensor so it opens in the morning and closes at night.  No more dead chickens from predators.  I should have it by next week.  The video showed a very simple install so about two hours (using Annmarie time).  I have to modify my opening I believe.  I may be able to just put up a 2×4 frame.  Won’t know until I get the Butler.  Then I just need a hole in the side of the coop for the light sensor.  This is way cool.  I figure I lost over $500 last year from predator kill.  So this will stop the predators cold.  I don’t have daylight predator problems just nighttime issues.  I think I will still fire up the live trap.  I may even just put it at the door opening into the chicken yard so it only catches things trying to get into my coop yard.  Stay away and you will be safe.  The Butler was kinda spendy but it will pay for itself this year.
I have decided that I need a jigsaw before I can finish the outhouse project.  I want the moon and star to be very pretty and a Rotozip is not the proper tool.  I needed to stop at Home Depot anyway to get some wet/dry vacuum bags (work better when sucking up sawdust) on the way back from work.

Still not done… but almost…

Well it did not rain today!  It was windy and cold but no rain.  I went out and worked on the outhouse/garbage can holder.  I finished the trim and cut out both crosses for ventilation.  This turned out to be harder than I thought it would be as I do not own a jigsaw, instead I used a Rotozip.  Rotozips are not known for their precision.  It was quite the adventure to attempt to get straight lines.  I broke my hole drill so the hardware store was kind enough to supply me with a spade bit the appropriate size.  Unfortunately, I was drilling through half boards and had to switch back to the broken hole drill after starting it with the spade bit.  It worked and I got it done, but it took considerably longer.  I had estimated three hours to completion the other day.  I spent four more hours on it today and I still need to cut out the moon and one star in the front door.  So according to Annmarie (2-3 times my estimate= 6-9 hours) I am right on schedule for completion.

Front side all trimmed out, just need
the moon and a star.  

I must have done something right as both crosses managed to line up!
The wind does move through quite readily with just these on the sides,
adding the moon and star on front should give us great ventilation.
NO trash smell in the Summer.

Annmarie and I spent all day Saturday at an auction.  It had been a decade at least since we had been to one.  We forgot that it is an all day event.  We did manage to get a few great snags.  We got two old cast iron irons (yes the kind you use to iron clothes) and a handle!  Picked up a couple of beautiful cobalt blue Salt and Pepper shakers.  I picked up four old leg traps for $9.  These got me to thinking what to do with them (after Annmarie asked me what I was going to do with them).  I am going to put nails on the outside of one side of the chicken coop and hang all the traps from them as decoration/warning to all the predators to stay away from my chickens.  I bought 50 1943 steel pennies.  Yep, totally unnecessary but I couldn’t pass them up.  I got three shovels for $5 each.  Annmarie bought a cabbage slicing board (I don’t know why, she doesn’t like coleslaw or sauerkraut).  She bought a manual crank old fashioned ice cream maker, but it had been added to a lot of four other boxes but the price was right at $2.  We ended up getting some classic books in hardback and Sarah is going to read them.  We got  a cool rooster salt and pepper shaker, but the salt shaker was missing.  I liked it anyway and am going to keep it.  We ended up getting three more boxes of vases for $2 while I was paying our tab.  I had to go back and give them more money.  Good thing we were running out of room in the car!

Some of our auction finds

Closing in on the end of garbage can/outhouse

It rained again yesterday.  That should be no surprise as it has rained every day here, cold and rain.  No new change.   I had to precut the door frame inside the house.  My saw is installed on the breeze porch (wife doesn’t like this, but it sure is handy) so I cut the pieces in relative comfort.  I had to open the breeze porch windows because I kept setting off the smoke detector in the hallway “FIRE, FIRE!” it screams when it goes off.  Sarah was not impressed as it kept interrupting her TV show.  Those knots heat up when you cut through them.   So I put on my oil skin hat with the ear flaps and went outside and worked on the building.  After dragging the frame out to the front porch I assembled it.  Of course I cut the angles on the two short pieces wrong.  After cutting two more pieces I had a frame.  I slapped in the extra pieces in two corners of the frame.  I figured it couldn’t hurt.  After moving the frame to the road next to the building I realized that I needed to trim out the front of the building before I could install the door.  So I did that in the rain.  I cut the boards for the door frame and mounted them.  Now I wanted to install a wooden latch.  I used a piece of 3/4 inch dowel that I mortised in on itself to form a handle and slide.  I needed it to rest on the horizontal support and needed to cut a notch in the front, drill a hole in the door and then drill another hole in the building.  So after much finagling I managed to the latch installed.  I installed some temporary stops in the doorway and positioned the door into the frame.  Used scrap wood on the ground to lift the door to the desired height and installed the hinges.  Now comes the tricky part, I needed to close the door to work on the latch.  I had to go inside the enclosure and shut the door, I drilled the hole and it worked!  The latch closes and holds the door shut.  To keep the latch mechanism in place I  cut out some supports and a stop so the handle didn’t take all the wear and tear.  Again I shut myself inside the enclosure, locked it and installed the supports.  I couldn’t get out.  I had locked myself in.  I had to remove the temporary door stops and this gave me some wiggle room on the door and I managed to move the latch enough to let myself out.  Annmarie told me this is why I should carry a cell phone so I can call for help when I need it.  My reply was I managed to get out so it wasn’t that bad.

Inside of outhouse door
Here is the mostly completed door.
I still need to install the seam strips
between the boards and do my cutouts.

Here is the latching mechanism and stop

If you look at the outside pictures of the building you will be able to see the bird perches I installed below the bird entrance holes.  I am going to cut out a moon and stars in the front door and some crosses in each side.  This will let the air move through the building so the smell doesn’t get trapped inside.  So I figure another three hours to totally finish this project.  I usually peter out on a project at this stage, 90% completed.  But I am sticking it out and getting it done!!

This is the unfinished side.  It still needs the
seam slats installed.  The bird holes and perches
are visible.  

Bird houses done and installed

I did mention that I could not find any good easy plans on the internet for our bird houses?  I guessed and using the minimum amount of wood possible tried to create a bird house.  Every one came out different!  I kept forgetting the order in which I assembled them.  Some I overlapped, some I put on edge.  Didn’t get a single matching pair.  Of course the child was critiquing my work as I assembled them.  I offered to let her help but she said it “would be boring” I told her it wasn’t boring and her response was “not for you”.  She was antsy and wanting to get out of the house.  So we went to the Post Office, Bank, dropped off some containers at Grandma’s house (she was out) and then picked up more homework at the school.  She wasn’t that impressed but we did get out of the house. They all work and they all have the hole in the right spot.  They all have one side that hinges so they can be cleaned out every year.  I had one that had to have some extra pieces attached to make it work.  When I went to install it the extra pieces got in the way of its neighbor so I had to junk that one.  So I only installed five houses.  I even drilled and placed perches for the birds to sit on just below their house entrances.  I used 5/16 hardwood peg so I am hoping the big birds cannot use the perches.  The weather improved late in the afternoon so I was able to get outside.  I had to wear a coat, gloves and my Winter hat, the one with the pull down ears, just to work outside.
On the whole construction part I love my power tools!  I have only had a pneumatic nailer for the last three years and I am here to tell you that everyone should have one of these.  It makes things incredibly easy.  I even managed to not nail my hand.  One set of plans called for grooves to be cut on the inside of the piece of wood with the entrance hole in it.  This would have required me to go outside and use the table saw.  Not necessary, I just set my pneumatic stapler on its lowest setting so the staples stuck out about 1/32 inch so the birds would have something to push against and then went mad with the stapler on the inside.  It worked great.

Inside of a bird house

 You will notice that I cut some drainage tracks in the floor.  Since I did them with the radial arm saw they only go through the bottom on the leading 1/2 inch.  This is so any moisture can drain out if it gets inside the nest.  Some plans wanted me to cut the corners off the floor, but my erratic assembly order kept messing this up.

Bird houses for inside the outhouse/trash can holder

Sarah informed me, as we are taking the houses out to the trash can holder, that I needed to put the lift flap on the wall opposite the entrance hole.  I told her it was a little late for that as I was done and did not think of that myself until I was assembling the fifth one.  I could have just drilled in through the preexisting hole instead of marking the hole and then drilling it out and matching the hole with the bird house entrance.  The child accused me of always doing things the hard way.  I told her I usually only do it really hard the first time and then learn from my mistakes.  So next time I will get it right.  Also, make them hinge on the bottom otherwise the hinge gets in the way of the entrance hole.  The one I did assemble right had this problem and I still had to mark the hole.  Now I know.  Trash day is tomorrow.  I moved the trash can to its new home and pulled it out so the trash guys will see it when they drive up.  Hopefully, they see it.  It is across the driveway from its old location.  The driver should see it as it is now on his side.  I hope…

Five bird houses installed on near the roof. 

Project continues

Well I managed to sneak in about three hours of progress on the trash enclosure.  I am making it look just like the barns.  So that means lots of details and those are taking longer than I anticipated.  After a phone conversation with Annmarie in which she said she usually triples my time estimate on each job, I realize I am right on track using her schedule, behind on mine.  I got the roof and two sides completed sheathed and ready for decoration.  I sided the far side but still need to put on the seam slats on that side.  The roof involved lots of hammering.  That metal did not want to bend over the sides or front!  Enough colorful language and elbow grease plus some screws got it to stay in place.  I did manage to not smash my fingers, thankfully.  I had to tear down the 1×12 on the table saw to get three inch boards to use as seam slats.  I needed quite a few of these.  I can sure tell which boards have the large knots in them.  As the slats come off the table saw they fall apart because the knot is larger than three inches.  Lost several boards that way.  I figure I will need those scraps for something later on.  Now to just figure out where to stash them until they are needed?

Two completed sides and a finished roof.
All three sides on

Seam slats on, now I just need to install
the graphics so the air can move through.

I made a mockup of the design I am going to cut into the side of the building.  It needs to be approved by the boss (wife) before I can put it on the building.  I am hoping to get done by Friday.  I brought in the boards to cut out the bird houses that are going to go into the corners.  I had to find plans online, but every time I thought I had found some it was another search engine.  I even had my virus scanner stop one virus.  Who attaches a computer virus to bird house plans?  What kind of sicko is that?  On a weird side note I had plans to cut out a crescent moon and some stars on the front door.  My only reason for this is I remember seeing them on old outhouses.  My mother-in-law did an internet search and found out that due to high illiteracy rates a crescent moon designated female door and stars designated male door.  Pretty amazing, I never knew that.

Animals are healthy and loving Spring

The weather was not very good today.  More rain and wind and then some sunshine then more wind, I just could not justify going outside and doing any work.  I didn’t want to torture myself.  I guess that’s why I love Spring.  I can go outside and work in relatively mild weather.  Could be why I have a year round inside job?  The sheep are loving the new grazing opportunities.  Annmarie tells me that I was not feeding them enough.  They were alive and I tell her the sheep are supposed to get skinny in the Winter that’s why they put on weight in the Fall.  So we decided to let the sheep roam out around the cars and machine shop.  Boy the great forage has done amazing things.  In the last two weeks all the sheep have gotten fat!  It is amazing.  I may have been underfeeding a little bit…

Fat sheep in the unfenced orchard area

In the orchard sheep picture you can see all the babies.  The three sheep directly behind the wooly sheep in the foreground are the first three babies we had earlier this year (almost 12 weeks old now).  The newest lamb (cat sized one) is on the left side near the back.  She is right behind her mother.  The sheep are starting to lose their Winter wool.  They scrape it all off on the fence and whatever else they can rub against.

Lucky is shedding his wool.  He will soon be our only ram.

My baby chickens are growing and healthy now.  No more sick ones after I switched back to medicated feed. They are at the awkward stage where they don’t have a full set of feathers yet.  I have picked out my favorite already, I just need to get Sarah on board so we can start to tame it down.  There is one of the Brahma girls that is brown.  She is the only brown one.  I had to switch feeders for the chicks.  I had a small channel feeder and the chicks are emptying the thing every day.  So I went to a 1.5 gallon metal feeder.  It should take them a few days to empty it now.  I went to feed the chickens tonight (I am doing all the chores as the child is on light duty and just had surgery) and there was a mouse trapped in the food can (I use 50 gallon metal trash cans to hold feed).  The lid was on the can, but not tight and once the mouse got in there was 12 inches to the chicken feed.  It couldn’t jump back out.  So I usually stun the mice by hitting them with the plastic scoop then tossing them to the cats.  It is hard to stun the mouse when it keeps getting pushed down into the chicken food.  Finally, I managed to stun it and scoop it up.  There was a cat in the coop with me so I tossed it onto the ground in the coop and called the cat, before the cat could even spot the little mouse a chicken ran over and grabbed the mouse and ran away outside the coop.  She didn’t want anyone else to take her treasured morsel away.  Last year when I tried to give the mouse to the chickens they ignored it.  But they have been out in the field and barn scratching for bugs and greens, I suspect some mice have vanished in the process.  Kinda funny since last month I tried to feed the chickens some worms and they would not even touch them, totally ignored the worms.

Almost 1 month old chicks.  You can see my favorite on the right hand
side, the brown Brahma girl
Chicks running around in baby enclosure.  No adult chicken or cat can get inside.