Trash, Trash, and More Trash

This is the third load of scrap metal we’ve carted off so far and we haven’t even started cleaning out the woods.

I caught myself the other day wondering why I come home from work, change clothes, and then work for another 2-6 hours in the evening doing stuff like this? That’s on top of the 10-12 hour days Don and I put in almost every weekend.

I don’t know about Don but I do it BECAUSE I LOVE IT! It’s like now that we’ve committed I can’t not do it. I am addicted to the improvement and the progress.

And the fact that we actually, finally, after 20 years have our own chickens and our own bees gives me the kind of tingles that are usually reserved for new romance.

There’s also evening vistas like this.

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Since Last We Spoke

My goodness friends it’s been such a whirlwind around here I don’t remember when I last posted anything.

I remember tempting fate and then blowing out my back and consequently losing two weeks of productive time.

Since then we’ve managed to finish the chicken coop and get the bees installed. I also planted a patch of potatoes because, well, they had seed potatoes at the feed store and how can you pass those up?

Picture dump.

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Remember how we started with this?  Well, now it looks like this.

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It was like building a square inside a rhombus. I invented new words while we worked on it. Above is the South end, lots of light. Those are windows we salvaged from the “mudroom” demo on the house.

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The East wall is two large doors so the whole thing can be opened for cleaning… like this.

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We put the nest boxes on the West wall so they are inside the alleyway and we can gather eggs without getting rained on.

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There’s another human-sized door inside the run. Eventually, the chicken door will be in this door – we’re keeping them in the coop until the run is totally fenced and then their door will remain open. Again to save us rain exposure.

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We’re trying to make the coop and the run as critter-proof as humanly possible. That way it will be less maintenance for us.IMG_2513

Hard to believe the exponential growth of chickens. They seem to enjoy their new digs. I think they’re happy to be out of that brooder.

We really bit off a bit too much trying to finish the coop and finish getting ready for the bees as well. Thank goodness we only had top bars left to cut.

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I went and picked up our bee packages yesterday and it was such a beautiful day that we were able to install them as soon as I got back. I have to say that the ride home was not nearly as nerve wracking as I had expected. The gentle hum of the bees was actually a little soporific.

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The install was so laid back I was amazed.

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Only one mishap. The queen in the second package managed to escape her cage but luckily she fell right into the hive. I couldn’t very well catch her again so I just hurriedly dumped the other bees in there. I think she’ll be alright, she had already been with the package for two days. I guess we’ll see.

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I’ll tell ya, there’s not much better than a clear spring day in Washington state.

This little patch is the only garden work I’ve found time to do… so far. But if worse comes to worse we’ll at least have eggs, potatoes, onions, and maybe a little honey!

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Friends, I am so happy and so tired. Hope your spring is going well.

 

Perfection Not Allowed

Farm truck update:  DONE, BOOM! Hopefully the truck will never grace the pages of this blog again.

The chicks are two weeks old as of last Friday and since there’s no motivation like desperation we have finally started building the coop and run.

Or I should say, remodeling a couple of barn stalls into a future chicken palace.

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Maybe “barn” is a little too grand for the structure we have but it’s ours so we call it what we want.:) After tearing away plywood and stall dividers, and removing several years of horse poop, this is what was left. Sow’s ear to silk purse here we go!

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We framed in the floor with wood from the wood-lot at work. I’m really, really happy to have found that resource!

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Then we cut off those dangly bits from the roof and framed in the South wall. The odd spacing is to accommodate windows we salvaged from the mud porch we had to tear off the house. You can kind of see the additional support we put under the deck, again all salvaged stuff.

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This is just another shot.

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We had just enough repurposed 2X lumber to deck the floor. The new boards are where the inside wall sill is going.  Unfortunately, that’s all we’ve accomplished this weekend. Today is Sunday and every time one of us steps outside it starts raining like a cow pissing on a flat rock. So frustrating!! If the weather cooperates this week, we hope to have at least the coop complete by next Sunday.

The coop is 8’x12′ and the run, including the space under the coop is 12’X24′ roughly. That will be more than enough room for the 15 or so birds we plan on keeping… he said, foolishly tempting the universe.

So far, we’ve had to buy deck screws, and we will have to buy wire to screen the run but if there’s anyway possible we’re going to try to make that our only purchases.

Using found and repurposed material inside a cobbled together barn necessarily results in less than perfection but that’s okay, I think perfection is overrated.

 

Long Overdue Letter

That’s what this post feels like.

Where to begin?  Well, we wound up having to order parts to get the truck fixed. Don went and picked them up yesterday so today I will start putting everything back together. As you read this the back end of the truck is basically in pieces in the barn. It’s been a real learning experience. YouTube has been a surprisingly great help. You can find out just about anything there.

As if we didn’t have enough mechanical challenges I broke the tractor this week.  Hahaha, well, just a belt. I was mowing in the woods and managed to poke a stick up into the fan belt which immediately broke. Then while I was moving the generator/alternator (whatever) to get the new belt on I managed to short the circuit and blow a fuse. (I know, I should’ve disconnected the battery but… ugh.) But it’s back together and we overcame. Yes, we overcame.

We also increased the farm family last week by 10.

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Unfortunately, one of them didn’t last long – not because of their living arrangements I must hasten to point out! They only stayed in the purple tote for the first day while I set up  the brooder on the back porch.

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I’m pretty proud of this brooder. It’s a repurposed shipping container from work. I cut out the lid and added hardware cloth and a lip so it would sit securely on the box. That’s it. It was seriously close to free which tickles me almost as pink as that radiant heat lamp thingy. Here it is without the top.

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Since we decided to get some use out of the back porch until it’s remodel, which honestly may be years away:), I made use of some of the other goodies from the woodlot at work to make these:

IMG_2369Yes, boring old shelves or as I like to call it, The Wall O’Food. As a side note that bag of round things is the walnuts we were able to save last fall. We picked up about five times this amount but didn’t clean them correctly and they wound up molding. There seems to be a lesson everywhere around here.

Anyway, it’s been a productive couple of weeks. All in all I’m satisfied with our output and overwhelmed with what’s left to do as spring comes along. It’s not been all drudgery though, Don figured out how to duplicate the mexican pizza from Taco Bell.

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OMG, this was good!!:)

Hope you are doing well.

Farm Truck Fights Back

Ah my friends what a day it has been.

As you know from my last post the farm truck has been on sabbatical for the last few weeks. Well, this morning as I was speaking to my father on the phone I happened to glance out the window and see my dear husband pulling the truck toward the barn with the tractor. I immediately realized that the situation had gotten completely out of hand so I used my secret weapon – dad’s automobile advice.

It turns out that we didn’t have to replace the starter. In fact the fix, while not permanent, was obscenely simple. “It’s the solenoid,” said he, “the contacts are stuck together, maybe welded together. It’s not your starter… although you might want to replace that too by the sound of it.”

I went out and found Don and the truck, stationary, halfway between the house and the barn. I tapped the solenoid a few times with a small ball peen hammer and voila, running truck. Oh how happy we were. Until Don pointed out the reason he was only halfway to the barn. A distance that I should point out is not very far.

The left rear wheel was not turning. Behind the truck was a long, ugly scar in the earth.

<Insert entirely inappropriate and vulgar words here.>

This is entirely my fault. While trying in vain to remove the starter last weekend I decided to be safe and so engaged the parking brake – not an unreasonable decision I think. However, I didn’t fully comprehend, yes even given it’s taciturn history, the true recalcitrance of this cobbled together off-road beast. The brake engaged perfectly. It just won’t disengage now.

<More dirty language.>

Luckily while forward was not an option, reverse was free for the taking so Don ignored my suggestion of a blowtorch and backed the truck between the fence and an apple tree, through the pasture, between the scrap-metal pile and the burn pile, and into one of the bays in the barn. It really was inspiring to watch.

Only once we had the truck inside the building did we realize that we now have no choice but to fix it right away. There is no way to get it out otherwise.

Beehive Pride

Today had a less than spectacular beginning. The starter is screwed up on the farm truck. We only use the truck to haul stuff so it’s not a do or die situation but the woodlot at work has been filling up with some delectable goodies that are just too big to fit in my Ford Escape. I decided I would get it done this morning. Well, let’s just say that things didn’t work out that way. The starter on this truck is surprisingly accessible and held in by only two bolts. Unfortunately those bolts might as well be welded in place. I tried wrenches, sockets, even an impact wrench (granted, only a cordless impact driver but still) and no luck. Finally, after lunch I went out and sprayed them with WD-40 and am praying they might loosen a bit by tomorrow.

The beauty of the day is that the truck roadblock cleared the way for us to work on our beehive.

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Yes, here it is. I can’t properly express how proud I am of us. We have two more steps for it to be complete cut and install the top bars in the boxes and install the burlap bottom on the quilt box.

These stacked boxes don’t just represent another farm goal they also represent ingenuity. When we decided to get bees I was very dismayed at the cost. We looked at hives online, in stores, and even in kit form. Prices ranged anywhere from $150 to $350 dollars depending on quality and how much assembly we were willing to do ourselves.

We have about $32 invested in this hive and after building this one I think that by taking advantage of the aforementioned woodlot at work I can build the next one for free!

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I have to say that all in all this turned out to be a very good Saturday.

Battling The Gray Days

It’s been gray and rainy since last we talked. Even though we’ve passed the winter solstice and, in theory at least, the days are getting longer the sun is still gone by 5 around here. I have to admit that I’ve gone a little stir crazy being cooped up in the house.

That is until this happened!

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Yeah baby!! Woot! I don’t know if Don was acting out of extreme generosity or extreme self-preservation but through a very creative use of power strips and extension cords he has managed to bring light to the darkness. We actually stayed out after dark today! I felt so adventurous.

This is what we created this evening.

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That is our very first bee box. I know it’s not fusion power but to me it might as well be. It’s another step on our journey that seemed like it would never happen. And just to belabor the point that my husband is THE BEST husband in the world, you will notice how bright it is inside the shop while it is dark outside the shop. Yes, I will probably be obnoxious about this for a while. Thanks for your forbearance.

We’ve decided to build Warre hives otherwise known as The People’s Hive (isn’t that cool?). It was developed in the first part of the 20th century by a French priest who thought that beekeeping should be accessible by anyone. We’ll see if this is true!

We’ve got two packages of bees coming in April so we’ll build two hives and a couple of extra boxes. Warre also provided plans for an integrated feeder which we plan on constructing as well.

If you are interested in learning more about Warre hives you can visit this link biobees.com.

This has been a very good Tuesday!

2016

First, Happy New Year to you! I hope 2016 proves to be joyous and fruitful.

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We decided to try something  besides resolutions this year. It’s something of a master to-do list. We listed tasks to accomplish in 2016. I don’t know if this will help or not but I do find that if I have something to check off a list it’s much more likely to get done.