Tuesday, October 11, 2016

One of "Those Days"

This morning the plan was to either start throwing cool season grass seed in the pastures or finish sealing off the chimney flashing so we can move on with the gutters installation. I went with the flashing, which was a bad choice for many reasons, primarily because I have an irrational fear of heights. And because I was the only one home. But hey, I'm a Donahue, I got this.

So, up the ladder I went, brushed the area I was going to work on first, smeared the tar-like but not tar stuff on, stuck the fabric in, smooshed in another layer of tar stuff, removed some duct tape that I was using as a marker. Things were going ok to this point. I was standing on the ladder, this part of the chimney flashing is hard to reach from the roof without feeling like I'm going to fall. I drifted my hand over the huge open space to let the duct tape fall to the ground. It didnt go. It stuck to me. Which triggered another irrational fear of things sticking to me. This second fear overwhelmed the first. And so I started waving my hand around trying hard to get the damned duct tape OFF OF ME and of course that didnt work and so my irrational rational brain spoke. It said "use your other hand to pull it off"... So I did. And as I victoriously threw the duct tape to the ground, the ladder started rocking. Im sure it was something other people would barley have noticed. But I, in my already panicked state, felt like I was falling, could actually see the ground rushing up and feel the rungs of the ladder giving way and the ground opening up to slam around me. I frantically grabbed the roof. I forced the ladder which was probably already steady to a firm screeching halt. I then stood on the ladder for a long time contemplating the little tiny aggregates of crumbly stuff on the asphalt shingles on the roof. Im not sure how long I stood there. Then the real rational brain spoke and said "well, you finished this part of the flashing, start on the next." And so I did. I even managed to climb down the ladder and back up. And I maintained this tight focus on the flashing and the tar-like stuff. Until I was done. Then my evil brain said "now you have to go down, look how high up you are"... so I sat where I was by the chimney close to the ladder, frozen, trying hard not to look at anything for awhile, not sure how long. I finally regained enough calm to make myself go down the ladder. I did not throw up when my feet were firmly on solid ground, though that was a struggle.

I was still shaking an hour later, inside and out. I went and layed down for a while. I got up, still queezy but not visibly shaking, and went out to feed the horses. I noticed one gate starting to sag a bit, not badly, not breaking, just a little loose. So I thought I would push this cinder block under it to take the pressure off til we have time to tighten it. And I'm still shaky. Still a bit stressed, so tunnel vision focused in on the one gate.. until I see Litta rushing towards me, and I break focus in time to feel Sierra rushing out the wide open other gate right next to me!! I waved Litta off, shut the gate, circled around Sierra who was snorting and blowing as she moved towards the driveway- she was moving slow, not rushing. I had no leads, no halter, no belt, no anything to use as a lead. I calmly walked around her, chatting to her about nonsense, into the carport, grabbed a huge handful of chopped hay, threw it in a pan, and walked back to Sierra, who was by now past the cars. With the pan, I was able to get her stopped, So I called my hubby- who was home by then, and almost dropped the phone because my hand was shaking so badly. I calmly told him Sierra was out, to come outside. Once he was in hearing range, I had him go grab a lead/halter from the run-in. I got the lead around her, halter on, back in the filed, halter off, patted and calmed her, all the while berating myself for being so focused that I didn't see what else was going on, that I didn't THINK about the other half of the gate, the half that always swings in.

So on reflection, I think I should have just chosen to throw the cool season grass seed down instead. No ladders, no heights, no sticky things, no trauma. But we really need to get the water problems here under control. Part of that is the chimney leak- which we already built and installed a concrete cap, re-mortared everywhere the mortar was giving way, and the next step was the flashing and applying water repellent to the brick. And we have already started on the gutters, and I really don't want to lean the ladder against a new gutter.

Anyway, I just needed to write this out. Hopefully I can calm down a bit. But, hey, the flashing is sealed... And I am going to hang an old lead/halter on the gate.

And Thank God Sierra thinks with her belly :)

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Roasted Pecans...

The Break
close up of center
On August 23rd I woke up to see a huge pecan branch down in the pasture. The horses were spooked but OK, and the chickens could care less.

view from the pasture gate

I was off work a few days later and tried to get the chainsaw to do anything other than laugh at me, but failed. So I decided to take out my frustration on the lawn... an hour into that I killed the mower. It would start briefly, then die. I gave it a final try, then gave up with the lawn partially cut, the tree still in the pasture, and an occasional chuckle from the chainsaw.

one branch done
 I worked the next three days. I also did a little troubleshooting on the mower- and checked a few things. The gas gauge is broken"ish". When full, it reads full, but when empty it reads 1/2 full. I must have broken it when I mowed through the back end of the pasture- a lot of tall weeds and brush, something must have jammed it. The gas can was, of course, empty. I filled it my next day off, and then discovered that my last final attempt to start it in frustration, I left the key turned on to "lights"... So I also killed the battery. I hunted down the charger, and it was also (of course) dead. plugged that in, came back a few hours later, hooked it up to the lawnmower battery, came back a few hours later, started it up, got the lawn finished, the gauge can stay broken now that we know. The chainsaw is still laughing at me. 

two branches done
Today I tackled the fallen branch with a hand saw and trimmers. I thought I would bring all the small branches I cut off up to the burn pile, but in the process decided I am going to just make a few huge burn piles in the pasture, and burn them when they dry out a little more.

Roasted pecans anyone?

I called it quits for now when my ever loyal assistant wore herself out chasing nothings, and started giving me the most pathetic looks.

 It is my hope that my hubby will fire up the chainsaw this weekend and cut the big parts of the branches into manageable pieces that I can move on my next days off.
Ever loyal sidekick
three branches done

Other new things- We lost our rooster to the new neighbors dog, they came and let us know and apologized, nice people. The leghorns have started laying, I found three white eggs this morning, and saw one of the leghorns heading into the nesting boxes when I left the pasture. Hopefully the Isa Browns and the Rhode Island Reds start laying soon.
So far, So Good on Sierras ongoing skin problems- this year she hasn't had anything of note pop up, just minor stuff that I cover with blue wound-kote. Her eye has gotten a bit inflamed a few times, each time I put in her eye meds and put on her fly mask, and within a day or so its normal again.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Coop Part II

It is close enough to being finished that Im putting the chickens in it tonight!!!

On Sunday we changed plans... Hubby went to pick up a blade for the circular saw that would go through metal, but the hardware store didnt have one that would fit our saw, and ordering one was pretty pricey. So instead he brought home enough 2x4's to build in a new front frame. Which he did while I worked on building a dutch door and roost walk ways.
 We got the frame installed, and it was one of those days in which everything goes wrong and takes longer than it should. We tried to attach the shutters, but the screws were not long enough to go through the 2x4 frame, the 1/2 inch siding, the 1 inch brace piece, and go into the shutter itself, so we couldnt get them up.
Dutch door completed

shutter bracing- it is straighter than it looks in this picture

front wall starting,
front wall framework
 We have had a heat wave down here most of this week- real feel has been between 100 and 110 so I have been taking it a bit slower than I like. On Monday and Tuesday I got some of the gaps filled between the wall studs and the siding, installed the pvc feeders, measured and cut the main siding for the front wall.


Yesterday I finished filling in the front wall, added another stud to the frame towards the top, installed the roost walks, put in the door, which was a pain in the butt and I ended up having to sand down the threshold and the top of the lower half of the door.


And finally, this morning I finished installing the shutters and the door hardware.

There are small things left to do, gaps inside between the floor and the walls, pieces of finishing trim we may or may not decide to add, cutting and framing in a door to remove and clean poop boards, putting in the poop boards after I see where most of the poop ends up, little things like that.. and one big thing, which will be removing the extra space in the front after we get something to cut through metal... but as far as being able to move the chickens to their new coop and out of the little cramped one- Done!
Before, but after the  side wing removal

Before- from the month we moved in
Before, but after rotted siding removal
After. :)

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Coop

We have chickens on the brain. After I talked my hubby into baby chicks sometime in early to mid April, I've been dreaming of the day I get to eat fresh, free range, organic eggs from my own backyard. The chicks have grown.

about one - two weeks old

Taken today- same water dish for comparison

 I moved them outside in a temporary small coop they go into every night though generally not willingly, they are under fig trees and would much rather sleep in those. They have been outside completely sense mid May, and I feel so bad every evening when I lock them into their little coop because they have grown so much. In mid May it was perfect, and in just 3 weeks or so they have grown to the point that it is really to small, so I've been pushing their old small cage from when they were inside up against it- door to door so they have a tiny bit more room.

In the meantime we are finally making great progress with the last old coop that came with the property. I removed all the old siding, stripped out all the old rotted poop covered stuff that was inside it, found 3 eggs that are maybe 2 years old which I'm still deciding what to do with... :)

Hubby picked up wood to make a floor and new walls, and I scavenged a window..... which I broke yesterday morning. Over the past week we have gotten the floor frame in, I hung joist hangers and painted the wood for the walls red. I was going to cut the joists yesterday and get that part done until the broken window. I searched craigslist for an old window we could use, but I was also trying to figure a way to do this without spending money. No luck on craigslist, but by that time I was already sketching out a shutter idea that would use sliding tracks instead of hinges.

I went straight to the workshop and built them, using pallet wood. New shutters with an old barn-wood look- Free! :) They should fit a convenient opening between existing studs in the coop, and it will be closed every night until we can find screen or Plexiglas or something to fit into a 27 X 28 opening.

I cant wait to see what they look like on the coop!!!

Our plan today is to get it finished. The whole coop. And move the chickens into it tonight. I have a feeling it will be tomorrow before we are done, I have re-learned one thing sense been back out in the middle of nowhere- everything takes longer than what you planned.

Raised floor in place!

siding ready to go!

first roost up!

back wall
back wall

where the cut out for the window will be
window cut out in process

window cut out, cant you just picture those shutters on there??!!!

second roost in- used old old wood so it is pretty aged, but still solid.
It is the end of today, and we still have quite a bit of work left to do. We did get a lot done though, 3 walls up, floor in place, roosts up. Tomorrow we plan to remove the extra bit up front including the excess roof, leaving just enough for a decent overhang. planning to save the framework, shorten it and move it back, then attach it to the new front. Install the shutters, Build and install a dutch door (chickens get the bottom part) start framework for the nest boxes, but they wont be put in place yet- and install the pvc pipe feeder and waterer... and a ramp to the door, and a chicken ramp to the roosts... I think thats it! We will see what gets done!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Catching up!

I can't believe I didn't post a blog in over a month! So.. let me think. Ok, the septic is still not fixed, but still usable- our septic guy was pretty sick for a while (think hospital) and while he is better and back on the job, it seems to rain at least once a week, and he needs the ground water to be mostly gone. So we wait more, but hopefully this month it will be completed, buried, and I can have a usable side yard again instead of a ditch.

We had my In-Laws down for a visit- they helped SO MUCH with the last standing chicken coop
Before The wonderful help from Nana and Gumpdaddy 

Another before shot
The Super Demolition Duo!

Dont let the broom fool you. She dismantled most of the other side single-handedly, even after hitting herself in the face with the hammer (Which she just shrugged off!!!)

Both side areas gone, and thanks to all the hard work they did I was able to move forward with removing the last of the old fence, which was in pretty good condition so its rolled and under the carport for future use.  

While they were tackling the coop, I was spraying the pasture for dog-fennel. In case any of you were ever wondering, dog-fennel is absolutely one of the scrappiest plants in the world. Drop a tiny piece? no problem, it will root itself and flourish. Miss a little root fragment while pulling it out? No worries, it will develop an entire new system and engulf the area. I had pulled out a lot of it while I planted pasture seed in the front half of the first pasture. Then I noticed that the middle section of the second pasture was almost 100% dog-fennel. So I researched and got some pasture pro from Tractor Supply. I sprayed and sprayed. Most of what I sprayed died. but it is scrappy, and some of what I sprayed wilted for a few days, and then came bouncing back to health. And some of it I missed. So I still have dog-fennel. The Battle Continues...

We now have chickens! Hubby finally agreed, so I went right to Tractor Supply and got 7, 5 from the pullet bin and 2 from the straight run bin. I was so happy to be getting chicks that I forgot to see what kind I was getting! I called the next day, and what I got was 3 leghorns, 2 ASI's, and the 2 straight runs were black specials. My thought process went "leghorns =  white + free range + chicken hawk = no leghorns" which would mean I had 2 pullets and possibly 2 roosters (which really meant 2 pullets and 1 rooster) So I went back to Tractor Supply almost a week later and picked up 6 more chicks! That time I got 3 Rhode Island Reds, 2 ASI's, and 1 Black Special. The reds and the black are straight run, the ASI are pullets. So Im at Pullets= 7, Straight Run = 6. But then one of the first special blacks died. So now, 12 chicks, 7 pullets, 6 straight run. At the time I thought straight run was about a 50/50 mix of hens/roosters, but I have found out that its more like 25/75. 

This was about a week ago. Leghorn upright in back, Rhode Island Red, ASI, Leghorn, Black Special in front.

The 2 in the lower right are both ASI's, about a week apart.

So now we are re-looking at the old coops we took out of the pastures that I have not yet taken apart to modify one as a temporary place for them to stay along the fence line so that the horses (Sierra mostly) have time to adjust to them. We want to get that set up in the next week, and Ill bring them back in at night till they are a little older, then we will move them into their permanent coop. Hubby is going to make nesting boxes and I have decided to go with a cleaner water system (Chickens poop A LOT) so we are going to get chicken nipples, pvc, and a bucket with lid to make it. And we are going to make another thing with pvc to feed them out of, something they hopefully wont poop in.

What else.. Ahh- Hubby found a few pallets for free, so I've been pulling those apart. We are going to build compost bins with them and some of the old wood from the coops I took apart. I've been sick too, about 2 weeks now. Which means I have fallen pretty far behind with the pasture manure. But- I am very happy to report that almost all the seed I planted is now grass!

The mares seem to be eating it, in winding paths. I did not get all the pasture re-seeded though. Just the front 2/3rds of the first pasture. We are planning to tackle the middle part of the second pasture this weekend- most of the dog-fennel is dead along with other weeds that were growing in there. So I'm going to rake and hubby is going to spread the seed. If it isn't actively raining I will water it down. No old hay left to spread out though so hopefully it will be OK. 

The Garden! OK, I forgot about the garden! So- despite my huge ambition to get 8 or 9 beds planted this year, reality settled on 2. Anyone remember the post I made- Lasagna Anyone?  Welllll. I may have done something wrong, or perhaps there wasn't enough time for the beds to decompose... but I had to go old school :( 
Bed one is doing wonderful,, everything planted in it is growing well, no damage, no wilting, good strong plants! Bed two is doing horrible! Everything planted in it is dying, wilted, and buggy! (Except the Basil!!) There is about 4ft separating them, and the tomato plants in both beds were treated exactly the same from seed to transplant! The only difference was the bed! The difference in the beds???? Just this: Bed one was about 1/2 hand dug (ok, shovel dug, not hand) until I realized that doing this as an adult is for some reason an awful lot more work than doing it as a kid. We went and bought a tiller (Tractor Supply again). So bed one the tomato half was hand dug, and then the entire length was tilled about 3 times. Bed 2 was tilled twice. That is the only difference!!! Lesson learned! Hard work is the way to go! 
Bed 1
Bed 2

Tomato plant. bed 2. See the basil in the back?
Tomato plants, Bed 1

Assorted Squash, Bed 1 
Future beds will be Hand Dug, then Tilled three times!! My back will limit the additional beds to maybe 2 a year... LOL.