Thursday, March 24, 2011

Finished the upstairs hallway and got new baby chicks today!

Upstairs hallway looking toward master
bedroom.  You can see the attic
access door. 
Upstairs hallway looking
toward the breeze porch.
Well, I did it.  I finished painting and wiring the upstairs today.  I was cussing the idiot who did the initial wiring 3.5 years ago.  I had no clue if I was doing it right as I was wiring the four lights.  I have three switches, four lights and the power comes in on the light side not the switch side.  I had to get my book out and hope the bozo that wired the switches (me) 3.5 years ago did it right.  On a plus side, I did not get electrocuted this time, nor did I melt another set of cross cutters.  I turned off the power for two rooms and checked it with a volt meter before starting (just gave a lecture in TNCC yesterday on burns and electricity...).  I thought I only had to wire the four lights, nope, had two more outlets and a smoke/carbon dioxide detector.  I ended up installing six smoke detectors in our three bedroom home.  Since it was a remodel, I did not link them all up so all six alarm when one of them goes off.  On a positive note the lights all worked flawlessly when I turned the power back on.  My daughter went up and did a QA check before I could even get there.  She sounded amazed when all three switches turned the lights on or off (I know I was amazed it didn't require a redo).
Upstairs hallway looking toward master
bedroom.  You can see the attic
access door.  It has lights, and
you will now be able to see
in the dark.

Upstairs hallway looking
toward the breeze porch. Lights
installed and second coat
of paint on. 
I say it is completed but it still needs baseboards.  Those come after the window casings and those have to come after I get the wood shop up and running which comes after I fix the barn, install new fencing and create a  new bridge walkway.  In other words not happening this year.

We did go pickup our baby chicks today.  There was a catastrophe on Tuesday, the post office crushed my baby chicks.  So when the feed store went to pick them up, most of my order was DOA!  This is the reason to order them from the feed store.  They dealt with it and got more chicks shipped from the hatchery.  I got 12 Brahma chickens (very large 9 pound chicken) and 6 Leghorns.  Looking at the pictures it is hard to tell what is what. The Brahma chickens have feathers on their feet.  So they are all tucked in and we picked up an extra heat lamp bulb just in case our other bulb burns out.  I also closed one of the windows in the coop to get rid of the cross breeze I had going.  They were all  hunkering around the heat lamp.  I will keep everyone updated on the survival rate.
18 baby chicks 3/23/2011 (2 different varieties)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Last minute work on the house

Well I repainted the upstairs hallway today.  I had trimmed out the attic entrance on Saturday and primed it, but I really was not planning on any more inside work.  Spring is here, time to get outside, but Annmarie fell down the stairs at 0430 because there is no light in the upper hallway or in the stair well.  So I taped plastic down, washed the walls with bleach water and painted them tonight.  On Wednesday I will be able to install the four hallway lights.  I had better remember to pick up some light bulbs on the way home.  This way there will be some light.  I need to repaint the stair well, but that is a lot more complicated (20 feet high over stairwell).  So one step at a time.
I did manage to go out and dig out the baby chicken enclosure.  I but in new bedding and chick feeder and fired up the heat lamp so everything will be nice and toasty for the chicks tomorrow.  Annmarie is going to pick them up on the way back from the hospital.  It rained most of the day here so I cannot get to the fencing until it dries out for about a week.  I need to mark all my fence lines and then paint where I am going to install the railroad ties.  Once that is done, I will be ready to rent a tractor for a day.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Epigee Moon

We were tired and planning to hit the sack, but Sarah had made us stop the movie and look at the  moon earlier after Grandma had called to say that the moon would be at its closest point in 18 years.  It didn't look that impressive from the back porch.  So 2.5 hours later as we are gearing up for bed, I looked out the window and decided I had better run out and get some pictures.  Now it never occurred to me to just take a picture of the moon.  Plus, have you ever tried to focus the lens on a camera in the dark?  How do you really do that?  The auto focus mechanism on the camera does not work as there is not enough light available.  It was so bright out that I was able to run the camera and walk around by moonlight only.  I didn't even take a flashlight out with me.  Now there were a couple of times I thought I saw Bigfoot up the creek, but that could have been the moon playing tricks on me. All these pictures were taken around 2300.  The building pictures got much lighter as the moon rose in the sky and a few clouds dissipated.
Running water by Epigee moonlight.

chicken house, this is the direction I thought I saw bigfoot last night.

Old sheep barn and granary by epigee moonlight.  I thought the white spots
were dirty spots on my lens reflector inside the camera.  Annmarie
pointed out this morning that they are stars!!
I knew that, just had not occurred to me (really I would have thought of it eventually)
(probably after I cleaned the lens reflector!!)

It justs keeps getting lighter.  A very nice picture of the Three sisters (star formation)
At the far right side you can see our walkway lights are on because it is nighttime!

Here is the house and my future garden (piles of tires)  Annmarie wants me to put a wooden fence around the tires
so that they are not such an eyesore.  Unfortunately, that is low on the priority list for this year.  It is not the
bridge, fence or barn and I won't have much quality time with the barn either this year.
All these pictures were taken by Epigee moonlight. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

lamb is too cute

No really that is silver hair not gray (it really is!)

So when I looked out onto the pasture hunting down the new lamb, I had a hard time finding it.  When I did I was quite surprised at how small it was.   I know Annmarie told me it was little, but boy until you see it or better yet hold it, you don't realize just how small she is.  Annmarie went out with me to help catch the lamb so I could hold it.  She caught it so she got to get cuddles first.  We have decided that since the mother is so crazy we need to take extra time to tame down this baby.
This will bring a smile to your face any day
Of course, every time I see the top of my head I wonder where all my hair has disappeared to?  I personally never see the top of my head.  It amazes me when I see a picture and I am bald.  Other than wearing a hat outdoors (to prevent sunburn) and wearing a hat when I am working around the house (to prevent cuts and scrapes to my scalp) I never miss it.
Here is the side by side comparison with our chicken coop cat.  Luna lives out in the old abandoned original chicken house.  She doesn't get along with the other cats but comes running whenever we are outside working.  She will follow you around like a dog.
The cat is bigger!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

It's a girl

The surviving lamb is little ewe, and she's doing very well. The interaction between her and momma is not quite like the other ewes, but it seems to work for them. I'm very used to always seeing the lamb dogging momma's heels, but this one is just as likely to be tucked down somewhere napping clear across the pasture from momma. Gives me a bit of a start, and I've been out to look for her at least twice today, but every time I find her, her tummy is full, and when she starts to bleet, momma comes to investigate (eventually), so I guess it's all good. I gotta say, though, that this is one of the smallest babies we've had. The legs are the only reason she's bigger than a cat. Just tiny.

Sad news

It's 4:10am, and I'm at the computer. I woke up about 20 minutes ago and had a short conversation with myself about that lamb. It was short because I was worried, but I had to have it because I really didn't want to get out of bed. But, I know myself well enough to know that if I had not gotten up and the lamb hadn't made it, I would have felt terrible. Unfortunately, the lamb did not make it. It has only been about 4 hours since her last feeding. If she were at all healthy, she should have been able to make it that long, since she was also nursing from momma. There must have been something wrong with her from the get go. This happens occasionally, but it's still sad. The good news is that the little brown lamb was with momma and got right up when everyone started making noise, so I'm confident he'll make it just fine. Again, all pronouns are generic. I'll do a gender check in the next few days.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Lamb update

These two lambs are very very small, and the black one is pretty weak. I've given it two supplemental feedings, and after each one, it was a little stronger and was able to nurse from momma. She won't come near the lamb while I'm too close, but if I set the baby down and move away, she comes over at the first meep, so she's not a bad momma. I'd like to get her and the lambs in out of the cold, as that is the greatest danger to the babies at this point, but she is so dang wild that it's just not happening. Unless I'm willing to take on this lamb as a full bummer, about all I can do is fill the lamb's tummy with some warmth and get it up to nurse. With everything that is going on right now, a bummer is more than we can take on, so I just have to hope for the best. This is the hard part. These little ones are so cute and helpless, and I feel responsible. But, nature usually knows best, so I'm going to go to bed, say a prayer, and keep my fingers crossed. Hopefully everyone will make it through the night and I can offer another supplemental feeding in the morning. On the upside, the little brown twin is up and moving around well and is very strong. I'm not worried about him at all.

All pronouns are generic. I haven't checked gender.

Steve was right!

Steve was right. That last ewe was not just fat. She just delivered twins. One brown and one black. Pictures will come soon. I'm keeping an eye on the little black one because it hasn't stood up yet, and I'm a bit concerned. Of course, this is the crazy wild ewe, so getting her and the babies into the barn isn't likely, because she's more scared of me than she is concerned with her babies, so I can't even use them to lead her to shelter. Thankfully it's warm enough that I don't have to force the issue. I'm thinking Baily is going to sleep outside tonight a predator control, since getting them inside isn't very likely. For now, I'm off to make up a bottle of warm lamb replacer for the the little black lamb to see if I can get it up on its feet.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fencing preparations

future fence posts (corners and gates and water crossings)
Well I spent part of yesterday and today getting railroad ties for the new fence.  I found a place in Hermiston that sells them in bundles of 20 for $8/each.  That is a great buy.  So I borrowed a trailer from a friend and went over and got the first load yesterday evening.  I unloaded it as soon as I got home so it wouldn't stay in the trailer overnight.  I didn't think to ask how much they weighed.  They were dramatically different, some of them seemed  light (manageable) and others were so heavy I could hardly get them out of the trailer.  I flipped one end off the trailer then stood them up on end and pushed them into a pile.  It made me sweat.  So I did it again today.  It was a lot harder today.  I cannot wait for the weather to get better so I can get back in shape.  While I was picking up the load today the guy told me that 20 ties weighed 2800 pounds or roughly 140#/each.  So I figure in reality they weigh between 100-200#.  I weigh in at a whopping 155#.  It was brutal today, no way I could have done another 20 without really paying the price.
future gates

I got the stuff to make my own gates, I picked up a 16 foot cow panel, I will cut it down to 12 feet and then sandwich 2x4 pressure treated boards all around the outside and then but in a diagonal cross brace.  I will bolt them all together and hang them with a single supporting cable attached around 10 feet out and to the railroad tie.  This will cost around $45 a gate.  Much cheaper than I could buy the gates.
 I did the childs chores and while inside the chicken coop allowed the sheep to get in our front yard.  Since the lead ewe remembered that she had broken the gate on the yard, she ran right for it again.  I had a heck of a time herding the sheep back in to the barn so I could lock them up for the night.
So like all good farmers I put a temporary (yes I do plan on fixing this) fix on the gate.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

quail enclosure completed

Starting picture, the holes are access to
the nest boxes for the chickens
Well I finished it today, I even got the shelf above the quail run completed.  I want to get this out in the open first thing, it is for the chicken coop.  Spending as little as possible is the name of the game.  I figure it cost me about $25 to build this with all the hardware included.  I used lots of scraps and all the hinges and latches I buy off of the discount table at the local feed store.  I just buy them whenever they show up, figuring I will need them eventually.  Since it is for the chicken coop, things just have to be close.  I don't do redos in the chicken coop.  I beat with a hammer, I push and add a couple extra screws.  The only concession I made was I screwed everything together.  I did not use a nail gun.  I probably should have used the staple gun on the wire mesh, but it was raining and I would have had to bring out the compressor.  The chickens did not like me disturbing them, they cluck and fuss the whole time I am working in the coop.  You get used to that and it becomes more relaxing than annoying, until the rooster starts crowing inside the coop!  It is very loud, I finally had to shoo him out of the coop so I could think.

I went to grab the quail and place them in their new home.  All was not well.  One of the quail was laying on its side sleeping and the other quail was laying next to it.  So I grabbed for the sleeping quail.  It wasn't asleep.  It was cold and dead!
completed quail enclosure with
storage above it for chicken feeders and
Annmarie had picked up and held one yesterday.  I truly do not believe that the dead one was the one she held yesterday.  I really don't.  So now we only have one lonely quail left.  I still need to add the chicken wire above the enclosure so the chickens don't start roosting on it.  It is fairly steep, I think I will hold off and see if the chickens start using it to sleep on.  If they don't then it will save me some extra work.


I had to add a door holder, I ended up using two boards that each pivot.  The first one pivots out to hold the door and the little one pivots down to hold the first one in place.  As you can see I had to use some shims for the door handles.  I had the handles in the shed, leftover from some 50s kitchen remodel.  They never threw anything away.  So now all I need to do is clean out the baby chick enclosure.  I am going to place an order for new baby chicks on Monday at the feed store!  It will take them a week to get the chicks in. I have settled on 12 Brahmas and 6 leghorns.  I may not be able to get the leghorns.  If not I am going to shoot for a white egg layer.  May just get more Polish hens, but they are a smaller breed.  All depends on what I can order.

nifty door opener holder

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Chicken coop progress

Well, I almost have the new quail run completed.  I managed to get the roof and sides and wire floor installed today.  Tomorrow I will make some front doors and then move the birds over.  I will still need to finish the closed shelf above the quail and then run chicken wire to the ceiling so the chickens don't start sitting on top of the nest box at night.  I am confident that I can get it done tomorrow.  I will take some pictures after completion. The best part about finishing it is I can get baby chicks!!!!  Way cool.

Monday, March 7, 2011


I should be in bed.  I was in bed, but then the sheep heard my wife through our open bedroom window and started bawling.  We had forgotten to lock the sheep and chickens up.  Now I have not had a chicken killed in several months so I might have gotten off the hook there, but I still think that the one ewe is pregnant and it is going to get cold tonight.  So I had to crawl out of the warm bed and go outside and lock up the sheep.  One of the babies got lost on the trip to the barn and I had to go back and find her.  Of course the sheep thought I should feed them also.  So they were all bawling when I left because they got no hay.  I did lock the chickens up on my way back to the house.  I will say this the animals force you to keep a routine.  They just don't do as well if you don't stick to it, kinda like little kids in that aspect.  Good Night.

Bridge musings

The menagerie a couple of days ago, Spring needs to come so the grass can grow. 
Well, when the alarm went off this morning Annmarie wanted to talk about the bridge construction for the front creek.  I had it all worked out in my head, a 12 foot long four foot diameter steel culvert, I would dig out the creek and drop in about a foot of 2 inch gravel then set the culvert in and then scoop in gravel and compact it every 8-10 inches all the way up to form a path.  I would use large boulders on the outside to hold in the gravel and she had talked me in to putting a heavy duty rubber water barrier on the upstream side about one foot deep into the gravel, with a used brick walkway across the top and hand rails.  All in all a decent plan.  So this morning she asks me how I am going to keep the culvert from sinking into the mud that is the bottom of the creek.  I dug a pond three years ago with a backhoe and never hit anything but mud. I finally stopped so it didn't get too deep (then my dirt barrier washed away and the pond emptied) so she has a valid point.  We had a sinkhole up the creek and it took three bucket loads of large rocks to fill it and they are starting to disappear again.  I want to build something one time and then die before it needs to be redone again.  So we are looking at a 45 year life span for this bridge.  We discussed the need for footings again (something I was trying to avoid).  Which means I will need to pour some concrete.  Then we discussed whether to use a precast concrete arch or a half pipe of culvert that I bolt to the opposing footings then cover both those with the gravel and bricks as planned.  I am now leaning toward a new design.  I would like to pour concrete footings but have them come up high enough to hold gravel behind them.  So in effect I would put them 11 feet apart and leave a ledge on them so I could span the 12 feet (the spanning timbers would be 12 feet long).  I would use pressure treated wood that would be sitting on concrete.  I would then use cedar planks to span the 12 feet.  On each end I would still build them up with the gravel and compact it with a brick surface.  This way I would not have to try and span the whole 36 feet with timbers.  So now I need to look into how much I am going to have to reinforce the footings as they will stick up into the air about four feet and go down into the ground at least 3 feet.  Not sure how wide they need to be, a guess would be at least 10 inches.  So it is back to the drawing board.  More planning and agreeing on a plan with the wife.  This way would cut my gravel usage down to about 50 yards from 100 with the added cost of concrete and cedar planks.  Concrete is running around $165/yard delivered as of a couple of months ago.  So that is about 20 yards needed for both sides.  Ouch!  Gonna have to come up with a new plan.  Maybe those concrete road dividers that stack? I could stack four to a side, so I would only need 8 of them.  I wonder how expensive those are?  Maybe I could find some used one.  Gonna have to look into that.

I had to build a new divider for one of my nest boxes.  I had used a piece of foam insulation to separate the box.  Once the chickens figured out they could pick at the foam and tear it apart they did.  So now instead of two nest boxes I only had one.  They kept rolling the second wooden egg over into one nest only.  So I added another foam divider but used one of the wood pellet bags to cover the foam.  I didn't have a feed bag available (I had just emptied out the trash).  So we will see how long this lasts.
new divider in place
The chickens favorite nest box is the one I made out of an old Coleman cooler.  They use it more than any other nest box.  Go figure.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Getting ready for new chicks- the long way

Well Spring is coming.  I know this because the local farm supply stores are starting to have baby chickens available.  I want some baby chickens!  But, I was told that until my quail have some place to live other than the baby chick area I don't get what I want.  So today I spent a few hours and started cleaning up the coop.
chicken coop looking in from front door
 I started by buying more wood pellets to use as moisture absorbing material.  Did that yesterday when I went to the feed supply store to get sterile syringes for the child's drain.  I figured I would get a two for one deal.  It worked.  So the first thing I did was take pictures!!  Then I got down to business.  As you can see the chickens make a mess.  There were feathers all over the place.  The litter on the right side of the picture is 14 inches deep.  It slowly builds up over the year as the chicken poop and wood pellets are added. We rake the pellets every so often, the easiest way to mix up the pellets is to throw chicken scratch (cracked corn or wheat) on the ground and let the chickens mix up themselves.  Otherwise you have to rake it weekly.

chick enclosure
 This is a view of the baby chicken enclosure.  If you look real hard in the bottom left area of the pen you will see a quail.  I had to run chicken wire to the ceiling to prevent the chickens from roosting on top of the enclosure.  You can see our chocolate lab is inside the pen sneaking around.  There is an outside entrance to the baby enclosure on the right hand side of the pen.  it is covered by that piece of plywood you see on the wall.  When the babies are big enough to go outside I will take that off the wall.  But first I have to clean everything up.  We found those feeders in the old chicken coop on the farm.  There were five of them, but I was only able to salvage four of them.  One needs a patch on the bottom before I can use it.  I figure I can do it with a little piece of sheet metal.   I had to unload chicken feed, wood pellets and oyster shell from two different cars.  A total of 510# (12 bags).  Not sure what I am going to do when I get old.  Probably buy in bulk and have a teenager come over for a day once a month to do the heavy lifting.  I could have driven around with the pickup, but at this point it is just easier to carry them over the bridge and to the coop.  The sheep managed to sneak out of the yard because I forgot to latch the gate closed.  I just hung the chain over the
chicken coop nest box area
gate so it looked like the gate was latched.  The head ewe pushed on the gate and it came open, so all the sheep were enjoying the untouched grass on the far side of the bridge.  I had to shoo them all back into the main pasture.  Once I started this I figured I might as well castrate that other baby lamb.  So I grabbed the rubber band pliers and some corn and took the sheep into the barn.  I caught the smaller boy, but he had a rubber band on already.  So I let him go and caught the bigger boy, but he had one on also and his was starting to work.  So obviously, I had already done it but forgot.  Everyone thinks I write this blog for everyone else, but it also acts as a diary for me so I know when what was done and can go back and check on it if needed.
chicken coop under perches
I started shoveling and managed to finish a mere three hours later. Luckily, I am still trying to fill in the chicken yard out front.  It slants toward the creek something fierce, so I have been throwing the coop manure outside in an attempt to build up that side of the yard.  It is slowly working.  I will have much farther to truck the compost once that is done.  No more just tossing it out the door.  You can see the perches are removable so that I can move around inside the area when cleaning.  I actually planned that and it works.

On a financial planning issue, I charged all the wood pellets to the month of March.  It will make me negative, but I will use them throughout the year.  The annual expenses will be the same and it saves me having to keep track every time a bag of wood pellets is used.  So after the chick purchases the only big expense left for the year is to get an automatic coop door.  The problem with this is the hardware will need to go on the wall where my chicken door is now.  So I am going to have to move the perch anchor elsewhere and maybe cut into the wall to fit all the hardware.  That is definitely a Summer time job.

chickens spreading out the pile

cleaned out ready for perches.