Thursday, June 9, 2016

My New Best Friend

 My knee has been bothering me quite a bit. When I first went to see the doctor about it, he had put in a request for an MRI, just in case I might need it.  Since the waiting list was so long, there was lots of time for me to cancel it.  I did get an appointment, for January of next year!  Good grief, really?  Anyway, apparently the powers that be decided it was time to get rid of the wait list for MRIs, so they are now running pretty well 24 hours a day across the province.  There must be an election coming up soon! I was on the cancellation list, and I actually missed a phone call from the hospital at the beginning of May.  Then I got another call less than two weeks later, and I was booked in for a 9pm Saturday evening appointment.  Since I had never had an MRI before, I was sort of looking forward to a new experience. 

 My first thought was that 'oh wow, is it ever quiet in the hospital at that time of night'.  A bit creepy in fact.  Anyway, I was given a questionaire to fill in, was asked some questions (was I claustrophobic?). I didn't think I would be, and then I was informed that my head and neck would be out.  Now I was imagining slowly being slid into the big tube, some quiet humming of the machinery for a few minutes, and then it would be all done.  Then I was told that it was quite noisy, and I would be in there for 25 minutes.  I was handed some foam ear plugs, but I didn't get them in very well because they sure didn't do much for dulling the noise.  Wow, noises like horns blaring and a hammer drill, then it would go all quiet and then start over again.  I was determined that I was going to lay perfectly still, and I did, although I had to fight the urge to get a bit twitchy at one point.  All done and then it was just over a week later before I got back in to see the doctor. 

 The verdict was two tears in the meniscus (the big cartilage between the upper and lower leg bones) and some sort of floating knee junk. To make a long story short, I was a candidate for arthroscopic surgery.  The doctor asked me how the knee felt, and I told him it felt the pits.  He was typing away at the computer, so not sure if he used those exact words.  I said that it felt like I had a wooden leg, and the joint wasn't functioning properly.  I did have good days and bad days, but when I saw the doctor I was in a stretch of bad days and was feeling particularly fed up as I limped into his office, and said I just wanted it fixed.  So I have an appointment to see the surgeon at the end of July.  The next day I was at the chiropractors.  I told him about my knee.  He said to get myself a cheap stationary bike, and to ride, ride, ride.  He told me how another patient of his had managed to avoid surgery by pedaling, a lot of pedaling.  He made the comment that although it is a minor sort of knee surgery, once they have been in there, the knee is never the same.  The best option would be to avoid surgery if possible.  Sooo, since the doctor had also asked me if I had a stationary bike the first time I went to see him, I decided to see what I could do for myself.  So on to Craigslist I went, and I found my new friend about 25 minutes away for $50.  Off I went to pick it up.  That was a week ago.  My aim is to ride 10 miles a day on the bike.  I'm not meeting that goal, but have ridden 60 miles since I brought it home last Thursday.  I must say that my knee has felt pretty good the whole time.  I haven't had the 'wooden leg' feeling at all.  I think the theory is that the constant gentle repetitive motion helps to smooth things out.  We will see.  Fingers (and knees) crossed!

And back at the farm, those new hens are squawking right along.  Six eggs today, and five of them were laid in the nest boxes.  What smart birds!  The one in the middle is announcing to the world that she has just laid an egg.  The one of the right is joining in to spread the good news, but she hasn't laid her own yet.  Sometimes the whole flock of hens has to shout it to the world altogether. And people complain about roosters being noisy.....huh, they have no idea....!

My theory is that the hay picking is to help cover or camouflage the egg.
Looks like a case of the hay being better on the other side of the divider.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

To the Usable Point.

The chicken coop is finally to the point that it is fit to house chickens. It is functional, but not pretty.  Hopefully the pretty part will come, although we are not so great at getting projects past the functional part sometimes. We do have a box of the house siding left over, so hope to use that on the most visible part of the coop.

The west end of the coop.  Can you see the little chicken door cut out at the bottom?  That's our $5 Craigslist bathroom window.  We have two smaller chicken coops, and they have bathroom windows too.

The east side.  That screen door was on our house originally.  When we found it hidden behind some plywood, I was thrilled.  It serves the purpose of a door and window all in one.  You can't really see it, but there is a window under the roof overhang on the south (left) side.  Right now it just has wire mesh over it, but we have a piece of glass to fit in there for winter.  The wood gates on either side were from the sheep barn.  The one on the left leads to the field, and the one on the right goes into the yet unfinished leanto for Ramona and is an outdoor, out of the weather spot for the chickens to hang out.

On Sunday we had the farmers market, and since it was a 34 degree day, we just didn't have the energy to work on the coop when we got home, although we did go out later in the evening.  We were out there early Monday morning and got the roof finished, and the doors and windows in, and a feeder hung up and water in there.  I headed off mid afternoon to go and pick up the chickens, and Larry tidied up so that I could back the truck right up to the door when I got back.  I was the last person to pick up their hens, and as luck would have it, an earlier person hadn't taken their full amount, so I was able to get 60 hens instead of 45.  We put a tarp into the back of the pickup, and threw some hay on top, and the hens are just put in there loose.  It's all fine until I get them home, and then they don't want to leave the truck.  I had to climb in there with them, and as I push them through the door they are trying to fly back into the truck.  It's absolute mayhem for a bit, until we get them all in the coop.  When I had arrived home,  Jake and Luna had met me at the gate.  I opened it, drove through, stopped and walked back to close it.  Luna had been all wiggly and happy to see me, and then all of a sudden her nose came up, sniff, sniff, sniff.  You could literally watch her body change from a wiggly little thing to a super charged, on full alert, I have a job to do, OMG that truck is full of chickens! kind of dog.  She herded the truck back to the coop, and just quivered the whole time we were unloading them.

That afternoon we didn't let them out of the coop, although we opened the door and put a wire grid over it so they could see outside.  First we had to change the fence.  We got that done yesterday morning and let the girls out.  They are very cautious at first but it didn't take long before a fair number were scratching around and had made themselves a dust bath, and were picking at the greenery.  Being young and foolish, every once in a while there would be a squawk, and one chicken would suddenly fly up and over a little distance, which seemed to get quite a few of the others doing the same thing.  Inevitably a few went over the fence, but they were easy enough to get back in.

We left the door hanging at an angle as a roof.

We got a nice surprise yesterday, we got three little eggs, and again today.  I had looked on the internet for options for nest boxes.  Sure we could have built some wooden ones, but that involves so many little pieces of wood and fastening it all together.  I saw lots of different ones, but one caught my interest.  You know how you have some of your best ideas while laid awake in bed?  So I got thinking, and remembered all these wooden boxes/drawers that we had.  Something I had seen on Craigslist a number of years ago, back when I first discovered Craigslist, and I dragged Larry all over the countryside picking up various 'bargains'.  I don't remember actually having a plan for these boxes, but quite a few of them were used in the shop by David to store some of his tools and stuff in.  So as I was laid in bed, I wondered if some of the boxes would work with some of the dollar store bowls (do you call them bowls when they are rectangles?).  
Well honestly, when I put the two together, it couldn't have been more perfect! 

 And then I found I had the perfect little metal slides that the plywood dividers fit into. They were from a previous 'shelves in the closet' project.

 Already the right length with two holes drilled in each one, just what I needed to screw them to the bottom of the box.  The advantage of using the bowls is that if the nest box gets messy, you just lift the bowl out and dump it and give it a rinse and it is all clean again.  And the nest boxes do get messy.  Eggs get broken, or hens poop in them.  So that was my project yesterday and this morning.  There is a roost for them to fly up onto to access the nest boxes, and if they want to roost there overnight, that is fine too.  We don't want them spending the night in the nest boxes, so if that happens, I've got a plan for that.  And guess what, a hen laid her egg in one of the nest boxes this morning!  The other two laid theirs on the floor, but I think they will figure it out.  I hope so.  And the beauty of these nest boxes is that you don't have to bend over to collect the eggs.  I am thrilled with how it has all turned out!

    We did get them a roosting ladder made for last night, but they haven't used it yet.  It takes a while for them to change their habits.  They lived in a big barn up to this point, and I'm assuming had no roosting areas, as they all just huddle together on the floor at night.  They will figure that out fairly soon too.

There is still a ton of work to be done.  All the cleanup of the wood from the old barn that we didn't use.  The leanto to finish.  Clean up/changing of the bricks and slabs of concrete on the west side of the barn.  One of these days it will hopefully look kind of cute.
 In my mind it does!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Built Like a Brick @#$% House

Twenty Eight years ago, a year or two after we moved here, we built a sheep barn.  It was about 10 x 10, kind of a pole barn, solid walls about 4 ft high and open above that.  It was built on four concrete blocks, 4x4's on top.  When we added on to our house and the concrete floor was poured,  the excess concrete at the end of the job was spread around in the sheep barn, which just had a dirt floor and tended to get wet in the winter.  And then when we concreted part of the big barn, the same thing happened again.  At some point I decided that the sheep barn wasn't big enough, so we added a lean-to on at one end and opened up the wall to make it all one bigger area.  The sheep rubbed on the walls, and over the years the walls got pushed out at the bottom, the concrete blocks sank unevenly into the ground, and the sheep barn was starting to look a bit sad.  Fast forward to the present, and we are down to one sheep (who David's girlfriend has named Ramona) and a lot of chickens.  The chickens from the coop in that field like to hang out in the sheep barn.  We talked on and off that it would be nice to make it into a chicken coop.  David even started to fix it up at one point, but didn't get very far.  The walls were so pushed out at the bottom that it was almost an impossible job to renovate it as is was. 
 About a month ago I bit the bullet and made an executive decision that we should just take it down and start from the ground up.  I suggested one day that the three of us go out and spend an hour and start taking it apart.  In my optimistic way I thought that it would only take us a couple of hours to demolish it. Ha, wrong, wrong, wrong.  David and I worked on taking the metal sheeting off the roof.  That just seemed so appropriate, since I remember being pregnant with him and being up a ladder and putting that roof on.  Larry worked on the walls and on taking the hay feeder apart.

I'm actually surprised that the ridgepole looked so straight.  The wall on the right end of the barn below was a disaster.

Larry picked away at it, and then David helped again another day, all three of us were out there again, and we got the rest of it down.  Then we had to clean off the concrete of layers of sheep muck and hay that were almost like rock.  The pick axe and tractor came in handy.  I pressure washed the concrete off, and also the assortment of paving stones and random concrete bits that made up the floor in the lean-to.  The concrete floor was bad, the two lots of concrete weren't the same height, the whole floor hadn't been done, parts were missing.  We bought some bags of ready mix and dragged out my dad's old cement mixer.  Amazingly the motor still worked.  For some reason we were doing the concrete after dark, by the lights of the car and one trouble light, as well as a couple of flashlights.  We dumped a bag into the mixer and it won't turn. WTH?  We spent a lot of time trying to figure out why, but can't.  We dump the concrete mix into a wheel barrow and mix it in there.  By this time it is about 10:30 pm.  Our horsey neighbours across the road go to bed early.  We are making a heck of a lot of noise scraping metal on metal as we shovel the cement mix around in the metal wheel barrow. It brought back memories of me working for my bricklayer dad as a teenager.  I mixed a lot of cement, first on a big plywood sheet, and then eventually Dad bought the cement mixer.  Anyway, the floor got fixed up sort of (we still have to mix a couple more bags to fill in a low spot) and set enough overnight that we were able to work on the barn the next day.  We made the biggest rectangle we could on the concrete pad that we had to work with.  We had a lot of treated 4x4's that we got for free, so made good use of those.  The chicken coop is about 9.5' x 10'.  The walls are 6.5' high.  It is really well built.  Larry used to work in construction waaaaay back when.  I've worked with Larry on enough construction projects around here, that I mostly know what I am doing.  We had quite the arguments discussions on how things should be done.  For the first while we seemed to go two steps forward and then 2 steps back as we ripped out things and did them differently because we hadn't done it right in the first place.  This coop is solid, and heavy duty, and would make a really nice little workshop for someone.  If we were being paid for building this coop, it would have cost someone a fortune.  We are that slow.  But now the pressure is on.  We have to pick up 45 new hens on Monday.  So far we haven't had to buy much in the way of materials.  We've managed to use what we could salvage from the sheep barn, stuff we have had 'stored here' and some lumber that a friend gave to us.  A while back David bought a stack of half sheets of OSB board that used to be the tops of pallets, for $1 or $2.  We decided to put those on the roof under the metal.  We had a discussion about how to space the rafters to make best use of the half sheets.  I scribbled a drawing, Larry made a fancy one, and then he went out to work on the rafters while I made the jam I was supposed to make the day before, but didn't get done because I needed to go out and help with the coop.  I looked out and wondered why the spacing between the rafters looked so weird.  Larry pulled out his diagram and explained it to me, and I said that didn't make sense to me, that wasn't how I had planned it, we had a 'discussion' and since they weren't nailed down yet that spacing was sorted out and was much better, in my opinion:-)

This afternoon

Anyway, by the end of today the roof is covered in OSB, I had started to put some tar paper on it, and the metal will go on first thing tomorrow.  I haven't made that mango chutney that I promised someone for Sunday, so I MUST get that done tomorrow.  You can be sure I will be keeping an eye on Larry working on the coop from the kitchen window.

And just because....
A Mexican duck in with the flowers.

One of my mum's African Violets.  It was such a mess when I brought it home.  The leaves were all horribly spotted, and the flowers were long gone.  I'm pretty hopeless with indoor plants, but I'm pretty pleased with how this one is doing.  Mostly all new leaves, and it has rebloomed!  I know that A. violets don't like water on their leaves and don't like direct sunlight.  This one is in an east facing greenhouse window, somewhat shaded by a jug of kitchen utensils.  It must like it there.