Sunday, April 28, 2013


Today, I became a chicken owner!  I am excited, happy, nervous, protective, and ready.  I've probably read every book on chickens, borrowed some magazines from a colleague and fellow chicken owner (hee hee, feels so fun to say that), and I have gone over it in my head for a long time now.  So, when a parent at the school I work at said they had some chickens and a coop they needed a home for, I was very interested.

A lot of what we wanted to do by this time in our home-ownership has been put on hold due to our unfortunate position of one of us being unemployed.  Hopefully that will change soon.  But in the face of our minor hardship (compared to what others endure), we have done well with our set-up for the garden and now the chickens.  We have been able to do a lot with a little and we have benefitted from the help of our friends and neighbors whose unconditional help and support has been key to our success.

Had it not been for my neighbor who also is a chicken owner, the process of moving the chickens and coop would have been quite a lot.  The coop was transported in one piece in the truck as were the chickens, three hens and a rooster, in a special chicken crate.  We lost the roof on the highway when we got up to speed but we stopped to retrieve it and all is well.

On the way home we picked up some chicken feed, oyster shells, and bedding at the Tractor Supply Co. .  Chickens are settled in and Bernard is already crowing!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Building a Garden Fence

Building or "creating" a fence for your garden can be relatively simple provided that you have some time, patience and a bit of strength.  The cost will depend on how simple or fancy a fence you make and how strong you need it to be.  It is also important to keep in mind the purpose of your garden fence.  The 10 or so deer in our yard about a week ago reminded us at how important it was to create a barrier for those who might make a meal out of our hard work.  So after the last few months of deliberating and because I was on spring break, we decided it was time to get going.

The garden before we began this project.  
Fortunately, we have a wooded area on our property where we can find fallen trees and limbs to use for our various projects.  This time, the fallen trees became our posts.  We decided to go with a 6 ft. high chicken wire as it was cheaper than the "horse fence" that I had originally set my mind on.  The posts reach a high 7 foot out of the ground, and we will be stringing some wire or string at the top to provide just a bit more protection (apparently deer don't see very well so they are psyched into thinking the wire stretches up that high).  Who knows if our efforts will actually work.  We have had many different reports with suggestions from peeing on your garden fence to claiming that the deer won't bother our garden at all.

Al used a hatchet to strip the wood of branches
and some of the bark.
We foraged our property for 17 relatively straight posts, most of which were cedar, the others pine and oak.  Each were stripped of bark and limbs and were set in foot-deep holes with Quickcrete.  We then cut a large panel of wire for each "side" of the fence to make handling it easier.  Attaching the wire to the post with U-shaped nails was "relatively" easy aside from dropping them or hammering them in crooked.  I can't see how this part would've been possible with one person so I was happy we were able to work on this project together - one holding the wire in place, one hammering the nails.

We took turns digging.  Post hole diggers
aren't the most effective in heavy clay soil.

A chunk of our beloved clay.  Should be a great growing
medium when we finally get some organic matter in there!

We measured out and cut the chicken wire
to make it easier to handle.
The original plan to use 2x4's for the gate was switched to using 1x4's.  The 2x4's were really heavy and I was worried they would pull on the gate posts too much.  For our purposes, I don't think it was necessary to have a heavy-duty gate.  We bought four 1x4x8's which were cut to make a gate that was around 7x4.  Braces were made by cutting the wood 8 inches long and sawing a 45 degree angle on each end to fit in each corner of the gate.  A cross bar was cut for the middle.  We also purchased 3 hinges and a hook for the gate's latch.  I have yet to actually attach the gate to the post.  This is a task that needs two people, both for physical support and probably emotional support, as I predict this step of our process will be easy.

The heavier posts for the entrance gate.
Not sure how I'm going to get the hinges
on there!

We've worked really hard for this fence and hopefully it will be worth it as far as the deer go.  For me though, there are few things that are more fulfilling than working hard on our house and land.  Throw in the sunshine and a pleasant temperature and I can't get enough.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

In Lieu of a Proper Sidewalk

The stepping stones out front have been shifting since day 1 regardless of how many times I have gone out there to straighten them.  Not only that, but they have been sticking out of the ground which made walking up and down that steep hill a struggle for even the most balanced person.

Today I decided to dig out underneath just one stone to see if the overall appearance and stability of the stone was improved.  Strangely enough, several hours later, I had the whole path finished.  Paving stone after paving stone, all 18 of them finally nestled in their permanent resting place, NEVER to move again. Well, maybe not never, and not a perfect solution, but definitely better overall.  Who said you need a three-layer paving system?  I decided to use the pesky heavy clay to my advantage this time.

I dug a shallow indentation 1.5x1.5, not perfectly level (how could I), placed the square in the "hole" and stepped on it to make sure that it didn't rock or move.  Then I got to work with packing the clay around the stone, making sure to patch any open places tightly.  I brought the ground level even with the stone and stepped all around it, packing the clay even tighter.  When I reached the "hill" I made each stone level by creating stairs with the packed clay.

I got the approval from my better half when he got home, that not only do the stones look great but were easier to walk on.  Yay for an afternoon's activity gone obsessive!

Our house right before we moved.  Notice the beautiful
grass and absence of landscaping.
After I fixed the stones.  A cleaner look I think.