Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Chicken Spa

All the sordid details:

We've been working on the chicken spa project for around a week now. It was a lot more work than I had imagined while I was in the imagineering mode.

Plenty of tea breaks were required:

The metal waste baskets make a nice mouse proof chicken feed container.

The blue shed has a lousy foundation, probably won't last another 10 years but in the mean time it will make a great chicken house. It has an efficient wood heater and power. But the stove pipes were shot and I wanted a better reflector behind it.
Here is the after:
We added an aluminum reflector on the floor to fire proof it. I don't want any embers falling on a wooden floor.

We made standoffs out of 1 " pvc held with metal tape while we secured aluminum to the wall to create an air space behind it.

We also added a thermo coupled fan to the back to push the warm air out into the roost area.

The green tubing is salvaged garden hose that we split to protect any errant hands from the sharp edges of the protective screen.

This summer we will add water. Actually it could get water tomorrow via hose from a nearby yard faucet.

The Shed has gone through a couple of iterations. Before we arrived on the scene it was used as a house while the main log cabin was being built. Apparently there was a couple of families involved. It then transmogrified to automotive shop, canoe fabrication shop, storage shed, carpenter shop and now Chicken Spa - with the piggy den soon to follow. But that's another post.

The biggest part of the project, as usual, was cleaning out all the crap and stuffing it in other places. My once clean work shop now requires an hour or so of "putting away".

I then re wired the place to get outlets and lights in the ceiling of the coop. It will be about eight feet by 15 feet. It has roosts and even a ramp to the roost.

Before Paint

And after painting with wood shavings added to the poop tub.

Complete with ramp for the elderly ladies..but really their not that old that they don't just hop and flap to the roost.

We put salvaged insulated garage doors down on the floor to add some insulation and make it a lot easier to keep clean.
We're thinking of getting twenty or thirty meat and layer birds. And keeping a half dozen or so over winter to provide globular goodness during the snow times.

We removed a really heavy main door that was failing on the hinges.

We made a custom fit door complete with salvaged vented aluminum window. A square door in a non square opening proved to be a bit of a challenge.

But at least we didn't have to call Mike Holmes in. Now we can get a nice cross breeze happening. Especially since we freed up the sliding window on the South Side.

The chicken spa will gets a tin "tub", that runs t up the walls to make clean up a lot easier.

We added a roost and under neath a poop ( er re-tired garden enhancer) catch tub under the roost. Who knew chickens like to crap in their sleep.. That will really make clean up a lot easier. It has a removable Chicken wire top so that the crap drops through but chickens stay on top. Jo-Ann did all the miter cuts on the big miter saw. She has it down to a science now. She even speaks Mike Holmes measurements: 36 and a half fat. ( that would be a tad past 36 1/2 inches. Leaving the line for a snug fit.

We added an outside coop door that will go to the chicken runs we are building around the East and South sides of the shed. From there they will have access to the tractor for fresh greens.The Dogs had a great time running in and out.
Just after I spray painted and before we closed the door we forgot about our helpers:

Cleo says all the girls are sporting white highlights these days..

And of course some Chicken viewing benches. All their dry food gets put in metal garbage cans to protect it from the rats and mice. We are going to entice Boose, the shop cat, back into the Blue shed to act as resident mouse terminator. That was her original hood when she first showed up here so it should feel like an old home, updated with expanded, padded, cat viewing shelfs in the windows. And C.B.C. radio for country ambiance.

We added some nests made out of 5 gallon plastic barrels for egg donation purposes.
I thought the girls might need a lesson in how to use the nests.

I think they got the picture:
Well add some more roosts when the new chickens are ready. Next comes some outside runs. But as there's an inch or so of new snow that may have to wait a day or so..

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Fire on the Mountain

Now that the snow is mostly dissapeared, but the ground, and grass still wet it's time to get the burn pile gone. When it's burnt down all the clay and soil goes back on top and it all looks neat and tidy. The excavator sure makes digging holes an easy project.

I was gifted a part of a sailing ship. The mast part. It's a great 20 foot chunk of aluminum pole that is destined to go in front of the house with a flag and weather station on it. Dig a hole, pour some cement. The pole even has foot holds on it. How handy is that.
I know the picture looks a little speckled. That's a late snowfall trying to be something.

The seedlings are growing like it's almost spring. The zucchini and spaghetti squash just leaped out of the soil and I will transplant to bigger pots today.

We're converting an old blue shed to a chicken house, pig pen combo. Don't know anything about pigs but plan on starting small I have a couple of inspiring sites that are my "go to sites" for pork dreams. Walter Jeffries is an amazing inventive guy who has forgotten more about pork that I will ever know. Donna OShaughnessy is the typical Farm wife, world traveler and consummate blogger, who works 27 hours a day and does Nursing on the side for a rest.

The blue shed has power, wood and electric heat and this summer I will add water to it. Er, that's the shed part, not the power part. The electrician spent the day installing the lights. compact fluorescents and a bunch of outlets for infrared lamps for chicks. He Spent a whole lot of time, cup of tea in hand, admiring his work. Glad I didn't have to pay him. Today the carpenter takes over. He's about as fast as the electrician - but he works for the same rate. Slap cheese wraps and a cup of tea.

Kermit, or Jaba the Cat, and Cleo are now BFF's. They seem to have it all worked out. Not so with Cleo and Boose. Boose is still pretty cranky around Cleo and Cleo is just too inquisitive to know that a hissing cat is not inviting you to play!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

It's Alive!

We've had the seedlings under the grow lights for two days and voila! When I checked it yesterday morning sprouts were a sprouting!

First up was the Chinese cabbage, tender heart, with Basil and Cabbage starting to show. The soil temperature is a constant 28℃ and the plastic lids are keeping everything moist. I think they will have to come off pretty soon.

I finished pushing all the snow off the sides of the driveway so that it melts in the ditches and not on the road - which is drying up rapidly. Then we removed the plow, storing it for the season, and put the forks on the skidsteer. That will be useful for moving stuff in and out of my latest project the Chicken House. I am turning the blue shed into a chicken house as I can heat it with a wood stove in the winter. the chickens will have outside runs and chicken tractors to pass the time. I don't want to have confined chickens. Have you heard of 30$ a lb blue foot chickens? I have spray paint and am not afraid to use it! Or I could just free range the chickens and feed them milk. I'll bet the resident eagles and hawks would appreciate that!

Yesterday we were going to a friends place for a party and I decided to just drive around the top of the garden instead of just backing up. Bad mistake that came with in a touch of burying the truck axle deep. Fortunately four by four low and an occasional snow patch, and less muddy ground underneath meant I didn't have to get the chain and skidsteer out. When I showed up at the party a friend remarked: " I thought your driveway was dry?". As he pointed to our mud splattered truck.

Ah well projects to do. Have power tools and I know where the rechargers are!
On a related note: The fridge bureaucracy says I have to wait until the compressors have had the Ozone depleting freon sucked out . So I won't be able to get any for about a month. Too late for this year's early start. So what do they do with all that freon anyway?? Sell it to a third world country..

So tell me more about those chickens Dad...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Grow Op-ortunity

Just back last night from a quick trip to the Coast to pick up some ram. Couldn't get away quick enough.

As part of weird but usable things to do with recycled fridge parts we made a grow light station from some pulleys and the Plastic door from the fridge that made my magnetic black board in my office.

I didn't have anymore four foot flourescent fixtures laying around so decided to just change the 4 foot tubes in an existing shop fixture to fluorescent grow lights. The one catch with that was the fixture is on a nine foot ceiling.. That's where the pulleys come in. The shop is heated already with back up propane available, so no worries there.

The fridge/grow box rests on a couple of removable saw horses and then the pulleys bring the plants - er seeds, at this point, up to the light. Out of the way of heads and kitty cats. The two by four frame was an over-engineered thing and I am going to remove it today.

We're trying out something different in grow pots this time also - we recycled toilet paper and paper towel tubes into seedling pots. Just cut them in half filled them with good potting soil put them in plastic trays with lids - and now the waiting game. Hopefully the cardboard will decompose. The lids will help keep the moisture in the pots. Used Popsicle sticks make great plant markers.

We planted cabbage, spinach, squash, tomatoes, basil, lettuce, sweet peas ( the flower) poppies, lilacs, Chinese cabbage with more plantings to come later on. The turnips, rutabagas, beets, spuds, roma tomatoes and carrots will go directly into the re-tired garden when the ground warms up enough ~like mid April. The basil, rosemary and tumbler tomatoes will go into pots that will sit on the balcony soaking up the summer sun.

Ah the anticipation.

The list for today includes, removing the two by four frame from the grow bed, starting the clean out of the Blue shed for the new chicken house and installing visual studio to make the cloud based application development start to happen.

And of course just when I was going to take the snow plow off the skidsteer we get a couple of inches dumped last night. It is rapidly melting away today so no need to plow.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Frig Id

Cold it isn't. The snow is melting steadily. On a little walk yesterday we noticed green grass starting to grow in the snow free patches. I am thinking of taking the chains off the skid-steer and changing the snow blade to a bucket. Or forks.

This Christmas Sara and husband Kevin came for Christmas. We decided to make it a build it instead of buy it Christmas. Worked out great. Kevin made me a really cool item - er items. He took a bunch of computer keyboard keys, drilled out the centers and glued in micro magnets. The magnets are super strong. The result is great "fridge magnets". It thought it was the coolest idea. It was clever, hand made, cost effective and re-purposed something destined for a land fill. Don't get me started on that one. All I needed was a bulletin board that would let magnets stick to it. I wanted a fairly large one and priced them at a Stationary store. Yikes. What a lot of bucks for what you get.

Then an idea struck me. As I was walking by an old fridge that had been rescued from the dump and was destined for a smoked meat enclosure I noticed the doors were flat and just about the right size. Hmm. With some help from the dogs and cats I removed the doors from the fridge. Both the freezer compartment and main compartments. I stripped the inside enclosures - the molded plastic stuff and insulation from the doors. It only took about 10 minutes with my trusty cordless nut driver. Er, loosen-er in this case. I saved the two inch fiberglass insulation - it's destined for a walk in green house. That made two nice flat surfaces of smooth metal, with some chrome trim. The freezer door and the fridge door. With all the inside trim, gaskets and plastic removed it was about an inch and a half thick. A few minutes with a spray can and Voila! some pretty high tech looking magnetic board.

I painted the freezer shelf that was screwed to the back of the door the same color and it makes a great wall organizer.
As Jo-Ann and I, plus assorted cats and dogs sat in the office with a nice cup of tea admiring our handiwork we did some brainstorming about reusing the huge pile of fridges and freezer that lay in our local dump awaiting their inevitable journey to destruction.

The insides of the fridges, shelves and pull out trays are very useful in workshops. Painted some nice matching colors they look like expensive IKEA units.

We've had a lot of success using tires to grow veggies in. One drawback is that tires are round. So anything I build to go with them, i.e. plastic covers needs to be round which presents some construction challenges. Round becomes Octagons. Way more work than simple rectangular construction.

We are going to experiment with a couple (of dozen?) horizontal freezers. Drill drain holes in them, set them on used pallets, or tires, fill the bottom foot with drain rock ( or broken up re-cycled Styrofoam) the rest with good garden soil, put a removable plastic cover flush with the top. Leave the lid on so that we can close them at night to keep the heat in. We are also going to run garden hose on the inside of the lid in a "UΩUΩ" pattern and continue it down into the freezer, buried in soil. It will help heat the soil. In summer the lid just stays up to shelter the plants from the North wind and lets us spread anti-bug netting to keep the denizens from chomping the leaves. The slick sides of the freezer should thwart small furry critters from plundering tender carrots. Cheap and dirty insulated raised beds. And more stuff gets re-purposed as opposed to enabling our throw away culture.

Stay tuned for this one. We're excited. Pictures to follow.

"Dad, where's the USB cables..I need one for my mouse.."

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Lap Dogs

I haven't been a big fan of lap dogs. Bow Wows carried in purses, dressed up with costumes. But who knows, nothing like a closed mind to keep progress from happening. To Quote William Paley:

There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all argument, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance. This principle is, contempt prior to examination.

With that quote in mind I have been doing some experimentation. Some examination of the facts as it were:
As can be seen, the dogs do fit on my lap. Mostly.
Xena resisted all attempts to get her to wear reindeer horns.

Here's a picture taken at Christmas time. I was explaining existentialism vis a vis cats and dogs. Or I had some doggy treats in my hands, I forget which.

It is an unbelievable +5C in Xanadu today. The snow and ice is melting off the roads leaving us the harbinger of Spring: Mud. More to follow.