Sometimes chickens are about as exciting as watching snow melt. They eat a lot, poop even more and lay eggs. It is nice to have them rush to greet me with wild abandon, even though it’s really the treats they want. So there haven’t been any entertaining stories to tell for a while. Until now.
The gate to the chicken yard has slowly been eroding. First the lower right hinge side rotted and came apart. This was remedied with bailing twine- it’s like duct tape for farmers. It was a wobbly fix. Then the upper left side came apart causing the door to hang open at the top when I went in to tend the girls. I’ve been lifting the gate to open it and close it and hoisting it high as it would go to latch it for months now. I had to cram a garden trowel in the crack between door and post to hold the bottom shut. It was time for a more permanent fix.
I woke early on Sunday and made a trip to Lowe’s for materials before the church crowd let out. Try going to Lowe’s, Wal-Mart or hitting the laundromat on Sunday morning to find out just how many non-church goers there are. You’ll be amazed.
I dropped the lumber and gate kit off in the carport because it was a drizzly day and it offered some protection. I brought out all the tools I thought I’d need and took copious measurements of the gate opening. It’s no surprise- the opening is definitely not square. The top is wider than the bottom and the left side is longer than the right. Don’t laugh- I bought a gate kit that guaranteed a square, right angled gate.
I did quite a bit of head scratching and figuring to find a way to make the gate a trapezoid versus a rectangle. I measured the opening multiple times, as I was taught, cut the 2X4’s and laid them out with the gate kit, took measurements again, muttered some mild expletives when I saw the wood needed cutting again because I didn’t take into account the width of the 2X4’s in my measurements, then some more trimming to make the lengths perfect.
Everything looked fantastic laid out. Of course, the gate kit made it nice and square. And so wrong for the opening. I sighed and thought about my options. The solution I came up with was using paint stirrers to fill the gap created between the boards and the gate kit corners when I adjusted the boards for the proper dimensions. When it was all screwed together into the trapezoid, I hefted it out to the chicken yard to see how it fit. It looked pretty good, so I took it back to the carport and tacked the chicken wire across the opening. I used a lot of staples- not the kind in the staple gun- the U shaped, use a hammer to drive in type of staples.
The gate looked ideal, but I was out of time, so I leaned the gate on a post in the carport to wait for another day. You know how when you think about projects in your mind, they flow beautifully and before you know it you have the perfect gate made and installed? You know how it never works like that? My two hour estimate that included my trip to Lowe’s was more like six hours and I didn’t even finish.
The following Tuesday I didn’t have my first massage client until eleven-thirty in the morning. Ever the optimist, I figured there was plenty of time to install the gate. Erroneously, I thought it would take thirty minutes. I went through the steps in my mind the night before, woke with enthusiasm (Well, not exactly enthusiasm) and again assembled the tools I thought I’d need. I was thinking this part of the job would be a piece of cake- take the old gate off, screw the hinges of the new gate onto the post, install the gate-closing hardware and voila’- done.
Carrying the gate out to the chicken yard was my first hint about the task that lay ahead. You wouldn’t think four 2X4’s and some chicken wire would be heavy, but you’d be wrong. And, it was five feet tall and clumsy to carry with no place to find a grip. After the corner crammed into the ground a few times jarring my shoulders, I finally made it to my destination.
I held the new gate up to block the doorway to keep the chickens in while I unscrewed the hinges on the old gate, which promptly folded in half, making an unwieldy triangle. I pushed and pulled and finally managed to get the old gate out of the way, all the while holding up the new gate so the chickens wouldn’t make an escape. I pushed the new gate into the opening and started screwing the new hinges onto the post. The top hinge was great, while the lower one wouldn’t work because of a metal bolt protruding in the exact spot the hinge needed to be. Since the hinges were part of the gate kit and unmovable, I took the two hinges off the old gate and used them as well, leaving the lower kit hinge flapping in the breeze.
The gate opened and shut beautifully. Almost. The gate was an eighth of an inch too wide. No problem, I’d just go get my electric planer and take that edge right off. I made the trip to the garage for the planer and when I plugged it in, the motor whirred and nothing happened. The blade refused to spin. Fine.
I went back to the garage for the circular saw. It takes a lot of strength and finesse to run the circular saw up the edge of a hanging gate, almost more than I possessed. I managed to get most of the edge cut off, but the bottom of the gate was too close to the ground. I tried to cut down on the edge with the circular saw, but the wood has a grain unsuited for cutting in that direction and the saw jumped backward. So I gave up on that idea.
I went back to the garage for the third time for my pruning saw and cut off about three of the six remaining inches that needed to be removed. This saw was way too slow so I went into the house for my Japanese pull saw and finally finished the cut. While I was in the house, I checked the time and was shocked to see how much longer than thirty minutes this job was taking. I needed to finish soon. I figured I could use bailing twine to tie the gate shut if I didn’t finish in time.
The gate still didn’t close properly. There were just a few places that were too tight so I thought I’d use the belt sander. I went to the garage again, took out the belt sander, back out to the gate, plugged in the sander, and nothing. No motor sound, no whirring belt, no sanding. Apparently the belt sander and planer had made a pact to defy working. I started talking to my tools, berating them for their ineptness. Using my brilliant brain power, I went back to the garage again and pulled out my two manual planers. The old small planer did nothing, but the big Sears model rolled the wood shavings off with as much ease as you can get holding the planer at an odd angle on a wobbly surface. I planed and planed until I had a somewhat smoothly closing gate.
The edge of the gate was totally mom-miked though, so I went back inside one more time for the palm sander, which joyfully buzzed away smoothing off the splinters and making the fit even better.
I added the inside and outside handle along with the latch mechanism and there you go- one completed gate that works like a charm. By some crazy miracle, I got the gate finished and all the tools put away before my first client arrived.
Finally, no more hefting the gate to get it open and shut. It’s a breeze to get in and out of the chicken yard now, with the gate swinging freely, just the way it was meant to do. And, when I have to rebuild the gate again, which is inevitable, I have already figured out an easier way.