Chop Saw

After putting together the first of the four bi-fold doors, I decided I needed to rethink my strategy. Using a finish saw, square and doing everything I could to make my cuts precision, turned out to be less than desirable.

Not only is it hard to cut equal lengths of board to create slats with a hand saw, but I used pine which has both hard and soft elements, making a drilling nightmare for the dowel holes.

The door looks pretty wonky. I decided that a chop saw would increase my efficiency in the equal length cutting arena, which is has. I went to Lowe’s today at exactly the right time. I found a helpful employee who discussed the attributes of the various miter saws with me – apparently they aren’t called chop saws. I picked out a saw that was on sale, and the last one they had in stock. After the employee loaded my cart with the saw, a man came up asking for the exact same model. I heard the employee telling him I had the last one. I’m guessing the man got a rain check?

I brought the saw home and set it up in my car port on a portable workbench. It worked like a dream; especially once I figured out I could put a mark on the saw table to show where to place the wood for the perfect cut, versus marking the wood over and over again. My pieces are now uniform.

I have no idea how to improve the drilling aspect of this project. I have done my best to rig a jig for holding the slats, but when the bit hits a hard part of the wood, it slides over to the soft part of the wood, making the holes off-center. Some of the slats are drilling out fine, others not so much. After cutting one hundred slats, I’m thinking I might need to opt for different wood for the slats?

I’ll keep you posted. Who knew this learning curve could be so time-consuming and expensive?

Door Crafting

I have fabulous plans for the use of the back half of my house. I originally cleared out the back bedroom and den so my dad could come live with me. He opted to go back to his home to live, leaving me with this unused area. I decided not to move myself back into that space, but instead to create a long dreamed of inspiration. This is to become my H.E.A.L.T.H. Retreat. (Healing Energies Align Lovingly Through Harmonics) I’m excited about it.

In order to make this venture work, I needed to craft a couple of doors, one for the bedroom, and one for the closet. I don’t think curtains will suffice anymore.

I am not a cabinet-maker. I have never managed to make anything truly square in my life. The bedroom door was fashioned with some fence panels a friend, who owns a precision lumber company, had made for a client, who then opted to go with something else. I decided to make a barn door for that opening; apparently they’re all the rage. This door fell together with ease.

I tried to get Lowe’s to special order panels for the closet door. I want there to be four panels, opening in the middle, with two panels on each side sliding to the edge of the doorway, and I want there to be spaces (Louviers are possible, but more complicated to do.)  for air to flow through the closet. Lowe’s was a no go on the special order.

Again, my friend with the lumber company had some small “slats” she had created for a client, who didn’t want them. Bless her! She cut some specialty true dimension wood for the sides of the doors for me, so the door hardware will fit, and along with the slats I’m in business. These doors however, need to be square and well fitted.

I have a rudimentary understanding of how this should work, and I do have a square “tool”. I am hoping these doors will flow as easily as the bedroom door.

I’ll keep you posted.


Bedroom Door

Seriously not wider at the top – that’s an optical illusion.



The proposed closet doors in the planning stage.

I know, already not square. Give me time!

Down Fall

My backyard neighbor is having a tree removed near the chicken yard. Actually, so far, it was one relatively small tree and one gigantic old pine. I don’t know if there will be any others removed; we’ll see what tomorrow brings, as they haven’t finished with the ginormous tree yet.

I’m wondering what the chickens think when the tree parts fall. The falling pieces really jolt my house, which is further from the tree; theirs is right beside the tree! Ethel was kind enough to go ahead and lay me an egg, despite the racket. Tomorrow, the main trunk will come down. That should be jarring.

I left all the girls in their enclosure, figuring the tree removal was enough of a shock for them. And it’s supposed to rain for the next few days, so I suspect they’re going to be a tad tired of being penned in by the time it’s all over with.

I graze for them when they can’t get out to do it for themselves. There’s plenty of greenery to harvest, at least until I mow.

I did, finally receive my new lawnmower. It’s strange to have a lawnmower come in the mail vs. picking one out at the store. I think it’s the lazy woman’s way to shop, although I did have to go down to Lowe’s to order it. I tried three times to place my order via the phone, to be disconnected each time. I know, I could have ordered it online with minimal hassle, but my computer is ancient and I don’t like putting my credit card number out there in the ethers. No telling who will snatch it up.

I was busy working in the yard, covered with dirt and sweat and wearing really unfashionable clothing when I decided to place my phone order. After being cut-off three times, swearing, I washed up minimally, changed my clothes and headed to Lowe’s, thinking I’d complain about their phone service. And it was Easter. And the folks I worked with in person were so nice. I told them I was sorry they had to work on Easter and thanked them profusely for taking my order.

I was told it would be faster to have the mower delivered to my home vs. the store. Well, why not. Saved me a trip and having to load it in the car. The mower arrived today, four days later, instead of the ten days they told me it would take.  It was pretty simple to assemble and I used twist ties for the cord restraints that weren’t in the box. (This is an electric, plug-in mower.)

Looking for spare time and pretty weather to get out there and test my new mower.


Growing Weeds

I’ve had Ruby and Rose for a week and five days now. The differences in their appearance is drastic! They are now growing body feathers, their tails have filled in and grown an inch and their wings are almost completely covered in “pre-adult” feathers. I say pre-adult because they are still spotted with white and aren’t red. The body feathers, in contrast, are coming in red.

The biggest difference I see, is their legs. No longer the spindly-legged, slender-toed babies – they are now sporting sturdy legs and toes with real claws.

They no longer have the red spot on their beak where the egg tooth came off, and – their wattles are emerging. This is the part I pay close attention to. In my way of thinking –  if there was a mistake made in the sex of the pullet, this will be the telling factor. Please be girls.

Both girls are becoming very friendly and probably a tad bored with their box. They come running toward me now when I sit down by the box and remove the lid to handle them. They readily climb onto my hand to be lifted from the box and placed on a towel in my lap. The towel is my defense from turds that are deposited shortly after release from the box. When this phase is over, the towel is duly disposed of.

Before this weekend, I have to find a taller box. They have almost maxed out the height of their current box. I don’t want them to become stoop-shouldered from having to bend over when they stand up.

My youngest granddaughter came over to meet the chicks today. She’ll be two in a couple of months. While she thought she wanted to hold a chick and give it a kiss, when actually faced with Ruby, she quickly scooted away, saying, “bite me.” No amount of coaxing worked to get her to come close enough to touch Ruby, let alone kiss her. She was happy when the chicks went back home and she could wave at them safely through the top of the box. She was excited to go throw greens through the fence for the big hens outside. She giggled every time a tiny piece of green made it through the chicken wire and one of the hens ate it.

I am always amazed by the rapidly occurring changes of baby chicks.

Shady, or is it Shoddy Work?

With winter being so mild, it’s quite likely this will be a hot summer. Last year, when I had to transplant my blueberry bushes, due to a neighbor spraying them with roundup a week before harvest, I chose to plant them around my chicken yard. My thinking- the girls will appreciate the shade and the blueberries will appreciate the manure the chickens tend to throw out of their yard, along with their bedding.

I protected the blueberries last year from birds and squirrels with a fence topped over with deer netting. That worked fine for last year; however, the netting became holey and ratty, and needs replacing. I decided to make the whole blueberry protection program more permanent.

I originally used ¾ diameter black plastic pipe bent in an arc to support the deer netting and that worked well enough for the light-weight, plastic mesh deer netting. This year, I sewed together long strips of small- hole chicken-wire to use instead of the deer netting. (I have to tell you, I was out there in the hot sun for a day and a half, wearing hip huggers and apparently a too short top. I burned my butt crack something fierce.)

The black pipe isn’t actually strong enough to support the weight of the chicken wire, so I’ve had to do some fancy footwork and wiring to make it stay up in the air. It doesn’t look like a professional did the job, that’s for sure. I tied the chicken wire along the length of the pipe, and then wired the pipe across the arc to itself to keep it arched. It looks hilarious- the arc has slumped over to one side creating a very odd looking shape. I’m hoping when I get the edges of the chicken wire tied in it will look better, but I’m not counting on it. As long as the birds and squirrels stay out and I don’t strangle myself on all the wires, I’ll be happy.





When Lucy and Ethel grew up enough to live outside with Bossy, in their own cage inside the chicken yard, I though Bossy would pitch a fit. She peered at the new chicks, one eyebrow raised as if to say, “Who are you and how long do you plan to visit?” She didn’t get feisty until she realized they were there to stay. Then she would regularly strut over to their cage and give it a resounding peck, just to remind them who’s boss. It didn’t faze Lucy and Ethel in the least. Baby chicks are so trusting and believe everyone loves them.

The chicks were beginning to look like smaller versions of Bossy and had a hankering for more space. I was cleaning out their cage when Lucy decided to take a fluttering leap over the top and straight into Bossy. I held my breath and slowly inched over toward Lucy hoping to intercept her before Bossy lit into her. I was too slow and ended up chasing Lucy all over the yard with Bossy giving chase. It’s amazing how fast a chicken can move when they want to. I ended up grabbing at Lucy, caught her by the tail feathers and flipped her back into the cage. She was none too thrilled with me.

I created portable runs so I could put them all out in the grass to graze. I have a special run for the young ones that attaches to a dog crate. I covered the crate with a tarp to give them shelter from rain and some shade on sunny days. Lucy and Ethel inhabited that run together. I made another run that I covered with a sheet on sunny days for Bossy. I kept her in the chicken yard if it rained and on pretty days she never stayed out as long as the young girls.

The runs are made of flexible pipe arched over so they stand about 1 ½’ tall. I attached them to some rigid PVC pipe made into a rectangle 2 ‘ X  8’. It is covered with small hole chicken wire over the arched top, down the sides and capping both ends.  I cut a door in one end of the young girls run so I could hook the dog crate to it. I created four U-shaped thick wire “pins” to push into the ground over the PVC pipe to keep the run from being turned over by a predator. The runs are easy to maneuver around the yard and the young girls love being mobile. The biggest plus is, the runs are small enough to put anywhere in the garden so the girls can do my weeding for me.

Bossy, it appears, was none too pleased with the whole affair. She was stressed over the change and started losing feathers at an alarming rate. It took me while to discern she wasn’t happy being out- I obviously wasn’t taking enough time observing her. When I finally did, I noticed she would look for worms and bugs for about a minute, then stand there and pull out her feathers, filling the bottom of her run with a downy covering.

I began to leave Bossy in the chicken yard when I took the young girls out. This was still too much for her delicate constitution. She eventually looked like a plucked chicken ready for roasting, all except the pathetic bent, ragged feather she had left on her tail. What a sight. I would have laughed, she looked that ridiculous, but it would have hurt her feelings.

I opted to keep everyone in their respective areas in the chicken yard until Bossy grew her feathers back. That’s been a while now, and I still don’t have the nerve to try putting them out to graze again. It was just too traumatic for Bossy. So now I’m doing the grazing for them. They are eating grass, comfrey, plantain and collards, along with all my vegetable scraps and loving it. Their yolks are almost orange so I know they are getting all they need. I wish I could let them out to run free and graze on their own, but the osprey continues to fly over daily to check out the situation. I’m not losing another one that way.



New Gate

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.




The Roost

Rosie and Charlotte have been roosting on the rope supporting the rain tarp that covers on end of the chicken run since they came out from under the biddy cage and joined  Carol in the larger, more expansive run and this is not a fitting roost for them. I decided it was time to create a better option.

My grandson, Max, was going to spend the afternoon with me and I thought he might like to assist me in the roost building. When I went to school to pick Max up, I discovered he wasn’t at the carpool site. I had to park the car and go inside with “the person in charge” and call his Mom to ask if anyone else might have picked him up while the school staff checked around the school for him. About the time I had his Mom alarmed the school had lost her child, they found him standing in the bus line. Fortunately the bus was still there an it all ended well.

Max changed into work clothes when we arrived at my house. We were ready to proceed with the roost building. First we selected three pallets of about the same height for the sides and a narrower, longer one for the top. We lugged them across the yard and with Max as doorman; I managed to drag them into the into the chicken run without any chicken escapees. We collected three- inch screws, drill and extension cord and set everything up. Once that was arranged, Max came in and watched the process. The first screw never made it through the first pallet and into the second one. I think it would have taken ten-inch screws. The next screw was angled properly and a connection between pallets was made, although it was wobbly and tenuous. I had Max come over to put in the next screw once I had it started. He wasn’t at all keen on the job and as soon as the screw was in declared it was break time. I insisted we had to get the roost stable before we took a break to protect the hens from harm if the contraption collapsed. Max patiently waited while I screwed the other side and brought in the fourth pallet for the roof. I fastened down the top and we took our break, which lasted until his Dad cam to get him.

Alone again, I went out armed with telephone wire, wire cutters and a pair of pliers. Since the screws weren’t adequate for the job of holding the roost together, I thought wire was the answer. I wrapped wire around the various edges of the roost, twisting the wire taut until the structure had just a slight wobble when stressed. I went into the garage and found an old metal weight bar to use as the roost bar for now. Once it gets cold out I think the hens will prefer a wooden bar. The bar was wired into place to keep it from slipping. The final touch to the contraption was a tarp surrounding the top and three sides to make it waterproof. Yes, from the looks of the roost, it’s another “kountry” concoction.

It wasn’t a surprise to see the hens still sitting on their familiar tarp rope “roost” the first night. This new fangled chicken roost was strange for them. A couple of nights later I discovered them on top of the roost, which is where they’ve been roosting ever since, even with rain pouring down their backs from the eave of the garage, which I think says something about the size of a chicken’s brain. I’m hoping when the weather turns cold they will get smart and hunker down in the roost box on the bar. Time will tell.

Building a Chicken Run

Dragging the chicken tractor around on wobbly wheels lost its appeal. The tractor was heavy and when the chickens scratch and dig, they undermine it so it sits in a hole making it nearly impossible to move without herculean effort. It was time to reconsider the chicken’s habitat.

Around two sides of the garage and about ten feet away is a chain link fence. It would only take a short piece of fence and a gate to create a chicken run. Oh yeah, and reams of netting over the top to keep the girls from flying out and undesirable critters from getting in.

The gate and short piece of fence were easily installed. The netting was a totally different story. At Lowe’s, the most affordable netting was for deer, so I purchased a large roll. After scratching my head for a while trying to come up with the best plan of action, I collected all the things I thought I would need for the job- ladder, drill, drill bits and driver, screws, staple gun, extra staples, strips of wood, wire and scissors. Yes- many of the men I know are jealous of my tool collection.

First I unrolled the netting along the ground around the run. I quickly learned that deer netting gets caught on the smallest twig, root, vine, splinters on the sides of the garage, ladder rungs, even the buttons on my shirt. It became the number one frustrating aspect of creating the chicken run.

I thought the best way to secure the netting to the garage would be to staple the netting to strips of wood, drill holes through the wood strips and screw them into the garage wall up under the eaves. Or so I thought.

The stapling went well, as did setting up the ladder. I pulled up the first piece of wood, catching the netting on a rough spot of my shoe. In shaking the netting off my shoe, it became hung up on the ladder and wouldn’t disconnect. Down the ladder I went to untangle the mess. I finally made it up the ladder and with the wood wrestled into place, I attempted to screw the wood into the garage wall.

After a few jaw clenching, shoulder wrenching attempts to make the screw obey my will to melt into the garage wall, I realized it was a futile effort and came back down the ladder to get the drill bit. Having only one drill made the job even more infuriating since I had already pre-drilled the holes in the wood strips and could only reach two of the holes at a time while up on the ladder to drill holes in the garage. I had to take the screw driver out of the drill, insert the bit, drill the two holes and re-insert the driver to put in the two screws. You can see where this is leading, right?

Eons later after much cussing, climbing up and down the ladder to drill, screw and untangle, I was ready to move to the chain link portion of the onerous task. This part, I thought, should be a cake walk. My dreams were dashed as the netting caught on little rough bits of metal on the chain link and the places along the top of the fence that are folded over and the solder has popped off that grab and keep the netting like gnarled fingers. I was soon red-faced with anger.

Finally the job was finished and the tools put away. The final touch was a chicken coop made from a used shipping crate. I opted to leave the inside of the crate with an open floor plan because the chickens tended to lay their eggs in one spot anyway. I cut a small hole in the front for the girls to enter and a wide, large hole in the top half of the back of the crate for easy egg retrieval and clean-out. To complete the coop, I added two old cabinet doors with hinges and screen door hooks on the front and back doors so the coop could be closed up in cold weather.

Finally Marsha and Shelly were moved into their new digs. I opened the door to the chicken tractor and herded them over to the new run. They seemed overjoyed to have room to spread their wings and fly. Seeing their joy made all that frustration worth while.