Author Archives: cjbider

New Babies

On July 17th, my new babies arrived. There are four of them. These photos were taken three days later. Two of them are Cuckoo Maran (top left), the other two are Easter Eggers which are Ameraucanas crossed with just about any other breed which is why the chicks look different. Easter Eggers can produce eggs in a range of colors (one color per bird).  The one thing these two chicks have in common is that it appears they’ll have cheek tufts.  The chicks started out in the bathtub, but after two weeks, they were already showing some flight capabilities.

As planned at that point, we moved them out to the brooder in the garage. I had modified the brooder to give it a couple of windows so the chicks could see outside when the garage door was open. We were admiring the little girls when Sara (good friend and chicken fan) noticed a visitor outside the garage door.

 

The rat snake was moving by, so I attempted to encourage it. Unfortunately, instead of fleeing away, it turned and fled for the garage. Of course I couldn’t leave it in there with the baby chickens, so I put on my gloves and tried to pull it out from between two bags of concrete. You might be surprised at how much strength a constrictor can bring to bear if it doesn’t want to be moved. Sara had to move one of the concrete bags to break it’s hold. You’ll be happy to know that no snake, chicken or human was hurt in the incident. I released the snake a couple of hundred yards from the house, then proceeded to pile heavy weights on the lid of the brooder

So far, we’ve had no further snake sightings near the brooder and the chicks are getting more and more bold. Four more weeks, and they’ll be joining the big girls in the coop.

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The Flooding Will Stop, Part 1

I can’t believe it’s been a year! There’s just been too much going on, good and bad, to think about blogging, but I”m in the middle of a new adventure that I should document.  If you’ve been reading this blog over the years, you’d know I have chickens, and that our house floods on a regular basis. These disparate topics are intertwined and the reason for the work I am currently undertaking.

IMG_0887First, the chickens. Since getting my original birds back in 2015 (like I can remember what year it was; it may have been 2014), I’ve had some losses. By September of last year, I was down to six birds from my original 15 and they were getting older and laying fewer eggs. So I decided to add to the flock. The new chicks arrived at the beginning of October and all was going smoothly. The integration went really well; no big fights. Then, over the winter a Cooper’s Hawk found the flock, and started picking off my young birds one by one (including a couple of expensive blue egg layers). Three of my new birds were killed, but five made it through the winter and started laying by March. In June, tragedy struck again (I did not take pictures; it was too gruesome). A fox got into the hen yard and killed five birds in one day, then came back and killed another one three days later. All but two of my original birds were dead and I was left with three of my young birds. I was heartbroken, but determined to save the last few, but it was going to require drastic alterations of their enclosure to make it as predator proof as possible.

IMG_1661Of course this would have to be the hottest part of the year, but I had extra incentive.  I had news of a woman who was selling off her flock because she was downsizing. She was willing to hold onto the birds I had picked out while I made my modifications.  The other impetus, was that the house flooded yet again and the current configuration of the chicken yard made it very difficult to divert water flow. So off to work I went. I had to cut down all the trees within the yard to allow for netting to cover the area. This also meant I had to drastically reduce the size of the yard, to accommodate netting sizes and to have a fence line to support the netting, instead of the house.  This meant the birds could no longer shelter in the shade of the house and with the trees gone, I had to provide some extra shelter.

IMG_1668 Now there’s twelve to fifteen feet between the house and the yard fence, plenty of space to create a new swale to catch runoff. I also installed a new electric wire around the enclosure, and the dogs have access to the two sides of the yard for patrolling. It took two weeks to get this far, but I still have a lot more to do. The extra posts from the old fence line will be used to support the netting (still to be installed).IMG_E1640.jpg

The new birds are settling in nicely. They don’t know what they missed and their current accommodations are probably an oder of magnitude bigger than they had before, plus a lot less competition. I got five new adult birds, all Cinnamon Queens, and all with unique plumage so I can identify individual birds. For the first time I can give each bird a name (instead of all my white Leghorns being Daisy). So, my old birds are Jasmine and Wilma (they’ve had those names since the start).  The young birds are now down to an individual of three breeds, so the Buff Orpington is Penny, the Barred Rock is Pepper, and the Rhode Island Red is Henna. The five new Queens are Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Sugar and Pearl (she has a necklace of white feathers). They’re in kind of rough shape, especially Sugar (center of photo above) since she was the roosters favorite, but they’re very sociable and sweet. I can’t wait to see how they look after their feathers come back in and they fill out a bit.

But, of course there’s more work to be done, especially to finally mitigate the flooding. And…I’m expecting four new baby chicks (colored egg layers) next week. So I’ve given myself six weeks to get the netting installed. In the meantime, I will continue to blog as this huge project unfolds.

More renovations

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A picture is worth a thousands words, and in this case probably a couple thousand dollars.  After yet another flooding episode in July 2016, I ripped up the carpeting in our bedroom. I was done with it. I was terribly difficult to dry out, and I could never tell if it was wet unless I stepped in a soggy spot.  So out it came along with the baseboards.  That’s when I found the lovely mold growing behind the baseboards. It was while we were drying the house out that I discovered another problem.  One which had been hidden by the carpeting for years.  Our Water Furnace was leaking! We were running the unit quite a lot to draw water out of the air, but every time we did, I’d find more water seeping under the from the furnace closet.  It took some more detective work to discover it was the condenser drain pan that was cracked.  Not an easy fix, since it might require draining the condenser coils to remove them.  The first estimate I got was over $2000, because they were convinced our thermostat wasn’t working properly either.  I sought another opinion. The second repairman I found did a free estimate (one point in his favor), said nothing was wrong with the thermostat (two points in his favor), and gave me a repair estimate of $700 (you’re hired!).  When the repairmen came out, between the two of them, figured out how to remove the drain pan and replace it without removing the coil and were done in two hours instead of the estimate of a whole day.  I renegotiated the price and ended up paying $350.  I will be calling him again if I ever need more repairs.

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So now we were left with a concrete floor in the bedroom and I started working on my design plan for the room.  We decided on wood grain tile flooring and I hired someone to do it.  My back still hasn’t fully recovered from the kitchen renovation.  That was done the first week of November.  I had hoped to have the ceiling and walls done by then, but at least all the popcorn was removed and some of the wall texture was scraped. So now the floor is a light color and the walls are a lighter green, which made for a much brighter room.IMG_0330 The final touches were blackout curtains, some area rugs, and a new bedside table for Peter. Still in the plans are a new ceiling fan, because I hate the one that’s there and I want to build a sliding barn door for the closet, but that’s in the future as funding allows.

Getting repairs done

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February was a great time to get repair work done. Not too cold, not much rain, no snow. Our picnic table, made of plastic wood, would never rot, but apparently could break. When we had the serious flooding last year, the table had sunk into the saturated sand on one side and the torsional stress cracked a couple of seat supports. The price of replacement plastic wood was prohibitively expensive so I fashioned replacement parts with a cedar 2×4. It’s really nice having all the necessary tools on hand.

 

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The next item on my to do list was reseating some loose tiles in the guest bathroom. I have no idea why these two tiles became loose: earthquake, floods, take your pick. I had to put this off for quite a while because I didn’t have any spare tiles. So I slowly worked out the grout over the course of several months and when I was sure they were both completely loose, I lifted them cleaned off all the old mortar and reset them.

 

 

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After that, I decided I needed to build a bench seat for the cab of my truck, so I could carry both dogs in the cab along with Peter. I had some scrap 3/4 inch plywood, 3 inch thick foam from a project that never happened, and some leftover fabric from some curtains I made when we lived in Illinois. Once that was assembled I fashioned a strap with a carabiner to secure the bench to an anchor in the truck.

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D’Argo thought it was awesome. He jumped in, sniffed it from end to end, picked his side, and lay down. He was all set. Oscar was nervous and confused, but he has since decided it’s pretty comfy. Oscar usually sprawls out and falls asleep. D’Argo sits up and watches out the side window. Dog approved!

 

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While I was searching in my fabric stash for the bench cover, I came across some upholstery fabric and piping (from the same aborted project as the foam) and discovered I had more than enough material to reupholster our shabby ottoman.  I immediately started taking the old cover apart for a pattern, removing thousands of staples, and again inflaming my tennis elbow.

 

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I realized I wasn’t going to be putting those staples back by hand. So I finally gave in and bought a compressed air stapler. I had never used any compressed air power tools and I was amazed at how smooth and easy it was to use. Putting the ottoman back together was a breeze.

 

 

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It turned out really well, and was an immediate favorite perch for D’Argo. The boys also appreciate the boost to get on our bed.

 

 

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The final spring repair was to replace the french door screen. We initially had a curtain screen, but the velcro had come loose from the frame, there was a tear near the opening, and grasshoppers had chewed holes in the fabric. So I decided to spend a little extra and purchase a retractible screen. According to the instructions, it could be installed in 20 minutes. I was under no such illusion. Something always goes wrong. I expected the clearance between the door frame and the stone facade would be insufficient. That was easy to fix with scrap wood I had on hand from the kitchen renovation. It took half a day. I got it all installed then found that one of the screws to hold the stop in place was stripped. While I was rooting around looking for a replacement part, there was a commotion in the back yard. D’Argo, vigilant, headed full tilt for the open back door. Although there are stripes on the screen to let you know it’s there, they were not seen by a certain terrier running at full speed. D’Argo crashed through. Luckily, because of the missing screw, the screens gave way without damage. I’m quite certain D’Argo didn’t know what hit him, but from that moment on he’s been cautious around the back door.