Monday, April 15, 2013

Happy New Year!

I really feel like finally I can begin the year, that finally things are opening up, the energy is changing and I'm feeling it course through me!  For some reason it feels like a new year has begun and I feel ready to take on the challenges that this year is serving up for me.

I have been getting the very distinct feeling that it's time to get things rolling with the house.  There are a couple of rather large projects that must be finished, as they are in a state where they are getting worse and to wait could mean damage to the house.  The house itself has a number of systemic flaws that, in order to fix them, one must tend to a number of precursor projects first.

One such project is our, 'sun porch,' a name that we have given this 3-season room.  The room is not seated on a foundation, but is instead supported the way a deck is supported, by posts and beams.  The existing posts are sitting on old concrete pilings which are starting to sink due mainly to erosion.  It's clear that I will need to divert the water.  The underside of the deck was designed to do this, but this particular area has not been tied in to under the deck.  This is one issue.  The second issue is that I will need to add more posts, jacks and  beams under the floor of the sun porch.  The floor has a spring to it because there is not enough support from the joists, which have a rather long run.  Adding more posts and beams will make the floor solid and will stop the progression of the sinking concrete pilings along the outside wall.

I knew this job was coming and had plenty of time to think about the order of things.  

The sun porch has been quite a disaster.  My tools we're all scattered throughout, garden implements and garbage of all sorts we're distributed randomly through out.  Over the winter the occasional cat would find an open garbage can and create a mess of paper and food wrappers.  In order to address the sub structure underneath the sun porch the flooring/decking will have to be removed because the joists and ground below need to be exposed.  This means I would have to first thoroughly clean and put away stuff in their proper place.  Most of my tools have been longing for a real home and I knew that I would have to once and for all wrangle them together in one place.  Matt's old room was going to be the place and I knew I would have to build some sturdy shelving to keep it all on.

The shelves are made of a somewhat crude but sturdy 2x4 construction.  This is the second one of these I built for the same purpose, to keep tools and accoutrement.  I cut 6 legs from 2x6 at 6' and screwed 2x4 cleats where I wanted each shelf to sit.  Each shelf is made from 1/2" plywood, each being 4'x2.5'.

All of this work made me hungry.

Assembling the shelf is pretty easy, but its a little tricky to get the first level up.  After that, there rest of them are easy to just set up on their cleats and then drill in.

It did not take me too long to fill the shelf up!  These shelves are now home to every tool, compound or otherwise that I use to work on all of the various things that I need to work on in this old house.  All of my power tools and tool boxes are here.  All of my sockets, screw drivers, grabbers and cutters of all types are here.  I have a box of various electrical components, boxes, 15 and 20 amp BX cable, breakers and switched.  Another box has plumbing supplies, rosen solder, pipe cutters and replacement parts for the well pump.  Another box has .. you get the picture.

Here is a shot of both shelves together holding all of my stuff.  Not pretty, but very strong and useful. 

This weekend we celebrated Aiden's birthday.  Aiden got some cool stuff for his birthday.  Here is a really cool one!  These are legos that have LEDs built in to them!  Wonders never cease/

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Finally Spring!

Spring is finally here!  Even during the 30 degree days, the angle of the sun provides enough direct sunlight to warm ones shoulders and give the needed reassurance that indeed, for reals, Spring is truly on its way and all is good in the Universe.

Spring means work, getting ready for the coming growing season and cleaning up all that is revealed by the melting snow. 

It has been a while since my last post.  At that time we we're raising a new batch of baby chickens.  The older hens just aren't laying the way that they used to and there we're predation issues (raccoons mainly). With care, they all (except one that was killed by an unknown predator during an experimental trial of letting them out during the winter - it was a hark or an owl that got it since there we're no tracks leading to the kill scene) made it through the winter time.  With the aid of a 400 watt heating lamp and some exterior insulation, they all spent the winter cooped up in their 4x16 living space.

Until only recently, the chickens spent all of their time in this small space.  This was not an issue for a while, since they we're still young and small, but recently the situation shifted to a need for more space and free-range-chicken exercise.  Just in time!  The weather is breaking now and the chickens are able to get outside and be chickens.

Today was the day  to clean out the chicken coop.  I knew it was getting pretty bad.  Maybe next year I will make it a point to do this sort of job more periodically.  I certainly maintain and change their bedding often during the rest of the year, but this years winter seemed to go on forever and I couldn't make myself do it.  Also, there is freezing that occurs.  The collected layer of dropping intermixed with the straw/hay substrate below begin to freeze into a very well stratified rigid structure that defies physical coersion and if one waits too long (so I have learned) a solid and growing block of frozen chicken shit piss straw bugs etc will be so massive that it only makes sense to wait until there is a chance of thaw sometime please and thank you, Ma'am, in March.

So, fresh bedding just kept being applied and really after all, during the hard winter that substrate is going to be at or around freezing, if not colder (yeah, colder), so it was not going to be particularly stinky, etc.  But now, it really is Spring.  I knew one of these weekends coming up soon I would have to address the big thawing layer of .. It was today that I had the pleasure of cleaning out about 5 months worth of composting hay and straw laden with chicken manure, a few hefty layers of it, that had built up during the winter.  

Below is a picture of what was the worst of it.  This is the back door of the coop that is located right behind where they all roost, and therefore where most of the manure is located.  By my rough count, I moved over 1000 pounds of the stuff into new compost heaps that we prepare to be used in late Spring.  My nose tells me it should be pretty good stuff.  I think this was about 600 pounds, maybe more.

Here is the same area with fresh alfalfa hay.  Putting a layer of hay or stray underneath where they roost is a great way to catch all of their crap and its ready to go for composting.  

The manure being kinda randomly distributed and layered in the hay/straw substrate this will be a great starter mix to help fuel the composting (an art to which I claim no ownership nor expertise in) process.  And it' easy to whisk away.  The crap that is.  When it's all glommed onto a bulk of something else that is easy-whisk-awayable.  Yeah.

Things in the green house or more or less not happening.  Except compost that is.  

We used the greenhouse during the winter for kitchen compost and managed to fill in quite a large hole, like maybe a yard even.  Just stuff from each day collected that we knew the chickens wouldn't want would get collected and put in there.  I continued the compost pile, extending the hole and layering the chicken manure mash as I brought it from the coop to the greenhouse, covering it with a layer of soil and repeating again or 4 times.  It was good to see that there was a healthy worm population in the soil as I dug through the dirt.  With a little tending, the compost should be ready by late May. 

So, yes our chickens are making a lot of manure.  They are fully grown now!  Here are a few shots of them in the coop.

Bardrock sitting on an egg

Look at the variety of eggs!  Most striking among them are the pale blue/green eggs.  These we're laid by the variety of chicken known as the 'Easter Egger'.  Easter Egger chickens lay these colored eggs that range in shades of light blue and light green.