Thursday, March 30, 2017

Death in the Night

He was about 8'/2.5m long and his body was bigger around than my wrist. He turned up right at the steps of our deck and threatened Himself and Jock. Himself locked Jock inside the house, fetched my gun, and then told me to come and see the snake. I demurred, he insisted. This meant the Rattlesnake was left to its own devices for at least 5 minutes!

Now, in Africa, if you make yourself scarce, the snake makes itself scarce, and everyone lives in peace. Not in Texas, it seems. Despite being given a respite, the snake was still in the same spot and very aggressive. It signed it's own death warrant!

Himself wanted to keep the skin and the rattles, but some local critter carried the corpse away in the night, so this is our only record. That, and my memory of the sound. Those rattles sure are scarier in real life than they are on the movies!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Prizewinning Watermelon!

Last year, when we were taking apart the garden to go into its winter dormancy, Himself dug out some watermelons. Most of them were the normal sized ones, and most of them were past their "sell by" date and ended up as chicken food. Much to the chickens' delight! However, we did end up with one prize winner! It weighed in at 40LB! (18kg for my metric readers.)

Even bigger than our microwave (it was blown, so it was outside in the garage to be taken to recycling.)

Really difficult to measure something that rocks in weird shapes, but we think it was 23"/58cm long

 Give or take an inch

And about 13"/33cm across at the widest point. 

I forgot to take photos of the inside... oh, bite me!... because it was so yummy, I just tucked in and didn't think about pics. The most glorious rich golden yellow, sweet and juicy! Our neighbors each got a quarter. Best. Watermelon. Ever!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cluckingham Palace - Part 2

Part 1 covered the major build of our feathered family's new home. Now, here are the final builds, finishing touches, and introduction of the new occupants. 

11. Hardware cloth was added to all the run, stretching from the roof trusses, and curved to create a secure line... (we were stacking all the building wood inside the run to keep it dry, as we hit a patch of major rain for a few days.)

All the way down to a foot below the pen, digging beneath the line of the run and curving the cloth a foot outward. The cloth was then topped with big rocks and then concrete poured over it. One of our Quality Control team watched over the job to ensure it was up to spec.

And then the whole lot was covered over with earth and packed. Jock took quite a liking to the run, snoozing in there most days. We figure his Quality Control report was all good. 

12. Guttering was added to the back to catch and direct the rain run off, and a large rock placed under the spout to prevent soil erosion. The plan is to add a rain barrel for rainwater catchment in the future. The windows and door hatch were painted. 

13. Himself built a hinged roost that I can lift for cleaning, and we covered the floor in a deep bed of shavings.

14. The Door Hatch build was finalized and tested for smooth opening and closing, and an old wooden ladder we found in the barn was converted into a ramp.

15. We put together a bit of a playgound in the run. The feeder was hung from the rafter and a feed tray was placed to one side. Perches and logs formed climbing, sitting and resting areas. We added grass clippings for scratching and digging around in. 

16. Himself built a window box, and planted flowers. The final member of the Quality Control team did an inspection. 

17. Food storage

18. Neighbors donated decorative items. We couldn't believe it, but we loved the joke and they all went up. A gate flag.

A wreath.

Some chicken pans. Himself added the mirror from the old cabin medicine cabinet.  Getting the idea now why I've nicknamed the place Cluckingham Palace? 😉

Finally... we added some chickens!

Part of the playground included a swing. You can see it in this photo. 

The nesting boxes were ready for the ladies, even though it would be a month or two before we got to see any eggs. 

This photo includes our very beautiful rooster. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Cluckingham Palace - Part 1

Having decided we wanted chickens, we needed a place for them to stay. I spent days, weeks perhaps, finding plans for chicken coops and presenting them to Himself for approval. Finally, he chose one that he liked (and promptly changed it all through the project!)  and the build was on.

Step 1: Find a site you like and level it with the tractor. While he was busy with that, I worked on the steps to get down to the run. I'd probably go ass-over-tit just trying to get down the bank to fetch eggs and feed the fluffs every day, so it seemed like a good idea. 

2: Create the structure. We decided to use the dog pen as our run outline and build the coop onto one side. Huge treated poles were sunk into concrete and the pen was erected around them. Then the wire on one side of the pen was removed for the coop.  

3: Roof trusses, coop supports and... windows? Yup. Windows. Each side has a window and the front window will form the door hatch.

Side note: Himself is OCD, I"m sure of it. We're building a freakin' chicken coop, and he insists that every square must be square and every surface must be level. 

Exactly level.

4. Walls of the coop. 

5. Hinged door flaps for me to get in and clean. (Note who gets to clean it!)

6. The entire coop was enclosed with hardware cloth to ensure nobody got in it that wasn't supposed to. The cloth wasn't as wide as the coop, so it was overlapped and I sat lacing it together with fencing wire. The windows were covered with it too, and then framed over the cloth to ensure there were no gaps or chinks. 

7. Primer and roof. We used corrugated sheets, with solid gray over the coop and an alternate gray and clear over the run. 

8. When it came time to paint, I grabbed two cans of the same paint that were marked as white (you can see the paint tag on the top right corner of the below photo,) popped open the lid and was horrified! We were going to have a pink coop! Once it was all shook up though, it was white. Phew!

9. The outside being mostly done, we worked on the inside. After some debate, we went with a vinyl floor. It would create a waterproof surface for easy cleaning. A local flooring company sells leftovers and I picked up a sheet large enough to cover the base of the coop with a little spare. A dab of glue...

...and roll out the precut-to-size vinyl. 

And, in case you are wondering, yes the coop is big enough for Himself to be inside. It's big enough to hold a twin mattress, with some room to spare. Huge space in there!

10. We were fortunate enough to experience a massive downpour shortly after completing the vinyl floor. Fortunate because the vinyl kept the wood dry, and because it showed us a major flaw in the design of the coop. The open ceiling space allowed water to drive in on the leeward side. 

So some rainproofing was in order. We added a section of wood to close off the ceiling space on the one side only, it's still open on the inside where it's covered by the roof. And we put a section of vinyl over the hatch of the nesting boxes to stop leakage through the hinged area. 

This post is really long already, so I've split it into two parts. I'll give you a couple days to go through this one and share part 2 in a few. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Deck Herb Garden

Himself has created gorgeousness once again!

There were some serious winds blowing on the coast a couple weeks back and MIL's gate was blown off its hinges. Entirely! Himself went down to do the repairs and ended up building a new gate. He brought the old planks home with him and, without telling me about it, set to creating this little slice of heaven. 

Apparently, he saw something along these lines in a magazine or online somewhere, thought it was great, and created his own version. It's huge! Five feet across, and planted up against the side panel of the deck directly across from the kitchen window. Reason? So that I'd remember to water them, according to His Royal Sarcastic-ness. Well... he does have a point... My plants either drown or dehydrate....

There's even a little ledge for the tools and watering pot and ... er... things.

In the corner I have a pot of cherry tomatoes. Wif 'matoes already!

On the top row left I have spearmint, oregano, and one kind of thyme. No, I don't know what kind. Sorry. No label on the pot.

Top row right is parsley and two types of basil.

Bottom row right are strawberries. Homemade jam for sure this year! My bread maker can do it, according to the manual.

Bottom row left is a different type of thyme, and a big bare patch with onion and chive seeds. They'll fill the patch soon, as our weather is making everything thrive at the moment!

And to round it all out, he repotted my Aloe Vera and plunked it alongside too. 

Isn't he just marvelous? My only remaining question is how is he going to keep the deer off the deck once they discover this Deer Candyland? 😉