Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Puck Eats a Pear

Puck, why do you look guilty?  What do you have in your mouth?  

Oh, a fallen pear?  Okay, you can have it.  

Puck roamed away to select the perfect place under the pear tree to enjoy his treat. I followed.

I love it when he uses his feet like little hands to hold something in place.  

Who knew dogs liked pears?

Nibble, nibble.  



This might be easier if he wasn't missing a big canine tooth.


Sniff, sniff.  Any crumbs left? 

Sniff, sniff.  All gone.  


Smack.  That was lip smacking good!  


Hey, what are you doing over here? 

Rub my pear belly, please.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Real Hay Ride with Farmer Joe

When I heard that Jamie was going to be helping Joe "load hay" last week, I volunteered to help.  My friends with farming backgrounds have good stories of sore muscles and itchy skin after putting up hay.  I've never had the opportunity to participate before, so I was excited to go.  I didn't realize how exciting this chore was going to be!  We met Farmer Joe at his home farm, but when we got there, I realized that the hay was bound for a barn at a local farm that Joe is leasing for his cows.  Cool, a hay road trip!  I took the picture above from my car as I followed Joe and Jamie who were in the farm truck pulling a hay wagon, which was pulling a second hay wagon.  I was so glad when we turned off the main road because I'd been watching the wagon in the back wiggle all over the road and was tense with anticipation for the seemingly inevitable moment when the hay bales would be begin to rain down on passing cars.  Already, this was more thrilling than I imagined it would be.

Oh my.  This road is so narrow, what will he do if a big truck comes the other way?!

Just when my nerves were nearly shot, Jamie got out of the truck to direct Joe around an impossibly tight turn.  Oh, please don't let another car come zipping around that blind turn!

Of course the tight blind turn was over a one lane bridge with no rails!

We made it!  Wait...nope.  Joe trades the truck in for a tractor that is strong enough to pull the two wagons up the steep dirt path to the barn.  He tells me we only have another mile to go with the tractor, but for the last mile, we get a hay ride.  A real hay ride!

Joe moves a few bales around on the front of the first wagon so Jamie and I could have a cozy seat.

Of course, a seat behind a giant metal spear, on a shifting stack of hay, with rocks flipping at our faces from the big tires digging into rutted path on the steep slope, and the occasional low limb swiping at our heads feels slightly more dangerous than cozy.  This was nothing like the hay ride we took at the local apple orchard for a company picnic a few years ago.  This hay ride was more fun, for sure, even though Joe didn't provide hot apple cider at the end.     

Joe wasn't joking about the trip being at least a mile, either.  I really enjoyed getting to see this new farm, with it's lovely ponds and ridge top views.  The metal spear on the back of the tractor is for picking up those big round bales of hay.  Jamie reminded me that if I fall off the wagon, to make sure not to fall forward onto the spear, or to fall under the wagon.  Fall to the outside only.  Got it.  

I see the cows!

I particularly liked this fat gray one.  

The panda faced cows are some of my favorites. 

But this little red one was very pretty, too.

When I looked back, I could see that the entire herd was following us, and when we stopped to open a gate, they started munching the hay like it was a mobile salad bar.  Jamie had to stand at the gate and let the tractor and wagon through, but not let the cows follow, and then shut the gate.  I suggested he use the technique I use when I have to enter cow pastures for work.  I throw my arms above my head and yell "Big Arms!" It always works as a cow deterrent.  It probably works to deter anybody, really, because someone flailing and yelling about their big arms could be dangerous.  In their minds.  "Big Arms!!!"

We passed through a gate to the part of the farm that the cows haven't grazed, which is planted in pretty green switch grass.  

The nearly full moon was visible in the blue sky above the barn we were heading to.  

I love the way the light streams in between the gaps in the barn walls.  

After all that fun and excitement, it was time for the work.  Jamie un-stacked the bales from the wagon and Joe and I stacked them on the floor.  Joe taught me to stack two bales in the same direction, then turn the next two bales, and to always line the bales up on the outside of the stack, like the game Tetris.  That way we had a solid wall to work against when placing the next rows.  

I didn't want to hurt myself on my first hay loading, so I stacked the bales three high, then started a new row.  I've been told that this was an easy loading since we had lots of room and didn't have to pitch the bales up high.  I didn't get sore from the work, so next time I may try to stack them four high, just so I can brag about how sore my muscles are.

Once the hay was loaded in the barn, we got another hay ride!  Joe and Jamie, and Joe's little boy came to our house for dinner, which was the first time we've had company when we didn't sit outside or around a folding table in a construction zone.  To eat at the table from a meal cooked in the house made me feel like we really live there.  I'm so glad we moved to a town where we already have friends for neighbors.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Chicken Coop in the Sunset

Yesterday, we finally began one of the farm projects I've been dreaming about for years - the building of the chicken coop!  In the weeks since we've moved in to the little farm house, I've had an incomplete feeling each morning when I leave for work without tending to my chickens.  I haven't had any exciting egg finds, or shared any rambling walks to hunt for bug snacks with feathered friends.  It's past time to establish a flock.  

My chicken coop dreams have gone through several half-formed designs because I couldn't settle on where it should live, and how best to build it.  Should the chickens be near the house for easy access, or far away from the house to avoid early morning crowing and cackling?  The answer, I hope, is to build a mobile coop, so we can change our minds whenever we want!  See that wall of vegetation behind Puck?  Hidden in all those stems is a two wheel trailer that Byron and Shanna gave us.  It's the new base of the our mobile chicken coop.  

Brandon had to battle some wasps that nested in the hitch, but he managed to hook the trailer to the tractor and pull it from the weeds.

The asters that had grown through the wire bottom of the trailer were plucked and squeezed into pretty bouquets stuck in the wire on the bottom of the cart. 

Aww... Brandon picked me flowers!

There were crumbly boards underneath the wire base.  Brandon used a crow bar to pull the nails holding the wire to the boards, so he could take the rotten wood away, which will allow the chicken droppings to fall through the floor onto the ground below.

While he was busy doing that, I busied myself filling a vase with the flowers, posing them for photos, and bringing Brandon a bag of frozen fruit to put on the goose egg he gave himself by hitting his head with the crowbar.  I'm still not sure how he managed to do that, but I'm really glad he has a strong skull.  If he hit me in the head with a crowbar it would have taken more than frozen blueberries to cure me, I'm sure.  

The cats thought the flowers were lovely on the dinning room table.

I have a book of graph paper that has been very handy for sketching out our ideas for projects like the chicken coop.  I can't really tell that anything we build resembles our drawings in more than spirit, but it's nice to have a starting point.   

The basic unit of measurement for this project is the width of a roll of wire.  We aren't using chicken wire on the walls since I've seen what happens when a raccoon sticks his hands through the holes in chicken wire and pulls a sleeping chicken out one little piece at a time.  I never want to see that again, so I'm using the more expensive and heavy duty hardware cloth, that has holes too small for raccoon hands.  I'm a little worried that the wire on the bottom of the trailer has holes that are big enough for a weasel or a rat to squeeze through.  Someone on the interweb said if the hole is big enough for a hot dog to go through, then it's big enough for a weasel.  What!?  In Kentucky, we have long-tailed weasels, which look bigger than a hot dog to me, but I would hate to find out the hard way.  I may have to cover the bottom too, which messes up my plans for letting the droppings fall through.   

Also burried in the weeds, is a stack of metal roofing that we saved from the front room of the house, when we put on the new roof.  We've already used some of this metal for the outhouse, but we had enough left over for the chicken coop too.

Using bits of salvaged lumber from the work on the house, plus a few new two-by-fours, and some advise from myself and Brandon's mom, the frame of the coop was assembled.  

Brandon said he felt like the architect Frank Gehry, as he assembled the roof using the sheets of metal. 

I think Frank would be quite impressed with our assembly technique, which involved Brandon hammering in nails from above, and me watching from the underside as the nails came through in the wrong place and directing Brandon on which way he should move over to hit the wood.  It's all very exact and professional, as you can see.  

Ta-da!  A roof.  A roof with lots of holes isn't much of roof during a storm, I guess, but the little points of light shining through make for a nice ambiance that I'm sure the chickens will appreciate when its not raining.  Also note that the low edge of the roof, which is rusted sharp metal twisted in dangerous angles, is exactly the height of Brandon's forehead.  When I mentioned that this was not the best thing from a forehead safety standpoint, Brandon said he would just have to be smart enough not to walk into the roof.  Does anyone want to place a bet on whether or not Brandon will require forehead stitches in the near future? 

Because the trailer is on only two wheels in the center, if we step onto the back of the trailer, the whole thing tips.  So my primary job during the roof installation was to stand on the front of the trailer and act as a weight so it didn't tip while Brandon was standing on the other side.  Fortunately, this job doesn't require two hands, so I was able to add some extra weight by holding a tasty beverage. Whew, a hard days work, for sure!

Despite it's ramshackle-ness, I think the chicken coop is a fine example of found object architecture (is that a thing? It should be!).  

When I asked Brandon if we should affix the wood frame to the trailer, to prevent it from sliding off when pulling it up a hill, he tipped the whole thing to demonstrate to me that it would not slide off.  I'm not sure his demonstration alleviated my concern.  How long before we're pulling it up a hill, the coop pops off the hitch, and then the whole thing come sliding off.  I guess that will help us decide where it lives!

The sunset was lovely last night, so I made sure to photograph the new coop with a backdrop of pink and lavender skies.  It's not finished yet, but we made a really great start.

Did anyone else see the lunar eclipse last night?  It was so cool!  Like a blood red shadow on most of the moon, with a black center and one brilliant edge.  Byron was able to take this picture, which gives me camera envy.
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