As is becoming typical for us, we have been busy.  I didn’t even realize it’s been almost a month again since I blogged.  I have seriously considered giving it up, as all the people I originally began blogging for (family) rarely if ever read it.  Then, a night like tonight rolls around and I get a hankering to sit down and blog about our happenings, the biggest of which lately was our Thanksgiving.

It all started about 9 months ago, after I bought my plane ticket to Red Gate.  JR was very upset that I wasn’t taking him along.  So, I half jokingly told my 7-year-old, “Plane tickets are expensive.  If you want to fly, then earn some money and buy your own!”  I have since learned to never challenge JR when it comes to his finances.  He asked how he would go about saving the amount he needed, so we sat down and discussed how many extra, money-earning chores he would have to do, and how many rabbits he would have to sell to make the needed money.  It was amazing how many extra chores were suddenly being accomplished.   When his dad saw how serious he was, S told him he would meet him dollar for dollar, meaning he only had to earn about $150 (after tithes and required gifts savings).  I don’t think that child spent a single cent for the next 4 months, but he reached his goal.  The next planned trip was over Thanksgiving holiday, when S was scheduled to go work on animal-related projects in preparation for our move.  JR was going to get to tag along.

As the date approached, JR and S were looking forward to a week at the farm, together, doing manly work and having a bit of relaxing fun.  I, on the other hand, admit I was a bit nervous.  I have actually never been home alone with the 4 younger children for any extended period of time.  I knew I was capable physically, but mentally, trying to deal with A and N’s issues and antics can be absolutely exhausting.  I felt like this was going to be a good trial period for me, before I have a longer period next year.  I also had a surprise planned for S which I will post about tomorrow.

The guys really enjoyed their farm trip.  The #1 priority was to get a chicken coop built.  We will be hauling about 10 of our layers back with us in the hopes they won’t go into molt and will supply us with eggs until we can raise a new batch.  Once we arrive though, we have to have a home to put them in when we unload them from the trailer.  With the help of S’s brother, Uncle M, the guys set to work.  At first, S had hoped to make a quonset-hut style coop, so he had an excuse to use his lumber mill to cut fresh, green wood he could shape accordingly.

The quonset hut coop attempt

Sadly, even though we really like the design, the lumber wound up not being good for the job, and he didn’t have the time to make it work.  So, he quickly re-designed the coop, trying to use materials he had on hand–including the dry, seasoned wood he had milled on previous trips.

He decided to try leaving space in the floor slats to help with cleaning.  We may have to change that later, but he wanted to try.

He decided to try leaving space in the floor slats to help with cleaning. We may have to change that later, but he wanted to try.

The framed coop with next boxes, and JR giving size reference.

The framed coop with next boxes, and JR giving size reference.

JR inside the unfinished nest boxes.

JR inside the unfinished nest boxes.

The almost finished coop

The almost finished coop

This is about as far as they got on the coop.  It is about 7.5 feet long x 4 feet high (at the peak) x 3 feet wide, not counting the next boxes.  If you measure the nest boxes, it is 68 inches wide at the base.  He used these dimensions for several reasons:

  • We needed 1 sq. ft. per bird, which essentially allows us to house 21 birds since they are pastured and outside all day.  They really only use the coop to eat, sleep, and lay.
  • The coop had to be sturdy, but portable.
  • It had to be narrow enough to fit through a standard 6 foot gate.
  • It had to be just tall enough to let the birds roost at night, to hang the feeder, and to let me clean it easily when needed, but not so high as to make it top heavy.

What you can’t see here is that the windows on each end will open for cleaning, and we will also have hardware-cloth screening for the hot days and nights of summer. The hen entrance/exit will be a drop-ramp in the floor, so on rainy days, they can comfortably huddle under the coop rather than cramming inside.  Finally, the entire coop will be set onto a set of wagon wheels we purchased to make it very easy to move from pasture to pasture. The top of the wheels will actually go up inside a section of the nest boxes on each side, so even though there is the room for and the faux appearance of about 6 nest boxes on each side, there will in fact only be 3-4 on each side.  Since we only need about 5-6 boxes total for the number of birds we plan, we will use one or two of the remaining for small storage items, supplements, and tools we might need.

The only purchase they made so far was for screws and hinges for the nest box doors.  When I go again in March, I will try to finish the roof, install roosts and hopefully paint it.  It won’t be completely finished when we move, but we hope to only have about a day’s worth of work on it left.

In addition to the coop, they cleaned the barn up, which meant totally re-arranging the front half to make room for milking equipment, hay we bring along, and miscellaneous supplies, as well as cleaning a bunch of miscellaneous old stuff that has been stored in one of the stalls.  Because our animals have never seen fresh green grass in their lives, at the time of year we are moving (in the midst of spring lush) they are very likely to founder just looking at it!  Therefore, I will have to house them in the barn for the first month or two, as I wean them slowly onto the incredible forage there.  Thus, the barn must be ready to house them the day we arrive.

A clean stall!

A clean stall!

The final project they worked on was a bit of clean up and leveling of the trailer-parking area we built during our last 2 trips there.  It has held up and settled very nicely, and looks quite professional, if I do say so–especially when you consider the whole thing was dug and installed by hand.  We aren’t yet sure if we will be purchasing a truck and trailer for the move, or hiring a hauler to move all the animals for us.  Either way, though, we are preparing for the latter so we are ready to unload and have accommodations available.

The retaining wall we built last summer.

The retaining wall we built last summer.

Oh, the countdown is almost here.  Just five and half months to go!

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