The Coop – Some Thoughts

Coop Finished

I finished the coop today. This journey began June 18 so it took a little over a month to complete.  I have to say that I am pleased with how it came out and the chickens really love their new home.  They aren’t old enough to go outdoors yet but the ladder is ready when they are.

Building this taught me a lot of things, some of them about building.  The huge lesson I learned is that I can’t do everything myself.  I physically just can’t do it.  I was pretty disappointed to find that out.  For some reason I thought I could have this pretty much done in a couple of weeks – I’ve built things before.  I didn’t take into consideration the weight of a sheet of plywood and how high I was going to have to lift it.  I want you to know that I can barely drag one across the floor.

Bill was here to help on weekends and had a 12 day vacation where this was THE project. For the most part it was much more enjoyable having help build it and I admire Bill’s ability to just tackle anything.   It wouldn’t have been quite as pressing if I had actually waited to get the chicks until AFTER the coop was build.  I didn’t expect them to be escaping their initial enclosure at 2 weeks old, they grow fast!  As it was they were moved into it before any trim was done.

Building a shelter is one of those things that has been on my bucket list forever.  I always thought it would be a cabin in the back forty (and that could happen at some point).  Getting chickens was really just an excuse to build their shelter.  I had been looking at coop plans for a really long time and this one popped up into a search just a month or so before coming to Rowe permanently.  Yeah, I could have built just some little shack of unpainted plywood that I moved from place to place but I wanted something that looked good, something that spoke to the whole whimsy of having birds in the first place.  One would think having chickens is serious business but it really isn’t.  At some point their egg production may be important to me but for now I’m just watching my once fuzzy little chicks rapidly grow into adult hens. The coop provides them with as much protection as I can get from a building and it looks good in the landscape.

Coop in Evening

I took this photo the first night the chicks spent out in the coop – they had been in a room off of the shed up until that point.  Their heat lamp is glowing nicely inside and they were all settled into their cozy wood chips with water and food.  I worried though, was I sending them out there too soon?  Later that night I woke up to the sound of foxes in the back forty, I got up and looked out my bedroom window to see their snug little home with the glowing red lamp.  For now they are as safe as they can be.

Morning Walkabout

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This will be a photo heavy post today – just to give you a glimpse of the place right now.  It also serves as a record for me.

Each morning starts with picking up my handy bug zapper.  It’s deer fly season and this has proven itself to be a necessity.

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The patio garden – to my right as I cross the driveway heading for the back forty.  This is an old garden, a friendship garden with almost all of the plants coming from people we know.  My mother worked on this from the summer we moved in, 1967.  It’s going to be renewed this summer since the lawn is really creeping in at this point and things are really crowded.

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Towards the back of the garage there is the newest perennial garden and in the foreground is the raspberry patch.  The raspberries are in their third year and are just starting to fill in.

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We take the road to the back forty, we being me and the dogs.  They know the drill and love being out there.  On the right is the sawdust building for the sawmill.  I don’t think it’s a crooked as it looks in the photo but you never know.

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As I walk around what used to be the back pasture the dogs spend their time sniffing whatever went on the night before.

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From the same spot (more or less) looking towards a road that goes back into the wood lot.  There’s a branch that goes to a stump dump where I’ve taken some very nice compost for the garden over the years.  Everything about gardening is waiting – years not months.

The tete-a-tete chair my father made is up there and it overlooks the pasture back up towards the house.  It’s the perfect spot to drink a morning cup of coffee or that martini in the afternoon.

140624 (15)As I walk the perimeter I check on the berries, deciding what I will net this year so I get more of a harvest than the birds.  These are blackberries and the birds pretty much get all of them – they probably scope them out more often than I do.

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This is the view from the back of the pasture – the table was too worn out for the patio but too solid to burn so there it sits.  Just one more thing to weed whack.

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From the same spot if you turn around you look into the woods towards the wood lot – there are also some old, empty beaver ponds back there as well.

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Back up into the driveway I noticed that this summer is the summer of potted plants for me.  I love the way they look and I’m here to take care of them now.  This is the well by the driveway.  Years ago we replaced the wood cover with stone fearing our kids would climb up on top of it and fall in.  I think it might be usable in an emergency but I wouldn’t want to drink out of it now.

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This is the view from the patio, it overlooks the vegetable garden, the new garden and the raspberries towards the back forty.  I have annuals in pots as well and tomatoes and cucumbers.

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Yes, cucumbers.  I was skeptical at first.  Bill brought two pots of these up that he got from the plant gypsy we have come to the shop in Enfield.  I told him they would never grow.  How wrong I was.  Now I’m looking for the seeds for next year.

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Across from the patio is another perennial garden that has morphed into all kinds of things over the years.  It’s now overgrown as well but I love having the pots for color.  It is also a place for the birds that we can watch from the table in the kitchen.

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Another crazy potted plant.  Its in a pedestal pot so I guess I could take the hanger off of it now huh?

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Heading for the front yard and looking back over the gardens – this is the relaxation spot for every part of the day.  I swear people that drive by only do when we are sitting in those chairs.  I figure they think that’s all we do.

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This is the vegetable garden from the chairs.  It’s slow but steady this year, about a week to 10 days behind last years.  It’s been quite cool.

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But the potatoes are doing great!

This is what I look at every morning (even if it rains).  I check my plants, take a walk, play with the dogs all in about 20 minutes time.  It gives me time to plan my day.  Look around at what needs doing and try not to get overwhelmed by the list.  Prioritize.  Breathe in the fresh air, stand in the sunshine, hug a tree, center.

Coop Down

140529 Coop (6)The coop has been part of the landscape here for decades.  You see it in the background of photos taken at the turn of the century (1900).  When we moved here in 1967 and over a good many years stuff was thrown in there never to see the light of day again.  “You never know when you might need it” is the refrain that continues to this day and there may have been once or twice that something was salvaged.

Miraculously the building continued to stand, through some pretty snowy winters when other, newer buildings didn’t fare so well.  We always joked that it stayed standing because all of the junk was holding it up.

I finished cleaning it out a couple of weeks ago and stood back to look at what remained.

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There were structural repairs made over the years and the only thing that was really holding it up was the metal column in the center.

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Yeah, time to go.

140607 Coop Down (1)Now I have been waiting for many, many years for the tear down of the building.  Bill just happened to be driving by on his way to put the tractor away and decided to just knock it down.  Damn, I missed it!

Created with Nokia Smart CamThis is the aftermath of about 5 minutes of tractor work.  Amazingly it collapsed in on itself.  Now some real work begins in cutting up the huge chunks and hauling it away to make way for a new building.  I think it’ll be one of those little by little kind of tasks.  Everyday cut up a few more things into manageable pieces.

There are chicks arriving July 1st but won’t be housed in anything like what this coop was.  The only thing in common the new coop will have is its orientation to the sun.  Work is in progress but that’s a post for another day.  I can tell you this – I did salvage 12 squares of perfect roofing shingles that were stored in a faraway corner of that now gone building.  You never know when you’re going to need something.

 

Wise Words

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I visited with an old friend the other day.  I see her much more often now that I am in Rowe than I ever saw of her in the past 35 years or so that we’ve known each other.  She has gone through some major life changes in the past few months.  She is a wise woman.  We talked about others that we know who are dealing with life changes of their own (myself included).  Some are retiring and moving away from the place that has been their home for over 50 years.  Others are taking care of aging parents, their children are moving out or they’re recovering from the loss of a loved one.

 

She said “You need to learn to love your new life.”

 

Profound words those.  We are all hit with changes – some predictable, some not.  For me, the changes were seen and prepared for in the best way I knew how.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t things that are happening that I hadn’t anticipated.  When life changes are made (or happen) it can take a while to truly get the big picture of how those changes are going to affect you and yours.  It takes awhile to get into that new routine.

I confess to be floundering a bit here.  There’s so much to do and so many of the decisions have to be made in somewhat of a vacuum. The idea of being in a situation where I can work on producing the kind of life I only saw myself doing after “retirement” has been a bit overwhelming.  I think I thought I would have a more concrete idea of what I was going to do than I do.  Things are getting done, not necessarily in the time or way I thought they would.  I just have to roll with it.

In realizing that things are never what they seem or intended those words about learning to love my new life were exactly what I needed to hear.  Decisions were made based on the realities of my life whether good or bad – this is the way life is.  Learning to love it – working on loving it – is probably the most important thing I can do to have things be just as they should be.

 

 

 

Abundance

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I walk the perimeter of the back forty a couple of times a day with the dogs.  It’s far enough away from any distractions to make the walk enjoyable for me as well as them.  One of our dogs, now elderly, is hard of hearing with bad eyesight and tends to wander in the road.  There are usually only a handful of cars that pass the house on any given day but this way I don’t have to worry and he can spend quality time sniffing whatever dogs with dementia sniff.

I’m constantly amazed at the things that grow back there.  Blackberries in abundance.  I never really get to harvest many of them because there are also birds in abundance – fruit is a big food source for them and I take whatever is leftover.

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Blueberries are everywhere around the edges of the mowing.  There is one large bush in the open that I net every year and it gives me a good supply of berries to freeze.  There is nothing like those wild blueberries in muffins on a cold, snowy morning in January I have to tell you.  There are bushes all over but this particular bush I reserve for myself.  It sometimes seems as if the birds are waiting when I go down to pick them thinking they’ll just help themselves while I pick.  It’s a quiet interlude I look forward to every summer just to spend time in birdsong.

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Then there is the pear tree.  The lone survivor of a number of plantings on a long ago Father’s Day.  This tree has come into its own in the past few years.  It’s spectacular in bloom and there have been years where I thought all of the branches would break under the weight of the fruit.  This, of all the “free” food that surrounds me, stresses me the most.  There is SO much of it. Pears are picky about when they are harvested and ripened and the frost freeze cycle of the end of season can mess you up in the timing of it all.  Did I mention there is SO much of it?  The past few years there have been enough pears to fill the bucket of the tractor three times over.  That’s a LOT of pears folks.  I can them, I eat them, I give a lot away.  I even used them as place markers on my Thanksgiving table with over 40 guests.  There is not enough creativity in the world to deal with this kind of harvest.  Hmmmm, pear cider . . .

Being surrounded by the bounty of nature (and perhaps the forethought of many now gone) is really a wonderful thing.  In the past couple of years that is how I’ve begun to think about the food I grow.  There is always the huge vegetable garden but I planted asparagus last year knowing full well that I would not be eating any of it until the third year.  The glory in it is the bed can be good for over thirty years.  It’s nice to know that someone will be eating that lovely vegetable in 2040 because I planted it.  To me THAT is food security even if it’s only for three weeks out of the year.

Beauty in Everything

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This has been waiting for me for the past week or maybe a little more.  I needed to clean out the rest of the junk in the coop so we can tear it down to make way for a new one.  Uhm, yeah.  Every morning I take the dogs out for their walk to the back forty and I walk by this.  When I went out this morning I decided today was the day.  I walked closer to check out what I was really in for, bracing myself for the ugliness that was years and years in the making.  This is what I saw.

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Stacks of old doors, shutters and broken windows.

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Walls with holes to the outdoors, random gaskets hanging on nails.

140529 Coop (3)Rusted, broken sleds and bailing twine.

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Baskets without bottoms and plants growing through the floor.

The morning light was beautiful streaming through the gaping holes in the walls and through the non-existent doors and windows.  There’s a lot of life that was thrown in here through the years and I just had to take one more moment to record what was left before I filled the trailer.  I’m glad I did, there is beauty in everything, you just have to look.  Little gifts.

What We’re Called to Do

140521 Back FortyWhen I was 18 people told me that I needed a plan, a plan for my life.  My friends went off to college, confident in the choices they had made for their life’s work – nuclear engineer, mechanical engineer, music education, nursing.  I had taken business courses in high school knowing that I wouldn’t be going to college – wasn’t in the cards for this girl.  This was back in the day where if you knew how to type, take dictation and do rudimentary bookkeeping you could land a pretty good job. Yes, I’m really dating myself here.

Although I took and kept an office job for a few years I knew that it was not what I wanted to do.  Little did I realize that taking that path initially I would always be working in an office in one capacity or another for a good deal of my life.  I’m an excellent multi-tasker and can be pretty well-organized.  I manage my time well if I have to.

I went to school for photography when I was 22 and again was told I needed a plan for my life.  “Your days are numbered” said to me by my teacher and mentor still whispers in the back of my brain on many occasions.  Good words, words that really should be heeded.

Fast forward 35 years and I have to say I’m just beginning to formulate what it is I should be doing.  Honestly, I may never truly know but I think you have to look at your history, your ancestry, your genetics. I come from a long, long line of farming and textiles, both of which require good problem solving capabilities. (Although I sometimes think the biggest problem I have is figuring out what it is I want to do).

I think many people (especially in recent years) choose a career based on their likes and capabilities.  Some are blessed with extraordinary gifts and are pushed or sent in a certain direction.  Somewhere along the way I believe everyone undergoes a “crisis of faith” so to speak.  That moment (or moments) when we wonder just what the heck were we thinking.  Upon reflection we either realize that what we are doing is the only thing we should be or know in our hearts it’s time to get out.  Taking action is the next big step and that always contains the fear that you are not listening close enough.  You just have to leap.

My move to Rowe permanently was really precipitated by finance but the reality is that this is what I really should be doing.  It allows me to create on many different levels and that is who I am intrinsically.  To sit in an office, no matter who’s it was, was killing me.  I thought it then, I know it now. I’ve had the slate of Fort Pelham Farm for a few years but now I have the time to form it into a thing of beauty both physically and spiritually.

Following in the footsteps of those I knew and loved makes what I’m doing special to me. I am learning to live much the way my ancestors have.  Growing my own food, weaving my own cloth, knitting my own sweaters. We all create our own happiness minute by minute and I’ve been given a new opportunity. People shake their heads and wonder, at least those in the urban area I just left.  I’m certain the tide is shifting where some will understand but you should know I have never, ever done what people expected me to do.  I’d rather have them watch and be amused.

Weaving Wednesday

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I surprised myself with the short amount of time it took to weave this runner.  I wound and warped my loom last Wednesday and took it off on Monday morning to fringe and finish.  There were a couple of rainy days but I don’t think I spent more than a few hours a day on it and not at all during the weekend.

This table runner is 18″by 72″ with a tencel warp and cotton weft with tencel tabby. This particular overshot was easy to do although I must confess I had to make two string heddles to fix a threading mistake.   That’s when weaving lessons pay off – I’ve been taught how to fix some of my mistakes without taking it apart and starting all over again.

I have one class left for the year and some of us will be doing some other fiber related craft since our weaving projects are finished. Meanwhile I’m thinking about what to put on my loom next.

Lists

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The morning walk about is really a double-edged sword.  The quiet and beauty is wonderful but I look at this view and think about the to-do list that gets longer each and every minute. . .sigh.

I look at so many things and think about how bad it must look to the uneducated eye.  Those who have no idea the work that goes into a place this size.  In the next minute all I see is potential.  We are all about sweat equity but that can also make the list look overwhelming.

I am a list maker, always have been.  The to-do lists are separate – inside and outside. They are broken down by season, then priority. There are some indoor things that can be done (and should be) when the weather is not so great outdoors.  So there’s always the list of short-term, little projects indoors when it rains.

Then there are the small, medium and large (read dream) projects outdoors.  All of the outdoor projects I have to really break down or I would be overwhelmed.  I also have to be realistic about my timeline.  I want everything done now but know that’s something that’s not going to happen. I know that there are two more weeks before I plant my vegetable garden so tilling moves up the list.  Picking up sticks getting ready to mow should be done right now since the grass is ready to be cut everywhere.  There are leaves coming out on the trees and undergrowth that needs to be removed, that should probably be done today.  Hmmm, rain, rain, go away . . .

There is a half dressed loom waiting for some attention as well.  That’s the danger, all I really want to do is weave, but . . .

I use what I want to do to motivate what I need to do.  It’s my reward for getting things done.  With that I guess I will don weed whacking gear and head out for a couple of hours of destruction followed by a couple of hours of weaving.  That’s the plan unless the sun comes out and I’m distracted by a flower garden.