The Beginning – Come on, chapter 7

One morning out my window.

One morning out my window.

Chapter 7
I start unloading the pickup as soon as I get home. I have some old barrels with one end cut out, so put them in a corner of the woodshed and put the bags of dog food in a couple of them and the chicken feed into a couple more. I use plywood covers with a handle to keep voles and squirrels out. This enlarged woodshed is great. I don’t have to worry about everything getting wet now. Maybe I should have made it even bigger. I fasten a come-along to the top pole and back the pickup over as close as possible. I hook a chain around the top of a fuel barrel and to the come-along and rachet it up a couple of clicks, then pull out from under it. I have a small cart on wheels that I put under the barrel and use a stepladder to let the barrel down onto the cart. Then I pull it into the back corner of the woodshed and write today’s date on it with magic marker. Then back for the other one. The water barrels are handled the same way at the back door of the house.
The chicks are in a huge cardboard box on the sun porch and Pal is still on his leash fastened to a doorframe in the house. I am not sure how he will act around Aristotle and Socrates, my half grown cats. Not that they are so well behaved, but one disaster at a time. I would rather referee their meeting.
When I go in the house, I needn’t have worried, the dog is laying on the floor with both cats asleep between his front paws. He is looking like the big protector. I unclip his leash and he stays where he is.
The smokehouse fire went out while I was in town, so I restart the fire and set it back in to smolder along. The meat, being fairly lean, will not require a long smoke to give it the flavor and preserve it. If this had been a Autumn bear, then it would have been extremely fat and may not have cured and smoked as easily. I would have trimmed and rendered as much of the fat as possible, but this one didn’t have much fat on it. I had a small amount of the fat on ice, waiting to render when I got a chance though, as bear lard is the best for baking and deep frying doughnuts.
I look around the outside of my house, trying to decide where to add a small chicken coop to let them benefit from the house warmth a bit, during the winter. One end of the sun porch doesn’t have very good growing space as I had ran out of windows when building it. Now I can just add on there. It doesn’t take long to lay out a small addition. I have a lot of salvaged lumber and this will make good use of it. I think the nails will be the only things new in it. I can add the nice little touches later, but the chicks need a home, now. I think I will make a small doorway onto the sun porch, also, so I can take care of them in winter without having to go outdoors. I have a door I picked up that was probably for a bathroom or closet. Only 21 inches wide, so that will fit between wall studs. They are 24 on center.
Once the walls are up, I cover the outside of the studs with feed bags as house wrap. That should help cut the wind a bit. Then that is covered with some old T1-11 siding and the outside is almost finished. At present, a tarp over the top is the roof. This has been one long day. There is a lot to be said for 24 hour daylight.
The next morning, I get right to work on the chicken coop. More feed bags go over the rafters I stick on and some of the better sheets of metal roofing I have stockpiled out back. I don’t want this to leak. Then the Plexiglas sheets are installed as windows. I will probably wish I had made them opening, later. Maybe just add some vents I can cover in winter, on each end. I end up putting two sheets of Plexiglas with an inch of airspace between them, caulked and sealed in. That should help keep cold out in winter and also to keep heat out, in summer.
The exterior door is narrower than I thought, so I have to add another stud in the opening. Then the door is cut into the sun porch. That one I have handy, so make the space to fit and hang the door. Insulation in the ceiling and walls and a good vapor barrier over that and I start looking for scrap plywood to cover the inside so the chicks don’t peck holes in the vapor barrier and get into the insulation. It won’t be a pretty job, but it will work fine. While looking around for scrap, I find some old broom handles I had on hand and thought they would do well to make perches with. So they got added to the pile going up to the house. Pal wasn’t sure what to make of this activity, but he came along and stayed close at hand no matter what I was doing. I’ll have to see how he does on pulling loads. I have an older garden cart around here with a broken handle. Maybe he can pull it. That will have to be a future project though.
While eating my lunch, I pull tiny weeds in the garden. The chicks, already over a week old at least, should love them. They aren’t sure what to do with them when I first drop them in the box with them on my way in to finish up their new home. One brave chick pecks and jumps back with a bit in it’s beak. Hmmm, maybe this stuff is not so bad after all and pretty soon chicks are chowing down on weeds.
By late afternoon, I have the coop pretty well finished for it’s new inhabitants. I put a small propane wall heater up where it wouldn’t be too easy for them to burn themselves on it and run a line out the back to hook into a small propane tank, in cold weather. For now, I think the little room with it’s Plexiglas windows and well insulated walls and ceiling should hold enough heat to keep them comfortable. I will leave them in their big box overnight with a towel over the top, to hold their body heat in until they seem big enough to make it and before they get too crowded in the box. Part of the garden is better looking and the chicks seem happy with the new addition to their diet.
I cut some vent holes from the coop into the sun porch to screen and use for heat in the winter. I hope enough will filter through to keep my newest residents comfortable. I have some old rolls of small mesh chicken wire and build the vent frames with the wire inside to keep cats on one side, chickens on the other.
I think the chicks will be okay in the new home when they are ready. I wish I could pour a concrete layer on the floor, for easier cleaning. Instead, I have some linoleum and glue that down and partly up the sides of the walls. Maybe that will be okay for being able to clean the floors better.
This has been a productive day and I feel the chickens will be a good addition to my dream of living out here on very little income.
Before I shut down for the evening, I hike out into the woods a short distance where I had spotted an ice buildup during spring thaw. I had tied pink ribbons of surveyors tape all around the area, so I could find it again and I could see a small flowing stream of water coming out of the bank where the ice had been earlier. Maybe, just maybe, I could dig it out and have a source of good water on the property.

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