Category Archives: The Farm

What’s going on on the farm, in the gar­dens, and out in the woods.

Busy Weekend Down on the Farm

We did way too much farm stuff this week­end.

We’ve known that the chick­en coop need­ed work before it could house the new lay­ing flock. We got car­ried away. Or rather the chick­en coop got car­ried away. We moved it from behind the barn out to the house-side edge of the pas­ture. We’ll be able to build a big­ger yard there with­out hav­ing to make it wonky shaped to leave room for the trac­tor to get in and out of the barn.

It’s amaz­ing what you can do with 2x8s some chain and a rea­son­ably capa­ble trac­tor!

Here’s what it looked like:

pulling the chicken coop

And here’s how we made it work.

skids chained to the tractor bucket.

The 2x8s and cross pieces are screwed togeth­er to make a pair of skids and then chains are hung on the buck­et of the trac­tor and it’s all lift­ed just a bit to get the front edges clear.

Then it’s a slow pull and a bit of tricky maneu­ver­ing at the end (we turned the coop 180 degrees) and the coop is now in it’s new place.

the coop in it’s new location

It also go a bit of new wall, a quar­ter sec­tion of new floor and a new pop-hole door. Oh, and some gut­ters! Now it needs paint — bad­ly. The only draw back to the new spot is that it is vis­i­ble from the house. So chick­en coop aes­thet­ics now mat­ter!

That all hap­pened Sat­ur­day. Sun­day we sheared. It’s amaz­ing­ly fast for such hard work.

shearing Satchmo

That’s Jim hold­ing Satch­mo by the head and Jason Black try­ing not to get kicked. Satch hates hav­ing his feet touched!

The Chicken Taj Mahal Gets a Fence

Our egg fac­to­ries con­tin­ue to receive far too much atten­tion and far too many lux­u­ries. Espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing they haven’t pro­duced a sin­gle egg yet.

Over the week­end we built a fence to sur­round the Chick­en Taj Mahal. The fence isn’t designed so much to keep any­thing out as to keep the chick­ens in. Chick­ens are a major pain in the gar­den.

When we first moved the lit­tle chick­ens out to the coop we built them a lit­tle yard using some exer­cise pens and bird net­ting. The dan­ger for lit­tle birds is that the crows will kill them.

previous fence

The chick­ens are now plen­ty big enough to be out of crow dan­ger but they were quick­ly out grow­ing their lit­tle “play pen” so it was time to build a prop­er chick­en yard.

Because the coop is inside the elec­tric fence there’s not too much prob­lem with coy­otes or dogs. So the fence only has to keep chick­ens in — mean­ing it can be 3 or 4 feet tall. (Fliers get their wing feath­ers short­ened)

The first step is gath­er up (buy — ouch!) your fenc­ing mate­ri­als.

fencing materials

Then you dig some post holes. Here at Black Dog Farm that means you put the back­hoe on the trac­tor and make big holes in the ground.

how to dig a fence post hole

You get some­thing that looks like hole

Some of the rocks have to be tak­en out with a pike. Ones like the one next to the five gal­lon buck­et.

rock the size of a five gallon bucket

Then you set up the posts. As demostrat­ed by our ded­i­cat­ed engi­neer.

jim taking a break

Get­ting the posts in is the first chal­lenge. Then you have to wres­tle with the fenc­ing and install the rails.

I ran out of patience for the pic­ture tak­ing and smashed my thumb — it’s very pur­ple — while we were tack­ing the wire fenc­ing up.

But here it is assem­bled and doing its job of con­tain­ing the chick­ens. We kept the gate sec­tion from the orig­i­nal playpen yard because it was much eas­i­er than build­ing a gate.

taj ma-chicken shack with fence

Snow Report — a Little Late

The snow has just about all melt­ed — now we’re hav­ing floods. But here are a few of the best pic­tures from the Decem­ber snow storms.

We are very grate­ful to have Adven­ture Truck on our side.  He got us off the farm and safe­ly back every sin­gle day of the storm except Christ­mas. Some­days we only went as far as the Start­bucks and the post office (noth­ing in the box­a­gain!) but it helped.

adventure truck powers along

adven­ture truck pow­ers along

Some of our ani­mals love the snow, oth­er not so much. Ivan will sleep on the back porch while it snows on him. We have to remem­ber to keep the laun­dry room door shut or he’s like­ly to come into the house and head for his couch look­ing like this:

ivan on the back porch

ivan on the back porch

On the oth­er hand Tuck­er — the barn cat- real­ly hat­ed the snow. It quick­ly got to be too deep for him to walk through and he was stuck in the barn for sev­er­al days. Here Jim is talk­ing to him a cou­ple of days into his con­fine­ment.

jim talking to the snow bound cat

jim talk­ing to the snow bound cat

There were a lot of lit­tle birds hang­ing about the place. We couldn’t keep the feed­ers clear of snow and even­tu­al­ly start­ed lay­ing seed and water plans on the cov­ered porchs. Here a jun­co sits fluffed up against the cold in the maple tree out­side my office. (The pic­ture is cropped from a much larg­er image show­ing the entire flock.)

juinco in the maple

jun­co in the maple

One last pho­to just because… it makes me laugh.

ivan after helping with chores

ivan after help­ing with chores

Note the lit­tle birdy tracks in the snow!

Shearing Day Report

Today was shear­ing day. There were only 6 ani­mals so it went quick­ly.

Here’s what the crew looked like before:

the crew all fat and wooly after a snowy winter

the crew all fat and wooly after a snowy win­ter

Here Jason is shear­ing the first vic­tim, er Mut­ton:

Jason shearing Mutton

Jason shear­ing Mut­ton

And here’s what they look like now:

the crew after shearing

the crew after shear­ing

Barn Swallows are Back

Each sum­mer we have sev­er­al nests of barn swal­lows.

Late last week I watched the first of the barn swal­lows fly across the pas­ture. This morn­ing I had the first evi­dence that house­keep­ing has start­ed.

One of the oldest/biggest nests is perched on top of the flood light over the feed room in the barn.

flood light over the feed room

flood light over the feed room

As you can see it’s a tight fit.

here's the nest perched on top of the light fizture

here’s the nest perched on top of the light fiz­ture

This morn­ing I found this lit­tle mess on the floor direct­ly under­neath the nest. It’s made up of hay loose­ly joined with mud and a plush lin­ing of chick­en feath­ers.

barn swallow nest

barn swal­low nest

chicken feathers used to line the nest

chick­en feath­ers used to line the nest

Usu­al­ly they just build a new lay­er on top of last years nest. I sus­pect this last top lay­er had to be evict­ed because there is no more room to build up.

We should see the females arrive soon.

Funny Faces

Just for amuse­ment val­ue. This is what life looks like around here in the spring.

who me? no, I never overeat.

who me? no, I nev­er overeat.

Click on the pho­to to embiggen. Real­ly, it’s worth it. I’ll wait…

And here he is look­ing a lit­tle less goony.

still got hay everywhere

still got hay every­where

Chicken Update

The friz­zled ban­ty hen has man­aged to hide out and hatch a hand­ful of chicks.

Jim caught this one out for a snack.

one black chicken, one black chick

one black chick­en, one black chick

Hope­ful­ly they will stay in the barn long enough to grow to be too big for the crows to ter­ror­ize.

Chicken Update

Mizz Friz­zle still has all 10 chicks. They’re grow­ing big­ger and big­ger all the time.

frizzle and brood

friz­zle and brood

as you can see at least a few of them are also ‘afflict­ed’ with friz­zled feath­ers.