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Archive for April, 2012

There was enough old wood lying around the barn to build a small house.  We had also found a good amount of chicken wire in various places — all of the materials to finish off our chicken coop. Our little leghorn ladies had been living in the 8×8 enclosed room in the sty.  Now, the plan was to finish off the open section of the building, making it into a very comfortable 8×16 chicken coop for 25 egg laying machines!

Early Saturday morning, I began measuring and cutting the wood using the old Stanley circular saw I had purchased from the same man who sold me a used snowblower a few weeks back. Any time you get a chance to buy used tools on the cheap, it is usually worthwhile.  The old Stanley circular saw ran like a charm and I managed to keep all of my appendages.  The key was the two used folding saw horses that were in the yellow wagon with the cupholder — at the auction last week.  I hadn’t realized what they were – it was almost like they appeared before my eyes when I opened them up to discover their purpose!

After the coop was framed out sufficiently, I moved the nesting boxes inside. I then nailed up additional supporting boards at various points, anticipating the need to staple the chicken wire into something.  When I was ready for the wire, Tammi joined me and did the stapling. Within an hour, we had a completely enclosed chicken coop with 25 galvanized nesting boxes. We temporarily boarded up the side exit – previously used by the pigs who inhabited the place in years past to go outside.  We planned to open this up in a week when the hens were ready to experience the outside.

Finally, around 11 am, we were ready to transfer the birds from the holding pen into the coop.  Tammi spread hay on the floor and transferred the feeder and water bottle.  I came up with a chute, using a couple of boards to channel the birds into the coop. Tammi went into the pen, and I made sure none of the birds flew out of the chute.  Luckily, all but one waddled into their new residence.  One bird had to be different and went the wrong way, getting tangled in some extra wire and boards.  Tammi came over and gently picked her up and finished the job.

I suppose if I drank beer, this would have been a Budweiser moment — having transformed a bunch of old wood and wire into a chicken hotel extraordinaire.

It was about this time Brandon, Tammi’s 9-year-old son, finally awoke and stormed outside yelling  for his mother.  “Mommy!” he shrieked in his high-pitched adolescent whine, “I’m hungry — make me breakfast!”

“You need to teach that kid to cook!” I said, walking with her to the porch.

Brandon was disappointed he had missed the chance to help build the coop. He was looking for any way to make ten bucks so he could buy some more Legos.  I offered him the chance to do so by transferring one of the small wood piles to the barn using the yellow wagon.  We were anticipating the arrival of our wood stove, and wanted to start moving some more wood into a dry location.  Brandon enthusiastically accepted and began the job.

The lad really struggled to pull the wagon up the hill — and then had difficulty controlling it as he went back down with the cart full of wood.  As he was stacking his second load, I was inside resting on the sofa, still enjoying the pleasant thoughts of my morning accomplishments.

“Mommy!  There’s a snake!” yelled my stepson from the woodpile. I jumped up from the sofa, and pulled on my boots. I then grabbed my walking stick and the fireplace shovel and headed out expecting to see my stepson wrapped in the coil of a massive anaconda or dancing left and right in front of a darting king cobra.  Instead, I found a copper and yellow patterned viper laying on a log — the boy just a few feet away.

“Step back,” I said.

“What are you going to do Baron?” said Brandon calling me by my nickname. “Are you going to kill it?”

“Yes,” I said, holding the snake down with the walking stick held in my left hand. The shovel soon followed, coming from the right, like a scene out of the French Revolution — the edge of the tool acting as a guillotine. Our 24 to 36 inch copper head has now in two parts. I tossed them into the pasture using the walking stick.

“Why did you kill it?” asked Brandon, somewhat upset.

“It was a poisonous snake,” said Tammi. He had to.

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Not enough credit has been given to our good friend Gary (and wife Kim) who have imparted much knowledge about the rural life to us newbie farmers.  In fact, it was Gary who suggested I attend the Carlisle Farm Equipment Auction also known as the Wickard Brothers Annual Consignment Sale held every spring at  1690 Waggoners Gap Road in Carlisle.

“You’ll be sure to get some nesting boxes,” said Gary, suggesting it would be a necessary investment for our 25 lady leghorns.

I showed up early and got a number.  I had been to many auctions in my life, but mostly indoors, and mostly for coins or antiques or estates.  This affair was sprawled out over several acres in a farmer’s field.  There was everything you could imagine from chain saws to tools to wheelbarrows and rakes to horse trailers and combines and tractors….and exactly two sets of galvanized nesting boxes — one a unit of 10 and the other 15 — exactly 25 nesting boxes in all.  Of course, according to Storey’s, I would not need quite this many, but I thought I would err on the side of caution.

While waiting to bid on the 15-unit of nesting boxes, I bid on a push mower and a small wagon containing a chainsaw and several empty plastic gasoline containers.  After winning that lot for $85, an older gentleman with some chew in his jaw inquired about my purchase.

“What’d you pay for that there wagon?” he asked.

“$85,” I proudly replied.  The contents had been acquired for an additional $15.

“Well, well,” he said proudly, “I paid $65 for mine — the blue one — just a while ago.”

“Yes,” I said, pointing to an appendage hanging from my yellow wagon full of junk, “but mine has a cupholder!”

“Indeed it does!” he said, nearly choking on his chew, “You definitely got me there!'”

The previous owner of my little yellow wagon had affixed a cupholder using plastic ties.  Somehow I could imagine him setting his can of Bud in the cupholder while filling his chainsaw with fuel…

Onto the nesting boxes!

The 15-unit sold first.  It was like-new.  A crowd of people were gathered around it.  I decided to take the “shut out” strategy – starting with a high bid no one else would top.  So, there I was, college boy in my Penn State sweatshirt and athletic shoes amid an anxious crowd of farmers in their overalls and flannels and boots with their John Deere and NASCAR hats.

“Got a nice set of nesting boxes heah,” began the auctioneer, “like new!  Do I have 100?  How about 100 to start!”

I immediately jumped in, much to the dismay of everyone present.  No one was willing to top $100 for a unit of nesting boxes that sells for over $250 plus delivery on the Internet.

The 10-unit was not so easy!  Thinking it was just a few items away, I was dismayed to find the auctioneer changing direction and going all the way back to the other end of the row, rather than just snaking through the field.  It would be three hours until he finally came back around.  In the meantime, I enjoyed a sausage sandwich and some pie — and even spent a little time in the truck.

By the time the auctioneer was approaching the nesting boxes, I realized they would be the last item sold that day — and it had started to rain.  I drove onto the field and loaded my items.  Wisely, I pulled up near the last nesting boxes and waited for the auctioneer to approach in the downpour.  As he was about to begin the item, I stepped out of the truck and into the rain. There were only a handful of people around me.  The auctioneer looked surprised to see me in his face again.

“Alright — last item of the day — a nice unit of nesting boxes,” he called out, “Do I have 100 to start? 100 dollars?”

No one bid.  I had decided to let this one drop. It went to 20 and then up to 70.  I jumped in at that point and got it for $85.  Thus, 25 nesting boxes — galvanized — were had for $185.

In the downpour, one of the farmers helped me lift it up onto the back of the truck.

“Now you need some chickens,” he cackled revealing some missing teeth, John Deere cap cocked back at an angle like some inner-city rapper in a Chicago Bulls hat.

“Oh don’t you worry about that,” I said, “We’ve got a coop full of chicks at home just waiting for these things…”

I drove home with a truck full of stuff purchased at bargain prices.  I was feeling pretty good!

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According to records I had stumbled upon while doing genealogical research, the Knorrs were Knights Templar during the Dark Ages.  Of course, this meant Friday the 13th — today’s date — was an especially bad day in Templar history.  While the Knorrs managed to escape the massacre that occurred back around 1407, many of the Templar brothers did not.  Well, we weren’t going to allow such ancient superstitions influence the timing of our move!  I mean, it’s not like the Pope was going to suddenly send the Swiss Guard onto the farm and run us through for having escaped death over 6 centuries ago!

I imagined just such a scene in our front yard as the movers were bringing in the furniture — Swiss Guards from the Vatican in their brightly striped pantaloons approaching with their halberds (axes atop long poles) in hand coming up West Lisburn Road…  I am on the second floor of the house leaning out a window…

“Your mother is a hamster and your father smells of elderberries,” I taunted the Swiss Guards, just like John Cleese, as a French knight, teases King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Come to think about it, Friday the 13th was actually the perfect day for a Knorr to move, given that our ancestors did so quietly and safely on such a date six centuries ago!  And so it was…

Despite having replaced the refrigerator, dishwasher, stove and water heater — and despite the need to have structural reinforcements placed in the basement — and despite the fact we needed to mitigate some radioactivity (radon) — we managed to be ready to officially move into the house on this day. Oddly enough, just as the structural engineers were finishing their work in the morning, the moving truck arrived with all of the heavy furniture and bookcases.  There would be no waiting to put away my hundreds of books.

Of course, none of this would have been possible had Tammi not spent so much time preparing the house.  She successfully and beautifully redecorated the office and kitchen prior to the move.

I was beginning to feel a lot better about the place.

“This is starting to feel like home!”  I told her as we fell asleep in the master bedroom — on our new bed.

(Note:  Just to let you know, all of the chicks survived…)

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“The chicks are growing so fast, we can’t keep them in the pool!” Tammi reported on the phone while I was in Greenville, SC on business.  “I had to put up chicken wire in the hearth.”

I immediately had visions of chicken wire stapled to our ancient fireplace — filled with chirping birds and newspapers full of droppings.

“Uh — ok,” I said.

“Oh, don’t worry,” replied Tammi, sensing my anguish.  “They are still in the pool — but I added a cover for them.”

“I guess it’s time to move them,” I said.

Upon my return that week, the wife, Gertie and I drove in the F-150 to Tractor Supply.  I thoroughly enjoyed riding with my wife and my dog in my pickup truck, driving down 174, through Boiling Springs, and then up Bonnybrook Road to the store, just south of Carlisle.  The whole experience felt like a country song in the making —

Drivin’ my F150

Wife at my side

Dawgie in the back

Goin’ for a ride

Down to the Tractor

Suuuuppply!

Oh Lawdy, it’s enough ta make yew cry!

I immediately turned up some metal on 105.7 the X — banishing the rural country demon to the nether reaches of my brain.  Where did that come from?

“OK,” I began, “We’re going to need some heat lamps.”

“Are you sure it will be enough?” worried Tammi, concerned about the night temperatures in the 30’s.

We had planned to move the chickens into the enclosed room in the pig sty.  It had been somewhat insulated and provided a nice 8 x 8 pen for the chicks.  We walked into Tractor Supply — what has to be the greatest little store on the planet for neophyte farmers like ourselves — and immediately found an endcap full of heat lamps!

“Looks like we’re not the only ones needing these things,” I said, comforted that I was not the only one lacking a source of heat for my little birds.

We grabbed two lights and four bulbs – just in case – and headed home.  We spread hay on the floor of the pen and mounted the lights.   We then set the feeder and water bottle in the middle and transferred the rapidly increasing peeps.  They went right to the heat lamps and fell asleep.

“Do you think they’ll make it through the night?” asked Tammi, almost wanting to stay with them.

“Oh yeah – sure – don’t you worry about them. They’ll be fine.”  I reassured her like a doctor talking to a terminal cancer patient.  It was another one of those moments when I acted real confident, even though I hadn’t a clue what was going to happen.  I fell asleep with visions of little white birds frozen in place staring out at me through unmoving black eyes – like the end of The Shining when Jack Torrance (Nicholson) gets lost in the maze during a blizzard – or like that scene in Guyana when Reverend Jim Jones forced all of those people to drink the Kool Aid – little white birds laid out like a quilt of cotton — neatly arranged in rows — just as they fell asleep…

“They’ll be fine…” I whispered to Tammi as she nodded off.

I didn’t sleep much that night.

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