Duct Tape and Baling Twine

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Micro-Farming on a shoe string

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Black Walnut Headboard

Eight inch posts are hollow.

Eight inch posts are hollow.

I finally got this one done after kicking the wood around in the shop for about eight months. Part of the delay was just deciding on a design we both liked. The matching arches in the side rails (covered by the quilt) and the foot board were last minute changes that really helped tie it all together.

Headboard foot board and side rails

Headboard foot board and side rails

This was easily one of the biggest pieces of furniture that I have ever done. It took up a lot of space in the shop even when it was broken down.

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I had a little help from one of my boys to get that headboard into the house. We both thought that it weighed easily over one hundred pounds and just under two hundred.

starting the finish

A bed at our rental beach house inspired me to make one that didn’t budge whenever someone rolled over. This thing is rock solid, with not even a squeak or wriggle.

finish on

The light colored board with the “live edge” was an idea I had seen done on other furniture pieces, only many of theirs are out where you could see them and were a part of the main design element. I’m a little too picky for that, but thought it would be fun to have one that didn’t show until the mattress was off. I know it’s there anyway.

footboard

Jeremy Camp “Joy To The World”

Chicken tractor 2.0

Deluxe chicken trailer.

Deluxe chicken trailer.

This project and the calf pens took up most of my time in April. After three summers worth of use the old economy mobile chicken run was coming apart. It was constructed as cheaply as possible just to see if we would use it that much. Having passed the test for use it was time for an upgrade.

The beginning framework
This is the simple frame I started with for the new chicken tractor. I used wood that I had sitting around for years. Here’s a fact not everyone knows about: Walnut is extremely rot resistant even when in contact with the ground. So this was what the frame on the ground is made of. For most people pressure treated two by fours would be much cheaper. The rest consists of pine, fir, and aspen. Even the sheet of plywood, metal roofing, and wheels had been around for several years not getting used. I estimated the cost of this to be about $150, if we had to buy everything.

The old original mobile run.
As you can see the old one looks quite used up. Looks more like something that should have washed up on the beach.
Trying to keep it light but strong

Frame size is 3.5 feet wide, 8 feet long by 3.5 feet tall at the peak of the roof. The center rails are 10 feet long and extend out from the run to form the handle. With the wheels at the other end it operates like a wheel barrow. The feeding box is made of walnut and is directly under the nesting boxes. The access door to this is large and can be used for chicken entry or removal. We place water in a 18 inch by 4 inch deep pan that sits on the ground. With the water unattached it doesn’t add weight to the trailer and will not slosh into the food and spoil it. I made the food trough large so if we leave for a weekend they will have plenty till we get back.

Four nesting boxes and a hallway.
Four nesting boxes and a hallway gives them twice as much room to nest in and hopefully will reduce the chance of egg eating. The hole at the end of the hall is a clean out access, and it’s just wide enough to get a hoe in to shove hay and whatever out.

Nice bones.
I always like the look of anything framed, and once the roof goes on this you will never get this view again.

A simple but very useful jig.
If you like the round holes this simple jig that you can make for any router is the way to get perfect circles every time. The circle size is determined by where the nail is placed on the jig. This distance from the nail to the straight bit in the router is the radius of the circle. With a hole of the same size as the nail drilled into the wood you are cutting, the nail is fitted into it through the jig and becomes the pivot point for the whole router.

Circles make great doors

Perfect circles every time. There is the one small drill hole at the center but that doesn’t matter. So, why all of the round holes for access to the nesting boxes and clean out port? The reason for this is two fold. With only one screw in the top edge of one of your circles you can have a door to your nesting boxe that closes itself, and doesn’t need hinges. Auto closing doors is a big thing when you have little kids gathering eggs. Having used hinges and latches before, I have noticed that screws get loose and latches stop working so well. Circles are functional and add an interesting design element.

Lots of room in here.

Arches and circles are functional and eye appealing.

The arched gables were a little harder to do than the circles and involved a pencil on a string used like a giant compass. If you think of the arch as being cut off of a giant circle and use the string compass on a large table with the gable board laying on it you can eventually get it. I wanted the arch to not be any more than about fifty inches, so that my roof metal would still cover it and overlap at the center. I knew how wide the arch had to span, and had to make an educated guess and measurement to determine the height of the arch. With the jig saw and the sander I was able to get one that looked even and used it to trace out the next two.

These arches take a little practice.

All moved in and on the roost

In trying to keep it light, I used an old piece of poplar that was 3 inches thick for a roosting bar. I got a little fancy with this and hung the whole thing from chains on both ends. It turns out that chickens are not like parrots and really despise swinging perches. Every effort they made to keep their balance on it only made it swing harder, and if there were two, it made it even worse till they both fell off. When I quit laughing I added a stabilizer bar, and that seemed to fix it for them.

Deluxe chicken trailer.

Deluxe chicken trailer.

There is nothing fancy about the chicken wire attachment except that I attached the wire over the roof and down the front and then added the metal roofing. This insured there were no possible gap points between the two.
chicken trailers x 2

We liked the first chicken tractor so much I built another. This one was a little bigger and heavier but between the two we can house fifteen chickens comfortably.

Jersey Calves 101

Day 1 at our house

Day 1 at our house

Our new calves dominated our time in April and gave me an almost endless supply of projects involving them.

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The old barn with the original house paint colors.

Our barn/hay shed has seen many remodels over the years and this one was one of the larger ones.  The part on the left was all hay shed at one time and went down the whole length of the barn.  We partitioned off the front eight feet with a wall to make a stall for steers years ago, but it wasn’t very calf friendly. Old paint, nails and other veterinary inducing items decorated every wall. The front part of the barn had already been divided off for storage and was lined with nice clean OSB panels and we originally felt that it could house five little calves easily.

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Five very small stalls.

If you have ever been to a dairy to visit the calves, you will notice that all of them are separated in their own little pens or boxes. Calves separated from their mothers will suck on each others ears which could lead to almost grapefruit sized bruises that require a vet to drain out. For about the first two days our calves were all together and didn’t appear to be doing any of this. Then we started noticing wet heads and ears, and eye witness accounts of it after their bottle feedings. So I divided the end of the barn into mini-stalls, and it was quickly obvious that they were going to need more room.

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Not so fine woodworking. Maybe some paint would help…

I tackled the outside of the old steer stall with all of the scrap wood available. Our improvements were meant to keep the calves healthy without adding huge strains on our budget so appearances were secondary to function. The calves were requiring modified quarters about every three days for a while, at this point and it was all getting a little old. Fortunately  Mare and the kids tackled the inside of the new stall and modified the barn stall. I modified the dividers (again) putting hinges on one interior one and making the one in front of the large door removable to let them out during the day. Using screws for all of the builds made modifications much easier.

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Our patchwork calf friendly interior.

The barn stall is divided in two with the major ear sucker in his own stall.  The new stall could be divided up into two stalls with a hinged divider, but the two calves that are in there don’t seem to have the ear sucking habit.

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Napping in the sun is one of their favorite things.

Next time we try this (if there is one) there should be much less building required, and having the stalls divided up to house four calves will make things easier.

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About as cute as they get.

How to make 2 Liter Planter Bottles

2 liter bottles

Every year we wish our tomatoes would produce earlier. Risking many hours of seed starting and planting work to the whims of our local weather just doesn’t set well with my efficiency standards though. I hate wasting time doing things over that could have been avoided.  This new idea I found got me to thinking about just doing a few plants early to see if we could improve those early production numbers without risking everything.

We were immediately post party anyway so it was the perfect time to use our empty 2 liter bottles for this trick. The idea is simple enough. First you cut off the top 5-6 inches of the bottle, and drill a hole through the cap big enough to slip a rope through. Leave about 5 inches on each side of the cap and make a loose knot on the inside piece. Fill the upside down top with dirt allowing the rope to coil around through the soil. Fill the bottle base two thirds full of water, and put the dirt filled top upside down in the water filled base. They said a nylon rope would work but I didn’t believe it and used a cotton rope. Three days after setting these up the dirt hasn’t gone dry yet.

Rope wick in action

The rope hanging down into the water is supposed to act as a wick and keep the soil wet. This is a great idea if you want to start some seeds while you are gone, and don’t want them to dry out. One completely overlooked advantage with this method was the idea of solar gain. With the bottle placed in a south facing window the water filled base will absorb the heat from the day and release it at night when it cools right under the soil where the seeds need it most. On a clear day of 50F outside, the inside temp between the bottles in the window was 88F. The nighttime low was 40-44F.

I have never been a big fan of window starting seedlings due to their tendency to get thin and leggy. Something about the fluorescent shop lights one inch away from the leaves makes them grow slower and stocky. My mirror trick from a couple of years ago worked well, and might be the answer for the leggy window seedling problem,

If this works  the new seedlings could be transplanted to seed cells, or transplant pots and left in the mirrored windows until ready for planting. Protection from late frosts when placing them outside might be accomplished with water wall tomato covers. At over 3 dollars each this is an investment, and they don’t last forever. This technique might be a way to start a dozen early tomatoes before the big planting that will hog all of the light space.

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