Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Moving Day

Last Sunday John started moving some of his stuff out of our garage attached to our house and into the barn. The plan is that someday I'll be able to park my minivan in the garage. Ha ha ha, hee hee hee, ho ho ho!!

I'll let you know when that happens, as it will be a first in our almost eleven years of marriage. Summer isn't so bad, but snowstorms remind me of the garages my parents always park their cars in. I suppose I knew what I was getting into. John's parents didn't park their cars in a garage when I met him (well, one was in a carport, does that count?) and John did say early on "Pshaw! What a waste of valuable space to park a car in a garage!"

I'm always amazed at how my un-huge husband (just stating the facts, dear) can move things larger and much heavier than he is. Levers, come-alongs, pulleys, wheels, ropes, chains and ramps are all his friends. And he usually doesn't break a sweat when moving something 1000 pounds.

Case in point: moving his milling machine from point A (the garage) to point B (the barn). It helped that the barn is downhill from the garage, but have you ever tried to stop a speeding milling machine? Neither have we, and let's keep it at that, thank you.

Step 1: Getting it out of the garage. I didn't have the camera around for that, but it involved a long length of chain and dragging the thing to the door using the tractor in the driveway, whereupon John tilted the motor back so it could clear the door. Then a piece of plywood appeared from somewhere and some 2x4 blocking. It was my job to slide the plywood under the machine at the edge of the garage's concrete floor. Some more tractor pulling, and the thing was out of the garage on its little sled.

Step 2: And they're off! (hum Lone Ranger theme for the rest of this)

Step 3: Like a good little milling machine, it followed nicely down the driveway. Just ignore the scrapes. They came off during the next day's rain.

Step 4: Pulling got a little rocky with the turn onto the stones in front of the barn, but slow and steady wins the race.

Step 5: And here it comes into its new home. *Sigh* I guess we won't be having any more big parties in here.

Step 6: Did you see him break a sweat? I didn't.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

All Cooped Up

It was for my birthday in January this year that my husband John said he would build me a chicken coop. John is very creative and handy, and I expected this project to be banged out in a weekend or so.

But first it required me to do a bit of research on how the chicken coop should look. So, I looked through my back issues of Backyard Poultry magazine to see any designs or ads for designs. The Eglu looked interesting, akin to IKEA's answer to a chicken coop, and it comes in colors, but it only held 2 chickens. John's comment? "I'm not having any plastic chicken coop!"

The Henspa seemed to be the Cadillac of chicken coops (movable on wheels, slanted nest boxes so the eggs roll back for easy collection), but starting at $1200 plus freight, it seemed a bit pricey. Plus John was eager to take on the challenge: "Pshaw! I'm not buying a chicken coop!"

A British company, Greenhill Joinery, had some interesting coops also (run area sized for a human to walk in, elevated roost area to keep predators out), but seemed heavy on the joinery. John's response: "I'm not shipping a chicken coop from England!"
We discussed the merits of all the coop examples we saw. John started drawing and planning, and soon he was buying wood. The project was most definitely not banged out in a few weekends, what with our barn project also taking priority this spring. But the coop was mostly finished by the time the chickens arrived last month, and was rolled out of the barn and housed the chickens during the daylight hours of the barn party.

So, here it is...the new coop painted Childlife swing set green: (really it is for chickens. Just ignore the human in there.)

With a human door in the front and windows in the side of the roost to check out what's happening in there.

Removable nest boxes.

Several perches and a chicken ladder for the ladies to access their evening roost.

And wheels on a scissors jack to help move it around, which you can't see very well in these photos.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Barn Party!

Postings have been sparse around here lately, many apologies. We've been getting ready for our Barn Party, which was a rousing success yesterday evening.

It all started when construction finished on our new barn in mid-January. We realized that we needed to have a big party in the barn before it got filled up with my husband's project equipment and whatever else he plans to put in it.

We were thinking maybe March or early April would be a fun time for the party, before the weather got hot. Well, it is amazing what high hopes warm January weather can create.

Then it got cold, like January and February should be.

And painting, backfilling and those other details John wanted to get done were pushed out to the spring.

Fast forward to May and June. Much painting, a little dirt moving, a little grass growing, a little electrical wiring, a little cement sealing, and many long Saturdays and Sundays made for a mostly-finished barn:

Time to send out the invitations!

And book the band. Wild Notes was great, they were fantastic to work with, they suggested a caller to call the square dances, and the music was wonderful.

The weather cooperated and the guests came pouring in from near and far, including a surprise visit by my parents who drove 1000 miles roundtrip to attend, and a visit from John's sister and daughters from England. A great time was had by all.

And no party is complete without the tiki torches and a hula dancer!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tomato, Tomahto

I love a fresh-picked, sun warmed tomato in the summer. Who doesn't? This year we planted sweet 100s cherry tomatoes and some Big Beefy tomatoes. In the past we have tied up our tomato plants to cages and then scrounged among the greenery for the produce.

Around about February of this year I stumbled across a book called Square Foot Gardening that explicitly showed how to maximize the garden in a small space. Even though we have a large lot for suburbia, most of it is woods, and precious little gets enough sun to support a garden. This was my kind of program. More on square foot gardening in future posts, stay tuned.

In the tomato section, it showed how to prune tomato plants in the clearest manner I've seen. So I decided to introduce some discipline this year. Experts say that we'll get bigger tomatoes, which would be nice, since last year the biggest was probably the size of a small plum.

But first, I have been a bad gardener and I needed to tie up my tomato plants, which were flopped all over the place. Good thing I did because they were thinking about putting down roots from the stems, I could tell.

There, now it is all neat and tidy:

Ok, back to the pruning. Do you see how the tomato plant below has the central stem and another main stem branching off to the left? But looky, there is another stem growing between the main stem and the branch!

Did I hear you say "So what?" Well, according to tomato growers more knowledgable than I, those extra shoots will sprout tomatoes but will result in smaller tomatoes over the entire plant because the plant's energy is spread too thinly. As The Queen of Hearts would say, "Off with their heads!"

Whoa. Did I go too fast for you? Here's another example to help hone your pruning skills. Which stem doesn't belong?

If you said the one in the middle, DING DING DING, you're right! Sorry we're all out of prizes today, as my dear sister-in-law DB will attest because she hasn't gotten hers yet for naming this blog.

And we'll close today's lesson with some lovely cosmos and a zinnia that are staring to come up. Thank you for tuning in to this week's edition of The Quigley Bend Garden Bender with Enders.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Sunday Afternoon in the Park

This afternoon we moved the chicks to larger quarters, which involved putting them outside in the grass while we swept up the old litter and put down new newspapers and litter in the garage, and prepared their new cage (ten points to the first person to name the previous use of this new cage, respond in the comments section).

They enjoyed being in the grass, started scratching around and pecking at things that might be bugs. I don't think they found any real bugs though. But they were ready.

While Charlotte was carrying each chick back into the garage when we moved the cage in there, I heard, "Uh, Mom, come quick!" Well, the usual call to get me to come see something invariably has some urgent exhortation to it, but after about the 10th time by 8am, I start to prioritize these calls. This come-quick-call had a genuinely urgent tone, and when I rounded the corner into the garage this is what I saw:

Not a calamity, to be sure, but something that needed my assistance. Can you pick out the bird in the garage mess?

This incident gave other family members the idea to try the same thing:

Arrg, call him Captain John and his trusty chicken. Creative thinking, indeed.