Work happens.

They say that life is what happens while you’re making plans. What they fail to mention is that when you don’t make plans, horribly disorganized life happens. When you make plans in the form of lists, everything that’s not on your list happens. But at least you can pretend it’s organized.

Here’s where I am on the Almighty List for 2010. How about we start with the things that happened while I was making lists? In no particular order….

  • Chicken Yard Upgrade. Back in May we moved the ladies out of their winter residence and into their new summer digs. First, we got ourselves a new summer coop from some Freecyclers up the road (who turned out to be the neighbors of the woman who helped out at the daycare service we used last year). Then I staked out an area for their new run and strung it up with deer fencing. I mean, if it will keep out deer it should keep in chickens, right? Chicken wire is metal, and expensive. Deer fencing is plastic, and cheap. Any questions? I ended up adding even more fence weeks later when we discovered that yes, a chicken can indeed fly over a 4 and a half foot fence. Also, they can fly over a 6 foot fence. Also, clipping their wings was much easier than I thought it would be. I also built a new nesting box from an old storage bin. It was only going to be temporary, until I woke up one morning and it was not.

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  • Chicken Gate. Did not involve anyone breaking in and stealing eggs. After a month of accessing the chicken yard by rolling a mess of chicken wire away from a poorly secured section of open fence, I built something more permanent. Just a couple posts with a hinged gate between them. Nothing fancy. But it does lock, and I am likely going to regret not using pressure treated lumber for the posts.

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  • Put the gate back on my truck. I discovered why there’s a rubber mat in the bed of my truck. It hides the cancerous rust problem. This Spring, enough of the back of the bed rusted away that the gate fell out. While I was driving. Bungee cords held it in cosmetically for a few weeks, and then I just removed it. And then I absolutely needed it. Eventaully I bought some fasteners and built something that would hold the back of the bed together for at least a few more years.

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  • Upgrade the summer coop. Sadly, back in June we lost all of our hens in a single night, we believe, to a fox. We got lazy and weren’t locking them up at night. Lesson learned. Then we came into 19 new Leghorn chicks, and in just 3 weeks we were separating the boys from the girls and moving the boys into the Ladies’ old coop. But first, to further deter predators and provide shade and a protected water/food area, we put the coop on stilts. I was able to do it all with materials we already had. I also took the opportunity to bolster the front door, which was falling apart, and make the screen bottom solid.

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  • Took down a maple tree. I helped my dad and brother take down a maple tree in dad’s back yard. I did the goundwork, which meant cutting up limbs, not getting hit by falling branches, and avoiding the use of the chainsaw until absolutely necessary. The brush all went to the town compost. The wood came back home!

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  • Fixed a grill. This is why we can have nice things. Because some people who have nice things decide to throw them out because, oh, a hinge is broken. We picked this up one Saturday afternoon recently, put an hour into fixing the wobbly lid and cleaning it, and then cooked dinner on it. Then I dismantled the old grill and the older table it sat on. That table was older than mine and Sara’s marriage. For real. It will get a proper ceremonial burning.

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  • Installed a whole-house exhaust fan. I picked this fan up months ago through Freecycle. As it turns out, it can move enough air to strip the stink off a skunk. This past weekend I mounted it in a panel that fits in the ceiling access to our attic, and we plugged it into a switched outlet in the living room. It pulls air out of the house so fast that air feels like it’s being blown in through the open windows. It runs at night, filling the house and attic with cool air. It takes noticeably longer for the house to heat up during the day, now.

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  • Planted apple trees. Sara and the girls bought me two Macs for Father’s Day. Turns out, you need two different kinds of apple trees for them to cross pollinate and make fruit. So, I picked up a Cortland. After much discussion about where to plant them (they’re gonna be there for a LONG time, ya know) I took an afternoon to do so. In the process I picked a fight with a very large boulder. After 6 rounds, I conceded and dug the hole another foot to the left. But I’m still very macho. Virile. All that.

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I did find some time to work on the things I set out to do as well….

  • Build a new clothesline. Done. One hundred ninety two linear feet of solar clothes drying POWA. It can hold 4 full loads of laundry. Around here, that ain’t so rare. I like to say that the money we save by line drying in the summer lets us use the electric dryer in the winter. And yes, I like to say that because it makes me feel superior to those who can, and don’t.

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  • Finish cleaning up from Maple Season 2010. The pan still needs a scrubbing, and the storage tank still needs a final rinse. I continue to kid myself about when I’ll get to this.

  • Make Violet Jelly. Never got to it this year. No regrets. There’s always next year.

  • Dig the new garden. Done. Like, forever ago. All the sod I scraped off got used somewhere else in the yard, too.

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  • Build a hoop house. Even though we already bought the materials for it, this won’t go up until Fall at the earliest. The plan is to put it up before the first snows to give the chickens a protected space to roam in the winter months.
  • Build raised bed planters. Done. I found a use for all that extra geo-decking! (You may remember I used it last to make the floors and roof for the chicken coop. You don’t? Well… I did.) I managed to squeeze 20 boxes out of the rest of it. The end pieces had to be untreated lumber (didn’t want pressure treated in the garden) so it’s gonna rot eventually, but we’ll get some good years out of them first.

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  • Build a drip irrigation system. Built, but not installed. We went instead with an early morning/ late evening watering regimen instead.
  • Build a gutter/ install a rain barrel. No gutter yet, but I did get a barrel set up with a spigot installed on the bottom. It’s brewing llama poo tea for the time being. Hey. We should start using that.
  • Start planting seeds. Done. And how did this get so far down the list? We’ve been pulling food from the garden for months.
  • New window sills and frames in the bedroom. Please don’t remind my wife about this.
  • Build a deck. Got the permit! Got the wood! Got the… desire to… start… digging holes. Ehhhhhh……
  • Install the dishwasher. Nope. It is firmly installed behind a pile of crap in the garage, though.
  • Sugar Shack Upgrades: It would seem that work on the shack occurs in the Fall, cuz I have yet to do much of anything on it so far.
    • Put siding on the Shack
    • Paint the new siding
    • Build a new arch – I’m now tossed up between building one, and having one built for me. Gonna compare the costs.
    • Build a steam hood pre-heater
    • Install new (permanent) stack for the new arch.
    • Add a cupola
    • Landscape the creek – Somewhere, somehow, I actually started this. Working on terracing down from the culvert pipe.
  • Build root cellar storage in the basement. I was looking at all the old shelving at the store a week ago and had a brainstorm. I was sure I could make a pantry that could be completely disassembled if need be (meaning I could set it up in the basement without it being permanent.) So I made it. It is awesome. Still needs final touches.

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  • Replace the fuse box. Nothing.
  • Replace the house gutters. Can’t even find time to clean out the ones I have.
  • Install a vent fan over the range. Pffffft.
  • Make beer. I’ll have to start it by this weekend to have it ready for the Peel & Squeal.
  • Make mead. Haven’t started a new batch in many years. But with the basement pantry almost finished, I want to make more just so I can store it there.
  • Build a rotating composter. Done. It needs some tweaks, as it retains way too much moisture, but it’s in service.

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  • Build a back porch. I’m drawing up plans this week to close in the back stoop and basement bulkhead and make a place where we can put boots and coats in the winter, and have a trap door to have pseudo-indoor access to the basement.

That’s all you get. I’ve got things to do.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…..

Two weeks gone. I am striving, yes striving, to do something on this list every day. If my wife can crochet a blanket big enough to choke a sperm whale with the “one stitch at a time” mentality then so can I. Get things done one little piece at a time that is…. I have no particular animosity towards sperm whales. We’d all be slaves to the Kingdom of the Squid if it weren’t for them.

I had this other little idea where I wouldn’t add new projects to this list until I’d completed any two. ‘Cept, all that’ll achieve is my forgetting all my manner of great new ideas. So screw that. Crazy new ideas are in green. Finished stuff is now red.

  • Build a new clothesline. Two holes dug. Mutant race of post-hole digging gophers created in the process. Prepped the salvaged poles from the old clothesline, drilled the 10′ pressure treated posts, and installed and plumbed one.
  • Finish cleaning up from Maple Season 2010. Buckets and lines are cleaned and stored. Syrup is bottled. The pan still needs a scrubbing, and the storage tank needs a final rinse. Almost done with this one.
  • Mow the lawn. Done. Done in the sense that I never got to do it before the violets came up. So, eh.
  • Make Violet Jelly. Violets are up! The girls have already picked a bowlful.  Lots left, though. We want to get all the petals in the freezer for use later.
  • Dig the new garden. I started the digging. Still have about 75 square feet to go.
  • Build a hoop house. There may be a flaw in my design for this project. I may  have to back-burner it. We’ll see.
  • Build raised bed planters.
  • Build a drip irrigation system.
  • Build a gutter/ install a rain barrel.
  • Start planting seeds.
  • Clean the yard. Done. All last season’s leaves are being chomposted. That’s chicken-composted.
  • New window sills and frames in the bedroom.
  • Build a deck.
  • Install the dishwasher.
  • Sugar Shack Upgrades:
    • Put siding on the Shack
    • Paint the new siding
    • Build a new arch – I’m now tossed up between building one, and having one built for me. Gonna compare the costs.
    • Build a steam hood pre-heater
    • Install new (permanent) stack for the new arch.
    • Add a cupola
    • Landscape the creek – Somewhere, somehow, I actually started this. Working on terracing down from the culvert pipe.
  • Build root cellar storage in the basement.
  • Replace the fuse box.
  • Replace the house gutters.
  • Install a vent fan over the range.
  • Make beer.
  • Make mead.
  • Build a rotating barrel composter I saw a finished project for one of these on Instructables and realized I had all the parts to build one. So now I must.
  • Build a back porchMy brother just finished closing in his back porch. To his advantage, he already had a porch to begin with. Then he tore it down and build it back again, and didn’t add railings. I’d just really like to have a place to put all the boots and whatnot during the winter.
  • Racists don’t want to raise chickens

    Did you know that the city of New York currently allows for the keeping of both bees and chickens? Sure do. With that in mind, I did some reading last night on the city of Holyoke debating the issue of allowing residents to keep chickens.

    I don’t know why I expected to find a report from both sides of the story, because I didn’t. What I found instead was a story told entirely from the side of those against the idea. And to fuel that sentiment, the story included a picture of a rooster  freely roaming a city street, knee-jerk comments about how chickens smell (I’ll get to that…), and, sadly, a dollop of racism in the form of a reference to urban chickens as giving a “Third World feel”, that was immediately followed by a comment about raising chickens as being a part of the Puerto Rican culture.

    This left the gate wide open for all manner of commenters to explode the issue of permitting people with yards to have hens into every single Puerto Rican in Holyoke raising chickens in their cabinets, and of course, cock fights. Its the same bullshit logic that starts with same sex couples giving loving homes to adopted children, and ends with the vast homosexual plot to end all breeding and subdue the nation in a phenomenal wave of buggery.

    On a somewhat related note, if the Rapture is going to take away people who think like that… could we schedule that for this weekend?

    What stood out to me the most (other than the complete lack of an interview with anyone who already raises urban hens) was that every argument made in this article against allowing urban chicken raising in Holyoke could also be made for dogs.

    Chickens make a lot of noise. No, dogs make a lot of noise – barking, howling, and whining all night long. Only roosters are noisy. Happy hens are sonically invisible. Urban rooster raising is pointless. It’s hens that people want, for their eggs. I’m in the countryside and I don’t even want roosters. They’re good for three things: making more chickens (problem solved by chicks for sale at Tractor Supply), defending the flock (problem solved by an enclosed run) and Dinner (problem solved with a buttermilk dip and deep frying.)  And while we’re on roosters…

    Allowing chickens will mean more cock fighting, and a stretching of police resources to combat it. By that logic, allowing  dogs means more dog fighting. Yeah. Michael Vick didn’t go down for illegal cock fighting. And what’s with the arguement that the police will have a hard time enforcing a new law? What are they assuming, that everyone’s gonna break it at once? Or do they just want to have to enforce the sexier laws? Or the ones with big fines? Or the oldest ones? If so, I’m sure glad we got arson, murder and theft on the books first.

    Chickens smell. No, chickens themselves do not smell. A wet chicken doesn’t smell like anything. A wet dog? Hell,wet dog is a smell unto itself. Chicken droppings smell, just like any other animal dropping, and only if they are not cleaned up. Chicken dropping: small. Dog droppings: large.  Chicken droppings would be confined to the coop, or even a yard. And where do urban dogs crap? The yard if you have one, the neighbor’s yard or the sidewalk if you don’t. Also, you can compost chicken droppings back into soil. Dog crap, at the best, ends up in landfills. It’s no better than baby crap, just minus the diapers.

    Chickens attract mites. Chickens don’t attract mites any more than you attract mosquitoes, alcohol, or a poorly chosen companions. I could counter that dogs attract ticks. At least mites don’t carry Lyme Disease. And chickens eat ticks. Any animal that’s neglected can wind up sick and diseased. Healthy animals are not parasitic.

    Chickens are “gateway livestock”. From the article: “If you can have a chicken, why can’t I have a goat? If you can have a goat, why can’t I have a horse? Then someone will want to have pigs.” To this I say, BRAVO! We need more people interested in the responsible and ethical raising of livestock. Too many people are out of touch touch with where their food comes from. Maybe if they start with chickens, they’ll end up moving out of the city, simplifying their life, and raising a little of their own food instead of relying on a secretive supply chain to deliver it. That being said, some livestock is just too big for an urban setting. Goats, horses and pigs can’t be cage raised. They need room to move to be healthy. So do chickens. Three backyard hens could thrive on 10 square feet and still have a better life than commercial laying hens, that are confined to spaces that may not even allow standing. More to the point, the argument that allowing one thing always progressively leads to more and more outrageous things is bunk. Allowing dogs inside city limits hasn’t led to wolves, cheetahs, ocelots and ostriches, nor would any reasonable person argue it. A cheetah would be cool, though.

    Chickens carry avian influenza (or for those of you who prefer the scarier buzz phrase, bird flu). *Sigh* Being afraid that you’re going to get bird flu from your neighbor’s chickens is like being afraid that you’re going to get rabies from your neighbor’s dog. Important to note: just because a animal can catch a disease does not mean it will, nor does it mean that it has it all the time.

    In rapid fire closing, let me also point out that while the issue at hand is about outdoor housing of chickens, they can, with time and patience, be house trained, just like a dog. Chickens scratch up the grass, but a dog will scratch and chew up furniture. The ottoman won’t grow back. Chickens will molt their feathers once a year. Dogs shed all the time. Hens will give you eggs. Dogs will vommit on your rug. Dogs bite. Chickens are skiddish. Dogs are expensive to buy and keep. Chicks can be purchased for under 5 bucks, and a $20 bag of feed will feed three full grown hens for a month. And finally, when you’re done with your chickens, you can put them on the table. Dog… not so much.

    Incremental Progress: The 2010 Projects

    Winter is over, the warm is making it’s return and I am almost done cleaning up from the most disappointing maple sugaring season ever.  I say disappointing because the yield this year was sparse, to say the least. Truth be told, though, if it had been any more appointing, I would have been drowning in sap and cursing the inadequacy of my equipment to process it all. So, it was a mixed blessing. I’ll accept that.

    Now, it’s time to move on. It’s time to start building stuff and fixing stuff. Stuff  is good. Building it and fixing it is even better. And I have a full docket ready to go.

    In approximate order of importance, here it is:

    1. Build a new clothesline. The umbrella style unit we inherited with the house finally gave up. I salvaged what was worth salvaging and bought the new posts for a “T” style clothesline. It’s time to get out the post-hole digger. It’s time to stop using the gorram dryer.
    2. Finish cleaning up from Maple Season 2010. A bad case of start-it-itis does NOT want to do this. There”s not much left, though. Just cleaning the buckets and taking down and washing a few more lines.
    3. Mow the lawn. I feel like I have a rare opportunity with this weather to give the lawn a once-over before the violets pop up.  Normally, it’s not dry enough before the violets bloom, and I can’t mow those down because we…
    4. Make Violet Jelly. It’s a whole springtime tradition thing.
    5. Dig the new garden. We have big garden plans this year, but before any of it can start, I need to dig the plot. A 10’x12′ section will be under a hoop house. Another 10’x10′ will be for wheat. I get the pleasure of digging up all that sod (and relocating it) and then rototilling the whole mess. I need to do that so I can….
    6. Build a hoop house. Made out of PVC pipe and plastic sheeting. We hope it’ll help keep excess rain from ruining crops, like it did with the tomatoes last year. We may even be able to grow in it through the  winter. I need to do this so I can….
    7. Build raised bed planters. These will go under the hoop house. I’ve got that mondo pile of composite decking I salvaged last year that will be perfect for these, which I need to finish so I can….
    8. Build a drip irrigation system. To feed everything in the raised bed planters. I’ll be using all the old tubing from years-past maple seasons for this. And it’ll be worthless unless I…..
    9. Build a gutter/ install a rain barrel. The gutter is for the back of the garage (even though the other side and the house needs it as well…) and will fill the rain barrel that will feed the drip irrigation system.
    10. Start planting seeds. Those last 5 projects won’t count for crap if we don’t get started on this. We should probably buy our seeds soon. We should probably decide what we want to grow.
    11. Clean the yard. There’s still a Fall’s worth of leaves out there. Despite my forays into the dark arts, they still don’t rake themselves.
    12. New window sills and frames in the bedroom. I tore the old ones out when we insulated and painted this winter, with the promise to build new ones. Probably the least sexxy of all the projects, but the one that’s highest on Sara’s list. Soooooo….
    13. Build a deck. Okay, most of a deck. I’m sure I have enough salvaged PT lumber for the whole frame. Not so sure about the actual decking. May have to buy new, or better yet see what Craigslist/Freecycle has to offer. I’d like to get started on it soon, though, so we can possibly be using it by the end of the summer.
    14. Install the dishwasher. Two years ago, Dad brought me a 3-4 year old dishwasher from a renovation job he did. It still lives in the garage. It needs to live under my kitchen counter.
    15. Sugar Shack Upgrades:
      • Put siding on the Shack
      • Paint the new siding
      • Build a new arch
      • Build a steam hood pre-heater
      • Install new (permanent) stack for the new arch.
      • Add a cupola
      • Landscape the creek
    16. Build root cellar storage in the basement. Gonna need somewhere to keep all the garden goodies.
    17. Replace the fuse box. Sara’s dad bought us a proper breaker box and breakers when we bought the house. We just need to have someone install it.
    18. Replace the house gutters. The ones on the front of the house have rotted off. Cuz they were wood. Oh well.
    19. Install a vent fan over the range. Meh. Maybe.
    20. Make beer. Because it’s beer.
    21. Make mead. See #18.

    Did I leave anything out?

    So, what are YOU doing this weekend?

    Beverage through the nose in 3…2…

    First, read this book title:

    Now, read it in Christopher Walken’s voice.

    Off to market…

    I’ve waited long enough. For years, I’ve been sitting on a product idea that has the potential to bring me ridiculous amounts of money, and moderate amounts of fame, which will in turn bring me ridiculous amounts of money. The only thing holding me back was my fear that the name of my product would be made fun of.

    Then I saw a commercial for AcipHex.

    If you’re struggling with the pronunciation, let me clear it up for you. It’s not “A Sip Hex”. It’s not “A Seef Ex”. It’s Ass Effects.

    Ass. Effects. This product name endured the full gauntlet of consumer test marketing and product name recognition effectiveness and came out the other side smelling like, well….

    So I’m going ahead with my revolutionary tubed construction adhesive/sealant application control device: the Caulk Blocker.

    Having an honest debate about health care. With myself.

    Here I am again, after another week of absorbing information in the midst of the ongoing health care debate. I’ve listened to a very informative interview with T.R. Reid, the author of The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care. In a nutshell he talks about his travels to other leading industrial nations to learn about how they handle their health care. Give it a listen.

    What I’m trying to do is come to a common ground with myself about what my unified opinion should be on this issue. I doubt I’m going to hammer it all out tonight, but I’m going to attempt to get closer. I’ve been sharing opinions for months now with those who also enjoy an intelligent conversation, and it was this evening when I realized that I’m already beginning to contradict opinions I had at the outset. In particular I can still remember saying that we don’t need government run health care, that it will only be paid for by higher taxes down the road, and that the Social Security System (paid for in the same way) is headed for complete ruin – why would we want to set ourselves up for that? Now my opinion has shifted, and this evening I found myself making a case for government run health insurance. It would seem to make me a bit of a hypocrite, eh?

    At face value, perhaps. But that’s the problem with this whole debate. Everyone is making judgements based on what’s right in front of them, on sound bites and catch phrases and scare tactics and dumbed down, distilled concepts. Very few people are bothering to discover the root of what they’re forming opinions on, and to a degree I am one of them. It’s analogous to making a decision based on what the last person in a game of Telephone told you, and not on what the first person actually said. My opinions now seem to contradict my beliefs. Well… “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.” (Any student of Jim Duquette wanna claim recognition of that one?)

    I am willing to admit that I don’t have all the information, and that as a result I have come to contradictory conclusions. I am willing to admit that I have prejudices and pre-conceived notions that color my judgement. I am trying not to immediately accept ideas just because they are Democrat/Liberal based, or to wholly reject ideas just because they are Republican/Conservative based. Fox News is doing enough of that for all of us. 

    I was against government run health insurance. The reason was that I didn’t agree with the assurances that it would increase competition. Private insurance companies can’t raise taxes or print money. The government can. That’s a fundamental inequality from the beginning. I also brought up that the government run Social Security system is failing, and hence we shouldn’t trust the same government with the health insurance system. Okay, fine. But so what? I’m doing what all those who are yelling hard against ANY change want us to do – arguing detains that are in no way central to the important issue at hand: how do we go about providing affordable health care for everyone? 

    Here’s where I am now, and I think that it’s a place from which I can start to construct the larger set of positions I have on this whole health care issue. So, I believe that it should not be legal to make a profit on providing insurance for preventative or life sustaining health care. I am talking about health care that keeps you healthy or returns you to health. I am not talking about vanity or cosmetic medicine (physical augmentation surgery, botox, tattoo removal, etc). I believe that profiting off of the suffering of others is morally reprehensible, and as a citizen of the 21st goddam century I’d like to think that more people could get behind that idea. 

    I want to say that I believe that the government should be obligated to provide it’s citizens with basic cradle to grave heath care (in return for the taxes we pay), that no citizen should die for lack of the ability to pay for needed health services. I’m not sure that that belief isn’t flawed, though.  I’m not saying that I think that it’s necessary for the government to actually own and operate the entire system, but they seem as good a candidate as any to at least administrate an entity who goal is non-profit. The current for-profit companies are making it quite clear they aren’t interested in that job, which is borderline insane considering that those who will benefit from such a change FAR outnumber those who cease to benefit from the current model.

    Sleep now. More later. Stay with me.