Friday, June 07, 2013

9,700 That's A Lot!

Seven feet tall, at the peak.
Six feet tall at the walls.
Fifteen feet wide, and twenty-seven feet long.
Five hundred feet of 1"x 1/2", 3' wide hardware cloth (for walls, roof, and in floor sections)
And 9,700 staples, more or less. Probably more.

Well. We have come a long way, since these first posts were set. We chose this spot in the xeriscaped section, at the back of our yard, where we could build a fortress, for our chickens, goats, and bunnies. The compound had to be secure from predators. We've see them all! It had to give goats head-butting room, and chickens places to scratch and dust bathe, and escape the goats. Big enough to do all that, and small enough to keep city planners appeased.

Our low water garden has paths through it, made of deep deposits of decomposed granite. We let those stay, and divided the one that enters the garden... part inside the run, part outside the run. We removed, and transplanted all the plants the goats were destined to inhale, leaving only two Arabian Lilacs. These shrubs are the purple and green leafed ones I mentioned, and the goats mostly leave them alone.

Next, the beds were excavated down about four inches, and we buried 1"x 1/2", 3' wide hardware cloth, to keep out weasels, gophers, and ground squirrels, dragons, and zombies. We are determined to think of everything! As you can see, the goats were a tremendous help with covering the hardware cloth, and really, anything involving power tools, and cotton!


I've seen plenty of chicken coops. There are some gorgeous and inspiring ones out there. And of course feed stores have plenty of pre-fab models. So, when we were at Costco, and I saw these cedar playhouse kits, I knew the price was great, the size was right, there was room to customize them, and they had plenty of chicken coop charm. They would never work in a climate with real winter. Even ours will get some sealing and protection before rain and cold weather returns to So Cal.

With help from family and friends, we finished those houses, and made great progress on framing, painting, and moving everything forward.

One for the chicas. One for the goats.

We passed all of our inspections!

Geoff made the plans himself. Well, he kept the plans to himself. After Alex drafted a floor plan, so we knew the footprint, Geoff steadily formulated a daily vision for what he hoped would be a light, and airy space. He kept the dimensions within a "no permit necessary" size, and was determined to make a roof without large roof ties.

After building the barn, William loves these construction projects. In the foreground you can see the PVC stubbed in for a goat watering bowl, and chicken watering bowl. Sweet luxuries I will always be thankful for.

Choosing paint colors is not a job I relish, but I always like to imagine it could be fun, and I always want to choose a pretty color. Geoff kept insisting the framing would be brown, because "brown disappears." I really didn't understand... chocolate disappears! I know that! But dark brown paint sounded dull to me.

Fortunately, I have learned to trust him, and he is right... the dark color looks good, in a kind of invisible fashion.

So, brown for the framing, but definitely white for inside the chicken coop. White and glossy paint, because I want it to be easier to scrub, and nice and bright for the chicas.

This was such an exciting moment! We chose this gage wire, 1"x 1/2" for durability, and to keep out all the pests and predators.

I think this view really demonstrates how nicely the dark brown paint settles in with the surroundings, and lets the inside features and animals show. It just blends right in with the rest of the garden.

We are really lucky to have friends who think an afternoon rolling out hardware cloth, and working the pneumatic sheers is fun!

With Paul and Janece's help, the top half of the wall was finished, and we got great headway on the bottom row. Things are shaping up!

As long as the paint and brushes are out! Our old bunny hutch, a second-hand gift back in 1998, really needed some tlc. Together, with Maria, we got it scrubbed, and brushed, and refreshed with paint. Maria is a hard and happy worker.

It's all thanks to our beautiful day in Switzerland, visiting the Swiss Open-Air Museum, that we were inspired to bring the bunnies, and the goats, and the chickens together, under one roof.

More of that disappearing chocolate paint. The bunnies new home is looking good!

Stapling. And stapling. And stapling. William secures our fortress, Camp Whoop-Up!

By now we were feeling the pressure to complete the run before our long weekend road trip to Maker Faire, where Max and Maria were presenters. We kind of just wanted to bring our barn and run to share in the Maker Faire Homegrown Barn!

Meanwhile, back in the shark cage, I am still bringing fresh water to the goats and chickens, once or twice a day. Not an onerous job, but just the sort of chore that make it hard to get away all day... or for the weekend.

For the low roof Geoff had in mind, he needed custom brackets to hold the beams. Again, he was looking to create something that didn't look big, or heavy, but was still strong. These are the aluminum braces he cut and TIG welded for the rafters. Roof apex plates, Geoff thinks that's about what they would be called. I think they're pretty.

Now William is cutting the wood for the rafters.

The paint tape is laid out precisely to position the wood pieces to assemble the rafters. Since they were putting together eleven of them, it really helped to have the constant model for the manufacturing.

And it also helped to have Paul over, again, and join in the assembly line!

With all hands working in unison, the rafters were coming together fast and efficiently. This was a great Mother's Day!

And wire! This roof section is almost ready to go up!

But first, more staples! Always, more staples. Thank goodness for the air compressor.

The last section of the roof was the largest, but Geoff and William got it up there.

Next came two cables, at intervals, installed as the roof ties. The cables give the framing of the roof strength...

"Rafter ties are designed to tie together the bottoms of opposing rafters on a roof, to resist the outward thrust where the roof meets the house ceiling and walls. This helps keep walls from spreading due to the weight of the roof and anything on it, notably wet snow. In many or most homes, the ceiling joists also serve as the rafter ties. When the walls spread, the roof ridge will sag. A sagging ridge is one clue that the home may lack adequate rafter ties. Rafter ties form the bottom chord of a simple triangular roof truss. They resist the out-thrust of a triangle that's trying to flatten under the roof's own weight or snow load. They are placed in the bottom one-third of the roof height. Rafter ties are always required unless the roof has a structural (self-supporting) ridge, or is built using engineered trusses. A lack of rafter ties is a serious structural issue in a conventionally framed roof." Thank you, Wikipedia!

Geoff used 1/4" braided stainless steel cable, attached with eye bolts.

I'll have to ask William, "What was more fun, stapling hardware cloth, or cutting it?" No, better not. He did lots of both.

The roof sections are up, the cottages are installed, and look! Water! This bowl has a float and valve, so it automatically refills!

Just above Paul's head, can you see the cable? After that was put in place, William sat on the roof and finished stapling the hardware cloth on the roof sections. That was hard work, that required steady footing.

And on this day, the goat filter is being installed!

Here is Lady Betty Orpington, peacefully enjoying her time in the nest box, on her side of the goat filter! I knew the hens would never enjoy a moment's peace if the goats could free-range and head-butt their way into the chickens' coop, so we decided to give the goats about 2/3 of the entire run, kept out of the chickens' area by a cute picket fence.

The hens are safe, free to roost, nest, dust bathe, eat, and scratch at their leisure, and the goats cannot get to them.

The chickens can, however, pass through the picket fence, so they roam freely to visit Goat Town, whenever they like. And they do like.

Here it is!

I can enter the run, collect eggs, check the bunnies, sit the with chicas, and say hi to the goats, without actually releasing the goats. The chicas have water on their side, too. The cables not only strengthen the roof, but will be useful for hanging shade cloth, or a rain tarp.

Hello, Ada!

The chickens are happy. The goats are happy. They're weird, too, but happy!

I was the one who finished the gate, while Geoff took Max to the ER to have his fingers stitched after a machete accident. But that's another story. I really like Geoff's chocolate paint theory. I am thinking of re-doing the white fence. The goats are making it brown, anyway!

Chicken water, and a spigot! I think this looks so adorable. And is it ever making my life easy!

In the afternoon, we bring out the goats and chickens. We chase the goats, running around with them, and pulling them off the porch table. The chickens go straight for the spot where we planted green beans! And when they settle into their homes at night, we all sleep peacefully.

Abigail, I am so excited that your book arrived. Careful planning is the key to keeping chickens, and you, happy. So, I am glad you read "Chickens In Five Minutes A Day," and have begun making your own chicken plans. I think that's super. I cannot wait to read more, and soon, see some chica pictures, too.

{this moment}

A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment.
A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

:: Inspired by Soule Mama ::

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments, for all to find and see.

Thursday, June 06, 2013


Alex brought home a blank canvas from the second hand shop. After a while he opened up his box of pencils, and pens. He brought out the paints, brushes.

An image took form. We were happy to see him with his paint box open, again. I think his AP art class kind of left him burnt out for a while.

I've come to appreciate the photographs of how his work progresses, because I cannot be sure where it's going, what will appear, what will be gone, forever. For me, the layers are always there, a part of the whole, and I enjoy seeing the process, in all of its evolutions.

Even the changing light... from the kitchen lights, at night... to the morning sunlight, the image was always changing.

For a time, it was like a guest come to stay, sitting there, beside the dining table. Another face. Familiar.

Then. Almost suddenly, he said, "It's done.

And we set about hanging it up...