Gary Digs Tales of the holes I dig, the dirt piles I make, and the holes I fill at the B-Bar-Lazy-B

January 17, 2009

Rats, eggs, and escapees…

Filed under: Animals,Repairs,Yard — Tags: , , , , — gary @ 2:41 pm

More to come on this soon… (written 1/17/2009)

Ok, well, soon is a relative term…it is now March 3rd and Maya has seen fit to comment on how terribly out of date this post is (in addition to threatening to blog about the new raised bed, not that I’d mind, but she gave me a deadline, which I may have missed). Let’s wander back to mid-January for a moment and discuss the situtations that were at hand at that point in time (some of which have been resolved, some not so much).

Slowly but surely the rat will certainly cause our shed to collapse...

Slowly but surely the rat will certainly cause our shed to collapse...

Rats, or perhaps just one, nonetheless the evidence provided above (in addition to other evidence not available at the time of this writing in the form of a catacomb of tunnels around and about the chicken coop and compost bins) indicates the presence of a rodent. Back in January I was starting to get worried that he would undermine the foundation of the shed (there are 4 or 5 of these egresses from under the slab). Further, it seems the rat was somehow extracting stuff from the compost cones. An inspection of the exterior base of the cone below ground level revealed no entrance, and yet, there were onion skins and other such tidbits pretty regularlly strewn about the chicken yard (and not by the chickens) in addition to the catacombs. I erected a barrier between the chicken yard and the compost cones and set a load of rat traps to no avail. Keep in mind we have three cats and a dog (kind of, Hemmingway is blind and doesn’t leave the house any more and Bukowski now visits every week and a half or so, perhaps more on that later).  In my opinion we shouldn’t have rodent problems, particularly since the neighbors at our southeastish corner (near the chicken yard) have the biggest most ferocious most terrible cat known to mankind. But alas, a rat we have, and as yet I have not caught and killed him, but his activity seems to have been limited by this fancy new device:

Not exclusively installed to expose the rat to dog urine and cat accessibility, but also to thwart our little escapee...

Not exclusively installed to expose the rat to dog urine and cat accessibility, but also to thwart our little escapee...

The approximately 3.5 foot tall chicken wire enclosure for the chicken yard became useless once the Skyway winds blew away the bird netting that originally covered the area. Blume (the littlest one) can basically fly whether her wing is clipped or not, and with planting season on the horizon we had to restore some modicum of order to the back yard. Coupled with the aforementioned rat issue, the gate was concieved and built (previously we accessed the chicken yard by passing through the two connected sheds at the left hand edge of the above photo, fine for us, but the situation prevented Huxley from patroling, growling, urinating and what not in that corner of the yard even when the chickens are in for the night). Prior to the gate Huxley would get really squierelly each night running around the chicken yard sniffing and barking (we assume he smelled a rat, the very same rat that continues to outwit me to this day).

Another component of the “keep Blume in the chicken yard except when we want her ranging” program was the purchase of a couple of 16ft x 54in cattle panels.  The plan is to use these panels to create dual chicken yards and rotate the chickens seasonally from one yard to the next enabling us to plan stuff for ourselves and the chickens in the area from which the chickens will be excluded while they decimate the area in which they are confined. This will happen in concert with the moving and rebuilding of the chicken coop and the creation of a funky new raised bed from broken concrete and large logs. The cattle panels and the raised bed in progress are shown below:

Still recovering from moving the logs, but they sure made the broken concrete seem light...

Still recovering from moving the logs, but they sure made the broken concrete seem light...

Now really, I mean it, really, ok, so, well, hmmm…the “chicken wire” at 3.5 feet couldn’t contain Blume. So it goes, dust ourselves off and come up with an alternate plan to accomodate the adorable little flier. She’s often picked on by the bigger chickens, so a little extra effort on her behalf isn’t a problem. She is also the most human focused of the three chickens and likes to run out to greet us when we come back to the shed or follow us around the yard when she is ranging. So we spend about $100 on these cool cattle panels. Certainly 54 inches will work, the holes are large enough for her to get through, but the plan was to just cover the bottom 2/3’s with chicken wire and we should be set. No such luck. That little turd…freshly clipped wing and all she floats like a butterfly up to the top of the cattle panel shortly after we get it set up (well, ok, not so much floats and not at all like a butterfly).  So, I tried adding some raspberry can arches to the top of the cattle panel to keep her in thinking the visual deterent might just be enough.

Again, my inadequecies were highlighted when Blume figured out she could pretty much knock them out of the way on her way up. So, after a bit of head scratching and various alternate plans for handling the Blume the flyer situation, I grabbed some of that cheezy green garden border wire arches stuff while walking by it at the hardware store. This sits a little bit precariously atop the chicken wire and addes another foot to the height. The test section I bought doesn’t quite cover the entire from facing length of their existing yard, but on the rare occassion that I remember to close the coop door closest to the cattle panel, the extra height seems to dissuade the littlest one from escaping. I’ll eventually pick up a couple 20ft rolls of that garbage and we’ll put it atop all the cattle panels when we get the new raise bed done and enclosed. I’m hoping to do some sort of funky pvc pipe strapped to cattle panel set ontop of a piece of rebar rammed into the ground fencing strategy for these cattle panels so we can take them down and get them out of the way when we are gardening that area and the girls aren’t ranging in that bed.

More news from way back in January…EGGS! Very shortly after solstace the girls started delivering their gifts again. Dahl was back to a steady egg a day and Blume and Cleary would usually round out the day with a second or third egg. Most of which have been dutifully recorded in our new “egg log” (which actually, has already been usurped by a “permaculture diary” that Maya bought, but way back in January it was just a plain old “egg log”. Unfortunately, the egg train slowed down a bit when Dahl (the red Arucana) decided to get broody on us a few weeks ago. We don’t have a rooster and have no intention of adding a chicken this year, so the poor girl spends most of her time sitting on a bunch of nothing. I miss seeing her in her chicken yard, even if she is an asshole bully to the other two girls on a pretty regular basis. Hopefully she’ll break brood soon and get our egg production back up to an average of around 2 a day.

And, because I just never get sick of this photo (taken by Maya), here is a mug shot of the escapee for ya:

I'm Breakin' Out Of This Joint! You with me or against me?

I'm Breakin' Out Of This Joint!You with me, or against me?

October 11, 2008

Concrete buffet and I keep gettin’ a little teary eyed…

Filed under: Animals,Politics — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — gary @ 5:01 pm

Blume layed what could have possibly been the cutest egg in the history of chickenkind…however, it fell out of my pocket as I was creating the concrete buffet and fractured beyond salvage before anyone but I could see it in all its overwhelming adorableness. The egg was even smaller than usual, quite squat and exceptionally pointy. I wish you could have seen it.

What is the concrete buffet? Well, in one of those rare moments of pure genius that come along every so often, I put several chunks of broken sidewalk and a couple of small logs into the chicken pen. Every couple of weeks (give or a take a week) I expose a bounty of insect and worm deliciousness for the girls to enjoy by moving the objects around in the pen.  The girls now completely comprehend this ritual and follow me around from buffet to buffet to peck up the protrien treats each slab and log keeps hidden until I’m ready to release the next concrete buffet. Now, I just need to remember not to engage in this activity when there is an egg in my shirt pocket…next time I’ll do better, I swear.

Last night and tonight This American Life has been playing their 2 hour pledge drive special, and they keep playing a segment from Fresh Air where Terry Gross interviewed Max Kennedy (the son of Bobby Kennedy who was 3 years old when the last best presidential candidate was shot). I am too young to have any direct experience with the short lives and times of JFK and RFK. I’m realistic enought to know that a decent portion of their lives and the JFK administration have romaticized. I also know that this does not matter much, since in time the romanticization has become the reality when any of us (even generations later) reflect on the very critical moments in our history into which these two brothers were injected. The Terry Gross interview glances up against one such critical moment in our history when Max reads the words his father delivered to a significantly African-American audience in the poor section of Indianapolis on the night Martin Luther King was assassinated. The audience had not yet received the news (this was before text messaging mind you), and so it was thrust upon the young white Bobby Kennedy to notify the crowd of the comission of this awful act that could have easily threatened the very fabric of the nation. Of course, there probably wasn’t any other young white guy in the country better situated tha Bobby given the loss of his brother under similar circumstance and the contributions both of them eventually made to the civil rights movement. In addition to these circumstantial advantages, Bobby Kennedy was just plain smart enough and genuinely concerned enough about the well being of the country (and all of its citizens) to deliver exactly the correct message to a justifiably shocked, hurt, and angry crowd…

and, everytime I hear this speech, my eyes get watery and I tremble a bit, and long for a politics of intelligence and care rather than a politics of fear, deciet, pettiness, and ignorance. I long for leaders that lead and educate as they lead, rather than fear mongering zealots that simply attempt to capitalize on the ignorance and narrow mindedness of their constituents.

This year’s election will be important in so many ways for me. This country has the opportunity to decide in a very clear way what our priorities are for leadership. Suffice it to say American already broke my heart in November of 2004, and if this country continues to choose ignorance over intelligence, and hate over unity, and theocracy over democracy, and war over peace, bombs over diplomacy, and childishness over maturity (which I know sounds odd given the relative ages of the tops of the tickets, but I think we have all seen some genuinely middle schoolish behavior out of the campaign with the eldest statesmen on the ticket), etc…I may be forced to look more closely at land in Costa Rica…because a country without a standing army that clears out its entire government (all branches) every eight years sounds better and better every day.

If you’re reading this and you don’t feel like you know which ticket stands for what, then you really have to look more closely at the underlying principles driving each ticket’s decisions. If you are reading this and you haven’t every really thought about whether you want a secular government or a theocracy, please think about it for a bit, and try to understand that just because your religion feels a certain way about a topic doesn’t nescessarily mean that view should be enforced by the federal government. There are very important decisions to be made this year, and I’m just begging you America, please, please, please don’t force me to view you with simple pity and disdain, because if you choose the path of fear and hate rather than the path of hope and unity, I’ll have no choice but to write you all off as a bunch of petty ignorant beasts. I’m trying desperately one more time to believe in you, but I’m going to have to say three strikes will do it. Faith is for the intellectually lazy in my opinion, so I really need some strong evidence against the assertion that this country has fallen entirely into the hands of idiots…please, please, please give me some shred of evidence this year that there is in fact hope for us a country to work our way back to the secular ideals of freedom our founding fathers originally and idealistically proposed long before they could ever actually be realized in the policy of the day…these ideals have never been closer at hand, and they are under seige today in the rhetoric of divisiveness eminating from particular candidates and their followers…we have far too often strayed very far away from those ideals with internment camps, the house committee on unamerican activities, the anti-sedition acts, the USA Patriot act and oh so many other moments where simple fear took hold over reason and we gave ourselves over to hate…

America, when will you be angelic…


*my personal favorite recording of America by Allen Ginsberg is from The Beat Generation. Allen reads a much longer (and notably sillier) version in this discontinued disc set Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems & Songs.

**At this exact moment I can’t re-read this, forgive the typos and potentially overly vitriolic tone until I get back to take another look and exact a more precise level of vitriol appropriate to my actual position.

October 5, 2008

Mess ‘o beans, happy chickens, and an update on the old man…

Filed under: Animals,Yard — Tags: , , , , , — gary @ 12:26 pm

No, really, a mess of beans. Yesterday’s gusts up to 40 mph took out our half-ass bean trellis yesterday (not surprising, I suspected the stinking Skyway winds would take their toll on it eventually). As an aside, one of the things I initially loved about Seattle was how infrequently we experienced hellish winds (unlike my home town where children learn ealy how to walk with a lean into the semi-permanent wind). Low and behold, however, once I left downtown, I think I managed to move to one of the absolutely windiest outposts of the city (and we aren’t really in Seattle, though we have a Seattle address, we live in a lawless nether-world known as “unincorporated King County”).

The aftermath of the aftermath of the trellis collapse

The aftermath of the aftermath of the trellis collapse

Since the bean trellis toppled dramatically yesterday (sorry I don’t have pictures, I really suck at running for the camera to document the minutae of daily disasters, I’ll get better…I swear…), we cleared out the vines and made a final harvest of green beans and green bean seeds, and then fenced off the back end of the garden so that the girls could have at that patch of ground. Blume, the littlest of them all, immediately snagged a worm almost as long as she is tall, and the pecking, scratching, and cooing continues at this moment. The girls will do their land clearing dirt turning weed eating magic on this patch of earth and it should be ready for some sort of fall cover crop in no time at all.

The girls at work...clearing land and turning refuse into delicious eggs...

The girls at work...clearing land and turning refuse into delicious eggs...

Also, we took Hemmy to the vet for a followup (see previous entries for details on his trevails), and aside from the blindness he is doing really well and can eat whatever he likes. The vet recommended we have a kitty opthamologist take a gander at his eyes, so we’re looking into that this week. Despite the blindness, he is getting a little bit too bold for his own good. He jumped up ONTO the child/doggy gate we use to keep him in my office. My office has no door and is one wall shy of being a “room”, but sits at the top of the stairs across from our bedroom appropriately isolated from public view. Someday, perhaps, when you and I have developed a close enough relationship, I might let you see the hell hole of boxes, inoperable equipment, and construction supplies in which I spend most my days.

Additionally, we went over to J&X’s place last night for a fantastic dinner of seafood linguini prepared by J from Crab and Halibut he brought back from fishing in Alaska this summer (commercial fishing in Alaska that is, not to be confused with a 3 month vacation to drink beer with buddies while hanging a line over the side, although sometimes J’s stories make it sound strikingly similar to such an endeavor). Unbeknownst to us, our first exposure to “Guitar Hero III” layed in wait for us after dinner, which was entertaining enough, but made my hands hurt after a while. Anyway, the point of this degression is that we came home to find Hemmy had jumped the fence/gate thingy at some point and was relaxing on the bed when Maya came up to give him his half-pill. As blind as he is, he did manage to find his old food dish on top of my dresser (there to keep Huxley out of it) and managed to knock it off the edge and all over the bedroom floor. Ahh, nothing like making a late night a bit later with messes to rectify upon arrival.

So, there you have a fairly pedestrian and likely boring overview of Sunday morning here at the B-Bar-Lazy-B. I have some work to do for the Danes today since they get into the office about midnight our time and I didn’t quite get it done on Friday since we were finally finishing the duct work that afternoon (the odyssey this became will eventually be documented here).

I should probably also go see what Maya is up to, she keeps coming in and out of the house…she’s in land clearing mode today and I had to beg and plead that she let the tomatillos run their course. We had several “volunteer” tomatillos this year (which was a lucky break with the cold spring we couldn’t find starts), and I maintain that the only reason they are there is because of our sluggish and delayed garden clearing of last year (which I’m pretty sure didn’t happen until well into November, and initiated my new “wear long underwear from November through March” policy (for those that know I’m originally from Montana, 3 short years in Honolulu drained me entirely of all tolerance for weather below 50F and now I get grouchy when my toes get cold, and the nasty wet cold we have out here in the soggy lands drills right down to my bones in a much more insidious and painful way than the dry frigid temps of the island of Montana).

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