Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘DIY

Impressive Results

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I found myself inexplicably overjoyed upon reading news from Cyndie yesterday morning that “all [eight] hens ran out of coop” together when she opened the hatch. A short time later, she found them all still together, hanging out in our woods. Just as we had read would happen, after a mere two days in the “broody breaker” cage we built, the uncontrolled urge to constantly lay in a nest box has been dispatched. It worked!

The two Golden Laced Wyandottes who went all broody on us are once again foraging along with the rest of the flock.

We couldn’t be happier over the results.

If only we could enjoy success like this when trying to adjust Delilah’s behavior.

Unrelated to any behavior concerns for our almost perfect pooch, I got my thumb bitten more painfully than ever a few days ago, when trying to wrangle a pull toy out of her mouth in her favorite game of tug-of-war.

She didn’t notice she got me, which I am happy about, because it wasn’t her fault at all and I didn’t want her to feel bad. I just had my thumb in the wrong place at the wrong time and it cost me one heck of a bruise, right at the nail bed. I get a frequent reminder when I type.

Luckily, the pressure didn’t break the skin.

I certainly learned of the impressive results of her bite, though.

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Written by johnwhays

May 15, 2019 at 6:00 am

Cooling Off

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Despite the wise recommendations toward supporting our broody hens in following their natural instincts, we have chosen to proceed with the process of reorienting them. We want them back with the flock, scouring our acres to control pesky flies and ticks, and providing unequaled eggs as an added benefit.

It’s what these girls were raised to do.

Based on all those images of “Broody Breakers” I viewed on Friday, and seeing the costs for a new crate to do the job, I figured we had enough raw material lying around to make one ourselves. I’ve still got leftover scrap lumber from when we took apart scores of pallets to build the chicken coop.

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First, I built a frame for legs, then we folded up some fencing that we reclaimed from around the willow tree in the paddock, where it had been protecting the bark from gnawing horses.

As I understand it, the goal is to bring the hen’s body temperature back to normal, which will swing their hormones out of the broody drive and get them back to their old selves. The open bottom and sides allow maximum air to flow, which is purported to do the trick after about two days of caged confinement.

They only got a short visit yesterday, before we had to return them to the coop for the night, but it went reasonably well, for a couple of hens who wanted nothing but to return to the nest box each had claimed, whether it had eggs, or not.

This morning, they seemed noticeably more accepting of their temporary confines. They had more interest in the food today, which is something they tend to forego when in the brood.

It will be very satisfying when we are finally able to put them out with the rest of the hens and not have them immediately bolt for the coop. Every time they try to return, it will cost them another day in the broody breaker.

It seems like a sad way to treat hens that are behaving maternally on Mother’s Day, but at the same time, it is Cyndie’s maternal instinct that has us working to cool them off.

Here’s to the mother of my children, and to all mothers today, for the love you shower upon your children (and pets), and for also sharing that love with the rest of the world!

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Written by johnwhays

May 12, 2019 at 8:47 am

New Focus

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We have something new to focus on today: altering the natural instinct of two broody hens. It is interesting to discover we are far from alone. It appears that the primary method is to put the hen in “jail” for a couple days. A cage lacking in a cozy place to settle, elevated to allow air cooling from below, seems to be the go-to solution.

Something along the lines of a rabbit hutch or a dog crate is common. I did an image search and discovered a remarkable number of people have documented their version of a ‘broody breaker.’

I was thinking about making something out of material I have stacked in the shop garage, but the lure of a quick purchase to get the ideal cage is a strong temptation. I wish we weren’t dealing with two at once.

That actually fuels our interest in breaking this habit as swiftly as possible, as the information we have read indicates the behavior is contagious.

Two days ago, I was oblivious to the syndrome of a broody hen. After reading on the topic, I suddenly feel included in a group of many people raising backyard chickens. There are so many versions of the same story, with the common thread on the internet revealing folks in search of details on how to deal with it.

This reminds me of the first time I discovered a massive magazine display at a bookstore. I had no idea there were so many publications. Growing up, I was exposed to a tiny subset: Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, and Popular Science were of particular interest, among several others that made their way into our house over the years.

Standing in front of a wall display featuring magazines covering more lifestyles and hobbies than I realized existed was a real eye opener for me. Had I known at the time, I could have picked up whatever the backyard chicken mag of the time was, and read all about it.

I haven’t been to a bookstore in a while, but I bet that magazine rack isn’t nearly as impressive. It is probably a single tablet device connected to the internet with links to every imaginable topic. There, you can find pictures of innumerable versions of solutions to whatever new problem you have stumbled upon.

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Written by johnwhays

May 11, 2019 at 8:48 am

Ghost Leaves

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On a walk through the woods with Delilah yesterday morning, my attention was grabbed by some disintegrating leaves that never fell from the tree. They looked like ghosts of leaves.

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Why did they not fall to the ground?

Especially in the face of some wind gusts that were strong enough to break loose a roof panel on our wood shed. Yesterday, there was dead calm in the morning, so I took advantage of the perfect weather to work on replacing the busted section.

Learning from experience, I added some cross supports that will better hold the overhanging side from flexing, should future winds blow from that same direction.

That simple structure, built to store split logs while they dry for a year, has provided multiple lessons from failure.

When it blew over in a storm, I figured out a way to secure it to the ground by stringing some old fence wire over the cross beams and running it through the eye of earth anchor augers in three strategic locations.

With the help of my friend, Mike Wilkus, who came to my rescue when re-assembling the shed after it had overturned, I learned how to improve the diagonal bracing to stabilize the overall structure.

It leaves me wondering what the next failure will be that might teach me yet another lesson in the great world of being an amateur builder.

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Written by johnwhays

April 20, 2019 at 8:42 am

New Green

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There is no hesitating when it comes to nature. First, we had heavy snow, then a flash flood, followed by a little bit of sunshine. The grass responded in a blink. Yesterday, it turned a very summer-like green.

I spotted a thorny thistle already looking established along the path we call the north loop. I’m sure mosquitos won’t be far behind.

On the way home from work yesterday, I stopped to buy some supplies for a couple of projects that I have planned for the warm sunshine we are expected to enjoy this weekend. Knowing in advance that the panel I needed wouldn’t fit in my car, I brought along a battery-powered circular saw, in case Menard’s staff couldn’t cut it for me.

I also included a tape measure, pencils, a straight edge, and my two portable sawhorses. But I forgot clamps. Having been advised by a sales assistant that such behavior in the parking lot might not be approved, I attempted to work swiftly. Obviously, they weren’t set up to do the cutting for me.

It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective. I needed to cut a 4 x 8 foot panel into three pieces. Bing, bang, boom. In a flash, I was folding up sawhorses and returning everything back inside the car so I could slip away mostly unnoticed.

Next time, I will remember clamps, to hold the panel down for cutting.

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Written by johnwhays

April 19, 2019 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Ship Shape

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Lately, we are all about keeping up appearances. As I was mowing our gorgeous landscape yesterday, with the long driveway winding past the barn and paddocks, the beautiful horses grazing the grass arena, the wood-paneled shop garage with the bright red Ford F150 parked in front of it, up to the beautiful log house on top of the hill, I felt it must give the impression that we are rich.

Well, richer than we actually are. Of course, “rich” is a relative term, and compared to many of lessor means, we certainly¬†are rich. We have been blessed with opportunity and are humbled to be able to live in this paradise, with means to commute the distances necessary to reach family, friends, and employment an hour away.

At the same time, there is another level of rich that comes to mind for me that would look a little different.

The first clue would be the condition of the driveway. Yeah, the fractured old asphalt with weeds and grass growing throughout doesn’t convey financial excess. Nor the age and condition of the rusted shell of a rolled pickup truck with the custom spray painted dents on the roof.

Of greatest significance, but probably not obvious to a passing traveler, Cyndie and I wouldn’t be the ones doing all the maintenance and grounds keeping. This weekend we did a LOT of work to keep this place looking sharp.

After a double day of projects on Friday, we started Saturday with the chain saw, cutting down a variety of standing dead trees that have been tainting the lively appearance around here for quite some time.

How many times do you walk past a chore (or chores) and pass it (them) off as a project for another day? Obviously, we can’t do everything at once, so some things have to wait. And wait. And wait.

There was a large spider web across the front of the shop garage one morning, but opening the big door didn’t disturb it. A couple of times, I had to stutter step my path to avoid getting a face full. Why didn’t I just knock it down? I was busy doing something else. So, the web stayed. For days.

This weekend, it came down. Spider webs are getting swept, equipment is getting rearranged in the garage, the paddock surfaces are scraped smooth and the rills created by runoff have been filled. The round pen sand has been raked and dead trees in the north field have been cut down, many carried to our makeshift natural barrier we are creating along our property border to the north. The grass has been mowed and the trails cleared with the power trimmer.

In high heat and humidity of the last full weekend of summer, the wealthy owners have done all this work by themselves, while also tending to the needs of horses, chickens, a dog, and a cat.

It saves us from needing to pay for a gym membership to keep ship-shape.

Maybe I can save that money up to pay for a new driveway someday.

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Written by johnwhays

September 16, 2018 at 8:57 am

Rare Occasion

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Like an orbiting comet that passes through our outer atmosphere several times in a person’s life, every five to seven years, I have been known to cut my hair short. I haven’t done so since January of 2011, when I convinced Cyndie to cut off my dreadlocks.

Last night was one of those rare occasions.

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I have no idea if I will wait another five or seven years for a follow-up haircut, but I have an inkling I’ll never again produce the color that was on the end of the length that Cyndie cut off for me last night.

Even though I am not even 59-years-old yet. (I refer to my age as, “way down in my 50s still” to Cyndie, despite the lack of appreciation she shows for my youthful vigor.)

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Written by johnwhays

June 13, 2018 at 6:00 am