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Work began on the fence, with the entrance being the first section. My dad lent a pair of hands, and a pair of spirit levels, to help create what appears, without fencey context, to be a Fringe-style portal to a parallel universe over by the hedge. ‘Tis a world much like our own, only sunny in summer time.

Some precision measuring, and less precise grunting spade-and-trowel work, took a couple of hours out of the morning. It’s over that side to take advantage of the paved path, mainly.

Note the partially-tidied privet hedge (left of pic), another fathers day tick list item, which had to be abandoned owing to short extension lead issues and on account of the June skies dulling once more. Solstice sunrise and full moon seem unlikely to be visible if the weather continues in its current sogginess. Got the lawns done, at least, so the grass is enjoying the showers.

June’s persistently dour sky cracked a grin twice today, which was all the time needed to dig in the legs of the platform base and heave the henhouse into place.

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Pallet screwed to four posts to raise it up for a little shady area, henhouse fixed on top of that. The base’s legs are dug-in about a foot, and the exploratory spadework for that revealed several areas where a former ornamental pebble garden has been submerged with topsoil. Not at all easy to dig through, and prompting a rethink of the positioning for the fence posts.

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These are eight feet in length, so  need about two feet of foundation. Can you dig it? I hummed, Mock Turtlishly. We need to fence in the fowl, to avoid any unfortunate incidents with the local cats who use this section of the garden as a cut-through, and of course to keep out urban foxes.  I’m fairly sure it’s only that one corner that’s pebbled, but the perimeter may end up taking an odd line if I unearth any other obstructions. Still hoping for a buried priceless classic car, obviously, although further discarded bags of cement that have become solid pillows of immovable matter seem more likely:

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Sleeping on’t, he dreamed of chickens ascending and descending a small wooden staircase, illumin’d by crepuscular rays.

So, yes, fence next.

Following a short hiatus for…well, I don’t know what one might call it without sounding like a ginormous ass: de-rutting, groove reclamation, headspace refurbishment (“Hey, I like what you’ve done in here…”)… a comfort break… The Mortal Bath resumes refilled, topped up, nice and bubbly.

It was half term holidays this week just gone, and some sort of physical distraction from the scholastic toil was required. The stated aim had been to build a henhouse. This is the second time I’ve built one, and it was much easier going now I have more than the barest notion of carpentry I did the first time. I’m still fairly cack-handed, but it seemed to fit together less troublesomely.

So, I’m pleased to record, this evening, as the sun shone over the garden (which it has failed signally to do the entire rest of the leaden-skied week, by the let’s-emigrate-to-the-Mediterranean-immediately way), the coop was completed:

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We cracked a can of Amstel to toast its wooden goodness, and as a libation for the future roosting joy and eggy successes of its inhabitants. (Clunk of cans, distant approving cluck of hens…)

This weekend, we have taken significant steps towards the reintegration of FOWL into our lives.

Saturday night therefore has been dedicated to hen research, principally the baffling permutations of space per bird requirements. ‘Baffling’ because these sums require a tussle not only with mathematics but also ethics: square metres times head of poultry divided by requirement to do the right thing by our little feathered pals.

Currently I’m swithering extensively between three and four chickens, and no amount of measuring, graph paper schematics and Lego models seems sufficient to resolve the issue.

And so Saturday night passed…

The weather has been full of drear this weekend, with the latest anthropomorphized storm (Imogen) making unwelcome overtures at the UK, and grey mornings turning to cold and windy middays followed by sodden evenings.
It’s keeping me out of the garden, and I’m somewhat fucking grumpy about it.

We took advantage of a break in the fronts to wander across to Starbeck, where the daffodils have been fooled into emerging early:

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Deepening the mood of impending global catastrophe, we then passed the McColl inconvenience store, which sported this poster in the window:

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Uncle Ben’s, Dolmio, Haagen Dazs and I heart wines… two products owned by Mars, all total tat. It’s a small world after all.

The downward spiral accelerated as we ambled round the corner to the park, and I was distracted by branded litter every three paces. I took a load of pictures, but it was the depressing end of photojournalism. This is not even rhetoric, by the way – it was, actually, every three paces.

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HSBC-Mars twofer

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Plus KFC, B&H, random boxes, more Mars products… I mean, I know it’s not these companies that are coming round and befouling our green spaces, but it was putting me in a very premillennial anti-brand, anti-humanity, anti-everything funk.

The eat-junk-become-junk misery continued at the supermarket:

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And, AND, packs of pre-made pancakes! Piles of them!

Bah!

We picked up our bottle of I heart red wine and skedaddled quick smart, off through the rain.

Fortunately, an hour or two colouring with the three year old before luncheon sorted it all out. And the wine, obviously.

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Not the right colours… Take THAT, The Man.

This year, we decided to keep chickens. Fowl Play is the terrible pullet pun titled tale of How the Coop Was Made, and the Chickens What Went In It.

Beginning

Here is a pic of the south-west corner of our back garden, taken at the beginning of summer.

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We’re quite lucky, really. I work at a boarding school. The college owns various properties, and we rent this one.

Waking up to this sort of view is a total privilege.

The field behind us is farmed. It was wheat this year, oats the year before that, but the bit you can see just over the fence is too small for tractors, so we have lots of nettles, and somewhere to tip the grass from the lawn. The tree is in the garden. It’s somewhat gnarly, but the apples are pretty good, as eaters and cookers.

We wanted to make the most of the space, so decided earlier in 2014 that we should get some chickens. And this summer holidays gone by was when it was Going to Happen.

Lay of the Land

The various fence posts you can see are the remnants of a previous occupant’s attempts at keeping hens. It didn’t really work out for them (the occupants or the fowls), and there was all sorts of junk behind the wire that was attached to the posts. They had a series of fires there (the occupants, not the fowls, although it’s an appealing image), getting rid of bottles, mattresses, all sorts of incongruous items. You can just about make out the fence post in the middle is charred, and there’s a bare spot on the ground just in front of that. This photo is after the initial clean-up. Getting rid of the giant thistles and Triffid-esque nettle network took quite a bit of slash and fork. I dug down a fair way, but the chickens now in place are still scratching up singed bits of battery, bolts, hooks, plastic toys.

Once I’d cleared out most of the debris and ill-placed flowers (aka weeds), the Grand Designs project was under way.

Material World

The intention was to try and build a shed from as near scratch as possible, and re-use as much material as possible. I wish I could tell you I’d kept an account of all the spending, but I’m just not that organised. I will give approximations, at least.

Starting from the base up… this large section of wood had been part of some sort of gazebo outhouse structure built along the fence, further up to the left from the view above. It was fixed to the perimeter fence with gigantic nails that took ages to prise out.
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So, free, but unwieldy. It sat in the garage for ages, awaiting sanding and painting…

… awaiting…

...later that summer...

…later that summer…

Our neighbour on the other side of the garden meanwhile offered eight of these sets of wooden panels. I think the panels didn’t pass the fire regulations wherever they used to be, and had to come out.

"...get it knocked together in an hour no bother..." - A Local Former Carpenter

“…get it knocked together in an hour no bother…” – A Local Former Carpenter

The neighbour, Brian, was a carpenter at the school for 50-odd years, so I had a fair bit of barracking and plane-speaking banter to put up with across the fence all summer. He was really sweet, actually, lending tools and offering hints when I asked… but he also took the piss quite a lot.

Taking the time to procure some A3 graph paper online, when that came I tried my best to measure and plan the whole thing. Informed by Brian’s suggestions (if unconvinced of his assertion that it could be completed in 60 minutes), I had a vague notion of making a sort of box out of the different bits, using one panel as a roof.

v rough sketch

 

I mean, I just bashed this pic out now rather than scanning the originals, but you get the idea. The process of measuring everything out properly, on the graph paper, with a ruler, was crucial. Clarifying the actual requirements into manageable sections, generating lists of other stuff we’d need to get, etc.

 The image above is sort of what ended up happening, with a few tweaks. I found a great deal of helpful info on various chicken keeper forums, and I’ll post some proper links to those later, but if you’re here looking for actual technical guidance, I must be honest and acknowledge that my construction skills are about on a par with my ‘free hand drawing in Paint using a knackered mouse pad’ abilities. Architecture and mathematics are not particularly my portfolio, as evidenced by some of the Escher-esque angles in the finished building.

It all really came into focus about halfway into July, at the start of the holidays. I heard some neighbours from down the lane were moving house and divesting themselves of all manner of stuff. I knew they had a coop in the garden. While I was too late for the fencing  – an earlier bird neighbour from the other way swooped faster – and knowing the family from school, I went round to see if I could “help their moving process” by taking any unwanted chicken fittings off their hands.
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As you may be able to discern, there was a nesting box, side panels, bits of mesh, doorways, and all sorts.  Despite me asking pointedly a number of times, all payment was turned down. I even managed to press gang the students into carrying the bits up the road to my house. Quite a result – thanks, former neighbours!

Putting these bits and pieces together with my existing supplies, the project was underway in earnest. A trip to B&Q for some lengths of 2×2 timber frame, sundry exterior paints and items, proved a decisive motion. After that, construction proceeded rapidly.

Well, construction of the frame started to be begun, at least. I wasn’t in a rush. I had a summer holiday to fill.

Next edition: Construction begins on “Mimi’s”: the Best Little Henhouse in Ryedale.

Alt title: “…but we need the eggs.”

Thanks to the numbercrunchery provided by WordPress, I am able to get granular with my viewing stats. Nitty gritty, fine details about who’s turning up and looking at what when. By far the greatest number of views I get each day is an article what I wrote about Iron Maiden.

I quite like it… it’s one of my more sincere pieces, and they’re almost always the most effective. I’d like to think that my unique combination of wit and waffle has endeared this post and further writings to the clickers of the world… Seriously tho! I get Slovenians, Colombians, Russians, South Koreans, Americans, people from all over. One might consider the global reach of this technology and feel a small tear issue from the corner of one’s eye… something something that’ll be the granularity something see the world in a grain of sand, something.

However, I strongly suspect that the high number of clicks for that post in particular is actually due to me having used an absurdly large image of an Iron Maiden album cover in it.

You find me on the horns of a dilemma as to whether to get rid of the massive image of Derek Riggs’ lovely artwork and replace it with something smaller that may give a more reliable, but less satisfying, view/visitor ratio… or not. I mean, am I that shallow that I’m even thinking about this? Who gives a fuck, right? Well, why bother writing in a public forum then? It’s all about the clicks, innit? Not the false clicks! Hmmm, band name… This process of finger chewing of course triggers wider artistic and existential concerns, such as subjects, style, justification for turning your fingers to the keyboard, getting out of bed… and wasn’t there some shopping you were supposed to do? And hang on a minute, why are you referring to yourself in the third person? Rapidly whistling up to a boiled kettle shriek of WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?

Et bleedin’ cetera. Indecisions, indecisions! Hypnotised by this rope trick plait entanglement of self-esteem and clickcount… I shall listen to this:

…and give the matter further consideration. While going to the shops for more loaf.