Outdoor Work Resumes as the Weather Warms Again

Warm, dry weather means its time to work outdoors, so we recently picked up where we had left off with the garden fencing project.

Work on our fencing project, the bee yard, and the chicken coop continues. We have installed H-braces for our fence corners and gateposts, as you can see above. We also seeded both white and crimson clover to provide a nectar flow for the bees. This will be in addition to flowers we will plant later. Because we live in a heavily wood area, I expect the bees will collect most of the pollen and nectar from the trees.

Installing the H-braces was pretty easy. I measured the distance between the posts and cut the bar to fit. Then I drilled one post, stuck a 10-inch long nail through it and into a hole in the end of the brace. This serves to hold one end of the brace in place while I leveled the post and marked the point to drill on the opposite post. Then we drive another big nail through that post and into the horizontal brace. This looks nice, but doesn’t accomplish anything until you use fencing wire to add some tension to the H structure with some fencing wire and a ratchet.

I watched at least half a dozen YouTube videos on how to do this, including videos sponsored by fence companies and by random homesteaders and farmers. I then proceeded, and it went pretty smoothly. We’re ready to pull fencing, but I’m going to wait until the chicken coop is finished.

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Warm Weather Brings Family, Gardening, and Target Practice

When the fall warms up, we call it Indian Summer. What’s it called when we get a preview of spring? I call it time to get a jump on outside projects.

We just spend the better part of a week with my daughter, her fiancé, and our new granddaughter. It was the first time we met the baby, and the first time they had been to our new house. My future son-in-law helped a great deal with the fence post installation. Being young and strong is a big help, of course, but having a strong work ethic is just as important.

It’s been more than 25 years since I last spent any significant time around a baby. I am amazed at how much stuff you “need” today to have for your baby. It’s clear consumerism gone crazy, spurred on by supposed experts and Instagram moms marketing the latest “must have” products. For example, today there is something called “tummy time” where you stick your baby on their belly and let them squirm to strengthen their neck muscles. But to do it correctly, you apparently need special tummy time pads. In the old days, we just stuck them on the floor, carpeted or not. If they bonked their little heads, well, that would teach them to keep their head up.

I have to admit that the Keurig-like device that dispenses warm water to mix with formula is pretty neat. And the new bottles that have some interior mechanism designed to prevent babies from sucking in air seems to minimize burping. Toys controlled by apps on your phone seems a bit much to me. Must we computerize everything?

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Prepper Diary March 6: Installing our Fence Posts Continues

After drilling our holes earlier in the week and picking up gravel and concrete yesterday, we are ready to continue installing our fence posts.

Construction of the garden fence and the posts to hold up the chicken coop continued after picking up gravel and bags of fast-setting concrete.

Our first step was to use the posthole digger to remove any dirt that had fallen back into the hole which was the case in most holes. We then picked the appropriate fence post for each hole and used it to tamp the dirt down. Posts on corners or that will be a gate post got the thicker six-to-seven-inch posts. The remaining posts were four-to-five inches.

We then removed the post and scooped in a few shovel loads of gravel. We wanted to get gravel at least four inches deep. The gravel at the bottom of the hole will allow water to drain from the hole rather than accumulating there and rotting the end of the post. We also used the gravel to level out our holes by adding extra gravel to any of the holes that were so deep they would not allow five feet or more of the pole to stick up above ground.

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Prepper Diary: We Review our Options and Pick a Powerful Fence Post Hole Digger

After evaluating a number of power augers, we decided to go with a powerful option to dig our 25 fence post holes.

After watching several videos about post hole digging using one-man and two-man augers to drill fence post holes, I started to second guess my decision about using the two-man auger to drill 25 fence-post holes. When you use the two-man auger, you have to bend all the way down to the ground as the auger drills in and then lift the auger, its engine, and all the dirt stuck to the auger out of the hole. That looked like it would be tough on my back, which has been giving me intermittent problems for at least 20 years.

So I got up early, drove to the rental place, rented the Vermeer mini skid steer with a posthole digger that you in the photo above, and towed it back home. This is a heavy track-powered device with a 35 horsepower diesel engine that provides far more torque than the two-man systems with have 2.5 to 5 horsepower engines. I expected it would do a much faster job and be easier on my back.

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Our Nice Rectangular Garden Just Became a Quadrilateral

Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men go awry. We learned that our topography isn’t quite as neat and square as the graph paper we plotted our garden on.

Earlier today, the neat planning work I had done on the computer to layout the garden went from theoretical to physical. In other words, we adapted our lines on a paper to stakes in the ground and mason string in between them.

The first time I went out there and took rough measurements, it looked like we could fit a 50’ x 40’ garden. What I didn’t realize is that the property line we are following (the fence is going to be about a foot inside it) is not exactly square. So we are going to end up with a trapezoidal garden.

The 40-foot length stayed the same at the top of the garden (which is what I had measured the first time). The 50-foot “side” of the garden would have been fine, but after consulting with my wife, we made it 60 feet. It was the bottom of the garden where we lot space, as it turned out to be 35 feet across instead of 40. That’s where the square became a quadrilateral, or a four-sided shape in which no sides are the same length.

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Prepper Diary February 21: Our Chicken Coop Plans Get Updated

We get some professional advice regarding our chicken coop design and garden layout.

After having a zoom call with our friend who raises chickens and also works as a county extension agent, we have changed our chicken coop plans somewhat and changed the layout of our raised beds to help eliminate erosion by offsetting the beds.

My planned coop was originally 4’x8’, the size of a standard sheet of plywood (32 square feet). I have enlarged it to be 4×12 (48 square feet). I am building it with a divider so that we can split it in two if we raise chicks next year, want to introduce new chickens to the flock, or offer a broody hen raising eggs or chicks a private location we can do so. This could also be useful if we want to raise a batch of meat birds at some point.

I mentioned this plan to a friend who raises chickens, and he heartily endorsed the idea, saying that he had to add such a partition a year or two after building his coop and that it would have been easier building it in from scratch.

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Prepper Diary February 17: We Make a Start on the Garden Fence

We venture out to fetch supplies for our future garden and load up the pick-up truck with fence posts and welded wire fencing.

We went to “the city” today. With fewer than 10,000 people, I can’t call it the “Big City,” but it is home to the closest Lowe’s Home Improvement and a Tractor Supply. Plus, we got to eat lunch out. Well, we ate take out in our car, but food we didn’t prepare ourselves was still a pleasant change.

The funniest thing is that it was sunny, and the temperature was in the mid-40s in the city with no snow. My wife said it felt like spring. When we drove home, it was partly cloudy and in the warmest part of the day. That’s mountain living.

I had stacked six pieces of firewood in the stove before we left. They had burned down to just a few coals, but it was still generating heat. I loaded the fire box back up and brought another wheelbarrow load of wood into the house.

I’m just glad we aren’t among those poor folks who have no electricity, as we discussed in greater depth yesterday. The latest reports from Texas are terrible. This article from ZeroHedge, includes a Tweet from a Texan showing the thermostat reading 37-degrees inside their house.

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Chickens, Gardens and Bees, Oh My!

As gardening season approaches, we concentrate on chickens, bees, and appropriate fencing to protect them all

Lately, I have been reading, watching videos, and studying up on chickens like there is no tomorrow. 

Having a “backyard” chicken flock has always been part of my long-range planning, even after one of our neighbor had more than 50 chickens and ran a free range chicken egg business out of her house.  (Thank goodness our bedroom was on the opposite side of the house because she had a rooster.)  So I’ve been reading articles and blogs for some time, but that has intensified lately.

I have made up plans to build a 4-foot by 8-foot chicken coop and made a list of building materials that will be required.  The only unanswered questions I have are how much insulation will be needed and how much venting I need to have, plus do I need to cover up the vents on super cold days.

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Prepper Diary January 30: It’s Bitterly Cold, Making it the Best Time to Plan our Garden

Garden seeds sold out last year due to COVID-19 and there are hints that it may happen again, especially with heirlooms seeds. Plan your garden now!

I woke up early yesterday morning to alarms blaring.  Not the burglar alarm, but the alarm on three different uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), including the one that runs our modem, WiFi, and home security system.  I stumbled out of bed and, flashlight in hand, shut down the equipment, and silenced all the beeping.  Peeking out the window and noticed that it was snowing.

I took advantage of being awake at the early hour to throw a couple more logs on the fire and then promptly went back to bed.  If the power is out, you might as well sleep in.

As I fell back asleep, I thought to myself, “At least all my batteries are charged.”

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