Water meter box

Many moons ago I promised that after the hose for the meadow was moved up the hill and the green pole removed, that a nice box would be put around the water meter.

The box itself was to be made from offcuts from the bookshelf project. With three out of five shelves in place, there were enough offcuts to complete the water meter box.

So bits were cut and glued together. The outside of the box was varnished to keep the water out. The inside was painted white, and some white pebbles were put down on the ground under the pipes.

The box had to be raised a bit so that the tap was inside. Star pickets on the downhill side and a few strategically-placed rocks keep it level and in place.

water meter box raising rocks

Here’s the inside with the nice pebbles.

water meter box top down

There’s a little handle carved under the lid to lift it up. Note how the piping to the water meter is bent; apparently this was someone turning around in the drive before our time. Just drove right into it.

water meter box under the lid

Finally, some rocks for the path to the letterbox can be put in place around the box. With the lid down it’s as neat as a button.

water meter box lid on

There’ll be a wall going around behind that wattle sapling eventually, and the whole section will be filled in with dirt and plants.

It’s good to finish a job!

Chicken coop roosts

The chickens will need somewhere to sit while they sleep. A bit of internet research yielded the perfect chicken roost: a good, thick pole, wooden for them to get their claws into, and nice and solid.

S picked up some old curtain rails off the side of the road some time ago; the chickens will be glad to sit on them.

chicken-coop-roost

Lounge room lay up

So S says “now I have the floorboards I can let the bone go”, but she was lying. This morning the house went very quiet for an unusually long time. When M wandered down for morning tea S and R were busted hard at work laying down the floorboards to see what they would look like.

lounge lay up 2

Pretty good, in anyone’s book! They’ve been put down upside down. We’re going to try to polish them in a way that doesn’t change the colour too much, and the other side is quite yellow from the varnish.

It wasn’t all in the name of fun times; we didn’t really know if there were going to be enough boards, as the room they came out of and the room they were going into were similarly-sized. The verdict is: there’ll probably be just enough. Huzzah!

On the down side, M was a little disappointed, hoping there’d be boards left over to use for the chicken coop’s floor. Never mind!

 

Battens and some wood protection

You can’t leave raw wood out there in the elements. The water gets in, it starts to crack and warp. We want our chicken coop to last for generations of chickens.

So the wooden frame was treated with linseed oil. It’s quite yellow, and has a distinctive smell. As I was brushing it on, I was thinking of how we used to treat our cricket bats with linseed oil as children. Although, I also remember that they were varnished. So I’m either mixing memories or we weren’t terribly clever.

The whole frame took about 800mL.

battens and some oil

 

After that, the frame was ready to receive its battens. Each batten is 2m long and will allow the roof to extend past the frame to make a bit of an eave. The job was made easy for one person working alone by the little pieces between the battens. They can be done one at a time, then the next batten just rests on top while it’s being drilled and screwed.

I really wanted a pile of 2m long strips, and thought that wouldn’t be too much of a problem down at the hardware. But all they had was 5.4m lengths, which threw me a little. I didn’t want to buy an extra 8.4m of wood that I didn’t need, but I couldn’t use the 1.4m offcuts either.

There’s a lot of talk on the chicken-owners’ web sites about how vermin will get into a chicken house wherever it can. One person specifically mentioned snakes using the gap between the frame and the roof tin to get to their prey. I don’t blame them; chickens are very tasty.

Anyway, scratching my head down at the hardware and doing some quick in-cerebrum calculations, it turned out that the 1.4m offcuts would come in very handy plugging those gaps.

Another detail worth mentioning is the floor-ends attached inside the bottom batten on each side. These front-to-back beams are angled at 30 degrees from the vertical by necessity, as the outer face needs to butt up against the batten. It’s supposed to serve as a surface to attach the flooring to, so the top face was planed off so that it presents a flat surface to the flooring.

Floorboards Ahoy

S spends a lot of time in the lounge room. Not lounging. Never that.

The carpet in there is pretty manky. It’s a mite embarrassing. Wouldn’t want to stick your nose against it.

So when M found, on Gumtree, a house being demolished in Croydon with some cheap tassie oak floorboards going to anyone who was keen enough to rip them up, S was like a dog with a bone. Just couldn’t let it go.

We’re not really ready to put floorboards down. We don’t have the kit to do it properly. Never mind, let’s go get ’em!

Ute hired, play date arranged for R, jimmy sticks and pin punches procured. Then comes a full 7 hours hammering nails through the boards and prying them up.

Here’s a movie of S’s technique.

Finally, with both hammering arms suffering from cramping, at least one case of being smacked in the face with a jimmy stick and a spot of tendonitis, the room was done.

boards-all-pulled-up

The day was 30C and muggy, because rain was coming.

After weeks without a cloud in the sky, it started coming down in earnest with 3 boards left in the back of the ute.

ute-and-rain

Here we are, a nice dry pile of boards acclimatising to their new home.

pile-of-boards

Easily the best bit of the day was the end. After a quick shower it was back to Naomi and Trevor’s to pick up R and have a spot of dinner. The rain was just enough to cool and clean the air of the smoke haze that had kept the windows shut for a week. R had a blast playing with Luca and we were all able to relax with a beverage or two well past bed time!

Anyway, back to the chickens

The weather has been pretty brutal of late, just a string of days in the high 30s. Time is only really available to do bits here and there before it gets too hot in the day.

The edge beams on the floor were cut and fitted with a long stainless steel screw in each corner.

The main beam-pipe was hoisted onto the end of the coop’s ridge beam and its angle of attack assessed. Then the ridge beam is cut to accommodate the pipe. The beam is clamped in place by a strong galvanised steel mending plate. It was bent slightly more than the angle of the pole-beam, then the bent half slotted inside the pole beam. A couple of big screws fix the plate to the coop ridge beam. As the screws come down the plate clamps tightly to the bottom inside of the beam-pole, and the beam-pole is now absolutely solid. I’d be confident to hang off it myself … it has to take the weight of the vines we’re going to grow up the wire mesh.

chicken-run-progress

Also dug a relatively shallow trench for the aviary wire going down one side. This is just for the bottom bit to stop the chickens pecking at the plants we’re going to plant along the outside of the wire. The wire should be about a foot down; we’re going to pile some compost on top here for the plants to grow in. That soil is bone dry.

buried-mesh

The orange (downhill, a navel) and the mandarin tree (uphill, an imperial) were planted a bit more than a week ago in lots of compost scavenged from what was the bottom of the old compost heap. We’ll put some garlic, chives and nasturtiums in a ring around the trees, and a little wire fence around the whole thing. This should provide the chickens with some healthy and pest-fighting greens while preventing them from destroying the whole bunch.

Our chicken magazine (thanks Berna!) says that a chicken run that doesn’t move can quickly become a compacted, lice-infested mess. We’ll limit the spaces where the chickens can walk for a good bit of the run, dotting mesh-enclosed leafy spots around inside the run containing pest-controlling plants. We’ll throw the scraps in at the uphill end and let the chickens scratch it down the hill and pile up at the bottom, making good compost for the orange before being periodically cleared for other parts of the garden.

The weather has been a reminder that the whole thing will need water over the summer months. It doesn’t rain for weeks on end in February and March. Carl has a run of retic pipe going all the way to the bottom of the block; apparently Anita’s vege patch used to be down there under the trees. We’ll repurpose that and attach it to the ¬†water tank under the deck. The theory at the moment is that it can probably stay on drip all summer: the pressure differential will be small enough so that the drip will be quite slow (maybe not at all). When we turn the pump on for the hand-watering the drip will be better (i.e. only when it’s needed). A tap for filling chicken water containers will be handy, too.