Interlude: winter solstice

Every year there is a lantern festival in Belgrave for the winter solstice. The main highway is blocked off (OMG!) and people wander around in circles with their lanterns.

These days most lanterns are LED-lit. There weren’t many there that went for old-school candle action. We took the candle from our kitchen table and wired it into the lampshade from the main bedroom, and topped it all off with a bit of copper pipe for a handle.

Maybe next year we’ll make more than 10 minutes effort like these other people.







Chicken run door gable

So I got a bit keen starting the wire on the chicken run. I draped the first bit over, then realised that the door had to be integrated properly before going any further.

The idea is to keep the door steady by using the pole coming out from the main beam in compression, and running wire back to the ends of the main beam in tension to create a solid join. Above the door we’ll put a little gable to have the compression pole come out horizontally.

chicken run door gable

The gable is the first thing that needs to be built. The compression pole will slot into the top and butt up against the gable end. The gable will be well-secured to the doorway on the bottom.

So some patented chalkboard plans were developed …



And a nice piece of wood procured (with the required length of 2390 mm being conveniently close to the 2.4m standard length we normally get).


We haven’t ever done a blow-by-blow account of how these things are made, so we thought it was about time.

We can’t have a big hole in the middle of the gable, so we’re going to put some marine ply into a routed channel and decorate it later. It’s best to route the channel for all the pieces in one go: that way once it’s cut up the channels will all align.

We put the wood up against a fence and rule a line.


With the router against the fence, the bit just doesn’t line up, so a little shim brings the router away from the fence.


That good old router is pushing 18 years old these days, and still going well.

door gable 4

Now the channel is cut we can chop the length into bits. The top of the doorway is 111cm wide, and the pole needs to come up by 350mm to be level, which gives two sides of 640mm each.


We’ll lean the two sides on a little standy bit that goes in the middle. We want the ply to be in the middle of the framework, so we chop a spare bit of wood in half.


Not quite perfect…


That’ll be the width of the saw blade that I keep forgetting to account for. No matter, a couple of passes with the plane sorts it out, and everything lines up nicely.


Next, we need to plane off the angles on the bottom piece, so that the top pieces sit nicely. We could have done half the angle on each one, but that would have been twice the work, and the overhanging end of the top pieces is actually what we’re looking for here.

The maths says it has to be 34.2 degrees, but we can be pretty sure that anywhere between 31 and 37 will do.


Seems to line up OK. That one on the left is slightly off, but it’s all right for agricultural purposes!


So let’s secure the two centre posts with some nice stainless steel bolts:


And cut out the plywood …

Dang, that 6mm plywood is 6.5mm thick and the 6mm router bit is 5.9mm thick and it’s just not slotting in. Time to get the plane out and take that 0.6mm off.


It ain’t terribly pretty, but it will do the job.


Nice and snug.


Now we can screw the angled bits onto the bottom. The top end will be secured a bit later. It’s not critical right now because gravity is our friend.


And give the whole thing a lick of paint.


It took 2 coats of prep and 2 coats of exterior paint to cover the wood properly.

We put a couple of ring bolts in each end to tie the guy wires to:


Then it was time to pop it on the doorway. We put a bunch of screws in from underneath to secure the two together.


Once it’s almost horizontal the pole was too long. There’s a bit of a crusty end on it, too, so the easiest thing was to just chop the end off. A few minutes with the angle grinder saw to that.

With the pole the right length we put a 90-degree bracket inside the pole and attach the other end to the gable. Now any force pulling backwards towards the main beam will jam the end of the pole up against the bracket. The screws are driven into the upright wood on the back of the gable for strength.


Next comes the guy wires themselves. We have one on each side going to the far end of the main beam and to the end of the cross beam, as per the original picture.


And that’s it! With the guy wires tensioned-up by turnbuckles, that doorway is now solidly in place.

Now we can get on to putting the chicken wire in place over the run.

Veggie patch weeds

By now I’m pretty sure I’ve established that my method for removing weeds is to let them grow then pull them out. Mulch is OK, and it stops the weeds from popping up, but only as long as it’s maintained. It doesn’t get rid of the weed seeds.

So we’ve let them grow in the new veggie patch, and now it’s time to pull them up.


There’ll probably be another round of weeding after this, but then it will be just maintenance.

In the bottom corner is the giant parsley. It’s extremely happy in this good, loose soil.


Onion weed stage 2

Sieving the dirt up by the road to remove all the  onion weed bulbs is only the first step. Stage 2: remove all the onion weed seeds. Which means waiting for them to grow, and then pulling them out.



All those little sprouts there are onion weed.

It’s somewhat of a testament to the robust and tenacious nature of seeds. There was nothing growing in this dirt for years. Carl had it all suppressed, brush-cutting and stomping down the ground for two decades. All the little seeds have been compacted into the clay where they sit and wait for their moment.

Along comes me and turns the dirt, and suddenly they’re all free.

I planted some parsley and oregano seeds in there for my Italian herb garden, but they’re all going to have to come up. Sigh.