Hoop Coops

Be warned – this is not a city slicker contraption. This is a real life get-er-done, yes I live in the hills project.

In the Summer of ’14 I moved to my first farm with 31 chickens. And no “real” coop. Instead, I made hoop coops. I don’t make just ANY hoop coop. I made steel and wire hoop fortresses wrapped up in blue tarps. Be warned – this is not a city slicker contraption. This is a real life get-er-done, yes I live in the hills project.

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The coop before the “I saw a bear” renovation. At this point they had survived dogs, raccoons, skunks, and a hawk. Eventually fifty adult birds slept in this coop nightly and free ranged during the day

Ingredients:

Four cattle panels

Five mile high tensile metal electric fencing wire

Bolt cutter

Wire cutters

Baling twine – the orange kind, not grass string (For new homesteaders or farmers – just go ahead and buy a roll – you will need it.)

Hardware cloth or carbon steel expanded sheets (in masonry)

HEAVY gloves

Washers

Two inch dry wall screws – yes I know it’s wood and outside, but you want dry wall screws if you expect this thing to last more than one winter and a bear

Three eight foot pieces of 2×6 pressure treated lumber – look for the yellow tag. This is splurge, but again – if you expect this thing to last more than one winter and a four bobcats get the good stuff

At least two blue tarps, maybe three. I like the 10×16’s from Walmart.

Scrap lumber – short pieces

Some boards for roosts – chickens like to roost on FLAT surfaces.

BIG “L” braces – 8 – If you want this thing to last more than five winters, a pack of dogs, a bear, bobcats, multiple foxes, skunks, raccoons, mainline winds of 60 plus miles per hour, two moves, a devil horse, a demon cow, and being dragged around three farms, get eight braces.

A pinch of insanity for good measure

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I’ve heard hens don’t lay well in these coops. Mine obviously didn’t know better.

Method

The base is eight feet by four feet made from 2×6’s and “l” braces. One L brace inner and outer on the corners. This allows two cattle panels to sit side by side and then be wired together with five mile metal wire along the long end. Forget the hog rings. They’re too much work and you can’t clamp everything as close together. I wired them at every cross. And I mead WIRED them. Make sure your pointy ends are down. You don’t want them catching the tarps. Use the scrap lumber and washers to secure the panels to the base.

Once you have your foundation match your other cattle panels to your open ends. You’ll need to stuff these inside and then wire them to the rest of the frame. Pick an end for your opening and cut out a hole. Remember – YOU need to fit through this opening.

Now the fun begins. Using your hardware cloth or carbon steel sheets cover your master piece making sure all your wire ends are pointed inside. (If you’re from the South you know why I call it a master piece, and not a masterpiece – big difference!) Wire it on along all the cut ends and across the middle in several places. Make a foot wide skirt that extends out along the ground, too, so nothing can dig in. That skirt really is the difference between life and death for your darlings.

Now, cut a piece of cattle panel slightly larger than your door opening and cover it, too. Use plenty of wire to hold it to the coop on one side of your opening. Secure it tight enough that it does not hang loose, but loose enough to swing. Go ahead and wrap it a good five or six times – you don’t want a bear taking it off!

To secure your door you can use a chain and clip, or in my case a chain or two and clip and a big rope tied around the entire coop. Did I mention the bear? After your chickens are wired for sound (the best cell reception on the farm was in the coop) it’s time for the tarps. Get out the baling twine and attach the tarp as only a farmer can. Or use the five mile wire. Either one will work. When you think it’s secure, add some more twine for good measure. In the winter I actually had a second tarp tied up under the first one in front and used a rope around the entire thing to keep the wind from blowing the tarps loose.

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There’s the door. The ropes eventually wrapped around the ENTIRE coop several times.  I use bricks to hold down the edges of the skirt. We eventually expanded into two hoop coops. This coop is still in use. I started with zip ties. They were replaced with wire.

And there you have it – A chicken coop that will hold up to just about anything, including me and the hens.

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Captain Crazy Pants laying an egg on the coop… at least it wasn’t the roof of the house that time

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

The Kind Fibers Family

 

The Lesson in The Pain

I was in K-5, sitting hunched up under the great big pine tree on the recess field reading my science book. It was an ache and burning feeling. That aching and burning have become a constant companion over the past thirty five years.

Many people don’t know this about me: I live in constant pain. Several people in my family either deal or dealt with lifelong pain due to inflammation of the joints and spine. I remember the first time my spine hurt for no reason. I was in K-5, sitting hunched up under the great big pine tree on the recess field reading my science book. It was an ache and burning feeling. That aching and burning have become a constant companion over the past thirty five years.

Sitting and laying are unbearable lately. People often remark that I am in constant motion. Well, yeah. I hear often that I need to rest, to not be so active. Nope. Not with my inherited condition. Doctors constantly push pills at me. I don’t like narcotics and regular NSAID’s do nothing. Besides, I’m kind of attached to my liver. I rely mostly on diet, activity, and shear will power.

Over the past three decades I’ve become an expert at living with chronic pain while continuing to live. And yes, there have been times I’ve beg Gd to kill me. I get sharper tonged, grouchy, and the fact that I’m a bit ornery to begin with can make me unpleasant company at times. I retreat and people think I’m sullen or broody. In reality, I’m trying not to cry publicly, or scream, or simply pass out.

So, how do I deal with it? And if you have a loved one, what can you do other than stand helplessly by or hover? Glad you asked.

How I Deal

I learned along time ago to accept what I cannot change. I cannot change my body. I cannot change how I was born. I cannot rail, or yell, or punch or kick it away. It is simply a part of my physical self. I had to accept that my body is painful, just like my body is graceful in dance. I love my body wholly, and I’ve come to have compassion for her. I care for her, give her nourishing foods and herbs, attend to her needs, and allow her the movement she craves while setting boundaries for rest. I do not try to change her. She simply exists, and I love her simply because she is my dwelling on this portion of my eternal journey.

I courageously change what I have the power to change. Sitting in an office all day was the worst occupation for me. I had to power to change that portion of my life. It was terrifying. I did it. Somehow accepting my circumstances has freed my inner hutzpah to take challenges, to push my limits, and to explore this beautiful world emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and even physically. But more importantly, I’ve learned to change my attitude.

Learning to know the wisdom between what I must accept and what I have the courage to change has been the difficult part. It is an ongoing process called life’s education. I tried for the longest time to change my body, to control my life’s circumstances. It left me haunted and fearful. There are times I see a counselor to assist and asses what I wish to change. There are times I meditate and simply listen to the Inner Light. Wisdom to know when to accept and when to act is the balance. It is the subtly between bitterness and a full life.

But my loved one is suffering – How do I help?

Simply ask. Allow them to do what they can do when they can do for themselves. Stephen Hawkings was considered an invalid by his life’s end. Yet, he contributed to our understanding of the universe. Not every person has that chance. Allow your loved one to explore this world. Pray. Care for your own needs. Don’t be a martyr for anyone. And for Gd’s sake, don’t hold us up as more than human or make excuses for poor behavior. That’s a disservice to everyone.

Understand that there are good days when the pain is less. Understand that there is often a mask, and even when we say the world is perfect, we are still in pain. Allow us the space to drop the mask. Don’t ever pity us, because we are not our illness. We simply exist at this time in this state, just as you do. Accept us just as we are, just as every person needs to be accepted.

 

If you are struggling I hope you may find your Serenity, too.

Until next time,

Craft No Harm,

Moriah

 

Reason I Preserve Food

I’m currently in the middle of moving half the farm, half a house, a bakery, and still canning the few last fall items before winter sets in here at Serenity. So, today I thought I’d share a few reasons why I take the time to can and preserve food for the winter.

Know Thy Ingredients

I like knowing what I’m eating, where it came from, and how it was grown. Some items I even grow myself. Most years the pear trees produce an abundant amount of fruit. Not the past two years. We’ve had frosts at the wrong time and we’ve lost 100% of our pear, apple, plum, and cherry crops. It’s added to the food costs, and I’m out my cherry cordial. Tomatoes, zucchini, apples, peaches, plums, corn, and lots of other produce arrive from neighboring farms. I know the people who grow my food, what methods they use, their families, and often their hardships and joys. Nothing replaces knowing your food is well grown, and supporting your local economy.

I know everything that goes into my food – sodium, spices, and lack of industrial strength preservatives. In addition to canning much of our fruits and veggies we also dehydrate a few bushels of food. I enjoy carrots, squash, peppers, onions, strawberries, and a whole host of other items. I also do copious amounts of herbs – both medicinal and culinary – that are often foraged or home grown.

It Really Does Cost Less

Canning jars are cheap and easy to come by if you know where to look. Once you make the initial investment they are used repeatedly for years. I have several retired jars that hold my salt, pepper, and other cooking ingredients. Why did I retire those jars? They’re over one hundred years old and still being used. I don’t know of any other more cost effective packaging than a glass jar that’s held up since the late 1800’s.

I’ve traded home grown produce for jars, picked them up at yard sales, and had dozens given to me. I also purchase them from our local jam house for $5 a dozen for quart jars.

Even with purchasing a few dozen replacement lids each year it still costs less than purchasing grocery store canned food. Here is the run down of my costs this year – food included.

5 dozen quart jars – $25

30 pounds of pears – $20

70 pounds of pumpkin – $5

160 pounds of tomatoes – free

12 dozen lids – $16

50 pounds of peaches – $12

40 pounds of apples – $22

20 pounds of zucchini – free

12 dozen ears of corn – free

20 pounds of okra – free

3 pounds of blackberries – free

And I made three gallons of wine with the fruit trimmings.

Grand total for 375 pounds of organic fruits and veggies plus a gross dozen ears of corn – $100. That’s $0.26 a pound. Yes. Twenty six cents per pound of food. The average adult eats between three and five pounds of food a day. I eat closer to three. Even with trimming losses (and I’m stingy) that’s nearly six months of fruits and veggies for $100, or $16.67 monthly. Not weekly, monthly. Add that to the $15 a month average for dry staples and you can see how a $50 – $75 monthly food budget is doable.

Living Seasonally and Rural Heritage

Preserving the harvest in season is part of Rural Heritage no matter what part of the world you or your ancestors hale from originally. Here in the Cove spring signals the beginning of the work year as the entire place comes back to life.

We work the soil, gather early edibles, and have our first green salad around February even as the local pond is still solid enough for a skating party. March brings maple syrup season and a rain. April is the month of wait and see as a few brave souls venture out to market stands in search of early produce and the few home canned goods ladies are willing to sell.

Then suddenly in late April or early May the weather heats up and the work year is on – tending crops, canning, baking, birthing, milking, mending for customers, hoeing, haying, fishing, selling, more canning, and working up to eighteen hours a day. Then August rolls around and things begin to slow down. Most of the year’s income happens between May and August – four intense months.

About September the itch for October starts to creep in as the light changes and the Sorghum mill churns out its sweetness. Then suddenly one day in early October the first yellow leaf appears. It’s followed shortly by more leaves, packing up the farm stand, cooler rainy days and saying goodbye to summer friends as the hillside show their splendor.

As the year slides into winter a still settles over the entire village. We sew, relax, read, play outside, and I set my hands to spinning wool and writing my stories. Somewhere in the frozen stillness our bodies and souls are renewed for yet another round of summer work. We open a can of tomatoes laced with spring onions and Uncle Enos’s garlic and taste sunshine. We are nurtured, and we continue along with the rhythms of the year.

Canning is simply a part of the year for us – like the appearance of the first chickadee or catching the first snowflake. And that is totally worth my time.

Until next time,

Craft no Harm

The KindFibers Family

Life Without Guile

Guile. Charm. Slyness. Hidden Agenda. Cunning. Trickery. Deception. Call it what you will, it’s all around us. It erodes trust and simple, straight forward communication. What is the opposite of guile? Frankness. Trust. Openness. Sincerity. Honor. Honest relationships.

I am surrounded by guileless people. It is incredible freeing to have simple, straightforward conversations. I never doubt what I’m told. I never doubt an act of kindness is anything other than genuine and heartfelt. I never doubt my relationships with those in my faith circle. It is only in experiencing relationships with complete lack of guile that I have come to understand deep trust. It is freeing. It is a return to innocence and purity. And in that innocence and trust is a healing very few of us in the modern world get to experience.

Can you imagine every conversation being charged with that deep trust, openness, and sincerity. No flippant attitudes. No false charm. No guessing if the person really likes you or is just playing a part. Imagine every “Good Job” or “I’m so happy to see you” being true. Imagine a relationship where you may not hear “I love you” often, but when you do hear it, you know with no doubt that it was the truest statement you ever heard.

A total lack of guile, a totally open and honest relationship with your family, friends, and co-workers begins in the hardest place – Humility. Only when we let go of our egos can we begin to drop the facades. Only when we delve into the setting aside of “me” can we begin to trace the root of kindness – Humility and a heart freed from Guile.

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah and the flock

 

 

Friday’s Farm: Meet Orion – The Jacob Merino Cross

Orion’s Story

It’s not often we have lambs on the farm. However, a few years ago Andromeda and Victor got together unexpectedly and created Orion. He was an unusually large lamb and his sister Minerva was just under a pound. Fortunately I was home because Andromeda needed assistance with the birth.

Orion, or Big Rye as he’s nicknamed, at three months old. He was already well over one hundred pounds and was the official peacemaker on the farm.

It became clear that Minerva would have to be a bottle lamb. Orion however stayed with his momma. By the time he was a month old he was our peacemaker. If anyone was picked on he was there ending the issue and comforting anyone who was upset. Our orphaned lamb would cry and Orion would suddenly appear to lick his head.

Orion has grown into an impressive wether. He’s nearly three hundred pounds, gentle, and all his flock mates seem to enjoy his company. He’s also quite handsome. He’ll never be a cuddle bug like his sister or my Black Iris. But every day he let’s me pat his head and will bob his head in appreciation when he gets corn. Even as a grown boy he follows his mom around like an oversized shadow. However, he’s taken quite a liking to is Aunt Good Night.

Orion and Good Night. Night is a solid 130 lbs. Just to give you an idea of his size. He wasn’t full grown here.

Orion’s Fleece

His fleece is interesting. It’s a little longer than the other Merinos. However, it’s ALMOST as soft as a typical Merino. I’d guess his micron count is around twenty one to twenty four. His color pattern is what’s interesting. I was surprised to find him spotted with tricolor spots. He’s produced a fleece that has grey, black, and smokey patches with white spots. However, coco brown is the main color. The other colors are sporadic and just blend into the brown. His fleece also has a more typical merino clump and dense lock structure. However there is some crimp in it. I’m experimenting with his fleece some. So far I’m pleased with both combing and hand carding his wool. His woolen is super bounce. I love bouncy sock yarn, and his fleece is perfect for it! Since my drum carder is only set up for medium to corse wools currently I haven’t tried a drum carder. His fleece comes out well as either woolen or worsted. If you are interested in his fleece, check out the Etsy shop www.kindfibers.etsy.com . All proceeds go directly to caring for our resident sanctuary animals.

My thoughts on Merino Jacob Crosses

If you are interested in a Merino Jacob cross as a wool pet I can tell you that my crosses are wonderful, hardy, healthy, personable critters. The fleece type varies. However, the quality does not. I’ve been pleased with the fleeces and with the finished products. Or, if you decide to open your land up to grazers in need of a home, this cross is a good choice. Other than minerals, winter hay, water, and a yearly shearing they require little care and are suitable for a novice. As always, if you decide to take one on, make sure it’s a life commitment. They are sentient beings with complex emotions that effect their health.

Until next time,

Craft no harm

Moriah and the flock

Winding up Wednesday : Fleece Washing Method – The Washer

As promised, here is installment one on how to wash a fleece. Today’s focus is on using the washing machine. Yes. If you inherited a top load washer, you can wash a fleece in it! Carefully. Very carefully.

As you most likely know, fleeces felt with agitation. Therefore, it’s more soaking and rinsing a fleece in the washer than “washing” the fleece in the manner a that your lovely machine was designed for. Stay close. Watch it like a hawk, and every thing will be fine.

I personally prefer to wash fleeces with low vegetable matter, low lanolin, and low yuck factor this way. Also, I try to keep the fleece between two and five pounds. Over or under, and my mom’s washer tends to become unbalanced.

Instructions

1. Fill tub with hot water and turn off machine.

2. Add your soap and swish lightly.

3. Submerge your wool and close the lid.

4. Wait about 30 minutes

5. Put your washer on spin – SKIP AGITATION!!

6. Fill with hot water and turn machine off. If you think your wool is still mucky or greasy go ahead and repeat steps two through five. If you’re happy let your wool soak in this rinse water.

7. Spin again

8. Remove.

9. Place in a sunny spot laid out on a screen or on a rack to dry.

Conclusion

It’s not as scary as it sounds. Just remember that agitation is what causes felting. As long as you keep it to soaking and spinning you’ll be fine.

Stay tuned for hand washing!

Until then,

In all you do,

Craft no Harm

Moriah and the flock20180412_153945

Monday’s Musings: Theme Songs

But as I’m getting older I’m realizing more and more that as a man thinks, so goes his (or hers) life. I’m ready for a new theme song.

I was a big fan of the T.V. show M.A.S.H. growing up. I still find myself humming the tune often. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I found out the words: Suicide is painless/ It brings on many changes/ And I can take it or leave it if I please. Well now, isn’t that pleasant? But the song as a whole fits the theme of the movie and show.

In my late twenties I kind of took on a personal theme song that matched my life. It was Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping. For those that don’t know the words: I get knocked down, but I get up again/ You’re never gonna keep me down. It’s a catchy song. It has fit my life well over the past decade. Life has knocked me down again and again. I get knocked down in many ways, and I get right back up. I’m a fighter. It’s my nature. Somewhere my inner Buffy, with that itchy mortal wound, always manages to choose strength, to always get up and win the day no matter the cost. And there have been costs.

But as I’m getting older I’m realizing more and more that as a man thinks, so goes his (or hers) life. I’m ready for a new theme song. One with peace, prosperity, kindness and contentment. I haven’t found a song like that yet. So maybe it’s time to write my own theme song. After all, one of the major up points to life is finding your authentic voice and song. What will be your theme song? And whose voice will you use to sing it?

Until next time,

Craft no harm,

Moriah and the Flock