Repurposing an Abandoned Brooder

For the last few weeks our only hen has been setting. Today, on our way into town we stopped to check on her. She had set up a nest under an old trailer gate propped against a retaining wall just in front of where we park. So when we lifted the gate and heard peeping we were quite ecstatic.

The problem was we have an assortment of stray cats around who would just love to have an easy meal of dibby meat. So what to do?

A few years ago we bought some chicks from Tractor Supply, and with the cool weather still hanging around we needed something warm to sleep in. With a few sheets of OSB, a bit of chicken wire, a piece of finish wood and a couple of 2×3’s we threw together a brood box and dangled an old lamp light in for the heat. When the dibbies grew out of the box it got pushed aside and neglected. (Just as a piece of advice; Do not brood chicks in your kitchen. You will never get the dust out. Just trust us on this one.)

So when we were considering a cheap way to move the hen and her soon to be dibs we had the idea of converting the unused, and slightly weathered, brood box into a peaceful haven for our hen and her eggs.

The conversion started with a few plunge cuts to one side for an entrance to the new addition. Then we screwed a 2×4 scrap above the entrance to give us somewhere to place a scrap piece of OSB to create an awning. We then screwed another 2×4 scrap piece to the bottom of the entrance but we turned this one so that the wider part of the board is sticking outward to create a kind of perch for easier entrance. We had robbed the hinges off our brood box to hinge the door onto our duck pen so we screwed the lid down on one side, allowing us to push a small board under the free side for extra ventilation. We also had a piece of corrugated plastic laying about that was split in half and fastened to the top (since the original top was a few pieces of finish board and a bit of chicken wire).

We decided it would be best if she was locked in for a few days before we gave her free roam again, just to give her time to accept her new home. We had just bought a flat of vegetable plants from the local technical center, where i was a treasurer in the FFA and graduated top of my masonry class. I was glad to help out with a program that has influenced quite a few of my choices as an adult, but more so that  the tray we carried our veggies home in was a perfect fit between our awning and perch. A few staples to hold it in place and our hen was relocated along with her eggs to a more comfortable space with food and water just a few feet away.

We are hoping that this will increase the security of our hen and new chicks. Though our hen is a Rhode Island Red and we are not sure she will need much help, we still try to take care of our animals when we can. After all, They are taking care of us.


The Story of a Dinner Table.

Growing up, my family had every meal around a table. Other than a few times when I was left alone, much later in my life, we ate every meal at that table. It’s the same one my parents still use today. It is a rectangular table with rounded edges, two sturdy legs held it up right, supported by a bar between them, with two bench seats. The thing is rustic and sturdy.

As I grew older I got away from eating at a dinner table. Melinda and I ate our meals in front of the TV like so many do. But when we realized we were bringing another little mouth into our home, one of the first things I swore to do was to get us back around the table. And today we accomplished just that.

Just over a year has gone by since we pledged to continue the tradition of eating at the dinner table. After finishing laying the tile in our dining room the first thing we did was to go down to the barn and dig out the table and its two chairs. Just perfect for the three of us right now, since our daughter is still in a highchair. As she gets older and outgrows the highchair I will eventually figure out plans for some hardy benches just like in my parents’ home.

Our table is nowhere near as solid as the one of my youth. But, that is not to say it is rickety either. It is like so many other things in this age of “quantity over quality”: good enough. I picked it up from my parents’ neighbor one day a couple months back when my dad had mentioned the neighbor had a table in his outbuilding.

Melinda and I had been pining over a table on display at Wal-Mart. It was similar in a lot of ways to my parents’ table. It had two sturdy legs at either end of the table made from crossed 4×4 posts. It was $160…without chairs. The chairs were $40 each. Another $160. So for just over three hundred bucks we could have our very own family tradition. Then my dad intervened.
He had mentioned it to me after I talked to him about the table at Wally World we had been coveting. So we walked over and asked to see it. It was a mostly white table with four legs, the top is made of ceramic tile with the edges of the table being a lightly stained wood and two chairs. It was a pretty nice table. But how much?

After a little small talk I finally just came out and asked, “what do you want for it?” he pondered for a moment and asked $10. I couldn’t pass it up. Even with Melinda hanging back with my mom and not seeing the table, it was too good of a deal to just let it go. So taking the risk of my lovely (but often picky when it comes to furnishings) wife not liking it I forked over the ten bucks before he could change his mind, and took it home to store in the barn.

Over this past weekend we laid self adhering tiles over our dining room floor in preparation of welcoming our table into our home. We had noticed how much better our daughter does while sitting in a highchair pulled up to a table at a restaurant and realized it was time to get back to the table-side. So this evening we had our first meal as a family around our own dining room table. We turned the TV off and left our phones in the living room and simply enjoyed the meal and each other’s company.

In a society that is addicted to the rush of day to day life, it can be difficult to find time to spend with family without distraction. It is a welcomed change from the rat race to be able to sit with those closest to you and just enjoy the moment. And with any luck this will be something our little one longs to pass on to her kids when she is older and wiser. And she can look back and appreciate the story of the humble dinner table she spent every meal around with her family.

Dehydrating Apples

So a few months ago Amazon had a deal on a dehydrator.  Every year we have 3 large pear trees that a lot of the fruit just goes to waste, so I ordered it to try out to hopefully be able to save some of these pears for later.

Last night, my mother in law gave us a bunch of apples that she didn’t want so I decided to give the dehydrator a try.  I started by slicing the apples into quarter inch slices.  Then I added a small amount of cininamon on top.  No sugar is needed as they will be plenty sweet on their own.  

Then I set the temperature to 135 degrees and left it overnight!

When I checked on them this morning they were still a little soft so I let them keep going.  Finally after about 12 hours I got my finished product.  They were still a little chewy, but hardened up after cooling. 

Overall I’m pleased with the outcome and the fact that I made something at home, preservative free and pretty healthy for us! I can’t wait to try it on our pears once they come in!

Beekeeping Week 4

I had always wanted to learn how to keep bees, mainly for their honey.  This year I decided to take the plunge and get some bees and see what would happen.  I had no clue that I would soon become obsessed!

It all started when I mentioned it to a great family friend, Pam (who is like a surrogate mother to me) how I was interested in learning about bees and how to care for them.  As a Christmas gift Pam signed us both up for a 6 week beekeeping class, complete with written exam to become a South Carolina certified beekeeper.  I learned a lot in the class, but it really lacked in practical skills.  So when I brought the 2 boxes of bees home on March 21 it was a huge learning curve.  Austin was there to help me, and after a few mistakes with foundation and spacing, we are back on track.

Today, we did our weekly hive inspections, mainly to check to see how they are coming along and to check the health of the bees.  Mostly I’m pleased with their progress, they are producing brood and building up stores of pollen and honey (!).  The down side, one of the hives is not as far along as the other one.  I’m thinking of taking a frame from the healthy hive and switching it with an empty frame from the weaker hive.  This will not only boost the number of bees in the weaker hive, but also give them some more brood.  I’ve got to talk to some beekeeper friends to see if this is a good idea, but hopefully if they give me the go-ahead I’ll be doing this next week.

I never thought that I would enjoy keeping bees as much as I am, but they are so interesting!  The way that thousands of individuals come together to make something work for the greater purpose of the hive is just awesome!  If only the world could take a lesson from these little creatures, instead of being solely out for themselves,  work together to make it a much better place.  Until next weeks update, bee happy!