About half of our backyard flock is experiencing its first snow today but the veterans weren’t too keen on getting out of the coop either and had to be coerced out. It seems like there has been about a foot of snow which, in a single snowfall, seems to have surpassed all the snow I remember us getting last year in Vesuvius. Of course, I saw and had to deal with a bit more snow up on Mt Maxwell last year when I was the snow-shoveller on call at Foxglove Farm, so as to protect their greenhouses from collapsing.
Speaking of collapsing structures, I recently assembled one of Crappy Tire’s garages-in-a-box, which pretty much warns you that it should not be used outside, for fear of it collapsing, blowing away or otherwise dying due to normal weather. In other words, it’s great if you want your car to be covered…inside a real garage.
I doubt we could the get the car up our driveway this morning, let alone make it to the farm, without getting stuck dozens of times. I called Mary and Blair as early as I dared and learned that they were already taking care of the farm, including the garage. From their description, it was moments from collapsing but they managed to clear the snow before calamity could strike. Phew.
The low tunnels were fine but parts of the plastic deer fence had ripped off their T-posts because of the snow load. Also, some branches from a huge maple tree apparently came down on a portion of the fence underneath. At this point, I’m not concerned about deer. The value of the crop that’s not underneath the low tunnel is minimal and might not survive the elements anyway. Plus I’ll be reconfiguring the fence with our expansion so it might actually save me some time.
In other news, I’ve been working on converting the playhouse, where we used to keep all of our farm tools and supplies, into a chicken coop in anticipation of moving our existing flock there and then adding to it. Mary noticed a few scrap pre-hung doors across the street from an ongoing reno which I got permission to take. There are now doors on either end of the coop. I ripped off lots of the existing single-ply sheeting (which makes for great kindling) and replaced it with 5/8″ plywood that was itself salvaged from inside the playhouse and from a structure on the other side of the property that was used as a bike shed. I used hardware cloth and poly film to fill in an old window that was used as wall-filler on one side. In the summer, the poly will come down for better ventilation. I also cut out the top couple of feet of each end’s gable to promote ventilation of the inevitable ammonia that will develop inside the coop over the winter.
The playhouse structure itself was a little sketchy, like most outbuildings on the property. The floor and side walls looked fine but the ends were weak, having been built of 1X4. The rafters were 2X4 with no collar ties, just a thin reinforcement plywood triangle at the peak of a couple of them. There was a play loft about 5′ off the floor that I removed, salvaging its 2X6’s and plywood (and my head, from further bonking). I moved those 2X6’s up to the bottom of the rafters and screwed the plywood to one of the exterior sides. I also screwed reinforcement plates to the top of each set of sketchy rafters and installed horizontal cross members above each door to reduce the sway. All in all, I’m much more comfortable putting livestock in there now than before.
All that’s left is putting harware cloth on the open ends of the gable tops, plugging other rat-size holes and constructing perches. Some 1 3/4″ dowel I saved from a couple years ago might help with that although it would also be cool to use some deadfallen arbutus branches or similar. So far, it’s cost $32 for 12′ of hardware cloth and I don’t expect the rest to cost much more. Perhaps a good rodent-proof feed pail. And, of course, some extra fencing for their pen. Still, very economical, if a little more time-consuming than I thought.
Now, to build a snowman…