Chareva’s spring project arrived on Saturday.  It looked like this:

The delivery guys asked me where to dump the hardware.  I pointed to Chareva and said, “Ask her.  She’s the farmer.”

One of them chuckled.  “So you’re the farmer around here, huh?”

“Yes, I’m the farmer.  He’s the husband.  His job is to pay for everything and lift the heavy stuff.”

I was going to tell them I’m actually in charge around here, but Chareva didn’t grant me permission to speak.

Anyway, Chareva ordered all that hardware because she spent the cold-and-icy season making big plans for our side field.  The plans look like this:

We currently have two flocks of chickens living outdoors, one in the front pasture and one in the side field.  We also have 26 chicks living in the basement, and 12 more on the way.  The front-pasture flock includes old hens, some younger hens, and two roosters.  They’ve pecked the ground inside their pen down to the dirt. They need fresh grass.

The old hens and at least one of the roosters will soon be re-purposed as chicken stock.   The younger hens, the chicks in the basement, and the chicks still on the way will live in the side field, along with the chickens already living there.  I’m not sure how Chareva plans to divvy up all the birds, but we’ll end up with Flock A and Flock B.  She might divide Flock B in two, with a fence in the middle of their chicken yard.

If you look at Chareva’s drawing, you’ll notice both flocks will have access to a narrow area surrounding her gardens.  She added that to the plans after a reader linked to an article about building a chicken moat.  The moat is one of those ideas that’s so brilliantly simple, I wanted to slap myself for not thinking of it before.

As you’ll recall, we get morning visitors who look like this:

I love seeing deer out there, but several readers warned that deer will happily leap a fence to eat up a garden.  From what I’m told, however, they won’t jump a double fence.  We’d considered stringing some sort of barbed-wire fence around the garden to discourage the deer, but the chicken moat is much more useful.  The chickens will eat bugs migrating towards the garden, and they’ll peck away the weeds that would otherwise grow into the garden fence.  Plus the deer won’t (supposedly) jump the moat. Like I said, brilliantly simple.  A triple-duty solution.

Both chicken yards will be covered with nets, as will the chicken moats.  Without nets, we’d be raising chickens for the privilege of feeding the local hawks.

It was a gorgeous weekend in our part of Tennessee, so we got busy with the construction job.  Chareva had already marked off the fence lines with string, so all we had to do was add labor.  (As small-time farmers, I believe we’re exempt from child-labor laws.  Besides, we call it exercise, not labor.)

There were new gates in the load of hardware, but we also have some old gates that have been sitting on the property since we moved here.  One of them was bent out of shape, so I convinced it to straighten up and fly right by applying a sledgehammer.

Most of my workday consisted of pounding in t-posts.  The t-post hammer is heavy, so I guess that fits the “lift the heavy stuff” part of my husbandly duties.  Pounding posts into the ground is also a great workout for the shoulders and triceps.

We learned on previous projects that eyeballing a t-post and saying “Yup, that looks straight” is a bad idea.  The steep hills fool the eye.  So with each post, I pounded it in a bit, then used to level to adjust the tilt, then finished pounding.  And it was a lot of pounding:

The newly-pounded t-posts in the picture below will form one of the chicken moats:

Chareva wants the interior gates bolted to wood posts.  She and I dug a hole as deep as the length of my arm to sink one of the posts.  She bought long posts, so even with more than two feet below ground, I’m tempted to carve totems into the remainder.

The hoop houses for the chickens will be constructed from cattle panels bent inside two rows of t-posts.  Chareva and Sara set the distance, then I pounded in the posts.

Another of our spring plans is to fence in the side field and the back of the property.  We got an estimate awhile back for having a split-rail fence installed around the entire farm, but decided the money would be better spent improving the house and buying a tractor someday.  Nobody sees the side and back of the property besides us, so we’re going to use cattle panels.  That job became much more feasible after I whacked my way through a jungle that had grown up around the side creek and discovered the t-posts are already in place.

I can’t capture the entire side field with my camera, but you can see a good chunk of it below. When the fence is in place, we’ll be able to open up the back yard and let the dogs run around here to their hearts’ content.

I suspect once the dogs have access to this area, the deer won’t be anxious to visit anymore.  That’s the downside.  The upside is that raccoons and bobcats probably won’t be anxious to visit either.  With 70 or so chickens eventually living in the side field, that can only help.

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30 Responses to “The Farm Report: Chareva’s Spring Project”
  1. Don in Arkansas says:

    Pounding in a couple of dozen t-posts really makes me appreciate the fences my Dad built when every post hole had to be dug in this hard, rocky, Arkansas clay. It’s better than a gym workout and when you get through, you can see what you accomplished.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Sounds a lot like our soil. Digging just one deep post hole was work. The t-posts went in easier than usual because of the heavy rain we had on Friday. The ground was still on the soft side.

  2. Blake says:

    It’s good to see that you’ve learned not to think, and just to sacrifice and obey. As “we all know”, the entire history of Western Civilization shows that whenever (white) men think, the only things that result are tyranny, oppression, slavery, robbery, injustice, and destruction. Good for you for just “paying for everything and lifting heavy stuff”, and letting your wife do the rest. If only more (white) men recognized their own inherent evil.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Well, I do find that when I pay for everything and lift heavy stuff, my urge to rob, enslave, oppress and tyrannize is markedly diminished.

    • vargagirl says:

      I’d say this is one of the best examples of free will in action I’ve seen. They have both chosen to do the things they are best at, and by working together, they’ll have a paradise. No one is being forced to do anything against their will, and if one chose to do things differently, I’m sure the other would provide support. Geez, can’t you take a joke?

      • Tom Naughton says:

        I was, of course, joking about Chareva ordering me around (as you recognized). She’s not the bossy type at all. We have a division of duties, and we both enjoy our roles.

      • Blake says:

        Of course I can take a joke… which is exactly why I was continuing the joke by playing along with it. That, and using an opportunity to obliquely criticize that far too large segment of the society that actually believe the anti-(white) male nonsense I spewed.

  3. Rae Ford says:

    Glad to see the weather there is cooperating with your plans. Here in Orlando it’s the middle of March and already we are reaching temperatures close to 90. Not much of a Spring down here. At least it will be a long growing season for home grown veggies.

  4. Tanny O'Haley says:

    If I remember f nice episodes of This Old House correctly, 2 feet is not deep enough for the gate posts.

  5. I’m with Tanny, that doesn’t seem deep enough. When considering my opinion, keep in mind that I live in northern Ohio, so the typical advice is to go at least 4 feet deep to get below the frost line. Go too shallow and the posts will heave in the winter. You might not have that issue.

    Even without the frost issue, though, That looks like you’re hanging 5-foot wide chain link gates. That’s a lot of leverage on the post. If, after everything is already in, you find that the posts aren’t enough, right next to them you can pound in metal posts like you’d use for chain link and hang the gates on those.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I appreciate the advice. We stopped at 2 1/2 feet or so partly because that’s the length of my arm, and partly because we hit water. If it’s not deep enough, we’ll be doing more digging.

      • You hit water already? On a hillside? I’m no geologist, but that sounds odd. I hope you got pressure-treated posts, ’cause otherwise they’re going to rot fast.

        • Tom Naughton says:

          Yup, they’re pressure treated. Just as we got to the length of my arm, the hole started filling with water as we dug. We put some rocks in the hole to (we hope) keep the water from soaking into the post.

  6. Kim says:

    Cool! I like reading about these projects because it’s the sort of thing I want to do on our property in the future, too. A chicken moat, fascinating! Keep us posted on how it works.

    Are you worried that the chickens will eventually scratch this area bare, too? I want to get about 6 just to lay eggs and I was looking at the sort of tractors you can move from place to place. The downside is that they’re much smaller, so I’m not sure how many bugs they can get even if you do move it daily.

    Also why split the birds into two flocks? Is that in case you have a younger group of birds and don’t want to mix them?

    • Tom Naughton says:

      I believe there’s a limit to how big a flock can be before gang wars and other sorts of mayhem break out.

      The chickens will scratch the area bare over time. We plan to use portable electric fencing to create other areas where they can peck and scratch.

  7. Elenor says:

    “As small-time farmers, I believe we’re exempt from child-labor laws.”

    And even if you’re not exempt, you can pretend to be a liberal and point out that your MOTIVES were good!

    “my urge to rob, enslave, oppress and tyrannize is markedly diminished.”

    After seeing what y’all did this time, I’d be surprised if you can move at ALL! (Looks fantastic!)

  8. Jeanne says:

    I love reading about your farming endeavors from the comfort of my condo because it’s a fantasy of mine to have a small farm. But you’re actually doing all the work, and I get to read about it.

    • Tom Naughton says:

      Funny this is, this wasn’t my fantasy. It was Chareva’s. But now you couldn’t drag me away the farm and the joy of being Dog-Tired Satisfied from the work.

  9. Galina L. says:

    I really enjoy your farm posts too. Do you plan something equally smart for your pigs?

  10. Devin says:

    I’ve been wrestling with this for awhile now, so I’m just going to ask it– how do you pronounce Chareva’s name? 🙂

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