To our American readers, Happy Labor Day.
We’ve had several happy laboring days on the Fat Head farm lately, mostly because daytime temperatures have dropped from the 90s to the 70s. It’s one of the many reasons I look forward to this time of year. Football season kicks in, the days are cooler, and a string of holidays and special occasions are around the corner, starting with Chareva’s birthday in October.
Not that the weather has been all pleasant. We were pounded with heavy rains shortly after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas. No real damage to speak of, but another widow-maker branch fell near the creek. It will be added to the firewood collection after I cut it up it with a chainsaw.
The creek, which is normally not impressive, rose and flowed with enough force to dump a gazillion extra rocks along the banks. The end result is that the creek is narrower in some spots.
My bridge also tried to float away. I learned my lesson after the one and only time it did float away, so now it’s tethered to a big tree with a heavy chain. I don’t mind having to move it 10 or 15 feet as long as I don’t have to go find it downstream somewhere.
One of the annoying features of jungles is that after you cut them down, the derned things grow back. I use The Beast to keep them at bay, but The Beast was out of commission for most of the summer. That’s because last fall, something jammed in the recoil starter. When I pulled on the cord, it came out and stayed out.
As you may recall if you’re a long-time reader, I only recently became a Born-Again Tool Guy. The Older Brother has been tinkering with engines and such since he was a teenager, but for most of my adult life, my toolbox was virtually identical to my dad’s … that is, it consisted of a hammer, a wrench, a flathead screwdriver and a Phillips screwdriver stuffed into a drawer.
When we started doing weekend farm work, I decided I needed to drop the limiting belief that I don’t know nuthin’ ‘bout no tools. I am capable of learning new skills, after all. So now I own an impressive collection of tools and have managed to do some good work with them.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out how to remove the top of The Beast’s engine to get to that pesky recoil starter. I unscrewed every bolt that looked like it had anything to do with keeping the engine covered. Thumbing through a book on small-engine repairs didn’t help, because the pictures and instructions were for common lawn mowers.
So some weeks back, I rolled The Beast up a ramp and into the back of the van to take it to a repair shop. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous while driving to the place. I imagined an embarrassing scenario:
“Help you, sir?”
“Uh, yeah, I’ve got a Swisher Predator brush-cutting mower, and the starting cord came out and stayed out. Can you take a look at that?”
“Certainly. Can I have a credit-card for the deposit?”
“Sure. Here you go.”
“And can I see your Man Card?”
“Uh, let’s see … here it is. Hey, what are you doing?! I just got that thing!”
“Sorry, Buddy. We have rules here in the South. If you can’t fix your own engines, we have to cut up your Man Card.”
But when I pulled up to the repair shop, I saw plenty of mowers, chainsaws, weed wackers and other man-stuff in various states of repair. I also saw customers driving banged-up pickup trucks, wearing baseball caps, and otherwise demonstrating that their Man Cards were intact.
Anyway, with The Beast repaired, I spent part of last weekend taking down my least-favorite jungle. It’s my least-favorite because it runs parallel to one of my disc-golf holes. If I sling a driver too hard and it drifts right, it can end up in the stuff you see below, which is full of nasty thorns and varies between knee-high and chest-high. Even if I find the disc, I’m usually bleeding from somewhere afterwards … and if I didn’t remember to spray my clothes, I’m also going to be scratching at chigger bites later in the day.
The Beast just chews up that jungle and spits it out. But perhaps to reassure me I can keep my Man Card, The Beast ran over a sharp stone I didn’t see in time, and the belt that turns the blades snapped. That gave me the opportunity to break out the tools and replace the belt. After beating my chest and chanting a bit, I finished taking down the jungle.
Chareva and I mostly finished constructing the new chicken yard a few weeks ago. But we still had to tie down the nets and figure out how to keep raccoons from digging their way in. She also decided it was time to combine flocks. We built the new coop for the nine chickens who survived Rocky Raccoon VI. Meanwhile, we had another flock coming along as part of a 4-H project. Alana selected five from that flock to auction off at the county fair, but we’re keeping the rest.
Up until this weekend, they were living in another coop. Chareva opened the chicken moat so they could wander near the other flock. Apparently chickens need time to get used to each other before sharing a coop and a yard.
While the chickens were getting acquainted, we expanded the new coop to accommodate the combined flock without overcrowding. After all, we don’t want them accusing us of being chicken slum-lords.
To keep raccoons from digging under fences in the past, we put chicken wire along the ground on the outside of the fence. But in the spirit of reduce, re-use, recycle, it occurred to me that we had another option.
The previous owner tried to extend the driveway with paving bricks. That might have seemed like a good idea, but she let pretty much everything on the property go, and poison ivy grew up among the bricks. It was such a nuisance, we eventually pulled up all the pavers, and I used the tiller to root out the poison ivy. The pavers have been sitting there ever since, waiting to be useful again.
I told Chareva that while raccoons are nimble and clever, I don’t see them lifting paving bricks, which are quite heavy. Why not just surround the new fences with a double-layer of paving bricks? Unlike the chicken wire, I won’t fail to spot the bricks and accidentally run over them with a mower.
She liked the idea. So we spent a good chunk of yesterday piling pavers into the back of the van, driving them up to the chicken yard, and surrounding the fences.
The chickens, meanwhile, decided it’s okay to share the new chicken yard, perhaps because the big ol’ rooster in the younger flock finally led the way in and the hens followed.
The pavers are in place and the nets are tied down. I’m not saying a raccoon couldn’t possibly find a way in, but he’d have to be quite determined.
The older chicken yards are of course empty now, thanks to the raccoons. Without chickens pecking at the ground, they’re already turning back into jungles. Looks like we’ll have plenty of happy laboring days ahead of us.
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