Grief

“Grief, she concludes, is love with no place to go. ‘You realise what you are feeling for your lost loved one or lost parent that has died is just love, and that makes it somehow bearable.'”

– Linda Morris, “Interview: Helen Macdonald,” Spectrum pp. 28-29, Sydney Morning Herald, 28-29 March 2015

Hitches in the chicken-pen process

The new chicken pen has hit its first hitches:

1.

I bought 5 posts of treated pine the other day to use in the pen (I’ll stand them in the ground as posts then attach non-treated pine to them above-ground). And I nearly bought 5 more yesterday, but ran out of time to get to the shop. This morning, belatedly, I thought I’d better check something: the posts are bright blue, which I hadn’t expected; they look weird on the ground. And – you’ve probably guessed it – turns out I bought the wrong sort of “treated”. The ones I’ve got are intended for use in dry surroundings to prevent termite attack! Termites aren’t even a problem out there, or not that I know of. All I needed was timber that won’t rot in the ground. I should have checked with the man at the shop before buying them but he was already writing out the docket (for me to take to the checkout) before I realised what he was doing. He asked how many I had, wrote that down, gave me the docket, and headed off on an apparently more important mission.

I’m kicking myself about this because the damn posts were more than twice the price of plain pine, so I’ve wasted about $20 on nothing. And now I have to find the right treated pine, or…  I don’t know. Would it be better to paint plain timber posts? Which is cheaper? And what do I do with 5 bright blue posts now?

The other problem:

2.

As soon as I’d laid out the posts on the ground yesterday in the shape of the pen I could see it will need to be bigger. I’m hoping to buy 4 hens, so with W too that would make 5 chickens in total, and the pen I’d been planning would be 2.4 metres by 4.8 metres, meaning that it would really only be the size that W currently has in the Weldmesh day pen multiplied by five, which is too small. (I’m hoping to be able to leave the chickens in the pen for days at a time so I don’t have to go out there every day.) I should have seen the problem just from the measurements, but didn’t understand it until I looked at the shapes on the ground with W walking through them.

Dammit.

New chicken expenses: 1

Part of the reason I didn’t do any blog posts last year is that I’m embarrassed about taking so long to finish the chicken house I was trying to make – a delay which means my pet chicken is still living solo. Internet poultry experts would say that’s bad for him: they say chickens need a flock.

Today I bought some new timber posts, because I’m starting the chicken house again – again. I couldn’t get the other version to work, and it had been through about four different versions on the way here.

In the beginning, several centuries ago, I was trying to make moveable pens. I still use one of the Weldmesh tunnel things as a day pen for W, but it’s not safe enough for nights. (Our predators: foxes; wild dogs; eagles; hawks; pythons; brown snakes; black snakes; goannas; and I even saw some rats running around in the coffee trees late the other afternoon too, so who knows: they might have a go.)

I tried making timber-framed cubes that would link together (in the manner of train carriages), but after about six months or something I still couldn’t make them work.

After that I started to despair, so I bought a flat-pack coop from a hardware store, knowing (from reading internet forums) that it would be flimsy and small, but thinking I could reinforce and modify it – which I was thinking would be quicker than trying to make something from scratch.

And in fact the flat-pack coop had been built pretty well, I thought, if it was intended to sit in only one place. Its flimsiness came from all the panels being held together by screws: if you move it often enough the screws will break out. I tried to make the roosting area bigger and the walls stronger, but couldn’t find timber small enough to fit well. The frames in the flat-pack coop are 35mm x 25mm (if I remember correctly), but the smallest timber I could find to add to it was 45mm x 35mm (being pine battens or purlins).

With the clunky bigger timber bits I tried a few different things – reconfiguring the panels, adding cladding, adding a new underfloor area, making a new door –  and even went as far as painting the whole thing several times (with undercoat and top coat, at ridiculous expense, and I mean I even filled in all holes and sanded the thing down first). But I couldn’t see how to add a run outside it so that the whole thing could move as one unit. After all my tinkering just the house on its own had become almost too heavy to move. And finally, when I tried moving it one too many times, it broke.

I couldn’t face trying to modify it in any other way, so I took it apart and tried to use the timber to make something new. And that’s where we are at the moment: I managed to make a little house which is sturdy and okay, but there’s still no run to go with it. And I can’t find a way to add another little house and run onto the side of it for W (he can’t live in the same house as the future hens because he might jump on them all the time – I don’t know how he’s going to treat them).

And sometime in the last few months I had to move everything from one paddock to another one, because the first one had all its coffee trees trimmed down to about 1.5 metres high, and it’s no longer suitable for running chickens in.

The site for the chicken pen in the new paddock is sloping and narrow, and I’ve had to rethink the whole thing. For various reasons a mobile pen won’t work as well now, even if I could find a way to build one that worked. And I’m sick of trying to make something that I can take apart again later when I move – it’s too hard to do everything in panels.

So, in the last day or two I’ve decided to build a permanent house and run, or as permanent as it can be considering it’s on someone else’s land. How I will move the thing when it’s time to leave is anybody’s guess. It’s a worry, but less worrying than trying to stuff around any further trying to invent something new. More worrying is money. I don’t know how I’m going to find enough to pay for this.

Anyway, one day at a time, and today I bought 5 bits of timber I’ll use for posts. I could only fit 5 in the car, stretching from under the glovebox, through the gap between the two front seats, and over the flattened back seat to the back hatch door. I’ll need to buy more later.

I’m hoping to draw up some building plans this time, not just work things out while I’m staring at timber stacked on the ground.

Anyway, fingers crossed. My poor chicken has already waited far too long for companions, so I really need to make this work.

NEW HOUSING EXPENSES

From Medium Town’s hardware store:

– treated pine 70 x 35mm, 2.4m long, 5 @ $6.96: $34.80

– treated pine screws: $11.30

– galvanised nails: $9.90

I also bought a new hand saw because the old one is so blunt it makes me give up and weep.

New Housing total: $56.00

Scaring a koala

I meant to write about this ages ago and then forgot:

I was out at the farm, talking to the new owner and her young daughter at the front of their house, when New Owner looked up to see a koala lumbering across the front lawn towards the cow paddock. You rarely see a koala in daylight, let alone one walking across the grass, so this was unusual, but I had seen it happen before when I lived there: early one morning I’d heard a commotion in the cow paddock and looked out a window to see a koala barely escaping from a mob of cows who were chasing and prancing around it.

I told New Owner that I’d walk the koala across the paddock so that my cows wouldn’t hurt it, so off I went, into the paddock. And all my cows except one did as they were told and stayed at a distance. But Baby1, who is a bossy big thing, wouldn’t stay back, and kept trying to push around me to get to the koala. (Cows aren’t usually aggressive, but they do get touchy about their territory being breached by unknown things.) I kept pushing back against Baby1, and I mean I was really leaning into her full-strength, trying to push her away. But it wasn’t doing much good, and I was starting to panic because I was scared she’d run around and step on the poor koala (who was galloping as fast as it could for the far side of the paddock). I knew that if Baby1 started running then the other cows and calves would follow her, and it’d be a mob scene, a mini stampede, and I’d be unable to protect the koala.

So, I was already panicking, okay, and so was the koala, I’m guessing, because suddenly it changed course to head for the only tall thing in our vicinity: a wooden electricity pole. I tried to head it off, but no, it leapt at the pole and started to climb. I thought, “No! It’ll be electrocuted!” and I grabbed its back legs around the ankles.

The koala was climbing the pole with its front legs and I was hanging onto its back legs, and it was a tussle worthy of comedy. I don’t have a clue what the cows were doing, except I know that Baby1 wasn’t interfering, so I guess they were standing back and marvelling at my stupidity. I was marvelling myself and wondering what the hell was going to happen next.

I thought that if I let go of its legs the koala would climb to the top of the pole and be electrocuted. That’s probably rubbish (I think you have to touch two wires at a time to be electrocuted – that’s how bats die – and why would the koala have done that?). But I wasn’t thinking straight. Coming so soon after the cow panic I just couldn’t think, so I just kept hanging onto the koala.

But the koala kept trying to climb. So I started smacking it about the head, yelling “No! Stop!” or something like that. All I can remember about this is that the koala was screaming (no, really) and it smelled like timber (a strange smell I’d never smelled before).

Sometime around now I started to wonder how this was going to end… I’m hanging onto a koala and smacking it in the head, and if I let go it’s either going to electrocute itself or tear me to bits. I could not think of anything to do other than look over my shoulder and wonder what had happened to New Owner.

And yes, she leapt to the rescue. She ran across the paddock with a pair of thick gardening gloves and a beach towel, and threw the towel over the koala’s head – at which point it calmed down and relaxed, and we were able to lift it down from the pole and wrap it in the towel and carry it across and out of the paddock (to where it appeared to have been headed) and release it onto the ground far from cows. He or she raced up the nearest tree.

I shouldn’t have touched the poor thing. It’s a wild animal. It wouldn’t have been electrocuted, it would have just hung onto the pole till nightfall and then climbed down again to go on its merry way in peace.

I hope it wasn’t hurt. I don’t think it was.

And for me, I have a little laugh now whenever I hear a koala calling from the trees at the farm. The poor thing is probably terrified I’ll try to pull its leg.

 

01:50 in the morning

I know I’m only adding a new post about once every year now, but every time I log in the whole writing-page-thing has changed again, and it takes me five minutes to find out where things are. That’s annoying! Why do people keep changing things all the time? There was nothing wrong with the way it was before, or before that, and far as I can see there’s nothing better about it now.

Anyway… That’s me whingeing.

I came back to my blog to look up something about chicken expenses and instead started reading back through the most recent posts (which were only written this year) and already I’d forgotten them.

I’d forgotten that in January I had nine head of cattle, which at the time seemed like a problem because I’m never going to have them killed, and I don’t have any land of my own, so where am I going to keep nine head of cattle? At the moment they’re still living on the farm, the good old farm, but they can’t stay there forever.

Well, now – in May, only four months later – now I have 13 head of cattle, and it’s all through no fault or action on my part: the cows and heifers had calves, presumably because of visits by neighbouring bulls who didn’t stick around long enough for me to spot them. I had no idea any of the cows were pregnant until one of them had a calf, and now there are five calves.

I just thought I’d mention it. I liked reading through the blog posts and it surprised me that I’d forgotten things so quickly.

The calves are lovely, and the cows are healthy. It’s just that 13 of them? It’s a bit of a disaster, really, and it happened so quickly.