Sows in Fresh Field
News on the peep front! When I got up this morning there were three new chicks, not just the one who I had seen starting to crack an egg last night. Within an hour there was another hatching bringing the total to five. Hopefully the others will hatch today or tomorrow so they are close in age. The brooder is setup in the animal shed so I’ll be able to move them out there this weekend. Several people have asked about details on our homebuilt hatcher. I’ll do a detailed write up of it along with a wiring diagram for the electronics real soon now – I promise!
The white hen who hatched a clutch outdoors on the pasture the other week is doing well although she has lost a few of her chicks. Our cat Serene is now house bound as I think she was the culprit. Odd that she never went after chicks in the brooder although she had full access and watched them. It must be that with the little chicks running around in the grass they are a bit too tempting – she is a predator after all.
Sunday is our day of rest. We do minimal chores and don’t feed the adult animals as they have pasture so they’ll be sure to completely clean up any feed from the week. We might go hiking or weather permitting we do something on the annual kids project list. The kids consruction projects seem to happen about this time in the fall when the heat of summer is gone and chores are a little lighter. One year we built a large tree-house platform out of lumber we had scrounged, another year we made a house with windows up on the platform, then year it was the swing sets area. This year we are setting up a permanent place for the cable trolley that Will built last year as one of his homeschool engineering projects.
A few weeks ago we cut a path through the woods and brush for the trolley run. As a side benefit gave us about a cord of wood for the house next winter (2007) to stacked under the tree-house platform to dry. We also got about that much more junk wood for bonfire cookouts. The kids cut the brush with loppers. Then I went through with the chain-saw and cut down the trees, flush cut the stumps and blocked up the firewood. The next week we used the tractor to carved out a tiny pond (~50’x15′) along the trolley’s path. The bowl of the pond is below a spring and is already starting to fill with water.
In the process of carving the pond I exposed a large very smooth slab up bedrock or ledge just up the hill from the pond. It is a beautiful piece of rock that dips down under the water. This is the same ledge that the early settlers had hand cut to get blocks of foundation stone for our house. Logically they quarried the stone up hill from the house so they could slide it down to the house site.
This Sunday I built about 55 feet of stone wall to retain earth along the trolley run area. It came out very nicely. In a few years it will start to take on a settled, aged look. This is accelerated by using face rocks that already have interesting moss and lichen on them. The biggest trick with wall building is being patient and finding the right rock for each place in the wall. For each rock there is a place and for each place there is a rock. The result is a rock solid wall, pun intended.
We all rock picked to get rid of the small stones from the soil and then Holly, Will and Ben raked smooth the back fill behind the walls and chinked the wall stones with small stones. Even little Hope got into the process, picking out rocks and roots. Many of the wall rocks have moss and lichen on them and several are very interesting pieces of white and colored quarts in addition to the usual granite and red ledge we have. Along the top of the stone wall I placed some large rocks near trees for benches.
For the end of the trolley run I found a large boulder – a cube about 4′ x 4′ x 4′ – which has a natural set of steps in one side. When I started prodding at the boulder it was buried about 75% in the soil. Like an iceberg I just saw the tip and didn’t realize quite how large it was until it popped up out of the hole. This is the sort of project I would not have even contemplated without a tractor. With the right tool though it was easy to extract the rock and move it up hill. It is now positioned under the trolley cable. I set the boulder at the south end of the cable run to be the take off place on the trolley.
The trolley cable goes across the small pond which I dug out with the tractor just below a spring. That spring has always made the north field a bit wet. In addition to being a fun spot to cross with the trolley it will also let me control the water a little more so I can direct it to gardens, fields and animal waters rather than having it soak that field to a muddy mess after rain storms. Everything gets double duty if I have my way!
The trolley run is shaping up. As Ben said yesterday, “Wow! It is a totally different place!” Where it had been rough brush, old barbed wire snaking between trees and boulders in the woods we now have rock walls, water, soil ready for grass and a sheltered open area. It is raked smooth for the most part and we’ll seed it with grass tomorrow. We cleared out the brush, leaving some beautiful ash, maple, spruce and white and yellow birch trees. This will let the light in for part of the day so the grass can grow but shelter the area during the heat of the day in the summer. Being up on the hill it gets a cooling breeze almost all the time. Today I cut down two dead poplar trees that were threatening to fall into the area. Soon we can string the cable in its final location.