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Case of the Mistaken Hens

Benjamin BaerAs previously blogged, I started off with three Rhode Island Reds; the chicks were about a week old when we got them. About a month later, I saw an ad for some Barred Plymouth Rock pullets. That’s my favorite breed, and while I was only aiming for four, I figured we could handle a flock of five. So I went ahead and pulled the trigger. I kept them separated from the Reds for about the first month. I knew I was going to have to finesse the introductions, and wanted to wait until the BPRs were old enough to hold their own versus the older — and already established — flock of Reds.

I introduced them slowly and only left them together for short periods of time. There was the initial, “Who the heck are these two?” from my Reds, but for the most part they seemed fine. I was surprised to see the BPRs weren’t backing down. As a matter of fact, it almost seemed like the BPRs strolled into the coop ready to own the place.

“Okay,” I thought, “I guess these BPRs are some alpha ladies and the Reds aren’t so much. That’s okay.” Over time, stark differences presented themselves between the Reds and the BPRs. The Reds were outgoing and social, liked to be petted and held, and greeted me at the coop door. Meanwhile, the BPRs wanted nothing to do with me and always seemed bothered by my presence in the coop. They also weren’t exactly friendly with the three Reds. In addition, I started to notice that, despite being a few weeks younger than the Reds, the BPRs were taller, and each of their combs and waddles were noticeably larger and darker than the Reds. At this point, I started to become concerned that a couple of cockerels had infiltrated my flock.

Then one morning when I had just fed them and was walking back to the house, I heard a soft “cock-a-doodle-dooooo.” At that point, my fears were realized: I’ve got at least one rooster. I did go into a state of denial for about a week or so, thinking, “Maybe this is just a hen acting like a rooster? That happens, right?” And I’ve read it actually does happen, but it doesn’t happen often. The crowing continued, however, so I decided to take pictures of the BPRs and get the opinions of some folks who know far more than I about chickens. And much to my surprise, I didn’t have one rooster ... I actually had two roosters.

Now let me say, I would love to have one rooster — not so much two, but one rooster would be a great addition to the flock. However, my neighbors would kill me. As much as I wanted to keep at least one of them, I knew it wasn’t an option. So came decision time: what to do with them. I didn’t want to butcher them; I plan to get to a point where I can safely and humanely butcher a chicken, but I’m not there yet. And my biggest fears were not killing it correctly, where it suffered, or not butchering it correctly, where I ended up spoiling the meat and it went to waste. Expecting the worst, I immediately started researching butchering chickens. I watched videos on YouTube (it’s amazing how you can learn anything through the internet) and started contacting local farms, asking if I could come watch them butcher some chickens.

But, before I put on my apron on and started sharpening my knives, I decided to contact the person I bought them from and see if she could take them back. I reached out via email, and within a few days she responded apologizing for mistaking their gender and said she was happy to take them back. I breathed a giant sigh of relief — I don’t have to learn to and successfully butcher two roosters. Not yet at least.

I drove out to her farm early on a Saturday morning to find she was running a bird paradise. She had peacocks, turkeys, roosters, hens, you name it. Those two boys probably felt like they were moving from a trailer in the woods to the Biltmore on nice, green, rolling pastures. I told her, “Be careful, these guys are a little feisty.” And she gave me a look as if to say, “I know just the thing.” She had several chicken coops and took me to one behind her house that included several birds, one of which was the largest rooster I have ever seen. She said, “This guy will teach these two boys how to behave.” I let the two BPRs in, and they immediately went up to test the big guy. They probably won’t be doing that again for a while, as he was quick to put them in their place.

It turned out to be quite the learning experience for me. It was my first dealing with roosters, and I had great conversations with the woman that owned the farm. She definitely knew her stuff, and gave me some free education.

IMG_1463
The two roosters before their departure ... probably plotting to take-over the coop from me ...

Road-Tripping the Wild, Wild West

Benjamin BaerIf you follow @BackyardBaers on Twitter, then you know I just got done traveling the West on a pretty serious road trip. A good friend and I embarked on a ten-day road trip that spanned through Austin, TX, Albuquerque, NM, Sedona, AZ, Las Vegas, NV, Yosemite National Park, and back to Las Vegas. I’m not someone that does a ton of traveling; I always feel like I’m much too busy to get away for any significant amount of time. This length of a getaway was completely unknown to me; I don’t recall the last time I was away from home for more than a few days. So, I originally had reservations about being away for so long. But it didn’t take long to get over that and start enjoying the open road.  

Day 0:

I flew from Central Virginia to Austin, Texas bright and early on a Thursday morning. Got into Austin around 9 a.m., and we immediately ran errands to pick up a few items for the trip. Then, of course, I spent the rest of the day strolling down memory lane, since I used to live in ATX. I had to visit the old house to see how the new owners are taking care of my once-prized lawn (not very well), and then I stopped at a few of my favorite places. We had lunch at one of my favorite tex-mex restaurants, grabbed a beer at my favorite happy hour bar, and then had dinner at my favorite BBQ joint. It was essentially all my favorite ATX places packed into one day … and it was great!

Day 1:

We left at about 6 a.m. on a Friday and spent the day driving. This was the only day of the trip that was essentially driving all day. It was a pretty uneventful drive, but I think we were so excited about what was to come and the idea of beginning this epic trip that it went by pretty quick. We saw quite a few wind farms, which was pretty neat. I had never seen wind turbines before, but we saw tons of them on our first day of travel. They looked like something from the future — which I guess makes sense, since that’s supposed to be one of the up-and-coming energy sources of the future. Late in the afternoon, we made it to Amarillo, TX, where we stopped and checked out Cadillac Ranch to take a few pictures and then continued to Albuquerque. We had dinner at a local brewery, and then relaxed to get ready for the next day of travel.

Day 2:

We started off the next morning for the Painted Desert/Petrified Forest National Park. It was awesome. The Painted Desert was intense; I had never seen anything like it. The Petrified Forest was not quite what I was expecting. I was thinking there would be a lot more petrified wood; I suspect people have been stealing it over the years, and it’s just not what it used to be. Still, it is hard to believe at what time it was a thriving forest, and now it’s a desert with chunks of petrified wood lying around. How our land changes; it’s truly amazing. We continued driving from there until we got to the Meteor Crater in Arizona. This meteor crater is the result of a giant asteroid that hit Earth an estimated 50,000 years ago. It measures 550 feet deep, 2.4 miles in circumference and almost one mile across. You don’t necessarily expect a giant hole in the ground to be so impressive, but when you think about it and stand there at the top; it’s pretty mind blowing to think about the action of an asteroid hitting the planet. From the Meteor Crater, we continued west until we got to Sedona, Arizona.

Painted Desert and Petrified Forest
View in the magnificent Painted Desert and Petrified Forest National Park.

Days 3 and 4:

We spent 2 days in Sedona, and it was amazing. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with it so much, but it was truly a cool place. The first night we just took it easy, had a good dinner at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and then just relaxed with a few brews. The next morning, we got up and went off-roading to Schnebly Hill Vista. It was about a six-mile trip on a winding, rocky, steep road to an overlook with a view you’ll never forget. After pulling out some lawn chairs and relaxing while taking in the view, we traveled back down the mountain to visit the ancient ruins of Palatki in the Coconino National Forest. The Palatki site was quite the historical experience, with cliff dwellings, petroglyphs, and pictographs. These ruins were built by the Sinagua Indians, who inhabited the area from 500 to 1450 AD.

After leaving the ruins, we spent the evening doing some of the more touristy things. We walked around the downtown area, sampled some unique jerky, talked to different people (met a really interesting guy that looked just like Joe Pesci), and had bison burgers at a local restaurant.

Schenbly Hill Vista
View from Schnebly Hill Vista in Sedona, Arizona.

Day 5:

We left Sedona to get to Bearizona in Williams, Arizona just as they opened, as we read that was the best time to drive through because the animals are being fed and pretty active. That turned out not to be true for the wolves, who were mostly still asleep, but the bears were certainly active. Bearizona is a wildlife park in Williams, Arizona, which offers a drive-thru experience with wolves, bears, mountain goats, and bison. It was a pretty unique experience given that you can literally roll down your window and reach out and touch a bear (of course, that is strictly forbidden). I will admit, perhaps my hopes were a little too high, as I did feel a little underwhelmed afterwards — maybe because I feel like I see bears all the time now — but I still recommend it to anyone. I’m definitely glad we made the stop.

From Bearizona, we continued northwest to good ol’ Las Vegas. Other than Austin, this was the only part of the trip that I was already pretty familiar with, as I’ve been to Vegas quite a few times. And let me tell you, it hasn’t really changed other than adding a few taller and flashier hotel/casinos. One thing that has changed is my perception. Going to Vegas as a family guy has a completely different feel than going as a cocky, ready-to-conquer-the-world, 23-year-old. How age (and children) change us! Regardless, we still managed to have a pretty great time, but steered clear of any of the bad decisions that can occur pretty easily in the one and only Sin City.

Day 6:

The next morning we headed northwest to Yosemite National Park, the original highlight of the trip. The drive from Vegas to Yosemite Valley, which is where we were camping, was about 7 hours. However, it was probably about the longest 7 hours I’ve ever experienced. It was the type of driving where you are literally driving through desert. Where there are signs that say no services of any kind for the next 90 miles. It was also ridiculously hot. The temperature stayed between 105 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit for most of the trip. But the drive from the entrance to Yosemite to Yosemite Valley probably had the most amazing scenic views I have ever seen, and I have seen quite a few in the Shenandoah National Park as previously described. We made it to Yosemite Valley — where it was much cooler, fortunately — around 4 p.m. and checked in to the campground. The temps in the park were great, probably mid 80s during the day and then low 50s at night.

View in Yosemitie
One of the many fantastic views upon entering the Yosemite National Park.

Day 7:

It didn’t take me long to fall in love with Yosemite. And while I will always be a homer for the SNP, Yosemite was probably the most impressive national park I’ve ever seen. The views, the trails, and the staff were all phenomenal and surpassed my expectations. Half Dome Village was pretty cool, and while it didn’t seem much like a campground, it still had a fun atmosphere. Honestly, it wasn’t much of camping at all, as the village had shops, restaurants, and a bar, but it was still a great outdoor atmosphere. Once we had breakfast, we headed to the visitor’s center to pick up a little knowledge, and then made the hike to see Lower Yosemite Falls, which had already run dry. From there we headed to Vernal Falls, which was a five-mile hike there and back with an elevation gain of about 1,000 feet. The views from the bottom and the top of the falls were phenomenal.

The park was extremely crowded. I didn’t know folks from outside the US were so impressed by our National Park system. We turned into a couple of social butterflies and ended up talking to a ton of people. We had great conversations with people from the UK, Boston, Orlando, New York, and had dinner with a couple from South France and another from San Francisco. We discussed current events, the park, parenting, traveling, all sorts of things. It was an element of the trip I didn’t expect, but really enjoyed.

Vernal Falls
Vernal Falls near Half Dome in the Yosemite National Park

Day 8:

We ventured out of Yosemite on the 8th morning to check out Mono Lake: a shallow, saline, soda lake in California. From there we headed to Bodie, where we spent most of the day. Bodie was so interesting, and eerie, and turned out to be an unexpected highlight of the trip. It’s a Wild West ghost town, preserved in a state of arrested decay, but at its peak had a population of 9,000 people. It was a booming mining town from 1859 until about 1940. Now, all that remains are abandoned buildings, still stocked with goods and various items, just as they were left several years ago. Of the once 2,000 structures, only about 10 percent remain.

Bodie, California
The remains of Bodie, California.

That evening we returned to Yosemite for dinner and an evening hike. That night was a full moon, and I had been adamant we had to go out and get a good look from the Yosemite wilderness. And it did not disappoint. Of course, I managed to forget my camera, but seeing the full moon rise over Half Dome was spectacular. It’s a view I’m pretty sure I’ll think about every time I see another full moon.  

Day 9 and 10:

On day 9 we started the trek back to Las Vegas, where we stayed pretty low-key, and then I flew back to Central Virginia first thing the next morning.

What an experience! Yosemite was the original highlight of the trip, and I believe it remained so, but in a way, Bodie stole the show. It was just such an odd feeling to be walking the streets of a town, which once was a hustling, bustling, Wild-West mining hot spot, and is now reduced to abandoned structures full of people’s belongings that they just up and left. It just made you wonder, if walls could talk, the stories they would have ...

That Time We Almost Went Camping

Benjamin BaerI’ve always enjoyed camping; we used to go all the time when I was a kid. Of course, it was a different setting growing up in Florida compared to the mountains of Virginia, but regardless, camping has always been a favorite summer getaway of mine.

When my daughter was born almost 3 years ago, we decided it was probably necessary to take a break from camping. I’m sure there are plenty of families out there, braver than I, that take an infant or toddler out into the woods and sleep in a tent and all, but I just felt I’d make up for those years in the future when she was older. She’ll enjoy it more and actually know what’s going on, and I’ll definitely enjoy it more. Well, how quickly time passes! I guess she’s older, because a few weeks ago we got a wild hair and spontaneously decided to pack up and go camping for a night.

We went to Sherando Lake, which is a state park about 30 minutes from our house. The park was awesome. I had heard of it, had never been, but I’m now in love. The camp lots were perfect, cleared out and nice and flat with a picnic table, a fire ring, and tons of surrounding trees to hang a hammock and give you a little privacy. We got there that morning and had a great day. Set up our tent while PKB hung out and played with her shovel and bucket, and then unpacked the vehicle. Once we had everything set up, we all walked to the lake to hang out for a while. It was ridiculously crowded, but PKB loved it nonetheless. We got on a float and went out into the water, and she thought it was about the coolest thing ever. I think she was equally fascinated with being out in the water on a float and watching all the kids running around having a ball.

Afterwards we went for a walk, taking in the sights of the wilderness and the lake, and then headed back to the campsite to relax and hang out in the hammocks. We took the easy route for dinner and just grilled hot-dogs over the fire, followed up with roasted marshmallows. Everything was going great, but the real test was going to be putting her down for bed.

We started talking about bedtime around 7, how I would put her down and read her a story, but then I was going to go back outside and she was going to go to sleep. Around 7:30 we climbed into the tent and started reading our goodnight book. Once we finished, it was quiet time; we laid in a pretty warm tent, me trying to be quiet and her, apparently, thinking it’s time for the PKB social hour as she decided she wanted to talk about anything and everything.

Do you think the deer is outside? (we had seen a deer near the camp spot a little earlier.)
No, I think she ran away.

I want to go to the lake.
No, it’s dark, we can’t.

I love you, Daddy.
I love you too, PKB.

I want to read another book.
No, we only brought one; it’s time to go night-night.

Where’s Cutie-Pie? (that’s what she calls one of our dogs — his name is actually Brownford.)
He’s at home. Probably sleeping, like you should be.

Etc, etc, etc.

Finally, we hear a noise outside the tent (probably just someone moving around), and she asks what the noise was. I said, “I don’t know … but, it may have been a bear. We should probably be very quiet.”

As soon as I finished saying that, I thought to myself, this could be a colossal mistake. She may now be thinking there’s a bear outside and is going to be scared to death all night and not want me to leave her side. Way to go. Well, I lucked out this one time; after saying that, she was totally silent and was sound asleep within a few minutes. As quietly as possible, I sneaked out of the tent. Mission accomplished, time to enjoy a cold brew!

Ten minutes later, I’m sitting by the fire, enjoying my brew and good conversation, and I suddenly feel a drop on my arm ... don’t tell me. Within a few minutes, we are all huddled in the tent listening to it pour outside. PKB is wide awake. No big deal, we will wait this out, PKB will go back to sleep, and we can go back to enjoying the peaceful outdoors. Suddenly, I feel something wet. I realize all the bedding in the tent is soaking wet. The tent is leaking. Okay, camping trip is over, time to go home.

And in the pouring rain, we take down the tent, gather all the supplies and clothes, and throw them in the vehicle to head home.

That will forever be known as the time we almost went camping. Up until that point, we had a great time though. And I am anxious to give it another go … hopefully for a lot longer than a day.

camping
Not sure how to interpret that look, but I THINK she's having fun.

Where Do You Want Me to Put These Eggs

Benjamin BaerI was pretty focused on getting my chicken coop finished, and the hens were young enough that I knew they weren’t ready to start laying, so I wasn't worried about having a nesting box ready. Well, the much-anticipated eggs should start arriving soon, as three of my ladies could start laying as early as next week.

I’ve learned there are quite a few misconceptions around nesting boxes. For example, it’s easy to assume that each hen needs her own nesting box; it almost seems obvious that each hen needs her own space to lay eggs. Well, turns out, that’s not true at all, and there really is no exact answer. If you asked ten different people, you may very well get ten different answers as to how many nesting boxes you should have. One thing is for certain though, each lady does not need her own nesting box. I did quite a bit of research, and the general consensus seems to be about one box per four hens is appropriate.

Another misconception I’ve found is that more nesting boxes equals more eggs. That is completely false. The only way you can increase egg production is with more chickens, which will then likely require another nesting box. Adding nesting boxes in no way, shape, or form changes a hen’s egg production. I wish it were that easy.

You also don’t want your hens sleeping in their nesting box. The nesting boxes are strictly for laying eggs. Your ladies should be sleeping on their roosting bar, and laying eggs in their nesting box. Hens sleeping in their nesting box will yield a giant mess and eggs covered in feces, which isn’t exactly preferred. If your hens aren’t of laying age, you really should have their nesting box off-limits. I just finished adding my nesting box over July 4th weekend, but I have it closed off because they won’t be of laying age until July 19th. I will probably open it up and add a clean, white golf ball around July 17th, unless I see signs that someone is ready to start laying early. At this point, though, I have not seen any signs that anyone is ready to start laying.

My nesting box is very simple. I have five ladies, so I only have one, and it is just a wooden box added to the outside of the coop with an old plastic cat litter container inside. The cat litter container sits on its side, and I cut off the top. This way, I can open the wooden box and reach inside to grab eggs. I opted to attach my nesting box to the side of the coop on the inside of the run. That isn’t exactly the most convenient place; it would be nice not to have to go inside the run to check for eggs. But, I felt it was necessary for two reasons:

1. It gives another layer of defense against predators.

2. That area is under the roof panels, so it won’t get too much rain or snow on top of it.

Since adding the nesting box, I have found one con to this location. The nesting box is just to the right of the entrance of their coop, and a few of the ladies have jumped from there to the top of the nesting box. Which, isn’t that big of a deal, they can’t go anywhere from there, but it’s going to make the top of the nesting box dirty (as they will inevitably defecate all over it) and it might be a little noisy if a lady is in there trying to lay eggs and another is hanging out on top of the nesting box.

This is look at the front of the coop where the nesting box is situated. 

side view

The below photo is looking down into the box with the top open. I have some pine shavings left over from when they were chicks, so I will put that in the bottom along with some herb blend. The herb blend is something else everyone has their own opinion on. We have plenty of mint, lavender and roses growing; so I will probably just use some combination of those. 

open view

And, of course, for a blog post to be complete, I have to include a picture of my daughter ... Once I had the box put together, PKB decided to help paint it. Ya know, you have to start kids early with chores! She did a pretty good job. As you can see in the photo, she insisted on wearing her red cowgirl boots. 

pkb painting

Moving Day for the Ladies

Benjamin BaerI spent a ton of time looking online at various coops, probably too much time, trying to figure out exactly what I wanted to do and what was feasible for my new chicken coop. I debated different spots in our backyard, didn’t want it too close to the house, but not too far either. Cut down a few trees to make additional room; and dug up countless rocks and roots to plant the corner posts and bury the wire a foot underground. It’s not an overly impressive structure … anytime I show it to someone, I ask them not to look too closely, or they’ll see my errors and shortcuts. But the ladies have been in just over a month now, and it seems to be keeping them safe, and that’s all that matters.

walking down

Walking down to the coop ... as you can see, it's not too close to the house and I have a nice path going down to the front and back of the structure.

front

The front...

The structure is an 8x12x7-foot run, with a 4x4x4-foot coop. This gives my ladies plenty of space for each to be comfortable, and allows me some room for expansion should I decide to add to my flock (to which I ended up adding two more shortly after completion, but that’s another story). The sides are all wire mesh, while the top is chicken wire partially covered by a few 6x2 polycarbonate panels to shield from rain, snow and sunlight. Even though the wire mesh is more expensive, I wanted it on the sides to help deter snakes from crawling through. A small snake could climb right through the holes in chicken wire, while the holes on the wire mesh are much smaller (and I just eliminated a copperhead about 10 yards from the coop a few weeks ago). So far, I haven’t had any issues with predators, though they have definitely made their presence known. I found a raccoon’s footprint on the back door of the coop, and a game camera I have set out about 15 yards away recorded a black bear moseying around. A bear also got into our compost bin a few nights ago. In addition to the usual predators, our neighbor saw a bobcat in the neighborhood about a week ago and just a few days ago, it was in the news that an individual was attacked by a bobcat not even 10 miles from our house. I have seen a bobcat before in the area, but wasn’t too worried about those as a predator because they are so rare here, but three different sightings in just a few months makes me wonder maybe they aren’t as uncommon as I thought.

There is nothing fancy about the coop, as it’s just a box, with a roasting bar about 12 inches off the floor. I have sand in the coop as my liter control, because I like how well it absorbs moisture, and it is so easy to clean. I haven’t added a nesting box yet, since my ladies won’t start laying until the end of July, but I think I will just attach one to the outside of the coop, which is in progress. Originally, I was using an old tire for their dust-bathing area, but they seemed to prefer bathing underneath the coop. So, I started applying peat-moss and ash there instead. 

dust bath

Time for a bath...

Their water source is probably my favorite part. Originally, I just had one of the standard chicken waterers that sit on the ground, but it was constantly dirty, and I was cleaning it out nearly every day. So, I did a little research, and found some water nipples online, and applied one of those to the top of a plastic two-liter bottle by drilling a hole thru the cap. I then took a metal pole and planted it in the ground, and fastened the water bottle to that. At first, I used zip ties to attach the bottle to the top of the pole, but that made refilling the water a real chore because you had to maneuver the bottle out of the zip ties. I also realized I needed a second bottle, as they were going through one pretty quickly (mostly, because quite a bit is wasted when they are drinking from the nipple). So, I built a small wooden box from some scrap wood, and drilled two holes in the bottom to hold the bottles. The nipples in the caps of the bottles fit thru the holes in the bottom of the box, and the bottles can be easily refilled and reinserted. So far it seems like a great system

water

The water nipple attached to the cap of a 2-liter bottle .... one of the better ideas I had throughout the whole project. 

The first night they spent outside I loaded them up into their coop about 8:45 and shut the door. That was the only night I had to actually force them into the coop. Since that one night, every evening around 8:45, they head up the track into the coop on their own. It is amazing to me what creatures of habit they are sometimes; hopefully, it’s also a sign that they like their home.

The Ladies are Waiting on Me

Benjamin BaerWell, we picked up our three chicks almost three weeks ago, and they are exactly five weeks old today. So, they are waiting on me to get the coop/run finished so they can leave their cramped brooder and enjoy their spacious home outside.

The chicks are staying in our basement, which still gets pretty cool, so I am still using the heat lamp, though it is raised enough that it’s only heating the brooder to 70 - 80 degrees F. Our daughter has been very intrigued by the chicks. In getting excited for eggs, fertilizer, insect control, and etc., I forgot all about the enjoyment animals bring young children. When we first got them, she wanted to go to the basement to say good morning and good night every morning and evening. And she always asks if she can hold them, but when I get one out for her, she doesn’t want to hold it and only wants to touch it with her single index finger. And she tells everyone her chicks are cute, but she pronounces cute as ‘coot’. We are getting enjoyment out of her enjoyment! I suppose that’s an added bonus of this backyard chicken adventure.

Here she is checking them out shortly after we brought them home …

PKB Chicks

It’s not all fun and cute and exciting though. As I previously mentioned, the chicks are ready and need to go outside, but building their home has been a time-consuming chore filled with challenge after challenge. It didn’t help that my wife went out of town for five days, and then I had a work trip that was four days, so we’ve had a lot of traveling to mess with our normal schedules. We have made a lot of progress though; the run is at a point where no more should be done until the coop is finished and positioned. The run is 8x12x6 feet, so we have plenty of room for expansion as we add to our flock of three. The below photo is from about three weeks ago. You can see our outline with some wire mesh sticking up. We buried the wire about 1.5 feet underground, since I opted not to do a wire bottom to the run. Right now the rush is on to finish the coop … the ladies are waiting … more to follow as we get the whole project finished.

base of run

The Hard Working Fool

Benjamin BaerRecently we had our septic tank pumped. After speaking to the previous owners of the house, they said it had never been pumped, which meant it was going on 15 years. So, I decided to be proactive, and have the tank pumped prior to a disaster, and simple research online suggested a tank should be pumped every 3-5 years, so based on that estimate, we were already on borrowed time.

Unfortunately, upon reviewing the design plans for the house and going out and inspecting the location of the septic tank, we discovered it was actually about 5 feet underground.  So, we had to hire a guy with an excavator to dig it out in order for the plumbing company to get access to it. Once all was said and done, the septic tank was pumped, and there was about a 6 x 6-foot hole, about 5 feet on the backside of our house. I’ll be honest; I was a little annoyed with the whole situation, and was bound not to spend another dime on the process. So, I spent any free time I had filling that massive hole. And since it’s been winter, half the time the two piles of dirt were frozen, and I had to use a digging bar to break it apart. The manual filling process was a series of highs and lows. At times I felt frustrated thinking I’m a fool for not paying that guy to come back and fill the hole, other times I felt so entrenched in not paying any more money, the time and effort filling the hole seemed totally worth it. Not to mention I got some quality time outdoors ... even if it was freezing.

A few days ago I finally finished it. And all I can say is I sure hope it’s another 15 years before I have to have that septic pumped again, especially since I opted not to have a riser installed. A riser would have removed the need to have an excavator dig out the septic tank (essentially it would have made the opening of the septic tank level with the ground), which would save me $225 each pumping. But the riser cost $550, which meant if the septic tank continued to last 15 years before needing to be pumped; the riser wouldn’t pay for itself until 2061. So, fiscally thinking, it made sense not to have the riser installed, and just continue to pay the $225 when I need it dug out to be pumped ... of course, that means I’ll continue to have to fill in the hole myself. Which is fine; I’ll just make sure next time we have it pumped before winter.

This gives you an idea of the hole...

This at least gives you an idea of the size of the hole ... the slope didn't make things any easier.

In other news, my current project is working on the chicken coop. Again, I have found myself wondering, “Am I a hard worker, or just a fool?” I’ve prepared a section in our backyard that is about 11 x 6 feet, which is fine, that is plenty of space and I feel good about it. The issue is that the slope that virtually our entire property is on makes every project harder than it already is. Leveling out the area has proved to be a lot of work, and time-consuming ... and I haven’t even started building the actual structure yet, I’m just trying to get the surface-area ready. I briefly contemplated purchasing one of the prebuilt chicken coops, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. The prebuilt ones look nice, but the coops that impress me most are the ones where someone drew up some plans on a napkin and just went to work. And besides, buying a coop wouldn’t resolve the issue I have with our sloping land. I imagine I will eventually give in to some degree of slope in the run, and I guess our chickens will just grow to have one leg longer than the other.

I like to think I always consider the value of my time spent working on a project, but sometimes, no matter the job, no matter how frustrating at times, it just seems more fulfilling doing it yourself.