The one where JoAnna reenacts an episode of Friends (*)

Yesterday Kelly and I erected the last of the 18 perimeter beams of the house. For the sake of efficiency, please go to FLICKR to see the most recent batch of photos.

As we left the homesite, we stopped at the Marathon station to dump the day's trash and to gas up the chefmobile. When Kelly went in to pay, the attendant, Neil, asked whether the worm guy had ever contacted me. (they sell nightcrawlers for fishing, so I'd inquired about worms for composting a couple weeks ago) Kelly didn't know, which he told Neil, but then mentioned it to me when he got back in the car, and i said that yes, the worm guy DID in fact call me... so I went back inside to tell Neil.

I spent a few minutes talking with him, telling him that we were hoping to get all kinds of critters for the farm, but that i had no contacts. He said that they were selling chicks and rabbits at the Tractor Supply as well as letting me know about the Mennonites and their farmers' markets, where they also sold animals.

Kelly and I stopped by the Tractor Supply, and saw a whole bunch of teensy little fluffy chicks. The employee working there told us that they were going to sell out soon, since it was after easter, and that they'd only get one more shipment of chicks, but no bunnies, and that would be it. We decided we'd get some the next day (which was today) because we didn't want to miss the window of opportunity to buy chicks.
well, to tell you the truth, i'd talked myself out of it at some point on the ride home, but then we listed to a podcast. Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders, by Stanford's tech school, featured Jensen Huang, co-founder and CEO of NVidia. He said something that really struck a chord with me -- so much so that I noted the timecode and remembered to re-listen to it and transcribe it:
Innovation requires a little bit of experimentation; Experimentation requires exploration; Exploration will result in failure.

Unless you have a tolerance for failure you would never experiment, and if you don't ever experiment, you will never innovate; If you don't innovate, you don't succeed.

You'll just be a dweeb.
So Jensen Huang talked me into getting chicks.
When we got home, I put together the box of food I'd make the next day, and decided to make Pad Thai. We were out of eggs, so I made a note to wake up early to get some before we left for Prospect in the morning.

This morning, I woke up before the alarm and headed to the grocery store. I bought eggs and potatoes and onions and a few other things we were running low on. As i left the parking lot, i remembered that there was another Tractor Supply right in the area, so i detoured. I was hoping that they might still have some rabbits, since the Pulaski location was out. They were also out of bunnies, but they had ducklings instead. So I picked out 10 chicks (doing this hold-them-by-the-neck-between-your-fingers thing to see if they fuss and fight. The ones that fuss the least are more likely to be hens.) I also picked out 6 ducklings (which, i understand, have no discernible reaction to the fussing test). I wasn't exactly planning on getting ducklings, but there they were, and there i was, and they were marked down to half-price because they were getting "too big". Just then, the new shipment of chicks arrived, and since I'd already selected from the older batch, my chicks were marked down to half-price, too! I still spent a small fortune on the setup of lights and feeders and waterers and food and grit and antibiotic and wood-shavings for bedding... but I'd have to buy those anyway, and much of it will be used again next year.

I drove home with my stomach in a knot, wondering what the hell i just did. I brought them in the apartment (GASP! Don't tell!) and started to set up the lights and the food and the litter and realized that the plastic containers i thought would fit them ...didn't... so i went right back out to Target and bought two of the biggest storage containers they had.

Then, back at home, Kelly kissed me goodbye and left me to be a poultry-mama for the day while he went to the homesite to work. I set the new containers up, and realized that I'd have to split the ducks up into two batches, and put the chicks in one of the original containers. So... Back out to Tractor Supply, to buy a small waterer and a small feeder, plus another heatlamp setup, so i could put the chicks back into the original, smaller container.

I come home again, and begin to get everyone situated, and I notice that the ducks are a MESS. The food and water and poop are everywhere, including all over the ducklings. I mean, I knew they were crowded, but they pooped everywhere, and walked all over everything, and all over each other. I started to set up the chicks, so i could divide the ducks between the two big containers, but i realized that the light fixture would only accommodate 150 watt bulb, but I bought another 250. SO... I moved the other light, moved the chicks into clean bedding with their new food & water, gave the ducks a bath (which they seemed to really enjoy, and it was HILARIOUS to watch them discover water!) and then dried them off a little bit with a towel (which they didn't appear to enjoy quite as much) and put them all on fresh bedding with the other 250 watt bulb, fresh water and fresh food, then BACK OUT to Tractor Supply AGAIN, to trade out the light fixture.

Finally, everyone's clean, fed, watered, happy, and not stepping on each others' heads. I can't wait to take them with us to the farm so they can get settled and be happy.

Today I learned: Experience is a great teacher, and I anticipate learning LOTS of lessons with my batch of 16 adorable peeping fluff-balls.

(*) If you didn't know it, all the episodes of friends were titled something like "The One with the East German Laundry Detergent" or "The One with the Evil Orthodontist" ...this one is "The One with the Chick and the Duck" (Props to Kathryn for reminding me of it.)

Early Construction Photos

The following photos show the work completed to date. Nine of the eighteen perimeter posts are up. Seven of them are 12ft posts which aren't too difficult to manage. The 16ft posts are real beasts. They are really heavy which means it is complicated to adjust their position once they are standing on end. For the remaining 16ft posts, I am planning to try to build a guide that will help direct the post base to the desired position in its designated footing hole - something with tapering sides that will funnel the post into place as it is stood up. Only the perimeter posts are left near full-length (footing-to-ceiling). I'll be trimming the tops off of these once the perimeter walls are up. The 12 interior posts are cut at floor level, so they are only 5 foot long on average.

These opposing views were taken just after sunset:





Someday soon, there is going to be a house standing here.

Today I learned: When using a hammer, it is possible to smash a finger on the same hand that is swinging the hammer.

"If a man smashes his finger in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does he make a sound?

Yes. I said "ouch" and a few other 4-letter words.

Our Own Bailout and Scoring Windows

Long lapses in blogging are either due to nothing going on or lots going on. This case is the latter.

Progress in the Purple Greenhouse

We have the greenhouse in working order now, and it really heats up on sunny days. Our $1 thermometer said 90 degrees F just the other day when it was maybe 65 outside. It is still too soon to trust that we can leave any sensitive plants in there overnight. The forecast is calling for 28 degrees in a couple of nights ahead. Here is a pic of JoAnna standing in the doorway with the yet-to-be-finished, recycled craigslist door in place. It works like a charm:


I missed the most recent rainstorm on Thursday, but it must have been a doozy. In the past, we used a broom from below to push off the rainwater that had collected in the roof plastic. But today, this is what I discovered:



Those bulges were caused by probably 20 gallons of water in those sections. I had to climb up alongside the greenhouse and bail out the roof with a bucket. Three cheers for 6mil plastic. It stretched, but it did not give way. I guess I won't use plastic in this way on the real house roof.

Our First Post

We officially started construction of the house. This is a pic of the first of many (30) pressure-treated posts that the house will be built upon. These posts are very heavy. We are dealing with 8ft, 12ft & 16ft posts, depending on the slope of the land.
I estimate the 12ft posts to weigh 150lbs. I can only carry one under each arm. This pic shows the first post standing. Only 29 more to go.



Bargain Windows
After a long April 1 work day, I decided to check craigslist for the usual items we need: windows (casement style preferably), doors, woodburning stove, and general construction materials. And there it was. An ad for 4 new casement windows - $250 for all. No dimensions were provided, and the photo was vague at best:



It took me a minute to realize that a person was standing next to the boxed window, so as long as the lovely model wasn't a troll, the windows could be expected to be 4 to 5 feet high. It was late when I saw the ad, but JoAnna used her mad skillz to contact the poster (a text message, maybe?) and he called her back soon after. I spoke with the guy who said he was just posting the ad for his friend Becky, and that I could call her even though it was late. So I did and we made plans to meet at 9am.

The garage storing the windows was conveniently located halfway between our apartment and the home site, just an hour drive. I got to the address and Becky arrived a few minutes later. After brushing off 8 years worth of dust, spiders and a mouse nest, the windows appeared to be in very good condition. I paid the $250 and loaded them into the ChefMobile with Becky's help. They barely fit. There are 2 windows size 48W"x48H" - double opening, and 2 windows size 48W"x41H" - double opening. If purchased new from Home Depot, these 4 windows would have cost around $1400 total. Now that's a craigslist $core! After driving to the home site, I unloaded the windows into the shed (not easy - Becky wasn't there to help this time) and then headed back to the apartment to drive JoAnna to the airport.



Today I learned: once again, that procrastination isn't always bad. We planned to order our windows through Home Depot, and almost stopped there on Tuesday night to do just that. We would have paid much more and opted for the single-opening type to save money.

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