Monday, July 16, 2007

Jelly with blisters

Yesterday after a couple of hours of hard digging at GRUBS, I came home and set about building the Ultimate Predator-Proof Chicken Corral, henceforth known as the UPPCC. I sledge-hammered the rest of the ancient concrete slab and made a pile of busted-up concrete that I don't know what to do with. You can see it in the picture below, on the far side of the corral. I dug the better part of 9 post holes, 7 of them through clay. It takes about 10 times longer (no exaggeration!) to dig a post hole through clay than through porous soil. In the interest of expediency I sent Chuck off this morning to buy some posts. Falling, limbing and peeling small cedars for the same purpose would have taken ages. Finished the post holes this morning. Sunk the posts. Children were very helpful at holding them vertical while backfilling. Salvaged a gate (our property used to house some dog kennels -- chain-link gates are everywhere). Whacked apart some more concrete to get gate-hanging hardware. Re-dug the post hole that was in the wrong place for the gate. "Measure twice, dig once," right? Oops.

I installed the gate. Fiona was good company and was suitably impressed with my gate. I don't think she'd had much faith... Then I installed some fascia underneath the coop to prevent the chickens from escaping from the corral via that crawl-space. Dug a trench around the perimeter so that the bottom 6-8" of fence could be buried in the ground to deter coyotes, weasels and the like from digging their way in. Attached the first piece of fencing.

At this point a feeling of satisfaction began to take root. I admit I opened the gate and walked into my UPPCC (which was only about 1/4 fenced at this point) several times, just for the pleasure of entering and exiting a structure which was beginning to feel like an enclosure.

When Chuck got home from work he helped me lift the rooflet into place. It fit! It's a salvaged bit of tin roof attached to a log frame, and I had hoped to just lay it on the fence stringers. It worked. That was definite consolation for the misplaced gatepost hole.

I finished the first run of fencing. It's 48" fencing, buried 6" in the ground, so not much over 3 feet high. Not exactly bear-proof, but a start. I was able to let the chickens out into the enclosure while I kept working. I decided it was time to have something to eat (I'd subsisted on fluids thus far) and realized it was 5 p.m.. Definitely time for breakfast!

I realized that the best source of stringers for the top of the fenceposts would be the deck, which is falling apart and needs to be dismantled (I think that was supposed to be last year's renovation project). So I set the kids to work busting up the deck. Lots of noise is good when you're in bear country, and they certain made lots of noise. They did a great job of being meticulous with nail removal; I was very impressed, since they were totally unsupervised, and, as you'll see above, Noah was not exactly wearing steel-toed work boots. I got three or four stringers installed thanks to the kids' salvage efforts.

The next step was to start fencing up and over the top. A couple of bears showed up to remind me why. They just skirted the lawn and we just ignored them and kept on working. The kids are getting pretty matter-of-fact about the bears and so am I. The kids were in the UPPCC with me, and eventually asked if they could go back to the house. The bears didn't seem anywhere nearby. "Yeah," I said. "Just go together, and make noise. And keep your eyes peeled. Scream if you need to." It's only about 25 metres to the house, and the bears usually don't come close to the house. I kept working, though I did listen for the reassuring clunk of the door shutting behind them. Maybe I'm getting too complacent. Note to self: watch children to make sure they don't get eaten by bears.

It was getting late and the chickens were happily heading into the coop on their own. I shooed them in and locked everything up tight. Tomorrow I'll keep working on stringers and upper and top fencing. But the sledge-hammering and digging are done, thank goodness! I haven't worked this hard physically in a long long time. I felt like jelly playing my viola. Jelly with blisters. Lots of 'em.


  1. That's a lot of work to pack into one day! Great job, btw. Sorry to hear the bears are causing havoc and destruction.

    Your blog really brought home the dangers of feeding bears. Our chickens (ok, my dad's) get bothered by fox and racoons. Yesterday, I felt my heart lurch when the kids were crossing the street on their bikes....seems kind of minor compared to running across the lawn watching for bears.

    Hope your UPPCC is finished quickly. Good luck!!

  2. LOL at you opening your gate and walking in several times even though the fencing wasn't done. That's something I would do and my kids would tell me how odd I was being! Awesome, awesome job. Your kids likely are similar to mine - no shoes or socks - pretty much all summer long no matter what the task at hand may be. I hope your bears move on soon . . .

  3. You must have more bears than we do. I have only seen one all year. He was lounging in a tree near the elementary school.

    The ones who come down into the hills here are generally 2 year-old males sent off by their mamas!

    The UPPCC looks great so far. I can hardly wait to see the pictures of the finished project.

    Hope you can soak those "jelly" muscles in a nice warm bath.

  4. Sounds like a good hard days' work. I hopey our jelly arms have firmed up nicely.

    Good luck with the UPPCC and dissuading the bears.

  5. I am impressed...and exhausted just reading that LOL


This blog is moving to archive-only status. Please consider posting comments instead at the active version of the blog at

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.