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.