The wretched old farmhouse is getting moved across the field to a new home.
Surprisingly on schedule (our third year here), we’re getting the old building moved off of its very sketchy “foundation” (six cinder blocks) and off of the eroded wet hole that it stands over, in favour of level ground.
If we let it go any longer, it’s going to fall over or rot.
Let me just say at the outset: I know, I know, it would be cheaper and easier to knock this thing down and build a new one. (It’s the first thing everybody says).
It would. I know.
I think I’m saving the house for purely sentimental reasons. It’s over 100 years old, it’s the only remaining structure from the once flourishing and now completely non-existent turn-of-the-century gold mining community that once populated this corner of Nova Scotia, and I don’t want to be the one to tear it down, although that would make more sense in many ways.
We don’t even have a plan for it, just that we’re going to start with a basic rescue.
Before moving time, HW took out the central brick chimney, before the chimney fell through the floor and took some of the house with it. The chimney wasn’t salvageable, because it took a couple of jogs, so could never have a liner inserted.
A neighbour of ours is contracted to move it.
Initially he jacked it up, put two 8x8s under it, and under those, 4x10s, supported by cribbing set up in the muddy hole.
That gave enough support to roll the house off of the hole and onto the planks set in the solid ground.
Some problems arose at that point. One gable wall is in serious trouble, having had structural members cut out for windows (?) and not having been reframed properly, so the whole wall decided to “burst” outward, threatening the roof.
We more or less tied it back together with come-alongs and a winch and bracing, to hold the rafters from spreading, and take this broken wall along for the ride. It’s going to need to be completely reframed. There turned out to be no header over either window. This wall was never going to make it.
Since the house has now proved too fragile to move like “normal”, by dragging across the ground on skids, he’s continuing to roll it on 1.5″ pipe rollers, under the skids on heavy planks.
This is time consuming, as every few feet you have to collect the pipes that spit out the back and move them to the front, and also move the (v heavy) planks to the front. The house wants to drift sideways off of its planks, so he has to jack it up to adjust its heading periodically, plus the intended direction is not quite a straight line, so he’s slowly turning it.
Although it’s slow, the house just glides along when it rolls.
I made a floorless chick pen! It’s pretty simple. Four uprights, the same size, and then eight horizontals, made of lath. It’s two feet tall, and I know that because I used one continuous piece of three foot (1/4″) hardware cloth, slit the corners up 12″, and folded them out.
The hardware cloth is actually stapled between the lath and the uprights, for anyone looking real close, so it’s very much secured there.
It’s not exactly a tractor, but it’s very portable. I put it out in the field, and eight rocks hold down the outflaps of hardware cloth, so that chicks can’t tunnel under the edge, and predators are likely to find it inconvenient to get under the edge too, should they come around in the day.
It takes only a couple minutes to move all the rocks off, relocate it, and replace the rocks.
This is going to be the middle stage of the Chick Cycle. I want the chicks to be outside as soon as possible, but it’s proved dangerous in the past to put them in with the whole flock when they are tiny, so this is a middle stage.
Is this a case of if you build it they will come? Or ask and you shall receive?
On my way home from a long Thursday of internetting and errands, I stopped in on a lady I’d bought excellent eggs from before. I’d left a note on her door earlier in the day, saying I wouldn’t knock late at night, but I’d stop to look for eggs left by the door. The last time we’d spoke she’d expressed the intention to downsize her flock in the fall, and we were obviously hoping to take some of her healthy, happy, friendly free-range birds off her hands when the time came.
No eggs at the door, but I dawdled in the driveway because I could see her tv on, and yes, she saw me and hollered out the door. No eggs today. She’s letting her birds go now though, she’s got them on Kijiji (!). I’ll come tomorrow! Tomorrow won’t work. Saturday not great…nothing working, because the best time to catch them is at night. I seized the evening.
“What about right now?”
“Well sure!” she says, “I’d be glad to reduce the flock right this minute. I’ll get some bug spray on. What’ve you got to put them in?”
Good question. It just so happened I bought a 75 gallon rubber waterer (stock tank) this very day. And I’d done laundry, so I had a sheet I could throw over them.
We picked out birds in the barn and shuttled them into the tub in the back of the truck one at a time. I stroked their necks as I walked with them and they made quizzical noises. It’s a difficult thing, choosing birds out of a big flock. In five minutes or less, you are Fate, completely changing the course of their lives, and choosing their new social network for them. Such an arbitrary thing. Will the ones you don’t choose die miserable in an overcrowded cage elsewhere? Are you picking out two sworn enemies and forcing them to be irritated together for the rest of their lives? I took the probable best girlfriend of the rooster that came with me, who was perched next to him, a couple more from that lineup, and then a couple of outliers. She choose a couple as well. She also stopped me from taking one I said I liked. “Oh you don’t want Henrietta. She’s a real hag!” Close one. We plopped them into the tub and they squawked and flapped minimally. Only one attempted escape.
Oh, and then she mildly resisted taking any money for them! I forced $20 on her, a bargain.
The birds snoozed on the way home while I was consumed by one big question. How am I going to move that coop alone?
H.W. was gone on a 3-4 day bike tour around the southwestern third of the province’s coast. Just before he left, we moved the just-finished mini coop to the treeline and set it right next to the original coop. I hadn’t even thought about how to transfer the little chickens into the new coop, but it wasn’t an urgent matter. However, with a half dozen full-sized cluckers aboard, it was suddenly very urgent. There was no way I could deposit new birds immediately next door to the tiny Silkies. Even if I kept either group confined, it would be incredibly stressful. I had to transfer the Silkies into the mini coop, and then I had to move the big coop as far away from the Silkies as was reasonable. At least across the field. That heavy coop was made to carry like a litter with two people – and not easily at that. In light of the poser of how to accomplish moving that behemoth alone, transferring the little hens seemed hardly an issue.
And it wasn’t. I got home and prepared the mini coop with fresh green bedding and stocked it with their familiar feeders. I opened both coops and with a red headlamp on, plucked each bird off the roost and gently placed it onto the roosting branch in the other coop, starting with the cocks. Protest was pretty minimal. It’s nice to touch them. They look so irresistibly touchable, and indeed, they feel as soft as they look. When fully conscious though, they want no part of being touched. One rooster fell or jumped off, but the others stayed where I put them. I budged them closer to each other for warmth and they shuffled together on their perch. Done.
Now for the hard part. Vaguely hoping I could do something with the garden cart, I got the cart (full of firewood, other side of woods) and pulled up to the big coop. Phew, the cart was taller than the legs of the coop. I figured if I could get the cart under the coop I could probably get it across the field. It worked. The worst part was the landing leg of the cart, which bound up constantly on grass. If I lifted it high enough to snag the grass less, I lost the coop off the back. Not gonna lie, it was one hell of a wrestle, a few feet at a time, by headlamp, all the while attacked by mousquitoes. It’s just not right that they can bite through denim. I was dripping with sweat and stumbling by the time I got the coop set by the apple trees. This is well after midnight by now. Definitely time to actualize idea of putting an axle and wheels on “just in case” one of us ever has to move it alone. However, the trip across the field was ultimately faster and easier than I expected. Yay. The coyotes were fulsome in ominous song, and the moon full. Fruition. (Finally, respectable chickens on the farm).
After that, carrying the tub full of birds up the driveway was child’s play, with only a couple of rest stops; very grateful though that I got the 75 gallon, not the 100. Driving home I wasn’t even sure how many birds I had. The number of trips barn to truck was unclear now. Was it a half dozen birds? Or six hens plus the rooster? I peeked in on them squatting and dozing in the tub: seven heads!
After a bit of rest to settle from the jostling they got on the walk up, I put them in the coop, placing each one on the roost. These are robust birds. They’re plump, and heavy, and hot with feathery chicken warmth, and you can feel the strength in their muscles. They seem HUGE after handling the Silkies. Like housecats compared to gerbils. Not petite housecats, either. The cock is a magnificent showy rooster, with a long tail. They fit perfectly in the coop, exactly like I imagined. I think it can hold some more still, more than comfortably. They stayed where I put them, barely even noticing the transfer, I think. What must that be like? Go to sleep, wake up in an entirely new environment?