As 2015 drew to a close, so did the short life of our sweet and social hen Oviraptor. We have been treating her for partial leg paralysis for a few weeks now, with the knowledge that things might continue to decline. Up until yesterday afternoon, she had maintained her spunk. At my last checkup with her yesterday evening though, she showed little interest in her food, didn't offer her usual conversation, and wouldn't stand up. I suspected the end was near, and this morning my suspicion was confirmed.
When we first got our chickens in the Spring of 2014, they were 11 weeks old, an age when it is virtually impossible to identify the gender of the bird. When the other four chickens would run away from us, the white one, Oviraptor, would charge toward us. We would shoo her away with our feet. We thought for sure we had an aggressive rooster on our hands, with a future in our crock-pot. (Roosters can not legally be kept in the city limits of Fayetteville, and with small children, aggressiveness isn't to be tolerated either.) In time though, our "rooster" started laying eggs...the charging, however, continued. One day, before we learned the art of wing-clipping, the chickens had all escaped the yard. While the other four evaded capture, Oviraptor charged right toward me as usual, then stopped just short of my feet, squatted down and held perfectly still, allowing me to scratch her between her wings and pick her up. It turned out, she wasn't aggressive at all, she was social! Every time we would visit the chicken yard, she would run up and squat to get her scratches and cluck at us. She was gentle and easy to pick up and handle. She endeared herself to us with her sweet and social antics, and she will be missed!
Because the exact cause of her condition wasn't established (we have a shortlist of possibilities), we want to verify that the rest of our little flock (or other area birds) are not at risk of contracting something infectious from their association with her. We are keeping her chilled (not frozen) until the diagnostic lab at the University of Arkansas Center of Excellence for Poultry Science reopens after the holiday early next week, so some postmortem diagnostics can be completed. We are deeply grateful for all of the expert advice that the UA Extension Poultry Health Veterinarian, Dr. Dustan Clark, has been able to provide us along the way.
It turns out that taking eighteen hours of classes towards my degree and an extra three hours for "funsies" is not conducive to keeping up with my fledgling blog. I won't be making that mistake again. This blog (and/or my sanity) is way too important for that.
A quick review of the last three months:
We ended up with an overabundance of tomatoes and cucumbers, and a handful of bite-size potatoes. There are a lot of pickles in my refrigerator right now, and we were able to can quite a bit of the tomatoes as well. Someday I will figure out how to successfully grow potatoes. I am open to recommendations.
On a sadder note, we lost both hives of bees. That's not uncommon, unfortunately, and we don't really know why we lost them. One declined first, then the second robbed it of all its honey, but it too eventually succumbed to some unknown disaster. We will keep learning and try again next year. In the meantime, I have a lot of beeswax to render.
In less depressing news, Jason and I took some basic and intermediate woodworking classes offered through Northwest Technical Institute in Springdale, AR this fall, taught by Jim Hager at his workshop, Hager's Custom Woodworks. The instruction was top notch, and it was fun to learn how to use new tools and have great custom pieces to bring home with us. In our intermediate class we made porch swings. Check out other upcoming community education opportunities here: http://www.nwti.edu/community-education.html
That pretty much covers the high points that I failed to blog about while I was drowning in schoolwork. With the conclusion of the semester, Jason and I decided to make use of all my newfound free time. We bounced around a lot of home improvement ideas and finally settled on one that does NOT keep us inside where it is warm and dry. (So much for that bedroom/master bath remodel I was hoping for.) Instead we are tackling the atrocity that is known as fiberboard siding. Some thirty years ago it was all the rage to slap some cardboard on a house and then hope against hope that a couple layers of latex paint would protect it from dissolving or being chewed on by every critter that wanted to live in the attic. In reality, its a miracle that it lasted thirty years. There are, unfortunately, quite a few creatures that have made themselves comfortable in my attic.
We knew when we bought this place last year that the siding was in pretty deplorable condition. The big mystery was how much damage were we going to reveal once we started pulling the siding off. The great news is that it has (so far) been nothing major. All of our studs and mud sills are clean and dry. We are having to remove and patch some water and insect damaged sheathing. We haven't come across any active termite infestations, so the damage is all old. Some of our soffit and fascia boards are pretty badly rotted, along with the ends of the roof rafters that support them, but all the damage is accessible and should be relatively easy for a couple of crazy DIYers to tackle.
From some of our previous posts, you may be aware of our love of re-using salvage material, and this major face-lift is no exception. Our goal for completely re-siding our house and making other exterior repairs is to spend no more than $1500. Last winter we started salvaging the metal siding off of an old chicken house that was taken out in a windstorm over a decade ago. This rusty corrugate has only cost us time and a bit of gasoline to transport it. It will be re-purposed as the new skin of our house. It will function as a rain screen, that is held off of the sheathing by furring strips, creating a drainage channel for incidental water intrusion.
But this project will not be without its new material costs. The structure of the house will be protected from water and air intrusion by a new vapor permeable air/water barrier (Dupont Tyvek HomeWrap) installed over the sheathing, as well as the addition of flashing and drip edges. If you ever want to be bored completely out of your mind, ask me to geek out and tell you all about why you want to use a vapor permeable air/water barrier in Arkansas's climate. Or just trust me and use it. My geeky love of Tyvek, and Jason's position as a specifying architect has its advantages though. We called the local vendor for Tyvek and told him about our little project, and he donated about half of the materials we will be needing for the weatherproofing stage of this project. (We don't mind taking handouts either.)
Last week we did a take-off of all the metal trim and flashing that we would be needing for this project, and placed a call to Metal Building Supply, Inc., in Gravette, AR last Monday afternoon. They fabricated everything we needed by Wednesday morning (a little more than a day after we called asking for custom trim pieces), for very reasonable pricing. I was really impressed with the speedy turnaround of our order and the quality of the products we received.
We got started on actually tearing apart the exterior of the house last week, a day before the December Deluge of 2015 began. That was probably pretty poor planning on our part, but we were able to get back out there finally this afternoon, and got one entire face (albeit, one of the smallest faces) de-trimmed, un-fiber-boarded, and the sheathing patched. (By the way, I like to make up words.) It looks pretty naked right now. We hope to have it wrapped, flashed, furred-out, trimmed and sided tomorrow. We like to aim high so we can wallow in defeat when we crash and burn.
One of the fun things about doing projects like this is how we keep changing our mind about how we want to do things each step of the way. It should be really interesting to see how it all comes together in the end.
Thanks for reading!
Soggy Hollow House Project