Friday, February 8, 2008


Summer 2007

We bought 10, five day old chicks in early July 2007 completely unprepared and with no accommodation's for them. The guy we bought them from was nice enough to spend a bit of his time helping us figure it all out and when we got home it seemed easy enough to keep the little girls happy.
I set up a cardboard pen inside "The Trillium" which is part greenhouse, part storage room with a direct vent propane heater and automatic vent opener attached to the upper windows (Peaceful Valley seed catalog). This kept the ladies warm in the evening and comfortable during the day.

July 2007

Here they stayed for a month or so until I built an Ark. AKA - Chicken Tractor

August 2007

Now this will work well once their fully grown. The dimensions are 12' long x 3' wide, the same width as my raised garden beds. Once the chickens have had their fill on bugs and weeds, till the soil, and leave behind some natural "back door" fertilizer, I'll drag the tractor down another 12' to repeat the process.
My birds were too small this season to be absolutely effective and since they were I had some serious problems.
The first couple of nights they were not going in to roost for the evening and something was getting them in the night. My first thought was something was reaching through the chicken wire and taking hold of the chicks. The first night one was killed and the second night two. Another was lost on the third night and I realized something was digging underneath the ark and taking their sweet time dining.
My solution was to affix an apron of hardware cloth, (1/4" metal mesh) 6-7" wide around the bottom perimeter of the ark. Problem solved.

Over the next couple of months I'd rotate the chickens from the Trillium, to the Ark, and also into a small fenced in area but only when I would be there to watch them. Were surrounded by pretty deep woods and anything is possible.
With winter fast approaching I had to build a permanent coop. I wanted my Trillium back and the Ark was too small even for a few birds to winter over in.
Location was important so that I could easily access the coop without having to shovel too much snow or walk too far while lugging in fresh, warm water.
Once the spot was determined I laid out a serious foundation (for Shack Valley) for a coop.

Field stone and cement laid right on the grade.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Water Ram Pump

The heart of the system without a doubt. Go to links for complete directions on how to make, place, and operate one. Great site with all the info you could need.
My pump sits in a creek that when running at it's fullest, through a 1 1/4 inch black water line, gives about 10 gallons per minute. By the end of the summer season it's down to a mere trickle.
The end result is about 1.5 gallons per minute, non-stop, pushed uphill 40 feet at a distance of 600 feet, draining into several 55 gallon water barrels, located 20 feet above the Shack and gardens.
I was initially worried about giardia, aka beaver fever, but I soon realized the creek was too small for beavers and the chances of a deer having a heart attack and falling face first in to the creek was slim to none. However I do check it from time to time.
The first one I built was a little over one hundred dollars and I followed the directions and exact parts list from the link provided.
I soon learned some of the parts were unnecessary. The pressure gauge, while interesting to observe, was the first to go. The pump either works or it doesn't. The quick disconnects I kicked to the side for the second pump.
For the third pump I decided to start making it entirely from metal. I was tired of replacing parts after the first and second one exploded from freezing water. I still need to locate a metal pressure chamber.
It's important not to let it freeze while operating. Mine currently (Feb. 1 /10 deg.) has water running freely through it with no pressure in the chamber.
The real treat to see it take on a life of it's own with the rhythm and the sound of the "clack, clack, clack" for the first time. I had to fight back the tears of joy over it's simplicity and prospects of a kind of perpetual motion.