Archive for the 'A Boy’s Life' Category

The Chicken Coop is Finished!

June 28th, 2010

Finally… the chickens are in their new home. Seven weeks… arrrgghhh! The coop is, for the most part, about finished. It’s been mostly done for a week or so now, but I’m still fiddling with the little things. Remind me not to custom build something ever again.   I’m still deciding where to put the roosts, and need to build nest boxes by the end of August.  Between the measuring, cutting little pieces,  painting and trimming out… it just takes time.   But it’s kind of cute…

I’m soooo glad it’s about done.    Except for the windows and the chicken door (and the roof), it’s totally insulated.  Yesterday I spent the entire day building the little chicken door!  I feel like such a klutz sometimes, because it takes so dang long.   For whatever reason I think I should just be able to zip through it.  But the simplest, smallest things seem to take forever sometimes.

If I had it to do over, I would research more thoroughly and choose some really nice chicken coop plans (like ChickenCoopGuides.com ) and I would plan the details a little more!  But I’ve enjoyed putting this one together.

That little door has nine small pieces of trim and wood all around it.  I thought about making this on the inside, but decided it would keep rain and critters out better if it was built on the outside.   It slides in a wooden track, with the horizontal trim pieces moving up and down.  The bottom has trim in front and behind… when you push on it, it hits a lip on the coop and is blocked from pushing in.

 The top has a trim piece and a cap… the door hangs from that top cap piece so it’s slightly raised and won’t sit on the outer trim and rot when it gets wet.   I’ll put a hook-eye scew in the top to attach the pull cable, which will run to the left and outside the fence.  We (the boy!) will be able to walk up and open and close the door with the cable.

Someday I’d love to install a battery operated, light-sensitive automatic chicken door with a solar charger… there are a few of those for sale on the web, but I’m not inclined to spend $200-$300 on them!   If I learn a little more about electronics maybe I could make one.  Big learning curve for me…  For now, I like the idea of personal involvement with the chickens in terms of responsibility, and helping the boy to learn the same.  Hope that lasts :)

I designed the outer nest box door to open down, and it has spring loaded hinges to help stay closed. But the door is double-wall insulated and weighs about thirty pounds, so it will need a chain to hold it flat after opening it.

 It’s cool though- because you can peek inside and say hello to the chickies.   Maybe even fill their feeder with a little reach.    I’m thinking about putting in 2-3 roosts going across from above and to the side of the big door, across to the back wall…  what do you think?  Any other ideas for roosts?  I’d like to make them removable… easier to clean and get around inside.

They should start laying by the end of August or September, so I’ve got a little time for nest boxes yet.  And I don’t want them roosting in them now.    The windows have 1/4 inch galvanized hardware cloth as screens, and are built open for ventilation. After that tremendous rainstorm last night the inside of the coop stayed dry, hooray! I’ll need to make hinged windows or something by October, so they can stay cozy in the winter.   Any ideas?

I didn’t run electrical wiring into the coop, which I may regret… but an extension cord will reach to the coop from the house if I need to put a light or heated water bowl in there. It wouldn’t be hard to place an outlet box and run some wiring out the bottom and underneath, but we’ll see how it goes this year first.

Overall it should be fine, ’cause it’s the only coop we’re going to have!  At least for keeping less than a dozen chickens. If we had more chickens like a lot of folks, I would definitely build it full size (taller), and a good ways back from the house. As it is, we’ll end up with about eight hens and a rooster- which should work fine to keep within a hose length from the back of the home.   After living in a smaller space in the shed next door, they don’t smell at all.  Just a little dusty normal chicken odor.  I’ve heard the key is keeping them dry, so we’ll see.  But we can easily crawl inside from the two doors, although that skinny one is kinda tight for you-know-who…  But it will make access for the nest boxes easier as well as helping with clean-up.

The doors are heavy… built with 2×4’s and insulated with two walls.  They weigh between 30-60 pounds (14-27 kg), so I used 2 -1/2 inch lag bolts for the hinges into the 2×4 frames, and they swing beautifully.  Again, if I did it over- that left door would be a little wider.  It provides decent access, but I have the laying boxes in there and it’s a tight fit.  The idea was right, but I ran out of room by putting the door in towards the left so far.  Ah well… it is what it is :)


One of these days I’ll build the run… I’ve been letting the chickens have “the run” of the garden, which they love… but our plants are suffering a little from their stomping and pecking around.

I like watching them wander around, although the other day they came sauntering up beside our little Shiba dog while he was asleep… He was on a cable, but I didn’t expect them to come out to the front side of the house.   It seems and they wanted to see what I was doing… I froze and waited for them to get past the dog and come to me. Just as they moved out of reach, the dog woke up and stared, eyes wide, as if to say, “Oh man! I could have had one!”    He licked his lips and whined… he would grab one of those chickens in a second if he could.

So I locked the dog in the garage and went back out to herd the chickens into the garden/coop area. The yellow lab is definitely not a herd dog… he thinks it’s great fun to run around with the chickens which is probably why they weren’t afraid of the other dog. Here’s the motley crew…

Oh, and I figured out that Captain Jack the black rooster is an Australorp. He was in a bin mixed with other unknowns from the hatchery. Have to say he’s becoming a pretty decent fellow and is already crowing in the mornings at 12 weeks old. So is Little Red, the other rooster, but he sounds kind of sick when he tries to crow!  We’re going to give one of the roosters away, but haven’t decided which one for sure. They are both beautiful birds… but Jack seems a little more calm than the New Hampshire Red rooster.

It was great to have the boy helping yesterday… and at the end of the day we put the chickens in the coop for the first time. He stayed inside with a little scratch (corn, millet, mixed seeds) which is like candy to chickens. Most of them ran right inside, but I had to catch a few more. Just as we were cleaning up, we heard thunder in the distance… (something Ed has experienced too much of lately!). He said “Dad! Look at the clouds and take a picture!” And he wanted to put it up here to share…

No sooner had we gone inside than a huge storm came through. We really needed the rainfall and it helped cool things off a bit. Good for the chickens because they’re going to stay inside their new home for a couple of days!

Three Feet in the Yard

May 5th, 2010

In between all the outside projects, I’m trying to catch up a little inside as well.  Sometimes it seems there are so many priorities, or “would-like-to-do” things, that it’s hard to remember the things we really need to do.  Or maybe we conveniently place them at the back of the list somewhere.   Anway, I realize it’s easy to put up pretty pictures on the blog, even though that is one of my goals:  To share the beauty of where we live, along with my periodic ramblings.  

I must say that I really appreciate comments and visits from readers, and it helps me to remember that other people enjoy and appreciate nature and many other things about life just as I do.    

But in between all the pretty pictures, there is real life going on here too…  including a messy house and kitchen, a garage and barn that needs organized and tons of weeds in various places that we just haven’t got to yet.   But am I going to focus on those things here?  Heck no!  I’m only going to show the good stuff!  :)    

There’s only so much time and energy each day, and everyone stays busy. This week after cleaning, trimming and everyday stuff, it’s been all chicken-coop building and cutting grass. I’ve been out on the tractor past 8:30 pm a couple days just to keep up.  I guess it all depends upon what we want to do really, and how we choose to spend our time.  

I am just not someone who can sit on the couch for hours and watch television.   There are so many other incredible things to do.  I have to admit it frustrates me when the boy’s first thought when he has time is to go watch cartoons for example.  I suppose a lot of kids are like that (and I watched cartoons as a kid too.)

Ah, but I’ve always got better ideas for things he can do (what parent doesn’t?!) and love to see him outside helping out or just goofing around exploring.  Television is a huge magnet for passive activity… and I think it just turns off the brain.   I enjoy watching a few shows too, but even then I could be spending my time more effectively elsewhere (like organizing or writing a little more).

Once the boy gets outside though he finds tons of fun things to do, like climbing trees!  And the hat is really good for holding peanuts. I need to give him a break this week however, or no, that’s not right… well yes, but what I really mean to say is that he broke his toe last week…    Somehow playing or running around the house he stubbed his pinky toe.   It looked like a little bruise at first, and then his foot was even more bruised behind the joint.   Ouch- he could hardly walk on it for a few days.

Better safe than sorry, so I took him to the doctor and the orthopedic specialist confirmed he broke the big bone in the little toe… not just any break mind you.  It was a spiral break through the bone into the joint.  Yikes.   Now how does that happen?!  

So he doesn’t have gym class at school for three weeks and I’ll take him back to the doc to make sure it’s healing okay.  Which is fine right now because school is basically finished in about three weeks.   The good news is that kids usually heal up very nicely from such things.  So now I find myself saying, “Stop running on your foot!”  to make sure he doesn’t hurt it again.


The boy’s foot is not the only foot that’s causing a little pain and frustration this week.   A strange time for foot maladies…  My left foot has been really sore too, and old ankle injury that just seems to linger.   So I’ve come to really appreciate our feet this week, and how much we need them.  Well, the whole body really.   Is there anything quite like gardening, landscaping or building something to show you the parts of your body you forgot about for a while?

“I just put my feet in the air and move them around.”    

                                                                                                –  Fred Astaire

The other foot I’ve been keeping a good deal busier with is the one on the labrador retriever.   We haven’t been training, exploring or doing anything particularly fun to bother him.  Rather I’ve been sitting on the floor wrapping bandages trying to keep him from making a “hot spot” worse on his leg. 

Have you ever seen one of those? Basically the dog licks its foot or tail or something so much that it creates a raw, red, and often bloody patch an inch or two in size.   Sometimes it’s because of allergies, or anxiety or even insect bites.  Sometimes it’s just what the dog does.  There’s a good two inch hot spot under this bandage, and you can see a couple of tenative spots where he licks at the edge of the bandage.  

The problem is that it just doesn’t heal on its own because the dog just keeps licking, and then develops a habit for doing it and eventually it can become infected or really hurt the animal.  So how do you keep a labrador from chewing and licking?   You don’t.   At least that’s what I found out.  You have to divert his attention, keep the area protected, try to keep him occupied with other chew toys and generally just watch him as much as possible.

So we find ways to compromise and keep his foot wrapped up while the hot spot heals. I’ve used every bandage, ointment, powder and bitter “anti-lick” lotion there is… or it seems like it. I’ve finally got it somewhat under control and healed to a tough outer skin after nearly two weeks. Not only have I kept it bandaged, but I’ve used my socks to slip up his leg and the cover that with masking tape! 

Of course the dog being a dog needs to go outside… which means the bandages get wet and often muddy.   Or he sneaks down to the pond when I’m not looking and goes for a swim.   The nerve!     

But of course that means his bandage needs changed again. And again.  And again. Ugh!  And if I slip up just once and don’t wrap it properly… he gets to it and it becomes bloody and the process starts all over again. 

But I’m nearly as stubborn as he is sometimes, and we go back to square one.   I have found that if you can get the bloody raw part to heal just enough with a good layer of outer skin, then medicated powder works really well to help the dog not feel itchy or whatever in that area. 

Yes, many of you probably know the other possible solution is the dreaded Cone of Shame.  Did you see the movie Up?    It was very cute, and Up took home two Academy Awards, for Best Animated Feature Film and Original Score.   This is Dug from the movie…

Dug says, “I do not like the cone of shame.”

                                                                                                                     Photo copyright Pixar

People use the cone to keep the dog from reaching places on its body that it will lick or bite. I haven’t tried the cone-thingy yet, mostly because we don’t want a 100 pound labrador running around the house with a huge cone on his head smashing into everything! He would roll and fight with that thing, so I’ve just tried to help his leg heal with bandages. The real verdict will come in a couple days when I gradually lessen the bandages. We’ll see in a week or two.   And as always, if you have any good ideas or “home remedy” techniques, I’d love to hear them.  

I’ve said it before, but I love that quote that says, “Life is what happens while we’re busy making other plans.”    I try not to let the beauty of each day get too far away…  and while making plans and carrying them out, I think we do need to time to appreciate our lives even when we don’t get everything finished that we would like.   Or when we stub our toe.     Somehow everything in spring seems to happen all at once.  Enjoy the day!


PS:  If you haven’t read it yet, Jessica Watson has rounded the southern cape of Tasmania and is making her way north to Sydney for her non-stop, solo ’round the world homecoming in about 10 days.    She ran into some awful storms over the past week, but finally came through them and it looks like she will arrive in Sydney on Saturday, May 15.

Sunshine On My Shoulders

April 3rd, 2010

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…

If I had a day that I could give you
I’d give to you a day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I’d sing a song to make you feel this way


Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…
Sunshine in my eyes can make me cry
Sunshine on the water looks so lovely
Sunshine almost always makes me high

If I had a tale that I could tell you
I’d tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I’d make a wish for sunshine all the while

Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy…

On A Spring Day

March 23rd, 2010

Goodness, Spring has arrived in Missouri in force this week!  It was doubtful for a while this past weekend, with much snow for our western friends.   But after a few days of rain, the sun has returned and with it the frogs, flowers and fullness of early spring itself. 

I saw a few crocus last week, and a couple of daffodils peeking out.  I swear they came out so quickly, and then Voila! all the other daffodils are  blooming at once.  Bear with me… I have to share them as the days go by.   After all, we waited all winter for them! :)

We even enjoyed a brief picnic dinner by the pond before the rain last week.  It felt so strange to be relaxing outside in a light shirt after the cold days of winter.   The yellow lab is always your buddy where food is concerned, and hope springs eternal!

The pond is warming up nicely too.  I’ve seen a few more minnows and fish rising.  Today we even saw the koi, but I’ll save that for another day. 

Of course the yellow lab decided to roll around in the grass while wandering near the pond… the same grassy area that had been burned by my inadvertent fire. He seemed to enjoy that smokey burnt aroma!    And he wasn’t quite so yellow after that… 

A quick retrieve in the pond cleaned things up nicely.   He brings so much energy and joy to my daily experience.    I’m working really hard to enjoy life half as much as my dog does!

Life Lessons and Snow Fun

February 17th, 2010

I know it must be spring somewhere… quite a few latitudes south to be sure. I hope you’re enjoying the weather down there. One of these days we need to come visit.   Ah, but lovely February in Missouri. Where would we be without a little cold and snow?  Okay, it’s colder up north- you guys have me there.   I think I’m just ready for the next season.

I went looking for daffodil tips the othere day, trying to find them poking up through the ground. Too much snow yet to see them, but I know they’re there! Besides, in just a couple of weeks it will be March already. How weird is that?

The weekend past was spent enjoying some new fallen snow, and plowing the driveway.   Finally.  It’s under the snow where the Shiba is sitting… the wind drifted it up a little.


Our cars do fairly well considering the “big dip” in the middle of the driveway.  But it’s a slippery affair. Once last week I was taking a good run back in the driveway with the car squirming all around, steering wheel spinning like four-wheeling through the mud and just barely gaining traction. From the back seat the boy yells, “I feel like a chicken on skis!”  I smiled and complimented him on his description of our ride.


So I finally rigged up the old 6′ blade behind the tractor and got busy. It cleared a wider swath of snow than the little bucket could.   But you can only do so much with a gravel drive if you don’t want to ruin it. There’s going to be a lot of packed down snow no matter what, and most cars do just fine.  This was before we got another 4-5 inches.   You can just see the sunset reflection in the house’s window in the distance.


Besides, the next day it gave us a chance to get out the Flexible Flyer! Surely some of you remember sledding long ago, or perhaps not so long ago? Seems like we had more snow when I was a kid, you know, like when we walked two miles through it to school?  Maybe like everything seemed bigger as a kid, everything seemed snowier too… 

But in the winter I think I lived on the sled. This is one of them… it’s over 35 years old now and the boy is just getting to try it out.



You need some good packed-down snow for it, and the driveway was just the ticket.  At least the icy parts around the gravel patches.   So there we go- on the far side coming back down the driveway. “Get on,” I tell him as I lay down. He climbs on my back and I demonstrate how to properly steer one of these things. “Wheee!” and away we go.

It was pretty fun… except for the part with the yellow lab running right in front thinking this is some new game for him… we weren’t half way down the little hill and the dog, running alongside as we zoom by, reaches out and snatches my hat off my head and runs away! “Bring that back!” I yell but he’s having too much fun. We roll to a stop with the boy laughing and the dog shaking my knit cap like a rag doll.

Thus educated, the boy proceeded to have a little fun.  Even with the limits of our little hill.  He tried the bigger slope to the pond.  Alas the snow wasn’t packed down enough. Then the sled got away and almost ran out to the pond alone. Fortunately a tree stopped it short. Reminded me of my own youthful adventures….

I was ten or eleven years old and liked testing myself.   One snowy weekend morning my brother and I (he a year younger) joined a throng of other exuberant souls at the top of a big hill near some woods. The goal was to see who could start the highest up, and then go down the fastest off a big ramp or jump, fly through the air and then continue all the way through the trees to the bottom.

After watching a few fainthearted boys try their luck, and older ones too, I marched up higher than anyone had gone and stated those fateful words that evey co-pilot dreads, “Watch this!”

Away I went, zooming like mad headfirst toward that ramp looking at the trees beyond.  I was enjoying every second and smiling at the sheer speed, blissfully unaware of the total lack of control I was about to encounter.  Then all at once I knew, with some primeval instinct, that I was about to enter uncontrolled flight….  I hit that ramp and went soaring high into the air, parting with my sled and feeling mad at myself for not figuring it out better as I hurtled toward a huge tree. 

I just remember an enormous “Crash!!!” and the yells of the other kids.  I think someone asked, “Is he dead!?”

It was a long walk home, what seemed like a half-mile but was probably less.  I cradled my right arm to my chest trying not to cry but it hurt like crazy. I looked at it and told my brother I broke my bones in my arm. “How do you know?” he said. “I just do!” and I was more worried about what my parents would say. Finally we arrived home, meeting the folks outside and I let loose, crying that “I broke my arm!”

“Oh, it’s okay, don’t worry… you probably didn’t…lets take a look…” said Mom or Dad… followed quickly by, “Oh! Umm… well lets get the car and go to the hospital…”

That day provided a good lesson. Something about showing off while doing something you really had no idea about. In a strange sort of way I remember the gleam in the other kids eyes as I was about to launch myself down the hill. I remember the yells and screams… and I remember liking that.   And then feeling pretty stupid afterwards too.  I think it provided some measure of a data point for the things I would do, and the things I would not do later on.   As much as I’ve always enjoyed speed, sports and fast machines, that single day gave me a bit of experience for how things can turn out differently than you thought.

It wasn’t the last of my youthful lessons by a long shot.   I was pretty lucky a whole bunch of other times… and I’ll probably write about them too.  I wish I could data-dump some of them to the boy… share my stories and mishaps so he doesn’t have to learn them quite the same way. I think Benjamin Franklin once said, “Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.”  I appreciate his point, and think there’s a lot of wisdom there.

Yet while I’m a big believer in academic learning, mentorship and helping others avoid the hard lessons… most of us seem to have our own stories to tell, and our own scars to mark our experience.   You can only teach someone so much, and our experience is priceless.  It shapes us in so many ways.   Which makes it one of my parenting goals… trying to put it all together so that what shapes the young one as he makes his own choices, isn’t quite so rough along the way.   Time will tell.

Remembering How Life Happens

February 4th, 2010

Well, it seems I’ve struggled with the written word the past few weeks.   I’ve been trying to catch up in so many other areas and somehow a quote by Allen Saunders comes to mind that,

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.”

Yesterday I was outside in the sun with the boy, and he said it felt like spring already.   I think he’s on to something, even though it’s pretty cold and another storm is around the corner.  I had that first twinge of spring yearning too, and the knowledge that it’s going to come quickly now.  Time to get those seeds ordered that we don’t have, and get some planted for starts.   Soon we can even put potatoes in the ground.    After I clean up the garden that is.   And the shed, the bees, the barn, maybe some chickens, the engines…

Today is a chance to look back a bit though.  It’s the anniversary of my father’s passing five years ago.   So many thoughts come to mind, and it would be nice if I could share some brilliant journalistic form and a few pictures to mark the day.   It was a difficult time though, and he could have come through just fine.  But he didn’t.

In his last years he had several operations for replacing hips, fixing a heart valve and a widening in his aorta.    He grew strong again in those years, enough to enjoy his family, his beloved golf and the ability to work on the property.

I remember talking with him while cooking steaks on the grill, and looking over the pond.  He was 77 years old, and he said more than anything he was so thankful that he could still work around the house and do things that mattered.   He made it to one more birthday a few months later, and a few weeks after that.

He was outside working a bit when he had a pain in his chest, and Mom took him to the hospital where he was transfered to another.  I met him there that afternoon, and he was in good spirits.  I said, “You’re a turkey…”   and he said, “I am a turkey…”  Our little joke for the challenges he was facing again.  We talked and I told him I loved him, and he told me the same.  I saw him again briefly that night while Mom stayed with him in intensive care, getting ready for surgery.

Early the next morning he was on the operating table and actually came though the operation, almost.  When they gave him more blood as the surgeon was finishing up, somehow there was an allergic reaction and they couldn’t correct it.   Mom called me while I was picking up the boy at preschool.   I took him to the park, and we talked about his Bepaw going to heaven.

A couple of weeks later I remember cooking breakfast early one morning while the little boy was getting dressed upstairs for school.  He took a little longer than usual, and I remember calling to him.   “I’m coming…” he yelled back, and shortly came walking down the stairs.  I was surprised as he already had his socks on which was usually a struggle for him at four years of age.

I told him that was great as he sat down to eat, and he said “Well Daddy, guess what?”  I said “I don’t know, what?”   And as simply, and earnestly as could be he said, “Bepaw helped me put my socks on this morning.”    I didn’t really know what to say, but after my heart skipped a beat I smiled and told him “That’s nice…”

I asked him about it once a few years later.  He didn’t really remember, but thought it was neat.   It was, and I can only wonder.

Dad was a good man, a good father… and one of the good guys in so many ways.  I’ll probably share a few stories about his life in the years ahead.


He’s sitting with Justin, our late Basset Hound in the picture above.  They were buddies, and went everywhere together in the little golf cart for a couple years while we were overseas.   This picture was from July 4th in 2004;  Justin was scared because of some fireworks, and snuggled up to Dad to hide.     I figure they’re off somewhere together romping around a bit, probably on a golf course.

Life still happens, just about every day.  I’m trying hard not to miss too much of it, and to remember the things that make it beautiful.

Growing Forward, Happily

December 31st, 2009

The garden sits bare in the snow… waiting. I remember what has grown there, and what didn’t. The fun of picking vegetables, the frustrations and impatience. Hands in the dirt, mysteries and suprises, butterflies and birds. So many memories through the years. And my imagination looks forward!


The garden waits for all the things I’d like to grow and share, opportunities and change. Somehow the seed and farm catalogs know it. They’ve started coming in the mail already, just in time to whet my appetite for planting and growing something in the spring. Ah, but what’s a winter for if not the chance to dream about warmer, growing seasons?

A day or two of sunshine is just enough to warm the spirit however.


Even though the cold will be a constant for a couple more months, somehow I need that time.  Maybe it’s a time we can look inward, or catch up on a few things at home.  A chance to look behind at the year past, and welcome new things.


It’s the last day of the year… as certain as that is, it still surprises me a little. Where has the time gone?! Some may debate when this decade really ends, but all I can say is “Welcome 2010!” Somehow each year brings hope… a time for change and a renewal.  Perhaps we make vows, or decide that this year it will all be different.  It might.  Where it counts, I hope so.   Sometimes too, things are the same no matter how the years pass, and that is as it should be.


I wish you all a year of great joy and promise, good health, love, friendship and prosperity, and most of all… a Happy New Year!

Two Moments, One Day

December 24th, 2009

A scary thing happened today. We took the day to head to the big city and tour a few fun places.  One of which offers kids a chance to climb, crawl and explore among inumerable manmade caves, walkways, ladders, staircases and other creative devices.  It’s actually built throughout an old shoe factory, and is an amazingly fun place to visit. You may know it, and I won’t name it because that’s not the point or my focus.

While exploring the wonders of this place, we were deep inside trying to dodge dozens of other kids and adults, and to keep up with our own.  Some of the tunnels, crevices and walkways were only big enough for small kids to get through.  Most of the adults had to find less claustrophobic ways to keep up.   

To say that it was confusing at times is an understatement, but we found out how quickly our lives could change.  I was coming around a dark corner, emerging into a small open area with a spiral of conveyor bars reaching what seemed to be a hundred feet high…

Looking up at the climbing spirals


If you looked the other way, there was an opening that dropped for at least sixty to eighty feet straight to the bottom rocky area below.  I took this all in as I walked around the corner, marveling at the imagination it took to build it all.   And then I saw him.

As I looked up I saw that the boy, about ten feet above us, was climbing on top of the spiral ladder with a great big smile on his face, asking me where it led.  And then my heart leaped… immediately I knew something was wrong.  Just a few feet away, the bars dropped off to that hole, with nothing to hold on to.  He wasn’t supposed to be there.  It wasn’t a ladder but a tunnel or slide of sorts, with open bars above, even though it looked like a lot of the other climbing areas.

Yet he had climbed over a waist high bar and started climbing up on top of the tunnel… I simply said “Stop” and thank God he listened.  People wonder sometimes why you must teach kids to listen, and that was one of those times.  I’ve talked with him before that if I ever say things like that, to really listen… he did.   

I walked quickly to the spiral looking up at him and said “You’re not where your supposed to be, but just move up a bit more to your right and keep holding on carefully…” and that moved him away a little so in case he slipped he wouldn’t fall right off and I might at least have a grab at him.  A million things go through your head in moments like that. 


Harmless looking spiral tunnel slide, except that edge at the bottom of the picture drops off more than sixty feet below…

I muttered something else about staying there- no one else could have helped us at the time.  We saw that there were only two places to get him- at the back where he would have to step down and to the right more than I wanted, or I could climb up and hold on to him, and make sure he got down safe.  That was my first thought wanting to make sure I blocked his fall path, so I ran around where he got on to try and climb up myself.   But as I put weight on the bars they seemed too springy for me, maybe not even able to support my weight and I didn’t want us both to tumble down.  My wife liked the backside option and I agreed- it really seemed the safest thing we could do besides having him climb down himself… right along the edge.  No way.

So I had him move carefully right and slightly down (just above the top of the picture) and grabbed an ankle like no tomorrow… and then we were helping lift him down (behind that picture above).   It was over in a minute really, like nothing happened.   He didn’t even seem to realize what the big deal was until I showed him the dropoff, and where he was.   He wondered why it was so easy to get up there… (me too).  

It seemed a really a poor design with a bunch of kids running around… he thought that for himself.  Perhaps most folks wouldn’t have climbed over one of the bars to get there.  Who knows, so much of the stuff the kids were climbing around looked similar.  

All I know is that someone’s usually going to find a way to get in trouble or find a weakness with the designs of man.  Today was our chance. 


After a lunch break I found a manager and talked about safety. They actually had a program in place to take suggestions and try to make everything as safe as possible.  We found our way to the place and I explained what happened, and what I saw as design flaws. They were amazed no one had thought of that and put a work order in immediately to modify the contraption to prevent someone else from climbing up or falling off.  I felt better.

It’s amazing what can happen in a moment.   It brought me back thinking about those moments where my own life and others have hung in the balance.  I used to teach younger pilots to land on aircraft carriers, and while at sea to make sure aircraft got aboard safely.   The difference between life and death was often mere seconds.   Too many stories there, but maybe I’ll share a few sometime.

For today we went back to having fun, a little more sober for the experience, and the boy got a few more hugs than usual.


Then a funny thing happened later on, in a different sense.  Well, not funny so much as fun to see.  I was circling a parking lot out in an empty area at a department store.  Way down one of the rows I saw a thirty-something woman pushing a cart, hurrying quickly toward a lone car far out in the lot.  Then I realized she wasn’t quite hurrying, but instead was walking quickly and stepping up at the back of the cart while enjoying the rolling glide down a gentle slope.  Grocery cart skating we used to call it!   Her hair was blowing out gently behind her, and she had this big, amazing smile on her face,  obviously finding such joy in a private moment.

As she coasted quickly to a stop at her car, I couldn’t resist driving up and rolled the window down, smiling too and simply told her it was fun to watch her enjoying the moment with the grocery cart.  She laughed, a little embarrassed, but said it really was fun because she was alone and not worried about all her kids, and she probably wouldn’t have done it otherwise.  We wished each other happy holidays and waved as I drove off.   She was still smiling.

Two moments.  One day.  And I’m thankful.  

May you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year, and time enough for reflection and enjoyment for the little moments along the way.

Raising the Roof and the Moon

December 2nd, 2009

Ladders are simply wonderful tools.  As long as you can move them around a bit.


Yes, I really did that… I didn’t even bend a nail!

What a week and weekend… Thanksgiving was a really nice day, and the food was wonderful.  Had to keep the weight off, so I worked outside on the “everlasting shed project”  (sort of like Willy Wonka’s ever-lasting gobstoppers).   There’s nothing like a table full of delicious food on a holiday!  I’m getting hungry again…


We’ve been stretching those leftovers and it keeps getting better.   But yesterday was our last sunny, mild day for awhile… the cold is coming!  Maybe really cold with an arctic cold front dropping towards us.   We’ve been so fortunate- I think the news said this is the latest we’ve ever gone in the year without a hard freeze.  That was just fine for me and sure helped with getting the building up.   This was a few days ago getting the drip edge and the roofing felt laid down.


Yesterday I ran out early to try and finish the big stuff.   Which brings to mind another group of folks to appreciate more… roofers!  Shingles are messy, heavy, scratchy, and brittle when it’s not warm enough outside.  But somehow I’ll bet it was easier now than it would have been in August.   You also get to cut a bunch of them to fit along the way.   The ridgetop shingles are cut with a wedge, then layered on top of each other with nails and roofing cement to help them stay put.


While I was putting a few nails in the other day I was summoned to the house.  “Just a minute…!” I say, to which the boy replies that I’m supposed to come a little more quickly.   Seems that an uninvited guest was living on the sun porch.  Can you see it?


We get one or two reptile visitors in the house during the year it seems.  This guy is either a young Great Plains Ratsnake or a Prairie Kingsnake- I need to take a closer look.  He’s sleeping in a jar in the boy’s room for now… we can’t let him go until we get a warmish day again.

The past couple of days I was a tarry, sticky mess making sure everything was laying down properly with those shingles.  But its been a fun process… with a huge learning curve.  Except for the fact that I kept forgetting things after climbing up the ladder to the roof.  Up, down… up, down… It’s only 11 feet to the top in back, but nearly 15 feet high at the front. Seems a lot higher when you’re wobbling around on your feet and knees.  I can’t imagine how some of those roofers do those 30 foot gabled roofs.  That said, I’ve been having a grand ‘ole time and enjoyed the view from the top.

I spent a little extra time today looking at other plans for sheds… and I realize I could have done this from scratch with a little more forethought!  The designs they have at My Shed Plans are fantastic… maybe that will be for next time :)


Today I finally finished with the shingles and a ridge vent.  Then it was time to set a couple of small windows and the doors.  The boy came home from school and helped hold them in place for me.  It was great to have his help after he was out sick for a week.

As the sun fell below the horizon we were finishing up, and then the most beautiful sight appeared with the nearly full moon rising in the east.    Perhaps a good omen on wrapping up the big stuff, but it was fun to see the moon through the trees.  Later we saw the most beautiful halo around the moon- it must have taken up half the sky.


Lots of trim and finish to do on the little building, but I’m glad it’s mostly weatherproof now.  Bring on the rain and snow!  Okay, not really :)  Maybe a little snow…   As it is I’ve got a garage fillled with beekeeping equipment that needs a home.  The shed doesn’t look very big, but it feels like a mansion inside.

Well Happy December everyone- time to get those decorations up.  I’ve been slow-posting lately, but as winter sets in I hope to get back in the swing of things.   Hmmm… maybe I can graduate to a bigger building one day :)


Life and Thankful Days

November 25th, 2009

Sometimes life gets a hold of you and finding a little extra time is a challenge.   The past week has been like that- busy, fun, challenging, frustrating, and full of surprises.  Finally had a chance to have that old truck fixed with a few of its own surprises along the way, but in the end it’s working like an old truck should.   Then the young boy picked up something from somewhere that stuck with him for the past four days… he stayed home from school with coughing, fever and generally not having the best time.  I served as waiter, librarian, pet feeder and chief bottle washer in between cleaning the kitchen, garage and other odd bits.  Thankfully he’s on the mend, but we’ll have a quiet day at home tomorrow instead of our traditional visit with relatives.  Just what the doctor ordered as they say. 

He’s a bit more enthusiastic here in a picture from last weekend, and loved walking on top of the block wall.   It’s a strange sight when nothing was there before!


It’s going to get stranger… last weekend I had some professional help with the shed project from my brother.  He’s a carpenter, a builder, and a really creative guy with tools in his hands.  We managed to get the floor, siding and walls put together which was an enormous help.  He has a way of seeing a set of plans and finding ways to make them better.   Especially since I somehow managed to drift inward by nearly an inch on the sides of my wall!  I couldn’t believe it… I planned the concrete block wall for a snug fit around the shed to prevent leaves and such from falling along the siding, but my guides were off a bit somehow.  So it’s a tight squeeze at the front of the shed, but in the end everything will fit just fine.

Since then I’ve made progress with the trusses, supports and trim.  If all goes well I may have a roof in a couple of days!   It’s not a big shed by any means, but already I can see that it’s going to offer great utility for storage and workspace.  If I can beat the cold and rain over the next week it may be ready to go.



Of couse there’s always something else, and last night the icemaker in the freezer decided to leak.  It was late and I thought a few towels and an empty bowl would hold the line for the night, but nooooo!   This morning we awoke to a huge frozen waterfall and a steady “drip, drip, drip.”   Seems that the ice maker clogged up, or became plugged with ice backing up the water line.  That blocked the water valve to the open position leading to the unwanted ice sculputure.   Fortunately we’ve got a chest freezer in the basement that could hold the frozen food while fixing the refrigerator. 

After melting the ice mess, the entire refrigerator didn’t seem to want to cool down- I had visions of wolfing down a hodge podge of food before it all spoiled!  The weather has been so nice that it wouldn’t help to put things outside at night.  That’s something nice about winter -you can put a pot of soup or stew outside to keep fresh.  But with a few hours of time and disconnecting/reconnecting the fridge, it finally began cooling down.  Somehow it seems like I was lost in a void during those hours, like much of the past week.

We do have so much to be thankful for however, not the least of which is having food to eat, a warm home and the time to be with family.  And too, we wish another brother well, far from home across the world.  It’s just another day really, but one we set aside to remember the abundance in our lives and our way of life.  I hope you have a good day, without too many surprises, a good Thanksgiving and a wonderful week.   I’ve still got to get a pumpkin pie from somewhere!

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