Last Tuesday I woke up with an extraordinary amount of energy and announced to the kids at breakfast that we were going to build a chicken tractor. In case you aren’t familiar with chicken tractors, they are basically a small coop, or enclosure that you can put a few chickens in and then drag around to where you need it to be. And we needed them to be in certain spots, for instance in one particular row of our garden. The collards had long since been in an edible state and as I pulled a plant up, to walk it to the chicken coop thousands of pill bugs were underneath along with a good helping of earwigs. I needed the chickens to eat those bugs, yet not the tender plants in the next row over.
So we got out the tools and a bunch of scrap lumber and made this funky thing. I’ve always been curious about building things myself. I’m pretty good at small scale construction, having been a sewer/knitter/bookbinder/general craftsperson for a long time. I was excited to give a try at larger scale building. I got the circular saw out and cut the boards with ease, but man, when it came to the nailing. Oh! That put me in a foul mood. So much so that after a while, I slumped down in the shade and I said to my oldest son, “I don’t know, I don’t think I can do this!” He, skilled at woodworking from doing it at school every week, said to me so calmly, “Mom, we just put the nail in the wrong place, it’s easy to fix.” I went inside to get a drink of cool water and when I returned he had nailed the boards together in the place I had so much trouble with. Then when he got frusterated, I took over. We make a good team, that kid and I.
Anyway, we got it constructed. It is Funky! That’s for sure, but it was free and it’s functional. We took an old screen to use as a sliding door and we used half shade cloth on top and half plywood. From having shade cloth over our chicken run I know that while they are just fine under the cloth, they’d much rather be under solid shade. The plywood provides that plus gives the funky structure added stability, yet with it only covering half, it’s still light enough to pull where we want it to go.
The boys have had the most fun collecting different chickens to put in the tractor everyday to eat away both collards and bugs. Since they are getting a wider variety to eat, the hope is that their eggs will be more nutritious. They are debugging the row that we will plant again soon and also tilling and fertilizing as they go. Other than collecting chickens to put in it, we haven’t had to do any work. So far it seems to be a win-win-win situation.
I don’t know about my future woodworking endeavors. Building this was a complete mixture of fun and frusteration. I guess that’s the learning curve on any new hobby though.
In completely unrelated news, Scott and I watched the documentary Saint Misbehavin’ the other night and we can’t get it out of our heads. Having always had an ear out and an eye open to all things hippie and counterculture related, I’ve heard a lot about local legend Wavy Gravy growing up around here. He even entertained a small crowd of us years & years ago at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley, while waiting for a late appearing Baby Gramps (another phenomenal character). I don’t even think he was scheduled to entertain, I think he was there as part of the crowd, but when we were all left waiting, he hopped on stage to keep us all happy. Anyway I never did know much about him, but now I know and I completely admire him. Wow, what a great ton of good he’s done for people in this life (and he’s still moving full steam ahead)! It was inspiring to me how many people you can affect in a positive way if you make it your life’s effort. His marriage to Jahanara is an inspiration as well. They’ve been married since 1965 and still very much in full partnership and admiration of each other. She seems like and incredible person. The movie is certainly worth looking out for if you can find it!