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2010 goes out with a crash and a snap

December 30, 2010

Our Christmas week was bookended by a pair of wild storms. The first brought an unpredicted foot of snow, and the second, more violent storm, dropped nary a flake, but unleashed hurricane-force winds. We lost the duck pen to the first storm; it simply collapsed under a heavy parfait of ice, wet snow and a topping of powder. The second storm, the night after Christmas, found my daughter and I on the couch, dreamily perusing stacks of Christmas books and periodically pausing to tensely observe the auditory excitement of splintering branches and crashing trees. We didn’t have to fire up the generator during either weather event, though the gas cans were at the ready and the hurricane lanterns in easy reach in both cases.

The implosion of the duck pen might have been a minor farmyard calamity and could have even provided a bit of diversion from the Christmas punch-list had I not been hunting a wayward pig through the woods the night of the storm and the following days. In fact, the complete destruction of the 20′ by 20′ covered pen was small potatoes to me at the time, proving songwriter David Roth’s assertion that “what you see depends on where you stand and how you feel.” I felt like an idiot, but I’ll tell you about that some other time.

What I saw was matter-of-fact. I constructed the pen out of ‘found’ materials, in much the same way I made the pig house, the chicken house and pen, and the duck house. I had happened upon a great source of cull lumber culls from a friend who used that lumber to build a beautiful two-story house. He bought cull lumber, threw aside any two-by-fours, -sixes and -eights that were too warped, split or funky, and I made our chicken house out of that. I had enough to form the footers and headers for the chicken run, and even a few leftover short pieces to frame out the little duck house. But I was utterly out of wood when it came to the duck run. I used freshly cut 3- and 4-inch diameter maple saplings for the posts and a haphazard collection of skinnier maple saplings for the overhead supports to hold up the net roof. I sunk the posts two-and-a-half feet deep and stapled fresh light-gauge chicken wire around the perimeter. When I got to the roof, I was fresh out of chicken wire, as usual.

The chicken pen has the same issue. I didn’t have enough wire for the roof, so I made up the difference with what they call plastic snow fence. Funny. Snow fence earned its name by effectively herding snow drifts into a desired location or keeping snow away from things. It can be used to keep snow from drifting onto a road, or to collect drifts into an area to provide a water source when it melts. It does not belong strung up in the air as a roof and not just because it looks like crap. Because the gauge is so thick compared to wire, it holds the snow, just as it is designed to do – in this case above the chickens and ducks. The duck pen’s maple posts and roof supports couldn’t handle the load and broke under its weight. The chicken run faired better, probably because all the roof supports are two-by-fours. I used a pole to poke and prod and shake the snow through the little holes onto my head, and I heard the supports making little cracking noises, but that roof survived. The “funny” thing is; I had “replace chicken and duck roofs with wire” on my winter to-do list. The ducks survived in their hut unscathed and they’ve been waddling and flying (!) around the homestead without any sign of post-traumatic stress.

With a significant amount of hard fencing on the property in the form of a permanent goat paddock and pig pen, I worried when the more recent storm kicked up ferocious winds. Morning revealed five new leaner locusts, those tall deadfall traps that rest uneasily in the branches of other locusts or maples and creak and groan with every gust for years until some kamikaze tree guy figures out how to drop them. Another locust, some 20-inches in diameter, was torn off four-feet off the ground and made it all the way down without hanging up. The tips of its canopy rested gently on the goat fence. Without any damage I was free to rejoice in the sudden wealth of firewood delivered by the storm. Taking the good with the bad and the tools sharp is the way we roll. Without any further ado, I invite you to feast your eyes on some wind-storm arboreal carnage. Best of luck in 2011!

Moose the Boer buck checks out a close call

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