Sunday, May 31, 2009

Life Lessons on Motorcycle Rides

Joe and I went for a ride today up to Mt. Rainier with our friends, Rick and Lori.  It was, for the record an absolutely stunning day.  Sunny, warm with pretty, white, fluffy clouds decorating the sky.  A perfect day to roll along on a motorcycle taking in views of the mountains, rivers and sky.  We travelled along, stopping where ever we liked, taking pictures and enjoying the day and each other's company.  Yeah, perfect is a good word for today.

I bet you're wondering where the 'Lesson' part comes in.  Towards the end of the day, we decided to stop and get something to eat.  We pulled over at a tavern bearing a sign that read 'Naches' somewhere along route 410 before Enumclaw as we came down off the mountain.  We walked in, found a table and settled in.  And waited.  And waited some more.  Now, I should point out here that, the place was almost empty.  There were about 5 or 6 people in the bar, and at least 2 of them were employees.  Rick and Joe got up and went to the bar to get drinks and menus.  Rick came back with drinks.  Joe came back a few minutes later and said he was getting a weird vibe, and that the bartender had looked right at him and not served him.    Joe said  "It actually feels like a racist vibe."  For those of you who don't know him, my husband is clearly not white, but not of any obvious enthnicity.  We looked around and noticed that, indeed everyone in the bar but Joe was indeed white.  A couple sitting a few tables away from us was served their food by the bartender.  She didn't even acknowledge our presence.  Hmmm.  So we waited for Rick and Lori to finish their drinks, then got up and left.

Not too much further down the road was another tavern we knew of, The Yella Beak, in Enumclaw.  Quite a different story.  We were welcomed as we walked in, staff was friendly and prompt and the food!  Oh my!  Yummy good, and lots of it.  In short, eat at The Yella Beak!  You'll be happy, you're belly will be happy and your wallet will be happy.  Oh, and go on Thursdays.  They're giving away a Harley-Davidson and you can get tickets to win it on Thursdays.

You're still wondering about the lesson, huh?  Okay.  Did you notice our reaction at the first tavern?  Yeah, that's right, there wasn't one.  Instead of making a scene, we just got up and took our money elsewhere.  I said to Joe as we were riding away "They have to work to get us to spend our money in their establishment.  We've already worked hard enough to earn it, spending it should be the fun and easy part."  It might seem simple, and maybe less viscerally satisfying than making a scene, but in the end, who's going to win?  We did, for one.  We avoided all the stress of making a big fuss (and isn't life stressful enough already?), the 'Naches' tavern on 410 lost our money.  We were really hungry too.  Instead we took our business to The Yella Beak and had a great meal.  After a great ride.  Yep, a perfect day. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Nation of Three Year Olds

Driving home today, I saw the following on the license plate frame of a silver Toyota Camry:  I see, I like, I want, I whine, I get.

I pondered why someone, presumably an adult, would want to put this on their vehicle.  I wondered what they thought the general public's perception of their statement would be.  Did they think people would think it was cute?  That they were just adorable?  And look, they get everything they want, all they have to do is whine.  

Maybe their thought process just stopped at 'cute.'

What I saw was a person who has no problem letting the world know their secret to success.  It's easy, every 3-year-old knows it.  All this Camry driver has to do is see something, want it, whine and someone will give it to them.  

I just find that sad, and had to say so.  More and more I see grown men and women acting like children; inconsiderate, self-centered, lacking in self-control and just, plain rude. Worse, I see them getting away with it, mostly because everyone else around them is acting the same way.  We have become a nation of 3-year-olds.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Chicken Coop, Part 2

With my background, caring for animals and their enclosures is second nature.  I long ago lost any gross-out factor I may have had while I worked at the San Diego Zoo, but to have any smells or areas that are difficult to clean is just unacceptable, since it leads to disease or attracting flies, rodents, etc.

Joe salvaged a flat, rolling base from a friend (don't know what it originally held) and built a short table to match the dimensions of the floor.  It slides easily below the henhouse and the blue tarp helps to seal the small gap between the henhouse and the tray.

The tray itself is only a couple inches deep.  I rake out droppings and mix in fresh, so I only change the entire tray every 3 or 4 weeks.  The tarp lifts out and the whole thing dumps into my compost bin.  My 'high tech'  cleaning tools are shown: 

Droppings can be spot-cleaned by raking them onto the dustpan.  A recycled kitty litter container collects droppings and dirty shavings and transports to the compost bin. 


We have two blue tarps, so one is always clean and ready to go.  The dirty one gets clipped to our chain link fence, where I can hose it and let it dry.
Fill the blue tarp with fresh shavings and it's ready to go back underneath the henhouse.

Plain cement floor sweeps clean, can be scrubbed or bleached if necessary.  So far its been just dusty with one or two droppings that have managed to slip between the gap. 

 I've been really pleased at just how easy it's been to maintain.  I'm very happy with how safe the girls are from nighttime predators.  The extra weather insulation was also a deciding factor; it's cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter.  Even their door to the run outside is simple to operate.  Joe designed a system of light chains and pulleys to open/close and lock/unlock the door to the run without ever opening up the main door.  Too wordy to add to this already lengthy post, so I'll just say, if you want to know how, email me.  

There's 5' to 6' between my garage and my fence.  The gate sits on the west side of the garage.  The west and north sides of the garage were essentially wasted space prior to this.  Overgrown, weedy and ignored before, we cleared out the trash and roofed it over with chicken wire.  On the north side, we just dropped the chicken wire from the roof line down to the chain-link fence.  On the west, where the gate is, we ran supporting metal rods from the garage straight across to the chain-link fence, then brought the chicken wire across.  To give you an idea of the height,  Joe is 6'4" and he can walk the entire length of the run with feet to spare.  I consulted with my neighbors before starting this project and keep in touch to make sure that no issues are coming up.  So far so good, everyone's happy.  In fact, one neighbor also has chickens who like to hang out with mine through the fence.

Hope this helps somebody out there.  If you've been thinking about getting chickens, Do It!  They're even easier than you think and just think of all the good things you're doing.  You'll eat healthier, homegrown eggs, you'll find yourself spending more time outside (chickens are fun, really!), they'll make fabulous compost for your garden (you don't compost?!?!) and they'll eat all the bugs in your garden (no more pesticide! yay!).  Thanks for reading.  :-)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Our Chicken Coop

Joe, my wonderful, loving husband has indulged me in my desire to keep chickens.  Why would I want chickens?  Because they provide free eggs, duh!  And, they're cute as babies, fun to raise, develop very distinct personalities and are (surprise!) very trainable.

So he designed and built our chicken's quarters.  For a man who self-admitted "I'm no carpenter!"  I think he did a damn fine job.  I used to train animals at the San Diego Zoo so my standards for housing animals are kind of picky.

Here, for anyone interested in keeping chickens is our coop design.  I think we've managed to make it very easy to care for our little flock.  Ease of maintenance in all kinds of weather was paramount in our planning sessions.  It rains here in Seattle.  A lot.  No one wants to be out in a downpour, raking out the henhouse or filling the feeder.  We therefore opted to place the chicken's nighttime quarters and nestboxes inside our garage.

We have a detached, two car garage with a storage loft above.  The henhouse sits underneath the stairs, allowing us to still park both cars inside.  I have a short walk from the house to the garage that is only briefly unpleasant in the worst Washington weather.  I can feed, water and clean up my chickens dry and happy year round.  A shelf to the right holds two bales of pine shavings as well as their food.  Sleeping quarters are to the right and nest boxes to the left.  Four doors across the front give complete access, two more doors on the left side give access to the back of the nestboxes.  The trap door on top is screened to allow plenty of ventilation.  The feeder hangs from the top and the waterer sits on a paver for stability.  The blue tarp below holds pine shavings on a rolling shelf which can be pulled out for easy cleaning.  Shavings and droppings go into the compost pile.

The flooring is three wooden frames with heavy, plastic-coated chicken wire screwed to it.  All three sections lift out for spot cleaning.  The frames and wire are sturdy enough to support a 1 gallon waterer sitting on a large paving stone and have no trouble supporting all my hens.  Droppings fall through easily to the shavings tray below and so are kept well away from the girl's feet.  Two rows of perches to the right provide ample space for all.  Four nestboxes to the left is a little overkill for my small flock, but we had the space so figured, what the heck?  The feeder is supported by a chain and hangs from a cup-hook screwed into the supporting beam of the top.  The heat lamp cord is plugged into a protected outlet inside the henhouse and the cord is similarly protected by a sturdy wire-cover.  Not my first choice (I'd prefer all wires and outlets outside the henhouse) but it's perfectly safe and shows no sign of wear or damage after months of usage by my flock.  We have the option to cut a larger hole in the top and move the heat lamp up and out if the size of the flock should so dictate.

A door through the garage wall allows the girls access to an enclosed run.  More to follow in the next post as I learn the ins and outs of publishing on Blogger.  

Stay tuned.