Stuff Happens

It’s been a while since I posted any updates.  Let’s see, what’s been going on?

I got the doors installed on the barn.  They won’t keep the wind out until I install trim and door brush around the edges, but they are up on their tracks and they roll nicely.  They’re really heavy.

I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to use square door rail or round rail, so I used a different type on each door.  For the record the door with round rail rolls easier and also more quietly than the door with square rail.  The square rail was maybe ten dollars cheaper but the hangers were a separate item so in the end the cost was about equal.  If I ever build another barn I’m definitely going to use round door rail exclusively.


I’ve also started working on the deck out back.  Not much to say about it really except that it’s progressing.  Getting the beams in place was a bit of a chore but it’s complete now.



Last but certainly not least, the inspector approved me for PG&E!  No word yet from the power company on when they can come out and start on my job but everything is a “go” on my end.  I’m really looking forward to not having to roll out the generator every day that I work on the project.


Worked On My Electrical Service

This weekend was sort of hit-and-miss up at the barn project.  Saturday was not a very successful day; I had trouble getting all the materials which I was looking for and I spent much of the day shopping.  I did manage to get my South side door track installed, so at least it was’t a complete loss.

Sunday was more successful.  I picked up some electrical wire nearly the size of my thumb for the service entrance and got it installed from the new service mast down to to the meter panel.  For the electrical nerds out there, this is 3/0 (pronounced “three aught”) wire.  I might have been able to get away with the slightly smaller 2/0 in a residential application, but since the property doesn’t have a residence on it I’m not completely clear on whether the inspector would approve that.  Accordingly I used the larger wire.

wpid-wp-1422345561989.jpeg  wpid-wp-1422345428921.jpeg

It’s pretty difficult stuff to work with, you really need some tools and arm strength to bend it.  Getting the wire to lay nicely in the meter enclosure was a formidable chore.  I got it done eventually though, and even had time left to install a couple of receptacles inside!

wpid-wp-1422345514307.jpeg  wpid-wp-1422345349909.jpeg

I feel like I’m getting close to being able to call for an inspection and have PG&E hook me up!  According to the county building department, they require at least one working receptacle before they’ll approve the power company connection.  Done!  At least one outlet has been installed!  I can’t call quite yet however, I’ll need to put in the ground rods first.  That will be next weekend’s project.

My Sicilian Buttercup Is Laying

Yesterday I found the first egg from my Sicilian Buttercup hen.  It’s the one on the left in this image, the right one is from my Rhode Island Red.

Buttercup Egg

The hen lights which I installed appear to be paying off.  I’ve got the lights coming on at 5:35 AM, which gives the hens about two hours of daylight that they wouldn’t otherwise have this time of year.  The literature indicates that this should stimulate better egg output, and first indications are that this is working as intended.

Buttercups aren’t really known as spectacular layers, but it’s good to have her getting started.  The Ameraucana and Marans hens are still off duty for the season; I’m hoping they’ll start laying again with the added light.

UPDATE: And The Marnas Too!

I came home today and found a Red egg and one from the Marans as well!

Red Marans

The hen lights are without a doubt doing the trick.

It Takes A Long Time To Build A Barn By Yourself

I’ve been actively working on the barn for about 19 months now.  The first wall studs went up in June of 2013.  I’ve had help on something like 10 days of the project, but for the most part I’ve built it working alone and I’m actually kind of proud of that.  There’s definitely a disconnect between people’s expectations of my progress and my own expectations.  A few weeks after I started, some of my office coworkers were already asking me whether it was finished yet.  I knew going into it that it was going to take a long time, and I’m happy with my progress to date, but it’s apparent that people with no building experience and short attention spans think I’m a little odd for working on one thing for such a long time.  I don’t mind the slow progress but it’s sort of socially awkward when someone asks whether I finished the barn this weekend, and all I can report is that there is a new door or six boards or something when clearly the person asking the question is expecting to see photos of a finished barn with a grain silo and cows already installed and producing milk.  Never mind that this building isn’t permitted for livestock.

Anyway I digress.  I got my barn doors up on the East wall this weekend!

Barn DoorsThey are ridiculously heavy and getting them hung on the track was a real challenge.  I added up the weight of the fiber cement board panels and dimensional lumber that I used to build them, and it only came to about 175 pounds per door.  They felt more like a thousand pounds though.  Anyway they are up now!  They need paint and trim and sundry other details but they’re up on the track and they roll just like they are supposed to.

South Ledger

Those two-by-tens ought to hold up any door I can hang on them

I also installed the ledger for the South side door.  It will go on a track similar to the East doors, but there will be just one door and the whole thing will roll to the side.  It will actually block the people-sized door when it’s fully open.  It’s going to weigh more than the other two and I’ve been thinking about possible ways to rig up a block and tackle or something to help in lifting it.  No solutions yet but I’m going to keep working on it.

I had some interesting visitors on the property to the West on Saturday.  There isn’t normally livestock there but I think they periodically lease the land out for grazing.  I’ve seen both horses and cattle there before, always 20 head or more, and then by the following week they will be gone.

Neighbor Visitors

Hello horses!

The Barn Has A Meter Panel

I spent the last couple of barn weekends installing siding on the North wall and putting up my electrical panel.  It looks good!

IMG_20150111_161941131_HDRThis is the actual color that it will be.  It needs a second coat of paint, but I put the first coat on while the siding was all still on the ground.  Likewise with the trim.

After installing the panel, I started getting nervous about proceeding with wiring the building even though I can’t lock it because of the giant open door holes.  I haven’t had anything stolen yet that I have discovered, but copper theft is a big problem on construction sites these days.  With that in mind, yesterday I stopped the electrical work and started working on my barn doors instead.  I got the track installed for the big rolling doors on the East side.

IMG_20150111_161903744_HDRThere’s a three day weekend coming up, so hopefully I can build the doors which go here and perhaps start on the South door as well.

Hen Lights Installed

Lay well, oh hens, your tasty oval fruit!
Bask ye in light which I doth bring to thee
at such unseas’nable a time as this!

Hen Lights

I’ve finally got the lights installed and working in the chicken coop!  I had to make a last-minute trip to Home Depot 20 minutes before closing time, but it was worth it!

The point of all this wiring is so that I can use artificial light to extend their day length.  Chickens lay best with 15 hours of daylight, but at this time of year in San José the days are only about 9 ½ hours long.  I’ve now got the coop plugged in to the same timer that I made to control the heat lamp in their brooder when they were just wee little chickadees.  The lights that I installed are AgriShift poultry barn lights from Once Innovations.  I’ll have to make some modifications to my controller in order to take advantage of the spectrum shifting features, but now that they are installed and working I can start the chickens on an earlier morning schedule than the sun alone would otherwise allow.  Spring is springing early this year in my back yard!

By the way, in case you were wondering the answer is yes; I do all of my electrical wiring in iambic pentameter.

Installed A Door

I didn’t have as much time as I might have liked to work on the barn this past weekend.  I got a bit of a late start on Saturday, and on Sunday I spent most of the day getting a Christmas tree for my grandmother’s house and putting up lights.  That was fun though, so I’m not complaining.  🙂

I did manage to get the downstairs small door installed and flashed.  I’ve had the door since before I even started building the walls, but I hadn’t put it in.  My foundation contractor wound up making the door gap two inches smaller than I had intended, and rather than having him come back and try to cut the concrete I decided it would be much easier to just order a door to fit.  I had wanted to make sure that I could get one however, so I ordered it as soon as the foundation was finished; it has been sitting around ever since.  Now it’s finally installed!


My Rhode Island Red Is Laying!

It’s been a while since I posted a chicken update.  Things are going pretty smoothly out in the coop, although the days are much shorter now than they were in the summertime.  My Cuckoo Marans hen has stopped laying on account of the reduced daylight hours, and the Red and Buttercup didn’t get started before the days got short.  According to what I have read, if hens don’t starting laying during the summer then they may wait until the following spring.  I have been working on adding some artificial lighting to the coop to make the days longer for them, but that project isn’t finished yet.

As a result of this situation, I have been down to only one laying hen for the past several weeks.  Imagine my surprise this morning when I went out to check on the ladies and found a light tan egg which can only be from my Rhode Island Red!


Lower Left: Ameraucana
Upper right: Rhode Island Red

I’m excited that she’s decided to start laying!  Her first egg weighed in at 1.75 ounces, which is just barely a USDA “medium”.

Siding and Windows

I had a busy weekend at the barn this week.  It was a long weekend for me, which started with the delivery guy dropping off a little more than a unit of HardiePlank siding at 7:10 AM on Friday.  A “unit” is what they call the bundles that building materials come in from the supplier.  So for example, when you walk down the lumber aisle at your big box home center and see stacks of plywood on the top shelf held together with steel straps, each stack is called a unit.  HardiePlank comes in units of 230 pieces, so I received a full unit with a little stack of 10 planks on top.

I painted some of them on Friday, but it was raining on and off so I was limited by the amount of space available inside the barn.

On Saturday I purchased the skylights for my South-facing roof and cut the flashing for them to fit.  They aren’t attached yet but they are in place sitting on top of the flashing.  Each one weighs about 20 pounds, so they are unlikely to blow away unless we have a hurricane.


Skylights in place

Sunday was window day.  I got all three upstairs windows installed!  The two on the South were pretty easy because I had somewhere to stand while installing them; the East window was a lot more difficult.


Installing windows: 66% complete


All windows in place!


Lower Roof Shingled

Sort of.  I hesitate to say “finished” because there are still a lot of details left.  I did however get all of the roll roofing nailed on this weekend.

wpid-wp-1416257631271.jpeg wpid-wp-1416257518676.jpeg

I also purchased and assembled a garden cart to help in toting tools around the property.  More on that adventure later.

The roll roofing still needs to have the edges tarred so that they stay stuck down when the storm blows, and there are some fiddly bits of flashing to work on around the skylight openings and the roof edges of the lower sections.  Despite those tasks being unfinished however it should shed water just great.  The underlayment already shed water great all by itself, so together with some actual roofing this should make for a pretty good roof.  🙂


About that cart.  There’s a traditional American rite of passage which involves assembling your child’s first bicycle either on Christmas Eve or perhaps on the night before his or her birthday. It is supposed to involve unclear directions, defective components and missing parts.

I don’t have any children, but I swear that assembling this infernal garden cart was every bit as frustrating as the fabled bicycle. It even came with incorrect instructions!  They went out of their way to instruct you to assemble part of the frame with the holes facing in a particular direction.  The instructions even had you double check the orientation.  I should have known that something was wrong when the back of the frame, which even had the words FRONT and BACK stamped into the steel, was facing the wrong way round when assembled as the manual had it depicted.  The two halves of the frame were about eight inches too far apart to bolt together.  After taking it apart and reassembling everything according to orientation marks on the parts instead of according to the drawings then it all fit together just fine.

Anyway now I have a garden cart to help tote tools and things around the site.  It even holds my twelve foot fiberglass A-frame ladder if I balance it in the center.  That’s nice because the ladder is pretty heavy.  Even heavier is my 28-foot fiberglass extension ladder.  I’m really looking forward to using my new cart to roll that monster around instead of bruising my shoulder carrying it.