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Mister Fixit

New Erection

I had planned to build a solar greenhouse on the back of the house this summer.

Problem #1 I needed an engineer to sign off on my design and certify that the structure will indeed add energy to my house.

Problem #2 A couple more chickens showed up, and I realized that I would need a larger coop.

Problem #3 I’ve always wanted a shed to hold my mower and garden tools and shit.  The greenhouse would have just taunted me.

A fourth reason to do the coop in lieu of greenhouse is that I realized that I had never framed a new structure.  I’ve done a LOT of carpentry, including building new walls and rooms in my house.   Okay, forget I said that.   “Uh, no I haven’t Mr. City of Rochester.”

At any rate I felt as though I needed a dry run to develop these skills before I actually add to my house itself.  Ergo: Coop 2.0., or perhaps more accurately, CoopShed I.  I’m all about freedom, if you can’t tell by now.  So I started work on CoopShed 1.o so that I could fuck up aspects of it with relative impunity.  I mean how much are the chix and the shovels going to bitch if the studs are not strictly plumb.

So I started this in the end of July, planning to use entirely recycled lumber.  Then, realizing that I would need to work on my foundational skills for the greenhouse, so I did footings for CoopShed.  Yes, footings for a coop.  Overkill perhaps (ya think?!), but now I know how they work, and I can do them perfectly for the greenhouse next summer.

CoopShed. is about 8′ by 5′ overall dimensions.  The human entrance is on one of the short walls–a 36″ door.  That leads to a storage room 5′ by 4′ deep in which I will store my tools, lawnmower, and food for the chix.  From this room I will also get access to the nesting boxes of the chix in the other half of the CoopShed.  So I will be able to feed them and collect eggs from this room.

One other facet of this design that I should mention is that most of the south facing wall will be windows, and so the shed will have considerable solar heat gain.  I am hoping that it will stay relatively balmy most of the winter.  This will both make the chicken happy and make it less likely that their water will freeze.   I could run the calculations to see how well the shed will do, but part of me likes the idea of not knowing, and I want to just see how it does as is.  My chix did just fine last winter, and CoopShed will be–at the very least–warmer.

I suppose also that I should backtrack a bit and mention a second important reason why I needed to build this new coop.  Coop 1.0, which I built in June of 2009, is a tractor coop.  Wonderful invention, the tractor coop.  You never need to clean up the bottom of it because it has no bottom.  You just move it around the yard and let the chix poop on the ground and eat the grass.  The problem with the tractor coop is that–speaking from experience now–it is clearly a snow-free design.  When there is a foot or two of snow on the ground, and one has to dig out the feed, and break the crust off the water dish, one thinks: “This is not fun (i.e. it SUCKS!)  Why would one build a coop like this?”  The answer, I discovered, was that I found the basic design on the internet–where it is summer all year ’round.

So, a little older and wiser, I am now building CoopShed.  Which will hold five chickens, with perhaps capacity for a couple more, and which will be the answer to all of my chicken keeping dreams.  At any rate I’ll let ya know how it goes.

So as you can see I have the framing nearly done.  I have to do the floor.  I have no idea which is commonly done in what order.  I did my walls first, and I am putting up the roof joists now.  When I get those done, I will do the floor.

I’ve found that it is immensely satisfying to build a stand-alone structure by one’s self.  Immensely.  Here you have this place; that you have made; that you could take shelter in with your chickens–should the apocalypse arrive.  Of course you would be roasted alive with your fowl.  But the idea that here is a place you could sleep at night–that you made!  For me that feels like a big deal.  If the apocalypse does come and I’m out in some national forest with my family trying to figure out how to survive at least I have some idea of how to make a shack that we could all survive in.

Should I really be thinking about this?  I think a lot of people are thinking about this.

Here I go, about to dive into the significance of my chicken coop, coopdeconstruction as it were.  The long and short of it is that I don’t want things in my life that bear little or no responsibility to me.  What the heck does that mean?  It means I don’t want stuff that I can’t fix or that I don’t have a significant relationship to.  That’s kind of a weird to say.  Having a relationship with stuff.  For me that means if I didn’t make it, I understand it well enough that I can fix it or possibly alter it to suit my uses if I wanted to.  So what’s wrong with things one can’t alter or fix?  Well nothing, if they never break, or if they perfectly suit your needs.  But what happens when I rely on something that I don’t have a significant relationship with?  Well, what happens when you rely on a total stranger?  Answer: anything.  The most common descriptor for technology that you cannot fix or alter is “black box” technology, and black-box-tech is bad mojo–especially if you have come to rely on it.   The ink printer that clogs, the extortionist cell phone plan, copy protection schemes, the legal system, all of these are things that attempt to reduce or exclude your direct participation, and yet they are things that in many cases we find ourselves utterly reliant upon.  Have you heard this line: “When you believe in things that you don’t understand, you suffer.”  It’s the same peril that one undergoes when relying on a stranger.  You might get lucky and be just fine, but more likely the stranger’s desires will be divergent from yours and you will find yourself powerless in an untenable situation.

I’m quite weary of that.

My chickens, my coop, my desire to know how to build and/or fix all things that significantly affect my life–this, this is my expression of freedom, no, my assertion of freedom.  For all of the black box manipulations from which our culture is made: to the fake food, to better living through chemistry, to prescription drugs, to BPA’s, to commercial software with secret source code, I say, “Fuck off!”  These are merely high-tech modalities of what is essentially tyranny, and I will not cotton to these narcissistic manipulations anymore.

If you need me, I’ll be outside working on my coop.


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