The Lawn Mower

Cub Cadet

We moved from a zero lot line house where we had landscaped away ALL the grass, every last blade!  We had gotten rid of all our lawn equipment.  And here are with 20 acres.  Now granted, we are going to have to either have someone come in an mow and bale most of it, but still there are two yards and the perimeter areas that need to be kept up regularly.  So it became very obvious that one of our first major purchases was going to have to be a riding lawn mower.

Google Map Your Land!

Thank goodness for google maps.  We were able to look at our property and see exactly how much of our land is pond, buildings, forest, pasture and what we need to mow ourselves.  In our case, we have about 3 acres that we need to mow.

Research

I started researching mowers in the 3 acre category.  We needed a 22 to 24 HP 48 to 50 inch deck.  While a 0 turn radius would have been nice, there are just too many other items on our need list to justify to added expense.  So we went with the regular 16 inch turn radius mower.  I read all the reviews.  And I have to tell you, they were all over the place and I never really found a truly consistent  review on anything.

24 HP Cub Cadet XT1 LT50 Hydrostatic Transmission

I finally, just had to make a decision and based on the best I could find vs price etc, decided on the 24 HP Cub Cadet XT1 LT50 with Hydrostatic Transmission.  50 inch Deck.  Went with the little bit bigger on since we are the upside of the sized property and want it to last as long as possible.

Delivery

Life in the country is different than the city, when it come to deliveries.   Our house is at the back of the property and it is a quarter of a mile of dirt road to the house.  The turn into the drive isn’t an easy one.  We have to leave the gate open when FedEx or UPS is expected.  The mailman will not drive up to the house except under extreme duress!  UPS delivers after 7pm!

 

We bought the mower from the local Big Box store and they did not have it in stock so it had to be delivered. We knew the 18 wheeler could not make the turn up our road.  We were in touch with dispatch and were waiting by the mailbox when the driver arrived.  He took the mower off the truck with his lift and there we were.  A mower on two separate pallets on the side of the road.

 

NO DIRECTIONS!

There were no directions included on how to remove the mower from the pallets and honestly, I can’t tell you an easy way to do.  You just have to dis-assemble the pallet and push it off.

First Drive

But we have a video of us putting all stuff you have to put on the mower and taking our first drive.

Cub Cadet on the Ranch

 

5 Reasons Why We Had Our Shed Built

Chemical Storage

One of our first planned expenses was a shed or storeroom for chemicals.  We don’t believe it is safe to keep paint, fertilizer, etc in the same area that we build things.  Also, we run a business out of our home that uses chemicals, so we have more than the average person.  Building a chemical storage building was our first priority once we got moved in.

Research|Research|Research

I did extensive internet research on the type of building I needed.  Some of our chemicals cause metal to rust so anything that had metal was out.  This included plastic premade sheds since they are fitted together with metal.  We decided that a good old fashion wood building was our best bet.  I first priced out the local big box and building it ourselves.  I looked at prefab online.  I also saw an ad for a local company that would build on site.  The build on site was just a couple of hundred bucks more than my son and I “DYI”ing it.

The “Build On Site” Won

these are the reason why we are really happy with the results:

1.  Quick turnaround.

2.  Price.  As I watched them build, I realized I had not actually calculated the whole price to build it myself.  I forgot many of the small items that would have added up.

3.  Freed our time to work on other projects.  As we watched, we figured it would have taken us a good two weekends as we probably would have tried to “reinvented the wheel” on too many things.

4.  Well built by experienced workmen.

5.  Level.  This may seem minor, but we ended up building on a slope.  Their experience here ended up being VERY important.

Truth in Advertising

I called to order, expecting that perhaps the ad was going to be deceptive and there would be a lot of add ons or a horribly long wait time.  Neither proved to be true.  I ordered and it was built within a week.

New Shed

New Shed at The Chicken Poop

Side View of Shed

Side View of Shed

Shed matches the barn

Shed matches the barn

Five Hours in 28 Seconds

We did a time lapse video of the shed being built.  It took two men five hours from the time they drove on the property to when they left.    Everything was done on site.  We were very impressed.

Hope you enjoy the video.

Video – How To: Trailer Security

Video – How To: Trailer Security

Trailer Security

 

Today we are looking at how I protect my investment in my trailers to deter would be thieves. We are looking at the different types of locks used for trailer doors, wheel locks, and the most important in my book, the Coupler Lock (other wise known as the tongue lock). We have used different locks over the years, and we have found these to be our picks.

You can pick up these locks at the links below.

 

 

Trimax Hockey Puck Locks

 

Trimax Hockey Puck Locks - Click for the link to buy

Trimax Wheel Lock

Trimax Wheel Lock - Click for the link

Proven Locks 2516 AS – All Steel – Heavy Duty Design – Anti Theft Trailer Coupler Lock

Proven Locks 2516 AS - All Steel - Heavy Duty Design - Anti Theft Trailer Coupler Lock - Click the images to buy now

Precision Pet Wood Treadle Chicken Feeder Review

Precision Pet Wood Treadle Chicken Feeder Review

About 5 months ago I purchased the Precision Pet Wood Treadle Chicken Feeder because of a rodent problem. I was seeing small rats getting into my hanging feeder. I also saw droppings all around the feeder. I was very concerned about diseases in and around the girls.

Precision Chicken Feeder Review

Stop Feeding the Rats

I read that treadle feeders should eliminate or reduce problems from rodents. At the time I only had 3 chickens and I didn’t want to spend a lot on a feeder. I was using a Precision Pet Cape Cod Coop without any issues. The Coop seemed to be built reasonably well; therefore I felt that another one of their products should also be reasonably well built.

Read the Instructions: All the Instructions

The first thing I noticed when I received the feeder was that the instructions were simple to understand pictures. Unfortunately in my exuberance to get it built, I missed the slant board that feeds the food to the front of the feeder. Taking apart one side to install it not a problem. Reinstalling it became challenging because it does help to have extra hands to hold parts in place. This is where the problems started to show up.

chicken-treadle-feeder-page-description-03

There are small tabs that fit into holes on their opposite piece that if not seated properly will pull the star nuts out of the boards so that it can’t be tightened. Also don’t use a cordless screwdriver because even with good control it is very easy to over-tighten and remove the star nuts (reinserting does not fix it).

Nutty Solutions

The next issue I encountered was the flange nuts used on the moving parts of the feeder work themselves off. I have had to reinstall them at least once a week. The easiest solution would be to change out the flange nuts to nylon lock nuts because you need to be able to adjust the tightness to make the parts move correctly.

Clever Rats, Better Solutions

As I said earlier, I purchased this feeder because of rodents. The first day I had completely closed the feed lid, a rat chewed his way into the feed. The rat jumped out when I checked it that night. There is a small gap behind the treadle cover that with very little chewing, the rat was able to crawl in. I solved this by screwing a piece of plywood into this area of the gap.

bar added to keep rodents out

Help Wanted: Fatter Chickens

As I said, the star nuts are easy to pull out. Thankfully I had plenty of drywall screws to hold it together. If you have the drywall screws, I would add them at the initial build. I recently found out that the cover door was not opening with my lightest girl. The feed had caused the provided screws and nuts to partially dislodge causing the cover to stick.

Chicken Training

Before I purchased this feeder, I read about how to train the girls to use this type of feeder. Many people commented that their type of treadle feeder (multiple manufacturers) had holes to prop up the cover so that the girls would learn where the food was. Many said theirs came with at least two holes so that they could begin partially closing the cover to teach them to step on the treadle platform to open the cover.

chickens having some dinner

6 Week Learning Curve

There are no feeder training instructions nor are there any holes in the side to insert a screw to hold up the cover in this model. I had to drill my own. From what I read, most people were able to completely close the cover in two weeks. It only took my girls six weeks (I think my girls maybe very special), so don’t give up hope, they will figure it out.

Specs

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Cost between $55 and $75

Final Impression

This is one of the items that I believe is very beneficial to have if you have any kind of wild bird and/or rodent problem. However, the old saying “you get what you pay for” holds very true to this product.

Fab or Flub?

Flub. In my opinion, if you have any carpentry skills this would be a good time to break out the table saw and build your own. I am already seeing some plywood delamination on my feeder. If time or skills are not your forte, I would invest the money and look into metal feeders.

From Playhouse to Chicken Coop

From Playhouse to Chicken Coop

From Playhouse to Chicken Coop

Around three years ago we decided we wanted to raise chickens. If you have read any of my previous articles you will see what a relatively quick coop and run I put together. We bought the coop online and it was cute. I built the run and truth be told: it was ugly. I just didn’t want to spend a lot of time and money on something that may not be a long term desire.

After losing three of the original five girls to possums (they are just plain mean suckers) our enjoyment hasn’t waned; it has just grown. We recently decided that instead of fixing the defects in design it was time to just start over.

Run=Ugly

My wife finally shared with me that she thought the run was really ugly and that she wanted something a heck of a lot more attractive than what she had to look at. Plus, I think she could see I was getting very antsy not doing anything after a very busy spring redesigning the front yard (another story sometime).

I was going to build from scratch and create my own unique design (and probably spend way too much money). I had the basic essentials (waterer, feeder, etc) so all I had to do was build around these things and I would have a new coop.

Ugly Runthe after photo of the new coop

The wall next to the house:  Before and After

As you can see, the tarps and buckets were taking over the small space.  But even my wife will admit, the run did keep the girls happy during wet or bad weather.

Pinterest for Ideas

I spent a good deal of time and scoured through various articles in Backyard Chickens and Pinterest trying to come up the perfect idea for our backyard. I guess I should mention that my wife loves to watch the girls out of her office window. Of course, the girls also love to tell her when it is time for a snack whenever the backdoor is open.

the girls at the back door

A Friend Helps

I have always believed the good Lord will provide when the time is right. About a month ago I told my best friend my plans to build a new coop. He told me that his adult daughter had a playhouse that she was ready to get rid of because her daughter had a new play/gym house. He sent me a picture and I immediately saw possibilities. It was definitely smaller than I envisioned but I thought I could make it work. I picked it up and brought it home.

the playhouse brand new

The Build Begins

The first thing I did was temporarily put it together (without the roof) so that my wife and I could figure out what to do with it. It is important to understand that the dimensions were approximately 43”x 43” x 62” tall. It was way too small and I wasn’t going to fit in it to be able to do the chores needed. One of the biggest problems with the old run was it was too short to get into and stand up. I was tired of doing the crab walk!

The Floor for the Chicken Coop

I am a collector of building materials. I had been given a 4’x8’ pallet l with OSB board on it. At the time I didn’t know what I was going to do with it. When I got the playhouse, it fit on the pallet with room to spare. We tore down the old run, moved their coop and I started the project.

Pallet Floor with vinyl and hardware cloth

I first leveled the ground for the pallet. I took ½” hardware cloth and wrapped the pallet below grade to minimize digging from unwanted critters under the pallet. I had some reinforced vinyl that covered the pallet to make it weather resistant and prevent splinters into the girls’ feet. I left playhouse put together off to the side so that the girls would get use to going into it and on it.

After the pallet was ready I moved the playhouse onto the pallet. Time for the real work to begin. The first idea was to raise the roof about two feet so that I could stand up in it. We decided to use transparent corrugated roofing panels for the wall extension. We used panel closures on each end to minimize any drafts.

The Roof of the Chicken Coop

Next I stripped the “shingles” off the roof, rebuilt it with plywood and tar paper to make sure it was dry inside. I reinstalled the “shingles” and the roof was ready. I used 2×4’s as the support legs. I used bar clamps to set the roof.

I put the clamps at the desired height, my son and I lifted the roof over the supports and set them on the clamps which made adjustments very easy. The actual opening was 21.5 inches to account for overlap of the panels on top and bottom.

Plywood added to the roof for strenght and warmth

roof remodeled

We closed all the openings and added some decorations.

Chicken Nesting Boxes

The first item was to replace two of the four small windows and build two nesting boxes for them. Because of the small size of the original coop there wasn’t any room for a nesting box on the inside. The girls would either lay under the old coop or hide the eggs. As soon as I built the box they took to it, even with all the noise from construction.Nesting Box Open  Hinge on nesting box

A hinge makes it easy to collect the eggs from outside the coop.

Bike innertube to keep out water

A silicone bead along the hinge and along where the box is attached help keep the water out.  But the innertube on the hinge should really make the difference.  Our first rain is this week and we will know for sure.

nesting boxes seen from inside the coop

Here is a view of the nesting box from inside the coop.  We have wooden eggs as recommended.  The girls took to the new boxes without any problems.

Chicken Poop Hammocks

The girls were still not sleeping in the new coop because I didn’t have a perch for them. I wanted to make an easy to clean system. I knew I would be using sand on the floor but I still didn’t want to get on my hands and knees so I added small poop hammocks behind each roost bar. Occasionally they sleep the opposite direction but for the most part they have performed as expected. They and the roost bars are removable for easy cleaning.

Poop Hammock Explained

The Chicken Coop Doors

I needed to build doors before I let the girls sleep in their new digs. The playhouse came with two openings for the kids. One was just a 43”x 17”opening and the other was a43”x17” opening with a little door and window in it. The opening became my door, so that I could installed a full length door albeit only 17” wide.

On the girls door I took the play door out turned it upside down and made the window the new chicken entrance. To close the door I used single shelf tracks and cut them to size. Much cheaper than using “C” channel. I had an old rigid chair mat that I cut up for the door so that it slides up and down. I am in the process of building an automatic door opener out of a car antenna (still have a few bugs to work out).

Chicken Door from inside coop

Chickens Door from the Run

Human Door

You can see the transparent corrugated roofing panels that enclosed the Coop extension here.  This makes it bright for the chickens while they are in their coop during inclement weather.

extension panels

Here is a good view of the transparent corrugated roofing panels before the chicken run is attached.

The Chicken Coop Windows

There were three more windows that I kept intact. I put ½”hardware cloth over them and then attached two tracks to each one so that I could install clear Plexiglas when the weather turns colder and wetter. I am leaving them open now while the weather is nice.

window with removable plexiglass

The Run

I purchased 48” wide hardware cloth so that I could build the chicken run without any overlaps. The run is 4’x8’ which is small for 4-6 chickens but girls are only in there when the weather is bad. I covered the chicken run with polycarbonate roofing panels to keep them out of the rain and hail. I used plywood for the back as a wind and rain screen. I built a two and half ft. wide door so that this winter I can put a hay bale inside to help keep them out of the mud.

perches and dusting box

We added a bench from the old playhouse front porch for a perch along with a branch.  We also have a dusting box with sand and ash.  They use that every day.

Water and Feed

I attached the waterer from the old run to the back wall and kept the bucket outside. I decided to keep the feeder in the run because of room as well as keep rodents away from the girls at night.

chicken waterer with chicken nipples

Another thing that I built was a feed catcher. My girls are very sloppy and throw food out of the feeder. This was adding to the rodent problem. Now I can recycle the feed back into the feeder.  I already see savings!

feed catcher

Weather Protection

With the reinforced vinyl, my wife came up with the idea to make a removable wind/rain screen on the screened sides. We hang them on the outside of the chicken run during inclement weather. They tie off at the bottom with bungee cords and eye hooks.

Ready for Rain

rain tarps are stored in the chicken runDuring good weather we roll the weather protection screens up and store them inside the run out of the way.

How Much Did This Puppy Cost????

And for the final question you might have…how much did it cost?  Well, remember that I got a $600 playhouse for free.  I also mentioned that I am a collector of building materials, so all the wood you see in the photo above, free.  I did sell the old coop on craigslist for $125.00 so that offset a lot of the cost.  I paid for the hardware cloth, the roof panels you see above in the run and the transparent corrugated roofing panels.  Also had to buy the panel closures for those panels on the coop.  I bought some odd and end pieces of hardware like the brackets you see above.  I did reuse hinges and door latches from the old run.  I had to buy the shelf tracks for the doors and windows, but I had the Plexiglass and I had the plywood for the coop roof.  Lets see, what else…oh, the door lifting system that doesn’t work yet.  That is a whole other article.  As soon as it is up and working, I will let you know all the details.  But at this point, I think I am out about $75 bucks.

Best of all, my wife is very happy with it.

Smoke Hollow PS 4400 Review

Smoke Hollow PS 4400 Review

Smoker Review

In my previous article I talked a little about my experience in the world of smoking meat and Turkeys in particular. Over the years I purchased various brands of smokers and types of smokers with varying degrees of success and failure.

Last week I purchased a “Smoke Hollow PS 4400” propane gas smoker from a club house store. The benefits of buying from these types of stores, is they tend to include a number of extras for no additional cost. The extra on this unit was a cover, normally priced at $44.00.

This is a big smoker. I could smoke 4- 15lb turkeys or 21 racks of ribs. Because of the size of this smoker I would suggest that if you are a beginner smoker or your plans for smoking are a couple of turkey legs a couple of times a year or maybe a whole chicken once in a while this may be too big for your needs.

Breakdown of the Smokers Components

Doors:

The model comes with two doors, one for the food and the other for the water pan and wood chip pans. This model I purchased also came with glass doors. If you can afford them they are well worth it. I like being able to see what is going on without opening the door and losing the heat. I can also check the water pan without losing the smoke in the main body. If you need to add water all you need to do is open the lower door and pull out the water pan to add more water.

This model does not come with door gaskets and every review I read talked about this. They said there was an issue of heat loss as well as smoke coming out around the door. Before I fired up the smoker the first time I applied thin bead of high temp gasket maker material. I left the door open for 24 hours to cure and haven’t have any problems. The doors come with 3 adjustable door latches, two for the top door and one for the bottom. It gives a very secure fit.

Burners:

The 4400 comes with two burners. I am not sure why, because with one burner at medium I can reach 300 degrees. I smoke most of my meats at 235 degrees.

One possible use is this smoker comes with two fire chip pans and I suppose you could fill both pans with wood and when it is time to start the second round of smoke you would only need to turn off the first burner and start the second. Maybe an unintended benefit would be that there is a second burner if the first burner wears out.

Water and Fire pans:

Overall I am happy with the pans. The water pan holds approximately 1.25 gallons which gives about 4 hours cook time before refilling. The one suggestion I have is, when it is time to drain the pan, have a 5 gallon bucket close by. You can pour into it and then you don’t need to carry the greasy water and risk spilling. Another suggestion is to triple layer with foil to make it easier to clean up as well as to protect the pans from developing holes.

The fire pans are of a good size to hold a large amount of wood. The downside of how this unit is designed is that only the center 1/4 to 1/3 of the wood is used up. The outer perimeter creates charred wood. I don’t think it has a big overall effect but I do like to use up material.

Measurements:

The overall measurements are 44″ x24″ x16″. It is tall enough too comfortably to add or remove food items. The handles are at a good height to make it easy for two people to carry. It is not very heavy so it is easy to move short distances.

Legs:

The legs create a wide enough footprint to give it stability, but as with the rest of the construction the legs are made with light weight steel and it will not take a lot of rough handling i.e. in the back of a pickup off road.

Racks:

This smoker comes with 5 racks: two regular, two jerky racks, and one rib rack that will hold 7 racks of ribs or it can be turned over and used as a regular rack. If you are going to use the jerky racks for something other than jerky I would suggest a sheet a foil to prevent sticking to the racks because it is a pain to clean the racks.

Temperature Gauge:

I was pleasantly surprised at how accurate the temperature gauge was. In a side by side comparison with a digital probe it was only off by 5 degrees. I did find that the unit was 15 degrees cooler at the bottom of the cabinet. This is good to know so I can put smaller items at the bottom.

Drip Pan:

The smoker comes with a drip pan although it didn’t catch any drips. There is a large vent hole on the bottom that the pan does not cover and this is where the grease dripped out. I solved the problem by putting an old tray under the smoker and solved the problem.

Talking Smokers…Talking Turkeys

Talking Smokers…Talking Turkeys

 

 

 

 

Talking Smoker

 


Thanksgiving is getting around the corner and it makes me think about the turkey. I started smoking my turkeys about 33 years ago when I received my first charcoal smoker as a wedding present from my father in law. I have gone through at least 12 different smokers over the years. I have had charcoal smokers, propane smokers and an electric smoker. I have also cooked on custom built trailered, wood smokers.

 
Different types of people who smoke meat


There are all levels of people who use meat smokers. The spectrum goes from the 26 weeks a year, traveling competition teams with rigs that cost more than my house to the guy who read about smoking on his grill and threw a pan of wood chips and a hunk of meat on his grill and hoped that it produce something edible.

Different types of Smokers


I will start off and say that charcoal and wood smokers do an unbelievable job when it comes to fantastic flavored meat. After so many years of using a charcoal smoker my, my father in law bought me a propane smoker in 2003. One of his buddies said it did a really good job and made life much easier.

I was very skeptical because I was violating the unwritten code of smoker purists. I also have never had a failure with my charcoal smokers. Why try something new?

Liking something new


I have to tell you that it turned out to be awesome. Once you get the temperature adjusted it is very easy to go back to the control knob and repeat the settings for your next meal. The biggest advantage? I could go back to sleep after putting the turkey on for Thanksgiving. I didn’t have to stay up and get the fire just right.

I used my propane smoker for 10 years. I have smoked everything from brisket, turkey, sirloin, chicken to a standing rib roasts (prime rib), with great, consistent results.

Off-roading??


I was very active in Boy Scouts for years and we always went to the Colorado Mountains and built our own summer camp. I would bring up my smoker and a friends smoker and cook some of the meals for 60 to 100 adults and youth. One very important lesson I learned was home smokers do not travel off road very well. Maybe that is why I have gone through so many smokers… go figure.

Electric Smokers?


After reading some blogs and reviews, I bought an electric smoker last with all the bells and whistles, digital thermostat, temp probe, remote, stand, and glass doors. I was also told by an acquaintance what a fantastic job it did.

Final verdict: if you are looking to cook meat outside without a lot of smoke flavor and you love gadgets then an electric smoker might be what you want. If you like smoked meat this is not what you want. I sold the smoker after two uses and decided to go back to propane.

Back to Propane


I purchased my 13th plus smoker last week and decided to break it in with one of my favorite, smoked chicken legs and thighs. They were delicious and smoked all the way through. Everyone was very pleased with the outcome.

Thanksgiving Turkey 2014!


I am definitely looking forward to Thanksgiving. And lots of Smoked Turkey!

I HATE Flies!

I HATE Flies!

I thought today would be a good time to talk about a maintenance issue that I have had in the past. I hate flies. They annoy me immensely.  When I got chickens, I quickly came to the conclusion, that I would need to up my maintenance habits. I have two dogs which require daily poop shoveling to maintain a relatively sanitary backyard. Unfortunately,  I have neighbors that don’t spend as much time doing maintenance that also have dogs.

Since I have a very small backyard, don’t have a lot of room to spread my different projects out. My compost pile butts up against the chicken run. I had to figure out how to get additional assistance in the fly eradication business. I looked at the hanging fly strips and decided with my luck I would be the one to get stuck to it.

Disappointment

I went to a local feed store that I frequent and purchased a Fly Trap by Starbar called the Captivator®. Couple of things that I didn’t like about the Captivator® is that since I try to minimize my trash, I knew that if I had to empty the jar, I would be releasing any flies that hadn’t died. The attractant refills cost 3.50 each. I have to tell you that I was very disappointed, the directions were followed explicitly and I caught two flies. If that was all the flies I had I would have been impressed, but that wasn’t the case. I called Starbar and was told by them, sorry it didn’t work just take it back. I didn’t have the receipt anymore, so that wasn’t going to happen. It was about $10 so I wasn’t very happy about it.

A couple of days later I was at Wal-Mart and went into the garden dept. to see if they had anything different. They carry a product called Rescue® Fly Trap for about $5. Not a bad price. Once it is full, close it up and dispose of it.

Success

I have to tell I was very pleased with this product. I placed it according to directions and it started to collect flies within an hour. I went out and purchased a second one to put near the coop to catch any stubborn flies. There weren’t that many in the coop trap so I am thinking that I got outside assistance in filling up the trap in the yard from the neighbors’ dogs. Around mid season I disposed of the full trap and moved the coop trap to the yard.

Resue Fly Trap Works

A couple of things to be aware of:

1. The trap bait does stink, so make sure keep it away from your normal hanging out areas in your yard.

2. Make sure you follow the directions as far as placement is concerned.

3. Make sure you follow the directions on how to remove the yellow funnel or be prepared with some tape to repair it.

I hope you are blessed with a fly-less season

but if you aren’t, you may want to try the Rescue Fly Trap.

A woman walked into the kitchen to find her husband stalking around with a fly swatter.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Hunting flies,” He responded.
“Oh, killing any?” She asked.
“Yep, three males, two females,” he replied.
Intrigued, she asked, how can you tell?
He responded, “Three were on a beer can, two were on the phone.”