A Chicken Named Dog

Adventures with a Flock Family

Month: July 2014

Garden Boxes from Amish Ikea

We decided this year that we would experiment with some hard-scape in the garden with trellising and garden boxes.  So, taking a cue from the local Community Garden, we built some garden boxes with lumber milled at a local Amish sawmill.

When purchasing lumber from an Amish sawmill, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.  First, the measurements are true cuts.  That is, you actually get a 2 x 8 x 12 if that is what you want.  If you compare the measurements to a box-lumber store, you soon learn that a 2 x 4 is not 2 inches by 4 inches.  From the MIStupid.com site (truly inspired name):

2x4s are not actually 2 inches by 4 inches. When the board is first rough sawn from the log, it is a true 2×4, but the drying process and planing of the board reduce it to the finished 1.5×3.5 size.

We purchased “rough cut” 2x12x8 and 2x8x8 for the boards.  That is, 2 inches wide, 12 and 8 inches deep and at least 8 feet long.  By standing the boards on their sides, the total height

Stacked and ready for assembly.

Stacked and ready for assembly.

of the garden bed would be about 20 inches high.  This should provide a good height for reaching in and working the plants.  I also planned to make the box 4’x8′ so that the reach across would not be too onerous.

Another aspect of purchasing from an Amish sawmill is that they do not adhere to the same work schedule or supply lines of, say, a Lowe’s.  I placed my order, and five weeks later got a call.  They had part of my order cut.  It seems that they were having supply issues getting logs big enough to cut the 12″ wide.  They were also having some issues getting in pine logs.  Where the Community Garden opted for oak beds, I chose pine.  It would be lighter to build and move by myself and just a tad cheaper.

They are also “rough cut,” which means you should probably handle with some strong work gloves.  They are not the smooth boards from the box store.

The final benefit of buying from an Amish sawmill is the price.  I ordered enough lumber to build a dozen 4’x8′ boxes (3 each of 4″x”12″x8′ and 4″x8″x8′ with enough 4″x4″s to cut into corner posts).  Total bill: about $300.  Cha-ching.

We also learned, as we loaded up our 8 foot, single axle trailer, that the Amish cut their lumber long so that you can square the ends up to your desired length.   That means we had boards that were, on average about 9 feet long.  The 4x4s were even longer (14 feet).  Simple math should have told me that the center of the weight would be behind the axle, which in hauling violates the rule of thumb that the weight should either be before (closer to the hitch) or over the axle.  We were back-heavy.

A single-axle trailer, when back-heavy, will begin to fishtail at about 45 miles per hour.  Panic ensued.  Brakes applied.  Trailer did NOT lose its load, flip the truck or cause any other mishap.  We drove slowly home, thoroughly chastened.

In order to build the boxes, I need to cut them by the power outlet and haul them to their

By using a paddle-bit, the recessed holes prevent legs from find the ends of the lag bolts.

By using a paddle-bit, the recessed holes prevent legs from find the ends of the lag bolts.

garden home.  I chose, since I was hauling by myself, to borrow from Ikea and make ready to assemble kits.  I squared and cut to length by the power pole, drilled pilot holes in all the ends, bored out a recess (to prevent the lag bolts from sticking out of the side) and assembled the small sides to the corner posts.



Ikea-inspired, the end awaits its sides.

Ikea-inspired, the end awaits its sides.


I am then able to haul them to place and with a cordless drill bolt them together.




Layered with wood, chicken straw and dirt from the city compost, our bed is making fine tomatoes.

Layered with wood, chicken straw and dirt from the city compost, our bed is making fine tomatoes.

They are, I must say, a big success.

We love our garden beds.

Day 18 — Part II

After the failed attempt with the incubator, we stepped back and reevaluated our approach.  Borrowing an old and used incubator, that was, itself, on the cheap side, was probably not a strong start.  Not have dedicated power was another.


Winter raged on taking the total of our chicken time.  We needed to ensure adequate water, shelter and support for the record lows accompanying the “polar vortex” and the frequent dips and stays below zero.  With the snow, though, also came the hatchery catalogs with their lists of interesting breeds and stories of chicken glory.


Would a Black Jersey Giant rooster get along with Sonny our Rhode Island Red?  Would a hen?  And look, the Blue Laced Wyandotte is a very pretty twist on the Silver Laced Wyandotte.  Would Dog the Hen, our Silver Laced Wyandotte, like a playmate?


It soon became clear that we would need to try and hatch again.  So, we went shopping and


This is like the new incubator, with circulated air and a humidity gauge…much better.

researching.  It turns out that the incubator we initially used has a long failure rate, even though it is preferred by the local farm supply store.  We decided to order online and Tori proceeded to begin gathering eggs.


The first batch went in, and we duly noted each egg’s characteristics, parentage and overall disposition.   Three times a day we would turn the eggs from an “x” to an “o”, note the humidity and generally check their status.  The days rolled on, and the candling indicated germination.  Joy was abundant.


Statistics say that the chance of the same exact scenario happening at two separate instances are, when controlled for the very factors that caused the first instance, are very small.


We beat the odds.  On day 18, six months later, another storm rolled in, and the one factor we could not control for stepped in again.  At 9:00 in the evening, the power went out.  Again.


to be continued…


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