Is that a monkey on your back? Oh, wait, it’s a chicken.


Going into week 3 of HutchConstruct was fraught with flock drama and terror from above. Late in week two there was an ‘incident’ that involved some sort of predator-type visiting wildlife (AtH suspects a bobcat, seeing as he watched one trip-trot up the driveway at dusk headed in the direction of District 9 later that week) and a panic attack aboard the mothership. Needless to say, the ladies absolutely refused to spend another night in the ‘shed of death’ and made a huge statement by attempting to roost anywhere but tent city; the flowering cherry tree in front of the house, Art’s Jeep, the bed of the truck, the front porch (ohhh, the cats LOVED that one), miscellaneous shrubbery in front of the house. You name it, they were tryin’ it on for size, but they were most definitely not slumming it another night. And so began their temporary housing in the barn, much to the barn catz dismay (and Art’s protest and eventual disgusted resignation).

Pooping on 'goddam everything' as Art puts it.

My sister's cat, Chaco. Staying here while she traipses around the east coast.


Chaco will be VERY VERY HAPPY when the ladies move out of the barn. They bully him incessantly. They bully all of the cats, but Chaco more than the rest it seems. He really would like his stairs to the loft back (the hens have been roosting on them in the evenings)

At least they don't poop where they lay their eggs, hay is expensive!


Egg laying has been centered in the Hay Stall for the past 3 weeks. Oh, and under the debris pile (from the old hutch), and in some open cabinets, and in Jack’s wall mounted grain bucket, and probably many other places I haven’t found yet.

Despite horrible weather Memorial Day weekend and into the first week of June, the roof had to get finished. Rain and generally cold and nasty weather persisted almost every day up to Memorial Day, and the minute Art and Fraley got a break, the final runs of shingles were put up, and it was rain proof.

A man and his roof....his very finished roof (okay, except for trimming the shingles and putting on the gable-ends) If it rains, we're GOOD, and it will rain, oh yes, it will rain.

See, I told you it would rain, again and again and again. Good thing we have a fully shingled roof now! I can work on my stuff inside and stay dry.


My dry, if not cozy, indoor hutch workshop. My project is perches, window ledges and nesting boxes while Art gets the door built so we can get the ladies out of the barn and into their new digs.


The bookshelves were slated for destruction seeing as they’ve been sitting out in the barn for about 4 years. First Art wanted to give them to his brother Greg, but it was too tall. Then it just smelled too much like horse barn to sell or give away. BUT…and here’s the thing…the chickens don’t care! I got to use all my power tools together for this, cutting cross shelves, re-enforcing the whole thing, nailing and screwing, scroll sawing, everything! Cool.

I give you my most genius contribution to date on this project (besides the whole project, I designed it, they built it)….re-purposed bookshelves. I burned so many brain cells trying to decide on how to build out the nesting boxes. Pacing through the barn (thinking extra hard) I passed by a 6foot tall oak-veneered bookshelf that’s been sitting in the barn for about 4 years. And a lightbulb went on over my little head, and not one of those ‘save the earth green-works!’ compact fluorescents. Oak is a little fancy, but what else are we going to do with that damn thing? Too stinky to give away, and I felt bad about having to destroy it. So? Fancy nesting boxes (in excess, I know, I know)


Art argued with me about the sizing of the nesting boxes. I insisted smaller is better, he wanted Master Suites. I won, and the ladies love them.


These are 12-14 inches wide, 11 inches tall and 10 inches deep, and yet they insist on 2 hens per box (their first night in the hutch, I think they’re a little confused)


Half the ladies figured out the perches in the dark, the other half crammed themselves into the nesting boxes for the night.

And…drum-roll please……

Ladies and Gentlemen; I give you…..The Door. It slides on rails. It’s heavy duty, it opens AND closes. And Art the Husband is just tickled that it all came together so well. He is an amazing man, my husband. He can build doors and roofs and irrigation and electricity, and computers and software and all sorts of stuff we mere mortals take for granted. Like the TV wiring, and the DVR hookup, and the XBox. And bonus: he mows and/or vacuums stuff obsessively! I am indeed, a lucky lucky girl. Did I mention he also cleans horse stalls??? A very lucky girl.

Project HutchDestruct becomes Project Hutch Construct

The Stine Chickens, having recently been evicted and finding themselves relegated to FEMA-style housing, were understandably very put out.

The ladies were at work when the eviction notice was posted. Needless to say they were very confused when they got home from the office and found everything in pieces and only a tent with no indoor pluming to overnight in.


Weekend # 2 continued, again with the assistance of Fraley. Their goals were lofty, so many things that were going to get done! Reality? Walls. Well, sort of. There was a lot of math involved, Fraley wanted to do what Art calls ‘fancy math’, which in reality is just trigonometry and is made easy and entirely possible by simply rotating the iPhone horizontally while in the calculator application. Art was having none of it.

Framin' it up.

Fraley gets a shot at the nail gun. Supervised, of course.

Oh Art, someone is going end up in the hospital getting a nail removed from their ass. I'm pretty sure.

Warped wood. Dilemma.

Somehow this set up, Fraley within gravity range of the business end of the nailgun doesn't seem like such a genius idea.

In Fraley's own words: Fucking Genius. The solution to warped beams involved a spare piece of lumber, the a couple of nails and a vice grip. Vice the beam into place, securely nail to base. Warpage fixed.

My friend Elizabeth was visiting this second week in May, and offered up some help too.

Server of nailz.

Excellent nailz presentation.


Well, SOMEONE has to deliver the nails to Mr. Stine. The manager in him insists on assistance in every small detail of a large project like this. I think she did a lovely job. I delivered Diet Cokes, but with hardly as much style.
On the up side, it didn’t rain but it was wicked cold, for the middle of May.

This looks really pretty, but it's cold as crap. NOT FUN.

And thus begins a roof, with a lot of 'fancy math'

The ladies stick around part of the day to check zoning permits and sign any construction paperwork.

They were so happy to be starting the roof. It involved a LOT of math. Math that AtH termed "FraleyMath" once Paul was out of earshot.

Supervising is best done from the ground, so sayeth Paul Fraley.

Reverse Doom Cloud. My husband never has a doom cloud hovering over his head, ever. That's just....weird.

I'm not sure why Paul was so happy to be up on that ladder, but he was.

The man I married. This angle makes him look much more intimidating than he really is. In fact, this photo scares me a little.

It was a 3 ladder day.

The ArtFraley method of attaching rafter beams.

This is going to be one hell of a well built chicken hutch. Art’s reconsidering the chickens lease option and thinking about putting in a minifridge, poofy-chair, a flat screen and surround sound. Maybe a disco ball. Man-Cave, out behind the barn. You know, where all the fun happens.

Oh…..Hi Internet, no, Art cannot come out to play.

If there is one phrase that is NEVER uttered in this household it’s “I’m bored”. There is an endless list of things that need doin’, an endless supply of projects and chores. If one task bores you, I can offer up an easy half dozen more that may interest you. A couple dozen if given a moment to actually think about it.

So it should come as no surprise that Art the Husband is under a constant barrage of ‘to do’ lists that threaten his close relationship with the internets; planned projects, brilliant ideas and staggering over-expectations, all generously and continually supplied by yours truely, The Wife-person (although I prefer Personal Time Management Specialist). Armed with detailed plans including specific dimensions and a timeline, I presented the most recent Stine Ranch Improvement requests around the end of April. There were 2 for Art to choose from (I believe in offering choices, it helps him feel like I’m not 100% bossing his ass around, or so I tell myself); Split Rail Fencing for the acquisition of a new flock of sheep OR New Chicken Hutch and Run to house the 24 chickens I just ordered. They’ll be here in June.

He chose the Hutch project. Good choice. Thus begins the fun.
Me: “Have you figured out how much lumber we’ll need?”
AtH:”Ummm, I need to do the math”
Me: (sighing internally) “Okay, lets do some math then”
AtH: “I need to figure out where I’m going to get the lumber”
Me: (how hard can this be) “Okay, lets do that then”
AtH: “I don’t know when this lumber store is open”
Me: (oh for the love of gawd) “Well, we could call them and find out….”

This is how it always goes in the beginning, kind of a stutter start, but then, once it’s started? Well, it does get slightly better. Add a lot of pestering and one Paul Fraley, and the project is underway full force May 1st. If only the weather would cooperate. It was all kinds of cold and rainy the entire month of May, and into this first week of June. Plehhhh.

The original hutch and run, literally
falling apart. The door to the run was falling off the hinges and the hutch itself was rotting away in parts.


On the first day, Art worked on destroying the hutch while I worked on disassembling the run. Andretti guarded the flock, and Darby guarded the compost.

The chickens are non-plussed with Andretti's antics. He doesn't chase the
chickens so much as he zips around like a fool tearing up their
carefully spread compost.


There is no end for this dog's love of horse poo.


Art got A.D.D. and started mowing, and while his lack of focus annoyed me it didn’t really bother Darby in the slightest. Nothing can sway his focus on soaking up horse poo and whatever sunshine is available.

We're supposed to be tearing down the old hutch. AtH....is mowing weeds.
Darby? Protecting his compost pile.

Guess who got a mega-bath???

Work did get done that first day, though. The hutch was torn down, most of the run was destroyed while part of it was left standing as temporary housing. The brilliant idea to wrap it in tarps and fill it with shavings created what I called District 9 chicken housing, except instead of aliens our tent city houses chickens.

The second section of run was spared for now. I had an idea for temporary
housing that included several tarps, a buttload of zip-ties and some baling twine. Ever
see District 9? That's where I was going with this. Replace aliens with
chickens and that's the basic idea.


Low Income Temporary Chicken Housing. Welcome to Tent City, girls!
Please don't hold back on the egg production for lack of indoor plumbing or
solid walls, okay?


The inside of the District 9 chicken housing. It's actually pretty comfy in there.

Art the Husband focuses his OCD on two main things around here: mowing and vacuuming. Since I hate doing both, I'm not really going to complain too much. Although, Art, we ARE knocking this thing down, remember?


Art of Destruction


My tool of choice? Sawzall. 100%. Word of the day? Safety glasses.


Hutch Deconstruction surprise #43; the original weather bearing wall had
started to rot out for water damage so the previous owners slapped up
another layer of
siding over it...problem solved! Effing morons.


Part 2 of Phase 1; putting the winch to good use. Art was
moderately disappointed that the deconstruction of the hutch didn't include more sledge
hammering and overall mayhem. The previous owners used a ton of screws
to construct this thing, so the easiest way
to deconstruct it was with a cordless drill/screwdriver.
Oh well. Less chance for injury I suppose.

Day 2 was all about getting Fraley up here so he and Art could lay the base for the new hutch. While Art was out picking up his bff, I got to work destroying the old flooring. Not a job for the weak limbed or dirt shy.

The old flooring, rotting, bug infested. Gross. My job to destroy. Oy.


It took about an hour and a lot of muscle with a sledge hammer, but it all came apart. The chickens were thrilled; bugs everywhere! Everything was cleaned up and ready to rototill, rake, level, screen and cover with pea gravel by the time the boys got home.

This took an entire day; rototilling, leveling, graveling,
leveling, bickering, shoveling, back breaking, leveling, shoveling
and graveling. The good news is that it's level.


Once the sweat work was done, the real hen cackling started. These guys are a riot to watch, until it gets annoying, then I go work on some other project. At this point most of what I did was take photos and ask questions, get annoyed and go do something else. Which was fine by them, they like their alone time.

The Girl Power these two have is....disturbing.

The blame game....tag, Art the Husband's it.

Universal Art sign for "Aaarrrrgggg". Usually in response to a severe
Type A personality invading his Type B reservoir of calm. It
should be noted that I elicit the same reaction on a fairly
regular basis.

The start of something awesome. If you're a chicken, that is.


Thus concludes the first weekend of Project HutchDestruct.

Dig dig dig

One positive out of all the spring rains we’ve gotten in the past few weeks – its easier to dig stuff around the yard. Usually most of our soil outside the gardens is like concrete come summer time. I was anticipating a pretty tough dig today trying to run irrigation line over to a couple new gardens Lisa set up next the the big compost bin, but I was pleasantly surprised. Win.

I did find one unpleasant surprise – the power line for the well pump and water lines from the big water tank – only buried like 4 inches deep. I’m amazed I didn’t rip it apart last year when I ran the rototiller over the area.

Dretti and Q decided that instead of helping dig today, they would supervise. “Dig right there – put your back into it” … etc
Lots of help :-P

Spring flooding

The weather this week has been our typical March – lots of back to back rain storms. Today was the most intense in terms of rain & wind for us – by midday, the rain was coming down so hard, Lisa said it was flowing thru the grasses on the hills like a large waterfall. It was falling so fast and the ground was so saturated that it all just ran off – quickly. I guess having 2+ inches of rain in a few hours will do that.

We got a few pics of the results:

Alameda Creek:

Welch Creek up near our place:

Various images from Calaveras Rd down in the valley from our place – all our water ends up down here:

Our biggest concern when it rains is the road to our place and the steep hillsides which like to slide:

And a few video clips:

Lisa crossing flooded section on Calaveras Rd

Alameda Creek at flood stage

Torrent of water in Welch Creek near our place