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Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Build - Part 1

Here we go folks. Just as a warning, this coop build will span more than one post.  It took me three months to build, so I figure it should have at least two posts.  Plus, I want it to be picture heavy, and A post can only hold so many.  So let's get started, shall we?


While I was waiting for my neighbors to get back from their Winter holidays in the warm sunshine, I figured no one could tell me I couldn't dig hole in my own yard.  I decided that as long as it was over 20'F and the winds weren't howling, I could be out there working.  So in the middle December, in Nebraska, before the ground gave way to permafrost, we plotted out the locations of the support posts so I could dig, and set concrete.  (All with prior approval of the ladies, known as the survey crew.) 

We had already had record low temperatures in November and December, which required us to cover the dig area with black landscaping fabric for a few days to help the top few inches of soil thaw enough for digging.  (This coop was designed to be 8x12 feet to take full advantage of standard lumber.)  We built the 8x12 inch deck skirt FIRST out of 2x8s and used that on the ground as a marker for locating the post positions and dug down 18-24 inches.  As soon as the architectural committee came back from vacation and said "yes", we dropped the posts in the ground, set the concrete, and waited a couple of days for it to fully set.  We then attached the skirt, making sure it was level all the way around and cut the posts at the correct height.  We attached the skirt to the posts with self tapping, 5 inch, deck screw bolts. Seriously, you'd think two engineer types would have been able to whip that skirt up in an hour.  But OH NO, it took at much more than that.  I blame the cold and the wind freezing our brain cells, but we later dubbed it the hilltop anomaly, which turns out is a combination of cold, tired brains and the optical illusion created by some funky rolling knolls on our acreage.  Don't look around, trust the bubble on the level.  (Who calibrates level bubbles anyway?!  If that little circle is set in that bar wrong, then the level, well, won't be.~ blog post for another day)
Note the color swatch taped to the post.
The Survey Crew approves. 

A note on the color swatch.  We found a great way to pick the perfect color.  I collect many, many (way TOO many) samples, every time I passed a swatch wall.  As everyone knows, a swatch will never look the same in the store.  It needs tested in the environment it will be in.  I am SO sick of looking at white or red barns and out buildings.  And around here most houses and out buildings are even going towards shades of brown.  Well, to be honest, how boring is THAT?! And depressing, ESPECIALLY in the dormant months when everything seems to be the same shade of dead.  Anyway, we used a large sheet of plexi glass and taped the swatches to that.  This way we were able to see past the color swatch and see how it interacted with the surroundings.  We'd slap 30 swatches up there and step back and pull off the offending ones.  When we were down to about 5, we took a day to look harder and narrow it down to THE one, Valspar True Teal.  WOW. What a color!  In the winter it explodes from the landscape, and when the greenery does come to life, it shines like an Easter Egg in a basket of Easter Grass.  Using bright white as a trim color, only makes it more amazing!

OK, back to work.

Keeping in mind the temperature rule, I was still out there 3 or 4 days in a row, all day - well, winter days 9am-4pm.  I was wind burned (thank goodness for coconut oil), dehydrated, and good glory did I ache.

The next step was the decking and the flooring.  I added several cross supports, using more 2x8s and 3" deck screws.  Then, with my son helping we moved 7/8 inch treated ply to the skirting and with my trusty cobalt cordless screwdriver/drill, suddenly had a FLOOR!  It was a cool moment :)
Note the large bales of prairie hay waiting for the Spring Garden. AND again
the Survey Crew.

This felt like a pivotal moment.  I could either continue on an build a coop, or quit here
and have a place for neighborhood hoedowns.  Seriously, I was THAT cold and tired.
So now there was a floor.  The next step was flooring. My plan had been to cover the 8x12 deck with an 8x12 piece of vinyl.  Easy enough, it even COMES in that size.  A no seam floor would mean I could simply sweep out the coop and wipe it down.  On  the next trip to the hardware store I managed a piece of flooring into my poor truck and made a go of it.  You get what you paid for pretty much sums up the experience.
This was a warm January day.  They don't come very often, but I was happy to get every one of them.  The flooring was warped off the roll.  No amount of warm sunshine, begging, pleading, tacking, or tugging would fix it.  It was also terrible quality.  It was little more than printed cardboard.  There was no way it would hold up to chicken toes.  I rerolled it and hauled it right back to Lowes, who graciously took it back.  A fellow chicken keeper and online friend, Jack, told me he had used a roofing coating called Blackjack 75 on his coop floor, and never looked back.  That was the NEW plan.  It needed a warm day of at least 65' and climbing for several hours.  Obviously this product would have to wait for much later in the build. 
The blessing of several warm winter days, and by that I mean in the 40s and 50s, were invigorating.  I decided to abandon the dance floor idea and continue with the coop.  With an enormous pile of lumber in the barn, an almost depressing and overwhelming pile for this OCD, I checked my sketches and made the first cuts for the walls.  All of this took several days.  Winter winds were relentless.  Endless trips back and forth from the site to the barn became old really quick.  I'd like to say that no mistakes were made along the way, but alas, this is the real world, and I'm NOT a carpenter.  Building on site is interesting and certainly allows for adjustments.  At one point I ran out of screws, and just did not have the gumption to drive to town and get more.  I switched to nails.  After a day of that, I found the energy to drive to town.

There it is.  It's a skeleton of itself, but it's up.  I purchased premade small windows from Lowes, so those are the rough openings on the right and left front sides.  I found a small, but heavy solid oak door at a local architectural hardware store for $20 (this place sold salvaged hardware from torn-down buildings ~Doc), so that rough opening was set.  I didn't have windows for the back or the top, yet.  Then I found the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  What a treasure!  I loaded up on windows, hinges, Shingles, roofing nails, bits and pieces!  All for a fraction of what you would pay at the hardware store.  I added everything to the growing pile in the barn.  Most nights I was so overwhelmed with upcoming details and the getting the order things needed done correct, that I thought sleep would never come.  Luckily, the workload made that fear moot.  FALLING asleep had a new meaning, asleep as soon as I hit the pillow most nights.
It was the 1st of February.  It felt like I had been working on it for ages, but in reality it had been 13 days.  It felt like ground hog day, every day: drag out of bed, put on warm clothes, drag out to the barn, work, come in for lunch, start dinner, head back to the barn, work, come in for dinner, plan the next day, make lists, fall into bed, repeat. 
Then it happened.

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