Monday, July 23, 2012

Shak Rabbits

Welcome Back to the Shak.

Being faced with yet another stupid hot day, I find myself confined to the house. Although we have no air-conditioning, we manage to stay somewhat cool by closing all the windows, drawing the blinds to block out the sun and turning on the furnace fan to pump the cool basement air into the rest of the house. This works well. With the relatively few days it gets this hot and living so close to Lake Michigan, air conditioning is not worth the cost.

I am not here to give you a weather report. My mission in this post is to show you what I call "Death-row". It maybe a tasteless name, but one must maintain one's sense of humor. In previous posts, you have seen the breeders and breeding cages. These are great for housing breeders and their kits up to five weeks of age. At five weeks the kits are weaned and the doe is re-bred. I generally remove the doe's five week old litter from her cage before re-breeding her. This gives her a peaceful four weeks to recover from the previous litter while producing the next.

All this is fine and good. Yet, I needed housing for the litters from the fifth week through the eighth week. They move on to the slaughterhouse after eight weeks.

When all seven breeders are breeding, I will need to house, feed and water up to fifty rabbits. Here is what I came up with and how I did it.

The slaughterhouse is connected to the big barn. The breeders are kept in the small barn conjoining the courtyard. Rather than building the pen in the small barn and having to walk rabbits across the yard, I chose an existing stall in the big barn.
This is the front view of the stall I chose.
In the condition I found it.

This is the side view.
The first thing was to clean the stall I will use for the rabbits and the stall beside it. A pitch fork, wheel-barrow and a little work later, I have two clean stalls. Much of the straw I cleaned out of the stall, I used to grow potatoes. Which were doing great until the chickens discovered what I was up to and dug them up. Oh well, live and learn. I will fix that little problem next year.
Front view of the stall
after cleaning and
before removing
some parts and adding others.

Side view of stall after cleaning.
I then removed any boards that were not original to the stall. I also added boards to the inside of the stall to square off the corners and give me a good place to mount the convertible roof I will be adding.

The idea is to make a secure and easily maintained and cleaned enclosure with enough space to comfortably hold up to fifty rabbits. After wrapping the walls of the stall in chicken wire to keep out predators, I began on the floor. There is a cement foundation upon which the stall was built. I cut and nailed boards together to raise the floor to that height. These boards can all be removed for cleaning.
The riser boards in place.
Floor wire is folded upon itself
and held out of the way
 by a chain and hook.

The center wood risers removed
for cleaning. The edge
pieces are also removable.
The floor itself is 1/2" x 1" wire mesh. The same material I used for the floors of the breeder cages. I bent the wire 3" from the end and nailed it to the far wall of the pen using chicken nails. This created a hinge upon which to move the floor panel up an down for cleaning. To this piece of wire I connected two other wire sections with J-clips. The floor has three sections. The whole thing folds upon itself at the far wall. This keeps it out of the way when cleaning the floor below.

Next, I built a door out of scrap lumber. This door covers the hole in the side of the pen. It is hinged and covered in 2"x4" wire overlaid with chicken wire. The 2" x 4" wire will hold feeders and waterers while the chicken wire secures the door against escape and invasion.
Side door in place.

View through side door.
You can also see
the wire floor is in place.
The boards to the right of the door being old an uneven prevented the door from sealing. To fix this, I inserted a piece of 2"x4" wood between two of the boards where the gap was widest. This block, I held in place from the backside using two other small pieces of wood and a couple screws. This filled the gap and gave me a place to mount another piece of wood to pivot over the door, thereby, locking the door.
Here you see the manner
in which I fastened
 the side door closure.
With four walls and the floor ready, I built the roof. Here, I used 1"x4" boards I removed from the pen during clean-up. After cutting the boards to the proper length, I screwed them together and added corner supports which I nailed in place with an air nailer. To this structure, I stapled chicken wire. After placing and leveling the roof, I hinged it to the back wall of the pen and added a pull rope. The roof tilts up to a height below which I can comfortably stand while cleaning.
The project is finished.
You can see the roof
is open and floor in place.

All done and ready for occupancy.
Thank you for stopping. Come again soon.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Economy. Greed, stupidity and lawlessness

I have something to say.

Maybe the heat is making me crazy. Maybe I have seen enough. Most likely some admixture of the two. I would rather be doing something productive, but I am all caught up on blogging what I have done and it is too hot to start anything. Under those conditions, this is what happens. Enjoy. Or not.

With regard to HSBC.

What really got me going today was hearing that Congress will be “grilling” HSBC for ignoring Mexican drug cartels laundering money through it. HSBC says it will apologize. “We are sorry” (we got caught). They also said they would take responsibility. What does that mean? They will just meet with the cartels and do what? My guess is they will end up paying some monetary fine to the US Government representing a small fraction of the profits they made laundering drug money. Maybe some thieving bank CEO will “resign” it’s job and move to some “safe“ place with its(?) millions. Effectively removing its(?) money from our economy. That seems to be the extent of any responsibility taken by bankers since 2007.

HSBC says they will address the “culture” which led to this. However, an institution’s culture is a product of it’s leadership. If there is a cultural problem, it came from the top. How can anyone seriously expect or accept that the problem will fix itself? Which is exactly what HSBC means when it says IT will address the “culture”.

It seems that every week we have to swallow yet another banking scandal. Have these people no conscience or even just style? After destroying the economy with loans they knew could never be repaid, the definition of usury, and getting paid off by the tax-payers for destroying said economy, they continue to find more and more devious ways to satisfy their greed. But their greed is insatiable. Greed equals their “culture”. How can THEY fix their  culture having no experience or understanding of anything but the culture they created?

With regard to the Fed.

The Fed says it may lower key interest rates to encourage people to spend more money. That should read…spend more money than they have. Because that is what we need to get the economy going. Apparently those who work at the Fed are so fat and happy that they have forgotten that people’s spending more than they have is the problem. Long-term thinking is beyond the Fed’s pay-grade. To spend money one must first have some. Can the Fed not tell the difference between currency and credit. The Fed wants more debt. But debt is the problem. Even if the money were interest free, it still has to be paid back. Paying back debt does not grow an economy. It is simply paying over time for a past purchase which may have done the economy some small good at the time of purchase. If there is interest involved in that borrowing, only the banker benefits. Anything in moderation. Moderation, however, is a key which no longer turns the locks on bank vault doors.

With regard to the Law of Supply and Demand

Our economy is no longer predicated on the ages old law of supply and demand. Case and point, Wisconsin Public Service Corporation. For years and years we have been told to buy energy efficient appliances and conserve, conserve, conserve. Save energy. Save money (don’t spend as much anyway). So we did. This reduced demand for electricity. According to the law of supply and demand, the price of electricity should also fall. Instead the Public Service Commission votes to raise the price per kilowatt-hour of electricity. In our “economy”, because WPS is required by law to make profits, lower demand now means higher prices. US law is more law than the law of supply and demand is law. 

Gandrud Autogroup in Green Bay, because sales were slow, instead of pricing their vehicles lower, thus finding the “clearing“ price, raised profit margins to make more money per car they did sell. That acted to reduce further the number of cars they sold but undoubtedly drove up the per/vehicle profit. I don’t know that it increased net profits. I do know that fewer sales means salespeople, with few exceptions, rarely earn over their $1300/month base salary. Knowing what I do of their Management, I am sure Gandrud views this arrangement as charity. Do salespeople eat? No matter. If one were to starve to death, hire another. They are not human. They can't be. They do not live in mansions with indoor basketball courts.

There, I feel better now. And while writing this the wind switched directions. It is now coming off lake Michigan. The temperature dropped maybe 20 degrees in the matter of an hour. I have stuff to do.

Thank you for stopping. Visit me during the next heat wave if you like this sort of thing. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Welcome back to The Shak.

I am quite excited about this post. It has been a long time in the making. Of course, I do the work before I do the post; although, in this case, because the post is very long and it is stupid hot outside again, I am writing before the work is entirely finished.

I do not know exactly when all this began. It was an idea for some time. It became a design when I drafted a picture of the idea. After collecting the materials, almost everything came from one pile of junk or another on the property, I made it a reality. “What is it?”, you ask. It is a market cart.
I drew this when I was ready
 to begin turning an idea into a reality.
The idea here was to build a mobile, though not road-worthy, cart with a flat deck and shading roof. In addition, it has to withstand the heavy winds here. My intention is to use it as a place to sell extra produce, give information about obtaining rabbit meat and chicken eggs and generally draw attention.

I will leave it, for the most part, unattended. Prices will be clearly marked on all produce. There will be a “cash hole” in which to put the money. It is “on your honor”. There may not always be produce available, but I will have pricing and contact information for rabbit products, chicken eggs and whatever else I happen to come up with as time goes along and for health reasons cannot sell off the cart. If you want something that is available but not kept on the cart, simply call the phone number, and if I am on the property and can fill your order, I will fill your order right away. If I am off the property, I will set up a time for pick-up.

All that having been said, let us get on with the fun.

I began with this.
Collecting the parts took time. I began by dismantling an old trailer I found while reclaiming the lawn between the big barn and the machine shed. Somewhere in the neighborhood of the apples trees I pruned in an earlier post. The trailer was a mash of “fixes” and “reinforcements”. Happily, none of these were very permanent arrangements. The welds were superficial and easily popped with a chisel or cut with an angle grinder.
Plywood deck gone.
The chain hoist made this much easier
 than it could have been
It was, for the most part, an old car or truck rear end with a deck welded on. I removed the rear end hoping to use the axle shafts. They were too small for the bore of the wheels I intended to use. What I wanted most off the trailer were the side rails where the leaf springs mounted and whatever salvageable steel I could use for the market cart.
Useful parts
After wandering around the property with a micrometer set to the size of axle I needed, I finally found an axle with bearings and brackets attached to the rusting hulk of an erstwhile who-knows-what in the machine shed. After stripping off a couple of pulleys and spacer bearings, I was left with an axle which perfectly fit the wheels. The whole thing was a nice bit of luck.
Pretty nice to have a couple of these lying around
The wheels had been laying against the garage in a lilac and flower bed. They are 40” tall and even heavier than they appear. I drilled and tapped a hole on the inboard side of each hub. With a wheel on each end of the axle, I tightened bolts into these holes. Though it will be hard to turn, it will go straight very well. Which is fine. The wheels will stay on. My plan does not require it to be roadworthy, just mobile.
Wheels and axle together
I then cut four, 3/16” x 3” steel plates and two sections of 3” diameter tubing. The tube came from the drive-shaft which had been part of the trailer.  I cut it with an angle grinder at the base of the housing and slid it off from around the shaft. Then using the chop saw, I cleaned up the edge and cut the sections. The plates were cut from a 48” piece of plate I bought new. I drilled alignment/clearance holes on the centers of each plate. To the top plates, I added two sets of two holes 2” apart. These holes will hold the D-bolts which connect the leaf springs and side-rails. To the bottom plate, I added two ½” holes to bolt the whole thing to the bearing brackets and axle.
Riser parts ready to be welded.
Riser bolted to bearing.
The bolt securing the wheel
can be seen in the background.
 After welding the plates to the tubes, I fixed the riser to the bearing bracket with ½” bolts, nuts and lock washers. Moving to the top of the riser, I attached the leaf springs and side-rails. I had cut the side-rails from the rest of the trailer frame with an angle grinder armed with a cutoff wheel. Here, I was not concerned with the different lengths of the side-rails or the fact that they had a certain bow to them which made them ride higher in the middle and lower at the ends. This will work out just fine as you shall see.
Leaf springs and side-rails
Leaf spring and side-rail D-bolted to the riser.
Both springs and side-rails in place.
Next, I cut the steel runners that I had removed from the trailer and a couple sections of bed frames I found at the County Landfill, into sections. The idea is to make two 18” sleeves in which to slide pressure treated four-by-fours. These will eventually hold the roof posts. They also provide a lot of lateral strength between the side-rails when welded in place. I also added two diagonal braces between the post sleeves and another between the risers. These are just re-bar cut to the needed length and welded in place.
Materials ready to be welded
into a post sleeve.
Welded and ready for installation.

Forward post sleeve welded to side-rails.

Both post sleeves installed.
Looking from what will be the back
Because I am making this an “on your honor” thing, I need a “cash hole”. For this I used the battery tray from an old Jeep Cherokee most of the parts of which I found variously located in the yard. Luck had it that the ammo box fit wonderfully in the battery tray. And fortuitously, I had a hinge just longer than the ammo box is tall. This I welded to the tray. To the ammo box lid I welded a tab with a hole drilled  through it. The top screw hole on the hinge and the hole in the tab align to accommodate a lock. I have yet to cut a hole in the box lid for the money to enter and finish it. Other things had to be done first.
Jeep Cherokee battery tray
with hinge and ammo box.

Tray welded to the front
of the front post sleeve.

The cash box
As you can see, the chassis of my market cart is a rusty old mess without a square corner or a true angle. I can easily fix that. If all else fails cover it up by aiming for averages. Having noticed that the side-rails were bowed, I aimed toward their ends to find level. I welded a rectangle 6’ x 41” out of square stock. Just inside were the post sleeves attach, I added cross members of the same square stock, which, yes, I found in the yard. These two cross members rested atop the chassis and level with each other. The rectangle being wider than the chassis, it hung over nullifying the bow of the side-rails. 
My rusty pile of mess with deck frame,
 a.k.a. "the rectangle" in place.
Yes, it is tough to tell what is going on.
The rectangle, having both leveled the chassis and provided a solid surface to screw wood to, holds the deck. The deck is made of still more of those boards I used to make the chicken nest boxes in Chicken Shak. Thanks again friend. The surface measures 8’ x 48 ½”. I clamped each board to the frame and drilled through wood and frame together. 60, 10 x 1 ¼” sheet metal screws hold them fast.
This should help clear it up for you.
For the first time, it looks like something.
With the deck on, it is really beginning to look like something. Now for the roof. I want the cart to stand 8’ tall. Toward that end, I need two 6’ posts. One for each end. To mount the roof beams to the post I cut four 3/16” x 2” pieces of plate steel to 9 ½” . One for the inboard and one for the outboard side of each post. In these plates I drilled a series of ½” holes. The center hole holds a 9” lag bolt. The four other holes have ½” x 4 ½” bolts with nuts and lock washers. The beams are cut at a 20 degree angle on each end. This gives me the rise of 1’ 6” to a run of 4’. The lowest part of the roof is 6’ 6”. It gives me few inches clearance and should be good for most people.
The five pieces that will make up one roof post.

The holes are drilled and outboard
plate and hardware are ready.

Detail of tops of roof posts.
The close one is the outboard side.
The far is the inboard side.
Roof posts in post sleeves
and cross post in place.
I slid the posts into the sleeves and connected the two posts with another four-by-four. This is held in place by the aforementioned 9” lag bolts. The slats are 1” x 3” x 8’ furring strips. These I did purchase new. I fixed them with 10 x 1 ¼” all-purpose screws at a distance of 1 7/8”. This is made very easy by using two spacers after getting the first board in place. Place the spacers between the last mounted board and the next to be mounted, check the ends are even and screw it down. Repeat until done.
If you look closely, you can see the roof slat spacers between the bottom two slats on the near side. They await my getting two more furring strips. Rookie mistake.

You see how much better it looks from the finished side.
 There is still work to be done;
however, this is a blog post not a Russian novel.
There will be updates on this project. For the moment, this will have to do.

Thank you for stopping. Come again soon.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Chicken Shak

Welcome back to The Shak.

I thought that while I was updating I would give you a little status report on the chickens. They are a long way from chikdom. In fact, one of the Delawares, white ones, has begun laying pullet eggs. None of the others have yet gotten into the act.

Since the chickens pretty much take care of themselves and spend the daylight hours outside acting all goofy, I do not have a lot to say. I'll let the pictures do that. They were taken on or about 10 June, in and around the monstrous lilac near the little barn. Enjoy.

Thanks for stopping. Come again soon.


Welcome back to The Shak.

My effort to catch up on blogging continues. This will be rather shorter than my last few posts. It is nothing earth-shattering, but it may interest you nonetheless.

I am not exactly sure when I did the work. It may have been April. But whenever I did the work, I ended up with a compost pile.
After having trimmed many trees in the yard, I found myself with an abundance of relatively straight, long branches. I spent some time stripping off the little branches and piled the sticks around three sides of the area I wanted to cover.
With the sticks in place, I laid in grass clippings, rabbit droppings mixed with straw, cooking waste and whatever else I figured would compost. Then I covered it all with a layer of topsoil and watered it well.

I also ran hoses from the double basin in the courtyard through the fence. This keeps the water form the basins from draining into the courtyard and directs it where it is of use.
I have been dumping all I can in the composter. The whole thing gets rotated almost weekly. Which is  to say every time I clean the barn. The chickens scratch it up daily and I get all my fishing worms out of it. I just turn over a pitchfork full and pick them out. It also gives me a lot of highly nutritious mulch for the garden. I must be doing something right. It smells like dirt.

Thanks for stopping. Come again soon.