how i learned to stop fearing and start loving stripped screws.



last week i spilled a glass of water on the butcher block next to stove which somehow shorted the “meat probe” wiring and rendered the oven non-functional.

even though this site doesn’t recommending fixing it yourself, i thought it was worth a try. i mean, how hard could it be to take the side of the stove off and repair the wiring?

turns out, you have to take the top of the stove off before you can take the side off and before you can take the top off you have to remove the burners which are attached with torx screws. and one of the torx was so corroded from one too many boiled over pots of water that i couldn’t remove it.

what to do? a quick googling of “how to remove a stripped torx screw” revealed this handy video showing how to use a “screw extractor” and it turns out the fine folks at our local hardware store had a “grabit” extractor in stock for the low, low price of $13.

after years of fearing stripped screws on home projects, could it really be just that easy to remove them? why yes, it is.

just use the drilling end of the tool to give the extractor end something to grip on to and you’re in business. easy peasy. i have no idea how i made this long without knowing such a tool existed.

reaping the benefits of an insulated nesting box.



the sub-zero temperatures over the past week have provided a good test about whether or not it was worth the effort to insulate the nesting box in an attempt to prevent frozen eggs.

The Conventional Wisdom folks said the insulation wouldn’t make a difference and unless we were able to collect the eggs throughout the day ( not a possibility ), we’d probably end up with a 25% of the eggs frozen by the time we got to them.

we haven’t had a single frozen egg so far this winter.

preparing breakfast for The Girls.



while it’s true that chickens are not particularly picky about what they eat, we have discovered that they do certainly have preferences and The Girls are quite fond of salad greens and yogurt ( all organic of course ).

the salad greens are great because the’re nutritious and they help maintain the deep orange color of their yolks.

there is some debate about feeding yogurt to chickens since they are lactose intolerant, but others say yogurt with live cultures is just fine since the probiotics break down the lactose and the benefits of probiotic cultures on the chickens gastrointestinal tract outweighs the risk of lactose intolerance ( diarrhea ).

i’ve never noticed any runny poop or other effects after giving them yogurt, but i really have no idea if the probiotics in the yogurt is actually helping them. all i know is they lurve the yogurt!



and when i say they loooooooooove it, i mean They Love It. as in, even after i bring them their regular chicken feed, they keep looking at me likem, “hey, seriously, are you bringing us the good stuff?” and when i do bring it out they don’t even wait for me to put it down before they start diving it ( there is a full fresh tray of chicken feed behind them in this photo ).

although i don’t know for sure if the probiotics are helping them, i do know The Girl who was feeling under the weather recovered relatively quickly and didn’t die ( which is what many people who have chickens privately told me was probably going to happen ).

a clue left by our Under the Weather hen?



i have no idea if this is related to our Girl who is feeling under the weather, but it is a curious coincidence that the day she got sick one of The Girls laid an egg that looks unlike any other egg we’ve seen from them.

i’m not even sure how you’d describe it. mostly mottled? the shell doesn’t seem otherwise affected. this site seems to indicate mottling means the egg didn’t dry out quickly after laying but i can’t tell from the photograph if that’s actually what happened to the egg we found.

perhaps it’s indicative of some sort of viral infection or nutritional deficiency that’s related to the illness? or just a red herring?

update: informed sources tell me that the mottling is just a coincidence and not related to the illness.

update again: hmmm. more clues? the under the weather hen just laid a egg with a shell so weak it broke with the slightest touch.

odin’s new year wish makes the newspaper!



i have no idea how it happened but somehow odin was asked for a “kid on the street” quote for the newspaper on his wish for the people of viroqua in the coming year.

of course, the first part warms my heart; it sure is nice to know he’s got the “talking points” down :-)

i asked him about wishing that everyone could have wooden doors with big windows.

“well, i really like our door. it’s a really nice door and i think everyone would be really happy if they could have a door just like it.”

update: kris just told me that the person who wrote the article called odin because she knew he would come up with something wise and witty!

The Mysteriously Impervious Material in the cedar closet.



in a testament to my powers of procrastination, for – oh – about five years since we moved in, i’ve been thinking about putting shelves in a closet in our 100 year old house that was, curiously, lacking any. it’s a big space, about 9 feet long and 2 feet deep, and installing shelves could cure The Clutter Problem that continues to plague us. such a simple project! why had it taken me so long to just drill some holes and hang the shelves?

it never once occurred to me to ask why prior home owners had never installed shelves.

the answer quickly revealed itself when i tried to drill holes in the cedar to install screw anchors. after boring quickly through the wood, the bit immediately stopped against something very, very solid. i thought maybe the drill bit was dull so i went to our local hardware store and purchased a shiny, new titanium bit that advertised itself as being good for all materials except metal.

nothing. no amount of pushing, pounding or tapping could get the drill to make the slightest bit of progress. so, using Impeccable Powers of Logic, i went back to the hardware store i went to buy a special masonry bit on the assumption that if the titanium bit wasn’t working that i must be working against some sort of concrete or brick. our house has a stucco exterior and plaster interior walls so brick or concrete under the cedar would be a bit of a mystery, but sometimes 100 year old houses like to keep secrets.

since i learned long ago that there’s nothing that can’t be helped with an extra helping of elbow grease, i really leaned into the masonry bit with great gusto while drilling at high speed. but despite all my huffing and sweating and cursing i managed to produce nothing more than curious wisps of smoke around the cedar hole.

and eventually i managed to simultaneously break the 5/16″ masonry bit shaft and bend the end of the bit. not that’s talent. i took it back to the fine folks at nelson’s agri-center and they were so impressed they gave me a free replacement, though it was a headscratcher for the Nice Man behind the service counter. “you sure you ain’t trying to drill through metal? i’ve never seen a burnt and bent masonry bit. maybe try starting small and work your way up to 5/16ths.”

so armed with a variety of masonry bits i went home and started small with an 1/8th inch bit. which promptly snapped after i applied too much pressure and let it get too hot.

eventually after a few more trips to the hardware store i finally discovered the secret to penetrating the impervious mystery material – go slow, don’t apply too much pressure, don’t the bit get too hot and work slowly up through 4 bit sizes from 1/8th to 5/16th. patience is the key.



success! finally! nearly 50 square feet of shelving where there had been none. now i just need to come up with some sort of organizational system for the shelves. and a door for the 92 inch opening. ah, the joys of never ending projects.



the mystery still remains, though, as to the true nature of The Mysteriously Impervious Material. the cedar closet is in room that was an addition to house at some point after the original construction and it’s built on what would have been an exterior wall. all interior walls are plaster, but on a previous project when i was installing a new light in our bathroom, i discovered a hole under vanity on the exterior-facing interior wall. i was surprised to find over-sized bricks, right under the plaster and lathe.

i assume all the exterior walls are brick? perhaps the owners just put cedar over the brick in the closet and didn’t even bother putting up plaster? was our house originally brick and stuccoed over later? or is this some sort of special Magically Impervious Stucco Brick?

day 2387: one of The Girls is feeling under the weather.



well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. it appears that one of The Girls, a barred rock isn’t feeling well. when she took food out the coop at sunset, kris noticed she was standing with her beak in the corner of the coop, uninterested in feast which is quite unusual.

upon closer inspection we noticed her eyes were nearly closed and she was shaking and shivering. she’s not sneezing and her breathing sounds normal – not raspy – and she doesn’t have any mucous around her eyes or diarrhea so i don’t think she has a virus. or at least she’s not showing the typical signs of a virus.

even though it’s wasn’t as cold today as it has been in past weeks we thought perhaps she just got cold, so we brought her in the house to get warmed up.

of course, odin is Very Concerned about her health and sat with her petting her and telling her to rest and Get Better Soon.

she looked rather pathetic when she first came inside but eventually she opened her eyes and looked less, well, floppy than she does in this photo.



i can’t find much information on shivering hens that lack any other symptoms. most of the advice seems to be to along the lines of what we’re already doing – bring them inside, warm them up and try to get them to drink and eat. we made her some hot porridge with cracked corn which The Girls usually devour but even hours later she’s disinterested in it and actively refusing water even if we try to give it to her with an eye dropper.

i’m not sure what else to do. any advice is mightily appreciated.

update: 24 hours later and she’s still alive ( several people have told me privately that by the time they get to the shivering, shaking, no eating stage, more often than not they’ll be dead soon )!

she started slowly taking food and water this morning and she’s much more alert and less lethargic. she was so interested in not staying in her box and wandering around the house that we had to send her to the front porch. which was fortuitous move since she’s now expelling liquid diarrhea that’s really, really nasty smelling and not really brown – more like a clear-to-yellow viscous liquid.

all other signs except for the diarrhea are positive. maybe she’s just working through a stomach flu?

day 2378: learning the ancient art of aerogami.



i remember quite fondly building paper airplanes with my grandfather, so it’s neat that odin had taken an interest in the ancient art of folding paper into flying forms. according to wikipedia, the art likely began around 400 BCE and while innumerable children haven enjoyed making gliders over the centuries just for the fun of it, smart folks like leonardo da vinci and the the wright brothers have also made them to study the principles of flight.

i wonder if da vinci ever drew flames on his creations?



i’m taking a hybrid approach with odin. he thinks we’re just having fun building planes but by trying different designs and seeing how differently they perform, i think he might be absorbing some complicated principles of aeronautics.

we’ve just been finding plans by googling “paper airplane designs”, if anyone has any suggestions for books or websites, i’d love to hear them.

day 2375: art of the knight life.



in addition to asking santa for some snow tires for christmas, odin also asked for a knight’s outfit. sword, sheath, shield, head garb. thankfully he didn’t ask for a full suit of armor, just the basics to add the right amount of authenticity to imagined Authurian Adventures with friends.

i suspect santa thought it was a pretty neat request because he came through in A Big Way.

odin was so pleased with the gifts he painted a picture of himself in the outfit that i could “take to work”.

so thoughtful – thank you odin.