Jack of all trades, master of none

This is our dilapidated hen house.  We had a particularly wet winter, and it just kind of fell apart all at once.  If you’ve got sharp eyes, you’ll see that the siding is particle board, and think:   does she know ANYTHING about basic construction?

Nope, not much. Nor does my husband.  We might optimistically be called carpentry novices.  I at least knew that 2 X 4’s are not actually 2″ by 4″, unlike my husband when I met him; but on his side, he knew about the importance of bracing corners on things like trellises (my first solo construction project when we were still dating – a LONG time ago).  We have other strengths.

When we started keeping a laying flock about 12 years ago, the small hen house that came with the farm when we moved back here was holding together with some patching, but wasn’t strong enough for another move, and it was too far from the house to be practical for checking on eggs a couple times a day.  We wanted a bigger hen house in a different location.  Two tiny problems – a zero budget and an almost zero repertoire of construction skills.  We made do with the small house for a few years, but it really was inconveniently small and far away.

He was at the hardware store one day and noticed they had a sale on garden shed kits.  Dragged me back to have a look.  For less than $1000, we could get all the wood, hardware, roofing material and instructions (the best part) to build a hen house.  I knew enough to point out that particle board does not do well with moisture (ie rain), but with our low budget, we decided to go for it anyway,  and replace the siding when we could afford it.

The kit came on a flat bed truck that got stuck in the driveway entrance, which was fun, but eventually we had all the pieces laid out.  We sat down to watch the 10 minute dvd that came with it.  The two guys in the demo chatted casually to the audience while throwing together this shed with one hand each – and they stopped for a coffee break in between.  Easy, peasy.

We got started the next morning.  Worked on it for three days.   It was not as much fun as the DVD made it look.  But we finished it!  We’d completed our first major construction project and were still married.

That was about 8 years ago.  The particle board is in terrible shape.  I think rats like the taste of it – we’ve patched a LOT of holes.  Chunks of trim fell away in the rain this winter.  The budget is in better shape nowadays, we have sheets of plywood in the barn, new trim, etc.  I can use a couple of power tools now, and he’s repaired a lot of broken things since then.  So one of the major projects this summer is the hen house.  It’s been a long learning curve.  Having at least basic handyman skills is crucial to farming.  We started without them and it really hindered our plans.  If you’re starting out and in this position – go take a night course, help a friend build his dog house, hire a teenager, something.  Don’t let a lack of skill be the thing that stalls your plans.

We feel so much more qualified now to tackle this project – no DVD needed.  We may not be masters of the trade exactly, but we’re getting closer to the jack of the trade level.

4 thoughts on “Jack of all trades, master of none

  1. df says:

    Would love to hear how you get on with your new hen-house; we want to jump in and get chickens this year, and are in the position of having to build something from scratch.

    • I’ve been reading your blog, and I think you and I are in reverse positions – your are dug deep into the veg production, but just gearing up for the chickens, I have been “doing” chickens for more than a decade, and have just started getting back to the veg garden, having forgotten as much as I’ve ever known about how to do it well – which is why I have my eye on your blog 🙂

  2. I linked to this article recently on my blog. Here’s are some highlights.
    “I had always wanted to own a cow and watch it cropping my grass while I dreamed the days away.”
    “I felt there was a certain nobility in what I was doing, learning by trial and error, learning as the cavemen learned, as the race has always learned.”
    “My red-and-white bovine had already led me to the matrimonial altar, forced me to undertake a course in blasting, taught me something of geology, made me a pig-raiser, a glazier, a plumber, and now a combination garage mechanic and miner.”
    “My hogs were big and it was time to butcher them. I decided I’d buy some more tools and go ahead and learn to butcher. Hadn’t I already become something of a carpenter, plumber, blacksmith, painter, lumberjack, tinsmith, mechanic, and veterinary?”

    “Occasionally I recalled with awe a vision of myself sitting on a boarding-house porch with nothing to do, thinking life was a vacuum.”

    Jack of all trades…even if reluctantly.

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