Sunday, May 29, 2016

Ignorance Of The Law

First, Happy Memorial Day as we honor those who died for our right to a free American life. As you picnic and celebrate, remember to give thanks to those who are no longer with us, allowing us the liberty we have.

How often have you heard that line?  Now, for the salt in the wound - I retired from the federal court system.  You have NO idea how many times I heard that cliche phrase: Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

As a "happy" farmer and proud owner of 18 chickens and a brand new chicken coop, you'd think all is well.  Unfortunately, to quote Professor Hill of "The Music Man" - You got trouble right here in River City. (BTW, if you click on the link, you can hear the song from musical.)

Yup!  I ran into trouble - not so much with the city as the township.  Seems I crossed the line with the building of my chicken coop.  I was told by several friends, family, and other people that if you put up a temporary building, you don't need a permit or approval.

Ah, yeah. About that. Seems I was being ignorant of the law.  MY township has rules and codes and one of them is a simple thing.  ANY structure needs a permit.

Seems simple enough.  Take my hand slap, buy a permit, and apologize for my ignorance, promising not to do it again.

Oops!  Seems the building is "in front" of my house slightly and not off the property line by a minimum of 5 feet.  Oh, also, it needs to be 15 feet from the house.

Since it is a 'temporary' structure, it can be moved.  Supposedly, the contractor built my home 35 feet from the property line.  That's plenty of space to move the coop back a foot, keep it 15 feet from the house and still remain over 5 feet from the property line.

Hm?  Seems the online satellite image of my property shows the house a mere 25 feet from the property line. Doing some quick math - 15 house offset + 5 foot property line offset gives me a whopping 5 feet to work with.  Uh, the coop is 8x12 with 6 inch overhangs for a size of 9x13. Anyone with a feeble knowledge of math can quickly realize this isn't going to work.

So, my sons are bringing over a laser sight to show the property line and we'll work from that information.  If the line is 35 feet from the house, we will move the shed.  If the distance is truly 25 feet - the only place available to maintain the chickens will be the floodplain and that is not a feasibility since it is also close to the woods - which will tempt all the woodland critters who enjoy chicken dinners as well as I do... and snakes that enjoy eggs.  Not a good working environment.

Again, ignorance of the law is not an excuse.  I have a beautiful 8x12 structure that may soon be nothing more than smoke and ash if I can't resolve this.

Don't even consider the word variance.  When I bought my permit and we discussed placement of the structure, I uttered the word variance.  The guy was nice enough but assured me the trustees have a simple way of handling all variance requests - deny.  I guess they haven't approved a variance in years.  I know the night (over 10 years ago) we got approval to change our property from farmland to residential, they denied a variance request unanimously.

Uh, that might be another issue.  I'm considered residential.  Chickens might be frowned upon.  I figure I will cross that bridge this week when I know the guy who approves permits comes out to check on the property lines since there seems to be a 10 foot difference.

On a brighter note - my tomatoes are planted outside, my garlic is coming along quite well - so far and I finally got my onion sets planted.  I also planted 2 green pepper plants.  I went in search of a couple flowers to plant to accent my orange petunias.  I decided white would do it.  My wife thought yellow would be pretty - so I got some yellow ones, too.  Then she found a deep purple with small yellow throat petunia.  She no longer cared about my orange petunias and wanted the yellow to surround the purple one.  So she won that battle and it is now growing in the large planter on front steps.  I put the orange petunias with the white petunias, a light and dark purple sweet alyssum and lime green sweet potato vines on the ends.  So far, they look pretty and the orange petunias should start blooming in the next week or two.

I still have the green beans and beets to plant in the raised garden bed.  I decided to casually throw the sweet corn in the old backyard garden, along with cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash.  I know that sounds silly but raccoons don't line vines so maybe they will leave my sweet corn alone.  I don't plan to weed the patch.  It may work - it may not work.  Hopefully, I'll get something out of the patch since the ground is uneven and my lawn service (#1 son) doesn't like to mow it with his rider - which I understand.  So much experimental gardening this year.

On the writing front, I decided to make a major change to my next Amish novel.  By doing so, I'm now psyched to get writing on it again. In fact, the idea energized me so much, I want to write and write but realize I have other obligations to address - like an edit job for another client.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Proud Farmer

This was an exciting week. I didn't plan to transplant my seedlings and hoped to just move them into the final spots in their dinky little 2-inch peat pots.


I noticed roots spreading along the sides of one of the pots, took another look and noticed that several had roots showing.  Not a good sign... well, yes, a good sign of healthy plants, but for growing, it is like discovering your pants are two inches too short, or the sleeve not reaching the wrist... or worse yet, buttons being stretched to the full bulge limit.

My baby plants needed bigger homes and needed them sooner than I wanted to admit.  We're still having nights that get a little brisk and tender seedlings like tomatoes just wouldn't make it and since I'm not an early riser - uh, 9am is early for me - having them covered and protected from the harsh night would mean under covers that would overheat them in the bright morning sunlight.

So, like a good parent, I transplanted my seedlings into bigger pots.  The tomatoes all went into 5-inch peat pots where I know they can grow sufficiently for the next week or two with no repercussions. The geraniums, petunias, and impatiens moved into 3-inch peat pots.  So far, everybody seems happy in their new homes.  Take a look:

Most of the seedlings in their new homes - tomatoes (Roma, Rutgers, Beefsteak and Mortgage Lifter) along with mixed geraniums, impatiens, and petunias

A couple of the 10 geraniums, don't know the colors - yet.

My two impatiens, colors unknown. Notice the size difference, same day planting. Hm?

Two of the 4 petunias - African Sunset, a true orange petunia. To see the color,Click This Link
And, I promised pictures of the finished chicken coop and as promised, here they are. The coop is basically an 8x12 building and the fenced chicken run is 10x16 and about 5 ft high at the peak. The run has fence on 3 sides, along the base of the coop and, of course, over the top.  There is a door on the side of the coop nearest the RV and another one to access the chicken run.  The run door is originally a display sign at a local hardware chain store where we purchased the windows you see in the pictures, two on the front and a larger side window.  My son cut a small section from the base to make it fit and with the 4x4 base to help secure it, the door is great.  All the fencing is secured with tie-strips about every 4-6 inches to keep it 'critter' proof.  I still need to add the fencing for the base to completely enclose it, but I need to find somebody to help bring in a truckload of pea gravel to pour over the fence when I put it in.  I want about 2 inches of gravel so the chickens don't have to walk on the wire - plus the gravel might invite some "live" chicken food.

Some of my chickies - two types: Red Cross (bigger ones in brown) and ISA which are light brown and white and about 4 or 5 weeks younger.  But everybody gets along - for the most part.

Another angle of the chicken run

The door I described, and to the left, the white-ish chicken is "Snow" as my one granddaughter named it.

We had a lot of rain and I had some rubber mats out and worms and other bugs collected under them for protection.  That was short-lived.  My sons, while finishing up the coop decided to have some fun. As the #2 son worked on the coop chicken door inside the fenced area, #1 and #3 decided to pick up the mat and grabbed several worms and bugs to throw into the chicken run.  The chickens had a field day with the delicacies. #2 happened to see it and yelled "Sure, go ahead, teach them to be carnivores while I'm still in here! Just what we need, Killer Chickens." They all got into a fit of laughter until I told them, due to the height of the roof of the run, I was going to have my youngest grandchildren and then the great-grandkids go in when needed.  Suddenly it wasn't so funny to them. "No way, dad!" they exclaimed. "Not in the pen with the Raptors! Have a heart!  They'll be pecked alive!"

Needless to say, farming can be fun.

And, on that note, so can writing... and editing.  Right now I'm editing a story for a client. The story is really exciting and I get reading and forget to edit until I read a really blatant mistake.  Edits are going slower than anticipated but I love the storyline.

Hoping all the mothers, young and old, had a great Mother's Day.  We have four sons - they all checked in for the day.  In fact, one brought over t-bone steaks to grill. My darling wife had a great day and I topped it off by taking her out to Burger King, using a coupon to get us 2 Whopper Jr burgers, 2 small fries and a big cup of icy cold water to drink. Okay, I also got her an order of onion rings that she so loves.  I'm such a romantic and expense was no issue, obviously. LOL.  We ate our meal as I drove around on some back roads enjoying the scenery, even going almost 20 miles to the church where we got married and it all started.  It was just an enjoyable evening.

Until next I ramble on...

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Writing Spree

First, let me make a little announcement.

For a short time, I am offering my editing services at a discounted price of $.75/page which should be double-spaced, 12 pt Times Roman, and have 1 inch margins.  If you have any other questions, please check out my editing page:

Now, with that out of the way - I can't explain what happened last week.  Call it "Miss Muse" came to visit.  Call it "enlightenment."  Call it 'creativity.'  Call it whatever you want.  It was a writing fury.

Yes, I was in a writing frenzy.  For some reason, a novel I worked on for NaNoWriMo back in 2013 caught my attention and I decided to do a complete rewrite of the story, changing, of course, the main plot line quite a bit. The original plot was:

Jolene works at Pop's Burger Joint with Henry who constantly asks her to marry him. The restaurant is owned by Ben Masters who once prospected for gold and invested in the restaurant. Now Ben is old and is considering retirement. He has contacted his only next of kin, Ben Jr., his estranged son, who finally shows to find out why the cryptic letter was sent. Ben Jr's wife has already made plans for the restaurant. Ben has set the stage and all the players must perform their part. The one who performs in the manner which Ben has established in his will gets to inherit the restaurant and the treasure within. But what exactly is this treasure... within?

Now I have changed things up a tad.  Sure Henry is still asking Jolene to marry him, but Ben, the owner, has discovered he has only months to live. He has pancreatic cancer. He has contacted his estranged son who has responded to the cryptic message and brought his wife and son back to his hometown. But we now discover Ben has another child who is eligible to inherit. Things only get more interesting. But the bottom line is ... exactly what is this treasure... within?

Last week  (Saturday) I was at 8,000 words but realized I needed to add a couple of new characters and change some of the plot lines. The week had been a frenzy of writing, indeed.  Right now I have a total of almost 14,000 words written on the new story.

In addition to everything else I've done this week, by the end of Friday, I had written another almost 6,000 words in five (5) days.

This weekend was a total loss for writing.  My sons came to visit and work on projects around the house, mainly, the chicken coop, so I was busy helping my wife fix meals for the 'crew.' LOL.  Good news!  The chicken coop now has a working 'slide' door for protecting the chickens at night. In the morning, I pull a rope and the door slides up.  At night, I can release it and the door slides shut. I no longer need to bend over to walk in the chicken run to open the door in the morning and close the door at night.  YAY!!  Plus, the shingle roof was put on.  Now I just need to stain it for the summer and then get the siding and inside paneling this fall so I can insulate the building for the winter.

My new neighbor from the down the road came over to introduce himself. He bought the property next to me last Friday.  He was impressed with the chicken run.

On a different topic - health - I decided to go back on my old diet this week and I already am noticing my weight dropping.  It appears I've lost a couple of pounds.  I won't know for sure until I go in later this week, but I'm feeling better... okay, somewhat.

Let me explain.  I've been having sharp pains on my right side, directly underneath the lower rib cage. I thought I might have pinched myself when trying to catch the chickens when I was leaning over the walls of the brooder area in the basement.  My granddaughter, a medical type, thinks it could be gall bladder issues since she just had her's removed.  My wife tends to agree with my granddaughter.  The pain let up somewhat yesterday and hasn't been as intense today.  I noticed I sat hunched over, pushing my rib cage down into my protruding tummy ... which may have caused the pain, so I've been sitting upright with a straight back the last few days.  So the family can rest assured I'm okay, I've agreed to see a doctor this week... or so I said.  I'll see how I feel over the next couple of days.

As mentioned above, I was so involved in writing, I almost didn't notice that my garden plants I had growing inside the house were getting thirsty.  I almost lost the tomato plants - they wanted water.  I watered them and prayed they'd survive.  Whew!  They drank the water and pretty soon were standing back up again.  Almost time to plant them outside - I don't want to lose them now.  In fact, this week I'll be re-potting them into larger pots before they go outside in about 2 more weeks.  Yes, they are getting THAT big.  I have to move them into 5 inch pots.

Until next I ramble on...