After writing this title I’m suddenly craving chicken with currants if there is such an entree…but I digress.
After my initial solar lighting test in the poultry house, I rewired the setup to have two lights to make it slightly brighter and distribute the light better. Tonight will be the final pre-chick test. More and more people are stopping by to see construction progress on the poultry houses and there’s been a consistent comment. “My house doesn’t have current but these chickens do, ” said with a mix of awe, appreciation, jealousy, and injustice as they look up at the solar lighting and wonder why a flock of fowl will be better off with electricity than themselves. I really don’t have a good answer.
Tumamee and I have been installing tarps (or as they’re called here “tarpoleenes”) over the perimeter of chicken wire. They can be rolled up during the day and down during rain, which is becoming more frequent as we march towards the rainiest months of August and September. I bought a 40′ x 40′ tarp that has been cut into 5′ strips to both fit our application and be most cost effective. As with many items I buy here, I’m concerned about durability/longevity in this intense sun and heat. I’d be amazed if they last more than a year before they’re spoiled by tough elements, rough handling, or both.
Bendu and Tumamee started the “official” preparations today. The gang of boys was hanging around as usual so we put them to work, too. We had stockpiled wood dust in the warehouse and needed to bag it for transporting to the poultry area. Forty-five rice bags later, our truck was sufficiently full in our estimation and we hauled it up the hill. We set out a large tarp and dumped out all the bags to allow the wood dust to dry in the sun (and they say it “disinfects” the wood dust…not sure if that’s accurate or if it’s just killing spores so we’re not laying out moldy bedding).We cleared the pen of all construction debris, swept it, and installed a 4-foot high section of tarp supported by ropes hanging from the 20-foot long central truss to partition the large space into a more appropriate half-size during the chicks first few weeks. Tumamee then sprayed the area with a bleach solution to disinfect it prior to laying down the wood dust.
Despite reservations by Tumamee and Bendu, we spread nearly all forty-five bags and Bendu distributed it with a “yard broom”, a primitive reed broom with a rustic stick handle (very colonial America looking). Going by the recommendations in a training manual in chicken rearing geared specifically towards Liberian farmers and provided by an AgriCorps staffer, the bedding should be 3″ deep. They were stopping with about an inch of wood dust. I felt the AgriCorps manual was well researched and tested in Liberia for years and we shouldn’t second guess the experts so I told them it must be 3″. They reluctantly complied to make me happy. I think we’re touching on a bit of the “we’ve always done it this way” thinking which may be hard to change. I anticipate they’ll go back to what they know after I leave…it’s tough battling human nature.
The workers started installing trusses on the second half of the first poultry house (pen #2). There’s a newfound vigor in the work crew with Sam here. Last night I walked to the poultry house to check out the lights and he was leading a crew meeting. Like a Scout Master telling stories around a campfire, the workers listened intently, hanging on every word and laughing in unison to jokes intertwined with moral lessons. He emphasized some interesting things for an all-testosterone meeting: love, respect, accountability, taking self-initiative, doing the job right so good references result. He’s a teddy bear in a linebacker body and has a clear alpha-male presence. I was impressed how he managed the meeting in such a way that rules of conduct were developed by the group and not imposed from above. Everyone was given an opportunity to air any grievances so nothing was left festering. When all were finished, rules reestablished, and team building complete, he ended with prayer. A true role model for all.
Around 7:00pm, I walked a short distance from the guesthouse on my way to turn on the newly rewired poultry lights and was startled by the sight of a massive glowing churning cloud forming above the campus. It’s hard to capture the enormity and inner light with my iPhone. I stared at it the whole walk.
I hit the light switch and was satisfied by the location and lumens. Now to confirm they stay on all night and this will be checked off of my pre-chick checklist (or “chicklist”).
Returning to the guesthouse the sunset was beautiful as the storm front approached from the south (left in this photo) with that bottom-moon sliver hanging brightly above it all.
I end with news of another death. John 2’s mother died after a five-year illness. He just told me the day before yesterday that the family was bringing her back to “the farm”. It sounded like she wanted to be home after struggling so long.