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It’s Just A Chicken Coop

chickI was what people around here would call a “Big City Girl” living in the far northeast United States working at the typical Big-Apple breakneck speed. The move-to-Alabama bug bit me when I was on the phone with a client from Birmingham. The clincher came at the end of the call. As he said his “goodbyes” and I affirmed all my “we’ll get right on its” he ended the call with what made up my mind. As he rang off he said, “Well, I’ll talk to you later… Peaches.” There was no doubt about it. I needed to move to a place where businessmen could call businesswomen… Peaches.

Home now is ten or so miles north of Auburn at the edge of Lee County on a bouncy dirt road that is found at the dead-end of a previous dirt road. I remember as a child people joked about someone living so far out directions were given using blinking-lights as landmarks. Traffic lights, blinking or otherwise, are a very long way from here. We use points of interest like “Pam’s Country Kitchen” and Pam really does own it, and it is hardly more than a kitchen and it is in the country. Everyone within a hundred mile radius has been there and can tell you all about the catfish plate she does on Friday nights. Her place is our local “blinking-light” and serves its purpose well.

Our first “farm” project was to raise chickens. I had moved here with a young computer programmer who worked for me… along with his wife and their two young kids. Being the only man on the property all the typical man-job-things fell to him. Of course. The fact that he’d never built anything or raised anything or farmed anything was entirely immaterial to the situation. In the country one makes “do” with what they’ve got and we had Computer-Guy-Turned-Country-Person. The start was shaky since he bought the chickens before he built the pen which then put him under the gun to get something over their heads since they were about to outgrow their nifty little starter cage. So off he went to the hardware store to buy all the tools and materials for our very own community chicken coop. That was right after he had me draw up the… plans. Yes. That’s right. Plans. While real country-boys might just use a little ingenuity and throw something together our guy would take part in no such activity. Our guy needed written plans complete with a list of tools and materials required. His most prized tool of the bunch was the builder’s level.

Computer–guy measured and leveled, sawed and leveled then shingled and wired and leveled for the better part of three days. My only contribution to the episode was to quietly remind him, “It’s just a chicken coop.” Being older and having seen more western movies with Mr.’s Wayne and Eastwood it was only expected that I would have a more mature handle on the fact that even at the unbelievable rate of $2-per-dozen … taking his workman’s salary potential as a programmer into consideration plus tallying up the cost of hammer, nails, chicken wire, builder’s level, etc… this particular crop of chickens would be dead and cold from old age long before the coop project was even close to having been a break-even proposition.

This chicken coop episode was right after arriving in the countrified backroads. Within a year we considered ourselves Alabama rural people. Several months and a lot of sliding around in red clay later our Mr. Fix It had taken my “it’s just a chicken coop” to heart. While the still rarely laying eggs chickens were living in the Cadillac-of-a-Coop … our brand new Computer-guy built pump house was braving its first winter. Yep. That chicken coop had just been part of the learning curve. This pump house had been slapped together in less than three hours and that included the trip to the hardware store. There were no plans. Very little forethought goes into stacking a bunch of cinderblocks (without the benefit of mortar) around the well pump, slapping a tarp over the top held in place by scrap lumber and warmed any night below freezing with an old electric kitchen heater whose cord was strung from the back porch plug with one of those handy-dandy everybody in the south owns at least three… orange extension cords.

Maybe that southern ingenuity stuff is transferred via some kind of osmosis through the clay. All that pump house lacked was a little well placed duct tape. At least it wasn’t just a chicken coop.

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