No Free Lunch


I used to like wildlife until I realized they were little more than furry thieves. I’ve been derided several times for my particular hatred of coons and squirrels (I like to call them “Tree Rats”), but people don’t seem to get upset over possums and snakes. Maybe it’s their cheeky antics. If snakes and possums had more than one facial expression and engaged in entertaining shenanigans, maybe I’d be yelled at for killing them, too.

Part of the homesteading mindset is consume that which you produce. Another part is to minimize waste, maximize resources, and innovate to create imaginative uses for otherwise used up items. The next time you drive by a yard full of rusty cars and a barn packed with “junk,” think of it as someone’s supply depot. A Redneck Re-purposing Center, if you will.

Liberals and hippies with their reduced carbon footprint to save the planet ethos love this sort of stuff, but until somebody makes an electric truck that can match mine on performance and beats it on cost to purchase, operate, and dispose of, anybody who thinks I’ll abandon internal combustion is smoking too much of whatever it is they grow on the back forty.

Having said that, I’m exceedingly interested in alternate forms of energy when it makes dollars and sense. Just quit trying to get me to spend two dollars to save one.

VZM.IMG_20150527_185020 (2)As the types and numbers of livestock I keep increase, new challenges present themselves. A recently constructed chicken coop and freshly fenced off run were flooded by runoff from a spring thunderstorm a week after completion. I hadn’t taken into consideration exactly how much water can run through the culvert at that end of the property.

Luckily, despite being dumb and mean, chickens do have a survival instinct, so they spent a sleepless night perched above the flood waters waiting for them to recede. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one awake.

VZM.IMG_20150527_184857 (2)Even though the water wasn’t very deep, it was swift enough to be a concern. Experience with flash floods leaves a lasting memory, so I wasn’t overly thrilled at the prospect of wading out there to be pecked by panicked pullets. The chickens would wait in vain for a rescue. I don’t think they have forgiven me for that decision.

I don’t think I make bad decisions so much as I have good ideas that I build upon until they collapse under their own weight.

The chicken run ended up having more square footage than my first apartment. The rabbit hutch is better constructed than my house, and after putting in a watering system, my little fuzzy bunnies live better than the average Pakistani. The fact that I call their hutch a “rabbit condo” tells you something about the way I do things.

The daunting prospect of a self-reliant homesteader lifestyle isn’t the work. Even though there is a fair amount of it depending on size, scale, and numbers, efficiency comes with experience. It’s the I’ve got an idea moments that get me in trouble every time.

IMG_0390A simple chicken watering rig put together with PVC pipe attached to a five-gallon bucket had to be completely started over with new pipe, new bucket, and new watering nipples after I couldn’t get any of the three to seal enough to stop leaking.

The damn thing leaked like a pipe organ. After two days of cursing, breaking parts, and chain smoking, I admitted defeat and made a trip to town.

In my area of the world, Home Depot has better prices, but when I need a goofy part or advice to prevent electrocuting myself, Lowes is the place to go. I hadn’t finished explaining my project to the plumbing associate when he held up a single finger, said “Follow me,” and headed two aisles over.

It seems I’m not the first person he’s encountered with more ambition than ability.

I don’t know the name of this fitting because I was so excited that I forgot to ask. I knew it was perfect the moment I laid eyes on it. The plumbing associate stood there smiling like Indiana Jones’ head guide when he led Indy to the golden statue.

IMG_0387Of course, while trying to escape the giant bolder that chased me through the aisles toward the cash registers, I somehow managed to pick up a thread and tap kit.

I shouldn’t say somehow. It’s not like I tripped, and it fell into my hands. This was my wife’s doing. She likes tools just as much as I do, and since the water nipples were threaded, it was a perfect reason to acquire another tool. She’s pretty smart like that.

IMG_0132Oh, and we had to buy another bucket because the hole in the first one was too large for the new fitting. Actually, we bought three buckets because…well, because you never know when you’re going to need another bucket on the homestead. There’s a list of things like fence posts, wire, and three-inch deck screws that you always want to have around because they don’t take up much space and the need for them is near constant.

Buckets are on that list, too. They are useful and versatile. I’ve mentioned the multitude of uses they can be put to around the farm or construction site:

  • Chairs
  • Work benches
  • Sawhorses
  • Step-stools
  • Garbage cans
  • Planters
  • Wash basins
  • Toolboxes
  • Emergency toilet (Line it with a garbage bag first. You’ll thank me later.)

Port OuthouseOther containers I’ve found useful are metal garbage cans. Of course, in this modern era in which we live, I know precious few people who put traditional garbage cans out on the curb for pickup. If you have any sort of garbage service at all, most of the companies have switched over to those big plastic monstrosities on wheels with a lid that pops open every time the wind blows.

Yeah, they work well enough for their intended purpose, but try carrying one into your kids’ room banging a stick around the inside to wake them up at sunrise on a Sunday morning to mow the lawn. Municipal garbage service has taken all the fun out of being a parent.

Up on the deck of my house is a row of metal garbage cans that line the wall. Each one neatly labeled to indicate their contents; Rabbit Feed, Chicken Feed, Alfalfa, Dog Food, and Hey. I’m pretty sure that last marking was a subtle joke, since my mailbox is similarly identified; “Male.”

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell in my family if we’re rednecks or just playing the part.

These metal garbage can came with snug metal lids that keep out water and, so far, pesky wildlife looking for a free meal. I trapped and hunted the woods around the house very heavily this winter, so between that, some preventative measures, and general harassment of everything that isn’t supposed to be there by the dog, I haven’t noticed any real problems. Every now and then, we’ll find evidence of where something tried to get into them and gave up in frustration.

The dog seems embarrassed when I point that out to him.

IMG_0420Whether securing the food for livestock or the animals themselves, we go to a lot of trouble to protect our resources. The chickens have their coop inside a fenced run that is inside a larger fenced area that makes up the back yard. The rabbits are in raised cages inside the yard, as well. We let the dog patrol at will. Even though they won’t admit it, I suspect the cats get in on the action, too. I’ve heard some hellacious goings on in the dark after I’ve turned in.

It’s not the setup I ultimately desire. It’s too insecure for my taste, but neither the property nor the landlord will support me erecting substantial permanent structures. Those plans are on hold until I secure ownership of the land on which I will live the rest of my life.

I may have to institute some nuisance trapping, if I begin to notice eggs, or worse yet, chickens missing. I understand the argument of the wild animals being there first. I understand the position and I reject it. My responsibility is to my family and the animals we husband. I don’t mind them living around me, but they are the animal equivalent of Portuguese third-cousins visiting from Massachusetts. They plop their fat asses down on the couch of a virtual stranger and expect to be fed from my larder.

At least, the visiting cousins don’t shit in the flower bed to add insult to injury. Well, usually they don’t.

No. Them critters can find food someplace else. I have plenty of my own mouths to feed. If the little patch of earth I jealously protect is the difference between some forest dweller eating and starving, that’s just too bad. Those animals will have to adjust their territory.

Fair warning to wildlife entering the borders of the Cunha Homestead: The laws of my state put you at a distinct disadvantage in terms of crop and property damage. “You lose every single time” seems to be the philosophy. I suspect the folks who wrote those laws kept livestock, too.

We don’t take prisoners. We don’t relocate so that you become someone else’s problem. We don’t ask you nicely to leave like some bouncer in an overpriced nightclub. You are met with violence for taking what is ours.

You coons, possums, coyotes, foxes, and snakes will extend your lifespans significantly by keeping that in mind.

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12 thoughts on “No Free Lunch

    • Thank you. I appreciate each compliment and every set of eyes.
      I post once a week, unless something really catastrophic happens. And even then, I have some stuff in my hip pocket for emergencies.
      Good Southern Boys prepare for stuff to go wrong. 😉

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  1. […] On average, I’ve been called a racist about every two and a half hours over the past month. I suspect I’m doing something right. Not so much because I enjoy having venom spat at me (even though it’s kinda tasty in sweet tea), but because I’m a bit of a sadist. Watching smug Liberals come positively unglued is both entertainment and a piece of performance art I get to experience for free. […]

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