Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Roof Is Going On!

Roger Meyer and Charlie Myhre putting on the first sheet of roofing.

Finally good weather!! Temperatures 80 degrees or less and no rain is a great recipe for getting work done on the owl cages. The guys have been able to work full days this week for the most part. (With the nice weather, Laurel has had to bug out a few hours here and there to rake and bale hay.) Roger and Laurel are also being joined by Charlie Myhre from Fountain this week. And thankfully Charlie is as agile as a monkey, so he's the one running around in and amongst the trusses 12 feet up in the air!

So the framing is done, the trusses are up, and the roof may be entirely on by the end of the day today. It's really starting to look like something!

My big "project" was to figure out where the walls should be covered with slats, where they should be solid, and where they should be covered with chain link. I'm not that great at visualizing things on paper so I went out into the cages and walked around, pretending I was a Great Horned Owl. What is the female sitting on the nest going to want to see or not see? What about an owl taking a bath? Where will they want to sit in the sun? How can you give the youngsters in the flight cage a view without them wanting to fly into the wire? Walking around in the cages helped me to figure this out, so I came up with a plan for Roger. Hopefully the owls will agree with my assessment of what they need for mental health, physical health, and for safety. Time will tell!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's going up!!

WOW!!! The cages are starting to look like cages!! At least the breeding cage, anyway.

Still dodging heavy rains (we got 3" last night and over 2" the day before) and heat and humidity (heat index around 95 or so), Roger and Laurel are working away to put up the frame of the breeding cage. Thankfully Roger had the foresight to make sure the site had good drainage and Tim Nelson had the skills and equipment to make it happen, so the mud isn't hindering them. And it REALLY helps that the gravel was already laid on the floor of the cages, so there is NO mud at all there.

The heat and humidity have been harder to deal with than the rain. The guys have been starting about 8 AM but have to call it quits by 1 or 2 PM. (You can't blame them...they're volunteers and ages 72 and 83!!) But they keep coming every day, and it's starting to look like something fast.

Monday they were joined by Charlie Myhre of Fountain, MN. Charlie is a gopher trapper from Fountain and actually grew up near where I did. We've been doing deals in gophers for a while, and now he's willing to lend a hand on the cages as time allows. He should be back again this week to help speed things along.

My fiance, Hein Bloem, is back in Holland, and has been since May 23. I was skyping with him yesterday when Roger and Laurel came inside for an air conditioned lunch break, so they had a visit with Hein too. Roger assured him that they would make sure to leave some work for him so he couldn't just waltz back into the picture when all was said and done. Hein plans to return about July 14, after his immigration interview at the Consulate in Amsterdam.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dodging the Rain

Roger and Laurel spend a lot of time on their knees....

It's been raining so much lately it's been hard to make much progress, but Roger and Laurel have been doing everything they can. A couple of days when it DIDN'T rain they pulled CAT 5 wires through sections of PVC pipe to lay in the trench that runs from the cages to the house. Ace Communications Group donated 1500' of CAT 5 wiring and an 8-switch box for the security camera setup we'll be using to monitor the owls. The guys strung three strands of wire plus a pull wire into the tubes, glued the tubes together, and buried it all in the trench. Only one strand of CAT 5 is needed between the cages and house, but built in redundancy is a good thing because you never know what might go wrong! Now that the trenches are all filled in it's going to be a lot easier to mow the lawn.

Tim and Craig Nelson spreading rock on the cage floor.

In between rain showers Tim Nelson and son Craig came back to spread the rock on the cage floor. They did the initial dozer work to level the site, and this time they were moving yards and yards and yards and yards of rock. They spread 2" rock first to help with drainage, then covered it with a good layer of pea gravel. This surface will be good for the bird's feet, plus it's relatively easy to clean. The rock is spread on top of a layer of shade cloth (donated by Houston Hoedown Days) which serves as a weed barrier.

The cool part is about to begin!

There has been sooooooooooooooo much ground work that has gone into this project, but it's not as dramatic as seeing the walls go up. Today they're starting to move lumber from my yard back to the cage site to get things ready to go on Monday. As you can see, it's still a sloppy mess back there. They're trying to work around the mud as much as possible. There's still rain in the forecast, but I've decided that we've had enough rain now and it should dry out instead.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Yes, They're Crazy

Laurel and Roger working in the mud.
Roger is serious about this project and isn't wasting time. He isn't going to let a little (or a lot) of rain put a stop to the work! So he and Laurel have been out working rain or shine. Laurel said last Friday that he grew about six inches thanks to all the mud that caked on the bottom of his boots while they worked. So what have they been doing in the rain? Starting to run CAT 5 wires for the security cameras through PVC pipe that will be buried in the trench to the house. Filling in some of the trenches, and getting the bath pans set up.

Laurel putting the bath pan in place.
The owls need to be able to take baths in their cages, and thanks to Roger, our owls won't just have plain bath pans. They are going to have a "shower area" with a shower head up above a bath pan, so the water can run and the owls can cool themselves on hot days. The tarp and rock will help with drainage in the cage so the ground doesn't get wet and'll run away where it's supposed to.

Roger nailing wire mesh to the 6x6 base.
In order to prevent digging critters from getting into the owl cages, there is 24" of wire mesh buried into the ground around the entire perimeter of the cages. Granted a Great Horned Owl could eat most things that might try to get into the cages, but we don't want any coyotes trying to get in! Roger and Laurel got to this before it rained.

Meet Roger Meyer, the man making this dream come true.
I thought I should include a nice face shot of Roger since I finally got a photo of something other than his backside while he's working!

Meet Laurel Oien, Roger's faithful sidekick in this adventure.
Laurel is a great neighbor. He plows my driveway, hauls things to the dump, fixes the fence to keep the cows out, checks on my house while I'm away, and anything else I need help with. He's also worked with Roger on several other volunteer projects, so it was a natural for him to get in on this big project.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

More Hauling

Caledonia Ready Mix pouring the footings.

The next step in the process was to get 7.5 yards of concrete to fill in the footings for the cages. (Did I mention that these cages are going to be VERY well built and will be around for the long haul???) There was a little extra concrete left at the end, so Roger, always thinking ahead, had a form ready for a little concrete pad where the entrance to the release training cage will be. And there was just the right amount of concrete for the pad when all was said and done.

Laurel and Roger setting the 6x6 bases for the walls.

After the long and HOT holiday weekend the concrete had had plenty of time to set. So Roger and Laurel spent yesterday setting out the 6x6s around the base of the cages and anchoring them to the concrete footings.

Donnie Sylling unloading rock donated by Milestone Materials with J.C. Nerstad's Four Season Maintenance Truck.

While Laurel and Roger worked, the rock was delivered. Milestone Materials donated 12 yards of 2" clean rock to go down on the base of the floor to help with drainage and 27 yards of pea gravel to make up the floor of the cages. Pea gravel can stay relatively clean, can be washed, isn't weedy, and is good for the owls' feet. J.C. Nerstad of Four Season Maintenance loaned a truck for the hauling job, my Dad (Karl Sylling) put fuel in it, and my Dad's cousin Donnie Sylling did the driving. It took five loads to get it all here from Caledonia, so it was an all-day job. But it's here now!