I did it again. I forgot how strong the sun is. I forgot its power, my own limits, the bigger picture. In my mind was one thing only: Get those clapboards under the tent before it rains.
As if rain was imminent. As if a little rain would have hurt the wood. As if one more day would matter.
I don’t even remember for sure who said it – Lincoln, it had to be, when he was here recently being an amazing porch-roof-framework-builder. It was his first visit since we completed the chicken coop last year.
We took a little walk one morning to look at it. I must have mentioned that we had been so excited to side the new coop with clapboards made from the oak timbers that his brother Bradley, also an expert builder, had milled with his Alaska saw mill seven or eight years ago, how well they matched the siding of the original coop (on the right), how like a fortress/palace the whole chicken compound is – no predator will get my birds!
We walked around to the back and I offhandedly mentioned that the leftover oak clapboards were resting under that tarp, and yeah, I really needed to move them one of these days. You don’t want to leave them there, Lincoln said. They need to be where they can be stacked right and get air.
See the tarp behind the coop? The clapboards are under it, neatly stacked. I was sure everything was just as we had left it last summer. Unsightly it is anyway though, look at that. Yes, moving those boards moved up the list. Air or no air.
Air, yes. What happens when there is not much air? In my experience, things either suffocate or thrive. Sometimes, of course, not enough air is deadly. Sometimes, there’s just enough to hold in the moisture and create a fabulous, perfect, life-enhancing environment. Fabulous depending on who or what you are, of course. Hold that thought.
So Lincoln and the girls came and went, and my sister Lynn and her husband Billy came and went, and that’s when you turn your attention to the things you can’t do when you have company. Like moving oak clapboards. Saturday was the day.
I’m the grunt around here. I can screw down the decking boards and occasionally cut one on the chop saw. I can go get things, clean up, hold something in place, ask questions, decide if some element is worth our time or not, and make sure everyone has water to drink. I can also move stuff. I am a happy grunt! Somebody has to move stuff and it might as well be the person who is not so good with heights or has a bum shoulder or doesn’t feel so comfortable with the skillsaw. Or all of the above.
I uncovered the boards (turned out there were three tarps!) and discovered that the thin plastic that was between the boards and the tarp (for some reason I can’t remember) had greatly disintegrated. Shredded is maybe a better word. It was gross but nothing like what was coming. I picked all the plastic off and kept going. We had a trailer full of other construction materials to move as well, so I figured I’d add these boards to the load.
Two or three layers down I saw some ants. Pesky, big black things busy about their business. I kept going. They were not worth a photo. The more boards I uncovered, though, the more ants I saw. And not only ants. Ant eggs! Eight or nine layers down, I’m talking easily thousands! Ugh!!!
We all have triggers, right? Sensors that perk up at different things? Sensitivities that evoke feelings of tenderness or competitiveness or sympathy or DISGUST!!!!! I cannot possibly put into words how my disgust sensors went into overdrive – thus no photos I’m afraid! I had one thought and one thought only: Break up the ant colony or they will destroy the wood! Clearly the moist, safe, climate-controlled environment under the tarp(s) was ant heaven, and these were surely building up their forces and conspiring to eventually eat up my precious boards!
I know, I know, they’re just ants, just going about their business doing what ants do – multiplying copiously! I am sure there are countless similar colonies in my woods, countless such heavenly environments among all the fallen logs out there. These ants had been at it for almost a year — surely a few more minutes (such as a calmer person would have taken) would affect nothing significantly, but they were just too numerous (far too numerous and far too gross!) and too close to my home. They had to go, and they had to go now.
Furiously I moved the boards, uncovering ever more ants. The chickens! I thought. The chickens would have a feast! I went around the front of the coop and opened their door, but no, these chickens who have never been outside the confines of their run/coop were unwilling to come out! Fools – there’s a feast out here!! Sandy (otherwise occupied in skillful work on the porch) had come by this time to help, and together we cornered three of them (one at a time!) and plunked them on the boards among the ants. Away they scampered! Pressed themselves against the outside of the fence as if they could ghost their way back in! Eeks! What are we doing out here?? I guess I have homebody chickens – they just wanted to go home!
(In retrospect I do see that the frenetic activity at that time was hardly conducive for enjoying a feast, but at the time all I could think was: Idiot birds!)
Finally all of the boards were laid out on the mulch surrounding the coops and snow-shovelfuls of ants and ant eggs were brought to the happy, home-again and thank-God-we-avoided-the-scary-outside-world chickens I call my own. Then they feasted, and the boards and I rested. Here are some of them, ant-free, breathing, drying, relieved!
All well and good through the rest of Saturday (my disgust sensitivities calmed down) and through sunny Sunday (one more day in the sun won’t hurt them), all well and good until it’s going to rain on Monday (today). Gotta get those boards under the tent.
Yeah, that’s when I forgot the sun and its power. I forgot that the high 80s (maybe even low 90s it was?) can do a number on you. Before noon the air was still as a stone, not a lick of breeze, no clouds. But the forecast called for rain later. I got my grubby clothes on and determined to get this task done lickity split. I tried loading them on a smallish tarp so I could pull a batch at a time the 50 yards or so to the gigantic tent that serves as a simple shelter for such things (really it’s just a huge tarp stretched over a strong A-shape frame – has served well for years!).
The tarp-pulling method was too heavy for me. One batch at a time then, five or six boards stacked upon each other cradled in my arms, and I walked them down to their new home. At one point during the process, I remember being grateful that a few of the boards were in the shade, wishing I was done already, feeling like it was a bigger job than I had anticipated, oblivious to the effect it all was having on me, but I told myself One armful at a time, and it’ll all be done soon. As you stack the boards, you have to put slats between the layers to allow air movement (if you want to prevent ant colonies), which I can only hope I did correctly. This is what they looked like from inside the tent…
… and like this from outside – you can see the layers. Clearly I did not take time to make it pretty.
Doesn’t seem like that much when I look at the photos. How I even got these photos I don’t know because by the time I was done, I didn’t care so much about anything except getting inside. I could barely stand up. I got myself into the house, breathing way too heavy, feeling unsteady, weak, quivery, all manner of unwell. Clearly I had needed someone, sooner, to say Hey, that’s enough, go sit down. I didn’t realize I was pushing too hard in the hot sun.
There’s a name for this I’m sure, maybe heat exhaustion? Whatever it’s called, it took me almost two hours to feel normal again and I accomplished little more the rest of the afternoon. This happened once last summer too when I was raking leaves. Set my goal too high. Raked too many. The sun was too hot and I successfully ignored the increasing danger. Same basic symptoms I think, though maybe it was even worse. How did I let this happen again? At least it wasn’t as bad this time – or maybe I only stopped because there weren’t more boards …
As the afternoon hours passed (and I sat on the couch immobile, grateful for Netflix which I never watch during the day unless I’m like this, unable to do anything else), the wind kicked up, the sky darkened, the rain threatened, the dogs got anxious/nervous – oh, why did the word antsy have to come into my head!!??
The storm passed by. Not a drop fell. The area behind the coop is tidy and uninfested (I hope!). And I am fine.