Having fun with no money

The untimely death of our favourite chicken Shyla has generated unaccustomed scenes of activity in our backyard.

We are not a dynamic household.  We are a posse of ponderers and ruminators, hoarders and procrastinators, ever ready with a “let’s not rush into things” or a “perhaps we should pause to examine this problem from all angles”.  In a disaster movie, we would be the bit-part characters who are consumed by a rising tide of magma while considering our escape plan from the easy chair with a view of the volcano.

But all that changed this week.  Fate intervened, in the form of a generous Hungarian freecycler whose guineapigs had gone to on a better world, leaving behind them the Taj Mahal of pet enclosures.

They say money makes the world go around.  But does it really?

Just add up all the things people do for love, or for family, or to be neighbourly or because it seems like it might be a hoot, and all stuff you can grow or swap or get as a hand-me-down or find by the side of the road (or, if you are my boat-building neighbour, at the bottom of the creek).  The gift economy may not have its own stock exchange, but things would grind to a halt pretty quickly if all the tuckshop volunteers, weekend soccer coaches and grannies with strollers called it a day.

As Noam Chomsky says in this fab video “We don’t have a capitalist system. No capitalist system has ever survived“.

Freecycle is a case in point.  With a trailer and a tolerance for cyberloitering, I reckon in less than three months you could completely furnish a McMansion without spending a cent.  Your home would admittedly be rich in bulky exercise equipment, large lamp shades, and clothing for the under threes, but still, the sheer quantity of stuff on offer is impressive.

And that’s without even considering what you can buy with the local currency – the Opera – in Sydney’s community exchange system – bartering with more bling, I guess you could call it.

Our new chook house was miracle of timeliness.  Fabulous finds on my local freecycle facebook page are  snapped up almost instantly.  In fact, even implausible things like half-used bottles of shampoo to be collected immediately from Mona Vale seem to be claimed with surprising speed. The new predator proof run – Colditz, as I’ve provisionally named it – turned up just before we headed off for an out-of-town family weekend.  Without the generosity of strangers, our chooks would have been an all-you-can-eat buffet for the newly emboldened feral foxes.

And then there was the gift of Dave.  Having eyeballed pics of the cage on facebook and figuring it was a shonky wood and chicken wire job of the sort I might cobble together myself, I reckoned if I knocked off work early, RB and I could wrestle it onto the top of our old Subaru Forester.  But hearing of our dead-chicken woes, Dave, RB’s workmate and ex-trucker, insisted on driving down from his place on the Central Coast, an hour away, to help us out.

And thank god he did.  Turns out our new 3 x 1.5 x 1 metre chook run is has rivets, a steel frame and weighs as much as a Panzer tank.  I could no more have lifted one end of it to head height than unicycled to the moon.  Dave, on the other hand, had the Hilux, the roof-rack, the reversing skills, the muscles and the shipping-big-things savvy to sort it, no wuckers.  Thanks Dave.  You are a legend.

It may not have the casual elegance or aquarium-lid clerestory window of Palm Beach, my own vernacular modernist masterpiece, but Colditz has a number of winning design features – most impressively, a sliding roof to cut down on the lower back pain associated, for inconveniently tall adults, with egg collecting (I’m hoping child labour will make the sliding sun roof unnecessary, but my track record of achieving such outcomes is poor).

What the new coop lacked, however, was a roost.  Having googled what the modern chicken requires of a night – apparently, just like in the contemporary bathroom, square is the new round – this is what I came up with.  Soft on the feet, in a range of widths for chickens of all shapes and sizes.

It looks disturbingly like bondage equipment.  Who would have thought old bicycle inner tubes and a repurposed wooden ladder could be so kinky?

It is possible that the girls prefer something a bit vanilla.  Given a choice, they seem find their way back to Palm Beach at dusk, where they can sleep in a egalitarian fashion, all on the same dowdy round perch, without even a whiff of rubber.

But don’t worry, with a bit of discipline, we’ll soon sort that out.

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8 thoughts on “Having fun with no money

  1. Loved this post. You always have a fantastic way with words. I’m looking forward to reading if the girls change their tastes from vanilla to something a little kinkier… 😉 I’m a great fan of Freecycle. Almost all of my house and garage are furnished with gifts of second-hand furniture and most of my wardrobe is made of pre-loved clothes. Where would we be without the efforts of volunteers, neighbours and friends? Thank goodness for Dave, indeed! 🙂

    • Thanks Jane! No pretty pictures this time so doing my best to be funny. I’m with you on the second hand things. The great thing about all your things being acquired from skips/side of the road/freecycle/op shops is you don’t have to worry about anything being nicked! Seriously, I love old things. They are the best, environmentally, aesthetically … in every way. I’m a bit more conflicted abut free labour but as long as it’s given freely and not extorted out of you, I reckon it’s a fine thing too!

  2. definitely with you on the freecycle/recycle merry go round. We were in the garden today contemplating the building of a more robust chicken coop , while listening to our chicken s percussion performance on the bottom of a plastic bucket.I think this may have been the one who lead the charge on the polystyrene box binges.We need to build a shelter that they will all roost in as two go inside their current bijou residence , the other 3 preferring
    to perch on the roof in all weather.

    • Ah yes the all weather perch. Mine favoured the edge of the fig pot in all weathers for months and months – suspect after an attack of red spider mites in the wooden coop. Hoping the metal construction of Colditz means we won’t have that problem with the new run – but the bondage equipment/perch may harbour nasties I guess! Good luck with your housing hassles and thanks for reading Wendy!

  3. Hi Very interesting. Where about int he world are you. Is that Sydney OZ ? I can share here my 96sq greenhouse all built with freecycle collected windows wood and plie wood etc Since then I have improved all the surroundings with more freecyle to create a little outdoor pseudo tropical heaven https://visualsenses.smugmug.com/Nature-in-its-many-splendors/My-KALE-forest-and-organic/i-8nnZhjX Would love to consider having some chicken but very concerned of smell and noise.. and attracting their predators that are plenty even here in town in Canada. Racoon, eagles etc.. and I don’t want them to live in a cage only.

    • Yep, we’re in Sydney Australia. I had a look at your greenhouse pics – very impressive! Fantastic you were able to make the whole thing with Freecycled materials. I haven’t yet managed to use any old windows etc. in my garden though when I lived in the UK I did design a cold frame using a window and some bricks. I find the smell of chickens not so bad but we have a big garden and they are a bt of a way from the house. Ours aren’t really noisy, to be honest. A bit of a cluck when they lay an egg or fear a predator, but otherwise very quiet. You can choose breeds that have a mellow temperament which is what we have done. I have found that the chooks are quite safe during the day, and now we have the cage we can lock them up at night. We had a visiting sparrowhawk (chickens are too big for them to eat) and a goshawk (will go for it, but chickens hid!). But so far mostly deaths from disease and Shyla from a cat (or fox)!

  4. Pingback: Chicks in Colditz: this week on Chicken TV | Berowra backyard

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