Monthly Archives: March 2014

Barn Doors

When we first came to the farm, the barn stalls were all set up for horses – large stalls, sturdily built… but really not very convenient to muck out using anything but human power, since there was no way the tractor was going to make it through the 4′ stall doors.

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Add 25 goats and a long wet winter to the mix, and what you have is a rather overwhelming amount of bedding that needs to be removed from the stalls.  We were looking at either some construction, or a very unpopular work party event!

We’ve batted around several ways to reconfigure the barn and the stalls so that it works better for our needs (we don’t intend to keep horses anytime soon, as much as I would love to), and Thaddeus finally got the chance this week to get to work on making it a reality.

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The new 12′ stall fronts are entirely removable, being just two pinned gates supported by a removable 4×4 post in the center.  This allows us to use each stall as a large single stall OR to drop in a divider longways that would give us two narrow stalls at 6′ wide each – great for kidding season and the occasional solitary confinement.

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When the gates and post are removed, though, the entire stall is open to the aisle, allowing the tractor relatively easy access.

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Yes, this was a job that REALLY needed doing…

Full Power

During the worst of the rains a week or two ago, we found the power to the barn becoming increasingly unreliable.  It would throw the breaker in the middle of the day. It’s still quite dark at night… the chickens appreciate a little light in their coop during the day, so this was a bit of a problem.

We tested the fence, thinking perhaps it was shorting, but no luck.

We dug up the recently installed frost-free pipe, thinking perhaps we’d nicked the power when digging the original hole.  Several attempts to ‘fix’ the non-existent issue didn’t fix the problem.

So finally, reluctantly, Thaddeus took a sunny afternoon and got on the tractor to dig up the power all the way from the barn to the shop.  Just before he had to start tearing up our driveway (but just after he accidently punched a hole in the adjacent water pipe), he came upon this:

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Yes, there’s the culprit.  The wire burned away underground, sparking due to perhaps a combination of a bad repair (duct tape over a piece of PVC pipe to wrap the damaged cable) and heavy rains… and just completely a coincidence that it happened right after we installed the frost free pipes, of course.

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The fix, once we found the right place to apply it, was pretty fast, and now we have full power restored to the barn!  Well, that and a long angry muddy gash in the lawn.

Spring Into Action

What a glorious weekend! After a long cold dark winter, the sun finally returned full force for this first weekend of spring, allowing us to get outside and start knocking things off the 2014 to-do list. On Saturday, we invited our community up to the farm to help us break ground on our big garden project for the year: building raised beds on top of the hill by the house (no more lawn to mow!).

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In one morning, with several sets of extra hands, we went from lawn to garden!  Four new raised beds, lined with landscaping fabric to beat the grass, and filled with mushroom compost.  These will hold an expanded herb garden, taking the perennial herbs out of the main garden space and allowing us to use that area for more crops.  Bonus: fresh herbs 4 feet from our door!

You can also see in the photo above our raspberry plants from last year already starting to leaf out along the south side of the house. We’re already getting excited for June raspberries… oh summer fruit, we love you.

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The other big project for this spring was to make the walk from the house to the garden less treacherous.  It has always been a very steep hill, and in wet weather or tall grass it can be quite slippery, and full of vole holes.  We had originally thought we might accomplish the grander project of terracing the entire hill, but realized eventually that we needed to make a few more big decisions before that could happen.  A quicker solution was to install these stairs: two days of work, materials we had on hand (thanks, Dad!), and they will be easy to adjust or undo when we are ready for the terraces.

As you can see from the photo, Sucia worked hard to help us out with this project. Also: herbs already migrated to their new home in the herb beds!

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We ended Sunday with the perfect spring meal: sautéed collard rapini with last year’s garlic, and a poached egg, on a bed of quinoa and black beans.  SO. GOOD.  The collards made it through the cold winter better than many of our other plants, and the reward of these fantastically sweet, crunchy rapini was the best possible way to finish the weekend.

Well, that and crossing a couple of things off the to-do list.

Gathering Wool

Our small flock of sheep can technically be shorn twice a year, preferably early spring and late summer.  Last summer we had a few other things on our minds, though, and fewer hands than usual (some hands being busy holding an infant), so the poor sheep got through the winter with an extra heavy coat. They probably didn’t mind all that much during the solid week of below-freezing temperatures we had… but now that the weather is warming up again, it’s clear they’d prefer to be able to take off the heavy coats.

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The first photo is the day before shearing – they’ve started getting itchy and the two adults scratched off a lot of their back wool against a small walnut tree in the pasture.  Looking a little shaggy, girls.

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Eureka mid-shearing.  This time around we tried using a stanchion to keep the sheep still during shearing and found it worked a lot better for us.  Our sheep are BIG – holding them in one hand while shearing with another just doesn’t work well for us, and it’s stressful for everybody.  This way they got a snack while we worked on their wool.  It’s still not their favorite activity: she only looks calm because she’s actually given up ever being able to move again and is resigned to her misery.  Sheep are a strange bunch.

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All shorn!  Happy shearing weather was a little overcast so nobody gets a sunburn today or tomorrow while they get used to being naked again.  Looking forward to new clean coats for summer!