Tag Archives: project

Four Years!!!

Four years ago today, we saw the farm for the first time… so much has changed since then!2015-10-10 23.00.07

We’ve ripped out the fencing, replaced it with a garden fence, and put in raspberries.  This year we tried squash in the lawn on the hill, but failed due to slug density.  Next year!

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Oh, the garden — it’s so hard to believe it was such a dead zone when we first saw it!  We’ve worked so hard on the garden, we’ve laid cardboard over the whole space and covered it all with 5 15-cubic-yard loads of mushroom compost from the neighbors down the road.

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Had to include this shot even though i’ts hard to tell from the photo how much got done in the barn this year.  All the stall doors are different because all the former 12×12 stalls are now 12×6 stalls with a removable front and removable dividers — so much more appropriately sized to the goats and sheep.  And in the photo at right you can see the new swing-arm gate that closes off the last stall on the right, making it so the goats have limited access to the barn aisle while still having plenty of shelter in bad weather. What you can’t see in this photo is the brand new tack room John built: it’s amazing!! Safe stairs to the loft!  A work counter!  A fridge for milk and eggs!  It’s my favorite project from 2015, by a long shot.  I’m still excited every time I walk in the barn and see how much cleaner and better organized it is.

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The major change to this view this year was the cutting down of the 4 20-ish year old fir trees that were on the hill behind the house.  You can barely see the branches of one in the lower left corner of the top photo, but in the 4 years since then they’d grown quite a lot!  They made the house darker, and crowded the “lawn”… things are much better with them gone.. plus we have firewood for the next 3 years pretty much sown up at this point.

The other upgrade visible in this shot are all the fruit trees that were added to the barnyard: 9 plum, pear, and apple trees went in and almost all of them survived this brutal summer!  Really looking forward to watching them grow and provide the chickens with shade and snacks in the years to come.

We are so honored to call this place home, and pretty proud of all the hard work we’ve put into it so far.  Time to get to work on the task list for our 5th year!

Barn Project – Finished!

We were very lucky to find the farm with a barn already on it, but, when we moved in the barn definitely had some issues.  For one thing, they built it in a damp, low spot, and over the years the drainage was failing and the barn floor flooded in significant rainfall.  Because of the wet ground, the support posts were no longer in their original place, and there were areas of the barn that tipped a bit more than they ought to. The stalls were horse-sized, huge, and had small doors we couldn’t get the tractor through, requiring us to clean stalls by hand. And the tack room floor was rotten, the stairs were an outright deathtrap, and because it had no real walls, everything in the tack room was a dusty mess!

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So, with Archer’s assistance, John spent the winter rebuilding the inside of the barn.  Support posts got straightened (or added), beams were leveled.  New stall doors were installed.  And most exciting of all, the tack room got a significant overhaul!

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New safe stairs – you could climb these blindfolded!  And, a separate light for upstairs loft lighting to make it safer at night.  There are now three lights in the tack room, too, making it nice and bright for working in.

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The metal bins hold nearly a ton of feed bags, and are on rolling casters to allow them to go out of the way under the worktop counter.  The counter ensures us clean workspace, and some shelving above and to the right keeps things organized (and dust-free).

We are so grateful to John for all the hard work, and so lucky to have the skills in the family to do this project right!

More Firewood, More Sun

When we moved in there were a few 20-something year old firs on the north side of the house, up the hill.  Because this is the north side of the house we never do much in that strip.. it’s a weird layout, due to the dictated shape of the manufactured home.  But this winter we finally got sick of the branches reaching into what little ‘lawn’ we have by the house, and darkening our already-dim north windows.  So, Thaddeus took the trees down this weekend!

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Bye, bye trees!

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Hello, firewood!

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Look at that much more open view!  The kitchen window is so much brighter, it’s really stunning.

Fruit Trees!

We got a great deal on some young potted fruit trees from a local nursery going out of business last year, and they wintered in their pots – it’s time for them to find new homes!  One of our challenges is that our chicken yard gets a LOT of sun in the summer, and their only shade structure is set in such a way as so offer very little actual shade when the sun it at it’s hottest. We wanted to find a way to take advantage of the open space in the yard (and the otherwise unusable steep hills that surround it), and also offer the birds some better shade… so we’re trying fruit trees!

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Barn Project Update

The barn at the farm is a large fading blue pole barn, originally built with horse-sized stalls.   Our goats and sheep are much more social, and a lot smaller, than horses, so these stalls were either too small for everybody or too big for one… basically, the barn was awkward to use and didn’t accommodate our herds very well, despite being quite large.  We’ve discussed and planned for a long time, but this fall we finally got moving on the dream: re-doing the interior of the barn!

Our main goals are:

  1. Make the barn stalls more flexible and appropriately sized for our animals
  2. Get the goats out of the main barn aisle during the day
  3. Test and replace the posts holding up the loft: several have rotted out completely (who builds a barn over a drainage area and doesn’t use treated wood??)
  4. Tear out and rebuild the feed room to make an enclosed work space that won’t be as dusty!
  5. Move the water pipes underground and install water access inside the barn, with heated auto waterers (as much as I love hauling 5 gallon buckets of water in the winter…)
  6. And finally… add some more sheltered storage so we can clear out the carport in front of the shop for project space

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First round of updates: the far NE corner of the barn used to have a double-wide loafing area, which we used as storage for wood after chopping down our massive trees last year, but finally cleared out into the new wood shed this summer.  A divider went up to split the space back into two stalls, and an ingenious aisle gate was installed to turn the corner “stall” into a loafing area during the day… while also limiting access to the barn aisle while open.  Yay!

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The second half of the old loafing area was built into a single stall space with configurable dividers… it can be four stalls, or just one big one!  Each stall has it’s own stall gate, and the middle ‘stall’ also acts as a thruway from the sheep stall (which has an outside sliding door to the lawn; useful because we move the sheep to the hill pasture from the barn daily from spring to fall).  So excited to have these options when lambing/kidding season hits.

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Nearly all this hard work has been the gift of John, who comes up almost daily and makes amazing progress while the Megan and Talina work at their day jobs.  We feel so much safer walking around on the loft now that we know the posts aren’t literally just being held up by luck and a few nails…

Goals one, two, and three complete!  The final target is to be done by Feb/March next year for the spring babies…  so excited to see the next phase!

Best Laid Plans

It’s true of life, everywhere, but on the farm sometimes the adage that “Life is what happens while you’re making plans” is so, so very accurate.

Let’s use this past weekend as an example. We had a couple of social events not-to-be-missed: our goddaughter’s 5th birthday party, good friends having an open house, and our monthly standing Brunch on Sunday, but with bonus May Birthday goodness for a few family members. So that’s a pretty busy schedule… but also, the rains are coming back, and we had several things on the To Do list that were starting to get REALLY pressing. Like mowing.  Why does the pasture grow so much better where the ruminants aren’t, like in the orchard, and the chicken yard??  But even more pressing, PLANTING.  We are so far behind on putting seeds in the garden it isn’t even funny.

So the To-Do list started out something like:

  1. Mow All The Things
  2. Plant All The Things
  3. Test the well water quality (we just unpacked the pumphouse for the summer season during the hot weather last week)

Things started to get fun on Saturday morning.  I had an unexpected run into town to do, so I planned to head off with a sleeping baby leaving Thaddeus and Talina to work on the chore list.  But then I had to go and count turkey chicks while doing chores in the morning… and we were two short.  No sign of the little bodies at all, just two chicks gone.  And a rat tunnel under the brooder walls we had set up directly on the ground in the barn.  So!  Diversion the first: new to-do list looks like this:

  1. Build a floor for the turkey brooder
  2. Mow All The Things
  3. Plant All The Things
  4. Test the well water

So Talina worked on the brooder while Thaddeus picked up the sickle bar mower and attacked the back pasture fencelines. We spend midday Saturday running about with various beloved individuals, and returned home about 4pm, with a few hours of sun remaining.  Great, time to mow… but wait!  I walked into the barn to check out the turkey brooder solution (working great: no additional losses), and discovered one of our goat mamas bleeding rather profusely from a wound on her udder.  So now the to-do list looks like this:

  1. Heal a wounded goat
  2. Build a floor for the turkey brooder
  3. Mow All The Things Everything but the back fencelines
  4. Plant All The Things
  5. Test the well water

An hour later, it’s approaching toddler bedtime, but we are satisfied that the goat is stable.  By the time we got the mower hooked to the tractor, dusk is approaching.  In between mower attachment steps and entertaining a sleepy baby, I was able to get enough water samples from the well to run through the water test (good news, it’s clean and very likely potable!).

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No Lead or Pesticides here!

We managed to mow the orchard and the barn pastures before pitch blackness set in.  Thankfully the fridge was full of leftovers to be cleared out before Brunch!  At the end of the day, the to-do list looked like this:

  1. Heal a wounded goat
  2. Build a floor for the turkey brooder
  3. Mow All The Things Everything but the back fencelines The Neutral Zone Pastures
  4. Plant All The Things
  5. Test the well water

Looking back, it’s certainly the farm animals who cause the most unexpected schedule adjustments… sometimes it’s tempting to downsize the herds, but then… c’mon, they’re so cute!  And delicious!

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Garden Prep

You know it’s spring when our driveway greets visitors with a pile of compost in the corner of the lawn. One of these days we’ll find somewhere else to put these..

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This spring’s project is to continue to expand the garden, in all directions. Now that we have the garden fence in place, we know what our borders are and we can push the garden plot out to meet them. Step one was the west border along the driveway, where last summer large weeds grew up along the fence. So this year we decided to lay a path along the fence, mulch it, and extend it just a bit under the fence to avoid the weed issue. Simple, right? Oh, but this is not flat land we live on, dear friends, not even remotely. Even here, in the flattest part of our property, we ran into a few dips that threw some wrenches in our plans.

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Eventually we got it mostly worked out though, and now we have this beautiful path AND an extra 150sqft of garden beds.
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The garden still needs so much work, and we’re running behind this spring, between the ever-helpful baby and the incredible rain we’ve been having this April. We’ll get there, though – plants like sun, and we’ve observed that things catch up quickly once the sun shows up!

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While we had the landscaping fabric out, we finally cleared the tree nursery off our front walk and set up shop on the west end of the high lawn under the maple tree. Easier to water, won’t block the raspberries, and we get some more play space for Archer in the fenced lawn. Win-win-win… especially the bit about the happy raspberries.

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.