Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Raising The Roof.

Posted on | December 3, 2013 | 6 Comments

The coldest days of the season aren’t here yet.  But now that we’ve had the first few freezes and some winter rains, we discovered where the faults were in our farming set up.  The floating row covers were doing a great job protecting the fall ground crops.  Too bad row covers wouldn’t work for the peas.  The peas were just tall enough to need a trellis and not hardy enough to withstand a heavy frost, so they had to be covered up, too.  Good thing I had this clothing rack hanging around at the top of the driveway for…um…well, I was saving it because….huh.  Apparently, I was saving it to make a pea trellis.  For which it worked perfectly.

Especially with that handy center bar to attach the row cover to.  Brilliant.

But the peas weren’t the only thing needing a cover.  The pigs had been relying on the woods for shade and housing during the summer.  A pile of straw under their favorite tree, each other’s company for cuddling, and their own ample fat supplies were sufficient for the first few cold nights.

But since butchering wasn’t on the calendar yet, I figured some temporary pig housing was needed.  Luckily I had cattle panels and T posts,

a tarp,

and some plexiglass panels a friend’s husband gave me stashed in various places on the property.  Someone was going to throw those panels away.  In the garbage.  I know, shocking, right?

Pushy was interested when I first started attaching the panels.

Penny wanted to try it out as soon as the first corner was in place.

But they found the endless amount of  tying involved in securing the plexiglass and tarp in place….

to be too boring to watch.

And even the thought of someone else hauling down some straw to fill their new digs…

was almost too exhausting for Penny to bear.

Only when all the work was done, were they inspired to investigate.  And if it wasn’t very fancy, I figured it would at least stand up to the huffing and puffing of Old Man Winter.

With the pigs taken care of, it was time to fix the goat pen.  Part of the goat barn has a confinement pen for sick or injured goats or a place to keep goat kids when they are being weaned.  Unfortunately, the last time I used it, the goats chose to stand on the makeshift roof instead of under it and everything came crashing down.  My building plans had not included standing-on-the-roof-durability.  I know, you would think I had never owned goats before.  In any case, this is what I had to work with:

With just a post driver and some poultry staples I created a spacious lounging area with both a house for goats and a pen for protecting broody hens or new chicks.

I raised the roof above goat climbing height.  I think.  Probably.  Maybe.  But please note the additional roof support using cast off aluminum poles from the neighbor’s gazebo that blew over last year during a summer storm.  He was going to throw those poles, even the ones that were still straight, away.  In the garbage.  I know, shocking, right?!?!

Speaking of roofs, the roof on the guinea coop in the garden sprung a leak.  It was actually so rotted that the roll roofing on top just peeled off the remaining wilted plywood.  I had some leftover small pallets that I used to contain the potato patch last year.  They fit just perfectly over the now open top of the coop.

Then I covered them with the roll roofing and a bunch of black plastic that was too degraded to be used for weed suppression any more but was perfectly waterproof when I tripled it up.  Of course, all that would have blown off with the first winter breeze.  Until I raided the pile of rocks I keep in the garden.  That rock pile drove me crazy all summer long.  I need to keep a pile of rocks handy in the garden.  But since I couldn’t mow over the pile or even too close to it, it quickly became enmeshed in weeds and grass.  Getting a rock out to pound in a support for a tomato cage or hold down a piece of landscape fabric meant risking snakes, spiders, or whatever else was hiding in that mess.

By piling the rocks onto the roof I secured the pallets, the roofing, and the black plastic in place.  Plus, kept the rocks in a nice accessible weed-free and mower-safe location.  So I might not have killed two birds with one stone but I did kill two problems with one pile of stones.  Which is much better.  I think.  Probably.  Maybe.  Who kills birds anyway?

Meanwhile, The Other Half was busy replacing the buck pen…

and the chicken coop.

Not that there was anything wrong with them.  Or at least the bucks and the chickens never complained.  And if the neighbor complained about my farm buildings looking like Sanford and Son’s backyard, he never complained to me.  About buildings.  Most of our complaint/conversations revolved around guineas.  Guineas are good at distraction like that.

But The Other Half has an affinity for ceilings that are higher than 6’4″.  Since he started doing the barn chores half of the time, he began to notice that very few of my buildings had roofs or ceilings higher than…well, higher than I could reach easily during the construction process.  Very, very few.  Like, none.  Not that I’m opposed to high ceilings.  I’m just opposed to anything that requires more than zip ties or twine to hold it together.  Zip ties and twine will not hold anything together if it’s taller than 6′.  Trust me on this.

Also, tall projects require real posts, not just T-posts.  Real posts require the post hole digger.

Don’t be fooled by the name.  The post hole digger does NOT dig post holes.  It just  moves dirt out of the hole.  You are required to dig the hole by slamming the digger into the rock hard red clay with every ounce of strength you have, feeling the impact from your arms all the way down into your knees, and then use the digger to move the pathetic 2″ of  dirt that was loosened in the process.  Repeat about 8,000 times or until you decide a 4′ high roof supported by T-posts or leftover aluminum poles is entirely adequate.

Of course, you’ll also need the digging bar.  Which is used to pry up rocks or break up tree roots that you encounter during the digging.

I have never used the digging bar, for a couple good reasons.  First, it’s extremely heavy so that the force of driving it into the hole can break through any trouble spots.  Which makes it too heavy to lift more than a couple times.  Second, it involves a disturbing fear factor.  See, if you’re using the beveled end in the hole to pry up a rock, then the sharp pointed end is at face level, promising to poke out your eye if you slip while using every last ounce of force to lift the bar and slam it down.  If you’re using the pointed end to break up tree roots, then the beveled end is at face level, promising to knock out your front teeth if you make a mistake.  I prefer my tools to be a bit more user friendly than the digging bar.

Even if I could manage the post holes for the 4X4 or 6X6 posts required for a solid structure, I’d still run into the ladder problem.  I have never constructed anything that required more than a nice, steady, sturdy one level step stool. The kind you can sit on comfortably to sip your Diet Coke when taking  construction break.  Safe and restful.  That’s the kind of tool I enjoy working with.  And it just doesn’t suffice for constructing roofs over 6′ tall.

The Other Half doesn’t have the same problem.  Ugh.  2 ladders!  One that’s high and one that’s higher-than-anyone-should-be-climbing-on.  Double ugh!

Never mind the fact that he not only dug about a million post holes, but then sunk the posts into concrete.  Concrete.  Wha?????

So while I finished the pig house, the guinea coop, and the goat pen (plus the peas!),  The Other Half built a 12’X24′  barn.  Divided into a section for the bucks…

…and an area for roosts and nesting boxes for the chickens.

With sky lights.

And windows.

And a gabled roof.

A barn which was not just functional and waterproof, but impressive.

I mean, if you’re into that kind of thing.  And you care about what the neighbor thinks.  And you like to be able to stand up while providing animal care.  And you have the patience to dig holes 2″ at a time.  And you’re not afraid of the digging bar.  And you’re willing to get up on ladders.

Thank goodness one of us is capable of all of those things.  Well done, The Other Half.

Although I did manage to build 4 things while he was building 1.  Not that anyone’s counting.  Or comparing.  Definitely no one’s comparing.

Stop it.

Hey, knock it off.

Anyway, around here one of us is willing to put in the time and tough work that it takes to build things that last forever.  And one of us is willing to use whatever is laying around to keep things fixed up.  That’s why we’re halvesies.  ‘Cause it takes a little bit of both to keep this funny farm in business.  Plus, a whole lot of zip ties.  Ah, zip ties 🙂


6 Responses to “Raising The Roof.”

  1. Tanya Lam
    December 4th, 2013 @ 6:53 am

    Too cute

  2. roanne
    December 4th, 2013 @ 8:35 am

    S- Grampa Joe would LOVE this column!!!! Have a great winter!!!

  3. Ferne K
    December 4th, 2013 @ 10:29 am

    Great description of life on your “little” farm. Loved it!

  4. Aunt Peggy
    December 4th, 2013 @ 8:16 pm

    Nice job, Other Half! Zip Tie Girl, did you get the wool I sent via your parents? Nice cold weather project, huh? And Pretty can help – bet the boys will want to try, too. Enjoy!

  5. annabelle
    December 4th, 2013 @ 9:53 pm

    so, so funny and TRUE! I’m the one home on the farm with zip ties and no tall ladders.. and my other half will properly build something.. and I spend the next month putting his (my) tools away!

  6. Lisa Dumain
    January 9th, 2014 @ 9:54 am

    Send that other half over here any time he’s bored!!

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