Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

Up on the Rooftop.

Posted on | December 9, 2011 | 3 Comments

I have always considered light and air to be an essential part of raising animals.  When we were producing 350 ducks a year, their barn had 2 covered rooms–one for nesting and one as a brooder room– and the rest of it was open wire roof and sides.  After all, the ducks didn’t mind the rain and the main purpose of the barn was just to keep predators away from them at night.  But when the duck flock decreased and the goats moved into the large barn, there had to be a roof.  Goats don’t do rain.  They don’t even do sprinkles.  Plus we now had a lot of hay to keep dry, too.

As usual, the transition from duck barn to goat barn was done with a lot of forethought and planning.  We like to be thoroughly prepared for big changes around here.  Which meant that on a Friday I decided to move the goats and therefore had to have the barn covered by Saturday.  Since Saturday comes immediately after Friday, I made a trip to the local box stores to price various tarp sizes and weights.  After all, one should always consider quality as well as price.  Then I bought the cheapest tarps I could find.  I mean, doesn’t everyone?  Why, when you’re purchasing things online, is there even an option of looking at items online in order of “Price from high to low”?  Who purposefully wants to buy the most expensive item?!  That search option seems like an overoptimistic marketing gimmick to me.  I mean, really.

The Other Half was, of course, against the use of cheap tarps as a roof.  Because he could easily put up a real roof himself for cheaper than the tarps would cost,  Which is true.  If he wasn’t already working on running electric to the barn, spreading mulch in the front yard, replacing the beams in the swingset, retrenching the ditch that runs alongside the driveway to the pond, etc, etc, etc.  By “working on” I mean, well,…let’s not go there.  Also, he pointed out that no tarp could withstand being under the tree cover without being punctured by branches and limbs and, therefore, leaking almost immediately.  I pointed out that I just wanted to experiment with how dark the barn would be when totally covered before deciding if I wanted to roof the entire thing.  And the wire was sure to let in a lot more leaks than even the cheapest tarp.  By “pointed out” I mean that I waited until he went to work and then the kids and I bought all the tarps, used them to cover the barn while he was gone, and moved the goats in.

Using the kids for this task was an essential part of the process.  Since most of the beams of the barn were only constructed to hold wire, they weren’t strong enough to hold an adult standing on them and spreading out a tarp.  But the kids, especially Middle and Little, were capable of scooting around the roof like monkeys, spreading the tarp and pushing wires through the grommets for me to attach to the beams from where I was perched on a ladder underneath them.

Perhaps one of the best things about farming is how it allows children to play an essential role in the daily chores.  Around here we don’t have to say silly patronizing things like, “Oh, how smart you are for going down the slide by yourself!  What a brave boy!”  Instead we give them a clap on the back on the way into dinner and say, “How smart you were to remember not to accidentally back up off the edge of the roof when spreading out the tarp, to lay on your belly to spread out your weight when moving around on any beams that seemed really shaky, and to keep your fingertips away from the sharp edges of the wire cutter when cutting pieces of wire! What a brave boy to go up and down an 8 foot ladder without even being scared!”  And my favorite, “Mommy couldn’t have done it without you!”  Which is absolutely true about a lot of things on the farm.  Around here you don’t get your self-confidence from story books and cartoons.  You get it from helping put the frost cover down in the midst of a 35mph wind bringing in a cold front, using all your body weight to push a hay roll up the incline to the feed room, and, of course, spreading tarps over a wire roof.

Of course, I do wish Little hadn’t written about it in his preschool journal.  The teacher probably couldn’t understand the jumble of letters he put down like “ladr” (ladder), “of” (roof), and “ktr” (wire cutter), but the image of a smiling stick figure on top of a tall building holding a pair of scissors was probably alarming enough.

Speaking of preschool, that reminds me that all of this is old history.  The tarp roof has been in place for 2 years and has finally sprung enough leaks that it needs to be replaced.  I decided I really needed a mixture of tin roof panels and clear plastic panels.  I just couldn’t permanently sacrifice having some light coming in, particularly over the milk stand.  We knew the plastic panels would be more susceptible to cracking from cold and getting smashed by falling limbs, but it’s still worth it to let more light into the barn.  Besides, we’re still “working on” running electric to the barn so natural light and a few fluorescents attached to an extension cord are the only light we get in there.

The Other Half took off all the tarps and managed to get the largest lounging area of the barn covered so that the goats could hang out in there and we could put the hay in and not have it get ruined.  It’s actually very attractive and lets in a lot more light than I expected.  This section of roof is fully covered.  The parts that look clear are actually covered with the plastic panels:

Unfortunately, the rest of the roof has to wait until hunting season is over to get finished.

Hunting season is important.  We rely on the ground venison for the rest of the year as we use it in lieu of buying ground beef from the store.

Hunting season is important.  We rely on the ground venison for the rest of the year as we use it in lieu of buying ground beef from the store.

Hunting season is important.  We rely on the ground venison for the rest of the year as we use it in lieu of buying ground beef from the store.

I repeat this statement to myself every time I have to milk in the rain because that section of the barn is uncovered and unfinished.  It is my mantra to ward off evil and hateful thoughts.  It doesn’t always work.

In desperation, the kids and I did reattach some of the tarps when a 3 day deluge was being forecasted.  It was frustrating to be redoing work I had done 2 years ago.  We were rushing, trying to get it done between when the school bus dropped off and the early setting of the winter sun.  Which isn’t a lot of time.  But it was worth it.  I didn’t get soaked at the milk stand the next few days.  And we got to see something awesome from the roof top while we were finishing our work:

It’s the little things that keep us going around here.  Which is good.  Because when the rainstorms finally passed we discovered a large branch had fallen through the roof of the kidding barn.  Through one of the strong, indestructible tin roof panels.

Sigh.  Now we’ll have to fix the roof in that barn, too.  After hunting season. (Hunting season is important.  We rely on the ground venison for the rest of the year as we use it in lieu of buying ground beef from the store.)  But when we remove that panel, we can replace it with a clear plastic one.  Since apparently it doesn’t really matter which type of panels you use when you build your barn in the woods.  If a branch is going to make a hole, it’s going to make a hole.  Imagine all the extra light we’ll have during kidding!  Little things, people, little things.


3 Responses to “Up on the Rooftop.”

  1. TexWisGirl
    December 10th, 2011 @ 10:52 am

    thanks for stopping by my blog today and leaving a comment! really appreciate it!

    your stories are funny (and full of hard work and frustration, too!) life on a working farm, indeed!

  2. Kelsie
    December 10th, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

    You are the funniest story teller…Sorry about that hole in the roof…Love you use your kids to help out so much…Mine is prone to falling from low places (like my bed) and still ended up with a concussion and trip to the ER via ambulance, so not sure she would be helpful for tarping…I am a little jealous your children are 🙂

    Blessings Kelsie Who also has a tarped goat house 🙂

  3. Walnut
    December 12th, 2011 @ 5:18 pm

    My father once recruited me to help him fetch a vice grip. By ‘fetch him a vice grip’ he meant, crawl head first into this chute and I’m going to hold your ankles. Feel around for the vice grip, its in the corn somewhere.

    Oh the joys of having a rather scrawny eight year old around.

    These stories could go on and on…

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