May 2, 2016

Goat Barn: Materials

As we work on our plans for the goat barn, one of the things we discuss is building materials. I don't know about you, but I'm not happy with the quality of lumber that's available at the home improvement stores. It's all bowed, cupped, knotted, checked, splintered, or split, and we have to dig through the entire pile to find the least imperfect ones. As Dan likes to say, most of it isn't even fit for a dog house. And the price they expect the consumer to pay for it is ludicrous. Even in the time versus money discussion, we seem forced to concede to someone else's poor craftsmanship for do-it-yourself projects. Or are we?

Most folks don't have alternatives, that's true. But we discussed an option Dan has had on his mind for awhile. After all, we've had a lot of our old pine trees coming down lately.

Remember this one from a post in February?

This one came down in March. Landed smack-dab on top of a t-post!

This one in the doe browse came down in April.

Most of these old pines are already dead when they fall, but they get hung up in the other trees to where they can't fall to the ground and rot. Dan wondered, why couldn't we make our own lumber?

On a whim we took a look on Craigslist and found just what Dan was looking for.

An almost new Central-Machinery sawmill from Harbor Freight Tools. The
former owner installed a bigger horse power engine & included new blades.

The amazing things was that Dan happened to be home during the week, the seller happened to be home that day, it was priced to sell, and we had enough money in our barn savings to get it.

The log is secured to the track and the saw is pushed along the track
to cut it. The track is 9 feet long, although Dan would like extensions.

Dan tested it out on some old logs we had lying around.

He experimented & practiced until he could make a pretty fair 4x4.

So then. The first step toward the barn was to cut some of those fallen trees into manageable lengths and haul up some logs.

An afternoon's work.

It's a start.

Goat Barn: Materials © May 2016 by Leigh

April 30, 2016

The Garden at the End of April

I've got the winter veggies finishing up, spring ones coming up, and some things still to plant. Here's a little photo tour of my garden at the end of April

Almost ready to harvest is 

my garlic

I've been picking strawberries for awhile now and having a great harvest.

Still getting lettuce, although the days are hot so I'm sure that's soon to end.

Jerusalem artichokes are strong. The greens make good goat treats.

Hoop house cabbage is flowering. This is the first time
I've had cabbage flower & I'm looking forward to seeds.

Kale is flowering and Swiss chard will soon too.

I've got two kinds of tomatoes this year. I got seeds from
Kris for an heirloom Italian paste, and bought Homestead
 tomato plants (also heirloom) from the feed store.

With the tomatoes I have basil that I started early. Also marigolds
and multiplier onions, although neither of these are up yet.

Cucumbers are sprouting

As are cantaloupe

and bush beans

I didn't get many slips from my sweet potato, so
maybe I'll buy some more if I can find them around.

My raspberry plants are leafing out beautifully and starting to
 bloom. So I have high hopes of a good year for raspberries!

Behind the raspberries you see what looks like a blank field of dirt. We just finished planting pasture forage there for the does.

Planted but yet to make an appearance: popcorn, okra, onions, potatoes, and sunflowers.

How about you? Is your gardening season in full swing yet? Or are you still waiting on the weather? Do tell!

April 28, 2016

Kid Play

The "big boys" are 6 - 8 weeks older than all of the little girls.

Violet is the only "grown up" who will play with the boys.

First meeting with the big bucks.

Thunder is just too curious and friendly. :)

April 25, 2016

Goat Barn: The Plan

Now that the old oak tree is gone and we're overrun with goats, it's time to get serious with our plans for a goat barn. After reviewing our pile of barn sketches and floor plans, we decided to build it in the same basic footprint as the original outbuilding, the one we used to call the coal barn (because our old house was originally heated with coal and that's where the coal was stored - photos here).

This is where the original building stood. The main part was
 on the right, the slab was an attached lean-to carport. The current
goat shed and tarp-covered hoop hay hut are back on the left.

One important consideration is hay storage and we've been discussing two options: on the ground level or in a loft. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. A one-story building would be faster and easier to build, but would take up more ground and mean more to roof. Not having to hoist hay or climb up to feed the goats is appealing as we get older. On the other hand, our barnyard area isn't very big so have a smaller footprint is a huge plus. It means we don't have to decide whether to take space for the barn from either the pasture or the driveway.

The plan we're leaning toward is this one. The sketches are rough and not to scale, but you'll get the idea.

Bottom floor. Hay will go over the goat part on the right, with a
chute to drop hay down into a hay feeder. Stairs will be outside.

The feed room will go where the concrete slab is, with a milking room behind. The goat part will be to the right of that. I really like this plan because it resolves issues I've had with our small goat shed. The feed room will be where I can store our equipment and process grains and feeds. I get both an in and an out door for the girls which will help with traffic flow for milking. The barn area is big enough for a full house of does and kids, with room for three small kidding stalls. I also have to say that being able to drop hay down a chute into an open, dual-sided hay feeder, rather than carrying hay through a mob of goats, is extremely appealing. A wide doorway will allow goats in and out without dominant goats defending the barn and keeping others out.

Rough sketch of the front. Double sliding doors for the feed room,
and a Dutch (stable) door in front to check on goats without having
to enter the barn. It will be wide enough for the wheelbarrow. 

My idea for the stairs. We decided against a traditional ladder to
the hay loft, because as we get older stairs seem a better option.

The plan is still in the discussion stage, and while we discuss we're clearing the area, moving things that have to be moved, collecting materials, and getting tools ready. Moving the location of the goats will also mean rearranging fences and gates, so we've also been discussing how to update our Master Plan. More on all that soon.

April 22, 2016

Time Versus Money

Now this is a topic that everyone can relate to. Who doesn't struggle with the dilemma of time versus money? Do I save money and do it myself, or do I save time and buy it? That can mean buying the item outright, or hiring someone to do some work. Sometimes doing it myself means having to buy the tools and supplies necessary to get the job done. Which is the better choice? I don't know about you, but sometimes one wins out, sometimes the other.

Modern thinking tends to assume money represents leisure and freedom from work, i.e. the more money I have the more toys, entertainments, and free time I can have. Here's a real life example: When the kids were growing up, Dan and I believed they needed a full time mother. Also we believed in homeschooling. Every single person we encountered (except for other homeschoolers) assumed that I stayed home because we could "afford" it. That Dan made a big enough salary so that I didn't have to work. No one seemed to guess that we did what we did out of a spiritual conviction, and that some things are more important than money. The reality of our situation was that we really tightened our belts and lived what others would consider a denialist lifestyle.

I don't think it was always that way. Do you remember in Farmer Boy about Almanzo, his father, and the pumpkins?

     Father asked: "Almanzo, do you know what this is?"
     "Half a dollar," Almanzo answered.
     "Yes, but do you know what half a dollar is?... It's work, son. That's what money is; it's hard work... Say you have a seed potato in the spring, what do you do with it?" ...
     "First you manure the field, and plow it. Then you harrow, and mark the ground. And plant the potatoes, and plow them, and hoe them. You plow and hoe them twice... Then you dig them and put them down cellar."
     "And if you get a good price son, how much do you get to show for all that work? How much do you get for half a bushel of potatoes?"
    "Half a dollar," Almanzo said.
     "Yes," said Father. "That's what's in this half-dollar. The work that raised half a bushel of potatoes is in it."

When my kids were little there was a lot of social discussion about mothers and going to work. That was before the supermom myth had been busted and women were looking to have it all. I think it was Dr. James Dobson (or was it Larry Burkett?) who recommended that mothers count the cost of a job before assuming that having a paycheck would mean they had more money: childcare, transportation, wardrobe, meals, vehicle maintenance, and conveniences to make up for one's lack of time all add up. I've had friends who told me that their job was actually costing money rather than making money.

I mention that because the principle also applies to some aspects of homesteading. A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post about growing our own goat feed, and I received a comment that said it sounded like too much work. The point is, it's work either way, whether I grow it myself or buy it. If a bag of feed is $15 and I make $10 an hour, then it "costs" me an hour and a half of my time to purchase the feed (plus the fuel and time to go buy it). If I make $30 an hour, then it's only a half hour of my labor. The question then becomes, would I rather go work for someone else to pay for my feed, or work for myself (and my goats)?

Sometimes we have more time than money, sometimes we have more money than time. Sometimes it's the little things which are personally important that tip the balance. There is no way to say one choice is better than the other, but I would say it is wise to count the true cost and then make choices based on our goals, priorities, and what we believe will achieve the most beneficial outcome.