September 29, 2016

Barn Doors

Early before sunrise the other day, I was sitting by an open window and heard an odd noise. At first it sounded like caterwauling, but then it dissolved into yipping and howling. It sounded like coyotes! We don't have what I would call a "coyote problem" here, but they do pass through on occasion. They don't bother us and we don't bother them, but if what I heard was coyotes, it was worrisome because it sounded like they were right at our fence line.

I went out to make enough ruckus to scare them away, but it concerned me that I had no way to secure the goats in the barn. We hadn't gotten to build the last barn door yet.

Guess what was on the next day's project list?

Dan and I spent a long time discussing what kind of door we wanted for this part of the barn: hinged or sliding. The beauty of sliding doors is that when open, they are out of the way. The drawback is that the apparatus is expensive. Hinges are easy to find and cheaper, but unless the doors can be secured to the wall when open, they can flop around in the wind or be bumped shut. Big doors will eventually sag on the hinges.

Dan did some pricing of materials and told me it would be around $200 for the sliding door track and hardware. More discussion. In the end he decided to do what he did for the sliding door on the chicken coop - make his own. This was going to be a bigger door than the chicken coop, however, so he did things a bit differently.

For the door hardware:
  • 2, 4" flat pulleys with enclosed bearings and 5/8" center hole
  • 5/8" bolts with shanks (the part that isn't threaded) long enough to fit through the hole in the pulley and act as an axle. 
  • 3/4" pipe cut to make spacers
  • flat washers
  • 5/8" nuts

To attach the wheel to the door:

  • 2, 15" gate hinges (the loops at the bottom are where gate bolts would attach it to a gate).
  • bolts and nuts to attach the hinge to the door

For the track, Dan originally looked for either pipe or solid stock. These were so expensive, however, that it would have been easier to buy the ready-made track. Instead he made his own.

  • 1/4" by 1" flat bar (aka strapping, Dan drilled the holes), total of 12 feet
  • oak ripped to 3/4" wide and 1.5" thick, 12 feet in length
  • flat head screws

The flat bar is the same width as the flat pulley. (If the pulley was rounded inside the wheel, pipe would have fit better.)

To attach the track to the barn:

  • 7, 90-degree 6" angle brackets 
  • 7 scraps of 1/2" plywood for spacers
  • screws

The spacers were necessary for the pulley wheels to ride the track without scraping the side of the barn. The bottom of the angle brackets were cut evenly with the width of the track with a hand grinder. Seven of these were used to support the weight of the door on the track.

The door itself is made two pieces of 1/2" plywood and homemilled boards. The X pattern keeps the plywood from twisting or warping.

It's heavy, so Dan did not attach the wheels to the door on the ends. He attached them 24 inches from the edges of the door to help prevent the door from sagging.

It's an eight-foot door, so this means that the pulley wheels are four feet apart. Another advantage to this was that the track didn't have to be as long. If the wheels had been at the edges of the door the track would have to be 16 feet instead of the 12 he made it.

I have to say that even though the door itself is very heavy, it glides on the track very easily.

A few other details: stops for the wheels and door.

The final cost for making the track and wheel system ourselves was only about a third of what it would cost to buy the track and hardware ready-made.

On the other hand, when you DIY you sometimes run into things you hadn't planned on. For example, the door was hitting on one of the battens (that's what I'm calling the strips of wood that cover the edge where the sheets of plywood meet). Dan's solution was to make something to guide the door to slide over the batten.

The only other problem was caused by the unevenness of the ground. It left a gap under the closed door that we didn't want. Dan used a broken pillar top that we saved from our front porch demolition two years ago.

It evens out the ground, blocks the gap under the closed door, and the goats think it's something to claim.

One last shot of the inside:

The only things left to do are to paint it and to reposition the fence post that you see in the second photo. Then we can get started on some windows.

Hopefully everything is fairly self-explanatory, but Dan said that if anyone wants more specific details to email us. (Hey, I think I feel another eBook for The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos coming on, LOL).

Barn Doors © September 2016 by Leigh 

September 26, 2016

Of Technology, Information, and Preparedness

We talked about this when I announced the release of How To Bake Without Baking Powder, my first paperback in my The Little Series of Homestead How-Tos. It was also one of my 2016 homestead goals. I'm referring to wanting to get my vast collection of useful homesteading information off of my computer and into hard copy form.

Goat notes, of which I seem to have volumes.

In the worst case scenarios, the system collapses and we lose electricity for years or even forever. At least long enough so that the stockpile of batteries is long gone or all our electronic devices are fried by the time we get power back. That's a bit sensationalistic, although I believe there's enough evidence to not blow it off as the imaginings of a bunch of kooks. Closer to home is something like what recently happened to me.

I was having trouble booting my computer. It started by occasionally not wanting to boot up at all, and then got to the point where it wanted to run a disk check every time I turned it on. I headed on over to Ubuntu Forums (my go-to place whenever I have a computer question) and queried the group. I was given some tests to preform on my machine and sure enough, the hard drive had bad blocks.

Basically this means that some of the sectors on the disk are permanently damaged. This means that no data can be written to or recovered from these sections. If I was more geeky I might have done something else, but I figured the best thing to do was to back-up all my important information and replace my 4-year-old computer.

I'd been needing to upgrade my operating system anyway.

How many of you back up the stuff on your computer that you want to keep? When I'm working on a book I back up all related files every time I work on them. Other things, not so much. As a collector of information, that could mean the loss of my entire collection in the event of computer problems. As it was, I felt fortunate to be able to recover everything that I wanted to keep.

I've been working on making hard copies of a lot of it. Some of it has been from sites that offer a print version of their recipe or material, much of it is handwritten notes. I'm arranging it in three-ring binders by categories and alphabetically as topics. All of it is information that will help us in our quest for self-sufficiency.

As you an imagine it's a slow job; partly because of the time it takes to copy what I want to keep, but also in finding where I put it on my computer in the first place. I have things scattered as bookmarks over three web browsers, and in numerous files and directories on my computer, plus my desktop.

A computer has the potential to be an easy-to-organize filing system. Just a couple of clicks and the information is snagged for keeping. But who takes the time to make sure everything is properly organized? And who wants to rummage around through everything to find it again, assuming I remember it's there in the first place. Does anybody else have this problem, or is it just me? So much easier just to do another search online; or is it? Has anyone else noticed how cluttered search engines have become with useless information disguising itself as what you're looking for? (All thanks to the fine art of search engine optimization, the goal of which is to get hits, not to provide meaningful content).

Sometimes I ask myself, do I really need all this information? I mean, if I can't even remember that I've got it, what use is it? Am I so caught up in collecting all this data, that I am unable to do anything useful with it?

A notebook for kinder, natural cleaners. These are
important if we want to irrigate with our greywater.

I'm finding an old-fashioned 3-ring binder simpler and easier for my information storage than my computer. Most of what I want can be accomplished with a handwritten note on a page of similar information. I find page flipping faster and easier than clicking all over the place (or swiping).  Everything I want to refer to is in one convenient place; I can grab it and go to the kitchen or the barn. Plus I find that the physical act of writing a note helps me remember the information better. I'm satisfied with this system.

What do you think?

September 24, 2016

Brush Patrol

We have an area between the east paddock and the house that doesn't get very much attention. About this time of year it is overrun with kudzu, sapling oaks, poison ivy, and ligustrum, and it just seems like we ought to do something about it. What do we do? Set up the electric netting and turn in the goats.

They're always cautious at first.

It's as if they don't remember having been here before.

Eventually they eat their way down the length of the area.

The ducks in the pool get a close look.

Reached the kudzu at last. Kudzu is a nitrogen fixer, so I suppose it isn't all
bad. The goats love it and its a good source of B vitamins, calcium, & iron.

The electric netting works pretty well, although
it's a bit of a bother to set up, plus it sags.

You can see the east paddock in the background on the right. The netting
ends at the fence with the charger/battery is set out in the sun in the field.

Actually, I haven't featured my girls in a post for awhile, so here they are. For anyone just passing through, they are Kinders.




And my little girls who are getting so big that I can't always tell them apart from the adults from a distance.

Well, except April here who is my only all-black doe.
April will be six months old on October 1st.

Anna - 5 and 1/2 months old

Daisy will be 5 months old on October 5.

Kinders are considered aseasonal breeders, meaning they can breed any time of the year. However, their strongest heats are in the fall, so that's when most Kinder owners breed for spring kids. This fall I plan to breed my three adult does and wait until next year to breed the younger girls. I want to start alternating my breedings so I can have milk year around.

Brush Patrol © Sept 2016 by Leigh 

September 21, 2016

My Poor Garden

It's not all bad. The first half of summer was devastatingly hot and dry, but Mid-July through mid-August finally brought us plentiful rain and the garden recovered. Now September has continued the earlier trend toward hot and dry which has meant the end of some things. Even so I'm still harvesting

Sweet peppers

Okra, which is benefiting from

Greywater, which we finally got set up.

I'm also getting

Cantaloupes. They are small from not enough water, but
they are very tasty and sweet; perfect for the two of us.

Green beans. Just a handful every other day or so.
Not enough to can but enough to enjoy for dinner.

I'm getting tomatoes again although the plants look pretty raggedy.

I call these my "comeback tomatoes" because every summer my tomato plants succumb to blight. Gardeners are advised to pull and destroy such plants immediately, but I rarely get around to doing that. I find that when the weather begins to cool down a bit, the plants make a comeback with new vines and leaves and more tomatoes.

I've been seed saving too: tomato, cucumber (now finished), cantaloupe, and green beans.

Sweet basil going to seed.

What's not going so well is the annual takeover by the wiregrass. Those midsummer rains saved the harvest, but also caused the wiregrass to start growing again.

Wiregrass is one of the few things that thrives in drought-like conditions. What makes it discouraging is that it takes over heavily mulched areas too. It just grows and grows like an indeterminate tomato vine, both underground and over the top. Nature is a mightier conqueror than we like to think, and every year I feel like this stuff sends us back to gardening square one.

Wiregrass in the tomato bed.

The tomato rows you see above were mulched with cardboard, empty paper feed bags, and about six inches+ of wood chip mulch.

You'd never believe this was all cultivated earlier this summer.
I tried to grow summer squash here, but it didn't make it.

I might have finally found some answer for it, however, in this article, "Resolving the "Wiregrass" Problem." I don't know if I have the same species mentioned in the article, but it indicates that the stuff usually grows in low-phosphorous soil. I know our soil is low in phosphorous, so if I can resolve that, maybe I'll resolve my wiregrass problem as well.

In the meantime, I'm getting the hoop house ready for fall planting.

Wiregrass comes up in the hoophouse raised beds too.

Temperatures remain in the low 90sF (low to mid 30sC), and between that and my bone dry soil from no rain, I somehow don't feel like fall planting. August and September are our times to plant cool weather veggies, however, so I need to get on with it.

One last garden shot

Jerusalem artichokes are blooming.

And that's it for me. How about you?

My Poor Garden © Sept 2016 by Leigh 

September 18, 2016

Solar Barn Light and Paint

With the sun rising later and it getting dark earlier, I was very happy to get this installed.

We didn't want to run electricity out to the barn, so I found a solar LED shed light at Amazon. The reviews on it were great and at the time I ordered it (about two weeks ago) the price was only about $50. It has since more than doubled! (I note that the one currently listed on Amazon is a different seller for the same product. I would definitely recommend it, but wait until MicroSolar, Inc. offers it again - better price.)

It turns on and off by pull chain and has three brightness levels.

This is on high

The only problem with the pull chain is that it hangs from the lamp so I can't turn the light on from the doorway. I reckon I'll have to leave a flashlight at the door in case we want to go in when it's pitch dark out.

The Little Barn is mostly shaded, but Dan chose a corner which gets both morning and afternoon sun on which to mount the solar panel.

It will still charge without full sunlight, just more slowly.

The panel is adjustable to get the best sun.

It's both hinged and swiveled. 

You can also see that I've started painting. Dan is working on the last door so I'll be able to show that to you soon. Windows will be after that.

September 15, 2016

Forgotten Items Found and Finishing the Back Porch

I told you about the old cabinet I'd been saving in "My New Milking Room" post. A couple of things happened as a result of that, including finding some things stashed in that cabinet that I'd forgotten about.

One is a cardboard brickmaker.

I bought it from Lehman's awhile back when they were having a sale. Needless it's been "lost" in the cabinet all this time so I haven't had a chance to try it.

I also found this

It's called a "Pump N' Seal" for vacuum sealing glass jars. I bought it for Y2K storage and had forgotten all about it! It's over 16 years old so I have no idea of the parts are still in good order. We ended up using 5-gallon buckets with oxygen absorbers instead. I could certainly use a way to protect my grains from pantry moths, so I'll have to see how it works.

We've also been able to finally finish the back porch, which is a huge relief.

The shelves replace the cabinet.

I finally have a place for recycling bins, canners and large pots, laundry supplies, rags, campfire cast iron, dehydrator, and my solar oven when it's not in use. I love feeling organized.

September 12, 2016

Little Barn: Doors and Walls

Dan's been working on the walls and doors for the Little Barn. We're not exactly doing things in order, but here's where things stand at the moment.

Doors for the hay mow went up first. Originally we planned a sliding door (or doors) like we did for the chicken coop. But Dan had the old door from the original shed, so he used it for one side of a double door for the hay storage area and made the second door to match.

Double doors open wide for filling with hay.

This is the original shed with its original door. The shed became
our first chicken coop (on the left) and goat shed (on the right). 

A closer look. Once painted they'll look almost identical
except for the raggedy worn bottom on the original door.

The front wall was next.

Then the Dutch (stable) door into the feed area and milking room, also the wall down the side.

The feed room door was made to match the hay doors.

View from the side...

A sliding door will complete the wall under the overhang.
A rain catchment tank will be connected to the downspout.

And the back...

Inside view.

Still to replace will be the original back wall of the original shed.

Then windows, battens, and paint. We've made a lot of progress, but it seems like we still have a long way to go.

Little Barn: Doors and Walls © September 2016