Category Archives: Building on the Farm

January 2011 Winter Storm

The winter snow storm rages like an irritated itchy rash outside the window of the old farm house. I just came inside after spending a few hours making sure all the animals were nicely tucked into their shelters.

Charlotte and Ginger (the pigs) are in the barn buried under a pile of straw. Nugget is nesting on top of Charlotte because there’s no better way to keep your feet warm than by standing on a warm pig. Missy (chicken 2) is wandering around the stall, scratching and pecking finding little treats under piles of hay and straw.

I put a thick layer of straw down for the ducks and with their feathers they curl together and settle in to the sound of wind rattling the windows of their little shelter. Full dishes of food and a quick trip to the pond for a drink and they’re happy.

We had three horses for a couple of months, but we’re back down to one. Autumn. My sweet giant girl with a gentle nature and huge heart. I load the truck up with eight small square bales of hay and drive through the snow out to the horse shelter. The two goats and horse are already inside and the building is warm with their body heat.

I add a fluffy layer of fresh straw to thicken their bed and offer three piles of “inside” hay. There’s a seven hundred pound round bale outside, but it’s in the middle of the field and in the middle of the wind. After a little scuffle to decide who gets to eat from which pile the two goats and horse settle in for a good snack. The food helps product heat and the heat keeps them all warm.

I stood quietly watching Nelly, Billy and Autumn enjoy their inside hay. The smell of horse, straw and hay was a pleasant fragrance and better than anything I could buy in a store. I watched as each bit of hay was picked up by dainty lips and drawn into the cheeks. Their loud chewing sounds were a comfort.

I felt the warmth spread from my belly and into my heart and I thought this is what it must feel like to be deep-in-the-gut-happy.

I bundled up the dogs in their warmest coats and took them outside while I shoveled several paths for them to run. They played, got wet, happy and then cold. We’re all back inside now.

Each dog has selected, and is napping in one of the three heated beds. The sound of Gizmo snoring inspires smiles and giggles. Gizmo is double chicken winged in his bed with both back legs shooting straight up in the air. No wonder he’s snoring, sleeping on his back.

I filled the wild bird feeder and I can see blue jays and cardinals enjoying the seeds regardless of the weather.

It seems like today is a really good day to enjoy the farm. I love a good snow storm.

The Lean to

The lean to is what crazy horse people call a horse shelter. Back in 1984 my dad built my horse Sam a lean to made out of fence posts, plywood, steel and a large chunk of reclaimed pool liner (it was waterproof). He must be given credit for creativity. What it lacked in esthetics it made up for in utilitarianism.

Rather than re-invent the wheel Brent and I decided to repair the old lean to for Autumn. Brent has this magical ability of finding incredible deals and he found an incredible deal on insulation and wood to reinforce the old lean to. It was solid and the twenty-six year old posts did not move with our wiggling. Keep in mind Brent is very strong and when he wiggles a post he really wiggles a post.

We found a way to attach the insulation to the walls and then put up OSB to cover the insulation. We did three walls and the ceiling. We also used roof insulation to shore up the roof along with several gallons of tar. It looks good. I hope it’s waterproof.

The lean to is made up of two sections. One to store hay and one as shelter for the horse. Both needed to be cleaned out and reconstructed. This process has taken longer than we both expected. It’s actually harder to shore up than build from scratch. After several days we eventually gave up on the level and square. If it looked good to the eye ball then it was good.

We used the backhoe to push and pull the building back into shape. We used too many nails and not nearly enough screws.

I was working alone the other day building a set of insulated sliding doors to go across the front of the lean to where the horse would live. By the time you added up all the weight of the material I could barely drag the panel into place. Picking it up would have been impossible. I managed to balance the panel and use a couple of small pieces of two by four to brace the panel to the building. I was jumping up with the nail gun because the ladder was out of reach.

Next I built a panel to fill the window hole in the sliding door. It was like a horrible train wreck happening as I built. Some days are not good for building and perhaps this was one of them. It didn’t matter how many times I measured, the cut was still wrong. The circular saw was kicking my ass and my saw horse buckets hated me. Every time I put the panel on the buckets the whole thing would fall over. I built this panel out of OSB, rocksol insulation and two by fours, so it was incredibly heavy.

I was frustrated and about ready to give up when I stood in the rain and calmed myself. Okay. I can do this. I’ve built before. I gave myself a little pep talk as I picked up the drill and attacked the hinges like a woman possessed.

At least Brent wasn’t around to smack me in the head with an eight foot piece of steel track. Last week as I was walking around the truck Brent pulled the track out of the truck. The next thing I hear is a loud bell and feeling the pain in my front teeth. He’d struck me in the forehead with the steel track. Not on purpose. I hope.

Days later I still have a headache.

I got the door panel built and hung. I proudly marveled at my ingenuity when I pulled the panel wide open to have it stop suddenly. How long has that strut been there anyway? About twenty-five years.

Sigh. Somedays are for doing laundry.

Horse Fencing – Part 2

It’s still not done as of November 4, 2010.

It’s been two weeks that we’ve steadily been working on fencing and we’re so close to being done with the hand breaking wire and in the past few days we’ve added the challenge of mud. My feet stayed mostly wet due to the hole in my decade old rubber boots. I’m excited that I get to buy a new pair!

I must give a special thanks to the backhoe for all it’s hard work. This project would not have gone as smoothly or as quickly without you, you sassy, big, yellow machine. I love you.

Secondly, to my husband Brent. Without his back breaking determination that had us working outside in the dark last night until after nine p.m. we’d never be this far, tired, broken and cold. Thanks honey.

The great news is that we should be done with all the fencing stuff today. We have the electrical set up and just need to hook it up to the unit and tighten the ribbon. What a beautiful sight with the white four inch ribbon stretched along the top rail. It’s changed the look of the backyard and the view from the house. I’m excited and nervous to put livestock in this new paddock. I know they’re going to love it.

We still have a to do some clean up, fix and insulate the lean to and work on getting water for winter. I wonder when Autumn is coming home?

Horse Fencing

Last spring, while working on all the projects around the farm to prepare for the engagement party a lady stopped by to talk about a horse. This horse happened to be my old horse that I’d given away during my divorce. I couldn’t afford the luxury of a horse and I’d found her a good home with this family.

The lady came to tell me they weren’t much interested in her any longer. She has periods of lameness that exceeds their limits. Would I care to have her back? Would I? Wow.

Having a horse is big undertaking. It’s not like a goat or a pig who can pretty much take care of themselves as long as the essentials are provided. Wintering a large animals can be difficult. Water situations must be managed, hay and often grain to help the animal create heat is often necessary.

I approached Brent with the idea. He gazed thoughtfully off in to space for a while until I was getting nervous and then he said “we could do it”. That simple. That sweet. He wasn’t thinking of excuses not to do it, he was coming up with a plan. Who doesn’t love a guy who comes up with a plan?

We went back and forth on the subject several times. He said he’d rather have a cow, but he can see why I’d like my horse back. He gets the sentimental value and he gets the real time cost and he still wants to bring my horse home.

We didn’t actually decided until last week that we’d take the horse for sure and it wasn’t until I called and talked to the lady that I got excited. The problem is: I want her now! What a kid.

But, first – the fencing.

We decided to use a combination of twenty rod livestock fence and electric. We started pulling out the old fencing on Friday with the help of our good friend Chuck. It took the three of us and the back hoe two hours of good hard labour to removed twenty year old rusted farm fence with a steel top rail. We all begged for tetanus shots by the end, but the fence line was cleared of wire and pipe.

We decided to leave the line of trees that have grown up along that fence line. We decided it was good food for the goats (who will be keeping Autumn company in the big field) and shelter from the wind. We’ve expanded this paddock by hundreds of feet and brought the fence line over to share the one with the dogs directly off the house.

We’re aware there will be moments when we open the laundry room window and bid a happy good day to a horse. The thought makes me giggle.

On Monday our friends Tanya and Justin came over with their two pugs: Chewy and Twinkie, to help with fencing. We started around ten in the morning and by eleven we’d pushed twenty-seven posts and were nearly ready to pull some fence. We ran the new fence line across the front of the property just east of the house. We x-braced the posts and rolled out the fence, which is great work out for the legs, and hooked up the back hoe to the fence and started to pull. It tensioned beautifully!

We put Tanya and Justin to work wiring the fence to the steel posts (it’s impossible to push cedar posts on this property – I swear it’s rock only three feet down). We’re going to put up a decorative wood fence in front of the steel one to make it more visually appealing from the road at a later time.

Right now, we need to get some functional fencing.

We managed to push another seventy-seven posts and pull five hundred feet of fencing thanks to the help of our friends. In return they have plans to make us clean their driveway with a toothbrush or perhaps there’s a sewage problem we can fix. It’s worth the trade in labour to help bring Autumn home.

Today we’ll work on the electric part of the fence. It may be a time consuming process as our insulators are made for wood posts and we’re working with metal. How hard can it be to drill through metal anyway?

We have a few more weeks until Autumn comes home and there’s so much to do, but we’re making great progress.