Building an apron for access to the barn

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FB_IMG_1429635140386In the construction process, we learned we needed to build an apron to facilitate entry and exit from our property. The apron provides a transition from the road, to the driveway / field and cleans the mud off from tires as well. to build this, we had to excavate a foot +/1 to cut through the top layer of dirt and get to the clay base, then fill it with tire scrubber rocks.

FB_IMG_1429635145197We learned a couple of key things in this process.

  1. An apron is important and needs to be planned for (whoops, missed this at first)
  2. Excavation can be done pretty easily on this with a tractor and bucket, no expert help needed (cost savings)
  3. When ordering the tire scrubber rock, be sure to be clear about the grade of rock you are getting. We were not clear enough on this and ended up picking out re-bar and some scrap metal from the end result.
  4. Pick out any scrap metal from the final product.
  5. If you did not get a driveway permit, your township may take offense and ask for one, viewing this as a driveway…


Building an Alpaca feed shed

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Our Alpaca were coming and we had no facilities for them, as it was something of a surprise the way it came together.

Fortunately, they were coming on a day I had off from work and so Tommy and I ran to the store for some supplies and went to work. Here we have our generator and tools set out and are starting to lay out the simple framing. Our plan was a small 4×8 feed shed with a hay rack.

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We built the base up on landscaping timbers  to both keep it off the ground and also to allow us to move it more easily with the tractor. Tommy was running the screw gun on this and did a great job.

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The hay rack was made by ripping down 2x4s into strips, then making the lattice on a frame cut at an angle to allow for hay to load up, while still being strong enough to support the Llama and alpacas sticking their heads in it. So far it has worked out great. We built the whole house and feed rack for about the cost of buying a ready made feed rack, so it was a pretty significant savings and not that much effort.


The alpaca like to lounge in the house as well as eat there, and it provides sufficient cover to get out of the elements with the over hang.

‘Tis the season for apple

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imageimageEvery September I am so excited for the chance to cook and bake with apples. Truthfully there is nothing that I do not like about the apple tree. From the flowers in Spring, the chance to climb them, the fruit they offer and the wood use later for smoking, this tree is awesome.

This September is no different from any other year for the apple anticipation that I experience. However, this year I was pleasantly surprised to discover neighbors who have apple trees with an abundance of apples. Hooray! Did I mention that these neighbors are generous and deliver these apples by the bushel to my door? Double hooray! Some of the smaller, gnarly apples go straight to the pigs, but most of them are being used in our kitchen which is just wonderful.  Read More

Chicken (and Turkey) Ladders

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20150227_112545One of the first things we made when we got birds, was a little entertainment for them. They like to roost, even as babies. Jessica looked on line and we were both surprised at the costs for these little accessories. I whipped up a few models in my shop to see how they worked and the birds really seemed to go for them.

These were very effective when they were little and we scaled the idea up as the birds grew, from just a couple of inches off the ground, to about 18 inches and now we have birds roosting in the rafters of our barn!

I tried a few ideas as you can see here, from blocking on a 45, to ladder cutting like a stringer for stairs. They all worked well, but the ladder approach seems best for the small applications.

20150227_112604Lessons learned:

  1. Leave plenty of room for each bird to roost on a level without interfering with the one below it.
  2. Ensure there is sufficient off set to avoid raining poop
  3. A poop tray under the roost is a great addition for clean up.
  4. Ensure the ladder is balanced with a ground extension to prevent tipping, unless it is otherwise fastened down.