Barn Work

Aug 14, 2013 6:52pm

Here’s an example of my typical morning routine:

My alarm is set for well after dawn, but just as the first ray of light pierces the sky, the chickens start making noises that suggest someone is sticking hot needles into their eyeballs.

No one is doing that. Regardless, I am awake.

That is a lie. I am half awake. I may be standing upright but both of my eyeballs are still shut. I blindly reach for an article of clothing or some other scrap of fabric as I dodge tetanus (by way of half-removed carpet staples) on my way to the back door.

I trudge across the yard in muck boots and a dish-towel that, for modesty’s sake, I’ve fashioned into some kind of body-turban. It covers exactly zero body parts. I know this because one of my eyes is now open.

I unlatch the door to the coop. Chickens burst forth like pellets from a shotgun. Feathers rain down upon us.

By the time I make it to the barn with the first bucket of water both eyeballs are open and my brain is engaged enough to realize that if I was in the city I’d be arrested for indecent exposure. The donkeys don’t seem to care.

However, there was a slight deviation from my normal routine yesterday when I stumbled to the back door, opened it, and was smacked in the face by a forty-degree wind.

Forty degrees = ten degrees above freezing and twenty degrees below an acceptable temperature to walk outside without pants. Except, even though both of my eyeballs opened realfast, the first thought I had wasn’t, “Holy shit, I need to find some pants.” It was, “Holy shit, I need to finish the barn.”

That’s exactly how farm-life reprograms your brain.

So… I need to finish the barn. Now.

Seeing as how I have three barns, let me be clear:


This one.

I re-shingled the roof last summer, and over the winter I was flying by the seat of my (missing) pants when I rescued the donkeys. And if you’ll recall, the barn started out looking like this:


Progress on the barn pretty much stopped when the stall was complete…


But after slogging through half a winter like this last year, it’s clear the barn needs some immediate and necessary upgrades. For example:

#1 – Hay Loft

The joist hangars for the old storage loft are still there, so putting the new loft in will be fairly easy. So easy, in fact, I already started.


The most amazing part? I was able to start building the loft because I have a pickup truck that could carry all of the materials, including full sheets of plywood. Life. Changed.

I’m not rebuilding the entire loft because no one over five feet tall will be able to walk into the donkey stall without risking concussion, so the loft will be approximately 612 and cover half of the stall area.

The joists (28′s) are already up and screwed in place, so I just need to nail down some decking, build a railing and ladder, and move my leaning tower of straw bales up there. If I stack the bales 4 high I should be able to fit at least 60 up there with room to maneuver.

#2- New Barn Door

While the old barn door was not pretty, it was functional. Right up until this happened.


So, that will need to be replaced. I’ll take solace in the fact that I may be the first DIY blogger to ever build a barn door for an actual barn instead of for a kitchen or something. (Which isn’t a knock on kitchen barn doors, because I totally love that look.)

#3- Doors & Windows

There are a lot of random holes in this barn.


The door way doesn’t have a door, there are window-less windows galore. It’s nice for ventilation, but particularly if I’m going to be storing hay in a loft, I want to make sure the interior of the barn is protected from at least some of the elements. (See #6 for my ulterior motive.)

#4- Utilities

Interestingly, the barn has had both water and electric at some point in time but neither of them currently work. Last year I just stretched three extension cords between the garage and the barn to power the fence and heated water bucket, but I’d really like to have some lights and actual outlets out there before winter. That means trenching from the utility pole to the barn and then banging my head against a wall for a bit.

The good news is that there is working water in the barn. The bad news is that there was another spigot located somewhere in the middle of the rubble pile that was snapped off when that barn fell over, which means I need to dig down below the frost line and cap that line off before I can turn the water on out here.

#5 – Shelving

For the last six months I’ve been using the time-honored organization system employed in barns everywhere: hang shit on protruding nails.


I also have a couple of metal containers for donkey treats, first aid, and other donkey accessories. Like party hats.

It would be fantastic to have some cheap wood shelves out here to help with keeping things properly organized. A couple of hooks for the pitchforks wouldn’t hurt either.

#6 – Chicken Coop

So. This is a new idea. You may recall back when I built this coop, I intended for it to be temporary…


All of the chicken-books I read basically made me think that if I let the Nugs out of my site for a minute that something would snatch them up and eat them. However, they’re pretty smart and I have a lot of good cover, so they’ve been good free-ranging in the summer. My guess is the flock wouldn’t be so lucky in winter and spring when food is scarce and coyotes are plentiful.

Originally I planned to build a bigger coop and chicken paddocks in the garden. Now that I’ve had the chickens for a summer, I don’t think the paddocks are totally necessary. While I may move them out to the garden in the future, they actually seem to like hanging out with the donkeys…


One of the Nugs even left me an egg right smack in the middle of the barn floor once.

After seeing this setup at the beautiful barn wedding I attended a few weeks ago…


I thought it might be a good compromise. I can section off a part of the barn inside for the “coop”, and create an outdoor run that’s big enough to contain them in the winter.

Honestly, if I’m at the top of my game, this is a good four weekends worth of work. At the rate the temperature is dropping, that will basically be the middle of winter. The good news is, I’ve got a lot of tools and a big truck.

Let the barn work begin.


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