Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Our Latest Project

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, John and Girl 1 worked on a project to get us ready for next spring:  a goat milking stanchion.  See below . . .
This little stand, hand-crafted by John, is designed for a milking goat to stand on while being milked.  Her head goes through the boards at the front where (on the side you can't see in this photo) a feeder is attached so that she can munch while being held securely in place for her milking. 

John has already begun work on the goat shelter and pen (photos soon).  We are hoping to get 1 or 2 milking does and probably a kid, too (because they're just so dad-gum cute!) in the early spring.  We're excited about all the things we can do with the milk, which will range from drinking it (obviously) and feeding it to other animals, to making products such as cheese, yogurt, butter, and soap.  Since I am mostly bed-bound right now, I've made myself a part of the project by reading.  I've read The Backyard Homestead, which has a great section on raising goats (and on a bazillion other amazing topics) and Milk Soapmaking, which is apparently the best book out there on the subject.  Yep, lots of exciting things are happening around here!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Storage Problem Solved

The problem:  With 5 busy people in this house and all their school, dance, soccer, AWANA, bike, and cold weather gear, we were having trouble finding WHAT we needed WHEN we needed it.  And don't even get me started on shoes!
So, this pic is what we started with.  This armoire is actually a TV cabinet that we had been using as random storage.  (We sold it for $50 to a FaceBook friend.  That basically covered the entire cost of the project.)  The baskets below are holding the kids' shoes.  The doorway on the left leads to the garage, so this is a highly trafficked area and  one that was not working as hard for us as it could.  It was time for a redesign.
Below is where we were attempting to hang the myriad things we need to be able to grab on our way out the door.  To say that it is overcrowded is a gross understatement.

Solution:  Now, here is the solution I came up with for that wall.  The only thing that stayed was the mirror.  Everything else is new (well, not really "new," just repurposed).

And, here it is once we moved all our gear in.

Here's what I did.  I started with three stacking bookshelves that we already had and lined them up side by side to create a bench.  The collapsible fabric storage cubes hold the kids' shoes.  They each get two cubes and a small space for boots between their cubes.  Lots of stores have these cubes, but I got mine at Home Depot.  I like them because they have lots of color options and have the little pockets that allow you to label the contents of each box. 

To create the seat cushion on the bench, I repurposed an old closet door that we had in the garage, topped it with upholstery batting, and stapled on the fabric (which I already had).  Also in this picture is the 8 ft. piece of pine I bought to stain and use for the long row of knobs.  We bought knobs from IKEA (cheap) and mounted them to the board to create 15 hangers.

For the boot drying rack, I topped a rimmed baking sheet with a cooling rack.  It fit perfectly! Also, it took up the space at the end of the bench that was leftover once I had my cushion on.

For the top level of storage, we cut and painted some IKEA shelving that used to be in the playroom and added more Home Depot storage boxes. 

All told, this was a super-cheap project that allowed us to repurpose a lot of things we already had on hand and left us with a much more usable space.  And the "grab your shoes, backpack, and umbrella" part of our morning went a lot more smoothly today than it has tended to in the past.  :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

We've Got Chickens!

We've been thinking for awhile about adding chickens to our home.  We've read countless articles and a few books on the topic and finally decided that the best way to figure this out was just to dive in.  We were able to find a local guy who builds these great chicken tractors.  John did do some work on it to improve its design a bit. He added the white-framed door in the chicken wire, which allows us access to the girls while they are out of the house.  Also, he added the white door at the entrance to the house.  It's on a pulley so that we can open and close it from the outside.  Not pictured, on the back of the house are two nesting boxes that we can access from outside.  So far, it seems to be working great.  We like the idea of the tractor because it is on wheels and can be moved to fresh ground every day or so, so that the hens always have fresh ground to peck and fertilize. 
We bought our 8 hens from a local lady who got them as chicks in the spring.  They've been free-range on her farm since then.  They should be approaching laying age, so we are eagerly awaiting our first eggs!

We have 8 hens in all, 2 each of 4 different breeds.  The red one above is a Rhode Island Red.

The grayish hen on the left is an Araucana (she will lay green eggs).  The black one is an Australorp.  Her feathers have a blue sheen to them in the sun that is really very pretty.

This is a Plymouth / Barred Rock.  It is definitely my favorite.  I think they look like the quintessential chicken.
We have really enjoyed getting to know the girls.  With all their pecking and scratching and roosting and eating and dust bathing, they are definitely entertaining to watch.  They are actually a lot quieter than I expected them to be.  The only time they've really gotten to clucking was when Aslan (our outdoor cat) was examining the coop.  The kids are really enjoying the new additions.  They're eager to put on their rubber boots in the morning and let the girls out of the house.  We are definitely enjoying this new endeavor!