Monday, September 30, 2013

Are Bananas in Season?

The other day, my darling Girl 2 asked me whether bananas were in-season.

Just hearing her ask the question made me so happy.

It told me that she understands that produce doesn't grow year-round and that as conscious consumers we shouldn't expect to have access to ALL foods ALL of the time.  Her question tells me that she understands that at our house, we try to respect those rhythms of nature and enjoy each fruit when it is locally available and doesn't have to shipped half-way across the world to meet our demands.  Her question also tells me that she loves bananas and has noticed their absence .  :)

You should have seen her face fall when I told her that, in fact, bananas are NEVER in season here in Arkansas, that they tend to be grown much closer to the equator.  "Like in Guatemala!" she proclaimed.  Precisely.  In fact, the bananas I picked up as her treat from the store this week were actually grown in Guatemala.  I guess it should be no surprise that she loves this fruit; her foster mom says it was one of her earliest foods.

"They" say that kids are like sponges.  It is so true.  We've never set down as a family and had a lesson on the importance of eating local or eating in-season, but they are picking things up all of the time.  And, once explained, these concepts just make sense to them. I do intend to buy my Guatemalan-born child a few bananas from time to time.  We'll just chalk it up to appreciating her native culture.  ;)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

I'm a Maker

If you are my FaceBook friend, you may have noticed that my current job title is "Maker" at Brood Farm.  We've recently been discussing what all of our job titles on the farm ought to be, but there was no question that this one is mine.

There are several words we could use to describe the type of farming we aspire to.  Throwback, retro, and heritage farming are all descriptions we've batted around.  The idea is to get away from the mono-cultured farm that most of our farms are today (i.e. dairy farm or chicken farm or soybean farm) and just get back to the old-school idea of being a farm -- a place where lots of different types of farming are taking place as part of a whole system, inter-connectedness.  This is, of course, an older way of farming.  This is what our ancestor's subsistence farming looked like.

And in those systems, there was always a Maker.  It's the Maker's job to take all that is being produced outside into the house and create something with it, for use now or later.  Homemaker, a term with which more of us are familiar, is a certain type of or subset of Maker.  And, sure, I do those jobs.  I clean house, run kids hither and yon, cook dinner, do laundry, and on and on.  But I don't consider those part of my job description as Maker of our farm.  Some things I've made this week that are perhaps not standard fare for the modern-day housemaker are cheese, breads, yogurt, frozen yogurt, soap, lotion, ketchup, pickled okra, and barbecue sauce.  I estimate I've "put up" about 30 gallons of tomatoes over the past two weeks.  These are things I do as Maker.

My job is a great one.  Other than needing to be home without fail at 6:00 am and 6:00 pm for milking, the hours are flexible, allowing me to work in some of my homemaking duties during the course of the day.  And the benefits are good -- countless, really.  I'm not stuck at a desk (have you heard the latest findings about how detrimental large amounts of time sitting can be to your health?  They're likening it to smoking!), and I don't have to report to anyone (other than the animals, I guess).  I schedule my own days.  And, while they're quite full, they're always fulfilling.  I get to spend LOTS of time outdoors, harvesting and working in the garden and tending animals.  Being so close to God's creation is good for the soul.

Anyway, it occurred to me that some of you may not be familiar with the concept of Maker, so I thought I'd just help you make sense of my current job title.  :)

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Productive "Boys' Night"

Last night, the girls and I headed to Little Rock to see the touring Broadway production of Wicked!  It was absolutely amazing!  Girl 1, my little dancer, was enthralled the entire time.  Girl 2 was less than thrilled by the mushy song but was otherwise on the edge of her seat and cackling so loudly during the funny bits that she had others around us laughing with her.  I love getting to experience things like this with my kiddos.  

While we were living it up, the boys were enjoying a much more productive boys' night.  John bought Little Boy dinner and few goodies as they shopped for lumber and then came home to construct this "together" in the backyard.

(Notice Milkshake in this photo.  We call her our "in" cat.  It doesn't matter what you're doing; she want to be "in"-- in your lap, in the milk pail, in the garden, in your way, in the new goat shelter, in the photo.)

When we move our animals over to the new farm, we plan to use a rotational grazing method (if you're unfamiliar with this concept, just Google it.  Joel Salatin's face may just pop up. :).  
And while goats are pretty hardy animals, they get all prissy when it starts to rain (snow, sleet, or whatever) and run for cover.  It's actually really funny to watch.  They'll spend all day slowly grazing and lolling about in the field then at the first detection of a raindrop they nearly barrel into each other as they madly scramble to shelter.  So, we need to create a couple portable animal shelters that can be easily moved around the farm to protect these drama queens from *gasp* getting wet.  

My ever-so-resourceful husband engineered this solution.  He used three welded-wire hog panels that we had lying around the backyard, zip-tied them together, and bowed them up covered-wagon-style to fit the wheeled frame he constructed.

All it lacks to be complete is a tarp-like covering, and we have Freckle Face Farms to thank for this ingenious idea:  we plan to use an old discarded billboard cover.  They are weather-proof, highly durable, large, and cheap. And, they're an environmentally-friendly option since they would otherwise just be waste.  Perhaps best of all, they're lightweight.  Our chicken tractors have metal roofs, which do a great job but add weight to the tractors.  This goat shelter is light enough that, using the hook John installed on one end, it can easily be moved about the yard/farm by one person.

Stay tuned for the pic of the finished product!  

So, the boys may have more to show for their night together, but we girls had a blast at our show and are well on our way to having the entire musical memorized, thanks to our souvenir CD purchase.  :)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Purple Pepper Jelly

Thursday night at Canning Club, we used jelly making machines to make pepper jelly.  I'd never even seen a jelly maker before!  
While I do NOT plan to add yet another piece of equipment to my kitchen set-up, I do appreciate how this piece simplified the jelly-making process.  

At the club meeting, I had a fun idea, though.  The recipe we used for pepper jelly called for bell peppers and jalapenos.  Both of those types of peppers have been prolific in my garden this year, and I've grown purple varieties of each.  How fun would it be to create Purple Pepper Jelly!?

The next day, Girl 2 and I set to work to create a purple jelly.  The color turned out beautiful.  The jelly was a bit thicker than I'd like, but it was definitely tasty!  This was Girl 2's first time to help with a canning project.  She seemed to really enjoy it:  "Mom, you've got to teach me ALL this stuff!  How else will I be able to teach my kids?"
:)  That kind of thing really does a mom's heart good.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Freckle Face Farm Tour

Sunday afternoon, we joined our friends the Insells for a tour of Freckle Face Farm outside Searcy.  While we knew all our kids would have a great time seeing the animals, climbing hay bales, and digging in the dirt, John and I also considered it research.  The family of nine at Freckle Face Farm is raising cows, pigs, and chickens all-naturally.  We couldn't wait to see their farm set-up and pick their brains regarding farming practices.  Luckily, Jami and Mitchell were willing to spend the afternoon answering our tons of questions as we walked the farm together.   

They really gave us a lot to think about as we prepare to set-up our own farm.

Chicks in the brooder

Checking out the plucking machine

These 100 turkeys will be ready in time for Thanksgiving!

Pigs!  This is the element Girl 1 can't wait to add to our farm.  The girl loves BACON!

Petting the piggies through the fence

Raw milk and various meats are for sale on site.  They also sell meat at the Searcy and Little Rock Farmers' Markets.

This new building houses their sales room and will eventually be the hub of the entire dairy operation.  They are currently milking ten beautiful Jerseys!

This family is really so sweet and seem to have found their way to farming much the same way we are -- one step at a time.  Thanks, Insell family, for the great afternoon!  We always love our time with you guys.  And, thanks to Jami, Mitchell, and the rest of the gang at Freckle Face Farm for taking time out of your Sunday to show us around!

Monday, September 23, 2013

God Loves Polka-Dots!

A quote with photos for you on this Monday  -- from G.K. Chesterton:

“The thing I mean can be seen, for instance, in children, when they find some game that they specially enjoy. A child kicks his legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grownup person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.
But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.” 

As I contemplated all the beautiful, spotted things in our backyard today, I was reminded of this quote.  God must take delight in spots!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Get the Kids Outside!!!

I read this cute little article on Pinterest this morning that suggested 21 Ways to Get Outside with Your Kids This Fall.  It really did have some fun ideas in it.

My youngest two don't really need encouragement to get outside.  Girl 2 is usually with me in the milk barn at 6:15am and then on the swing set by 6:25.  To Little Boy, any moment spent inside is a wasted moment that he would've rather spent catching insects or climbing trees.

In fact, look what the two of them have done to this poor Bradford Pear tree.  They stack furniture to provide a leg-up, then climb as high as they can.  Unfortunately, more than one dainty branch has succumbed to their climbing enthusiasm.  I submit this photo as reason #431 that we need to get these kids over to the farm!

Girl 1, though, spends most of her free time on the sofa with her nose buried in a book.  As an English teacher-turned-farmer, I love this about her.  But, when I asked her the other day to run outside and grab me a bell pepper for dinner and had to GIVE HER DIRECTIONS!!!!, I realized that she needs to spend a little more time outside with her siblings.  She's definitely my biggest complainer about heat, so I'm glad the temps are cooling off.  

The easiest way to get the kids to play outside is to lure them out.  It's super-sneaky, but it works like a charm.  I'll ask Girl 2 to help me get the laundry off the line, for example -- a chore that takes about 2 minutes.  But, by the time we're done, she's noticed something fun outside that she'd like to stick around and do rather than go back inside.

The easiest way to get the kids outside is to feed them there.  Food would get them anywhere.  I could probably lure them into the under-the-stairs cat-litter closet, if I told them that was where we were having afternoon snack.  But seriously, all I have to do is declare that dinner is on the back porch, and we're in for a fun evening in the backyard that eventually ends with them begging for just a few more minutes to catch lightening bugs.

Why is it so important to get the kids outside?  If you're really asking that one, then be sure you're getting out there with them.  I can think of lots of good reasons, but here's one that's been on my mind lately.  At the kids' latest yearly check-ups, I was taking a look at their growth curves (height relative to weight) and their percentages in each category.  Our doctor reminded me, though, that those "average" percentages haven't been updated since the 1970's and that I should probably subtract 20-30% to account for the modern trend toward childhood obesity.  He means that I can take Girl 2's 55th percentile in weight and subtract 20 percent, so that her real weight relative to her peers is actually about the 35th percentile.  Wow -- what a difference!  I think as a culture it's time for us to put down the TV remotes and video game controllers and iPads and, yes, even books sometimes, long enough to get outside and MOVE and explore and learn!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Follow-up Friday: Fun at the New Farm

Last weekend we went ahead and started moving some of the most important things over to the new farm . . . .

Yep, we're starting a pallet pile.  What will I do with all these pallets (and the many more we've already collected but haven't moved yet)?  I plan to create an even better system of compost bins, and I have a multitude of other ideas on my Pallet board on Pinterest.  :)

Our little explorers set off with backpacks, binoculars, field notebooks, hiking sticks, and water bottles to explore the "new land" while John and I cut back some tree limbs.  I love seeing how much fun they have out there.  Hours after we were back home, Girl 1 just kept remarking, "That was SO much fun today!"  :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How Many Times Will We Move This Hay?

Last week, John went and picked up 40 bales of hay and piled them into the truck.  Last year, that amount got us through just fine.  How much we will need this year is really anyone's guess, seeing as we don't really know whether we'll be here all year or will move the animals to bigger fields soon.
As we stacked it up in the backyard lean-to and shed, I couldn't help but wonder, "how many times will we move this hay?"  If we're able to sell the house quickly, we'll be moving it over to the new farm before we use it all up.  

I've discovered that it's difficult to be a backyard farmer while the house is on the market.  As I was planting the fall garden this past weekend, I couldn't help but wonder whether I was planting veggies that we would get to enjoy or ones that would make their way to someone else's dinner plate (or, worse, ones that would die off, not being cared for by anyone).  John keeps telling me the gardening issue is a win-win scenario.  Either we get to enjoy garden veggies OR we've sold the house -- both are good results.  :)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Fall Chicks Move Outdoors!

Our chicks are now more than 2 weeks old and have enough of their big boy and girl feathers to move outdoors.  
They seemed to love exploring the grass.  They're in a super-cute phase right now!

This is the basic chicken tractor that we use for pullets/meat chickens.  Once the meat chickens have been "harvested," the new layers will be old enough to move into the laying tractor.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Move Over Campbell's: Homemade Tomato Soup

In the wintertime, there's pretty much always a can of Campbell's Tomato Soup on some pantry shelf at our house.  If I'm in need of a quick dinner, it's go-to that everyone will eat.  I've had lots of good tomato soups out at restaurants, but I personally LOVE the smooth, creamy texture of this old favorite.  

But, in an attempt to find more ways to use the many, many tomatoes we've been blessed with this year, I found this recipe.  And, oh, is it good!

 Campbell's may be able to boast taste and texture, but it does pack some high fructose corn syrup and other unrecognizable ingredients.  So, move over, Campbell's, because this recipe has got you beat on flavor, texture, and ingredients since it's made with items I can feel good about (including bell peppers and parsley from our garden).

If you love tomato soup, I would encourage you to give this one a try.  Be warned: it does take about half a day to complete the project, but you wind up with 9 shelf-stable dinners for your family.  

Another warning --  it does require several pieces of processing equipment:  

1.  a food processor to chop your veggies pretty small (or I guess you could dice them up the old fashioned way)
2.  an immersion or stand blender (immersion is preferable because it is safe to use with hot liquids.  If you go with a stand, you'll have to allow your soup to cool a bit before proceeding with this step)
3. a sieve (I didn't own one, but it's definitely on my Christmas list now that I've had a chance to play with one.  Thanks, Heidi!)
4.  A water bath canner to process and seal your pint jars 

Now, if all of that hasn't scared you away, then get to work!  I promise, you won't be sorry!

I told John that soup just tastes like fall to me.  It's rich and creamy and smooth -- everything you want in a bowl of tomato soup.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Long-Awaited Caprese Salad

I've been dreaming of this salad since we first became goat farmers last spring.  

I love caprese salad.  And this one was entirely produced using ingredients from our backyard.

Our backyard heirloom tomatoes are topped with goat-milk mozzarella and organic backyard basil.  A turn of the pepper mill and drizzle of good olive oil make this a mouth-watering backyard masterpiece! 
And, yes -- it was worth the wait!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Good Mother Stallard Pole Beans

What a gorgeous day to gather with the family 'round a bowl and shell some beans on the back porch!

This was our first year to grow this type of bean, but I've been very pleased with them so far.  During the growing season, they were pretty much zero maintenance.  All I had to do was provide a trellis system and wait for them to grow . . . and then die. Once the pods were dry on the vine, they were ready to harvest.  

I guess part of what I like about them is that their needs aren't pressing.  The day a zucchini is ripe for harvest, it must be picked.  Otherwise,  it'll be too big tomorrow and will have lost its peak flavor.  Cantaloupe?  Let it sit one day too long on the vine, and it'll come loose on its own and begin to rot in the sun.  But, these good 'ole beans aren't ready for harvest until they're dead.  And once they are, they'll just wait patiently for you until you're ready to pick them.  Even then, you could leave them in a bucket still in the pods for even longer.  I guess they're pretty laid back in that way.  Whenever you're ready to get to them, they'll be there waiting.

This particular variety from Baker Creek is called Good Mother Stallard Pole Bean.  I chose them for their description:  "Gorgeous, plump maroon-and-white beans are great in soups, where their creamy texture and hearty, nutty flavor really shine."

And, aren't they pretty?  I'm thinking the jar-full of these guys may not be relegated to the pantry.  They ought to be on display . . .  at least until they make their way to our chili pot.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Follow-up Friday: Meeting with our Architects

Wednesday John and I traveled to Little Rock (I told Girl 1 over breakfast that day that we were headed to "The Big City."  "You're going to New York City today?!") for our first in-person meeting with the architectural team that will design our new home.

We'd done our homework and were weighted down with post-it noted coffee table books, iPad with organized Pinterest boards, and my binder titled "Home Design" that I've been adding snippets to for years.

I won't get into all the nitty-gritty of the meeting, but let me say these few things about it:

1.  I am feeling so very blessed to be working with the folks we're working with.  Their firm's designs tend toward the modern, but they are completely on board with our desire to create the Modern Farmhouse that we have in mind.

2.  They are very well-versed in green construction and home systems, and we are very excited about talk of passive solar, geo-thermal systems, solar panels, and greywater harvest, to name a few things.

3.  I am going to absolutely love the process of watching them work their magic as they take all of our weird little notes and preferences and fashion it all into a neat little home.

4.  What they come up with will be just right for us and the way that we strive to live.  You, however, would probably rather stay put than move into the house we will build.  It's just going to be so us.  You may walk through it and wonder Why is there no closet in this bedroom? or Why is there no freezer in the kitchen?  or Why is there a shower outside?  or Is this a pantry or a room?  If you know us at all, though, you know that these design choices are made quite deliberately in an effort to create a space that fits the way we live.

5.  I'm excited about sharing this process with you.   I hope you don't get bored with it because I intend to document each little step of this amazing journey.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ever Heard of a Hoarse Goat?

Poor Star is still not very happy about being penned up with Dallas.  In fact, she's made herself hoarse in protest!

Naturally, I try to make things all better by offering her one of her favorite treats.  :)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Messy, Messy Ketchup!

If next year I start talking about wanting to can some more ketchup, please remind me that Heinz is just fine.  :)
A buddy from Canning Club told me that I'd never go back to store-bought ketchup once I'd tasted homemade.

And, yes, I'll grant her that if I were making a decision based on taste alone, she would be entirely correct.  This stuff is GOOD!  

She forgot to mention and thus factor in, though, the time involved and the MESS!  

My amazing hubby worked with me for the solid 5 hours it took for us to complete this project.  As it got later and later and neared midnight, I admit that I got a bit cranky about it all.  He persevered, though, and encouraged me, and we did (finally) get finished.  

Then, though, we had to begin the clean-up.  And, if I'm being honest, it's still going on. I keep finding sticky splatters in remote places.  And, even though the kitchen floor has been mopped twice, our shoes are still making that sticky sound when we walk across it.  :(

I'm guessing it was so messy because my pots weren't really big enough to accommodate the boiling goop, and it was so sticky because it contains about 1 cup of sugar PER PINT!  Wowza!  Still, it's got to be better for us than the high-fructose-corn-syrup-packed store-bought variety that currently inhabits my fridge door.  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Oreo Has Died and Gone to Heaven

No, he's not literally in heaven.  But, he's happier than he's ever been in his short life.  

He was born into a tiny birthing pen then immediately placed in a small pen with lots of other babies.  Once we bought him, we moved him into our buck pen.  While much larger than his previous home, the grass and space was limited.  And, he was just a fence away from our huge field and all the ladies.  But his time has now come!
It's breeding season!  So, he's been let out into the big field that has always been just beyond his reach -- with all the grass he could possibly eat . . . and all the ladies he could possibly, umm, well, you get the point.  We're hoping he will breed with Razz, Honey, and Izzy this fall.  

Star is the only girl not old enough to be in the field with the buck Oreo.  So, she's been relegated to the small pen and is NOT happy about it.  She's does have a companion with her, but she's finding him (Dallas, our fixed male) a bit lacking and has spent the ENTIRE day bawling.  

This particular pic makes me sad.  Poor Star is now just a fence away from her Momma Razz.  They've been apart for over a month now as Star is being weaned, but they've been further apart until today.  Now, with just a fence between the two of them, Star just followed her Momma around the perimeter of the fence, getting as close as she could get.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fall Chickadees!

Several of our laying hens are past their prime, as they are usually only at peak egg production for a couple of years.  So, we decided to go ahead and add some more chicks to the farm now so that by spring they'll be old enough to lay.  
Our hatchery of choice, Murray McMurray, required a minimum order of 15 chicks, so we went ahead and ordered that many, even though we don't need that many layers.  We ordered 5 Araucanas (these are the ones that lay green/blue eggs and have proven to be very hardy), 5 Brown Leghorns (these are a very productive breed that will lay white eggs), and 5 Red Rangers (a meat breed, to round out the 15-chick minimum order).  They did include a free rare breed chick -- let's hope that turns out better than it did the last time (if you don't know what I'm talking about, click here for the tale of Chubby, the chicken).

It's always very exciting when the post office calls to tell us that our chirpy little package has arrived!  We are keeping them in the garage, which tends to get VERY warm in the summer time, so I'm having to keep a pretty close eye on the thermometer and turn off lights/raise the garage doors for ventilation as necessary.  We've actually already lost a Red Ranger, and we suspect that heat was the culprit.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Guest Post: Our Cheap, Blueprint-less Chicken Coop

Hi, I'm Jess (an old college buddy of Ashley & John's) and I blog at Making Home

In June, we got ten Buff Orpingtons (yes, ten-- I have six children who insist on eating three times a day, plus snacks, and so we go through eggs at an alarming rate).  At first, I thought we would build our own chicken coop.  Then once I realized the sheer madness of what I had planned, I texted my husband Doug and told him I was a crazy woman and told him we should sell the chickens.  He texted back that he knew I could do it, and the rest is history.

Like I said, we have six children, and I stay home.  So buying the $1000+ deluxe coops with trendy colors and Ikea-like assembly instructions was an option far beyond our means.

Thankfully, a friend was in process of completely redoing his pool deck.  He let us pick through his used cast-offs.  That and a Facebook shout-out for plywood gave us all the wood we've used.  So the project of the blueprint-less chicken coop began.

The tools we had available were:
  • Table saw (borrowed from a friend)
  • Miter saw (borrowed from Doug's uncle)
  • Hammer & nails
  • Drill for installing hinges & attaching the coop ramp

I took notes and drew out probably 10 different potential plans that I liked.  Here were the main things I took into consideration as we drew up our plans:
  • Direction of the sun-- this is particularly important here in TX, but I think it would be a factor anywhere.  I wanted the chickens to have plenty of shade throughout the day.
  • Security-- Obviously I want the chickens to be well-protected.
  • Ease of design/building-- Aside from painting stretcher-bars in college, Doug & I had never built anything before.  Literally, nothing.  So keeping things fairly easy, construction-wise was a priority.
  • Good ventilation-- my plan included two windows + vented eaves
  • A Place to roost, a place to lay eggs, a place to eat-- meeting basic needs of the chickens.
Here's what we did:

We used our old ping pong table as the floor/foundation for our coop, attaching 4x4s as the supports underneath.  We actually had two ping pong tables, and one of them was moving toward ruin, so we opted to salvage the usable parts and make the coop floor.  This picture doesn't show it, but we actually used 3/4 of the table, if you can imagine that... we cut the second half along the center white line and connected it to the side of this half:

Next, we framed the four walls.  I measured the edges of the table/foundation, remembering to subtract the width of any connected walls:

After we put the framing up on the floor, I cut plywood to fit each wall, leaving the windows and doors open, so that chickens wouldn't roost in (and poop in) the framing/walls.

For unusual DIY features like the egg box and coop ramp, I researched before building. I looked at a lot of pictures of other people's coops, took notes of what I liked, general dimensions (our egg boxes are something like 11x11 or 12x12-- just big enough to lay in, but small enough to feel cozy), etc., and then looked at the wood we had available, and built it with those things in mind.

Instead of chicken wire, we used 1/2 inch hardware cloth.  It is more expensive, but with hawks and raccoons and even bobcats having stolen friends' chickens within a few miles of us, we decided that for our coop and adjacent chicken run, we would spend the extra money to actually protect them.  

For rain to stay off our chickens, I made a simple slanted roof.  To make the riser from the higher side (48 inches) to the lower side (36 inches) of the coop, I used a 2x4 to support a coop-length 2x4.  Because I'd read about the way that ammonia can gather in a coop and how important it is to have good ventilation, I opted to leave the eaves open, rather than siding them, and staple-gunned hardware cloth over it.  

(I figure, as time goes along, if I notice that this makes for a wet/snowy interior in certain months, I can always use plastic tarping to cover one or both sides, but it would be much more difficult to retro-install adequate ventilation.)

After getting the bones in place, I began using reclaimed 1x4 pieces to make siding for our coop.  I chose to use the thinner 1x4 pieces so that the exterior would be uniform and less heavy.  We also had 2x4 and 2x6 pieces in our wood pile, but the 1x4s (and occasional 1x2) turned out to be just right for siding.  I also used 1x4s for the roof base, since I'd run out of plywood.

The miter saw was invaluable at this point, so I could make sure the edges lined up nicely:

Here's what the inside of the coop looks like, from the Northern door opening:

You can see that we have a 2' x 4' window that makes up almost half of the northern wall.  I opted to do that for airflow and so that they would get plenty of light in the coop, without it ever being direct light.

Also visible in the above picture are the roosts (there's a total of 10+ feet of roost space available for the girls), eggbox, and the 1' x 1' door that will lead to the coop ramp into the chicken run out the western side.

You can also barely see (but it may be more visible in the larger picture if you pull it up) the rebar (at ceiling level) I will use to hang my watering buckets from.  We opted to make our own watering buckets with poultry nipples so that the girls can't kick up grass, feed, and chicken poo into their water.

Here's the nearly-finished version of our blueprint-less chicken coop.  You can also see the 1x1 window I put above the chicken roosts to pull airflow closer to the birds without actually being across them (they do well with ventilation but not breezes).

We installed doors this last week, but I don't have pictures of that.  We just cut plywood to the appropriate sizes, used 1x1s to act as door stops (so the doors will open outward but not be able to be pushed into the coop) and installed them with basic T-hinges we found at Home Depot.

In all of this, I guess it's obvious, but I just let logic and the materials we had on hand guide my plans.  I did measure as we went along, but only for the coop to match up with itself, not to meet any particular plan.  It makes it slightly more necessary to do math and cut wood for the space, rather than according to a nice & neat blueprint, but it also allows you to use up what you have and not buy expensive wood.  

This made it so that we could use the materials we had, and meet the goals we had, for as cheap as possible.  When we looked at what we would have spent just on materials, had we not used reclaimed wood from a friend, we would have easily spent $800 or more just for wood & plywood.

In total, we spent $20 on wood (one friend had extra-good plywood & 2x4s available that they'd purchased to build a bunk bed but never gotten around to building; all the rest of our wood was free), used partially-rusty-but-straight nails we salvaged from our workshop and about $50 on hinges and such , and then we've spent about $100 on enough hardware cloth to do not only what was pictured above but also to do an attached 15' x 8' x 3'tall chicken run so that they will always have one safe, enclosed space to roam, in addition to occasional free ranging through our fenced yard.  

By reclaiming wood from friends and using what we had on hand, the entire DIY coop for 10 chickens (and attached run) will, in the end, cost less than $200, but I think it is comparable in space and quality to coops I've seen selling for anywhere from $1500+.  We like the reclaimed, older look of it, as if it's been around for a long time, and I think the chickens will love the safety, easy living, and ventilation of it.  

The blueprint-less chicken coop suits our needs and our budget, which was the initial goal.  

I hope this walk-through proves useful for other adventurous souls out there who are ready to do their own DIY chicken coop. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Follow-up Friday: The House is Officially on the Market!

Yep, we've taken the next step and listed the house!  

As excited as I am about our new farm and what lies ahead, I must admit -- seeing the sign in the yard gives me pause.

This house has been a great one for us, and it holds so many, many memories.  Thankfully, those memories will not be sold along with the house;  we get to pack them up and take them with us to whatever lies ahead.  Our life as a family thus far has taught us that our identity and security are not tied up in our things.  

As I stood back and took this pic of the house, I was reminded of the video I made of the house when we were buying it.  I stood way out here on the road and talked excitedly as I scanned the yard about all the ways the house would be perfect for us, as Girl 1 toddled around in the driveway.  For over seven years, we've called this house home, and it has turned out to be perfect for us.  

Now that we feel a calling to move on, we pray that this house will become someone else's perfect place.  

Oh, and don't miss tomorrow's post!  Here's a teaser:  an old college buddy is the guest blogger!