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Busy, busy, busy! Whew, it has been quite a summer so far. Sorry for the lack of updates. We have had our heads down working and writing after a long, hot day hasn’t been our priority, I’m afraid. So, what have we been up to? Hmm, let’s see…
- Re-roofing: we finally decided to re-roof the very sad roof on the old farm house. It was in really bad shape and was quite leaky. We replaced the asphalt shingles with painted metal. It turned out to be a fairly large job, due to the pitch (9/12) and the modifications we made. We were aware of one rotted spot that we had to cut out, but then found another spot that really needed some help. Turns out it was really the result of an old dormer that wasn’t really useful any more, so we removed it. It was interesting to look at all the layers of shingles and then wood shakes under that. I even found one wooden shake that still had the label on it. In removing the dormer, we found a cool collection of old bottles, including one for “swamp water”. We also found evidence, in the form of old plastic tubs placed around the attic, that the dormer had been leaking for years. I guess that’s one way to “fix” the problem.
- Re-roofing, take 2: most of the buildings on our farm really could use some roofing work. One building was in pretty good shape, but really needed some help for the leaky old tin, so we ripped into this next. As the rafters were really bowed and in bad shape, we ended up replacing all the rafters with new 2×8 framing. This really transformed the building into something useful. We still need to re-side the building to make it really good, since it currently has many places you could throw a (bob) cat through!
- Gardening: Janelle has been very busy trying to keep up with a large garden this summer, between taking care of kids. We are still learning plenty about the new climate, but overall the garden has been a great success. We’re told it has been a weird year with far above average rain, so I guess we still need to experience a “normal” summer.
- Broiler Chickens: We butchered broiler chickens the end of August. It is always pleasant to be past that chore and have the freezer stocked for the winter. The broilers were a success this year, but next year should be better now that we have some infrastructure in place. We used Salatin-style pens again and that was good, but I believe next year we will go back to a day-range model as it seemed that the birds really needed more space.
- Grazing: Grazing is keeping us quite busy, given the number of animal species to move. We are now grazing beef cattle, meat goats, meat sheep, dairy goats, and pigs. It seems there is always some animal that needs to be moved. As we move toward winter, the goal is to consolidate as much as possible to cut down on daily labor.
- Planning house: We have decided to start building our house this fall. After much thought, we finally decided to go with strawbale construction, using post and beam framing and straw as insulation (infill, not load bearing). We are planning large overhangs and porches to prevent water issues. Additionally, the outside will be finished in lime, which will help to keep the walls dry since lime finishes tend to draw moisture out. The inside walls will be finished with a combination of natural plaster and drywall on some interior (non-straw) walls.
- Guest Cabin: The house planning eventually turned into guest cabin as well. This gives us a good opportunity to get some experience building with straw on a small scale rather than starting with a large project first. This will be a two room tiny structure with just a bed and a bathroom, similar to a hotel room.
- Water: One big challenge on this farm is having water available in all pastures. We are blessed with numerous existing ponds and running water in some areas, but we prefer to keep the animals out of the streams and ponds and pipe it to them instead. This is an ongoing project that is going to take several years to complete, but we have started running some pipe. At some point, we will rent an excavator and start getting at least some of it in the ground. Wherever possible, we will make use of solar to pump out of ponds and gravity to deliver the water.
- Shop Building: Since moving here, we have constantly missed the outbuildings we had at our last house. Working on vehicles and other equipment on gravel or in the grass is really not very pleasant. We will be building a simple pole barn structure to remedy this problem. However, it has proven more difficult than expected to actually get someone to sign up for the work. Any changes beyond the bone stock models they typically build seemed to cause great consternation. At this point, we finally have a builder (a neighbor, yippee!) and are eager to get started, especially so we have a place to stack straw bales while building our house! The next challenge here will be leveling a building site to get started with. The best site we found is going to need about 4′ of cut and fill, so some more tractor time is in our future!