Sunday, September 28, 2014

Garden Planning & Brush Cutting

Garden layout for Spring 2015?
This afternoon I found a nice website online that helps with vegetable garden planning.  The site, Smart Gardener, allows you to define the space that you have available to plant, configure the size and shape of your garden beds, select plants, and then determine when and where to plant them.

I had made a list the other day of vegetables that we'd like to grow next spring.  I created a layout based on the measurements that I had taken at the beginning of the month, added my desired beds, and selected the plants that were on my list.  You can then configure how many plants you'll need, based on the size of your family, and then allow the site to lay out your garden configuration for you.  I played with it a bit, then rearranged the site's recommendation, into the layout show here.  Most of the site is free, but a few things, such as adding berries to your garden, require a fee.  I do have some berries in mind to grow, so I may look into the pay features later on.

The other small accomplishment for today was clearing out a bit of the front of the house.  Several years ago the main entrance to the house was changed.  A driveway and ramp was added to allow for wheelchair access to the main level of the building.  This second entrance became the one that most people used, and the area along the front of the house, including the double-door entrance, became overgrown.  I spent a half hour on my hands and knees with a pair of hand clippers cutting back the brush.  I didn't get as much finished as I had hoped, but I was able to clear out from in front of the utility boxes.
I found the utility pipes!
It's a bit overgrown.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Door Hardware

I finally got smart this morning.  Several days ago, when I wanted to trim the opening to the barn, I tried using my jigsaw with a line stretched between two screws as a guide.  The jigsaw blade wasn't long enough, however, to cut through both layers of barn board.

This morning, just as I was waking up, it occurred to me that I could attach a batten across the opening, then use my circular saw to cut through the wood.  The base of the saw would run along the batten, creating a nice straight line.  Why I hadn't thought of this obvious approach before is beyond me.

So, once breakfast and morning drop offs were done, I searched the barn for a piece of thin straight wood to use as a guide.  I affixed this in place with screws, just above my original line, keeping the width between the saw blade and the edge of my saw base in mind.

Cutting took just a few minutes.  I finally have a nice even line above the barn opening.  With that done, I cleaned up the wood scraps and tools, then dug out the old barn door hardware that we salvaged.  A quick set of measurements showed that the door rails were eight feet long, and that our opening is eight feet wide.  Two rails, then, would allow us to have two four-foot doors that will be able to slide to either side.

After a run to town to pick up screws and a few other supplies, I dug out the ladder and attached the door rail.  The next step will be to build some new doors, but that will need to wait for another day.

Cutting guide.

A straight line!

Door hardware.

Ladder's-eye view.

Rail in place!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

More Garden Work

Elaina loves her dirt and rocks.
Elaina and I spent a bit of time working some more on the garden retaining wall this afternoon.  The wooden beams that we found around the various barns and sheds on the property are all pretty warped and twisted.  I had hopes that screwing them together, after letting them sit outside in the rain, frost and sun, would help them straighten a bit.

For old wood, what we have hasn't come out looking too bad.  I think, though, that we'll need to buy some good landscaping timbers and redo what we've already done.

Originally my goal was to have the garden base finished before winter, so that it would be ready for us to plant in the spring.  Funding might push the project back for awhile, however.

Cuddles supervises.
Six-inch screws.
Finished for now.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Family Time

Getting kisses.
The girls and I had a chance to spend some quality time with Eair and the boys this afternoon.  After feeding and watering them, we all just sort of hung out in the pen for awhile, playing and snapping photos of each other.  We had a good time, the goats had a good time, and we all got a chance to bond.

Blackberry, Elaina & Eair.
Gabriella, Blackerry & Eair. Hoover tries to take a selfie.




Friday, September 19, 2014

First Frost

Frost in the field.
This morning we woke up to the first frost of the season.  Even our poor duck, Quackers, had his house covered in a very light mist of chilliness.  London, our new duck, sadly flew the coop, literally, the day after we got her, so Quackers is by himself again.

Once things warmed up, it was time to do some more work on the barn.  Above the entrance, the barn boards were left different lengths.  I strung a line across the doorway, leveled it, and started to cut the boards to make an even line, but unfortunately the blade to my jigsaw was too short to cut through both layers.  I'll have to return to it again once I pick up a longer blade.

Once the doorway is cut nicely, we have some old hardware salvaged from another barn that we'll be able to install.  This will allow us to close the barn up against the snow and cold this winter, keeping the goats nice and warm.
Chilled duck.
More barn work.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tarp Rock Turkeys

Every few days since we moved in with my in-laws, we've spotted at least one, sometimes two, flocks of turkeys in the lower meadow.  One day they were even down at the end of the road in the morning when we were headed to school.  When they are out, I generally can count between 14 to 18 of them.  Before we moved here, we spotted them at the start of summer.  At that time, my mother-in-law and I saw two hens, and more baby turkeys than we could count.  This afternoon I was finally able to capture a decent photo of them. Looks like they are doing well!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Barn Maintenance

Kidding stall?
Today was a nice day to go out and work on the barn.  My main focus was to try to clean up the area next to our finished goat pen, so that in the spring we can use it for either kidding, or just as an extra pen if needed.  That section of the barn has been used for storage of random board and wood bits, though, and it open to the outside, so it's going to take some work.

In the morning, Elaina, clad in PJs, entertained the goats while I cleaned out the wood.  Most of it was rotten and falling apart, but a few boards were still in decent shape.  As seen in the photos, the corner of the barn has some missing pieces, and is open to the outer fence.  We discovered this one day when the goats ate down the bush that was there, then walked out through the openings.  When we discovered the issue, I blocked it off with some plywood, but since we discovered some good boards, I went ahead and made a more permanent fix.  I'd still like to get some barn boards that match the rest of the wall, but this should work fine for the winter.

Little helper.
Open corner.
Enclosed corner.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Starting the Garden Wall

Elaina surveys the trench.
Today was dedicated to working on the new garden.  My plan is to build a short retaining wall along the lower slope of the current garden so that I can level the ground before building new garden boxes.  After dropping Kid 2 off at school, I stretched a line between two posts that I had previously measured out, and began trenching.  Digging with the spade went fairly quickly.  Elaina and I dug down between 4 to 6 inches for 30', marking the lower edge of the garden.  Once this was done, I used a 4x4 timber to tamp down the loose dirt.  I then leveled the bottom, digging and filling as needed, and tamped again.

With the trench dug, we took a little break and headed to Home Depot to buy some stone.  The stone ended up being a dollar cheaper than I saw online, so we saved a bit of cash there.  Once home, we added the stone to the trench for drainage, and started the process of tamping, leveling, digging and filling again.

Adding stones.

Once the stone was level, I began laying the base of the retaining wall.  This consisted of putting down a 4x4, leveling it, filling next to and under it, then leveling it again.

Basically our day contained several hours of leveling and tamping.

At first I began laying 4x4s along the entire length that we had dug in the morning.  I decided, however, that I should get at least one corner started so that I could start building up.  The corner waited till after Gabriella was picked up from school.  Once home again the girls helped me align the corner, dig, tamp, level, etc., until we had a nice corner started.

Aligning the corner.
With the corner aligned and leveled, I fixed it in place by drilling through the 4x4s, then pinning them in place with a short length of pipe.   With this done, we move on to finishing the base of the wall along the lower slope.

The final bit for today was to start the second tier.  The 4x4s that I'm using, though, are a bit warped and twisted, being scrap that I found stashed in the sheds and barns around the property.  It looks like I'm going to need some spikes to help hold them in place.

The day's work.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A New Addition

"I got it!"
Today marks the last day of the 169th Vermont State Fair.  After riding some rides, playing some games, and eating some food, we headed for the poultry building.  My wife, who is a member of the association that runs the fair, has contacts with folks throughout the region.  One of those contacts gave her a gift, which the girls immediately claimed.

Elaina took charge of the situation, even stopping a couple of times to show off their new prize.

Our new addition, a Mallard duck which Gabriella named London, is now sitting comfortably in the pen with our previously lonely Swedish Blue, Quackers.  Our little farm keeps growing.

"What's in the cage?"
London sits pretty in her new home.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Tarp Rock Sign

When my wife and I were contemplating moving our goats, and ourselves, to her parent's place, we also discussed ideas for farm names.  After some back and forth, my wife laughingly suggested "Tarp Rock".  I loved it.  It perfectly describes us.  For those who don't know what a tarp rock is, it's any handy rock (or other object) that you fold into the corner of a tarp to use as an anchor point for a rope.  It's natural, it's practical, and it doesn't take a lot of technology to work.

Since that discussion, I've been referring to our farm as "Tarp Rock Farm" whenever making notes to myself.  Now that we're moved and have the goats settled in their permanent pen, I thought I'd make the farm a little more official with a hand carved sign.

I picked up a sign board and paint at Michael's craft store, dug out my carving tools and went to work.  Carving isn't my strong point, but I think it turned out pretty well.

Halfway There!


We're Official!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Restoring the Garden

Last year my father-in-law built a small set of garden beds for my mother-in-law to use.  Unfortunately after the original planting, the beds were abandoned and left to grow over.  A few days ago I went out and measured the space, which takes up a roughly 15' x 18' plot just behind the house.  With a bit of planning, I found that if I can extend the plot by 8' on one side and 7' on the other side, I could rebuild the garden with a decent number of beds, including one dedicated to climbing plants.

Proposed Garden Plan
After checking with the in-laws to make sure it was okay to expand the garden, I started mulling over ideas.  My plan right now is to create level beds by building a short retaining wall along the lower slop of the existing plot.  First, though, everything needs to be cleaned out.  That was my chore for today.

Existing Beds
Existing Beds
Existing Plot Cleared

While I was clearing the old garden plot, Elaina entertained herself down by the goat pen.  Eiar seems to have settled in nicely, and is now holding her own with the boys.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Feeder

The boys try out the new feeder.
Not much farm work today.  I did manage to remove the ex-horse feeder from one section of the barn and repurpose it for the goats by hanging in their stall at a lower height.  It definitely works better than the plastic bin that we had hanging there previously.

Other work for the day included general cleaning up around the barn, and fixing some of the barn boards that were lifting away from the exterior.  In the process I managed to get stung by a wasp that lived in one of the multiple nests in the barn eaves, so evening was dedicated to eradicating stingy flying things.  Before winter comes, I'll need to patch the barn in a few more spots to make it warmer for the goats, but it was nice to get even a small section put back in place.

Monday, September 1, 2014

New Fence

Gabriella rolls the old fence.
Today we finally completed the permanent fence for the goats.  The fence attaches to the back of the barn, moves out into the field, up toward the house, then back to a newly built gate at the front of the barn.

The new space gives the boys and girl about twice as much area to graze in as they had with the temporary fence.  For now, the cattle panels will be stored in the barn.  We may use them to set up a "field trip" area in another part of the pasture where we can move the goats for a day or two to eat down the grass.

Elaina takes Hoover and Eiar for a walk.
View from inside the barn.

The boys try to figure out the gate latch.
Time to play!