Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
After our goats spent many summer months with only a small shed for shelter, we decided it was finally time to build them a real barn. Winter was quickly pressing upon us, and it would soon be followed by kidding season in the spring. Also, our bossy new Alpine doe made it necessary for us to provide more space for the others to get out of her way, especially since they would soon be pregnant. So, using a continuous supply of homemade apple pie as a bribe, and we got a crew of a few family members and friends and got to work.
The blueprint was simple and rather small, but it would provide sufficient space for our needs. The structure would be a 12x24 lean-to, which would be divided into an 8x12 feed room and a 12x16 area for the goats. The goat side would then be divided into three 4x6 kidding stalls and one 10x12 open area. The feed room and goat section would each have a large, 6' sliding door. The plot for the barn was situated on the crest of a hill about 70 yards from the house, which was also on a hill. Unfortunately, the tops of hills were the only flat areas on our property.
Construction began early on a frigid, drizzly day in mid-October. We rented an auger for digging the post holes, which proved to be a worthwhile investment; clay soil and abundant tree roots would have made manual digging nearly impossible. The first half of the day was spent digging the holes and pulling out a tree stump. Meanwhile, I stood by pointing fingers, sipping hot coffee, and asking obvious questions — like any good foreman. By the end of the first weekend, the posts, framing, and rafters were complete. Although the majority of this progress should be attributed the brilliant engineering mind of my uncle and the tireless labor of my husband and step dad, I am sure at least a portion was due to my superior directing capabilities.
Of course, I assumed this project would take two full weekends at the most. We had the determination and the laborers, fueled by caffeine and pizza. Also, I was feeling the crunch of breeding season and pressure from Ms. Bossy. Every night I was jamming a temporary divider into the small shed to protect my small Mini Mancha from the Alpine's big ego. Most evenings were spent in frustration trying to herd, and keep, goats on the proper side of the divider, while most mornings found the divider disdainfully knocked to the floor. So, it was with a certain measure of unease that I watched weekend after weekend pass without the goats able to use the new structure. My husband was working ten hour days on the barn during the few days he had off of his regular full-time job, and immense progress was being made. However, the scope of the project was simply beyond my rather limited estimating capabilities.
After three weeks, the feed room was complete. At this point, I reached the end of my rope as a night-shift goat referee. So, I decided to lock the goats in the feed room at night. It was larger than their current shed, and allowed my Mini Mancha the room to escape if need be. Within another week and a half, the other side was finished and the fence was moved to allow regular access to their new home. Hooray!
Finally, our barn was complete. It looked a little patchy; temperatures suddenly plummeted below freezing before I could finish painting it the stereotypical Barn Red, but it was fully functional. It was with overflowing enthusiasm and thanksgiving that I quickly regained my sanity, my husband reclaimed his weekends, and my goats frolicked a little more gleefully around their pasture. Most importantly, my claim to be a farmer was slightly more legitimated by the fact that I now actually had a barn.