Labor-Saving DIY Projects for Any Homestead

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Homemade Contrivances and How to Make Them is a must-have guide to completing useful, labor-saving projects to make life easier. A perfect book for any homesteader, backyard gardener, handyman or self-reliant enthusiast.  

The following is an excerpt from Homemade Contrivances and How to Make Them(Skyhorse Publishing, 2007). Read simple plans for building your own hayrack, manger, a basket for gathering crops, a strawberry barrel and more in this self-reliant homesteader’s project guide. Be sure to check out the image gallery for helpful illustrations to accompany the DIY projects and explanations in the excerpt.

Hayrack and Manger

The front of the manger should be of oak or other hardwood plank, 2 inches thick and 1 foot wide. The lower edge is placed about 2 1/2 feet from the floor, and the bottom should be 1-foot wide. The side of the hayrack is 1-foot wide, the front is 18 inches wide, the top and bottom being of the same width so that hay will not lodge. The bottom is made from 1 1/2-inch hard board, and is placed 1 foot above the top of the manger. Two guards, 1 inch in diameter and 1 foot in length, are placed in an upright position across the opening. At the front of the manger is a swinging door that opens into the feed passage. The manger may have one end partitioned for feeding grain. All corners should be smoothed and rounded off, and to make it durable, attach a thin, flat bar of iron to the upper edge of the manger using screws or rivets. 

A Barn Basket

A barn basket or box can be used in the barn or in gathering crops. It is made of two pieces of light board, 12 inches square, for the ends and fastened together by laths 16, 18 or 20 inches long, for bottom and sides. These are securely nailed. The handle consists of a piece nailed to each end, and connected by a light bar. This box is quickly made and will be found very handy for gathering many crops in the field, as it may be made to hold exactly one bushel, half a bushel or any other definite quantity, by changing the size. To hold a bushel, which is 2,150 cubic inches, the box may be scant 20 inches long, 12 inches wide and 9 inches deep, or scant 18 inches long, 12 inches wide and 11 inches deep. For half a bushel: scant 18 inches long, 10 inches wide and 6 inches deep; or 15 inches long, 9 inches wide and 8 inches deep. For a peck: 10 inches long, 9 wide and 6 deep; or 8 inches square, and scant 8 1/2 inches deep. 

An Open Shed for Feeding

A feeding trough in a yard, which can be covered to keep out snow or rain, is a desirable thing, and many devices have been contrived for the purpose, most of which are too costly. We give here a method of constructing a covered feeding trough, which may be made very cheaply of the rough materials to be had on every farm. A sufficient number of stout posts are set firmly in the ground, extending about 10 feet above the surface. They should be about 6 feet apart and in a straight line, and have a plate fastened to their tops. A pair of rafters supported by braces is fitted to each post. A light roof of laths is laid and covered with bark, straw, cornstalks or coarse hay. Strips are fastened from one brace to another and laths or split poles nailed to them, about 6 inches apart, to make a feed rack. A feed trough for grain or roots is built upon each side. For sheep, the shed and rack may be made only 8 feet high at the peak, and the eaves 4 feet from the ground; giving better shelter. 

A Pitchfork Holder

Having occasion to go into the barn one night, we received a very bad wound from a pitchfork that had fallen from its standing position. This led us to construct a holder. The fork holder is made of an inch board with a semicircular shape, with five holes large enough to admit a fork handle bored near the curved side. This board is nailed to a standing post in the barn. A strap or curved bolt is placed some distance below to hold the handles in place, as they rest on a bottom board fixed for the purpose. 

Growing Strawberries in Barrels

Probably many readers have heard of the plan of growing strawberries on the outside of a barrel. If one has only a small city lot or backyard, the experiment is well worth trying. First, bore the holes all about the barrel, then put inside a drain pipe made of four strips of board, reaching from the top to the bottom. The joints should not be tight. Now fill in earth about the pipe and set out the strawberry plants in all the holes and over the top. Put the barrel on a bit of plan, on the bottom of which wide casters have been screwed. The barrel can then be turned about every few days to bring the sun to all the plants. An ordinary flour barrel will answer very well for trying this interesting experiment.

Reprinted with permission from Homemade Contrivances and How to Make Them, published by Skyhorse Publishing, 2007.