Friday, March 19, 2010

Next question

Has anybody tried this? It looks intriguing. We're not in a position to try it right now, but we may give it a shot if we don't have success with traditional methods.

I wuoldn't quite say there's nothing to lose, but there's not a lot to lose. We'll see how things go in the meantime.



Sunday, March 14, 2010

BPA-free reusable canning lids??

Does anybody out there have experience with these?

Tattler Reusable Canning Lids



Monday, March 08, 2010

Multi-use homestead outbuilding

So I've been tinkering with a design for a multi-use outbuilding. Thinking way too much I suspect.

In the past we built several goat shelters, a chicken pen, a chicken tractor, along with milking stanchions for goats and another for a cow. We also planned the design for our pole barn. I never did get around to building a greenhouse, but I did finally finish my grape arbor.

So I'm trying to combine things I've learned from experience with things I've learned from others, and create something new. Or at least interesting. I'm not sure if I've succeeded at either, but I've at least kept myself entertained and occupied through this long winter.

Below is what I came up with. This is a first pass. Suggestions and constructive criticism are always welcome. Also, if I ever build it, it could use a catchy name.



The structure will be a long, narrow outbuilding composed of five square compartments or pens aligned in a row, running along an east/west axis. Each pen will have an interior space a little over 5 feet on a side, giving about 25 square feet of floor space. Each pen will have a 32-inch "doorway" in the center of the south wall. One pen should be able to provide shelter for up to six standard sized goats, or up to a dozen chickens, assuming they are given adequate run or pasture space.

click image to enlarge

Each of the five pens will serve a particular role in a given year, and functions will shift each year, giving a five-year rotation. The five functions are: Goat shelter, chicken coop, compost finishing, greenhouse, and woodshed.

The lower portion of the pens will be three courses of standard 8'x16' concrete blocks, but double the usual thickness (i.e. 2 blocks side by side or 16 inches thick). Standard dimensional lumber will be used to create a simple framework for the upper part of the structure.

The upper walls and roofing material will vary by function, as follows:

click images to enlarge

Goat shelter: The walls will be made of stacked straw bales. The roofing will consist of corrugated metal attached to lightweight (2x2) wooden frames. The roof will be designed with a slight slope for water runoff. It will overhang the straw bales slightly in all directions.

Chicken pen: The chicken pen, like the goat shelter will have straw bale walls and corrugated metal roofing on lightweight frames. However, movable nesting boxes will be inserted into the north wall in place of one of the straw bales. The nest boxes will be constructed to match the typical dimensions of the bales. A wood-framed door covered with chicken wire will be used to close the pen at night. Branches or rods can have both ends stuck into the straw bales to act as perches for the chickens at night.

Finishing compost: The compost area will consist of the remains of the goat bedding from 2 years prior, the chicken litter from the prior year, and rotting straw bales used for walls in previous years. Any excess rotted straw bales will be laid around the outside of the structure to act as insulation (and additional compost/mulch). This area would have minimal roof and wall coverings beyond those shared with neighboring pens.

Greenhouse: The roof, walls, and door of the greenhouse will be glazed with lightweight, durable material (polycarbonate maybe?) attached to lightweight frames. However, the rear (north) wall of the greenhouse will be painted plywood. Just inside the plywood, on top of the double-thick block walls will be 55-gallon rain barrels. They will be used to store rainwater. The barrels will supply water for the goats, chickens, and plants in the greenhouse. The warmer environment of the greenhouse will reduce the chance of the water freezing, and the thermal mass of the water will reduce temperature extremes within the greenhouse. The concrete block side walls should be entirely enclosed within the greenhouse, allowing for more shelf space. The concrete block could also be used as bench supports for shelving that extends the length or width of the greenhouse.

Woodshed: The woodshed area will have lightweight covering of whatever material is available, to keep rain off the stored wood. If extra glazing material is available to be used for this area, it would minimize the possibility of casting shade onto the greenhouse. However, caution should be used to make sure the stored wood is not subjected to excessive humidity.

Functional Rotation:

Each spring, the functions of each pen will shift one pen to the west, as follows:
Year 1: |  goats   | chickens | compost  |greenhouse| woodshed |
Year 2: | chickens | compost |greenhouse| woodshed | goats |
Year 3: | compost |greenhouse| woodshed | goats | chickens |
Year 4: |greenhouse| woodshed | goats | chickens | compost |
Year 5: | woodshed | goats | chickens | compost |greenhouse|

The upper portions of the pens would need to be taken down and moved as needed, which explains the emphasis on lightweight materials. However, the actual amount of work should not be great, since two of the pens have straw bale walls, which, if rotting, can simply be knocked down in place. The compost area has essentially no walls. The remaining roof panels and wall panels should be built in such a way that they can be moved easily. The rain barrels can be emptied for moving. The rotation should happen in spring, when rainwater should be plentiful.

The rotation is designed to cut down on incidence termites in the wood storage area, manure-borne parasites, while keeping a constant supply of fresh, rich soil for the greenhouse, and hopefully cutting down on all types of pests and pathogens.

The logic of the rotation is as follows:

The goat pen will build up a certain amount of bedding and manure over the course of a season, especially in winter. By moving the chickens into the goat area, the will scratch the bedding somewhat, encouraging the composting process, while at the same time adding fresh material in the form of droppings and litter. In the third year, this material, along with old straw bales, will finish composting, while still providing plenty of mulching material for the gardens. In the fourth year, the finished compost can be spread to the gardens and used with greenhouse plantings. The fifth year will be something of a "fallow" year, acting only as a dry place to store firewood through the winter.

In the warmer months, when no firewood storage is required, the pen could be set up as a milking area for the goats. In the winter, the milking station could be moved to the warmer greenhouse area.

By keeping the chickens and goats side-by-side four years out of five, the fencing needs are simplified. The chickens and goats would not be restricted from entering each other's pens during the day. Flexible stock panels could be used to channel the goats and chickens to pasture areas.


Labels: , , , ,

Monday, March 01, 2010

Instant Homestead

If you know ANYBODY looking to buy a piece of land to come back to, send them to this page. We've got something for everyone. No really... Look, here I'll even give you the direct URL:

The house is about 2200 square feet, with 3 bedrooms and a loft that could easily be converted to a fourth bedroom (it's already got a closet even), plus a full unfinished basement. The land is just under 9 acres. About 6 acres are fenced pasture, with a 1 acre pond and another 1/2 acre "sunken marsh". (It was meant to be a pond, but it doesn't hold much water, so it's mostly cat tails, frogs, and red-winged blackbirds.) We're about 10 minutes from Circleville, Ohio (the Pumpkin Show!) and 30 minutes from Columbus. Based on local comps, we feel our asking price is fair at $264,900... but we can talk.

(Some of you are going, "Wow that's a lot!" and other's are going "Wow, that's all?" What can we say, real estate prices are what they are.)

What's so great about it? What does it have for me?

(No stock photos here, this is all legit...)

For the Nature Lover: We've got at least three species of frogs and one species of toad living here, along with a surprising number of salamanders. Our avian visitors include red-tailed hawks, great blue herons, bluebirds, barn swallows, barn owls, merganser ducks, mallard ducks, ring-necked pheasants, and even an occasional snowy egret. (Not to mention hordes [or possibly hoards?] of red-winged blackbirds, robins, cardinals, cowbirds, etc.) We get skunks and possums from time to time. Still hoping for an otter. Or a hippo. At least a dozen types of butterflies, and plenty of dragonflies and a fascinating array of beetles. The pond is well-stocked.

For the Bright Green environmentalist: Our pole barn has a big roof facing true south (I marked it off with my compass and even accounted for magnetic declination), for all those solar panels you always dreamed of. And plenty of room (and a good bit of wind) for the tallest wind turbine you can afford. There's a recycling center five miles away.

For the energy miser: CFLs throughout the house, R-60 insulation in the attic (mostly blown cellulose), a heat stove that can burn corn, pellets, cherry pits, sunflower seeds (or hulls), soybeans, or almost any other "granular" fuel. (Propane furnace serves as a backup.) A vaulted ceiling/loft that lets all that heat flow right up to the second floor, so the bedrooms can share the warmth. Low-E windows throughout. Removable shade screens to cut the summer heat. A super-efficient whole-house fan to draw in the cool summer night air. And of course the over-engineered clothesline.

For the Passive Solar enthusiast: We put in extra windows on the south face of the house for some winter warmth. We've got a porch overhanging some of the east facing windows, and a grape arbor overhanging some of the west facing windows to get some summer shade. We had plans to put up solar hot water panels as an additional shade structure over some of the south windows. No windows on the north face. In fact, most of the north face is a 2-car garage (and the beginnings of a green windbreak) to buffer those winds out of the north.

For the Local Food enthusiast: We've got a number of other small farmers close by and one good sized organic dairy. And a fabulous farmers' market in the next town over.

For the gardener: That south-facing barn was built with an attached greenhouse in mind. The soil in the garden area has been amended with: Several pickup loads of finished compost from the nearby organic dairy, many bags of leaves from yards in town, dried molasses, hay, straw, shredded paper, newspaper, cardboard, worm castings, composted wood chips, and manure from chickens, goats, cows, and a donkey. Oh and lots of biochar from our biomass stove and wood ash from when we burn pellets. And no chemicals. And scattered wildflowers.

For the edible landscaping enthusiast: We've got apple trees, peach trees, cherry trees, grape vines, gooseberries, currants, sunchokes, asparagus, and a big patch of lemon balm. And possibly some salvageable nut trees if you can baby them a bit.

For the livestock enthusiast: We've got a chicken pen inside the pole barn, and a milking stall suitable for cows or goats. And room for plenty of hay. We've got acres of pasture well suited for rotational grazing, and fences built to last. The property has had no [pesti/fungi/herbi/insecti]cides of any kind on it, and it's got a nice variety of grass and red clover with occasional volunteer alfalfa, wheat, corn, wildflowers, etc. We've also got an Amish-raised Jersey cow who gives gallon after gallon of amazing cream-colored high-butterfat milk. It makes awesome butter, ice cream and yogurt (and presumably some incredible cheeses too, though we haven't gotten that far). She's bred to a proven Angus bull for your grass-fed beef needs. She doesn't come with the house, but if you're interested, she certainly can.

For the small farmer: We've got lots of room to grow small row crops, with pasture gates wide enough to fit most any equipment that would make sense on this scale. We've also got a Ferguson TO-30 tractor, a bush hog, and a 2-bottom trip plow we could throw in. The soil is already fabulous, and we've been working hard to improve it.

For the aesthetically inclined: The sun rises out your bedroom windows and sets out your living room windows. There's nothing ostentatious about this place, but it does have oak trim throughout, and most of the doors are solid oak. It's got beautiful stonework around the fireplace. It's got light-stained maple cabinets in the kitchen, and French doors leading to the dining room. It's got a vaulted ceiling up to the loft. It's got a big wrap-around front porch.

For the busy parent: It's got a 50x50 fenced back yard, and it's in a great school district (with a fabulous special needs program). And lots of room to roam and explore. And a surprising number of kids in the area.

For the homeschooler (or the amateur inventor, or the artist): it's got a 6-foot tall chalkboard in the kitchen. And great spaces for books and projects. The main library up in Columbus is regularly rated as the best library in the nation.

For the cook: We've got a wide-open oversized kitchen with tons of cabinets and counter space and a lovely south-facing window for a little herb shelf.

For the telecommuter: We've got DSL or WildBlue (satellite) for your broadband needs.

For the lazy mover: Everything in the house or on the property is negotiable except the kids, the dog, and the cat.

For the pumpkin enthusiast: The Circleville Pumpkin Show!

For the Red-Blooded American Consumer: Walmart, plus one of each of the major fast food chains.

For the TEOTWAWKI Zombie Hunter: We've got a clear view all around, with visibility approaching ten miles in some directions. We've got a full basement that's perfect for your underground bunker, root cellar, cool storage, and weapons cache. 20 miles from the nearest big city, but just 5 miles from (non-passenger) rail lines and a mile from a small river.

PLUS IF YOU ACT NOW, we'll throw in contacts for any/all of the following (a list I wish I had when we moved in):
  • A local organic dairy farmer who will load up your pickup truck with finished compost for next-to-nothing
  • Several neighbors who will cut and bale hay from your pastures (or who can sell you hay if you need it)
  • A neighbor who will rent your pastures for his beef cattle if you'd rather that than the hay
  • A neighbor who raises pastured poultry and garden vegetables
  • Next-door neighbors who are both nurses, and have kids of all ages in case yours need instant friends
  • A garbage collector who will come up the long driveway to get your trash, so you don't have to drag your garbage cans across all that gravel.
  • A neighbor who can fix tractors if you need it
  • A neighbor who can repair/replace tires (tractor or otherwise)
  • A nearby source for dried corn in case you want to use it in the corn/pellet heat stove.
  • A reputable auto repair shop
  • A neighbor with a snowplow that can handle a gravel driveway if needed
  • Various neighbors who raise cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, llamas, horses, turkeys, and chickens in case you need advice on any of them.
  • A great local source for honey
  • A great local-only farmer's market
So click on my profile and email me. I'll send you the full listing with photos of the house and everything. Don't delay - the zombies could be on their way at any time. Operators are standing by.