There are many unpleasant words I regularly associate with “farming”: dirt, manure, hard labor, loss, manure (repetition intended), and…ramshackle.
I’ve never been a person my friends would associate with the term “ramshackle” but most of my friends haven’t seen me since we started farming. And while we started out with the best of intentions, to create a scenic and bucolic setting, as time passes things get run down and we get comfortable with the way they look. By far though, the largest contributor to our ramshackle style is our DIY nature – a theme I see among most farmers. For the most part, we actually prefer to build than to buy.
So, here’s a quick tour of “Ramshackle Farm”:
My personal favorite…We had one section we were grazing in our neighbor’s pasture that had no protection from the summer sun so I put up a temporary shelter. While the sheep enjoyed the ability to escape the direct sun, this was a short-lived solution as a gentle breeze took it down, after which they trampled and pooped all over it. It ended up in the garbage.
And then there are the winter protection measures we take. Covering most of the chicken coop in a plastic tarp works extremely well to keep the snow, rain, and winter winds out ensuring a dry shelter in the colder months. This is the first year we had no frostbitten chicken combs and I attribute it to the thorough job we did with this covering. That being said…I got to wake up to this sight every morning. I have to state here that I put the tarp up initially using only vertical boards on the corners and it looked much better but, as with many of my inventions, it was a temporary solution once the wind picked up and blew it off. My husband opted to express his creativity as he fixed my work.
I had responsibility for hay feeder development as before baby #2, I was actually able to devote some time to such projects. The feeder in the barn turned out quite well but after our first shearing, I learned that the sheep shouldn’t be given access to hay that they have to reach up for as when they pull it down it gets into their wool, making it impossible to pick it all out when it comes time to skirt. Therefore, we used a remnant of an old gazebo covering – which the sheep proceeded to rip and tear apart ensuring the transition of this handsome feeder to ramshackle status – and ensuring plenty of dry matter getting into their fiber.The next feeder, a portable one, is made from hog panels on a frame mounted on a children’s wagon I got off Craigslist (from a really sketchy guy). I made the hinged lid from the same siding that is on the barn (in my attempt to make it “matchy-matchy”) and used another remnant from the old gazebo covering. The whole piece is secured to the perimeter fence with a well used 3″ tow strap. As ugly as it is, this is well used and has held up for almost two years.
Oh Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree, how lovely are thy branches… I read somewhere that sheep liked Christmas trees (untreated and devoid of decorations) so I bungy-corded ours to a tree in the corral and let them have at it. As it was a little past its prime by the time I got it out there, I don’t think they enjoyed it as much as they would have but it certainly lends to the overall ramshackle style.
This is another well-intentioned stylistic detail that ultimately turned ramshackle. We thought it would be nice to recycle our old windows and use them in the barn to let natural light in. Being new to sheep, it never occurred to us they would try to jump through the window, especially when we were trying to catch them to vaccinate. Needless to say, after our 250 lb ram attempted to “throw himself out the window”, I had to put up some reinforcements.And for the latest project in this edition of Ramshackle Style, I just completed a gate for a creep feeder. More on this later but I wanted to include a picture of the finished gate, zip ties and all – as well as the gate’s store-bought, brightly colored counterpart, had we chosen to buy vs build.
Hey…my style standards have plummeted since we started farming but in exchange for my loss of style my DIY skills have dramatically increased. And to be honest, it is highly rewarding coming up with a functioning DIY solution made from odds and ends we have on hand. Even better though, is working through these projects with our young daughter. I hope we are instilling some useful values in her, I suppose the first one being that style isn’t everything.