Moving Our Shed

Envisioning a New Life for a Repurposed Shed

I mentioned awhile ago the list of to-do’s I wanted to complete before winter hit. One of them the pro’s told me wasn’t the best idea and we would have to go a different direction that would have to wait until spring and the other I just sadly haven’t got to yet. BUT, this past weekend I did get one of my big items on my list DONE!

The shed where it stood in the background and it’s new home up front!

We finally got my garden shed moved to it’s rightful place! This summer we poured a cemetn foundation in my garden (read about that process here https://pearlsponiesandpacifiers.com/2020/07/10/533/.) We finally were able to coordinate a time with my Dad to have him come out and instruct us on how to properly move the shed.

Getting Prepped

Our first step in moving the shed was cutting all of the bolts that were securing it to the current cement foundation. Coby used a Sawzall for this.

We had to switch to the corded Sawzall as the battery operated just didn’t seem to have enough umph to cut through the bolts.

The most involved part of this process was getting the shed prepped to move to ensure that it would structurally stay together while moving it. The shed is about 10′ x 10′ so we bought six 2×4’s in 10′ lengths and two 12′ 2×4’s to help brace the shed.

Setting Up the Braces
  1. We placed two on the side walls, about 2′ up from the floor. These were also used to give us something to jack the building with too.
  2. One across the center of the building, perpendicular to the ones on the side.
  3. Two along the side with the door, one along the bottom and another at an angle across the door. There was one along the bottom of the back wall as well.
  4. The two longer boards we attached at an angle high up on the back wall angling down to the floor of the wall with the door.

We then started using two jacks to raise up one side of the building. Coby and my Dad were using the jacks to raise the building just enough for me to slip a 6×6 block underneath of the building to hold it up. The building has some rotten spots that gave way during this phase. When this happened it made the whole building shift a little and I had to reposition the blocks to make sure the buidling was steady. Once this step was complete we positioned skids that my Dad had made, they were made of 4×6 lumber with holes drilled into them and chain loops drawn through so we had a place to attached a tow rope. With the skids positioned I took a 2×6 board and screwed it into each skid on the front and back to help act as another brace while moving. We got everything attached and hooked up to the tractor, the moment of truth was here!

Moment of Truth- Moving the Building

Coby eased the tractor forward and a loud wood splitting sound pierced the air, my inital thought was,

“Well, there goes the building!”

Luckily it turned out just to be one of the 2×6 brace posts snapped. When it snapped it pulled some of the skid with it so I had to reposition it, nice and tight against the building and re-attached it.

I thought this was going to be a super slow step but it sped right along! I apologize for the sound quality, it was a very windy day!

The moment of truth was here again! Coby eased the tractor forward again and I was amazed at how fast he could move that thing and it did great! He got it lined up with the new cement foundation, got the front tractor tires onto the foundation and couldn’t get quite enough umph in the tractor to get the rear tires over the foundation as there is about a 1′ rise from the ground to the top of the cement. He then decided to unhook the skid, drive the tractor by itself over the foundation and turn it around. We were then able to hook up the tow rope and chain onto the bucket and have the tractor in reverse to tow it. Once the building was right next to the foundation Coby lifted the bucket the chain was attached to very gently and we nestled the 6×6 blocks under the skids to help elevate the skids into place to get it onto the foundation since it is elevated so much higher then the ground because we live on a hill. We had to do this again with some 4×4 blocks on top of the 6×6 blocks as well to ensure the skids would be able to clear the foundation. After we were set up Coby put the tractor into reverse and pulled it onto the foundation!

Securing the Building to the Foundation

At this point we realized the Tapcon concrete screws we had were definitely too small. I got the largest size available at the local hardware store but my Dad was not comfortable with using those to anchor the shed to the foundation. Since it was rather windy this day we decided to leave the shed as was, anchored on the skids and wait until we could get larger Tapcon’s.

My Dad got 5″ Tapcons during the week, there is a 2″ footing with 2×4’s around the bottom of the building so this gave us 3″ that would go into the cement foundation to secure the building.

The next weekend Dad and I set out to get the building anchored to the foundation. We started by using the loader on the tractor to gently push the building more square on the foundation. It was a little askew when Coby pulled it on the foundation so we let the tractor do most of the work for us to get it centered. We then took out the skids and slowly lowered the shed onto the foundation.

We had to add plates on the South wall of the shed as they had rotted away. We had a 2×6 laying around and cut them it length. We had to do some fabricating to make it fit the building correctly as the adjoining wall jut out slightly. The rest of the building had two plates so we added two to this wall as well.

As we were trying to get the footings around the building secured with Tapcon screws we realized the East and West sides of the building toward the door slanted up. We started to dismantle the braces we installed on the inside of the building to move it hoping that would shift enough to gently let the building rest flush to the floor. We worked at trying to get this thing flush for a long time but it wasn’t cooperating. Dad thought that possibly the old foundation angled one direction and then our new one maybe angled the opposite direction so the building was not sitting right. I was rather appalled he would suggest such a thing as setting up the framework for that foundation I swear was almost the death of me. I thought we had leveled the framework to within an inch of my life but who knows!

You can really see the gap underneath where the shed won’t rest on the foundation. Dad wonders if maybe they only used one plate on the right side where they used two on every other side of the building. We will test this theory and I will let you know!

We used a steel tamping/digging bar to get the building to sit exactly where I wanted it, scooting it an inch this way and that until it was perfect. We used the level to ensure that the door was square and would securely close. We then used a 3/16″ Masonry bit to pre-drill holes for the Tapcon screws. This took some time and patience because of course, drilling out cement isn’t a fast job! I then used my impact driver to secure the screws. I sadly have a hard time getting enough pressure on a drill to fasten things without stripping them but for some reason the impact driver works so much better for me. It’s an embarrassing flaw for the daughter of a man who’s done construction all his life but it’s the truth!

Final Thoughts – It’s Done!

We have the building fastened down and it looks amazing in it’s new home! It really anchors my garden and is the perfect axis to center everything from. Not to mention it will be handy to have all the gardening tools right there when I need them! Now I just have to wait until spring to really get everything in full swing!!

Be a Good Neighbor

A week ago today much of my County was hit by record winds. I live in the Northern part of my County and we were extremely lucky. The Southern part of my County was devasted. Houses were left without roofs and I have heard more times then I can count of grain bins that aren’t there anymore. But, as one of my Veteran’s said, it doesn’t matter because there won’t be much of a crop because the wind flattened the corn.

I was at work in town when it hit, seemingly out of nowhere, the last I had seen there was only a 40% chance of a scattered thunderstorm. The lack of visibility outside amazed me. I always assumed in town wind didn’t get that bad because there was enough structures to block it but I was wrong, we couldn’t see 10 feet out the window at times. One of our Deputy’s at our building had his wife call sobbing in the phone that it wouldn’t stop. He lives in an area of the County that was hit hardest. It wasn’t just the 110 mph wind gusts that caused so much damage but also the fact that it lasted so long. I just had a Veteran report today that it lasted 45 minutes where he lives. Usually a storm comes and goes like it did in the town I was in.

Then the phones cut out. A popular Midwest cell phone service, which the majority of us had, stopped working. The probation officer in our building has a different cell service and let us all call to check on loved ones, Scarlett was with my Dad and he lives further North then I do and just said they had some wind and rain but that was it. I almost got the vibe he thought I was goofy for even calling they had had it so easy.

The first thing I saw coming home after the storm. I felt like Scarlett from Gone With the Wind, “The house, is it still there?”

When the power didn’t come on for another hour, even with the town having a back-up generator I figured there must be some serious damage and decided to check on my own situation at home. As I was driving through town I passed one of my Veteran’s houses with a large branch on the roof. He is an elderly gentlemen who lives alone and doesn’t have any family. I had to check and make sure he was alright. Luckily he was fine and the branch just looked horrible, he didn’t think it had actually done much damage. He was actually in his enclosed porch and watched it come down! But, as I was there he had a friend stop and check on him too and another was on the way to assess the damage. The way that a community can come together after a devastating event is beautiful.

Checking On the Home Place

My first thought as I was topping the hill to our house was to ensure the house was still there. We had a large branch come down but it missed the house completely! It was blocking my part of the driveway but that’s pretty minor. My next thought was check on the horses as they were in the corner pasture that would have taken the brunt of the wind. I jumped out of the car and started yelling, “Boys, boys!” There they came, running around the corner of the windbreak ready for some feed!

This is the worse damage we received, plus a few trees in the pastures. If that’s the worse that happens, I’ll take it.

Since we have a circle drive I wasn’t too worried about jumping to clean up the tree because we have a circle drive, I’ll just use Coby’s drive. Plus, I needed to get gas for the chainsaw and since we were the only town with power for quite a distance we had LINES to get to the gas pumps and the gas stations in town were worried of running out within hours, there were people that needed it a lot more then me to clean up a lot worse damage and to run their generators to keep their families comfortable and their food cold and safe. I could easily wait.

Good Community, Great Neighbors

Tuesday evening Scarlett and I pulled into Coby’s drive and circled around to our normal parking spot by the house. In front of me was one of the sweetest sights. An anonymous neighbor had come and cleared our driveway, they even cut up the branch for us to use as firewood. The kindness brought a tear to my eye and made all of the ugly in the world melt away and goodness shine through.

Our passable driveway! Scarlett and I did find out which neighbor graciously cleared our drive and gifted him with delicious cookies my Dad’s girlfriend had baked and a card from Scarlett and I!

There are a lot of horrible things going on in the world right now but there is also a lot of good. Let’s all be a good neighbor, check on those around you and lend each other a hand.

Thinking Ahead to Winter

Last night Scarlett and I were out meandering in the pasture and a very large flock of birds went overhead. Since then I’ve seen a couple flocks fly by and couldn’t help but think, “Is it that time of year already?” I still think it’s pretty early for birds to be flocking together and heading South but it got me thinking about winter coming and then the panic set in.

It sounds very “Little House on the Prairiesque” but the impending winter makes you really take stalk of what you need to accomplish before the snow flies. I have never had this thought process until last fall when we were coming into our first full winter at this property. I had things that I really wanted to accomplish before winter that would make life so much easier, i.e. pouring the sidewalk patch, read about that project here: https://pearlsponiesandpacifiers.com/2020/03/24/pouring-a-sidewalk-patch/ or putting in a gate in our barn to make it easier to access the pasture (https://pearlsponiesandpacifiers.com/2020/05/29/building-a-wood-gate/.) Luckily, I got all of the important things accomplished last year. Now, it’s time to look ahead to this year’s list.

Narrowing It Down

My husband read a book awhile ago titled, Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight. He summed it up how she sets priorities by making a list of everything you need to do. Now narrow it down. Narrow it down again. And then, narrow it down again. It sounds very common sense, but, once I started using this approach it truly helped me examine what REALLY needed to be done. Not what seemed important, but what do I have to do right now that sets me up for success. All of the fluff things you wanted to get done kind of sink to the bottom and you realize what truly needs to happen.

Now Narrow it down. Narrow it down again. And then, narrow it down again.

I have started using this approach with the acreage. We will have lived on this property for two years come December. There is a list as long as my arm of things I want to get done, that’s just life, specifically life on the homestead. BUT, I am starting to take note of what will make life easier this winter and what will give us a head start in the spring.

This helped me narrow down things to do for the barn, and my garden and probably most important, the wood furnace in the house.

Getting the Barn Winter Ready

We have a hook up for a hydrant in the barn but have not put a hydrant on there basically because I don’t know if anything else needs to be done to it to ensure it is ready for freezing cold temps. As of now I have to run two hoses from the hydrant in the middle of the yard to the pasture and then coil it up and put it in the basement so it doesn’t freeze. Granted, in the grand scheme of things this isn’t the worse thing in the world but when it is below zero out, it sucks! I would love to have a hydrant in the barn and get a lightweight coil hose that only has to reach about 25′ to the water tank. My Dad thinks that we need to do a lot of additional steps to get this hookup ready for the hydrant and I quite honestly just want to have our local plumber come out and give it the green light but also don’t want to have an expensive plumber come all the way out for a simple DIY so really I just need to pull the trigger and get my butt in gear!

The current set-up we have to water the horses is such a pain. We need two hoses to reach the the tank, it’s so far away you can’t even see it!

The next thing on the list for the barn is repair the roof. We have a hole on the North side that definitely needs some attention. I was out there awhile ago during a rain storm and the water was pouring in to the horses shelter area, not OK for so many obvious reasons. I do not do heights so roofs are clearly not my thing and Coby simply doesn’t have time so we are going to hire it out and definitely need to be getting on that because winter will be here before you know it

If you look towards the top of the picture you can see bits of light coming in, clearly not a good thing in a roof!

Moving the Garden Shed

The next thing is move my garden shed to the new foundation we poured, read about that project here: https://pearlsponiesandpacifiers.com/2020/07/10/533/. While this isn’t going to make or break our winter it would make things go a lot smoother next spring. My main reason in wanting to get this in place is so I can start my ground cover walkways so they can take root this fall and early spring before we get out in the garden.

I can’t wait to get this big project completed and have the garden shed moved so I can’t really start building my garden next year!

I thought long and hard about what material to use as a walkway for in between my raised beds. I have always loved going barefoot in the garden and didn’t feel that was a great option using tradition walkway materials of mulch or rock. I also didn’t want the added maintenance of mowing and trimming the walkways if I planted grass. I was very adamant about being comfortable walking barefoot in the garden, there is something so uplifting about connecting with the earth that you are working and I didn’t want to lose that. I kept thinking about it and realized that there had to be some other option and I stumbled upon walkable ground covers. These are huge!! There are people actually replacing lawns with this to make less maintenance! After much research I settled upon Irish Moss as the ground cover I would use for my garden walkways. It can withstand heavy foot traffic and grows rather quickly and has a decent spread so I don’t need millions of plants to get my walkways covered. I referenced the website https://www.stepables.com/, they were great in detailing the pros and cons of each variety of stepable plant. They also sell the plants of course. Since I am going to be covering a wide area of space I ended up buying seeds from a different company and am starting them at home myself.

If you look with a microscopic lens you can see the tiny Irish Moss seed sprout in there!

Wood Furnace

We have a wood stove in the living room. I grew up with a wood stove as our only form of heat because my Dad is very “thrifty” as he likes to call it. I love wood heat, electric heat can’t even begin to touch wood heat in my opinion. Our house is roughly 50′ long with doorways breaking up that distance. That is a lot for a wood stove to try and heat. It would be nice and toasty in the living room but it would be freezing on the other side of the house, something I am not a fan of! The previous owners had a wood furnace installed in the basement and I want so badly to get that thing up and running that way we have that glorious wood heat spreading evenly throughout the house! The previous owner mentioned that the chimney needed to be re-lined so that’s why we didn’t try it last year when we moved in during the middle of winter. Since it hasn’t been used in awhile we want it to get professionally inspected and brought up to snuff because of course burning wood can be dangerous if not done correctly.

Our wood furnace set-up and chimney in the background.

I hope you don’t have a panic moment like I did realizing that winter is around the corner and you have a bunch of stuff you want to get crossed off your to-do list before that happens! I hope this just gave you some food for thought, good luck on checking off that list!

Working with Animals

This morning we moved the steer and horses to another pasture as the grass is getting sparse in the one they were in. Our steer has never had a halter on him and of course, never been broke to lead. We had to move him maybe 20 yards outside of the pastures and fences to get to the new grazing spot. Coby wanted to set up a make shift fence with paneling. Probably the smarter way to go but that seemed like waaay too much work for me. I opted to throw a lead rope around his neck instead, not sure what that really does but it made me feel better. So, being armed with the lead rope in hand and a tub full of feed in the other I opened the gate. He did pretty good, until he felt the lead rope tightening around his neck. Then he started romping around and playing like silly moo cows do. I let go of the lead rope because I am clearly not going to stop him and let him run. Luckily, he is a very lazy steer and didn’t go too far BUT, he did go in the opposite direction of where we needed him to go, of course! He let me walk up to him, grab the lead rope and feed tub and slowly I started backing toward the pasture. I could tell a couple of times he was getting nervous so we stopped and let him grab some bites to calm down and continue on.

Scarlett and “Baby Cow” getting to know each other. She was clearly more excited about that then he was!

It took mere minutes to get him moved but it left my adrenaline a little ramped up! It sounds silly but we are dealing with a 750 pound steer. In all honesty we should still be chasing him around the property 6 hours later but we aren’t. To get an animal, especially one of that size and power to trust you and follow you to a new and unknown place is very a humbling experience.

One thing I have learned when it comes to dealing with animals, especially large animals is that you have to be patient, no matter how hard and excruciating. I sometimes have a hard time going on other peoples schedule, my husband likes to remind me that if it’s not done on my time it’s not right.

Getting ready to walk the boys around the perimeter of their new pasture!

I bought my horse Chocolate when I was in the fifth grade, he was my baby before I had a baby. We have learned so much from each other over the 21 years we have been together. But most importantly, he has taught me to slow down, that not everything can be done by my schedule. There are times you just have to stop everything else, everything that you had planned to do that day may not happen because you are asking this animal that is literally a thousand pounds heavier then you to do something and they aren’t so sure of it yet.

I think over the years Chocolate and I have developed a mutual trust that makes it so much easier to ask him to do something. That, and we are both older, matured and just don’t have the energy to be sassy with each other any more! The other night we went for a ride and I decided it would be fun to see if Chocolate would step up onto the cement patio that has a couple stairs on it. He did it without blinking an eye and then just hopped down like it was no big deal. I was so proud of him and how far we have come as a team.

Scarlett’s first ride on Chocolate at 6 months old. He is such an amazing boy!

It is a great privilege to have this bond and mutual trust between large animals and a human. I have trusted Chocolate not only with my life but also my daughter’s, that’s a lot of trust! It is a gift that we have been given to communicate with animals and it is amazing! I am definitely not perfect and get a little rammy sometimes when it comes to dealing with the animals but I hope to teach Scarlett the same love and affection I have for animals so she can have great bonds with them too.

Top 5 Reasons Raising Country Kids is the Best

Growing up in the country was a big influence on who I am today. I truly believe that experience is everything and makes you who you are. I grew up on a small acreage that was fairly self sufficient and many of the things I do today I can trace the reason being that I grew up in the country. My sister has a new beau and invited his parents to my Dad’s 4th of July celebration. Since it’s a small town I already knew her boyfriend’s mom pretty well. She commented numerous times after seeing my Dad’s place how wonderful it must have been growing up there and she made the connection of why my sister and I are the way we are simply because growing up there!

  1. Play- I am not about scheduled play dates and structured activities for Scarlett. Those things can be good too but that is so much work and stress for ME as the parent and I am not about that! I believe in letting Scarlett whip a stick around and play with that. Watching her with it you can see she has a purpose for what she is doing, she has some story playing out in her mind and it is so fun to see and to imagine along with her! There is so much research backing free play. I recently read an amazing book titled, Simple Happy Parenting by Denaye Barahona. She has a Ph. D. in Child Development with a specialty in Family Wellness so she comes at this from an educated stand point. She made an excellent point that our education system is shifting from just memorizing facts and figures because let’s face it, the kids of today can look up anything in a matter of seconds. Instead, education is shifting to focus on the 4C’s, Critical Thinking, Collaboration, Communication and Creativity. This concept blew me away but made so much sense with the way our world is now. What better way to encourage these concepts then free play!

2. Caring for Others- When you have critters you have to care for them. It doesn’t matter how frigid the wind is, how blazing hot the sun is or if you had a horrible day. Your animals need to be fed and watered and YOU have to do it. Being a country kid you learn responsibility early because you have a life outside your own that depends on you and you have to care for your animals.

3. Life and Death- Even though we lovingly care for our animals life will come to an end. Death is a part of life. Scarlett had a kitten named Sandy that we hand fed because her mom suddenly passed away from an unknown cause. When I found Sandy my first instinct was to hide her before Scarlett could see her. Scarlett was about one and a half at the time. But instead I thought she needed to know what happened to her kitty cat and decided to use it as a teaching moment. Scarlett came over and enthusiastically called, “Kitty Cat!” like she always did to Sandy. When Sandy didn’t move I could see the confusion on Scarlett’s face and it was heart breaking to me. I explained to her that Sandy had passed and she is now in heaven with God. I know she doesn’t understand now but I believe in explaining things as they are because some day it will click in her mind. Another great aspect of living in the country is you get to see life coming into the world. Whether it be a kitten or Baby Buck Bucks or a new calf. There is something magical about babies, no matter what species they are! I know as a kid my parents NEVER sat down and had the ‘Birds and the Bees’ talk with me because I already knew, simply by being around the animals. I remember on more then one occasion watching the sheep or cats do their thing and announcing to everyone that we were going to have lambs or kittens! You simply learn the facts of life by watching nature.

Scarlett loving on Sandy.

4. Where Food Comes From- In such a modern world it is so easy to become disconnected from our food supply. You get the munchies, go to the store, grab what you’re in the mood for all packaged up nicely and there you go. But obviously there’s so much more to it. We have a garden for veggies and hopefully soon a small orchard for some fruit. One of my favorite evening activities is spending time in the garden with Scarlett to water the plants and pull weeds. It is such a peaceful and reflective time for me. She helps pull weeds too and harvests produce with me. She got her first fresh strawberries this spring and couldn’t get enough of them. It was such a wonderful moment seeing her excited and enjoying one of life’s simple pleasures. Along with produce we also have our own steer that we will be butchering this winter. About a month ago my Dad called me at 6am on a Sunday morning wondering if I could come over because they decided they were going to butcher chickens that day. I took over our old hen who hadn’t laid in a long time so we could butcher her as well. We went up to where they were butchering and there was already a pile of dead chickens laying there. It understandably upset Scarlett. I picked her up and explained that chickens lay yummy eggs for us but we also eat their meat as well. I didn’t want to really get into it but simply explain the facts to her. She spent the rest of the day running around chasing kittens so it didn’t seem to bother her after that. I think it was the initial shock that really threw her off. I had debated how to present this to her gently but due to circumstances out of my control the pile of dead chickens made the jump for me and I just explained things best I could and she seemed OK with that. We made chicken noodle soup that night, when I told her what it was she took a big bite of chicken, said “chicken”, and kept munching so either she didn’t make the connection or it didn’t bother her too much!

5. Hard Work- Living in the country is hard work. Anything you truly want in life is hard work and living in the country helps instill that work ethic in you. Hard work can suck, let’s be honest, BUT the gratification that comes from a completed task is worth it. Scarlett has been a doer since she was able to control her limbs. She is always with us no matter what we are doing. We firmly believe that she does what we do. Last summer she was one and a half and we were cleaning up a large tree that had to come down in the yard. She was right there with us picking up little baby branches and placing them in the tractor. Coby and I were so proud of her working right along with us. She amazes us with things that she is able to do and we certainly cheer her on for it. As kids we were expected to help our parents with things and I remember doing things that my parents didn’t think I would be able to, i.e. lifting a log into the wagon and them being amazed! I thrived on that high! I hope we can instill that in Scarlett as well to push herself and amaze even herself with what she can do.

Hard Working Baby Cleaning up Sticks

I loved growing up in the country and clearly enjoy country life still. Clearly kids growing up in town and the cities learn these lessons as well but I feel learning them in the country helps instill these lessons early in life. I may be romanticizing it, but I think back to my childhood with such fondness and my love for nature and clearly can trace that back to living a simple, wonderful life in the country and hope Scarlett will too.

Garden Shed Foundation

I took all of last week off work. All of the Veteran’s I serve have been asking me where I went and if I had a great time. Well, it was not a sit by the pool and sip on drinks kind of vacation. I had a to-do list about as long as my arm! I got the vast majority of it done, at least the back breaking part of it anyway.

My main goal during this “Workcation” was pour the cement foundation for my garden shed. We have an adorable 10′ x 10′ building on our property that the previous owners used as their milk house when they had a dairy cow, so precious! Since we moved in I have been using it to store random yard/garden supplies. For this new purpose it sits in a rather random spot of the property. We are very much about keeping old buildings that have so much charm and giving them a new purpose that suits our needs.

Getting Started

I honestly didn’t think this was going to be much of a project. I poured cement to fill in a patch of our sidewalk (Read that article here: https://pearlsponiesandpacifiers.com/2020/03/24/pouring-a-sidewalk-patch/ ) and that went really well so I thought this was going be just as simple. My Dad came out Wednesday to help me with the forms. We are on a bit of a hill but I didn’t realize how much our property slopes until I was out there with a level!

I bought out the lumberyard of 2″ x 6″ boards to use for the forms. We placed one along the fence which is what I was using as a guide to where the building would go. I dug it out to make the 2″ x 6″ even with the ground on the high side, remember, our property slopes quite a bit. From there we started pounding in stakes along the board and screwed the 2″ x 6″ to those, pounding in the stakes until the level read even. We basically repeated this process on all sides until the whole thing was even. There was quite a bit of back and forth until ALL sides were level. Please note that while completing this step ensure that you do NOT use the forms to help brace yourself as you stand up. I learned that one the hard way and we may have had to do some more leveling.

Digging to fit the first form.

The Really Hard Part

I don’t know if it was the fact that the temperature was pushing 90 degrees or if I just wasn’t mentally prepped for this step to take all day long but after the first step I thought we were pretty much home free, WRONG! Because our property has such a slope I had to go back to the lumberyard and get additional 2″ x 6″ to place under the first ones to totally fill in the forms. No big deal, I got those put in and then started placing waler brackets. For ours we just used a 1″ x 2″ cut in 2’ish sections and screwed them into the stakes at an angle with another stake behind them to ensure they didn’t move. These help brace the forms against the weight of the wet cement.

The walers on the tall side of the forms where they were needed most.

Again, that part wasn’t so bad either, the next step was prepping the ground inside of the form. Granted, I think the reason this step was extra difficult is because our property slopes so much but dang was it difficult! I used the flat-edged shovel to skim off the dirt until it was a level 4″. My Dad also suggested that we do a rat footing. Bascially, it’s adding extra cement down along the inner side of the foundation. I dug down about a shovels width in from the form and down an extra 4″. This helps so rain water doesn’t run under the building. I used the soil that I removed for the rat footing and to even the low sides of the inside of the form. We even had to bring in some outside dirt to make it even. After the soil was put in place I used the metal tamper to pack down the dirt so it was ready for cement. My Dad also wanted me to brace the forms with dirt so they would have more support against the wet cement but I’ll be honest, by this point of the day I was done and calling it good!

Pouring Cement

I scheduled the cement truck for Friday morning, it was quite exciting having a whole truck come. I had never had a big enough job to warrant a whole truck! The truck couldn’t quite reach the forms so we had to use the bucket on the tractor to haul the cement from the truck to the forms. Coby would pour the cement into the form and I then used a concrete come-along tool to rake the cement into the corners and tamp it down to get out any air bubbles.

Once we got the form filled in it was time to screed. We used a 2″ x 4″ for this. With a person on either side of the form they would drag the board pushing the bulk of the cement out of the way. Then they would take it back to the starting point and quickly see-saw it back and forth to level the cement. If cracks were needing to be filled in I would scoop a shovel full of cement in the area and they would do the process over again until it was nice and smooth.

Once this rough leveling was done my Dad showed me how to use the magnesium float and really smooth out the floor. Coby used the edging trowel to put a smooth edge on the cement so there aren’t any ridges. My Dad then used the broom to put a slight texture to the floor. He loves to add swirls to the cement instead of a straight line, I let him have free range and go for it! We then had to add the ever popular hand prints and Dad insisted we put the date in it as well, if only I could write in a straight line!

Final Thoughts

This step of the project was definitely more then I bargained for BUT it is done and done well. It really gave shape to my garden and I can’t wait to move the building and keep adding raised beds to make it my dream garden!

View of the foundation from the low side of the hill that needed a LOT of cement to even out with the high side of the hill.

Veggie Garden Design and Construction

I love a prolific, organized garden, who doesn’t?! I want a garden that is pleasing to the palatte as well as to the eye. Now that we have our own place my goal this summer was to start my dream garden. I have always wanted raised beds as they are beautiful and offer numerous planting benefits, i.e. longer growing season and complete control over the soil used.

This post is just covering the first phase of my garden plan. My total garden is going to be 61’1″ x 43’7″ and it just wasn’t feasible in both time and money to do that all at once.

Plan Before You Plant

The first step was measuring the space where I wanted the garden to go, and re-measuring it just to make sure. After that I broke out my architects scale and started designing. For me designing and drawing is relaxing, it’s my way of dreaming on paper. I have recently been obsessed with the YouTube channel called, “Garden Answer.” Laura is an extremely knowledgeable gardener who has given me a lot of inspiration and the confidence to try something new in my garden. I grew up with a vegetable garden being a plot of tilled up soil with rows and rows of veggies in it. There is nothing wrong with that but I wanted mine to have an almost architectural beauty to it as well. Laura made me realize I can have both, practical and eye catching. I have always heard of the idea of “rooms” in a garden but again, didn’t think that was for a vegetable garden but Laura made me realize, “Why not?”

My extravagant garden plan in my new “Plans” notebook with all of my current project ideas!

I really examined what we were wanting out of our garden. We would love to start canning and be able to have enough home-grown food that we can “grocery” shop from our own pantry. Therefore, we have to have a lot of garden space and we got it!

The design for my garden is very symmetrical, I am using the garden shed as the main focal point to break up the two main areas in the garden. After that I decided 4′ x 8′ beds are what I want for the bulk of my beds but didn’t want them just lined up in rows. I decided that along the center axis, aligned with the garden shed, I would do smaller, 3′ x 3′ beds for smaller crops and to help break up the area and really draw you into the garden from the main entry.

Breaking Ground

After the hours I spent designing and tweaking the plan it was time to break ground! My Dad has a 2 bottom plow that he tries to use any opportunity he gets. I had him come over and he and Coby plowed under the entire area where I was going to put the garden. We then tilled and tilled and tilled the area to break up the large clumps.

Building the Beds

It was time to make those beautiful raised beds. My research suggested using either Redwood or Cedar for beds due to their durability when exposed to the weather. In my area Redwood hasn’t been available for years so I went with Cedar. There were cheaper options of course but that included treated lumber which is something I wan’t comfortable with seeings how I am growing food in these. One lumberyard I called suggested that some people go with the treated lumber and then line it before putting the soil down to create a barrier.

I got my lumber and soil and started making six of the 3′ x 3′ beds. I mitered the corners because again, I wanted it to be pretty, and that’s what Laura did too! My Dad warned me that they would pull apart easier that way but I didn’t care. After I made these beds Laura did a follow up video on her channel stating that she would not do mitered edges again because of the aforementioned problem so, lesson learned, I won’t do it to the rest. Once I had all of the pieces cut to size I took them to the barn to screw together. Our barn is the only cemented floor we have and I wanted to make sure that they were flush. I screwed all of the beds together and then sanded the edges as they did get a little rough and splintery while cutting.

Putting Everything in the Garden

The next step was measuring the placement of everything in the garden. I measured the outsides and the center. I used fiberglass electric fence poles to mark these points. I then ran a string line in between the poles to measure from. Once I was sure it was centered I started placing the beds down where they should go based on my plans. I used a large rake to even out the soil where I was placing them to ensure that it was flat.

Scarlett helped me plant the finished beds. We may have a few extra Jack be Little pumpkins because of her assistance but I’m not mad. It’s so fun having her help and learn!

There is still a long way to go until my dream garden is complete but the first phase is done and let’s be honest, getting started is always the hardest part!

Building Fence

Thankfully when we moved to this property in the December a little over a year ago it hadn’t turned bitter cold yet and the ground was not froze. My husband and I constructed a make shift holding pen for the horses until we could build proper fence when the weather turned.

There’s something oddly peaceful about looking at a pretty fence!

The previous owners hadn’t had any livestock for years which meant that all of the fence around the property had to come out and be rebuilt. My husband was a farm hand growing up so he is quite a good fence ripper outer! EVERY Saturday last summer was devoted to fencing. I would take our daughter to my mom’s in the morning and linger there a little longer then I should knowing that Coby was starting fence work while I was there. Once I got back it was time to put up some fence. We would complete a single line of fencing each day. Now, some might envision a couple arguing with each other and bickering incessantly while building fence but oddly Coby and I seem to be at our best as a couple under usually trying times so it was actually fun.

Some people feel close to God when they are sitting in a church pew. I felt alive and blessed working on our fence. Maybe it’s because it took us four years to find our acreage but God blessed us with a piece of his earth that he created and entrusted it in our care, that honestly blows my mind. I’m not saying it wasn’t hard work and was exhausting but in the same sense it was exhilarating. We have looked back on it and both felt a sense that someone was there with us. For me it was surprisingly a spiritual task.

Happy boys enjoying their new pasture!

The Steps to Building a Fence

Coby did an insane amount of research into building fence. He watched YouTube videos from the pros because we were going to do this once, and do it right!

  1. Set the corner posts. We just followed the existing fence line so we would take out the old corner posts, use the fence post digger attachment on the tractor to clean out the hole and throw the new creosote post in there. We would use a level to ensure it was straight on all sides before filling the hole in.
    • Creosote is a tar like substance that is used to coat fence posts and soaks into the post leaving it a very dark brown/black color. Creosote helps slow the wood post from rotting and can also deter harmful insects from damaging the posts. Definitely wear gloves and full sleeves when working with these posts. Coby would develop a slight rash whenever the posts made contact with his skin and it would burn for a few hours afterward.
  2. The next step was to place the brace posts on either side of the corner posts. We placed these a metal brace post length away from the corner post.
  3. We used 9 Gage Wire and looped it around the corner post and the brace post at a diagonal, attaching it together with a Wire Tightener. For this project we did have to buy quite a few specific tools but we wanted to ensure this fence was going to withstand the test of time, and my mom’s fence stretching horse.
  4. The last step in bracing the posts was to use a metal brace in-between the posts. I grew up seeing these metal posts placed diagonally between the posts but my Dad said to put them horizontally because the diagonal would start to lift the post where the diagonal was lowest to the ground.
  5. We would then run our bottom line of barbed wire to use as a guide for the metal “T”-Posts. We would wind the barb wire around the wood posts, put fencing staples in it and then put a metal rod through the spool of barbed wire and we would walk it to the other post. Once there we gave ourselves about 3′ extra to work with and cut the wire.
  6. Coby bought a Come-Along Tool or winch that we hooked to the hitch of his pickup. Coby also got an adapter to be used with the winch that can hold the barbed wire. We then tightened the wire and would wrap it around the post and attach it with fencing staples.
  7. The next step was placing the “T”-Posts. We placed ours every 8′ along the outside of the fence. We loaded them in the tractor bucket and Coby would drive the tractor slowly alongside me and I would throw them out at estimated 8′ intervals. I would then measure 8′ and pound the post in with a post pounder with the flat part of the “T”-Post facing inward so electric fencing insulators could be attached later.
  8. Once these were all in we started running the rest of the barbed wire strands. We chose to do 5 strands. My Dad ran 6 because when he built his fence we had sheep and since they’re smaller he wanted smaller openings between the strands. We only intend on having horses and steers so we decided we could make them slightly farther apart. We placed our barbed wire 2″ down from the top, then 12″, 22″, 32″ and 42″ on the 4′ post.
  9. We would run the bottom 3 strands and would then have to adhere them to the post using fence clips. Any more strands then this and they started getting caught in one another while on the ground before we attached them to the post. We would leap frog each other, each doing the next post in line and would attach the wire. We used both regular pliers and fencing pliers for this, both worked but the rounded head of the fencing pliers made it easier for me.

We divided our pasture area into three fairly equal parts so we can rotate the critters to give the grass a chance to catch up growing. We placed gates in-between the pastures to make it easier to move livestock and get the tractor in and out for maintenance. There’s nothing worse then needing to get into a pasture with the tractor and having to worry about the critters running out!

When we had an over tiring day I would make Coby look at the horses and remind him of how happy they are going to be in that beautiful pasture. I don’t think he quite shared my enthusiasm on that but as he always tells me, “If it makes you smile, I’ll do it.”

Finally the day came to let the boys into the completed pasture. I honestly think I was more excited then they were. We each took a horse and walked the perimeter of the fence so they knew where it was and then we let them go. They were so excited to have beautiful green grass they didn’t even do their typical run around like idiots when they get someplace new. They just dropped their heads and started munching, it was a wonderful site!

It was hard work and honestly I’m exhausted even reminiscing to that time but we have gotten numerous comments from people about how nice our fence is. Coby says if we ever have to do it again we will hire it out but we both puff up with pride whenever someone comments on our fence!

For this section we just had to put up the new gate and replace the post next to Coby. Once we make some other changes to the property this will be replaced with vinyl fencing!

DIY Chicken Tractor

How I upcycled vintage screen doors into a cute and functional chicken tractor.

Where we used to live was surrounded by cornfields and was close to the river, a mecca for wild critters that liked to feast on chickens. I decided I needed a chicken tractor but didn’t really want to spend the money on a ready made one or a bunch of lumber to make my own more “traditional” chicken tractor. The place we rented at that time has had people in and out of there, many of whom left collectables behind. There was a set of gorgeous vintage, screen doors. I am not sure what they went to as the house was not set up for something like those but I was going to put them to use!

I love that this chicken tractor gets the girls used to being outside in a safe, and easy to catch environment before I let them free range.

Designing and building

Chicken tractors in their most rudimental form is just a triangle and seeings how we don’t have many girls I didn’t need a big space. I was simply going to make a triangle out of the screen doors connecting them at the bottom with some lumber I had on hand.

First and foremost I did have to do some minor repairs, the bottom of one of the doors was rotten so I removed that piece and used some scrap lumber and pieced it together, it isn’t pretty but it works and is sturdy so the girls are safe. I then spray painted the wood white to protect it and make it pretty! As you can see it’s been a few years since I constructed this and need to do it again, maybe with roll on paint this time.

Here’s the corner I patched together with some spare wood lyng around.

I bought a roll of chicken wire that fit perfectly on my doors and rolled it out on the inside of the door and attached it with a staple gun.

It was then time to put it together! To connect the top of the doors at the peak I just butted them together and had Coby screw them together, he was my driller for this project as I was wearing a cute baby at the time! To connect the bottom of the doors to the wood brace posts I just used the hinges that were still attached to the doors! I did have to move the hinges to the end of the board and put them on the other side but they worked great!

Now that the frame was built I finished enclosing the space with the chicken wire by rolling the wire on the end triangle pieces, stapling with the staple gun and cut the excess with wire cutters. This did leave some sharp edges exposed but I have not had any problem.

The final step was adding handles to the ends, I just found some cheap, yet sturdy handles at the hardware store and attached them to either end using the hardware that came with it.

It may not be perfect but it’s sturdy.

Final Tips

I had originally intended on adding wheels but decided against it as it would raise the tractor too high and I was afraid smaller/younger chickens would escape. It is a little heavy but once you get it in the general area it is easy to move one end at a time a few feet over to fresh grass.

The other night I had my “teenage” sized Buck Bucks in the tractor a little later then normal and they escaped! I think they were nesting down for the night and realized that they could slip out the side because the brace board raises the entire piece 2″. I had them in it yesterday and there were no escapees so I think we are OK but something to think about.

I also intend on adding some sort of shading element. I had a tarp strapped over one end but the puppy dismantled that! I have thought of using leftover corrugated metal but am afraid they would get too hot. I want it to provide shade/shelter from rain but also let a breeze go through easily so I am still working on that. For now I don’t put them out if it is going to rain and keep them between two trees that provide shade both in the morning and afternoon.

It was fun using stuff I found around the place, not only does it work well but it gives an ordinary, functional object some fun whimsy, plus, it’s cost effective!

Building a Wood Gate

We moved to our new homestead on a snowy day a year and a half ago during a winter that my Dad referred to as “This is what I remember winter’s being like when I was a kid.” i.e. I think he was going for that, “We had it so bad we had to walk up hill both ways to get to school” kind of vibe! So once we got everything here we hunkered down and just tried to make it until spring!

Once the weather turned last year we focused on fencing ALL SUMMER LONG (a post on how we did our fencing to come soon!) Now we are looking into some smaller projects that just make our lives easier. The owners that lived here previously used the hog shed for of course, hogs! We are using it as a barn for the horses and chickens and therefore need to do some adjustments to make it more suitable for us. The main thing I wanted to change was getting from inside the barn to the pasture. The previous owners had a very heavy, large piece of wood that slid into slats blocking the doorway in-between the horses shelter and the rest of the barn where we store feed and hay. This large and heavy piece of wood was great for hogs but very difficult for me to give the boys their feed each night. It was easiest for me to go outside and access their pasture via the outside gate. This meant I had to leave Scarlett in the barn by herself and a 2 year old in the barn without visibility made me nervous! I couldn’t wait to make a swinging gate for this doorway!

This board doesn’t look like much but it is a beast!

Like I have mentioned before, my Dad has done construction for longer then I have been alive so I know the basics but I have always had him there to help guide me through projects so this was the first I have really done on my own from start to finish.

The first step I did was measure. I measured about 20 times and then cut once because I tend to get excited and get ahead of myself and have been known to cut things without accurately measuring. I liked the height of the heavy board they had because it blocked the giraffe necked horses from reaching around the corner and grabbing hay that was stacked there for winter. I did want to leave some room on the bottom for clearance of apples that accumulate from the horses during the winter because it was so dang cold that first winter there was no way we were going to get them cleaned out regularly. In total the height of the gate was mounted at 48″ tall but the gate itself was only 44″ in height, leaving a 4″ gap at the bottom for the apples.

I locked the boys out of the barn while working on the inside gate. They were quite intrigued as to what I was doing with their house!

I used 2″ x 6″ lumber. The lumberyard I got it from cut it to length for me which was 44″. I had to cut the width of the final piece so it would fit in the opening. I used a battery operated circular saw for all of the cutting I did. Next I lined up the pieces on saw horses and worked on the brace pieces. I wanted a classic and simple “Z” pattern. I again measured the top and bottom pieces very carefully and cut the boards to length. I screwed these in place using deck screws, that is what my local hardware store suggested for this project. For the diagonal piece of the “Z” I just laid a board across the gate at the angle I wanted and marked where they met the top and bottom brace pieces. I then used my square to take that measurement across the width of the board so I would have an accurate guide to follow and cut those as well. Once I cut it I screwed this into place.

I used one of the other boards as a straight edge to draw a line to follow as a guide to cut the length of the board.

The next step was to take out the slats that held the heavy board into place, they were nailed to the 2″ x 4″ stud that outlined the doorway so it took a little elbow grease and a few choice words and those were out!

I then went onto installing the hardware for the gate, starting with the hinges. I was nervous about this step because I didn’t want to mess anything up. I got large hinges because this isn’t a lightweight gate! I screwed the hinges to the gate and then found various items to put under the gate to hold it in place 4″ above the floor to give me the clearance for any excrement that would accumulate from the horses. I then screwed the other side of the hinges to the 2″ x 4″ stud.

I just started attaching screws at random to get it in place and then filled in the holes.

The next step was attaching the latch, I found a heavy duty latch at Home Depot, one that the horses could not manipulate with their mouths because they can be stinkers like that. I attached the latch to the gate using the accompanying hardware and then slid the latch out like I was locking the gate and fitted the accompanying latch piece and screwed it into place to the stud.

Attaching the latch. I had to use a screwdriver, my drill was too big to fit against the latch itself.

I ensured that my gate would swing into where the horses are because horses can be stinkers and lean on gates, especially my mom’s horse that lives with us, he is a total nuisance and loves this trick. To help with this I made a simple ‘stop’ with the piece of 2″ x 6″ I shaved off for the gate itself. I simply latched the gate into place where it would stop naturally and screwed this extra piece of wood to the stud behind it to offer more protection from naughty ponies leaning against the gate.

My handy dandy “Gate Stop.”

This simple project took a few hours one rainy Sunday afternoon, including beer breaks to let the battery charge for my power tools and it has made doing chores so much easier and safer because I don’t have to leave Scarlett in the barn for very long if she chooses not to come into the pasture to help me. Even Coby and my mom have commented how nice it is to simply walk through the gate and not have to traipse around outside and open the outside gate.

Isn’t that the most beautiful thing you have ever seen?!

I hope this gives you some encouragement to tackle a project that will make your life easier as well. Please let me know what DIY projects you are wanting to tackle in the comments and we can offer each other motivation!