We have been busy as bees here at Green Journey Farm. We have gotten into a routine with all the animals so that makes for smoother mornings and a better workday for me in the tiny house. The new dogs, Drako, Arrow, and Orca still think the rabbits are here for their entertainment. Every time they are left outside alone you can hear the sound of tin under our house getting scratched and other sounds that indicate a struggle. We are back down to two rabbits because Drako caught one so losing another would mean we have to purchase a couple more breeding does. I don’t understand how the friendliest rabbit, Carrot, who is out sunbathing in front of the dogs regularly doesn’t get eaten or chased, but poor Nibbles is always under attack. We are working on it. The dogs are meant to chase rabbits, it is their livelihood so I have a hard time telling them not to hunt! The rabbits were meant to reproduce enough to feed all four dogs regularly, along with some chickens, so we kind of need these first few to survive long enough to reproduce! They are puppies so I’m sure it will continue to get better with time. They are learning so many things from Sahara, good and bad. The good, sit and stay, working on shake. The bad, bark at cars and people that come by. They have taken it a step further to actually go out in the road after a car when we aren’t outside! Sahara didn’t teach them that, but I’m terrified they are going to get hit by a car when they are out without me during the day. Needless to say, we are working on training to stay out of the road. We have our hands full, but I can’t complain about getting to snuggle these friendly, furry critters morning and night.
So after some time doing daily chores Grant and I have come up with some improvements to the current living situation for the critters. Grant made new hay feeders for the goats and sheep. One, they were sharing a feeder and it was causing some anxiety and competition we noticed. The sheep never used to be that noisy or pushy, but since we got the goats the sheep have gotten jealous. Two, it was a small pallet feeder that held about 3 flakes of hay at a time. With six critters that went pretty fast. The pallet feeder, even with a trough or table-like lip on the bottom to catch hay they wasted a lot. They are able to pull out huge mouthfuls with the pallet feeder and then take a step back and drop half of it on the ground. They don’t eat it once it has hit the ground for the most part so we needed a new design. I couldn’t find a picture of the old pallet feeder, but the new model is in the pictures below. It is made of 1×4’s (or 2×4’s) and chicken wire. It could even have been made out of fallen tree limbs, but we had some lumber on hand so it was convenient.
The recently built second structure meant for the goats is currently being used by the sheep because it is open to the big pasture. The big pasture is only fenced with barbed wire on one side so the goats can crawl right under it. They have to stay in a fully fenced sheep wire pen when we aren’t out there. The new structure is about 8’x12′ with lean-to roofs hanging off three sides. On either side there is a new feeder, one in the goat pen and one in the sheep pen. They can’t see each other while they eat so it makes things less stressful for them. Under the third lean-to is where we keep the upcoming bales of hay, some alfalfa, grain, chicken scratch, and sunflower seeds. The rabbits have their own little safe haven next to the sheep pen. It makes it so convenient having the feed right there so we don’t have to haul things from the shed. We just have to take down containers for refills every once in a while. We can not wait for a barn to store everything in! With time, it will happen. Our wheels are turning!
The chicken coop needed restructuring as well. We moved around the roost bars to maximize space. If bars are crossing at all they will poop on the bar below so other birds won’t want to roost below. The solution is to space the bars in a way that they go up like stairs in parallel lines. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but as long as the bars are spaced and poop can’t get on their neighbors, in their nests, food, or watering dish then you are good to go! Ours still isn’t perfect. There used to be a floor where you see the 1×4’s in the picture. We made more space and less cleaning by taking that middle floor out. While there is still opportunity for them to poop on each other it hasn’t been an issue. We want to adjust the feeding area, but this coop is temporary so we also don’t care to put too much time into it as long as the chickens are happy. In the past we made boxed in nests (12″x12″ or so). This time I tested out a flat open nest box with a lip. That does NOT work… They will roost on it and poop all over in it. So, that experiment failed. My proof is in the picture above where one of our rooster perches in the old nest box. Grant grabbed a 5 gallon bucket and screwed it to the wall, added hay and a small piece of board to hold in the hay/ nest materials and viola! We have a floating nest box! There are so many options for how to make nest boxes. I’ve seen ideas for old dressers converted into nesting boxes, milk crates, plywood, whatever you have on hand. I could see even cardboard boxes tipped on their side if you are in a crunch. Chickens aren’t too picky. As long as they can get outside all day to explore, all your coop really needs is a safe, dry, high up roost bar for them to rest on and a nest box for them to lay in, aside from water and food of course!
We improved our own living situation a little more recently as well. We added a bookshelf and a wall to the bedroom loft and stairs in the tiny house. This provides a little more privacy and helps divide the space. It also gave us a spot for more books so that is always good news! I just finished staining everything yesterday. We are going to add one or two shelves to the outside (facing the stove) for added storage. So far it has been great because the dogs aren’t afraid to sleep there now. Whereas, before there was a wall they were afraid to sleep too close to the edge.
Besides the basic improvements, we purchased an old backhoe to aid in all our upcoming digging projects. First, for developing a spring so we have a more steady supply of fresh water on the property. After that it is earthship digging time! Once we finish the earthship we will begin building the barn. We discussed and have a feeling that we may end up alternating projects between building the earthship and barn in case we need a break from one thing we can work on something else. We will see. I think come spring the garden and milking will be taking up the rest of our time. Having this backhoe will make these projects go so much easier! We are so grateful for the modern machine, even though our end goal does not included gas powered vehicles of any type.
Somehow in between working on all of the above projects, Grant also had time to collect another cord of firewood, pick up another truckload of tires, and set up and test the aquaponics tiny house system! No leaks! Phew! We just need the fish and we can start some seeds. We will grow sprouts to share with the chickens and have fresh greens all winter long. We haven’t decided what else we will test yet. Any ideas for what to grow this winter? Please share!