Category Archives: How NOT To

New goat house almost ready!

We’re moving our goats to a new area about 300′ from the old one, and the new goat house is almost ready. No, I’m not using a cheap camera; 90° angles are rare here, due to the use of salvaged lumber and also my inexperience with building anything on this scale; it’s sometimes difficult to push a thousand pounds of lumber into the perfect position and secure it with just two hands. But it’s darn solid and should be much nicer for the goats.

Here’s the front, with a nice wide door, to reduce the bottleneck when 9 goats try to rush through at once:

The basic structure is 4x4s with plywood sheathing, which would not stand up to the antics of a goat herd for very long, so the lower part inside is reinforced with, what else, shipping pallets:

…and their new pasture area is really, really ready for some munchin’:





Crazy goat house tricks

I lucked into a bunch of used building materials recently, thanks to a friend who is letting me salvage from a condemned house.  Perfect timing, because our goat herd needs to move to the other side of the property soon.  This requires the construction of a new goat house, since it will take days and days to sawzall and haul the old one.

There was a half-built shed in the yard of the doomed house that fit the bill:

It was about 8 x 10 feet, a little small for a goat house, so I dragged it home and reconfigured it to be 9 x 18 (still missing a piece here):

Then we reconsidered the location and decided the thing needs to move about 50′ to the East to line up with the new pasture areas.  How does one skinny middle-aged man move this unwieldy load?  Take it apart and carry the pieces over like a normal person?  Nah, that would be boring; time for a little good ol’ fashioned hillbilly ingenuity!  Ain’t nothin’ you can’t do with a rusty ol’ pickup!

I parked inside the structure, jacked up the legs, and placed cross pieces across the tailgate, bed, and roof of the truck, bolting them to the uprights.  Here are two clips of the actual journey.  (I run to and from the camera because it has very limited memory, but unfortunately it still ran out and missed recording the too-exciting bit where I “gently” lowered it to the ground.)


..and here it is at end of day, roof all framed and one panel fitted into place:

Man makes plans, nature has a belly laugh

We post lots of beautiful photos on here of all the things that go well…but we want this website to be a resource for other people making similar changes in their lives, so it’s only fair to acknowledge some of the things that don’t go well.

This shouldn’t be discouraging to anyone setting out to grow/can/brew/etc; with so many projects going on, many of them first tries, these “learning opportunities” are inevitable, and far outnumbered by the successes.

Some notable failures in 2009:

  • two 5-gallon batches of undrinkable beer. The prime suspect is over-hopping with a hops rated at several times the bitterness of what I normally use
  • 3 out of 4 bottles of Oregon Grape wine, and 1 bottle of blueberry wine exploded during aging. Likely cause: bottled too soon, before the yeast had eaten all the sugars, and/or reusing corks and hammering them in with a rubber mallet instead of getting a corker
  • potato yield this year looks to be only about twice the weight of the seed potatoes I planted in spring; plants grew well for a few months, then started yellowing and dying. A few survive, but are weak. Possibly underwatered out of fear of creating a moldy mess in the straw mounds, possibly a fungus. Next year, all taters will be planted on the other end of the property, just in case.
  • About 1/3 of the biggest, healthiest onions have disappeared. Varmints are supposed to stay away from such strong-smelling plants, but not our little moles/gophers/whatever the little @#$%ers are, oh no, they devour the entire onion and you find the onion tops protruding from a hole in the ground
  • blueberry bushes: 2 near-dead, 2 totally gone. Moral: if you want to plant small blueberry bushes, don’t do so where your chickens are hanging out; the mounded, mulched earth is apparently irresistible for scratching.
  • 3 of the 4 goat babies have scurs (irregular horn growth after unsuccessful removal). We went with the popular wisdom for this first batch, which is to dehorn (“disbud”) them while very young. Basically you sear and cauterize the little bumps that would become horns. It’s a few seconds of pain and then they’re back to bouncing around, so it it worked flawlessly we might continue to do it, but when it doesn’t work you just get small, deformed horns, and we’ll probably let future generations keep their natural headgear. It’s likely that I was too worried about burning the kids’ heads and didn’t do a thorough enough job of it, but I’ve seen plenty of goats disbudded by far more experienced goat keepers that still have scurs.
  • 1 baby chick taken by rats. I poured a couple of inches of concrete for the chicken coop floor, but I left enough of a gap in one corner that rats managed to squeeze in and steal a chick.
  • You’ll notice we haven’t posted about our honeybees in a while. they’re gone, and it’s still kind of sad. maybe next year
  • liquid cheese – I was making a batch of quickie-faux-mozzarella recently. All was going well; it was almost done when I @#$%ed it up. One of the final steps is to soak long pieces of the half-finished cheese in 170 degree brine and stretch it like taffy. It started firming up a little sooner than I wanted, so I grabbed the teapot and splashed in just a little boiling water. The cheese immediately dissolved, and no amount of straining, cooking, etc. could make Humpty Dumpty edible again.

I’m sure I could find plenty of other screw-ups and strokes of bad luck, but this could get depressing…I think I’ll have to go sample one of the wines that DIDN’T explode…