Monday, November 9, 2009

Sheep shelter

The rainy season has started in earnest.  We're starting to get continuous soaking rains every day, and I'm having to wear my boots and rain gear every day.  The animals take it stoically -- the cows chew their cud and wander around, the pigs dig furrows under the bushes, and the turkeys are pretty soaked.  Turkeys don't have a brain in their heads when it comes to getting out of the rain. 

To increase the comfort level of the sheep, I've decided to make a loafing shed for the sheep, to give them a place to get out of the rain if they want to, and to give me a place to feed them the baled hay I've got.  I've also got 3 ewes that are due to lamb in the next 2-3 weeks, and I'd like to have a place where I can confine them until the lambs get on their feet and get a good start. 

What I want is something that I can drag around with the tractor, that has enough clearance that the floor will be dry even if the skids are in the water, and I want it to be pretty cheap.  So I looked around my property and found a couple of logs that I could use.  They're about 15" in diameter, about 16' long.   For crosspieces I'll use some smaller diameter cedar branches.  The logs will rot over time, but the larger diameter will last for a decade or so.  The crosspieces will be drenched in urine and manure over time, so I want them to be rot-resistant, so cedar is the ticket. 

The crosspieces are about 4" in diameter, but they're tapered, so I arrange them so that the larger end is on one side to slope the flooring.  Well, that presumes that this shed will be on level ground, and it probably never will be -- it'll be on a slope or a hill or halfway down a hollow, so it really doesn't matter if it's plumb or straight.  Welcome to farm carpentry.

   I lay out the crosspieces, and then using a chainsaw carve out a notch the size of each member.  the depth of the notch is so that the top of each member is about the same as every other member -- so on the thicker crosspieces I'm carving a deeper notch, on the smaller ones a shallower notch.  I put these cross members on in 12" spacing so that there's plenty of support.  I'm counting on them to rot and decay over time, and so I'm putting extra wood in at each step so that the finished shed lasts longer.  Plus, using the wood in the round means that the 25% or so that's lost when you square timbers isn't lost here.  No waste.

If I'm careful, the log nestles nicely into the new notch, and I spike it in place using some 6" spikes. 

I'm finding it easier to drive these spikes with a 3lb blacksmith hammer. 

Crosspieces all notched in, and spiked down, I go back over them with the chainsaw to make sure that all of the knots are cut flush.

  I have a bigger chainsaw, but I've found, for this sort of work, my little chainsaw is a great tool.  It weighs 7lbs (vs 15lbs for my larger one) and that means that you don't get tired nearly as quickly.  And for making small cuts and limbing trees and so on.  The dog helps, too.  Well, he tries to help.    I've got no connection to stihl chainsaws -- I just like and use their products. 

I'll be making the deck tommorow, and working on the roof and the vertical supports tommorow.

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