The part we all wait for in DIY is “look at the beautiful room/garden/furniture/shelfie/whatever I made!” The middle while you’re waiting is less beautiful, less photogenic, less interesting.
I’m in the middle.
I feel like I have little to report. But I like the regularity of writing a blog post for every Monday, so here I am. Schedules and deadlines–even when self-imposed–work well for me. In both blogs and renovations.
Ellie’s room makeover is on track. We’ve had paint week. Last week was window week (curtains are tedious, so I’m not giving you a whole blog post about the HALF A DAY I spent ironing or the wait at Ikea to return a too short curtain rod).
This week is bed week. I’ve washed the dusty bedframe, added beadboard to the headboard, bought a new can of primer and am ready to begin painting the headboard. The mattress is being delivered on Thursday.
We’re on track. In fact, we’re on track for lots of projects. As with Ellie’s room, there’s not much to share yet, but I’m going to mention them anyway.
I’m halfway through clearing the manure off the old coop foundation. Getting to this point involved detaching the the snowblower from the tractor and recharging the tractor battery, so there was progress on several fronts.
We had some lovely weather last week, so Ellie and I enjoyed breakfast and lunch on our currently-imaginary-but-hopefully-soon-to-be patio and confirmed that, yes, we would like a proper place to eat and sit. Cigo sprawled in the sun. We set up a small table and chairs and confirmed that they should fit on the new patio. Construction should start sometime in May (fingers crossed).
Garlic is up in the vegetable garden. Transplants to the new turnaround garden seem to have survived. I have bales of cardboard and piles of mulch (and a brand new pile of very old manure) ready to be spread around. May may be garden month.
We keep moving ahead. Progress may not always be as quick as I want (I still can’t believe it took me a whole morning to iron curtains), but I know I’m getting closer to that beautiful, photogenic, interesting moment.
What projects are you in the middle of? How do you schedule projects? What tips do you have for persevering through the middle?
I’ve had 11 years to think about this project. We could have had birds long before now. But I’ve waited because I want to have a safe, permanent home for them. (And I avoid going to the feed mill in the spring when birds are in-stock.) I really want to do this coop right. So I’ve thought (and thought) about what the birds will need and also what we need.
First step is to move the coop into the barn. We have this huge beautiful barn that’s not being used. So I am going to devote part of it to birds.
The part that I’m going to use is what I call the lean-to, where the old coop joined the barn. (The part covered in paper house wrap below.)
The lean-to is a more recent addition to the barn. It has 5 horse stalls, our tractor garage and large open area at one end. It extends about 18 feet off the back and runs the whole length of the barn and then continues out behind the silo.
I am planning to use the large open area at the west end and divide it into three stalls or pens. I’m thinking the stalls will likely end up around 50 square feet. This would give us plenty of space for as many birds as we can handle right now. (Chickens each need about 4 square feet of coop space.)
Where the old coop was will become attached, covered runs.
The plywood patched and overhung area to the left of the paper-covered hole (seen in the top photo) will be a new door. A window used to be behind the plywood, but the foundation under the window collapsed years ago. We had our mason change it into a doorway, anticipating that I’d want easy access to birds from this side of the barn. (I’ve been planning this for a long time.)
My plan is for the stalls to be fully enclosed–walls and ceiling. Animals can get into the barn. I want to do everything I can to protect our birds. The bottom half of the walls will be wood (I have some handy tongue and groove boards I saved from the old coop). Solid wood means the birds in adjacent pens can’t peck at each other through a fence, and it also gives me a spot to mount nesting boxes, roosts, feeders or water buckets.
The upper half of the walls and the ceilings will be mesh. I want the pens to be high enough that I can walk in without stooping.
I’m considering making part of the lower walls between each pen a gate, so that I can expand the pens if I want to. For example in the winter, when chickens are in the freezer, and ducks could use more space.
The three pens give us space for laying hens, ducks and geese, and meat chickens. Or perhaps a few turkeys. We likely will not start with all of these at once, but it gives us the option to expand (or shrink) if we want.
For the runs, there will be three separate outdoor areas side by side. These will have mesh roofs and buried mesh around the perimeter to try to ensure that, again, the birds are as protected as possible.
The first step is to clear the layers of manure off the old coop foundation. Matt’s Dad rightly pointed out that it shouldn’t go to waste. So I will be working on that as soon as things thaw.
Then, we will be able to get rid of the old foundation and regrade this side of the barn. The ground is higher than we need it to be.
After that, we’ll be rebuilding: the wall, the door, the stalls, the runs. Electrical, plumbing, fencing.
This is a big project for us, and I’ll likely be working on it for the whole year. My goal is to be ready for birds in spring 2024.
What would be your coop must-have? Any feedback on my plans? Any questions? (It’s really hard to explain what’s in my brain clearly in a blog post.) Do you have a project that you’ve delayed because you want to do it right?
The idea to demolish the chicken coop was laid (see what I did there?) when I was writing my 2022 Home Goals mid-year report last summer. Usually, I have a list in my mind of what renovations or projects are next. So the coop kind of surprised me when it snuck in. But once it was there, I couldn’t forget it.
So as our last project of 2022, we took down the old coop.
The timing is right for a few reasons. The patio is on the list for 2023. That means there will be equipment here that is capable of removing the foundation for the old coop and levelling the ground.
Also, we’ve been here for 11 years. It’s time to have birds already!
If you need a bit of background, this post gives you an introduction to the old coop. While the coop was a good size, it was run down. Rehabbing it (and mucking it out) was more than I wanted to take on. Plus it wasn’t what I was looking for when I thought about how I would handle our birds. I decided to start fresh.
First step was cutting the trees that had grown up around the coop. Matt’s Dad and nephew came out and gave us a day of work to clear them out of the way. In the process, we learned that the coop was sturdier than it looked. One of the trees that was particularly close and leaning in an inconvenient direction ended up on the roof. Despite the weight of the large tree, the coop didn’t budge.
A few weeks later, my cousin and his daughter’s boyfriend came out for the official demo day and my Mom came to take care of Ellie.
Aside: I am so fortunate to have help with so many things around the farm. I want to be able to continue to live here, and I want to make it the way Matt and I always envisioned. But it’s a huge job. Taking care of this property and doing the work that’s needed (and wanted) is a lot. In cases like the coop, it’s more than I can handle. Asking for help is essential. Having people who willingly and happily say yes is incredibly meaningful. It’s more than a coop. It’s a vision and a life, and they help me make it happen.
Back to demo.
We started with popping off the old siding. I wanted to work from the outside as much as possible, as the coop was full of old manure, critter mess and who knows what else. Nothing we should be breathing.
As we progressed to the roof, it became obvious that the coop was, in fact, very sturdy. Even with major support posts cut, the structure wasn’t going anywhere. So my cousin climbed up, peeled back the metal sheathing and sliced the roof with his chainsaw. Then we hooked up a rope, connected it to the winch on his ATV (he brought all the tools, which turned out to be so helpful) and pulled the roof down. We did that three more times and ended up with four huge sections of roof spread around on the ground.
This was also the point when it became clear that the coop was its own freestanding structure and wasn’t actually attached to the barn. I had planned to leave the one wall intact where it joined the barn, so that we didn’t have a huge gaping hole in the side of the barn all winter. But the wall was part of the coop and down it came.
By the end of the day, the coop was gone–aside from huge piles of wood and a foundation covered in half a metre of manure.
We saved a lot of pieces of wood that are long enough or solid enough to be reused. Matt’s Dad again came to the rescue and took care of burning the rest of the old lumber. He also helped me cover the huge gaping hole in the side of the barn.
He and my sister came out again to help take apart the roofs. These were beasts. The rafters and beams were round sections of trees. Then there was a layer of sheathing boards. On top of that was a layer of wooden shakes. Then another layer of boards that were strapping for the metal panels that were the final layer. Prying them all apart, saving what was useable and then burning the rest took a full day.
From what we uncovered during demo, I am guessing that the coop was built in 1919. The walls were a double layer of barnboard, and between the planks were old newspapers. They were very well preserved and dates were very clear. The coop has obviously been renovated over the years. Metal was added to the roof over the original shakes. A layer of concrete was poured over the original floor. But the core structure seems to be more than 100 years old.
Part of me felt a bit bad for taking it down. But as I said at the beginning of the post, it would have taken a lot of work to fix it up and it still wouldn’t have been what I was looking for in a coop. I’ve come to realize that living at the farm comes with history and also means adapting the property to us and now.
So that’s where I’m looking now. I’m planning for our new coop and looking forward to starting to rebuild. I’ll share my plans soon.
Have you ever had a home project sneak up on you (not because something broke)? Have you found any relics when renovating? How do you deal with history at your home?
I’m feeling pretty excited for this year’s home goals. We have some big projects coming up that will really transform the farm and how we live here. I also feel like we’re in a good place to tackle them. As you saw in my 2022 home goals wrap-up, I feel like we’re building toward the vision Matt and I have for this farm.
I’m also learning to make our home work for us. The way I want to do things, the way we live, the best use of our spaces. I’m less locked into keeping things just because that’s the way they’ve always been. This is our farm now, and I want to make it what we want.
Here’s how we’re going to be doing that this year.
First on the list is a (maybe) surprise project. We’re building a coop! Finally! We’ve lived here for nearly 11 years, and I’ve wanted birds the whole time. At my mid-year home goal review last year, I suggested maybe, possibly knocking down the old coop. Well, that ended up happening. There’s still a bit more clean-up to go, but it’s almost time to rebuild. Actual birds are not part of this year’s plan. I need a functional secure home for them first. Other barn upgrades, like last year’s eavestrough plan and probably some electrical, will be part of this project.
The driveway patio returns to the list. I think I’ve found a contractor. We’ve talked about my vision. We have a quote. We revised the quote so that it’s now in budget, but still in vision. We’ve looked at stone. We’ve talked timelines. I’m crossing my fingers that everything comes together to do this project this year.
This project is another carryover from last year, though you haven’t heard about it yet. Ellie very quickly outgrew the playset I bought for her. She now has the treehouse, which has been a huge hit. She needs a bigger swing set. Our girl is very into underdoggies, and as she grows she wants to swing higher than our little set can handle. I found swing set fittings on kijiji last year and even bought wood. This year, I will put it all together.
I usually try to be cautious in the garden, but this year I’m feeling optimistic and it’s making me ambitious. I did a major cleanout in the fall, made a few rows and paths, and spread mulch everywhere. Ellie has big plans of what she wants to grow this year, and I’m hoping that we can get closer to a no-dig, not too weedy, productive garden.
Building another flower garden on the turnaround was a bit of an impromptu project last year when we transplanted the well garden in anticipation of building the driveway patio. I’m waiting to see what plants survived their hasty, late season relocation and we will keep growing from there.
I think have finally convinced our girl to move rooms. So she and I will be coming up with a fun new design to make the guest room into Ellie’s room. Green is no longer her favourite colour, so now we’re aiming toward teal. Or maybe rainbow. My client has lots of ideas.
Of course, along the way there will continued work on the history of this farm, pond shore, pruning, more clean up everywhere, preparing for the worst, repairs and surprises. But there will also be lots of fun.
What projects are on your list for this year? Do you have any home goals?