Sunday, March 1, 2009

The barn: Part 1, planning...

It was no surprise to us that we would need a barn. We would build it ourselves.

(When I say 'we', I mean dear husband John S Lewis Jr, author and professor does it. When I say 'I', I mean I do it. Usually I say 'we' when it's a doing thing.)

We designed it to give us the greatest capacity indoors with the least materials. This is a simple calculus problem that should cause no pain or strain to anyone. The idea was to save money. Always to save money!

The calculation we did was to find the greatest floor area using the least amount of building materials, given the number of goats we wanted to house. We needed to include the milkers and the kids. We didn't think we wanted to have our own buck - there were plenty around - and in any case he would have had to be housed separately.

We already had 3 does, which could have meant as many, reasonably speaking, as 7 babies. Figure 15 sf per doe and half that per baby, and it would come out to 70 or 80 sf. The milk room would need to be added to that. But that was a pretty skimpy barn, only 130 sf or so, or 10x13. We also had to have enough loft space for hay. So we rounded up to what seemed like a reasonable size for whatever eventuality, 12x24.

The barn needed:

1. A people door.

2. A goat door for kids.

3. A milk room (a place to do the milking, not handle the milk), with a light.

4. Feed troughs.

5. A door for the does, big enough to scoop out the poop through.

6. A loft for storing hay.

The 288 sf barn, taking out 54 sf for the milkroom, left us with 234 sf for goats. We would be all set for 15 mature does, or 8 does and 14 babies, or some such combination. Plenty!

The one big door would need to face west, for afternoon sunshine in the winter and for removing soiled bedding. It could be just a doorway - we didn't anticipate closing it even in bad weather because the goats needed it for ventilation.

The one door close to the milk room was to let people in to feed and do the milking.

The kid door would let the babies out into their special fenced area, which would have climbing toys and plenty of space to run and jump.

And we added to our plans another door to the south in case we wanted to use two pastures for the adults, sometime in the future. .

The milk room would be about 9x6, situated at the near end of the barn. The people door would open into the barn, then a gate a open into the milk room. Along the outside of the milkroom were the feeding troughs, which would hold flakes of hay for continuous eating during the day. Another gate would separate the goats from the little corridor that allowed people to come and go without the bumping and nudging of the goat ladies.

The roof would be sloped because of the inevitable snow load, and the ceiling would be a comfortable height for people and to take advantage of the size of lumber.

The ceiling formed a loft, and had to be low and strong enough for storing a ton of hay above it. And it needed a hole for climbing up into the loft.

The dimensions were calculated based on 4x8 sheets of plywood and 8 foot lengths of 2x4. Thus the sides were 8 feet tall; the narrow ends were 3 sheets of plywood wide, while the sides were 6 sheets wide, minus sheets not needed for the door openings. The doors saved almost 5 sheets of plywood, the remainder needed for trimming.

The doors would be made of scrap lumber and 2x4s.

The sills would be supported with concrete footers spaced every 4 feet, with breathing space of about 6 inches below the sills for ventilation, the depth depending on the terrain.

The electric conduit that was plugged in at the house would end in the milkroom. An outlet would be attached for the plugs from the fence charger and the lamp we would milk by on dark winter nights.

This simple barn would take care of all our needs. We would store the grain in the garage where we could unload it from our station wagon. Water would be delivered to drinking buckets by a hose when temperatures were above freezing, or carried in pails from the house. It wasn't fancy, but it was relatively low cost, completely sturdy, and attractive. And we knew the goats would love it.

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