Category Archives: Home Projects

1 Rabbit Run Down, 1 To Go

Building the split run has been a huge project this Summer (male buck on one side, female doe on the other). It’s been dragging along due to all the excessive heat we’ve had… we simply cannot build in 95-100 degree temps or extreme high humidity. Because of the delay, our buck, Forest, has had to endure a longer time in his small hutch until it’s completed. It ate at us, and we felt terribly for him since he was growing so much. Finally, today, the door on his side was built, attached and latched. He has about 9′ x 5′ to hop around now. He’s officially a very happy bunny! He really deserves it because he’s such a sweetheart. He loves humans, and follows us around the yard like a dog. Here’s the door:

Daniel & Prasad showing off the new gate

Prasad admiring his bunny's side of the run

..and here's a peek at Forest resting behind his hutch. Bunnies love to hide and curl up. We let them hop all over the yard every day, but after 10-15 minutes they always end up going back into their hutches

Now, on to Meadow’s door. They’ll both be able to see each other through the rabbit wire soon. Most of all, we’ll have fun watching them hop around from the sun room windows.

 

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Filed under Home Projects, Rabbits, River Living, Urban Farmsteading

Fort Building Update

looking inside...

Sky looking South toward the river levee

We’ve been moving along on the kids’ fort. You can see the four layers of old garden bed frames we started with at the bottom, and we’ve been using scrap wood we had on hand, as well as new wood to build the rest. The newer wood is mostly cut from untreated dog-eared fence boards, which are very cheap. The roof will have additional framing before we install it, and of course we’ll be building a small door, shutters, and a flower box.We’ll be staining the wood, and paint the door and shutters. We plan on incorporating some decorative branches and logs into the structure, either on the roof, around the windows, or wherever feels right. It’s nestled under the trees, and is barely noticeable.

Sky and Prasad will be doing all the sanding on the cut edges. They’re both very excited about their little second home, and keep going outside to sweep out the floor (under trees with no roof = a floor full of leaves and twigs). They’ve already played “restaurant” inside, and asked whether or not it’s okay to jump out of the windows. Of course, the answer was “no” but I’m glad they at least asked!

It’s turning out to be a solid structure, and will probably last a very long time. In a few years, the boys will be too old for a fort and Amelie will enjoy it. After that, we could use it as the perfect garden shed or goat house (if they ever approve of keeping little Nigerian pygmy goats in our city). Most likely, the shed idea will happen. I’ve always wanted one just for gardening since we don’t have a garage or barn.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Collaborative Love, Do-It-Yourself, Family Happenings, Home Projects, Kids, Parenting, Reuse, River Living, Urban Farmsteading

Day 2: Fort/Playhouse Construction

Despite a hectic and hot Sunday, we got a lot accomplished on the fort/playhouse. The last three raised beds were stacked and secured with 2″ L-brackets to the floor, and the framing will also hold it all together. It’s a very sturdy structure so far. The roof will slant from front to back (like the chicken coop), and it’ll have two windows that close up with wooden shutters. The boys had fun drawing up their future floor plan, and are VERY excited about the whole project.

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Family Happenings, Home Projects, Kids, Reuse, Urban Farmsteading

From Raised Beds to Kids Fort

starting the base and floor

Sky and Prasad watching

moving along...

plywood floor attached

Surprisingly, raised garden bed frames are perfect for building a kids fort/ playhouse. A few weeks ago when we decided to replace all our 8′ long treated raised beds with untreated wood (due to the harsh chemicals in treated wood lurching into our crops), we wondered what we’d do with all that expensive wood. The boys have been begging for a wooden fort nestled under the Elm trees, so it seemed to be a logical use for them. We went out this morning and purchased other boards for the framing and floor. We’ll stack three more of the old, treated garden bed frames on top of this one, followed by some new siding boards, a roof, and voila! Instant (well, almost instant) kids cabin in the trees. It’ll have a door, window & flower box, and front stoop. It should be plenty of space for the boys to hide out and store things. We think Amelie will also love it for years to come. Time to start framing the walls!

Posted by: Jill

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Filed under Collaborative Love, Do-It-Yourself, Family Happenings, Home Projects, Reuse, River Living, Urban Farmsteading

Cool Cobb Housing

It’s not just cool, it’s very cool. Cobb houses have been built for centuries, and there are many ancient cobb structures all over the UK. It is one of the longest lasting materials to build with, and one of the most fluid, creative and fun to work with materials. That’s why we’re researching it for Sorin’s little future house. We’re planning to build her a tiny house in the back yard… we’ve settled on a location (nestled under  the trees), and now we’re deciding on the style and materials. What exactly is cobb? It’s a mixture of straw, mud and sand. That’s it. Here are the benefits of building with cobb:

  • Cheap, sustainable and eco-friendly method of construction using local materials.
  • Cob is load-bearing and needs no framework. A cob house uses 60 per cent less timber than a stud frame building.
  • Very durable – cob houses built centuries ago are still lived in.
  • Low-tech, hands-on and fun building method that allows you to become involved in the construction process.
  • Thick walls (2-3 feet) mean houses are warm in winter and cool in the summer – a cob house typically uses 20 per cent less energy.
  • Sculptural material allows for the creation of interesting rounded and organic shapes. **(Of course this is my favorite benefit!)**
  • Versatile material: different mixes can be used to create plasters, paints, and polished floors.
  • Natural breathing building maintains background humidity, which is healthier than dry centrally heated modern homes.

Most importantly, what does Sorin think of cobb? She squealed when she saw  this picture, if that tells you anything. She’s thrilled because she’s always fantasized about living in what she calls a “hobbit house”. I love all the curves and design possibilities. It’s a project that we could mostly do ourselves as a family. To make the cobb mixture you spread mud, sand and clay on a tarp and step in it with your feet to work it together– fun!!! Then you make bricks to form the walls. It’s simple, but time consuming. We’d get a builder to come out and help us with the roof, of course. A composting toilet, and an outside solar water tank will probably be used. Simple, simple, simple for Sorin.

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Filed under Clean Planet, Cobb Houses, Do-It-Yourself, Family Happenings, Home, Home Projects, Kids, River Living, Simplicity, Urban Farmsteading

Our Old Passive Solar Greenhouse

 

South side of the greenhouse

the North side, and East door

I’m guessing this structure stands well over 120 feet from our house. It’s quite a little journey to do daily watering, thinning and pruning, but it always feels like a quiet getaway. When we’re inside, the stillness is amazing. Note: That rain barrel is temporarily standing on two old tree stumps, but we’re hoping to find a much better, less silly looking alternative. We also plan to install a gutter to that side which will empty into the rain barrel. For now it’s still filling up during rains. Being so far from the main house, it is imperative that we have a water source for the greenhouse.

The South tinted panels will probably need replacing due to yellowing and aging, but so far they’ve been allowing enough light for our seedlings to thrive. We’re guessing it was built a very long time ago, considering it has a very old fuse style breaker box installed. Possibly built in the 50’s or 60’s. It’s approximately 25-30 feet long, and 12 feet wide. It’s extremely well built, and designed as a passive solar structure. This means it utilizes the sun and earth naturally for heating and cooling. I don’t think I’ve ever been inside when it didn’t feel like a comfortable temperature. It’s built 1/2 underground with a breathable cinder block foundation, and the ceiling is very high to allow heat to rise in the Summer. Whoever built this structure must have been seriously into gardening because a great deal of thought was put into it. It’s all wired for electricity (if we ever opt for it) and it even has a sink and plumbing ready.

 

looking inside

The greenhouse needs a lot of TLC, but only aesthetically speaking. Structurally it’s fine, and it has a newer roof.  There are unfinished parts around the inside of the front door that need insulation covered with paneling, a rotted ventilation door on the West side needs replacing, siding replaced in a few areas, and I keep thinking those white cinder blocks could use some colorful paint. We may have the kids go to town by painting designs on it soon! The upper walls will remain white to reflect as much light as possible. Of course we’ll put in solar wind chimes, statues, and some decorative flowering plants in the two back corners which help to oxygenate the space year-round.

We think that whoever designed the structure was very tall, or had some type of step stool inside. At 5’5″ and 5’8″ Daniel and I reach the close rows just fine, but the rows against the walls are difficult to get to (we have to jump up and stretch). Because of that we’re planning to build a raised wood plank floor on top of the gravel flooring, and that should do the trick. You can’t tell by the photo, but there is A LOT of growing room in there. We haven’t even taken up half the space, and we have spinach, carrots, broccoli and lettuce growing… all doing beautifully. Daniel will be adding chard this week.

Oh, and do you see the cinder block with the holes? It has at least 4 of those blocks, probably for aeration and drainage. I bent down to look inside once, and noticed the soil goes down about three to four feet, and then it turns into about two feet of gravel for excellent drainage. Again, a very well thought out design!

 

spinach babies!

I took this picture a few days ago, and they’ve already tripled in size. We can’t wait to eat our very first greenhouse spinach salad! The best things about having a greenhouse are: We don’t worry about pests or animals eating our crops, we can grow food year-round, and last but not at all least we have a reason to get away from  the main house every day and experience some major stillness and quiet. It’s really an excellent place to sit and meditate, so we’ll probably be adding a small stool in the future.

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Filed under Collaborative Love, Greenhouse Gardening, Home, Home Projects, Peace, River Living, Shashwat, Solar Power, Urban Farmsteading, Veggie Gardening

First Spring Project: New Chicken Run

Jethro & Ellie Mae (the ducks), with Ermengard and Broom Hilda

These little ones spent yesterday, the first day of Spring, outside while we sawed and hammered away all day. We hit some 80 degree temps and it was awesome! This was their very first time pecking on the actual earth in their future home. We’ve had temporary fencing up all Winter with metal posts, but now we’ve got some cemented wooden posts with horizontal framing for more security. Now they’re more safe from burrowing and climbing predators like foxes and raccoons, and they have a larger run to boot!

Petunia, Jasmine, Marigold, and Amelie

This has to be one of my favorite pictures ever because Amelie looks like one of the hens. Yesterday was our their first day spent free ranging all over the yard. Boy, did they have a blast! They’re a joy to watch because they all stay pretty close together, run together (the running is hilarious), and you can feel their excitement. They enjoyed fresh grass, bugs and spent a while under our bird feeder cleaning up all the spilled seed. They also stepped inside our fresh garden beds and stirred up the soil for us… and of course, they left some fertilizer, too! They caused walkers on the trail to stop and take a second look at them. People can’t help but smile when they see hens running about.

We had to keep an eye on the hawks and eagles overhead. We have a large Bald Eagle population here and they’ve been known to grab chickens for lunch. We saw one circling overhead, but when we let our large dog outside it retreated. Free ranging in the open is something we plan to let the hens do a lot, but only when we’re spending a full day outdoors.

basic framing for the fence

This was taken midway through the process, and the wire is too high. It was trimmed down at the top railing. We used basic landscape timbers for posts because we wanted more of a rounded log feeling. It actually has a kind of ‘petting zoo’ feeling to it now, and you can see by Sky that it practically is. The run was extended about 7 feet, so we’ll have plenty of room for 9 hens and 4 ducks. See that pole with the blue clothes pin bag hanging on it? That’s being cut off at the top and used as a pole for a bird house. We’re moving the laundry line further down. All this labor is one of the prices we’re paying for putting the chicken run right up against the house last Fall! It feels great now that they’ll never peck at the house again or poo in the a/c. Another bonus to this new run is that they’re more visible from the sun room than ever. With it extended, we always see them clearly from the dining table. Like I always say, it’s better than TV!

Sky and the ducklings

Sky LOVES holding the ducklings. We’ve decided it’s his job to get them used to human handling, and they’re getting a lot of it. Jethro, the duckling on the right who we thing is male, is a very calm and trusting fellow. They grow about three times faster than chickens, so we’ll be moving them in with the larger hen babies soon.

Phoebe & Mortimer (Indian Runners)

Aren’t they sweet, and haven’t they grown a lot? They’re about four and a half months old now, and their feathers are changing a lot. Soon they’ll be easily distinguished from one another. Phoebe will be mostly light tan (she’s on the left) and Mortimer will have multiple colors. You can’t tell in this picture, but his head has started turning a brilliant metallic emerald green. It’s gorgeous! His wings are changing a lot, too. He’ll be light tan with some blues and whites on his wings, and a line of green that starts on his neck and covers his head. I love male Mallards and he’s going to be so handsome. Oh, and Phoebe should start laying some delicious eggs in about six weeks!

Here’s a last picture of Mortimer taking a stroll to the water. Of course, Phoebe was walking right behind him since they go everywhere together. You can see just a hint of the green on his head if you look closely.

It was a very productive day, and we got the fence completed which feels like a miracle. I’ll post more pics as the chicken run project evolves. When the fence was done, Prasad walked up to me and said “Wow, I’m proud of you guys! You both deserve a big treat this evening. Something special just for you guys.” We ended up getting carry-out for the family from one of our favorite restaurants, La Parilla. Then I think we slept so hard last night we were practically comatose. We both awoke refreshed, talking about our next projects- a new gate and whiskey barrel potato planters.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Chickens, Do-It-Yourself, Ducks, Home Projects, Urban Farmsteading