It’s midmorning and I’m sitting on the deck, catching up on getting my impressions down before I forget. A lot has happened in the last few days.

First, we got a couple of sheep and a goat. The sheep (a ram and a ewe) are a mixture of Border Leicester, Karakul, and (I think) Shetland. They have nice open faces, and no personalities at all; but Steph says the fleeces will be good for felting, rugs, and heavy sweaters. Their names are Bob (Baahb) and Bella.

The goat is named Elsie Hatfield, and she has decided to be my constant companion. She’s a
Kinder, which is half Nubian, half Pygmy. Elsie was an orphan, so she was bottle-raised and got a LOT of attention as a baby. She is currently standing next to me, chewing cud. Sometimes she nibbles a bit at the flap of my pocket as if she’s trying to rob me or leans her head against me. Often, she’ll lay down at my feet, if I’m sitting in one place long enough. If I disappear she’ll call for me. When I’m in the house she stands patiently by the screen and waits. This is an improvement over the first day, when she’d bellow at the top of her lungs until Steph or I returned.

Steph bought the animals from a local woman who singlehandedly runs a farm of two hundred fowl, a hundred sheep and goats, and I don’t know how many cattle (maybe a dozen). We’ll be getting a couple more goats and another ewe in September. Steph picked them up using the dog crate, and we originally put them in the old garden, which is overgrown with grass, weeds, raspberry canes and little birch trees after a couple summers of disuse. The idea was that the sheep would eat the grass and the goat would take down some of the weeds and saplings, to make it easier for me to till. And they’d leave behind a bit of fertilizer.

The plan worked well with the sheep, who contentedly work away at eating until it gets warm – then they lay down until it gets cool again (Very smart). But the goat managed to squeeze herself through the six inch openings in the garden fence, and escape. Luckily, she didn’t want to go far. She wanted to find us. Same thing happened when we put her in her pen in the barn, so we doubled the security and plugged the holes.

Henhouse roof

With some much-appreciated help from Sofie (who’s going away to college in less than a week), I got the Suntuf roofing material installed on top of the henhouse. This is an experiment – I don’t know how this stuff will perform in a northern winter. But if it works it will provide lots of light and turn the henhouse into a much brighter and warmer place. I might even put some plants in there (above the nesting-boxes or on the rafters, where the birds won’t get them) until I have a greenhouse.

The Suntuf panels are eight foot by 26 inches, to allow for a two inch overlap. They are supposed to be mounted on special
plastic pieces that are molded to the correct shape, but the Home Depot had never heard of these. The “Pro” desk people checked one of their books and told me I could order them, but only by the case (of 100). so I opted for pine 1x2s instead. The panels themselves are fairly easy to install, except for the ridgecap, which in my opinion is the weak link of the system. It is not a trivial task, getting the top on evenly. I didn’t actually manage it, so there’s a little bit of waviness to the top of the building. But the roof is sealed, and that’s the main thing.

Standing on the top rungs of a twelve foot stepladder took me some time to get used to. Toward the end of the day, I had stopped thinking about the height (except when I dropped a screw and watched it fall), which was good, because several times I had to get up over the panels and use two hands to steady the ridgecap so I could screw it down correctly. That meant releasing my death-grip on whatever joist was available. Sofie said afterward she couldn’t believe I didn’t fall, but I never felt like I was going to.

This henhouse was a learning experience for me. I’ve never built anything on that scale before, so about half the time I was just guessing. It looks like I guessed right, but time will tell. The chickens are growing fast – later this week I’ll probably start bringing them out to visit their new home, a couple of dozen at a time.

There are a few little details to finish yet. Cosmetic things like trim on the corners, and functional things like windows. But the building itself is pretty much complete. It even has a door that locks!