Upcycled Goat Shed

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Thursday, May 24, 2012 12:19 PM

Upcycling:  the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value.

When most people see my homestead, they incorrectly assume that everything was purchased new.  But that's not always the case.  A lot of the structure itself is upcycled, while the facial is purchased.  For example, the main part of my barn is actually a reclaimed 6' x 8' metal utility shed.  I had to replace some of the supporting lumber inside to stabilize it.  But it's worked out perfectly for my needs.

Yesterday, I designed and helped construct an upcycled goat shed for Lydia and her three goats, Ginny, James, and Madonna.  Freya came along to help out.  OK.. So Freya's main job ended up to be keeping the goats distracted and out of the way.  

Here, she's giving James a height advantage for trimming the mulberry tree.  I think she had as much fun as James did.  There was an awful lot of giggling going on under that tree.
She also gave little Madonna a ton of snuggle time.  She's super cute.  I nicknamed her Boo, because she was a surprise.  No one knew Ginny was pregnant when they got her.  I like to take those big floppy ears and cover her eyes for a second, then pull them away and say "BOO"!  I know, I know... but I like playing with four legged kids!

Lydia's daughter Andrea and her husband handled the heavy construction while I supervised and gave guidance.  We used three pallets to build the walls and I pitched in a couple of 4" x 4"'s from my construction scrap pile that were about 4-1/2' long for supports in the front.  Lydia had a pile of old fencing boards that were perfect for making the siding.  It actually looked really nice.  I love weathered wood.  

When it came to the roof, we started scouting the work shed, garage, and yard for something to use as a main support beam across the front opening.  After tossing around a bunch of ideas, Lydia said we could use the old step ramp for her deck.  They are in the process of replacing her steps with new redwood ones.  Basically, the ramp was a 9' x 2'(ish) pallet.  Once we had the 4"x4"s secured to the front and a cleat screwed into the side of the work shed, it fit like a dream.  It was screwed in firmly on both ends, and the new goat shed was suddenly extremely stable and solid.  

Andrea and I went to work overlapping and attaching additional fencing boards to create the roof.  As designed, it turned out to be perfect and slanted away from the work shed, sloping down towards the back far corner.  Any rainwater should drain nicely off the back side.  
To finish, we spread a bale of straw underneath and the goats immediately took to it.  The final dimensions are 9' long by 6' deep.  Perfect for these three lucky kids!  

I'd call that one happy family!  We had a lot of fun putting the shed together.  And the only thing purchased for the entire goat shed were screws.  Upcycling is awesome!

Is that a GOAT?

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Tuesday, May 22, 2012 4:32 PM

Some people take their dogs to the pet food store.  Me?  I take my goats to the feed store.  It's the same thing, right?  This afternoon, Vango and I went to pick up some supplies at Mike's Feed & Pet in San Leandro.  He enjoyed all the attention he got from both employees and customers alike.  Afterwards, he settled comfortably into a basket so we could do a little shopping.

But we also had another reason to visit Mike's today.  Meet Joe!

Joe will soon be the proud new Papa of both Vango and Big Mac.  I'll be taking them to their new home on Saturday late in the afternoon after Joe gets off work.  He doesn't have to work on Sunday, so they'll have some quality bonding time together.

Joe has a wonderful set up.  He already has a barn and a fenced in coral.  He also has about a 1/2 acre of fenced in property that is full of browse - blackberries, brambles, brush - oh my!  I saw pictures and it looks beautiful and an excellent set up for a couple of pet goats.  He already has chickens too.

I may just talk him into letting me take my herd over there so they can have some browsing time in a large enclosed area.  I know they'd enjoy it.

I said shake, rattle and roll

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Thursday, May 17, 2012 1:40 PM


Who else do you know that has a Seismograph bolted to the floor of their garage?

As of today, Havenscourt Homestead is officially a USGS NetQuakes monitoring station.  How fricking cool is that???

I applied for the program about 14 months ago.  I received a standard auto-response "we'll get in touch with you if selected" e-mail and then nothing.  That was until last Monday.  I had just finished a goat consultation and was checking my voice mail before going over to Soul Flower Farm for a visit.  Wow, was I surprised by the message!  My home had been selected for the program and they wanted to make an appointment to come out and install the equipment.  It's now four days later and the seismograph is online.  It's tucked nicely under one of the shelving units in the library.

No, I won't be able to tell the magnitude of an earthquake when we have one.  The purpose of this equipment is to log the ground movement at set locations, North/South, East/West, and Vertical.  One of the things they use this data for is to determine where to send First Responders should a major earthquake hit.  The area with the most movement is most likely the area with the most damage and potential for human injury.

Within the next 24 hours, my location will appear on the instrument map, and I'll be able to view the data sent from my homestead.  And so can you!  My station number is CO63.

Yes... I'm a total gadget geek!  Wicked cool.

Conserving water? This speaks VOLUMES!

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Wednesday, May 9, 2012 2:21 PM

Conserving water has been a huge goal for me here at Havenscourt Homestead.  After all, I do have a lot of things that require extra water like gardening and raising livestock.  So I've made a lot of investments in water saving devices as well as adjustments to various activities in my life.

Let's take a look at some water use statistics and I'll break down some of the things I've done to reduce these figures.

The item that uses the most water in a home is the toilet, a whopping 26.7%.  By installing a low flow toilet, you can decrease the amount of water used by approximately 55%.  Want to improve that number?  Do what I did and install a SinkPositive over your toilet.  

This device cost me approximately $120.00 and took less than 10 minutes to install.  I use fresh water to wash my hands, but grey water to flush the toilet.  By doing so, I've cut the water used by my low flow toilet in half.  That means my toilet uses 77.8% less water than the average household unit.
The next water guzzler is the clothes washer, coming in at 21.7% of the average households water usage.

I installed an energy and water efficient clothes washer when I moved in.  Front loaders use less water than top loaders.  This one has a load sensor that adjusts the amount of water it uses based upon the size of the load.  It also has a speed wash setting.  Unless my clothes are super dirty from mucking around in the yard, this is the cycle I use.  At 22 minutes, it's saves me time, energy, and water.  And with all the sunshine we've been having lately, my clothes dryer hasn't been getting a heck of a lot of use, but the clothes line outside sure has been.

Another water hog in the average household is the good old shower at 16.8%. No, I haven't quit bathing.  But I have drastically reduced my water use in this area of my life as well.  I have a wonderful jacuzzi tub in my bathroom.  I used to relax in it with a good book and a glass of wine several times a week.  Although I still do this from time to time, I've switched to quick 5 minute showers.  I relax with a book and a glass of wine out in the garden instead.

Speaking of the shower and its close water use runners up, household faucets (15.7%) and leaks (13.7%), simple and inexpensive solutions are available.  If you order the free WaterSmart Home Survey Kit from EBMUD and return the form, they'll even send you FREE water saving faucet aerators and shower heads to replace your inefficient ones. 

I've installed a low flow shower head with a water shut off button.  I also have a low flow faucet on the kitchen sink with a water shut off lever.  These make starting and stopping the flow of water quick and easy.  I know what you're thinking.  "Why not just shut the faucet on and off?"  Because with a shut off switch, you instantly have the same water pressure and temperature available rather than wasting time and precious water re-adjusting it.  Water faucet aerators on all other household faucets reduce water usage as well.

Believe it or not, the average dishwasher doesn't account for as much water use as you might think, only 1.4%.  But that doesn't mean I don't conserve water and energy here as well.

I installed a water and energy efficient dishwasher.  It has a Quick cycle that only takes 38 minutes and does not include a dry cycle.  When I have a load of dishes that require a little heavier cleaning, this model has a Smart Auto sensor that adjusts the water usage as well as the cycle time.

Out in the yard, it's easy to conserve water as well.  A few years ago, I ripped out my front lawn and installed drought tolerant landscaping with the help of some amazingly wonderful friends.

Not only is it beautiful all year long, it barely uses any water at all.  This is what it looks like right now and I've only watered once this year.  Honestly, I didn't need to water.  But I needed to finish emptying out one of my rain barrels in order to elevate it higher than it was.  I have soaker hoses installed in the landscape so when I do have to water, the lines are already in place.  What you can't see in this picture is the 200 gallon water barrel in the side yard orchard.  It's set up so I can gravity feed the water into the front yard when necessary.

Speaking of rain barrels, I actually have two.  Each can hold 200 gallons of rainwater run off from my roof.  The one pictured here is the one I had to empty.  I decided to raise it another 18" and add additional cinder blocks to the supports so I could use them as planters.  The green hardware cloth has been wrapped around it so that the beans planted in the blocks will have something to climb.  Once they've grown, this will be a beautiful corner in the garden.  

Oakland has a Rain Barrel Program to encourage residents to harvest rainwater.  Right now, the program subsidizes the full cost of the rain barrel.  Residents only pay the tax and shipping.  I may have to do some serious upgrading soon.  Although I have 400 gallons of storage on site, it's just a drop in the bucket compared to what runs off my roof.

This rain barrel is used to water all the potted plants in my edible patio garden.  Most of these pots are home made self irrigation planters (SIPS).  They conserve water by holding it in a reservoir in the base of the pot rather than letting it flow out of the drain hole and onto the ground..  This also means I need to water these pots less often because they have a built in water supply.  The main raised garden bed is watered using a soaker hose.

Even my livestock participate in saving water.  The rabbits are on an automatic watering system so not a drop is wasted.  The automatic watering buckets used for the goats and chickens are emptied into the compost bins when they get cleaned.  Composting requires water, you know.  And what better water to use than grey water?  And the duck tub?  Once they've sufficiently mucked up the water, it is gravity fed into the side yard to water my orchard.  I call it liquid fertilizer.  

I haven't used a drop of spigot water in my orchard since the day it was planted.  Grey water, or in this case mucky brown water, does the job perfectly.


So what's the point?  Why do I go to all this effort and expense to save water?  No, not to save money on my water bill (although that is a nice added benefit).  It's because water, my dear readers, is a precious resource.  Only 1% of the water on earth is suitable for use by humans.  And here in California, our state's water supply and delivery system is in a crisis we can't ignore.  Unfortunately, water conservation isn't the answer.  But it is part of the solution.  And for me, I've made it a point to do my part.  

And the results of my efforts?  This is my current bill from EBMUD showing my water usage.

I have made a whopping 57.5% decrease in my water usage compared to last year!

Not bad, folks.  Not bad at all.  I hope this post encourages you to think about water usage around your own home.  There are simple actions you can take right now that won't cost you a dime and may even save you one.   Check out these WaterSmart Tips from EBMUD, and learn how to conserve even more water in your yard by practicing Bay Friendly Gardening.  Start conserving water today and help insure we'll all have some to drink tomorrow!

Dreaming of owning goats?

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Sunday, May 6, 2012 12:25 PM

Come take my class! I'm teaching a basic goat class next Sunday, May 13th, for BioFuel Oasis.

City Goats
Sunday May 13th, 1:30 p.m-4:30 p.m.
Location: Sticky Art Lab, 1682 University Ave (at McGee), Berkeley
Cost: $35
Goats are taking the urban ag scene in America by storm. Once seen as exclusively rural livestock, more and more people are keeping them in their backyards for milk, meat, and natural fertilizer. Many people love goats but aren’t sure if they are ready or can keep them. This class will go over the basic requirements for keeping goats: feed, housing, health, herd management, neighbor relations, milking, and cheesemaking. It’s a great beginner class for the caprine curious.
 Follow THIS LINK to sign up.  There are still a few spaces available, so don't delay!


Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Friday, May 4, 2012 1:29 PM

Yes indeed.  Once again, PB is in charge of a bunch of little'uns.  Last year she hatched 7 ducklings for me.  This year, she's in charge of raising my replacement laying hens as well as a few meat birds.  She had been broody for about a week when I stuffed 4 chicks under her yesterday.  This then morning, she took on 6 more.  They all took to her big fluffy underbelly/wings immediately.  And PB?  Immediately protective of "her brood."

I had to flip the kennel over so the doorway would be on the top and she could easily hop in and out if she needs to do her daily business.  So while I was remodeling the nursery, she took her little ones for a round about the barn and introduced them to Nali.  If you don't already know, Nali loves chicks.  And they always love her.  So it was fun.  They aren't big enough to climb all over her yet, but they will be soon.

I do have 4 other chicks out in the yard, but they are several weeks old and it's too late to introduce them to PB.  But no worries.  They bonded with the ducks in the side yard and well...  It's just another day on the farm.

Fort Havenscourt

Posted by Kitty Sharkey , Tuesday, May 1, 2012 7:12 PM

So what do you do when you have five bales of straw?  Why you build a goat fort, of course!  The kids were just having too much fun not to share a few photos.

Thanks go to my neighbors Huey and Earl for hauling the straw into the back yard and building the structure.  No rain in sight, so I think they'll be enjoying it for a while before I have to tuck it inside.