Buttoning up

There’s no denying it now.

When I went out to the barn yesterday morning, a thin but obvious sheen of frost covered the grass tips and the newly fallen maple leaves.

Winter’s coming.

Unlike previous years, we’ve actually been thinking about this for some time. Maybe it’s the goats that makes us worry ahead a little more about how to prepare for the winter. Or maybe we’re just starting to learn our lesson after living in Vermont for almost 17 years.

For the first time ever, we had our firewood delivered early in the summer instead of the fall. We didn’t finish stacking it until recently, but I think we get some points for having it on the property and seasoning before the days started to get shorter.

Not only that, M built us a nifty new wood shed so that we can actually store some of the wood under cover. We haven’t had that luxury since we remodeled the old ell into living space all those years ago. (Remember that little project?)

Isn’t this a beauty?

Wood shed

Wood shed - detail

We’d still like to add a metal roof for extra protection. And then build four more so we can cover all the firewood. But this is a great start and makes me feel almost giddy to know that I can extract logs from the pile in February without having to first dig through a foot of iced-in snow.

And how about this major leap forward (for us) in firewood handling equipment?

New wood rack

An inside wood rack.

Pinch me!

This rack was one of M’s miraculous yard sale finds this fall, along with the milking stool he scored for us, and a few Harry Potter things for H. I was raised without any yard sale experience. As far as I remember, my family never attended nor hosted any yard/garage sales, so yard-saling is a recently new activity for me, and I don’t have the eye that M has for hidden treasures. Sometimes it’s best just to let him go on his own and surprise us.

To the dog’s chagrin*, the basement workshop has been humming with all the construction projects, including this beautiful new hay rack for the goats’ run-in.

New hay rack

We built this out of leftover boards from the old ell. Not only did we get to re-use something we already had hanging around the basement, the wood matches the barn perfectly. It seems made for the spot. Note the crafty handmade hinges M made from strips of leather. And it holds nearly an entire bale of hay, which really cuts down on the number of times per day I have to fill the feeder.

You’d think the slanted lid would dissuade the little goats from dancing on top of the rack, but no such luck. I find myself rushing to open the lid and stuff the hay in before Albus and Lars jump onto the lid. If I miscalculate and they get there first, they’ll stand up there and nibble my hair while I try to stuff the hay in through the slats. Goats love to help with chores!

Now we just need to make one more, for the upstairs stalls.

Speaking of hay, now that we’ve brought the milking stand into the barn for the winter, there’s really no room to store hay inside the barn, so we had to figure out another place to keep it.

The fastest, least expensive way for us to get some decent hay storage was to use a portable hay shelter (also used by folks as temporary garages). The instructions for the kit we bought said it could be assembled by two people in about an hour. It took us a bit longer than that, but, in one day, we went from this:

Hay shelter - parts and pieces

to this:

Hay shelter - assembled

And it was only a few days later when we had our first really big hay delivery.

Hay's in

Torrential rains came down for two days here last week. The hay stayed dry. And the wood stayed dry. We feel almost ready for winter.

Now we just need to figure out how to keep the goats’ water from freezing in the winter.


* The dog is apparently terrified of power tools. And all those awful, loud, banging noises M makes when moving big pieces of wood around in the basement. The dog is also scared of the cats. But that’s another story.


  1. LittleFfarm Dairy says:

    Hi Rebecca – was introduced to you on Twitter via our friends at Brockhall Farm.

    Reference the freezing bucket problem: if you can keep the water moving somehow – even just a steadily-dripping hosepipe or a matchstick under the ball of an automatic trough – that should prevent it from freezing.

    Mind you we have problems with the auto drinkers in our goats’ main shed as there’s no way to “drip feed” them. I mended about twelve major bursts last winter, it was such a pain! We’ve bought some special insulated wire wrap which can be connected to the mains electricity to warm the pipes (a bit like an electric blanket for plumbing I suppose), it’ll be interesting to see if it works.

    Best wishes,


    1. grongar says:

      Welcome, Jo! Thank you for coming for a read. And thank you for the suggestions on the water freezing issue.

      The problem here is that we don’t have running water at the barn; just a hose from the house. We knew it would be a pain, but didn’t have the funds to run water to it when we built it. Perhaps in another year or two.

      For this winter, we’ll probably do an (electrically) heated stock tank, but I’m hoping to build a solar-heated stock tank for next winter.

      Let me know how your new insulated wire wrap works. It’s very interesting to me to see how everyone handles these issues.


  2. LittleFfarm Dairy says:

    P.S. Love the haytrough & firewood store – very innovative, practical & well-considered designs! :o)

    1. grongar says:

      Why, thank you! You’ve given us a big smile today!

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