It’s all Mother Earth News’ fault. Really. They planted the seed of an idea that I’m sure has my mother nearly ready to faint at the thought. Further evidence that perhaps I shouldn’t read so much…it gives me funny ideas.
What am I babbling about? Why, turning my garage into a livestock barn, of course. What else would I be referring to? Doesn’t everyone do that nowadays? Just look at what the boys and I have already done in just a single day of work: (just a few hours before, there was a musty, crusty old sheetrock ceiling up there.)
See, it all started with this Mother Earth News article on one acre homesteads. It was a reprint from John Seymour’s book The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It. The article piqued my interest because it laid out an easy plan for farming on a one acre plot, including having a family cow, chickens, pigs, orchards, and a garden. It broke things down just the way I needed – how to divide up your property, how to rotate various growing sections, etc.
I went out this past weekend and bought the book. Man, why didn’t I find this sooner? But I digress…
One of the illustrations from the book was reprinted in Mother Earth News. In looking at the setup, I noticed they had a cow shed attached to the house, next to a tool shed and greenhouse. My brain started working on ideas.
There’s no way I can get the barn I want built until we finish the house itself. As tempting as it is, the idea of building a big six stall barn with a huge breezeway down the middle for my truck & a horse/cattle trailer is just not practical when we still don’t have a stove, outlets in the kitchen, lights in the dining room, etc. And then there’s that whole we-need-a-fence-first problem.
But…I have a garage that we closed in the year we got the house. The front wall (where the garage doors used to be) is still waiting for siding – showing bare OSB and big raw window openings to all who pull in the driveway. Originally, it was to be a guest bed & bath…that is, until we ran into problems with where we need/want to put the new septic system to accommodate another bathroom to current building standards. (The old system is dying, but that spot only has a 12″ drop – codes call for a minimum 15″ drop for the size system we’ll need.)
In looking at the article in M.E.N., and after further reading in the book, I came up with a temporary solution to the need a barn/have no fencing/but the house isn’t finished yet problem. We’re going to convert the garage into a 2 stall barn with an indoor chicken coop. I have the space. The windows for good ventilation are already there on 3 out of 4 sides. It’s a concrete floor.
All we have to do is widen the exit door, pull down the crumbling sheetrock ceilings (to expose the upper rafters & get more ventilation) and frame in the stalls/coop.
It won’t be a permenant solution, as I’ll eventually need more space/stalls. However, it does allow us to get a family cow and a small draft pony for now. That could seriously move things along. Seymour’s book even describes tethering single unit livestock, so we could get around the need for fencing for awhile. Since the chickens are now freeranging all day, they’d only be in the coop at night – further cutting down on the possible bad smell quotient.
When I mentioned to my mother what we were doing, I swear I could hear her citified heart fluttering through the phone.
“Won’t the smell get into the house that way?” She asks.
Um, Mom, barns only stink if you don’t keep ‘em clean. Otherwise, they have a wonderful earthy smell. Personally? I’d rather spend all day in a barn with hay crunching under my feet. Besides, the walls in my house are darn near a foot thick in some places. The house originally had 1×6 siding on the outside, over which they laid brick walls – adding on the garage later. Add insulation between the interior studs, thick plaster & lathe walls in the dining room…and I swear, you could explode dynamite in the garage without hearing it in the dining room. I don’t think smell is going to be a problem…really.
The worst thing that could happen is the project is an absolute disaster, I rue the day I ever read the article, and have a really pressing desire to get the house finished so we can build the big barn. The garage could be completely demolished in the process and I wouldn’t really freak over it. Space is not something we’re lacking in any way, shape, or form and to be honest? I hate the way the garage looks anyway. I might just tear it down after the barn is built anyway.
In the meantime, it offers a solution to move things along around here (oh, the things I could do if we just had ONE draft pony) as well as a treasure trove of good aged timbers we can pull out now that the ceiling is an unecessary obstacle. Check out all these aged 2x6s that did absolutely NOTHING but hold up the ceiling. (There are already cross supports up in the peek of the roof.) I think the only reason they used 2x6s was to lay down scrap flooring for storage purposes – which we’ll also find a use for at some point.
So, what do you think? Would you turn your garage into a barn if you had the option? Am I crazy for this idea? Nevermind, don’t answer that. I probably don’t have all my marbles in the same bag…but that doesn’t mean it won’t work or that we shouldn’t try. The world won’t end if it turns into a disaster.