This winter I built a mobile coop for our laying hens. It was great to have a project like this to keep busy and brush up on some old skills. I studied furniture and product design in college and went on to open a design company I ran as a side job while working in wood and metal shops. Farming allows me to use these skills through laying out irrigation, crop planning, building high tunnels, and mobile coops. I found a used running gear for a hay wagon as the base of the coop. A friend of mine helped me mill out the foundation planks from an ash tree on his saw mill. The rest of the design was taken from simple construction techniques. The whole design is informed by taking care of chickens for the past three years. Most importantly there is a solar powered door that opens and closes based on daylight, which should provide a lot of freedom for the farmer!
The howling wind and frigid temperatures makes everything difficult to do. Our tractor is stalling out when trying to spread manure and our water pipes have frozen by the chicken coops. So when I am an old man I can say that I carried buckets of water up a hill on single digit degree days to nourish our chickens. Not quite walking to school up hill both ways, but enough of a drudgery that should command respect…at least from my son. Farming teaches life lessons all the time and makes me grateful for everything, especially a warm house and loving family to come home to everyday. I have completed our Organic Certification application, crop plan, livestock plan, and fruit and berry plan. Lots of plans have been checked off the list. This is the last week to tie up lose ends until the season officially starts. When is that you ask? Well of course when you fire up the greenhouse and and plant your first seed in a cell to begin the process of another growing season. This will be our fourth year in operation and I am still constantly learning, getting better, and taking more on. Getting through the cold makes the warmth so much better.
Farming is very creative. It satisfies my need to create and be a part of the world. The cold winter gives me a lot of time to work on projects. This year we are going to build mobile chicken coops to help utilize our lower pasture. Right now the chickens are in a stationary coop and can go wherever they please. It is a little chaotic since they go into the woods, on top of the woodpile, and in the barn if we leave the doors open. We are missing out on directing their natural fertilizer where we need it which is in the fields rather then on a rock pathway. So to build our own mobile chicken coop we first had to build out a fabrication shop. I enjoy woodworking and metal work so the desire to build a shop has been there for a while. Setting up the space to manufacture what we need on the farm is a perfect Wintertime project.