How we turned a carport into a barn

It happens to the best of us. You start out with a few chickens (the gateway drug to the livestock world) then soon start experimenting with other animals. A donkey? A goat? Sheep? Potbelly pigs? Emu?! The sky is the limit! Who knows what will show up on your property. That’s part of the fun (for me anyway, but probably not as fun for my husband who gets to build their homes).

The horses have their own barn but there wasn’t enough room for the goats. After all, the herd just went from 2 goats to 5 goats. They more than doubled their numbers in less than a week & needed their own space. Well played, goats.

I started searching Pinterest for goat barn ideas & of course was not disappointed. There were so many creative  barns made out of many different materials. Then I saw  something that caught my eye: a carport turned into a barn. It was cute & looked so easy to build (hahaha!! Spoiler alert, it’s not as easy as it looks).

24×24 carport.

We eventually landed a used carport & set it up in the corner of the pasture. According to my expertise all we had to do was tack up some plywood & cut a few windows & doors. My husband (a contractor) quickly burst my bubble with reality. Yep, he was going to do it the right way so the barn wouldn’t blow away in the first storm. After all we live in hurricane alley (& he knows how much I worry about my animals) so he made a valid point.

We hooked up the trailer & took a trip to the home improvement store. One of my favorite places to go! Seriously, I have this thing where I think I can build anything, probably because I watch too much HGTV. My husband is never too excited in those stores because he frequents them for work.

We started to load up sheets of plywood, 4’x4’s, concrete, screws for metal, screws for wood, some kind of metal strap things, some giant screw things, & other stuff they don’t talk much about on HGTV. After paying an eye-opening total at the register, we loaded up our loot & headed to the barn.

Just some of the materials from the home improvement store. Those are sheets of 3/4” treated plywood & they are heavy! Our son was more than willing to help.
My husband (left) & stepdad (right) working on the goat barn while supervisor Sprinkles makes sure their work is up to snuff.

We laid 4’x4’ treated wood posts on their sides on the ground then set the carport on top of those posts (with the help of the tractor!). This was done to keep the bottom of the carport from direct ground contact & hopefully extend the life of the metal. Large bolts were drilled through the metal & into the 4’x4’ to keep everything in place.

You can see the carport sitting on top of the 4’x4’ wood posts.

The plywood walls were attached to the frame of the carport with 1.5” self-tapping metal screws. This part was way harder than I thought it would be. The 3/4” plywood was pretty heavy (even heavier because it was rained on & therefore added quite a bit of water weight) & awkward to handle. The hardest part was driving a few hundred metal screws through the plywood & into the steel frame. It should probably be a new CrossFit class.

Bottom row of plywood finished & 4’x4’ wood posts up.

Next we put up two 4’x4’ treated wood posts on each end of the barn. These would serve as a support for the barn doors that would be added later. The 4’x4’ posts are 12’ long. We dug a 2’ deep hole with post hole diggers for each post, set the post in the hole, made sure the post was straight & level, then poured a 40# bag of concrete in each hole.

Framing started on the ends of the barn.
More framing on the ends of the barn & the second row of plywood finished.

Unfortunately we were interrupted by a hurricane before we could finish the barn doors. We boarded up the unfinished parts with plywood & screws then used anchors to secure the barn to the ground.

The anchors that we used to secure the barn to the ground. These were attached to the frame of the barn with bolts, screws & washers.

After the storm passed, my stepdad made custom Dutch doors to go on each end of the barn.

The Dutch doors are up! My husband also cut windows into the barn for more airflow & ventilation.

I couldn’t be happier with how the goat barn turned out. Of course we added a few things after we thought we were done (doesn’t that always seem to be the case?). Extra windows, vents, whitewash, a chicken coop, sand – you get the picture. I’ll share the upgrades that we did in a later post.

Please let me know if you have any questions & I’ll do my best to help!

They’re finally here: Baby goats!

Clean sheet night for the goats

Silly

The stalls were clean & I had put down fresh bedding. The birthing kit was ready with clean towels & way more supplies than I would (hopefully) need. My trusty goat books, a ton of notes, & extra camera batteries were on standby.

We were thrilled to meet the newest addition(s) to our farm. Would it be twins? Triplets? More? Or just a single baby? Boys or girls? Both? I was just hoping for an uneventful delivery, healthy babies & a healthy mama goat.

Silly when she was pregnant with Teddy Graham

We are extremely fortunate to have a wonderful veterinarian hospital in our area who treats goats. Most vets will not treat goats in their practice even if they treat other livestock like cows or horses. This was my first time being a midwife at any birth so I was pretty nervous, but it eased my mind to have a great vet just a call away.

Luckily everything went really well & suprisingly quick. Silly gave birth to 2 healthy bucklings (baby boys) that we named Teddy & Graham. Both boys were up & nursing within minutes of being born.

Graham was first to be born (right, being cleaned up by mama) & Teddy arrived shortly after (left, nursing for the first time).
2 healthy baby boys! Teddy & Graham, born August 25, 2016

Charlotte

Just 5 days later, Charlotte went into labor. It was thundering & pouring rain. The sound of heavy rain on the barn’s tin roof made it impossible to hear anything else. As soon as I ran into the barn Charlotte laid down & started pushing. Soon she delivered a beautiful black & white, blue-eyed doeling (baby girl!) that we named Sprinkles.

Sprinkles, just moments after being born

I was very excited (& surprised!) that they both had their babies in front of me instead of waiting until I wasn’t around. Usually animals of prey, such as horses & goats, wait until they are alone to give birth. It made me feel pretty great that they trusted me enough to have the babies while I was in the pen with them.

Me & Graham. I’m obviously a little excited over holding my first baby goat.

I may post the actual goat birthing pics in another post with a warning in the title since the pictures are graphic & not everyone enjoys that kind of thing! 😆

 

 

Chickens: the gateway drug to the livestock world.

A silkie chick

The barn has always been my happy place. The smell of hay, the sound of silence, the escape from the pressures of society, & of course my best friends live there, horses. I still enjoyed taking care of my horses & spending time with them but I was also constantly reminded of my limitations. No riding, no jumping, no competing, no shooting guns on horseback & playing cowgirl. This made me pretty depressed. I had no idea what non-horse people did with all of their time. I’m certainly not the type that will be happy & fulfilled by spending my time indoors.

My boys Harvey & Bert, enjoying retirement

I still loved my barn time but felt like something was missing. One day my husband surprised me by bringing home a small chirping box from the feed store. Inside were 6 little fluffy-butt baby chicks! I was in shock because I’m ALWAYS the one bringing home animals & my husband is the voice of reason (‘what exactly are you going to do with 2 feral donkeys?’ Ok, he had a point).

I let the chicks loose in our bathtub & hung a light over them to keep them warm. My husband quickly remembered why he should have surprised me with flowers instead. I started googling ‘baby chick care’ & was soon flooded by too much information & too many opinions. Oh no, chicken people are just as crazy as horse people!! I was stunned yet relieved, I will fit in just fine in the poultry enthusiast world.

The 6 chicks that started my addiction when they were about 3 months old. And yes, they are riding a Tonka truck!

Of course neither my husband nor I had any idea that chickens were like a gateway drug into the livestock world. I soon wanted more chickens. Who knew they came in so many colors & patterns?

They were actually pretty entertaining too. I don’t know about you but watching a chicken leap out of your lap & snag a wasp out of the air is pretty impressive. Bonus: I’m allergic to wasps! Did that chicken save my life? Probably not but it was still pretty amazing to witness.

My chickens are obsessed with mowing time. When you start the mower they will stampede towards you, then follow you up & down each row, eating every bug that is unearthed. Pretty sure they think of our mower as a big Pez dispenser.

Of course my flock grew very quickly thanks to the feed store. Every Spring the livestock feed stores & hardware stores get in hundreds of adorable baby chicks. They cleverly place them between the entrance & the feed section so you are overwhelmed by cuteness when you just need a bag of feed. But you can’t buy just one! Most stores have a minimum purchase of 6 chicks so they can keep each other warm, or keep each other company, or just increase the store’s revenue. Either way your flock will grow by leaps & cheeps in no time.

I went to the store for a bag of feed & came home with these little fuzz balls.

The chickens that you already have are determined to increase their numbers as well. I collect eggs every day & try to discourage broody hens (those are the hens that try to hatch eggs). Every once in awhile they will succeed in hiding a nest then parade around with another 8 or so baby chicks about 21 days later. Is it adorable? Yes. Does it increase your feed bill? Absolutely.

We went out of town & came back to a broody hen on a hidden nest. She increased our flock by 7 just a few days later!

Of course if you have a small coop & keep your chickens locked in that coop at all times you won’t be dealing with hidden nests (or a daily Easter egg hunt). We free-range our chickens during the day & only lock them up at night so they lay eggs all over the place (except in the variety of nesting boxes I made).

One of the chicken’s favorite nesting sites, in my hay feeders.
The flock stampeding when I let them out of their coop for the day.

My flock started outgrowing our acreage so I rehomed a few chickens to some good friends. Don’t worry, we still have enough chickens to make the neighbors give us weird looks.

The Accident

I’ve been an avid equestrian my whole life. Horses have always been my passion & I’ve spent every second I possibly could in the saddle. Exactly 6 years ago on February 4, 2012 that all changed. I had a young mare (female horse) named Moonpie that I had bought, sent to a horse trainer & was trying to put miles on (aka: give her different experiences to boost her confidence, typical of what you do with a young horse). I had taken her on trail rides through woods & fields, ridden her in a cowboy mounted shooting clinic and competed on her in equestrian obstacle courses. We even won champion in our division in the obstacle course show with some stiff competition!

The Champion horse blanket that we won at the High Cotton Obstacle Course.


Moonpie & I riding in a cowboy mounted shooting clinic. She had only been started under saddle for 42 days at this point. I was shooting a .45 caliber revolver off of her (blanks! Not live rounds) & she handled it great. By the way, I highly recommend cowboy mounted shooting! 


In a costume contest with Moonpie. I was the wicked witch & she was my flying monkey from Wizard of Oz!


We were having lots of great adventures together but still had some challenges that are typical of young, inexperienced horses. Young horses, just like young people, are still learning what behavior is acceptable & what isn’t acceptable. They will test you at times & they may throw tantrums which are extra dangerous when they weigh 1,000 pounds! Each horse is different just like each person. Some horses are easy to train while others are more challenging, some are excitable while some are laid back. Moonpie was overall a good horse but would still test you at times. I’m more of a laidback person & aggressive riding just isn’t my style. Needless to say Moonpie knew that & would test me, trying to be queen bee in the pecking order. Basically I was the pushover parent & she had my number.

One day I decided to go with a group of friends to a cowboy mounted shooting event about 2 hours from home. It was a cold windy day, which can make horses ‘feel their oats.’ In other words they tend to be more feisty & excitable when it’s cold, windy, or stormy.

I got up early on the morning of the shoot & hooked up my horse trailer to my truck, noticing that the trailer lights were not working. With the help of my stepdad (a retired electrician), we got the lights working. It was an inconvenience & made me run a little late but wasn’t too big of a deal. I now look back & realize that was the first warning sign. I never believed in signs until that fateful day.

I loaded up Moonpie & pulled out of the barn driveway. A small tree was leaning over the driveway, probably pushed over from the wind. I maneuvered around the tree but a branch hit one of my running lights on my trailer & shattered it. That was my second warning sign. Not deterred, I headed to my friend’s barn just a few miles down the road so we could ride together to the shoot.

I arrived at my friend’s barn, unloaded Moonpie from my trailer & then loaded her onto my friend’s trailer with her horse. There were several people going to the shoot & there wasn’t enough room in the truck for everyone so I rode in another friend’s car, following behind the horse trailer. We got about halfway to the horse facility that was hosting the shoot when the tire on the horse trailer blew, ripping the fender off of the trailer in the process. Warning sign number three. Luckily we were very close to a rest stop so instead of unloading horses on the shoulder of a busy interstate, we limped the trailer to the rest stop. Once we parked the trailer at the rest stop we immediately unloaded the horses & got to work changing the tire. The tire change went quickly while curious onlookers asked to pet the horses & take pictures of them, which we obliged. We loaded the horses onto the trailer & the spare tire went flat. The horses once again were unloaded from the trailer, the spare tire was removed & a friend took the tire to a gas station several miles down the road for more air. A few of us stayed with the horses while the tire was being inflated. We were relieved to see our friend arrive back with the spare tire. The spare was once again put on the trailer & the horses were loaded. The spare tire went flat AGAIN.

Once again the horses were unloaded, the spare was taken off & the tire taken to a service station. This time it was inflated correctly, put back on the trailer, the horses were loaded & we were on the way to the shoot. We got close to the facility but got separated from our friends at a stoplight. My friend & I had been to the horse complex multiple times before but couldn’t find it this time. No big deal, we would look it up on our phone’s GPS. Well GPS took us somewhere but it certainly wasn’t the horse complex. We finally made it our destination (which turned out to be about a mile away) around 30 minutes later.

Our friends from the Double L Bar shooting club were already there & competing. I grabbed my horse & saddled her up then took her to the big indoor arena where the shoot was already taking place. We watched the shoot from the fence until it was our turn to go for an exhibition run (practice run). We entered the arena & did the pattern, weaving around cones. I was so proud of how amazing my horse handled everything & was beaming as we completed the pattern. At the end of a run you ride your horse in a circle, slowing them down before you walk them out of the area. This is where things went bad.

The rest of the events are very foggy but some were caught on video that I have watched since then & my friends helped fill in the gaps in my memory.

I remember not knowing which end was up & which was down, extreme vertigo. Gravity soon forcefully showed me which end was down. I was very disoriented & couldn’t tell if I was dreaming or if I was in reality. I remember hitting the ground very hard & hearing every vertebrae from the base of my skull to my tailbone cracking at the same time. I thought I was paralyzed which had always been an incredibly huge fear of mine, since I have a quadriplegic & a paraplegic in my family. I remember coming too, several minutes later when someone handed me the reins to my horse that had run away after the accident. I was walking somewhere but had no idea how I got up or where I was going. I remember someone saying ‘your hood is filled with dirt’ then emptying my hoodie on the arena floor. I remember hurting all over & being very angry. I remember wanting to ‘get back in the saddle’ & ‘not let her get away with throwing me’ but truth be told, I had torn my groin (yes, women have groins) so bad that I couldn’t lift my leg high enough to reach the stirrup. I told everyone I was fine even though I was confused, hurt, angry, sad & wanted to just hide & cry. But cowgirls don’t cry (in front of other horse people anyway, it’s a pride thing), so I put my horse in a stall, sucked it up & stayed at the show until nighttime.

Evidently we even went to eat at a restaurant after the show but I don’t remember. I slept the entire car ride home. My friend kept my horse, truck & trailer at her barn for the night while another friend dropped me off at my house. My mom called me & I yelled at her which I never ever do. I trashed my room then went to sleep. I mainly slept the next 2 days, only waking to eat & use the bathroom. The day after the accident was the Super Bowl. I slept through it & thought it was football season for many months afterwards, like I was stuck in that place in time. Light & sound were unbearable so I closed every curtain in the house, kept the tv off & slept. I had constant migraines. My eyes felt like they didn’t line up correctly, which affected my vision. My speech slurred, my thoughts were delayed, I had no short term memory. I did weird things like put electronics in the refrigerator & put milk in the cabinet. I was living alone at the time so no one knew the extent of my injury.

The accident was on a Saturday & the following Monday I went to the doctor to get a muscle relaxer or something since every muscle in my body ached. I got lost driving to the doctors office that I had been to many times before. I tried filling out the forms at the doctor but realized I no longer knew how to read. I could say the word on the paper but had no idea what it meant. Words had lost all meaning to me. I told the receptionist I couldn’t read & she asked if I ever knew how to read. I told her yes, I had graduated college, was currently in grad school & working full time. I tried paying my copay with a Lowes gift card & couldn’t understand why the receptionist was giving me a hard time.  She got the orthopedic doctor who immediately sent me next door to a neurosurgeon’s office. I was very mad about having to go to another doctor but I went anyway. I checked in then fell asleep in the exam room until the doctor came in & woke me up. I was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury or TBI. I was told to be very careful & not to damage my brain any further or my injury would be worse and my impairment could become permanent.

At the time of my injury I was wearing an ASTM/SEI approved equestrian specific helmet. My neurosurgeon said that my brain was probably damaged by the violent shaking I experienced in the saddle so I probably had the TBI before I ever hit the ground. He said that helmets won’t prevent a concussion caused by shaking but they do help prevent skull fractures. For the record, I’m still pro helmet.

A few weeks after the horse accident I was in a car that was rear ended at a stoplight. I went back to all of my doctors as my symptoms had worsened. Any healing & progress I had made was completely lost & I had to start the process all over again. I started improving again very slowly. Then I was a passenger in yet another car accident a few weeks later while coming home from a doctor’s appointment. I regressed yet again, & had to start from the beginning again. My doctor’s were stunned that I could have that many brain injuries in such a short amount of time.

The next few years (yes, years) were a blur of doctor’s appointments, tests, more tests, referrals, specialists, therapy, medicine, & having my mom drive me everywhere. I wouldn’t speak in front of anyone for about a year because I was embarrassed by my speech & the fact that I couldn’t understand what they were talking about. I wasn’t allowed to drive. I carried a notebook everywhere, writing down everything (including meals I ate, people I had talked too, if I had fed the dog that day, if I took my medicine, etc.). I literally wrote down every detail of my life. I have since replaced my notebook with a smartphone & still have to rely on it for many every day tasks. Fortunately I have come a long way but still deal with issues every day of my life from my TBI.

My doctor’s told me to never ride a horse again or I could have a much worse prognosis if I received another brain injury. I struggled with adapting to my ‘new normal.’ I needed to find a new hobby that would take my mind off of the loss of my lifelong passion.