Monday, August 9, 2010

Giving Them Their Space

One of the challenges of suburban homesteading, that perhaps, people with larger, more rural and secluded pieces of land do not have to consider is the aesthetics, and for us, it's often a struggle to balance keeping things pretty with making things utilitarian.

Like, right now, my garden is an overgrown - almost to the point of being scary - mass of green, most of which is hubbard squash vines. It's like vines gone wild out there. To me, it's beautiful in a verdant sort of way, but as the season progresses, and the vines begin to die back, I know it won't look so pretty anymore.

Dying plants are expected though, especially where I live with four, full seasons, but the other clutter - tools lying around the yard, construction debris, untended animals on the loose - those things are less acceptable, and that's where we've always struggled.

I know that I've mentioned, probably ad nauseum, that we have a very small space, very little of which is devoted purely to storage. Unfortunately, due to the size limitations of our lot, we won't ever get approved for an out building ... unless we decide to tear down a portion of our house and build the storage space on the footprint of the old building (our lot is "non-conforming", but is "grandfathered", which means we can keep the current footprint of our house, but we couldn't build anything else).

We're working with it, though, and it requires some degree of creativity.

This is the latest.

After a winter of housing the ducks and chickens together, we had always planned to do something different for them. This year, we fenced off a portion of the back yard for the animals, and we built a second "coop" (that is a covered, wire enclosed run). The second coop will be for the chickens this winter. The "old" coop will house the ducks, and in the spring, we'll put a table or something in there and use it for a greenhouse. From our observations, so far, the ducks are less likely to jump up on the table and eat the plants.

The entrance to the animal yard is what Deus Ex Machina is calling the guard house (pictured above). I call it the garden shed, and truly, it's something I've wanted for a really long time. It gives us covered storage for our yard tools, which will protect them from the weather and prolong their lives, but also, provides us a dedicated space to store them so that we don't spend fifteen minutes looking for the shovel before we can start digging, or worse, find the shovel when the snowbank melts in the spring.

We're going to also put a couple of narrow shelves on the sides and in the roof area for storing other tools and such, and I was looking at the roof thinking that it would make a great place to hang herbs and onions to dry.

Someday, I'll have a little stone walkway back to there, and there will be lots of plants growing up and around the chicken yard. I've already planted comfrey and hostas (but the ducks keep sticking their heads through the wire and eating the hostas, which aren't as resilient and fast recovering as the comfrey, which is why you can't see where they were planted - silly ducks! ;).

The tree in the picture is one of our sad, dwarf peach trees. It's coming down. I've been threatening for years to do it, and Deus Ex Machina has finally agreed that they are really not producing, and with only a quarter of an acre, we can't waste space on something that is not producing for us. Currently, it's bowing over the potato bed, and in fact, almost touching the tops of the potato plants, and because it's hanging so low into the yard, we have to walk stooped over when we're back there. So, it's going.

There's a spot that's about four feet from the animal yard fence and four feet to the left of where the peach tree is growing where we think a larger tree, like basswood, or perhaps a nut tree, like chestnut, would be happy to grow.

Up the sides of the garden shed/guard house, we will grow Kiwi.

The other plan is to set-up a rainwater reclamation system on the roof of each coop. We're just trying to decide exactly how we want to make it.

The absolute best part about this year's construction projects has been the cost. Purchased materials include wire and the roofing. All of the wood, except the lattice on the side of the garden shed, was free, and we've discovered there's more where that came from ...

... hmmm?

- new raised garden beds;
- frame for the outdoor kitchen sink;
- new gates for the back fence;
- playhouse/outside storage for toys for the girls ....

Lots of possibilities.


  1. It all looks pretty cute to me! Where I live one doesn't need a permit to build anything under 100 sq feet. So I have an 8x12 garden shed and an 8x10 chicken coop. My 10 x 16 woodshed was build without a permit because I was under the false impression that because it didn't have a floor I didn't need a permit. Oops!Apparently the town could give me a hard time if I tried to sell the place, but I've been there 18 years already and no plans to move. Hoping they will forget about it when the time comes!

  2. Nice solution, Wendy. Having a consolidated location for all the yard tools is really handy. We have a tiny little Rubbermaid shed for that. We wanted to do a nice gazebo kinda thing for an outdoor kitchen but have decided due to permit issues that we will have a non-permanent structure instead, only put up as needed. Something like one of those EZ-up canopies under which I can set up the propane double-burner stove for outdoor canning with the hose nearby for water and clean-up. The only catch then is where to store all this temporary stuff when not in use. LOL!

    Kiwis are on our list, too, as well as grapes. I want to get the grapes in this year since it takes them a while to get going.

  3. I think it looks great, love the clear roofing, is it hard to keep clear? This would be great on my chicken tractor houses. Keep up your good work!

  4. I'm always fascinated by the clever solutions people have when space/resources are limited. Being able to remove the peach tree because it just isn't producing enough to warrant the space is admirable. Knowing what you need, or what would be more beneficial, makes it work. Best wishes!