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master steward
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How does one go from wanting a barn to having a barn?

We want a little wooden barn for hay storage, with some sheep stalls, a bit of other storage and some work space.  Two stories would be best.  Metal roof with solar power

The first step is to price it out and see how much money we need to save.  But to do that, we need to find out how and who makes barns happen.

Eco-friendly would be nice, but durable and practical are our main concerns. 

We don't have the health to build it ourselves.

What kind of options are there for barns?  Kits?  Contractors?  What's more affordable?
 
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If you erquire som one else to build, then you'll have to investigate companies that can build where you are. Most barns are kit form unless you really want to design something bespoke.
you should just be able to google barns and find a company who will meeet you needs re location and barn design. They normally have self build or build for you options.

there's a shed company overr the road from me, when I made enqireries about a barn door, I was told that they just buy in all there shed and errect them. They don't even make them in their factory.

the brn in my field - was there when I bought the field - was errected by the previous owner and was a kit. Wasn't errected very well I hasten to add. I'm not sure timber is any cheaper than bricks and mortar, (brick manufactoring area not timber growing - probably has an impact).
 
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I have a buddy who purchased his barn through these guys:

http://www.barnpros.com/

They went with a simple classic design, 2 stories with horse stalls on the ground floor, and then a more finished upper story.  This model:

http://www.barnpros.com/barn-plans-products.aspx?itemid=1238&pagetitle=The+Olympic

He has a big ping-pong tournament every year in the upstairs area for about 30 guys.  It's a bit of a man cave up there --- his wife gets the lower floor, and he's got the upper.   He put a long porch thing along the side of it so that he could park vehicles out of the weather.  It really turned out great.

The basic unit is about 30 x 30, and then you add a section or two (or three) to make it longer.  My buddy made his 3 sections long—30 x 90 (or so).  It's modular (like legos).  The whole thing arrives on the back of a flat-bed truck and they've got it assembled in less than a week.
 
pollinator
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raven ranson wrote:How does one go from wanting a barn to having a barn?



The short answer is: JUST START! I am being serious here. I wanted a barn for a long time too, but like most ambitious projects it seemed so daunting. Then one day we just started. And honestly that is the key to any major project, JUST START. It doesn't have to be in a big way. It does not have to be a huge production...just start. After that the steps just plod along because you started. Yes in the middle it seems rough. You are only half way, yet you worked so hard to get only to this point...Don't give up. Keep going, and ALWAYS finish strong. That is where you put your 110 effort, because it is so easy to take short cuts on the finished product. Always finish strong...but you have to just start first.

raven ranson wrote:What kind of options are there for barns?  Kits?  Contractors?  What's more affordable?



You are a bit up against it because you cannot do it yourselves, and I trust that is truly the case. I am not slighting you here at all, but building a barn need not be complicated. I build my barns with a couple things in mind. I love trusses, partly because all the work is on the ground, all the cutting is done beforehand, and the trusses are just raised into place. Even if it is a big truss, they can be broken down into sections to make things manageable by hand..no heavy equipment needed, even for the 52 foot trusses my last barn required. I just broke them down into 3 sections! So you might be more capable then you think you are! (You might not be as well, I do not know your circumstance, but am trying to say that carpentry need not be difficult even for older, or physically limited homesteaders).

The other thought is, use smart designs. I saw my own logs into lumber, but to make the material of that stretch even farther, I make my trusses 4 feet on center instead of 16 inches or even 2 feet. With proper truss designs, it is strong. That is a reduction of over half the framing lumber right off the bat. I built a barn 30 x 48 feet 2 years ago for $4450 using this design and there is nothing I would change on it. Granted I used my own lumber, but even with store bought lumber, its a cheap barn to build, and completely doable by homesteaders.

So my thoughts are this. Design your building well, on paper, well in advance. My barn was built in my head long before I started hammering nails and I am talking about a lot of details too. Part of that was designing it so most of the building could be done on the ground. 90% of my boards were cut in one day, on the ground in anticipation of being nailed together the next day. Then start. The materials will come if you just start, even if you can only buy one board at a time...an elephant is eaten the same was as a mouse...one bite at a time. So start. Then save your last 110% for the finish and finish strong.
 
Travis Johnson
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Have you ever considered a WOFATI as a possible barn? Obviously I do not know where you live or what your topography is like, but it might be something to consider.

I know here in New England a WOFATI type structure for sheep would be ideal. One of the features I like that my barn has is that it is a through-barn, that is the ends are open and so I can scrape out manure easily and quickly by scraping it out with my tractor or bulldozer. A Wofati type structure would be better than what I have because it would allow the sheep some insulation from the cold. Not too much, they need ventilation, but no drafts. I achieved that through the use of metal roofing, but a Wofati Design would enable the same thing. As long as it was a through-design, it would allow ventilation to pass through the barn to prevent the accumulation of manure. And of course there is the constant ground temperature of 57 degrees that is nearly ideal for ruminant animals like sheep. Building wise it is fast and easy with the work mostly consisting of earthwork, which you can either hire out, or rent the equipment. Building materials can be made out of wood, which can be bought in bulk rather cheaply.

It has its limitations obviously as it would not have a second story, but honestly if money is tight, I would do anything to talk you out of that. It costs considerable more to frame a building for a second floor versus just making a single floor barn bigger in size. And while I would never try to talk anyone out of what they really want, when a homesteader looks in envy at other barns, they must realize to get those same barns they must have to pay the same prices. By thinking outside the box, a homesteader can have a barn that costs considerably less. That is all I am attempting to do here...suggest different ideas to make a barn possible.

I do know how you feel. Katie and I would LOVE to have a nice timber frame barn. Considering as much time as we spend out in our barn, and that it is our livelihood, we could justify it. BUT we just cannot go that route, not when we can build a just as functional barn for a lot cheaper. In the end having the barn is the result we are after, not having an ideal one. If money was no object, we would be having a different conversation.

Note: Raven, this is your thread, and regarding your personal barn and I know that, but please understand that in forums, for every 10 people that post, 90 read and do not respond. Sometimes, like this, I present ideas to both original poster's and lurkers a like.
 
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I have an unused one if the post was not soo difficult and expensive I would send it to you
. Here at La Ravardière we have the traditional brick built ones with two floors  , animals down stairs hay storage upstairs have all been replaced by metal monsters capable of housing either cows or big round bales of stuff
I don't think that wood or metal makes a difference to putting in solar power
David
 
r ranson
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I love all these different ideas. 

There are so many things to think about with a barn, I don't even know where to start.

For example, today I learned that some places double the cost of insurance if we have hay upstairs vs storing hay downstairs.  I don't know why and now we have to ask our insurance people what their policy requires.

On top of that, the only place we have for the barn is visible from the (high traffic) road.  Anywhere else, the hay truck couldn't get to the barn.  This means we have to go the official route and get permits from the city.  Not hard, just more obstacles to navigate.

About two stories.  Isn't the foundation the most expensive part?  I think it is when building a house, so maybe it is with a barn.  Or maybe not.

Bricks are out for my location as we are a high earthquake risk and brick buildings are thought (by the local authorities) to collapse in an earthquake, so it's just about impossible to get a permit to build one here.  But they sure do look good. 

for every 10 people that post, 90 read and do not respond. Sometimes, like this, I present ideas to both original poster's and lurkers a like.



This is great!  Sure, my barn dream inspires this thread, but it's a public forum.  If other people can get inspiration and ideas from it, that's wonderful. 

Also, I've only just started thinking about barn building.  I don't even know the right questions to ask yet.  Everything helps.
 
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I'm guessing you have already considered a pole barn/shed.  I believe if you're paying someone to build it, that would be the cheapest option.  Not necessarily the prettiest though.  Then again if it had barn board siding instead of metal.....
 
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For example, today I learned that some places double the cost of insurance if we have hay upstairs vs storing hay downstairs. 



This is probably related to fire-associated risks. Or perhaps simply the weight of having tons of hay upstairs.  Probably the combination of having literal tons of flammable material overhead.

Our stable is moving to a brand new facility where the horses are stabled separately from the hay. This is a huge relief as the hay has currently been stored overhead.   The risks of losing animals to fire goes dramatically down if the flammable material is stored elsewhere. 

I would write down everything you want in a barn, which is going to vary from operation to operation.  The needs of a sheep operation are going to be very different than a riding stable. Write down your dream wish list and then figure out what you can actually afford to build. 
 
Travis Johnson
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I think the stored hay fire insurance issue is based on spontaneous combustion.

I grew up hearing all the great stories about this, and while technically it can happen, it is actually pretty rare. Most of the time spontaneous combustion in hay was actually started by something else. Hay chaff and electrical connections, poor barn wiring, and if I am downright honest...arson. I know more then one fire was caused that way by my own great-grandfather. During the depression he would buy up farms that had foreclosed, put some hay in the barn, then torch the place that night blaming the fire on the wet/dry hay and making off with the insurance money only to buy another farm. He did not need the farmhouses or barns, just the land to grow his operation. I make no bones about it, he was NOT a nice man, and I do not look favorably upon him or his methods. He had such a horrible reputation in town that one day while showing my Great-Grandfather his new car, his hired hand got scared. My great grandfather just shook his head and felt the grille over. "Mighty fine shame this car will get that nice grille melted soon." The hired man thought about that statement and got so scared that he moved out of the house that night with his family. Several days later the house and barn burned to the ground...hay fire of course.

As for your barn, it does seem as if you are up against some tight parameters Raven. Its hard for me to make suggestions, because here, I know everyone and get away with murder on building codes.

But regardless, for a barn the foundation is pretty cheap. As others have suggested, a pole barn only requires poles, and what the USDA suggests for a floor is compacted limestone dust. It absorbs the manure and neutralizes it, and yet allows leaching to drain off. Now don't beat me up, that is what they suggest...do as you wish, but it is cheap. Me, I prefer concrete, but again do not beat me up. I get away from the pooling of leaching by pitching my concrete floors 2" over 24 feet. I also scrape the barn floors ever few days so that manure does not accumulate. One thing I found that really helps is using steel roofing for the sides of my walls. This prevents the manure pack from sticking to them, yet also doubles as a wall allowing the barn to be draft free down low where the sheep lay and the lambs are born. Above 4 feet, it is wide open so that ammonia does not accumulate and give sheep pneumonia.  It also triples as a stiffening method to the wall as steel sheets rolled and formed add a lot of rigidity to a structure.

Another design feature you might want, is tip out hay managers. Every manager I built prior to these resulted in destruction; sheep are hard on stuff. These however survive because they swing shut. As the sheep eat the hay out of them, they push forward to get more hay and thus shut them themselves. They cannot rub on managers that are safely tucked into the wall of the barn.

I am not sure if you grain your sheep or not. I do, but found taking a 6 inch diameter PVC pipe and slicing it in half lengthways, gives me 20 feet of grain feeder space for $11. That is cheap! I just lag bolt it to the walls of my barn.



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r ranson
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Wanting a barn is such a rabbit hole.  I knew there was a lot to think about but never imagined there was this much.  I'm really glad I'm not the one in charge of this project.  I would be lost in indecision for years. 

What do we want to do in the barn?
-hay storage
-tractor storage
-sheep feeding place
-poultry sleeping place (mostly geese)
-a place to keep new mums and poorly animals (so two stalls, maybe three)
-a covered run outside the barn that the animals in the stall can have access to.
-it doesn't get cold here, so they would almost never be locked in the barn.
-storage space for tools and equipment
-a workspace for group events like processing flax
-to be off grid and a prototype for getting the house off the grid.
-a few other things, maybe. 

Last winter we had 5 sheep and this year we hope to keep 10.  That's about right for our land.  Any more and we would need to get more pasture. 

I don't know if a small barn can do all this.  Maybe.
 
Travis Johnson
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I have a 30 x 48 barn that does all that you describe so that might be a good starting point for size. Now we do have a separate lambing barn for nursing mothers and lambs, but we also have 4 stalls that are 4 feet wide, by 7 feet long that we use for "medical pens"...sheep that get injured. You could turn those into the lambing jugs that you require. I like my lambing jugs to be 4 x 6 feet so these are just a bit bigger and would work. One of these "pens" is where we keep the grain barrels for our sheep, as well as hanging racks for storing all our tools like shovels, lopers, rakes, hoes, etc.

Now 10 sheep with lambs only require 120 square feet (12 square feet per ewe-lamb combination) so you could easily add a spot for tractor storage. We have a lot more sheep, and other barns, but we keep a 12 x 48 foot bay open during blizzards so that we can put our SUV, Tractor and Bulldozer under cover when it snows; yes all three in a line. Its tight, but they all fit. We use the other half for extra sheep that won't fit in the other barns.

In the summer, when the sheep are out on pasture and it is nice out, we powerwash this particular barn and have church picnics if it is raining, so I do not see why you could not have flax weaving demonstrations just as we have church/4H functions.

We do have upper storage in ours as well, but we use round bales or bunker-silage so we don't have a need for hay storage at all. In our case our daughters use the space above the medical and tool/grain storage area for a play fort. If you used it for square bale hay, it would hold 250-300 bales. Not a lot, but under cover at least. We have actually thought about buying a few square bales and putting them up there just so that during lambing season we could toss down a few bales to feed the sheep in the jugs with lambs. The lambing barn attaches to this particular barn, so having quick feed would be really convenient...especially during lambing season.

All this is to say that a 30 x 48 foot barn would probably work well for you size wise.
 
r ranson
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Your barn sounds wonderful!

At the moment, we are looking at one that is 20' "long" by 30' wide with a 10' overhang on one side.  So total footprint of 20 by 40 feet with a nice amount of roof facing south.  It gives us over 20 feet away from the big old apple trees, which I hope, should be enough for the excavator. 


We got the first estimate back from a builder.  It's less than buying a kit barn, but we need proper plans or something to present to the city, so that's on us.  Maybe a kit with plans made to our local standards would be less stressful.  I don't know.

Also, it's an estimate.  How much-unexpected cost should we assume?  Double?  We don't want to get credit for this so we need to be absolutely certain we have enough funds to see it through to the end. 
 
Travis Johnson
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Raven, a good over-run estimate is 10% if you use a reputable contractor. I would be honest with the contractor and ask them, or get reference and ask those people. Yes it is inevitable that over-runs happen, but a good contractor keeps them in check...that is why you hire them.

Don't be too concerned that your estimate is cheaper then kit form. My uncle used to build houses and he was always under the cost of building double-wides and pre-built garages. Those are popular because of our instant society...

As for the apple tree...well there is always hope, but doing so much land clearing I will say that apple trees have VERY shallow roots, in fact probably the least rotted of all trees. They are not as bad as Oak though. Oaks go deeper, but they hate for their roots to be tickled. Touch them with an excavator and the whole tree will die. Apple Trees tolerate their roots being tickled, but it does not take much to flop them out of the ground either.

I will not spend too much time on this thought right now as it might be a waste of typing, but one thought I did have was the building of a fabric barn. You can buy them pretty cheap at around $7200 for the size you want from FarmTek. These are great barns IF you don't get high winds. I live on a hill so it would never work, but maybe for you Again I can go into more details, but won't until I am sure its something you might consider.

FarmTek Livestock Fabric Barns

 
r ranson
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We got in touch with the city.  Their bylaws say we fall into an exception where the barn fits under the federal regulations.  They quoted a building code we cannot find.  The conclusion is we need an architect, survey, and some other things which will basically double the costs of the barn.

So we talked with an architect and he tells a different story.  But he did give us some direction on where to start. 

The benefit of talking to so many professionals about the barn is we get to know we are on the right track. 

For example, they think the pitch of the roof is steep and going to make it harder to add shingles.  We say we want a metal roof.  Oh, well that much better and longer lasting.  But why so steep?  Because we are considering solar panel stickers on the roof, so we are thinking to match the angle of the roof to the latitude - which also happens to be the right angle for a major snow event.  This leads to them asking about solar and pointing out all the drawbacks of a system.  When we explain that we have experimented with solar on smaller scales, how affordable it is now, that this system is the next in a series of getting to know solar before retrofitting the house, that we spent the last 4 years watching the sun and choose a spot that only has shade during 1/2 hour for about 8 days mid-winter, the rest of the time it's full sun and that we are planning a trickle charge (or greater), vehicle axes, wind generator to supplement it in the winter.  We explain this and our past successes with solar, even in the winter, they can see why a steep roof will save a lot of money for the rest of the barn.  If we didn't have a steep roof, we would have to mount the solar panels on separate brackets, which would add weight to the roof which would...

I've also noticed that metal roofs are pretty good at dew collection and the ones we've had that have a steep enough angle, will drip that dew into a bucket.  Since we want to collect the rainwater from the roof, maybe dew would also be a good source of water in the summer - like a trickle charge.

One of the things we are doing right now is to calculate out the maximum electrical usage we may want in the barn.  Lights, boil a kettle, a small pump for the water from the rainwater cistern in the basement.  Maybe a trickle charge pump to fill a small (2 gallon) cistern in the loft which would gravity feed the handwash sink.  Or something for pumping water to the animals.  Enough juice for the sheerer to sheer the sheep.  That's the minimum.  But what if we could retrofit the tractor to electric?  So we add our dream stuff to the list too.  We plan to take this number and times it by four.  This is the amount of power our solar system will generate. 

 
r ranson
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Wow, everything goes so slowly. 

We had a site survey with elevation and stuff like that and now have an architect (who is also a builder) that's enthusiastic about barns and off-grid options.

Two potential problems with the city
1. we live in an earthquake zone, so things have to be over-built to make it to code.  They take the worst possible earthquake they could imagine then times the structural needs to withstand that earthquake by 2.5. This probably means we need to contract an engineer which is going to be expensive. 
2. the land is glacial tilth which is basically 6 inches of top soil (only 1/4 inch when we moved here, but thanks to the sheep, it's now more) and under that sand and rocks.  If we do one of those barns where the poles go into the ground, we need extra depth or width or something else to make certain it doesn't shift.

Of course, the same city is fine with having big concrete multi-level malls topped with offices and apartments over top of former estuary (they forced a lot of rivers underground about 100 years back and I think the city has forgotten where the water is) which is basically going to turn to jelly with the next Big One - but hey that's fine.  One little barn that isn't going to house humans requires so much paperwork that it would be faster to build it out of red tape. 


We'll find out next week if we can do it within our budget. 
 
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Hi Raven. Have you considered a barn based on shipping containers? This  eliminates much of the issue concerning earthquake and foundations. This is my favorite one off of the internet. I'm not sure where it is.

The hot building market around here, means that many builders are busy, and anyone who is any good, can charge quite a bit. There's not much we can do about that.

I often have perfectly good materials that are available cheaply, or for free. But, they all require the customer to do all labor concerning them. Many perfectly acceptable agricultural buildings, come up for free. I don't take those ones. I charge what the market will bear, and it allows me to charge for removal.
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Shipping Container Barn
 
r ranson
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That's a neat looking barn.  Good for tractor storage.  Probably not good for animals.

The first architect we talked with specialises in container construction.  He does some amazing stuff, but mostly for human habitation.  The biggest challenge with container construction in our part of the world is moisture control.  It needs enough airflow to prevent condensation build up on the inside which can lead to health problems.  Winter being so wet, it creates mildew challenges, summer being so hot, it risks the oven effect.  With the right design for the location (aka, situating windows in a way that captures the wind without being drafty) and if the building is being lived in by one or three humans, then it doesn't take much (if any) electricity to keep the airflow healthy. 

A couple of dozen sweaty sheep, some ducks and geese, their water, a llama of course, and we get a lot of moisture coming into the barn.  The animals breath, sweat, pee, all things that create moisture that has to go somewhere.  Wood, especially unfinished with gaps between the boards, is good at reducing moisture build up. 

We're thinking of board and batten construction.  This means we can get rough cut wood from the local mill that doesn't have to be all that dry.  This saves a lot of money.  It will also help us get around many of the challenges that come with other construction methods.  We know several people with barns built like houses (vapour barrier, plastic coating, insulation, blablabla.  They have one heck of a lot of upkeep due to airflow problems.  They run fans constantly and in the winter several dehumidifiers.  In other parts of the world we've lived, the barns were wood and they hand none of these problems.  A little bit drafty in the summer, yes.  But then again, those parts of the world had more rainfall than we do here.  I'm curious why local barns are made like houses when other locations they are made like barns?  Is it building code?  Appearances? 
 
Dale Hodgins
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It's all driven by officialdom. If you look at some of the older barns in the Cowichan Valley, they are just fine. Look at how the Coast Salish people built their longhouses. They were quite durable and contained no vapor barriers. When building codes first began, they existed to protect the public. I think now, they mostly exist to keep pencil pushers pushing and Industrial Products selling.
 
David Livingston
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In the UK there are companies that relocate old barns ( usually from France ) is that a thing where you are R ?

David
 
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Where I live there are companies that sell metal carports.  I have seen them at feed stores, pawn shops, along the road.  They have models where they can add sides, doors, windows ... what ever you want and just about any size you want.  There is a option where you can have raised legs which could be made to enclosed a loft.

We have had three of these built and are very happy with the construction and costs.  We opted for the heavier metal, bracing, etc.

Our first one was built to house the chicken house, tools and tractor.  It had the sides + back enclosed with the front open.

The second and third ones were built like an enclosed garage with a roll up + down garage like door.  2nd is a shop for DH and has his table saw and other tools plus two freezers. 3rd is strictly used for storage.  Mine all have dirt floors but I believe there is an option for a floor.
 
Dale Hodgins
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If I needed  to house that many sheep, I would excavate a portion of hillside, build a 3 wall structure with a roof, and cover the whole thing with pond liner and dirt. This would leave an open end facing south. This could have a tarp or door attached. I think I saw a picture of sepp holzer standing in a similar structure.

I wouldn't ask anybody if I could do it.

I can't imagine how I would spend more than $2,000.
 
r ranson
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The three-wall structure makes a great sheep shelter.  We are hoping to build some with reclaimed materials that can be skidded about with the tractor.  With the tin sides, we need about 1and 1/2 feet gap near the roof for sufficient airflow.  I wonder if an earthen structure would need as much.

The goals for the barn are more than just sheep shelter.  It's going to be a multi-use structure for just about every on farm activity except housing the humans. 

 
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Location: Clifton, Texas
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My first barn (shed) was a simple 8 X 8 structure with 6 sheets of plywood (2 on each of the threes sides), about 2 dozen 2x4's and a big tarp. It housed my tools, let me camp out of the rain, held my solar panels and housed my batteries and inverter. I built it in 3 days by myself, but two good & fast men could do it in a few hours. It served me well for months.

"Barn/shed 2.0" was built about 30 feet away and was about 300% larger, and took a month to build. When I got to the point where I needed the materials, I tore down shed 1.0 (it was held together with screws, not nails) and I used the materials to finish the next one.

You can keep "leap frogging" this idea forever.  It's *ALL* about which you have more of: time or money.



 
permaculture is a more symbiotic relationship with nature so I can be even lazier. Read tiny ad:
2018 Homesteader PDC (permaculture design course) & ATC (appropriate technology course) in Montana
https://permies.com/wiki/74470/permaculture-projects/Homesteader-PDC-permaculture-design-ATC
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