Covered Feeder

If you’ve been following my sporadic postings you know that the goats, Honey and Harriet, have eaten most, if not all, of the privet and wisteria available to them in the area I brought them back to clear. That means they’ve eaten all that they can reach or all that they’re willing to eat. A goat’s reputation for eating anything is, I’m sad to report, somewhat exaggerated.

This reputation, I think, stems from their willingness to eat things other ruminants won’t. Cows and horses and sheep prefer pasture, grass. Goats will live off pasture but what they really like are the leafy parts of scrubs and vines like privet, wisteria and honeysuckle. They’ll also nibble the bark off certain trees. There are quite a few things in my back lot that they won’t eat. At the moment there are quite a few 8 to 12 foot privet bushes that are bare up to about four feet.

As such, I’ve spent just about every weekend since November cutting down privet and stacking mounds that the goats could forage on. Once I got the area I intend to garden this spring cleared I realized that I was spending far too much of my labor just making sure the goats were fed. I still have ground vines to clear, ground to break, roots to remove and beds to build. If something doesn’t change I’ll never get it done.

My daughter, Bronwyn, rides horses once a week at a local stable. I had been looking into purchasing some bales of hay, but was a bit frustrated by the distance I’d have to travel. We contacted the stable owner and made an arrangement to buy five bales of hay.

Now here’s another things about goats. They won’t eat something that’s been on the ground too long. I think this comes from their complete lack of concern about where they go poop. I’ve often seen them poop and eat at the same time all the while standing on their food. Apparently goat brains are advanced enough to evolve a mechanism to keep them from eating too much of their own poop, but not enough to just stop pooping on their food.

Nonetheless, my brain is more evolved and I set forth to build a covered feeder, something I could set bales of hay on that would keep the hay off the ground and would be covered to keep the rain off as well.

I was excited about the project as I had lots of available lumber that I had scavenged when I was building the cold frames. More so because it was all untreated wood. That meant applying more of my evolved brain skills as I would have to be especially mindful of shedding water and preventing rot. I knew it wouldn’t last for ever but it would be a waste of time if I had to build a new one again next week.

Before we had pressure treated wood. the fine art of carpentry was all about the shedding of water. Construction techniques hinged on protecting seams and orienting unions so that water ran off your construction instead of standing and soaking into the wood and thereby causing rot. The whole reason that we can point to wooden structures, still standing, that are 100 or more years old is because the skill with which they were built and their ability to shed water.

Rest assured, I have no delusions of the potential antiquity of my covered feeder but I would like it to last a year or two.

In the pictures that follow you can see some of the steps I took to build the frame and roof for the goats new feeder. I ran out of daylight the first Sunday I worked on it and had to wait until the following Sunday to finish the roof.

Rafter’s are, by the way, the bane of my existence. I used up several feet of 2×4 getting the rafters “right” and only when I had finished did I realize that the end rafters I’d used to set the ridge board with didn’t match the others. Seeing as I was out of 2×4 at this point I just went with it. Just another “learning opportunity,” right?

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