Sunday, October 25, 2009

Snow, greenhouses and sheep pens

Well, it snowed some on Friday and during that night and into Saturday. We had several inches on the ground Saturday morning. Wet and sloppy. Which is good really, because we’ve had a drought all summer. The pond is filling back up and the dry days of summer are getting to be but a distant memory. I am very thankful for the moister but, it does slow down the outdoor work.

We got new plastic on the green house and all weekend we’ve been working on getting the ends buttoned back up. We got some polycarbonate panels from those green houses we tore down in Rhinelander. I’m using them on the ends of our chicken house. Got a great deal on them since they are very pricey if they’re bought new. They are 3’ x 16’ long. The original owner had cut them down from 4’ wide to 3’. I just did a search for polycarbonate panels and found a new price at the greenhouseMegastore for $110.78 for a 48” x 16’ panel. We paid $200 for the whole green house. The polycarbonate panels ran the entire length of the 100’ green house on each side.

It was a major job tearing the green houses down however. If it weren’t for my Dad we wouldn’t have gotten it all taken down. There was three structures all together. We started tearing them down last year as mentioned in a past post in October of 2008. I got one of them torn down myself , friends got the other , and my Dad pretty much single handedly tore down the third one, (shown in the picture).

But, back to the topic of snow. This has been pretty unusual weather for us. It got so dry this summer that the lakes steams and ponds have shrunk considerably. Now in October we are getting rain and snow. All summer it was cool then come September it got warm. One of the warmest on record. Now it is getting like winter. Very unusual.

Yesterday morning was a challenge moving chicken pens and sheep pens in the snow. I built a moveable sheep pen back in the spring. I used 16’ cattle panels (an example of a cattle panel at left) and reinforced them with 2 x 4’s at the bottoms. The panels are all connected with “quick links” (shown in picture at right). I don’t have any pictures of the pen so I will try to describe it. I made a pen 32’ x 16’ long for the ewes and spring lambs. Then I attached another pen 16’ x 16’ to that for our two rams. That pen is divided in two, to keep the rams separated. The entire pen measures 16’ x 48’. I have chains attached to both ends and can pull it with my truck or Jeep either direction lengthwise. The 2 x 4’s are attached to the bottoms of each panel to give them rigidity. On each end of this structure I sandwiched 2 x 4’s at the bottom to give added strength for pulling. Those we’re put together with 4 inch bolts.

This might give you a vague description of what the sheep pen looks like. It held 17 sheep all together. I move it twice a day. I’m guessing it covered about 4 or 5 acres of pasture this summer. I’ve started back at the beginning by now. Actually I’m moving in the opposite direction now into grass that hasn’t been grazed because the previously grazed grass is not as rich this time of year. The un-grazed grass has some good greens in it since it is protected by the tall old dried out stuff. I’ll keep the sheep on that until the snows come for good.

This design has some kinks to be worked out of it. It works very good on smooth level ground. But, on uneven ground I broke several 2 x 4 boards. Also running over small saplings will break boards, which I did a couple times.
Then yesterday in the snow when I tried to move the pen I couldn’t get enough traction with the truck to pull it. The wheels kept spinning. So I went against my better judgment and tried getting a run at it and yanked the pen. Not a good idea because on about the third try I broke some boards. So I had to repair the pen yesterday before I could move it. Actually I did that later in the day and the snow was pretty much melted. I gave them hay in the morning until I could get to it. After I fixed the boards it pulled just fine on the snow-less ground. So lesson learned, I won’t be pulling it again in snow.
Another down side to this design is that the rams have pretty much destroyed their end of it. Especially Dakota our daddy ram. He is relentless. He rams the pen to try and get to his son Titan and he rams the pen to get to the ewes. Also Dakota and Titan bang heads through the dividing fence. A couple weeks ago they actually broke down the steel cattle panel dividing them and got in together. They proceeded to pound the daylights out of each other until I could get them separated. I repaired the panel with heavy wire and built a visual barrier with ½ inch green treated ply wood. That worked fine for the two boys but, then Dakota set his sites on the ewes and almost wreaked the steal panel between him and them. So then I attached another piece of plywood dividing Dakota from the ewes. This has worked to the present but, he still bangs on the plywood and has actually pounded a head sized hole in it between him and the ewes. I suppose next year I’ll keep the rams well away from the ewes in separate pens.

I learned about movable sheep pens from watching a Joel Salatin video. Works great as long as I can keep the pen together. What I built is my own design. I like using cattle panels because they are fairly light. Maybe going to 3, 16' panels long was too much. I really like keeping all the sheep together but, I might have to have a couple or three pens.
I know my description is a bit vague so I will try to get some pictures of the pen before the sheep go into their winter corrals. I should have gotten pictures at the beginning of the season since now it is pretty banged up looking. It would have been nice to take before and after pictures. But, the banged up version will definitely reflect reality. A whole season of heavy duty wear and tear.

Well, I guess this is about all I have time for, for now. I’m surprised that I have made this many posts as of late. It’s the shorter days and wet weather I reckon. More free time.

Until Next Time


Blogger Ryan said...

Stumbled upon this while looking for information on a movable type sheep pen that I am hoping to build. I have been looking at 52" high galvanized cattle panels online which were 16' long with 4ga wire, but was unsure of what I would need to get them to stand up. From what I read here it sounds like you have just stood them up with 2x4's on the bottom. I will certain be interested in seeing more when you have it available.


3:50 PM  
Blogger RL said...

Hello Ryan,

I'm not sure when I will be able to get pictures. It's been raining and snowing lately. But, yes they do stand up just fine when you put them in a square or rectangle. Even without the 2x4's. The 2x4's are for rigidity in pulling them with my truck. Last year I moved them all by hand. Had about 4, 16'x16' pens. I got tired of all the labor so I wanted something else. My design isn't perfected yet but, it has gotten me by all summer and into the Fall. Keep checking in and hopefully I'll have some more about it soon.

12:42 AM  

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