I'll have to blog about some of the improvements inside the house soon, but one of the other improvements that took place this winter was a feeding barn improvement. The critters (3 goats and 2 sheep) have a sleeping barn and a feeding barn. They sleep in a barn that is attached to the back of the house. It's a suitable size and comfortable for them, but the building used to be what's called a "summer kitchen." This was a building used in the summer months for cooking tasks, which meant the rest of the house stayed cooler. Usually a summer kitchen was built over a stream, so that foods could be lowered through a hatch door into the stream to be kept cool. That means that a summer kitchen has a floor in it. The "floor" in my barn was therefore about 2 feet above ground level. Although the floor is long gone, there is no door at floor level now - the doors are accessed by steps as Caramel demonstrates below (the steps themselves were an improvement that I'll have to blog about once I get some pictures). Also, the sleeping barn has "people" sized doors and not barn doors.
The upshot of all this is that I can't get a large bale of hay into that barn.
There are a couple of other smaller barns, but the problem with the smaller barns was that a hay bale couldn't fit through the original doors on those either. Here's the smaller barn earlier this winter, prior to it being modified.
When I finally managed, after many months of searching, to find someone to help chunk some of the 8 foot hardwood logs in my yard, they were also able to widen the hay barn door. This means that I can now push a large bale of hay into the feeding barn, using the tractor, and the animals can still get around it. I know it seems like a small thing, and it only took about half an hour to cut the opening out, but it was really a big relief for me, and a tremendous help for feeding large bales. There are two advantages to this small hay-feeding barn. First, the animals seem to recognize that this is a feed area, not a sleep area, so they don't sleep and poop on this hay. Second, it reduces fire risk. Large bales of hay that get eaten slowly, and which get rained on, can begin to compost in the centre. This means that the middle of the bale can become really hot, and eventually start a fire. This nearly happened last year here, but fortunately the smoking bale was discovered and moved away from the barn (yes, the one connected to the house, and yes, that would have been very bad!) The bale is somewhat protected from the elements in this smaller feeding barn, but also, if it does catch on fire, it's relatively far away from the house and much less of a risk.
Here was the barn after the modification and after the first large bale of hay was delivered.
Today, though, it was a tight fit! This was an especially large bale. I used the tractor bucket to squash it a bit on the top, and then I gently manoeuvred the bale into the barn. There's a small space for the critters to creep around on the right hand side. As they begin to eat this bale, I'll be able to push it in a bit further, but for now, it's staying where it is!
I'm extremely grateful to live in a region that is not suffering the hay shortages common to so many other areas, especially south of the border. This bale, which is primarily timothy hay mixed with alfalfa, and a little clover, was $30. It's taller than me when on its side as shown in the barn doorway, and I'm over 5'10" in my barn boots, so that's a big bale with a small price. I'm very lucky to have such reasonably priced hay that is Fezzik approved! (Edited to say that for those who are unfamiliar with the price of hay, this bale in many places would be over $150, which is why I am so very grateful.)