Friday, October 25, 2013


Stockpanel shelters are very useful to me: they are inexpensive, quick to construct, and can be taken apart and reassembled in a different location or configuration. And this is key: as long as I can drive fenceposts and out-wrestle the wonderful but awkward 16' stock panels, I can put up these arched bungalows by myself – Requirement #1 for most projects here.

Recognize these tykes? It's Violet and Lily of the Valley, at just 5 days old. Their Mama, LeShodu, gave birth to them in that crude-but-cozy, rainproof, bug-screened bungalow.
The basic idea is simple, and you've probably seem similar shelters used for everything from extending a growing season to housing a flock of hens. Google "stock panel hoop house" and prepare to be inspired. Many designs are much nicer than mine, and maybe someday I'll come up with something that does more than keep the goats comfortable. But that will be Someday.

"2x4 local roughcut: Check."

Meanwhile, despite the rough-and-ready appearance of my goat bungalows, the goats seem to enjoy them. I've built them wide and low, narrow and tall, one panel or two panels deep, with and without gates, with rain flaps and bugscreens, etc., etc. With each new shelter, I tinker with some aspect of the design and then spend the next few seasons watching to see what works structurally (especially with snow), and what features the goats utilize.

My goats have multiple options for shelter, but generally spend most of their time outside anyway - even on the current cold nights, for example, they are choosing to sleep out in the paddock. But rain is a problem. Goats don't like to get wet and it is not healthy for them, so it's very important that they can get under cover when they choose. And since unnecessary squabbling between the goats puts an equally unnecessary line between my eyebrows, I'd rather just build extra shelters than have goats pushing each other around over one "best" spot.

Violet and Lily again - all grown up! - assessing materials.

One problem with shelters built on the ground: during long wet seasons, the ground gets soggy. Continually adding extra hay for bedding is costly, wasteful, and not terribly effective anyway. I tried putting a piece of plywood under the bedding in the a-frame chalet last year, but it wasn't much of an answer - turned into sort of a muck-and-plywood sandwich.

This Spring, I added a 4" high plywood platform in the middle of one bungalow, and got much closer to a solution. The platform has been both popular with the goats (LeShodu considers it her Royal Dais, but others have a turn) and effective in regards to mud. Also - bonus! - it created a very easy way to collect straight goat poop every day. A couple of swipes and a shovelful of pellets go straight into the nearest garden, a few strides away.

"Post-driver: Check."

My latest design modification is something I've never seen or heard of, and it may or may not be a good idea. We'll see! It's a simple wooden floor that is tied in to the stockpanel "walls" for maximum stability and function, and which is also raised slightly off the ground to reduce the time the wood will be in contact with moisture during wet seasons. (Snow is a different matter, but also not a real concern in terms of soggy ground.)

This week I built the prototype.


Of course, I had help. Lots and lots of help.

I used a couple of lead ropes to hold the bent panel in an arch while I fitted the first joist. Tsuga tried several approaches to untying that knot. Can you see the determined set of her jaw?

The inspectors, carefully checking clearances:
Acer, the ceiling, Betula, the floor.

Not quite finished, but time for a Test Drive!


One goat...

Two goats...

Three goats and a fourth on the way...

I built this floored protoype as a single-panel shelter, to limit the time and materials wasted if it's a bust. I thought maybe one of the does would claim it as a "private luxury apartment" for herself and her kid/s. It will be funny if a big group decides to abandon the larger shelters and cram themselves into this small one!

Let the testing begin.