Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sheep Tents

For the past couple of days, Ken and I have been making new sheep tents in the breeding paddocks.

Because our winters are relatively mild, mostly all the sheep need is a place to stay out of the rain or sleet. In the past, we've usually just stretched a tarp between some T-posts to make a roof. We haven't tried to build permanent sheep sheds, because we don't always want them in the same places, so we try to keep these as cheap and portable as possible.

It's worked out okay, except that up on the hill here where we live, we get a lot of wind, so usually by the end of the winter, the tarps have flapped themselves to shreds and we have to buy new ones. Sometimes they've flapped themselves to shreds during a storm, and we've been out there freezing our fingers off in an ice storm, trying to refasten the tarps that are trying to blow away in the wind. Not fun! We'd like to avoid that if at all possible.

So this year, we decided to add a little extra structure to the sheep tents, by putting "beams" along the edges of the tarps to hold them steady and prevent them from flapping in every wind.
For the beams, I came up with the idea of using these 2x2s we had lying around, and Ken made this awesome little sheep tent yesterday. Notice on the right-hand corner, there's a piece of plywood fastened between two trees:

That piece of plywood is laced to the trees with baling twine, to give us a place to mount the sheep's mineral feeder where it (hopefully) won't get rained on. This whole setup is Ken's invention. The mineral feeder is fastened to a 2x4 which rests in two metal brackets. If I need to take the mineral feeder out to clean it, all I have to do is lift it up off its brackets. It works great, except last year we had a ram who kept butting the feeder out of its brackets. He's in the freezer now, so he won't be doing that anymore!

Here's Pandora, testing out the mineral feeder in its new, convenient location:

The second sheep tent, which we built today, gave us some problems because the place where we wanted to put it had a lot of rocky ledge underneath it that made it impossible for Ken to drive all the T-posts where he wanted them, although he did wear himself out trying.

In the end we had to compromise on the design of the second tent. We didn't have any more 2x2s, but I found some long metal support pieces from a collection of industrial-type shelves that was left in our shed when we moved here. Ken bolted some of them together to make them long enough, and fastened them between the posts. In the one place where he couldn't drive a post into the rock, we ended up tying that corner to a tree to stabilize it.

The comical-looking thing about sheep tents is that, unlike normal buildings, you don't WANT them to be level. You want one side to be lower than the other side, and one corner of the low side to be even lower. That ensures better drainage of rain off the tarp roof, and helps reduce water pooling on the roof as the tarp sags.

It doesn't completely eliminate water pools though. Sometimes after a big rainstorm, I'll have to go out and push on the underside of the tarp to drain the swimming pool off the roof!

We have one more sheep tent to build in the last breeding pen tomorrow. The tent in that pen sort of survived the winter because it's in a more sheltered location, so it will only need some reinforcing and readjusting.

After that, it'll be time to get back to work on our stallion Senter's shelter again.

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