In celebration of our first hen laying an egg, I thought I’d share what we did to revive the chicken coop on our acreage.
We are fortunate to have several buildings on our property that once served as shelter for farm animals. Though for many years, they have provided protection for a variety of wild animals passing through. Mice. Woodchucks. Possums. Cats. Toads. Who knows what else. We’ve had our fair share of battles ridding our place of these animals, mice and woodchucks, especially. The more we address needed repairs on the buildings, the more we’re able to protect them and our stuff from critters.
What started as a simple ramp repair on the chicken coop turned into us fully transitioning it from storage to a comfy home for laying hens. The ramp was completely rotted out. We were one more trip into the building from it collapsing under our feet. Wood rot is one of my least favorite things and has haunted me at our acreage. Our buildings are old and impressively sturdy – but none are free from wood rot. As annoying as it is, I have learned a lot about what it is and how to repair it. I’m still working on the “how to prevent it” part…
I tore away all the rotted wood to see what I was working with. I added a fresh 2x4 to rest the new boards on. I also found some bricks to put at the bottom of the ramp to keep the wood up off the ground, preventing it from getting and staying wet – leading to rot. Our home came as is with everything included, so most times I have a lot of supplies I need at my fingertips. In the case of the ramp, I had a leftover 2x4, there were three flawless, thick pieces of barn wood in the coop, and I used some bricks that were given to me from a torn down outdoor fireplace.
I cut the boards to size with my circular saw, screwed the 2x4 piece to the building and then the barn wood planks to the top of the 2x4. I used long screws throughout, two screws in each board securing them to the 2x4. To keep the slabs of wood together, I stapled three thin pieces of wood – looked like old moldings of some sort – horizontally across the three boards. I hoped this would prevent the wood from drifting away from each other and help the hens get up the ramp when it was slick. I left enough room in between the barn wood for a little air to circulate through, again, hoping to prevent rot.
Once the ramp was finished, there wasn’t much more to do to the building because it is in very good shape. I raked any tree debris off the roof, caulked and painted the windows, swept the floor, knocked down some spider webs, and caulked any holes (it has a metal roof and siding). We also ended up adding a turbine vent to the roof so there was a little bit more air circulation.
The next item on the “to do” list was to outfit the building with all of the things hens need to live a content coop life. Nesting boxes, roosts, a feeder, and waterer. I received hand me down waterers from a family member, so just had to pick up a feeder. I chose the largest one because I’m lazy and want to refill it as little as possible! I chose to suspend both the waterer and feeder a few inches from the ground by hanging them from the ceiling using chains and S hooks I had.
In Iowa, it gets pretty cold starting in the Fall. Beginning in October, we put up a heat lamp on a timer for the ladies and hooked up a heated drinker base so their water wouldn’t freeze. This is the base we purchased and really like it.
For the roosts, I placed some random items around to get me started – a ladder, some wooden pallet type things, a step stool, a blanket rack, a tiered plant holder. None of which I think the hens like, so I’m figuring out something new at the moment. One of the roosts they do like is one I put by the window. I used two curtain rod hooks and a broomstick. I placed it just under the window and I find one or more of them on it each morning.
The nesting boxes were something I researched quite a bit, but ended up doing my own thing (hoping it would work). For the most part, I used what I had that was just collecting dust in the coop. I affixed a large piece of plywood to the wall. To that, I connected four wooden crates with the top two wood strips removed from the front of each of them. Those came from Menards. I read that it is bad if hens start roosting in/on the nesting boxes, so I ended up using simple shelf brackets and boards to create 45-degree angle hoods over the boxes. The last thing I added was a little ramp for them to use. Not sure that they do, but it was something I had that fit perfectly, creating the cutest little corner in the coop!
I have had no issues with them roosting in the boxes. I put hay and a ping pong ball in each one and they have been laying in the boxes. The ball is supposed to resemble an egg and help guide them to laying where you want them to.
As a side note, I chose to put hay down to make cleaning out the coop easier. I also wanted it for my garden to help the soil nutrient balance. I read chickens like to scratch at the ground, so sometimes I’ll hide mealworms around in the hay. I think of it as a fun little game for them.
The last thing we did was put a fence up around the coop. I bought 7 foot heavy duty deer fencing and 8 foot t-posts to use. It worked for a bit, until a critter bit a hole through it. We ended up reinforcing just the bottom part of the fence with 2-3 foot tall chicken wire. That did the trick. Landscaping staples and zip ties are two of my favorite garden and décor supplies. We secured the fencing to the ground with the staples and to the stakes with zip ties. Super simple and easy to take down if we need to.
The door connected to the fence so we can get in is crafted out of two tall fence posts that were chilling in the woods on our property and our old storm door. The posts were put into place using cement and we attached the door to the posts using its original hinges and long screws. I knocked the glass out of the door and covered the openings with deer fencing. We attached a couple of slide bolt locks to keep the door closed.
The hens are little rock stars. As of this post, all three are laying like crazy. We can get a dozen eggs over the course of a couple days. They seem happy in their space and we’ve enjoyed watching them. We’re not friendly with each other necessarily, but instead like to observe each other from afar! They’re great eaters. Produce doesn’t go to waste anymore. Anything close to spoiling is tossed into their pen and it disappears quickly – especially pumpkins! It’s turning out to be a very nice partnership overall, allowing us to live a little more sustainably and toss out less waste. It’s also nice to share eggs with our family, friends, and neighbors!
I love to create my own trellises! I’ve been known to make them out of pallets, chicken wire, and even baby cribs. In trying my hand at growing snap peas for the first time this gardening season, I looked around online for trellis ideas. I found an idea via HGTV that was both fun and cheap to make, so I put my own spin on it.
DISCLAIMER – Don’t mind all the weeds in my photos. I was waiting for our rototiller to make its way back to me…it looks much better now!
One hoop is used for the top, one hoop is used for the bottom of the trellis. I started by attaching the hula hoops to the garden stakes. I wrapped twine tightly around both items, for the most part using a figure 8 pattern. On the bottom, leave about six inches so you can sink the stakes into the dirt to keep it in place. On the top, make sure while you are wrapping some twine crosses over the top of the stake to keep the hoop from slipping down
I placed the structure where I wanted it in the garden. I then took the twine, tied the end to the bottom hoop, and started looping it around the hula hoops - running it from the top hoop, to the bottom hoop in a zig zag pattern. After I got all the way around, I tied off the end of the twine.
I have many critters this year, so I also have cages around both pea plants that have acted as trellises in addition to the one I created.
The structure has been solid and all has stayed in place, even in the bad storms/high winds we’ve had. The peas have been growing nicely, wrapping themselves around the twine.
See, I told you I got rid of the weeds! Here is what the trellis looks like in our garden.
I love decorating outdoors for Summer because it mostly entails lots of flowers!
Here are a few vignettes and flower arrangements I pulled together this season to make the exterior of our home warm, inviting, and colorful.
I really enjoy looking at homes when I'm driving to wherever I'm going. I like to look at the exterior styles, love when I can catch a glimpse of the inside (not in a creepy way, I promise), and am always looking at outdoor decor. There are just so many ideas out there to draw inspiration from!
I'm a big fan of porches. I recently drove by a home that had colorful pennant banners hanging from the ceiling of their large, wraparound porch. It looked so adorable, I couldn't get it out of my head...
We're tight with our budget right now, so I wanted to find a cheap option to execute this idea ASAP. Without any luck finding pre-made banners at discount stores, I decided to make my own with two items I already had at home: twine and burlap.
Here are all the supplies you'll need:
I knew I had two, eight foot strands of twine to fill with pennants, so I cut quite a few to start and then started laying them out along the twine I had measured out.
Once I had all of the pennants cut, I started weaving the twine through the top of the pennants:
After I had all of the pennants on the twine, I put a dot of all-purpose glue where the twine and burlap intersected.
When the glue was applied to every pennant, I hung the banners up to dry:
And here's the final product on our front porch:
I think these turned out so cute and because they are plain burlap, they will definitely look good with my Fall decor, but will also look good during other seasons throughout the year! They would also work well indoors.
Although growing a fruit and vegetable garden has been extremely enjoyable and rewarding, one downside where we live are the critters. We have cats, birds, mice, wild turkeys, bunnies, woodchucks, bugs and deer - that I know of. They have been quite kind in leaving my plants alone for the most part, but I have had to put some measures in place to keep them away.
1. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper is especially good to keep away rabbits. They can't take the heat! I sprinkle cayenne pepper on the leaves and around the base of each plant. I've been doing this for years, even when we lived in town, and it works every single time.
2. Irish Spring Soap
This type of soap is good for keeping deer away. Deer HATE the smell of Irish Spring. We have one doe that lurks around in our garden area and it seems like this is effective in keeping her away. I use about one full bar each time I reapply in my garden, which is normally every 2-3 days or after it rains. An old cheese grater that I found in my attic has worked perfectly for grating the soap around each plant.
I read that having some type of "movement" in your garden deters animals from approaching. We placed pinwheels around the perimeter of the garden. They catch the slightest breeze and are rarely still. I found the ones we are using at Dollar Tree for $1 each and they've held up very nicely through some very strong storms.
4. Wind Chimes
I love the sound of wind chimes, so there is no shortage of them at our house! We placed small wind chimes around both my fruit/vegetable garden and wildflower plot. Animals are supposed to be frightened by the sound of the chimes and birds do not like items that are reflective. I was able to find both the wind chimes and stands for the chimes from Dollar Tree, again, for $1 a piece.
Planting marigolds is a traditional gardening tip. Marigolds supposedly mask the sent of vegetables, confusing garden pests. We planted them around the entire fruit/vegetable garden. They must also be delicious, because the deer started nibbling on a couple. I fixed that by utilizing tip number two and sprinkled some Irish Spring around them, which did the trick!
6. Tomato Cages + Tin Cans
I planted two established perennials in my wildflower plot that will be good for attracting butterflies. What I didn't know is that they were also good for attracting deer! My solution was to place tomato cages around the plants, hanging tin cans from twine around the outside. I wanted the cage to block its head from the plant and for the cans to make sound to scare it away. I'm happy to report that this has worked and both plants are coming back!
I hope these tricks help you keep critters out of your garden as much as possible! If you have any good tips for keeping wildlife from eating flowers and or fruits/vegetables from your garden(s), I'd love for you to share them in the comments below!
I'm sure every gardener will agree, every "battle" with the wildlife has been worth it. Because this is what you get in the end:
And this is how big your smile gets to be:
My DIY projects lately have been structured and in workshop settings. The good thing about attending workshops for the projects I'm interested in making is that I 1) learn skills from experts who know what they're doing and 2) get exposure to tools I've never worked with before. Both are so valuable in expanding my ideas and allowing me to realize what I'm capable of making with my own two hands.
At this month's Do It Herself workshop at Home Depot we made a Vertical Succulent Garden. You can find step-by-step details here!
This was a simple project, but I still learned a lot. My brother-in-law's girlfriend, LeeAnn, came along to this workshop and we had fun putting this project together as a team!
I encourage you to watch Home Depot's official tutorial, but I'll give you a rundown of how simple this project was to make:
4. Pack with dirt (and I mean PACK it).
5. Close back with nails and piece of wood.
6. Add screw eyes to the top of the frame.
7. Add rope or chain to hang.
8. When ready to plant succulents or flowers, cut small
hole in weed barrier and insert plants.
As you can see. Pretty easy. We were able to finish this project in around an hour. LeeAnn got to take it home with her and before we left she bought the hardware she'll need to hang it (it's HEAVY) and some flowers to plant in it. It was the perfect project to kick-off spring!
My Christmas decor obsession continues! This time, I upcycled a sled from Stuff Store in Waterloo.
Here's what I used on this piece:
Here's what I started with:
It's a great, solid piece that I got for $12.00. Quite a score in my eyes.
I used my green exterior paint to cover the blue paint that was on the sled.
Once I chose the saying I wanted to use, I wrote it out on the sled in pencil. I then traced the pencil lines with my white exterior paint using a fine brush.
When I finished the lettering (which I am still learning to do with paint, so be kind!) I had my husband take a look at it. He suggested I add some imagery. After some thought, I decided to add two "happy little trees" (Bob Ross was literally playing in the background) and some star/snowflake shapes.
To top it all off, I added a strand of $5 battery powered jingle bell lights from Target for a pop of color.
Here's the final product:
I think it turned out so cute! It only took a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon to complete and cost under $20 for a piece that is just what I wanted for this corner of our porch.
My challenge to you - when you are at the store, start looking at items for their potential. Just because the item isn't exactly what you want in that moment, think about how you can make it so!
My head has been spinning with Christmas decoration ideas since we moved to our new home. For my birthday, we explored one of my favorite places - downtown Cedar Rapids. They have such a great variety of antique, thrift, and re-purposed item shops. At one shop we went to, I was inspired by their greenery arrangement in an antique wash tub. The next day, I had a pretty Christmas-themed wash tub of my own sitting outside our house!
I needed the following supplies (but didn't do a good job photographing them):
Assembly doesn't take long. I started by hooking the S-Hook to the edge of the tub and to the bow for hanging. A great place to look for holiday decor right now is at consignment/thrift shops. I got the metal bow I used from the Salvation Army for $4.00!
I headed into our yard and cut small branches from two different evergreen trees. I'm hoping this greenery lasts awhile. I've never used live greenery, so it will be a learning experience! I'm sure you can find artifical greenery at the store, but I obviously chose the route of least cost. I have the luxury (and curse) of a backyard full of greenery!
I placed my planter pot with rocks in the bottom of the wash tub, right in the center. I then took my greenery and arranged in the tub. I stuck some branches into the pot with rocks for stability. The rocks also made it easier to arrange the branches. I took other branches and placed them around the outside of the planting pot. The end result looks "wild" - which is what I wanted.
Finishing touches included a square piece of burlap, three sprigs of artificial red berries, and one branch of artificial pinecones and Cardinals.
Here are some of the other Christmas touches I've added around our home!
I searched and searched for Christmas ideas for the decorative area I have on top of the hill as you turn into our driveway. I didn't find a solution that 100% worked for/spoke to me, so I combined some of the visuals I saw into a project that was the best fit for our space.
I ended up drawing inspiration for this project from a pallet Christmas tree I saw and made one out of wood lath instead.
Here's what you'll need:
I started out by taking a piece of lath to the space I wanted to put the Christmas tree in and marking the width of how long the bottom piece should be with a pencil. Once I had the bottom piece marked, I planned to mark each piece of lath 1/1.5 inches in from the first mark (and so on) as I worked my way to the top of the tree.
I laid out my lath one piece at a time, starting with the bottom and started measuring/marking where my cuts would be. You'll need a good amount of floor space.
Once I had each piece marked, I cut the lath using a circular saw.
As I cut each piece, I made sure to stack them back in the same order.
Once I was finished with the "branches" of the tree, I used another piece of lath to create the "trunk." I sawed a point on the bottom of the trunk to help secure it in the ground when it came time.
Because lath is pretty lightweight, I chose to simply glue the branches to the trunk. I used Gorilla Glue, which is extremely strong glue. With this type of glue, it is important to get the surfaces that you are gluing together wet first. I used a damp washcloth.
Also, with Gorilla Glue you are encouraged to clamp items together or use another type of heavy pressure to press items together. I clamped the top piece and used full paint cans down the center to press down on the rest of the lath. It worked really well.
I let this project dry overnight and painted it the next morning. I used a green, matte, outdoor paint. I dressed it up a little more by adding some dots to mimic lights or ornaments with yellow, high gloss, outdoor paint.
We bought a metal stake to reinforce the tree and used 20 gauge metal wire to attach the tree to the stake. We pounded both the stake and the tree into the ground before connecting with the wire. You can also see in the photo below that the Gorilla Glue expands really nicely to ensure a good bond.
Here's the final product! I ended up adding a red bow to the top for an additional pop of color and to tie it more closely to the decor I put in the wheelbarrow.
This post will be part instructional and part me gushing over how much I have come to love rocks. We found yet another amazing treasure on The Farm: a collection of over 5,000 individually cataloged and wrapped rocks. Each one more unique and beautiful than the one before. It has been a labor of love unwrapping every rock, reading the notes contained inside the packaging, and placing them into the rock garden.
After finding these rocks, I couldn't bare to leave them wrapped up in a dark, abandoned building. Someone (the brother of the person who previously owned our home) spent his life on this collection. I wanted to showcase it. Most of the rocks are too beautiful for landscaping, they should all be put into glass boxes on display, but that's unfortunately not realistic for us to do! Using them to spruce up the exterior of the house was the next best thing I could think of.
The first step I took in creating my rock garden (after finding and being inspired by the rocks) was to clear out the space I wanted to start with. That included taking out a small retaining wall, digging out several unwanted plants, and spraying weed killer to map out the area.
I didn't lay out a weed barrier. I am not a believer in weed barriers. I'm a believer in weed killer. When weeds peek through, I spray them until they die. I'll let you make your own decision on whether you put down a barrier first or not.
Once the area was clear, I started laying in the rocks. Big rocks to the front, filling in with the smaller rocks.
I stopped part way up the slight hill because I knew I wanted to plant a bush among the rocks. I chose a Hydrangea bush and planted that in the middle of the rock garden. Now is a good time to purchase bushes and trees because it is the end of the season. I was able to purchase the bush for a little over $20.
For additional visual appeal in the area, I also added two small solar lights and a chair with a bucket of flowers on it. I was able to find the chair and the bucket in our "rusty gold" stash that came with the house. The plants were under $10 combined.
After I had all of these elements in place, I filled in the rest of the rocks! It took me several days and nights to complete this project due to the unwrapping process, but I absolutely loved how it turned out - and hope you do, too!