Grit Blogs > Letters From Alabama

Reclaiming a Small Homestead

The Historic FoodieThere is an expression in the South, “Too many irons in the fire,” and we currently live up to that sentiment with continuing to update and upgrade the place (outbuildings, fences, porches, etc.), raise and house a lot of chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, guineas, plant a small orchard (along with things like Jerusalem artichokes and asparagus) while trying to reclaim some old existing fruit trees, etc. The list is almost endless.

There is an L-shaped privacy fence around the back patio and we decided to hook on to the back side of it, adding three sides, to create a larger chicken/duck/guinea pen. That sounds like a simple task except that, like everything else, you have to fix something before you can fix what you actually want to work on. The end post on the wooden fence was rotten at ground level so that had to be dug out and replaced first. That is done, and now we can start putting up the pen. I’m sure the birds will appreciate a larger, permanent enclosure and house.

A while back when I tried to dig a hole I discovered there was concrete underneath the grass down the side of the potting shed so, being a classic type A personality (or obsessive compulsive, whichever you prefer), it bugged the crap out of me until I could uncover that concrete pad. The grass is so thick, tough and tangled, I literally had to cut it then lift it out, which was more than I bargained for but it’s done and it looks awesome. At some point we can install the outdoor sink we want there and have a nice concrete pad to stand on when using it.

Said potting shed had tilted forward over the years before we bought the place so that there was a 4-inch drop from the back wall to the front. We used 6-by-6-by-16s as leverage poles to raise the front of the building up enough to level it. I climbed a couple of steps up a ladder, then carefully and slowly turned and sat on the end of the 6-by-6 while Martin wiggled concrete blocks underneath the front of the building until it was level all around. Now I can walk upright inside without tilting like a grazing mountain goat.

Before 

Another after shot

After

I painted the inside of the potting shed – not so much to look pretty as to lighten up the very dark wooden interior. I was thrifty and used thinned out leftover paint from the interior of the house and gave it more of a whitewash than an actual paint job. It is much brighter and lighter inside, which will make working in there much more pleasant. I was quite the contortionist half standing on the ladder and half swinging off a rafter to reach the ceiling corners. Next up: a new layer of plywood on the floor.

Weekend before last I slapped on a coat of barn red paint on the outside and this past weekend I painted the trim white. The “before and after” photos show the transformation. It went from unusable to quite nice for the cost of a gallon of paint. There is an old barn on the property that will eventually get the same treatment, and the chicken, duck, goose, turkey, and guinea shelters will sport the same color scheme. It is amazing how much satisfaction I get from reclaiming the old features, and Martin is doing an awesome job of building new shelters for our birds. Life is Great! 

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