How to cut a barrel…

Well, last week, we acquired a barrel. It was a food grade used barrel. I had in mind to make a bunch of raised beds out of a barrel half.

Now you might wonder… what the heck does she want raised beds for when she has 3 acres?

Good question! Because it’s harder to bend over all the time and work in the dirt!!! And also, I want to be able to grow some herbs that are terribly good at being evasive, like mints and such. This way I can have a barrel of this mint and that mint and they will stay manageable.

Now I was going to try and build wooden raised beds and all, but money being tight and seeing just how quickly those deteriorate… my beds at the Moby were not worth saving!!! The wood was all just rough and rotting. I really didn’t want to use pressure treated wood, and the wood was just expensive. So I started to think about alternative solutions to quick, cheap and long lasting raised beds.

Since these barrels in my neck of the woods run between $5 and $10 dollars, I thought, if you cut them, drill a few drainage holes, pop in some compost and dirt, poof! You have a pretty durable raised bed for like a few bucks! And they are actually movable, though mine got a little heavy after they had 100 pounds of dirt in them!!!

Anyway… I got my barrel and was ready to cut it and I went to the net and looked for a little guidance and there was really none to be found! Sure, there are lots of people talking about what to do with the barrels AFTER you cut them, but not too much about the actual cutting. So I decided to just give it a try with the limited tools we had and see how it went. And this is our story!

First up… measure your barrel and find the half way mark. Now, I did consider cutting my barrel into thirds, and just using the middle ring to contain plants in the ground, but then I read somewhere that once you cut that middle ring out, it becomes very floppy and not too rigid. And then you’d have pretty shallow ends. I wanted mine to be pretty tall, so that when I get really old, I won’t have to bend down tooooo much. (thinking ahead! Haha)

We took a fairly large drill bit and drilled a few holes into the side of the barrel, so that we could slip a jigsaw blade into the hole.

Now, one thing to consider, is that whatever was in your barrel, is probably going to leak out all over your nice clean screen porch floor. In this case, agave syrup.

Don’t ask me how I know that. Ahem.

So take it outside before you start to cut. You’ll thank me.

We just cut as straightly as we could, slowly turning the barrel and connecting the drill holes. I suppose in hind sight, you really only need one drilled hole to get you going, but it was just fun to drill holes in something, so, hey, whatever works good for you!

Who the heck uses 55 gallons of agave syrup? See note above about cutting outside. Agave syrup is very very sticky. And ants like it a lot.

Don’t ask me how I know that.

And poof! You have two perfectly good raised bed barrels, ready for planting!!! They do come in a lot of colors… but I thought the green would be nice. I might get a few white ones… green and white would look nice… or blue… Oh yeah… if you’re going to use that for plants, it’s probably a good idea to drill a few drainage holes in the bottoms…

We didn’t drill a ton of drainage holes because I like the idea that they will retain a nice reserve of water in the bottom and keep the bed moist. And if I feel that they are holding too much, we can always pop a few more in on the bottom sides to let water weep out.

Here is one that we planted all with vining peas! We made a little teepee for all the plants to climb up from some bamboo poles and a tie-wrap. Pretty simple. The plan is to have them eventually ring in our whole garden, sort of like a dog barrier/fence. And I hope that maybe it will keep little bunnies as well from trespassing. Of course, right now, two are hardly a barrier. We’ll start with a line of them at one side and see how they fare. I suspect I could easily do about 6 more barrels, cut in two for a side.

And the nice thing is that since my garden area is suspect to flooding… the raised bed barrels will be fine. And as it might take me a few years to keep adding a lot of good compost and dirt to the area, the barrels will ensure that perennial plants such as a lot of herbs and say, strawberries, blueberries and raspberries get a little protection and don’t go nuts spreading all over the place.

At least that’s the plan!!!

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Bucka Roo Saves the Day!

“What’s a few tail feathers when my ladies are concerned?”

We had just come home from getting some dirt for our raised bed containers when Jessy decided to let Evee out in the dog yard.

I was in the kitchen putting away a few groceries we had picked up when I heard her scream at the dog and it was not a good scream. It was a Jessy in pure panic scream and I knew what was up… Evee had gotten out of the screen porch and was after the chickens. She is fixated on the chickens and just can’t stand it when they are too close to the house.

I fly out the door and see Jessy chasing after Evee who is chasing after a flock of chickens, with Bucka in the pack, running and flapping for the barn.

But all the sudden, Bucka gets a backbone and stops and turns to face the dog once he sees his ladies have gotten close to the barn. It was a purely unselfish act and he was ready to take on this bounding beast of terror. He got rolled by the pup, and came up fighting and managed to scare the dog pretty good, as she got a bunch of tail feathers in the skirmish as well as a face of rooster claw.

Well, she backed off pretty quick and Jessy was right there, trying so hard not to scream commands in panic, and try and sound like a good alpha owner and Evee went into her down position and stayed as Bucka rushed off towards the barn to get to his women.

Jessy caught Evee quickly, which is not normal, and actually a good sign that she’s FINALLY starting to get the whole off leash command thing, because I KNOW she wanted nothing more than to go back and chase some more chickens! And I was so proud of Jessy, because she’s still not totally cool with being too close to the chickens, but she adores them as we all do and would just be upset if her dog had hurt them.

Well Maggie had come running as well, at this point, she was out in the garden putzing and we started to look for the girls and Bucka. We found all the girls but one, in the barn, on the roost, all puffed up but calming down. We talked with them and gave them a little crack corn and just tried to show them it was okay. But we couldn’t find Mildred anywhere!!! She had been right along side of Bucka in the dash for the barn and we were concerned that she might have gotten separated from them all, and possibly hurt. And we couldn’t find Bucka!

I was concerned when he didn’t come when I called him, he usually does. We fanned out, calling him and looking for signs. FInally we located him in the poultry barn! Over by the garden. He must have gotten in at the back barn that we call the pig barn, since that door was open in the back. He was walking around on the concrete shelves, all puffed up and still a little aggitated. But he looked fine from his encounter, just a little rattled. Maggie and I slowly herded him out of the long building and back to his ladies and they huddled around their protector like a war hero back from the battle! Cooing and preening him and just fussing over him like girls can do. He was very happy to be back with them.

Maggie searched for an hour and couldn’t find Mildred. Finally she gave up and came back to the house, upset, and I did my best Mom talk that she was probably just scared and hiding somewhere and to just give her a little time. She’s one of our timid hens, our beautiful little white and brown Ameracuna. Sure enough, after another hour had passed, Mildred was back with the flock. We’re not sure where she was, but I think she might have flown up into the low tree branches near the whole attack and hid out there for awhile till she thought the coast was clear.

Evee was on everyone’s list for awhile, and spent a bit of time in her crate for time out.

I realize that letting the chickens free range, has it’s drawbacks, but they love it so and we love interacting with them in our day to day routine. We also know that we can not trust the dogs to not give chase, as they have not grown up with hens or the total freedom of the farm and that we are going to have to really work on getting everyone to work together. Since we’re still not totally fenced in, we don’t let the dogs free range! Gypsy has been the only dog that I can trust around the hens, but she still eyes them with great interest, it’s just her old body doesn’t respond as her brain would like and she is very concerned about my approval and knows to curb that craving to chase. Still, I wouldn’t leave her loose in the yard because of the chance that she might hurt them.

All’s well that ends well… and it’s clear to me why a good rooster can save the day. Bucka Roo is a good boy and he got a whole quarter of a slice of pound cake for his bravery! He LOVES pound cake… haha… and I made sure that he actually got to eat it by locking up the ladies in the barn for a few minutes so he could actually enjoy his treat. Normally he looses as the ladies snatch stuff away from him without any thought to the matter. But he was a happy boy to get to enjoy his treat without bother.

And I think that maybe, just this time, the girls would have given him a chance to eat in peace. I’m sure that they all moved him up a notch in their “he’s my guy” swoon and sigh meter.

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