Give me Shelter – Part 1

Waiting for the fence materials to arrive we turned our attention to shelters, plural. My long-term plan is to have three shelters. It is very windy where we live and we don’t have just one prevailing direction. Winter tends to be more west, north-west and summer south, south-east – but some of the worst storms in both seasons switch – it is very annoying and makes it hard to place one shelter that would be able to safely harbor my horses all year round. Leeloo also hates bugs almost as much as I do but will not keep fly related “clothing” on. Flymasks are rubbed off within hours. Fly boots are actively ripped off with her teeth the moment I take her halter off. I have this long-term idea of creating a summer “bug” shelter that would have solar powered fans running and shade – it’s not a fully formed idea yet – but what this means is ultimately I want three shelters. I also want to plan for some additional animals as this hobby farm grows so I wanted the biggest shelters I could get so they can handle additional animals when they come – no reason to buy something twice!

Bringing Leeloo home before a barn is built also leads to some other major logistical issues that need to be addressed. Where are we storing hay for the winter? Where are we going to have vet appointments and farrier appointments in the winter? Where am I going to actually be able to bring my horse in to work with? One of the paddock paradise principals is that the paddock is the horse’s home and personal space so you shouldn’t do stuff with them in it. Also, I hate weather of all kinds and want a place to get out of it to do stuff with my horse whenever possible. I put all of this together with my long-term goal of having three shelters to come up with the following plan. One shelter would be used as its name implies and would be the shelter for the animals. We’d place it in consideration of the strongest winter winds since those are the biggest deal. The other two shelters would be outside of the paddock and would face each other with a space in-between. One of them would be used to store hay – because hay cannot sit outside in the elements – and the other would be my makeshift “barn” with a stall of sorts on either side where I could bring a horse in to feed or doctor or trim or groom and the middle would be an “aisle-way” of sorts and storage. This meant I was looking at getting the three largest shelters I could. BUT – because this is all temporary until we get an actual barn built and a permanent paddock track created and because I didn’t want to deal with the city and building permits – these shelters need to be temporary and moveable, no permanent structures allowed.

Some credit for all this craziness of getting Leeloo home before there is a barn belongs to a non-horse-having friend who asked me last summer why I didn’t just bring Leeloo home. I listed the many barriers to that happening – fence, shelter, water, hay storage, poop management, place to do stuff with her in winter, etc. Having a horse at home is far more work and far more complicated than having a cat or a dog. But that conversation planted a seed that unbeknownst to me was germinating all that time so when my farrier said this spring “She’s never going to be sound in this environment.” that seed sprouted into this current madness. That same friend is also one of the most confident, go-for it, we-can-do-it, optimistic people I know. Which is good for me because I am only confident with things I have a lot of experience with and I tend to view the world from a pessimistic (realistic?) lens. When I told this friend that her crazy and totally impractical suggestion from last summer apparently germinated into this thing actually happening, but that I was still concerned about the cost of everything including how expensive a three-sided shelter was, she very confidently declared that together she and I could build the shelters I needed by ourselves for less money and in a reasonable time frame.

Some key background information: Neither of us are accomplished woodworkers, we are novices at best. Nate and I did take a community woodworking class several years ago and built two Adirondack chairs and a bench. The bench has a persistent wobble that we haven’t been able to fix and one of the Adirondack chairs had a loose seat slat issue from the very beginning, but we didn’t realize it until we were moving it out of the classroom to get it home and at that point were both too embarrassed to bring it back inside to fix it (this is why it’s good for me to have a confident friend). My friend has slightly more experience than that, but still definitely in novice territory. We also both have full time jobs and she has kids – and she tried really hard to talk me into building these shelters ourselves and was confident we could get them done in the same time-frame the professional companies I was looking at could get them done. She almost managed to convince me. Almost.

I talked her down to building one shelter, the one that would be used for hay for now and would long term be my crazy “summer bug” shelter, since potentially wrecking a perfectly fine and expensive shelter on a half-baked idea doesn’t make much sense, but wrecking a shelter made by two novices that probably isn’t going to be so great to begin with seems far more reasonable. I also have several other building projects in mind including hay boxes and some compost bays and said I would love her help with those projects. These conversations happened in April. In this case pessimistic caution turned out to be the right call because the shelters ordered from the company arrived weeks ago and to-date my friend and I have managed to build one, singular, hay box.


That still needs a lid.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>