Mobile Field Shelter 18 foot by 12 foot with hayloft for less than 900 pounds.
I have, in my life owned a variety of houses, apartments, pubs, etc, but I have never before owned land. Its only one 10acre field next to my house but it has opened a door previously forever closed. It is a strange feeling, this scruffy little field is all mine, we can build ponds, plant trees, sew wild flowers, make hay, own livestock. It is miraculous and the projects are underway, the ponds built (the otter stole all the fish, 62 asexual trout from the fish farm), never mind onwards and upwards. The field desperately lacks one vital component. I have longed for a shelter in my field for almost eight years.
I have studied the Internet, farming catalogues, and any source that offered a solution. The problem has always been the same; the ones I could consider affording looked, what they were, cheap! The one that I wanted came with a price I would not afford. The need and the guilt increases in bad weather and this winter the search continued. As always seems to happen, with perseverance, a solution finally presented itself. I had in my head a design. It had evolved over the years. My local agricultural supplier, whose wood yard I had wandered round many times seeking inspiration, had a series of offers on wood. The offers coincidentally matched many of my desired pieces of timber. My wife’s Uncle was down for a week’s visit. He is a retired builder and he offered to help, said he would enjoy it, and I think he did. I am also an OAP so we made a wise if not agile team. All measurements described are imperial because I still think in imperial measurement (I also still think in Sd). The plan works just as well in Metric (in fact buying the bits is easier in Metric).
When my wife read an earlier draft of this ‘saga’ her comment was ‘OK but my mind clouded over on the technical bits’. On further investigation I discovered that she meant my descriptions of how some of the components were made. Consequently I have moved those interesting man bits to the end of the piece as a series of Notes .I hope I have not made it harder to read for others who may also know that a screwdriver is not only a drink.
For my sixtieth birthday my wife had bought me three young Alpacas. Delightful creatures, they don’t make any money but are fun to look at and they do keep the foxes away from my wife’s chickens. Anyway seven years on the ‘herd’ are now seven animals, and they, like their owner are not getting any younger, and I suspect similarly, are feeling the cold rather more. After seven years of being outside in all weathers it is time they had somewhere to shelter.
My ‘plan’ was for a ‘shed’, dare I call it a small barn, 18 feet long by 12-foot wide eaves at 6 foot 6 inches and a pitched roof under which is a hayloft. It has to be readily moveable, to fresh ground when required (this also avoids the need in my area for planning consent).
The ‘secret weapons ‘ in my design included a wonderful, readily available, piece of wood called ‘dung wall’. It comes in 20-foot lengths and is planed and pressure treated, 8 inches wide by 2 inches thick. These are my ‘skids’. The plan was to build up from my skids. I am not a ‘hammer’ person, when I use a hammer all surrounding bits of wood and connections to other bits of wood get beaten up and the nail is either unscathed or so bent and twisted as to cease to function as a method of joining two things together. For me the gentle positive power of the nut and bolt is far more to my liking. Two of my secrets out of the bag, here’s another one. A shed of 18 foot by 12 foot with one 6 foot opening and eaves at 6 foot 6 inches means you have 324 square feet of wall to fill in. Using 6-inch featheredge would need over 1000 feet of timber, hundreds of nails and lots of work nailing and sawing (as I have said nails and I do not get on, specially little ones). How to get out of that job? The answer, 6 foot square fence panels (they cost 14 each, there are more robust ones that are more expensive, but these cheap ones are working well so far), they would be fixed to my shed chassis with 4 timber bolts (a wonderful long screw with a 2BA hex head), I used 4 per panel. Put them in take them out, (If you get a hole in your wall, 4 bolts, 14, and 10 minutes later it is replaced).
The frame, to which the panels are mounted, was made of 4-inch by 2-inch tanalised fence rail. Note 1. The frame is placed on the inside of the skids, and secured with two boltsThe four sides were all pre-assembled on the ground, on a nest (or is it a herd?) of cheap plastic saw horses so to save bending old backs and getting wet knees. The four side frames are then bolted together to make our shed skeleton, two big bolts with big washers at each corner. This rectangular structure is starting to look like a shed but it needs to be level even if the ground is not. Although we picked the most level piece of field that was available it was 8 inches out from one corner to the opposite. Out came the spirit level, the only time it is needed and a car jack. We jacked it up to be level, and then using off-cuts (of 4 by 2) fixed a series of short legs (6 of them) to hold our shed level. Note2. Once our rectangular frame was level it was also square, so the wall panels can be easily fitted.
To design the roof space (hay loft) I had to consider the capabilities of the elderly work force. In addition to my wife’s uncle (75) we also got some assistance from my part time gardener, Peter (75). With myself, the boy (68) there is over 200 years of experience on this build. However there is no way we felt inclined to ‘scramble’ over a sloping roof.
The roof. How high do I want the hayloft? About 56 years ago a nameless maths teacher (I remember his nickname but its too rude to print) taught me Pythagoras. Now for some reason it retains a lonely position in my memory and for the first time in well over half a century I get to make practical use of it. The square on the hypotenuse (thank you spell check) is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides so I can work out how long the sloped bits (rafters) need to be.
We can now make our roof triangles, Note 3. The roof (I think proper builders call them A frames) triangles were lifted up and laid over on top of each other, then using clamps and bolts they were bolted into position along the length of the roof. The entire structure takes on a new rigidity as these bolts go in. We old chaps felt it was better to do it on a non-windy day, and it worked perfectly well. As soon as two A frames were up we used off-cuts of spare wood to insert (with screws) temporary cross struts to increase stability (they were removed as the purlins were put in, reusing the screws). I decided on a central access for the hay loft so the A frames were placed from each end slightly less than 2 foot apart resulting in a central gap of almost 3 foot, plenty big enough to manhandle small bales up into the loft space and down again when required.I pondered for sometime over the roof, my criteria were: appearance, weight, price, and ease of construction by the largely unskilled elderly labour force. I settled on green onduline roof tiles (20 inches long by 43 inches wide, at 1 each, cheap due to an end of line sale). I guessed I needed 100, but in the end used only 76 plus 7 onduline ridge tiles to cap it off. I found out from the Internet that the pieces of wood that run horizontally along the roof are called purlins it is to this that we fix the roof tiles. But, the work force is not good on ladders; we need to cater for lack of skill, experience, and agility (John had gone home by now).
So I decided to put in the ceiling, 8 foot by 4-foot sheets of 1-inch thick shuttering ply. I could have used external ply, which is more expensive but if my roof doesn’t leak it should never get wet. Six sheets, three slid in from each end, bit of easy sawing to fit round the rafters, then a few inches off of the gap in the middle, to keep our access wide enough, screw it down (thank God for electric screwdrivers), bingo! We have a floor to our hay loft and we can stand on it (mind the gap) and work on the roof comfortably
The gable ends (that’s those big open end triangle through which we slid the ceiling panel.) can now be sealed in. Note 4.. Next time I think I will install a door in the gable end for access into the hayloft (steady on old-timer).
Now, the construction of this building was all under the eye of the local pub, which we own and which we all visited daily for tea, coffee, and the occasional end of day beer. The regular drinking crowd, (years ago it would be called the public bar lot, and in this day an age it wasn’t a crowd it was more of a few) looked on and watched progress day by day. But they were very knowledgeable about all the things we were doing wrong. The few compliments were always offered in a subdued whisper, so their mates wouldn’t hear. The criticisms, loud, vocal, and full of ageism pointing out the errors in our build. They reached a crescendo when we started fixing the ‘purlins’ and roof tiles from the top down. “You must work from the bottom up”, they saidIn truth we had started the rear side (out of sight from the judges panel of drinkers) from the bottom up. It requires you to perch on your slope as it progresses (very uncomfortable for old knees) and the quality of work started to suffer. So…change of plan, we decided to start from the top, working whilst standing on the hayloft floor (no ladders!). Note 5.
Finally, 4- inch by 1-inch facia boards were fixed on the ends and other than a ladder for access to the hay loft my splendid Field Shelter for my Alpacas is finished.
A point of interest: I feed them in there to get them used to it but in truth the Alpacas tend to use their shed as a windbreak and only shelter inside in the foulest of weather, wet and windy they hate, but don’t we all. Any way my Wife has commandeered some of it as a sick bay for one of her piglets that has a hurt leg (mucky things).
The ‘shed’ described above, can be moved although it is not a good idea to do it with the hayloft full of hay and straw (40 to 50 bales), This is best achieved by putting it on round fence posts (rollers) and pulled behind a vehicle with one chain to each skid (a technique used to great effect by the ancient Egyptians when building pyramids). I use a 30-year-old twin track Swedish skimobile acquired from the Swedish Artic Police, (but that’s another story). Although any 4 X 4 can do the job or a hand winch (only about 25) anchored to a tree or something is also successful, if a bit slow. Alternatively because of the design and particularly my hatred of nails it can be dismantled and moved in sections.
At the end of the project I looked at the cost. I was fortunate that I took advantage of special offers, the wood sale, the roof tiles, but I did buy too many of a few things. All the wood was bought for well under 700 and there are lots of useful off-cuts left (my wife likes raised beds in her vegetable garden). The roof cost 100 with 24 tiles left. There is enough to put a new roof on Ross the Billy goats house, if I can persuade the testosterone lunatic to let me into his pen. I don’t mind the battle, I normally beat him on points, but the family won’t let me back into the house unless I change and shower (eau de Billy goat). All my screws and bolts, not a nail in sight cost about 100, with a few wrong sizes left over. Total cost around 900, plus of course wages for Peter the gardener, about 10 hours. John, my wife’s Uncle, did it for love and to supply relief from living in a house with three young children for a week.
It is difficult to estimate the number of hours worked as this was a prototype (albeit it turned out to be very successful), but the next one will be built in less than 50 hours i.e. two persons three days.
The ‘wall’ panels are available in half sizes (sold as ‘gates’. It would be a simple task to fit two ‘doors’ that close the entrance. Even if you do not use the doors your insurance would then cover the shed for storm damage. Without the doors it does not. Note 1 These frame pieces are braced at their joins by 8 inch sided triangles of ?? inch external plywood. These are cut with a jigsaw and bolted to the frame (2 bolts for each piece of frame, 6 bolts are used to join three pieces of frame to maintain rigidity). Note 2 Then using off-cuts (of 4 by 2) fixed a series of short legs (6 of them) to hold our shed level. The legs were given a blunt point with the saw. Placed vertically against the inside dung wall skid they were bashed into the ground a little bit, not much, they have to come out to move our shed. Then drive in the hex headed 4-inch screws connecting our ‘little legs’ to our skids. Note 3. The three pieces which make up the roof triangles are braced once again by our super ?? inch external ply-bracing triangle, bolted with two bolts on each leg. We needed ten of these triangles. And I used 4 inch by 2-inch tanalised rail (a bit weighty to handle, next time I will use a smaller piece of wood for the sloping bits). Note 4. From my 4 x 2 off cuts using long hex headed roof screws I fixed three uprights. Featheredge board was then screwed onto those uprights and the end rafter’s. Next job saw off the protruding ends to the featheredge and the result is a weatherproof gable end. Note 5. Purlins of 4 inch by 1 inch are screwed to the rafters at 20-inch interval, the first one high enough for the ridge cap tile to be fixed each side. We put in two purlins then put on the first row of roof tiles but only fix the tiles at the top. Fix the ridge cap and then put on purlin number three, now the trick is… slide the top of the tile from row 2 under the unfixed bottom edge of tile from row 1 so that they overlap about 5 inches. Because they are semi-clamped they will stay in place without being held whilst you screw your roofing screws in place. Proceed as above all the way to the eaves.
I have now wet my whistle on ‘farm yard design’ and I am currently contemplating two further projects both inspired by my current inadequate solutions. The first is a pig drinking trough that (a) I can lift and move, an (b) that the bloody pig cannot tip over 10 seconds after I have filled it.
The second project to which I have given a lot of thought, and I am now quite enamoured with the evolving design, is the easy clean mobile chicken shed for up to 50 birds. Watch this space!