A Living Barn (Outside the box)
As many of you know I now have sheep and with a birthing rate of 200%, I should have several sheep soon. That will mean my existing sheep shed will be outgrown in very short order. In a way it is silly...Maine law requires a "3 sided structure to get animals out of the wind" even for sheep that have 3 inches of wool on them. In fact its actually unhealthy for a sheep to be in a barn in the winter. Still a law is a law and we farm according to all livestock laws. This means I need something for a barn so I went to see my horticulturalist.
Now wait a minute you are probably saying, you need to talk to an architect or a building contractor, not a horticulturalist.
I have done some research and there is some growing interest in what is known as Living Barns. Its basically plantings in certain shapes that allow the livestock to get out of the wind. The basic premise is this. The plantings (like hedge) block the wind and raise the temp inside the living barn. At the same time it can provide shade and yet allow the toxic ammonia from the livestock urine to be vented.
I have not hammered out a final design, but I was thinking something like this shape. I I ) The semicircular line will be vegetation planted on earthen mound in a semi circular shape about 4 feet high. Vegetation will be cedars a few feet tall and planted darn tight to keep out the wind. That will face the north and block our northerly winds. Being made of earth, it will also absorb the suns rays and kind of help heat and protect the livestock.
In front of that will be another row of vegetation,probably fir trees that are tight to block any south facing winds, but below enough to allow sunlight over them and into the living barn. In front of that will be a longer row of vegetation that is pretty much there just to act as a snow fence.
Now for shade I can do a few things. I can plant some bigger trees such as Spruce or Fir that will help keep the rain off the inside of the living barn, or I can make a trellis over the barn and use deciduous vines to help shade the interior of the barn in the summer. If I can find the right type of vine, maybe ones with broad leaves, it will reduce the amount of rainfall inside the barn as well
The final design will certain have drain tiles that drain water from inside the barn where excess manure will collect and deposit it into a wood chip filled trench. Wood chips are unique in that it takes 7 years for them to break down. When they do, it gives your soil lots of nitrogen, but in the first 7 years, it takes so much nitrogen out of the soil to compost it, that it actually scrubs the excess nitrates from the manure reducing nitrate pollution (Over-manured soil).
I don't think this barn will be much cheaper then a conventional barn, but it will certainly be "green". It will also never deteriorate though the plantings may require pruning and maintenance. I would also like to get some weather recording equipment and see what the inside versus outside differences are in rainfall amounts, temp and wind.
Its kind of thinking outside the box, but what is your take on this idea of building a barn 'green'...literally? Will it work, or is it just too over the top? Let the darts be thrown...
I have no intention of traveling from birth to the grave in a manicured and well preserved body; but rather I will skid in sideways, totally beat up, completely worn out, utterly exhausted and jump off my tractor and loudly yell, "Wow, this is what it took to feed a nation!"