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Converting our High Tunnel to a Sheep Barn

We’ve transformed what was once our vegetable high tunnel into a sheep barn where we will lamb 70 ewes this coming February/March. It’s hard to believe it’s only about a month from now! We have the best family, let's just say that from the start.

In the late summer of 2018, we installed a high tunnel that we planned to grow tomatoes in the following spring of 2019. At the time we were working on creating a market for small vegetables at our roadside stand and our local Farmer’s Market in McConnelsville. We had been growing sweet corn, tomatoes, and peppers mostly the previous summers and were starting to get a loyal customer base. In February of 2019, a wind storm tore the plastic off of the high tunnel, ripped the end walls on both ends out of the ground and twisted the doors into pretzels. It was gut wrenching to see knowing that we were never able to grow anything in it and, truthfully, had just lost a bunch of money.

This started a series of conversations about where the farm was headed and what we were going to focus on in the coming year. There were a lot of factors that went into the decision to move away from fresh market vegetables but two biggest were having a small baby the time requirements of him and vegetables and the cost of replacing the plastic on the high tunnel. So we decided to leave it sit and think about it awhile. And it sat, through strawberry season and pumpkin season in 2019. It was an eye sore but also a conversation starter.

Jump to May of 2019 and we brought home 90 sheep. Our small 3 ewe flock jumped to 93 overnight and we were deep into the sheep business and soon to find out we had no clue what was happening.

We made it through the summer and fall, had a few lambs – though not as many as we expected – and turned the rams back out to see who was bred. We’ll talk more about that next week. Almost every ewe with the rams turned out to be open (not bred….). So, we were suddenly expecting 70 ewes to lamb (or have babies) in February/March of 2020 and had nowhere to put them. Conversations started again about converting the high tunnel to a sheep barn. Plans were made, materials were bought and Levi, his dad, and lots of other relatives got to work.

They started by taking off all the bent, twisted and broken pieces that were left. The wind had shifted each of the high tunnel frames – the metal that arched to make the tunnel shape – so they pulled those back straight. They used, used guard rail posts to help ‘beef up’ the frame and reinforced the ends with 4” x 6” posts. They installed tin 4’ feet up the sides and enclosed the ends with tin also. We ordered a 10 oz. ClearSpan tarp to cover the frame. We needed something to protect the tarp from the sharp edges of the tin on the ends so Levi cut old tractor tire tubes in sections and fastened them over the ends to protect the tarp.

We were finally ready to install the tarp cover! A group of 7 guys laid out the tarp, inserted the poles on each side and pulled the tarp up over the top of the frames. They said, “It’s a lot lighter than I expected.” Many hands make light work! As you can see in the video it took a delicate combination of pulling, adjusting the ends and pulling again. Once the tarp was all the way over, they readjusted each side so that they were within a couple inches of each other evenly over the entire building. Then all that was left was installing the straps and securing the tarp with rachets attached to the building.

It took so much teamwork and we are always thankful for our family that jumps in to help when we need it! We moved the sheep into the barn the next day and thus far all is well!

Check out the video of the transformation HERE.

You can follow along on our daily chores and adventures on Facebook and Instagram.

Questions? Ask in the comments below, email us, or comment on the YouTube video.

We’ll be putting out weekly videos and accompanying blogs each week that will cover a variety of things on the farm! If you are interested in something specific, let us know!

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