Friday, June 29, 2012

Eating with the seasons

I know I'm not the first to say that we only appreciate what we have when its gone, but it certainly applies to us with produce.  When we first got Bella our house cow we had so much milk we didn't know what to do with it all, the dogs even had some with their breakfast and we got to experiment with cheese-making.  We had Bella artificially inseminated (remember Kaptain Nightcrawler?) in early December and she hasn't come back on heat, so we expect that she will have a calf in mid September (279 days gestation for a Jersey cow).  Its best to dry her up (stop her from producing milk) about 3 months before she calves, so that is mid June.  We were a bit worried about how Molly would feel about being weaned, but I should have worried more about how WE felt about being weaned!  After having fresh raw Jersey cow milk for a year, to suddenly go without is pretty distressing!  

In order to dry Bella, we have to separate Molly and continue milking Bella every morning, taking not quite all the milk, until she stops producing, it should take about a week as her body starts to realise that she doesn't need to make milk, so we were still getting a couple of litres of milk a day and freezing anything that we didn't use.  It won't be enough to last us through 12 weeks without milk, but it will keep the kefir going at least.  Anyway, as usual these two animals had minds of their own and Molly decided to start weaning herself when she came on heat in late May and was totally distracted by walking around the paddock bawling to the neighbour's cattle.  We separated Bella and started the drying up process, Molly didn't seem to mind at all, even after her heat finished and we put her in the paddock with the steers.

milk ready for the freezer

To my add to my distress we are now entering the annual egg-draught.  Some days we get one or two eggs (from nine hens) and some days we get none.  Even though this happens every year, we still find it very difficult to deal with and feel lost without our daily egg for breakfast, particularly on a cold morning when you want something hearty to get you through the day.  Unfortunately Plan B is porridge or weetbix, which requires milk, oh the pain!  But I have also whipped up some homemade baked beans to get us through.

two lonely eggs :(
Come spring, we will again have more milk than we know what do to with and probably more eggs too, considering all the pullets we hatched this season our laying flock should at least double.  Soon we will have a steer killed and have more beef than we can fit in our freezers, and it will be time to kill some roosters too.  As I've said before, eating with the seasons produces feasts and famines, and learning to preserve can even out the humps to some extent, but accepting that some things are seasonal does take some effort when its so easy to just buy it all from the supermarket whenever we want it.  I think part of the learning process is finding foods that are nutritious and satisfying and most importantly AVAILABLE in each season, and for us this is still a challenge, although my winter garden is looking more promising this year!

(By the way, I am (mostly) joking, I know I'm very lucky to have the farm fresh milk and eggs when we have them, so I will manage to go a few months without!)

How do you get through the seasons?  More importantly how do you cope without a daily egg fix?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Another chicken tractor

After a few posts on chicken tractors, its time for some more details.  Well we did have to make life difficult for ourselves and hatch 16 chicks just at the end of summer, with several other poorer hatches over spring, we have ended up with too many groups of chickens that can't be in the same cage due to size difference, so here we go again building another tractor!

At least we are getting better at it.  Our first large tractors took 3-4 weekends to build, with the doors and wheels being particularly fiddly, this one took only half a day for Farmer Pete to cut and weld the frame and then another day with me "helping" to finish it off.

The only things we had to buy were 30x30mm box section for the frame, cut to 4m lengths, about $150 worth, the hinges and catch for the door ($20), and the wheels ($9/each).  We already had the corrugated iron and wire at home.

To start with, Farmer Pete measured up the wire and the car trailer to determine the size of the frame.  Very cleverly, he used the 4m length, with overlap at the bottom back for the wheels to attach and overlap at the front top for handles, this saves fiddling around attaching the wheels and making handles.  We decided to use only one door near the middle, as the back doors were also very complicated and require more hinges and catches.  This is all designed to minimise the amount of box section used and the number of cuts required.

frame - note handle at the top front


overlapped frame for wheel attachment (and bolt for attaching the wheel)
We had the choice of either iron that was left over from re-roofing our previous house, or the old iron that was on the roof.  I was embarrassed to see the terrible condition of the old iron, can't believe it was on the roof, rusty and full of holes!  We decided to use the new iron because it is lighter, has no holes to be filled and is zinc-alum so wouldn't need painting, it was the quick and easy option.  The old iron will be used for something, don't worry!  For previous tractors we have used old iron sourced from demolition yards or dump shops, it just needs to be wire brushed, holes filled with silicon and then painted to keep it in good condition.  

Even with our design optimised we estimate that we would have to sell these for $1000 each if we were to make a living from it (it doesn't cost us that much to make them, but when you factor in the labour time and if we used new materials, it adds up), I don't think anyone would pay that much!  If you're handy, the labour is worth more than the materials, and if you don't mind using a bit of scrap this and that, you can make one far cheaper than we could sell it to you, so I hope these instructions will help.

The old roof (back) or the new rood (front)??

After the iron was decided, we pulled out the mesh to use.  We took down so many dodgy fences around our place in Nanango when we moved in, we have lots of spare mesh rolled up behind the shed to choose from.  We used the narrow weave around the sides and the larger weave on top because its wider overall, so it stretched over the gap.  Farmer Pete sized the frame height to suit the narrow mesh.  For previous tractors Farmer Pete has welded sheets of "weld mesh" onto the box section, which does look very neat, but takes ages and is more expensive, and does start to pull away from the frame when the mesh is used to lift the tractors..  He was pretty happy when that roll of mesh was used up and we could start using the woven mesh instead!!

Tek screwing the iron in place, we folded it around
the corners to save time on cutting

The wheels mounted on bolts welded to the frame

The finished door, very flash, ended up like this because that sheet of iron
was a little short and we had some left over weld mesh from the dog box!

A bar welded about halfway along the top of the frame is used to
support the roof and to hang the feeder

Cheryl also "helping"

Chime not even pretending to help

We attached the mesh by weaving through thin "tie wire" using a bobbin
This is how the bobbin works, the wire pulls very tight.
The tractor is heavy, but can be moved easily using a trolley

And here is the finished product

approved by Bella

The chicks seem happy too, note that Farmer Pete screwed in a little
extra mesh on the roost just in case the young ones could stay up there, ohhhh.
And I didn't bother to hang up the feeder before taking the photo, but it does have a beam to hang from.

Did I think of everything?  Any chicken tractor questions?  Any tips to add?

By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at}

What's the eBook about?
Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.

 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are safe, have access to clean grass, fresh air and bugs. Feed costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases. 

 But how do you build a chicken tractor? What aspects should be considered in designing and using a chicken tractor effectively? In this eBook I aim to explain how to make a chicken tractor work for you in your environment to meet your goals for keeping chickens. 

I also list what I have learnt over 10 years of keeping chickens in tractors of various designs and sizes, from hatching chicks, through to butchering roosters.

Reviews of the Design and Use a Chicken Tractor

Monday, June 25, 2012

Determining the gender of young chickens: are those chicks hens or roosters?

As I write this, the chicks are now 10 weeks old and fully feathered  (see post about incubating eggs).  For a while now its been possible to tell the difference between the pullets (females) and roosters (males), but the crazy little things won't stay still long enough for me to count them!  Finally I had a chance to catch each one and put them in two different cages, one for boys and one for girls, so I could count up.  Of the 16 that hatched, one died early on, and now I think we have 8 roosters and 7 pullets.  Two of the three white leghorns are roosters, it will be hard to decide which one to keep, they are so beautiful.  Anyway, I've noticed that chicken sexing can be difficult for people who buy un-sexed chicks and need to decide to get rid of roosters before they start crowing, so I've taken some photos so you can see the difference, at least for Rhode Island Reds and White Leghorns.

If you showed me any of these chickens on their own, I wouldn't know if they were roosters or pullets, but when you see them next to each other, its easy to pick the difference.  The hens have less developed crown and wattles compared to the roosters, they are also slightly smaller, this is apparent at a few weeks of age, as soon as they start developing crowns.  If you can't see any difference between your chicks, you may have all of one sex, which does make things difficult and you have to start looking at tail shape to figure out the sex.

We don't always get it right and sometimes add a rooster into the pullets (just over-optimistic at the number of layers I think), so we will just keep an eye on them now and see if I counted correctly :)

A young Rhode Is Red rooster
And a Rhode Island Red pullet at the same age
A young White Leghorn rooster
And a White Leghorn pullet at the same age
How do you tell your baby chickens apart?

By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at}

What's the eBook about?
Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.

 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are safe, have access to clean grass, fresh air and bugs. Feed costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases. 

 But how do you build a chicken tractor? What aspects should be considered in designing and using a chicken tractor effectively? In this eBook I aim to explain how to make a chicken tractor work for you in your environment to meet your goals for keeping chickens. 

I also list what I have learnt over 10 years of keeping chickens in tractors of various designs and sizes, from hatching chicks, through to butchering roosters.

Reviews of the Design and Use a Chicken Tractor

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Discovering Permaculture

For a while now I have been hearing about permaculture (and going to our local permaculture gatherings), and I had an idea that it was something to do with organic gardening and designing systems to recycle and minimise waste, and working out where to put your chicken pen in the relation to the compost heap, or something...... It wasn't until someone asked me what it was that I realised I didn't actually know enough to explain it myself, so, in a quest to inform myself, I bought a book. I didn't really know where to start so I just looked for a recent book by the founders of permaculture (Bill Mollison and David Holmgren) and I ended up with Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability by David Holmgren.

I soon discovered that this book was far from a beginners guide! Its taken me a long time to start reading it properly, but I was lucky to have a few helpful comments on my blog by some people who know more about permaculture than I do (particularly Linda from Greenhaven Good Life) and those comments finally put the book in perspective (even though they didn't know I was trying to read it). I think I can now answer the question "what is permaculture?", because this book really describes how to apply permaculture to all aspects of life, explaining the philosophy rather than the practical aspects, I still can't answer the question "what practical permaculture ideas can I use to improve my farm?"! I think that will come later from a different book. Now that I realise what permaculture is all about I'm really excited about finding out more, and I think its the perfect time, now that we have a new farm and house to design.

What is permaculture? This question is difficult to answer because permaculture means slightly different things to different people and because it is a field of science (social science as well as pure science) that is constantly evolving.

The word itself it derived from "permanent" "agriculture" and "culture".

Some descriptions of permaculture from the interwebs:

  • Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way. (
  • Permaculture is a design system based on ethics and design principles which can be used to guide efforts made by individuals, households and communities towards a sustainable future. (
  • Permaculture is a practical concept applicable from the balcony to the farm, from the city to the wilderness. It enables people to establish productive environments providing for food, energy, shelter, material and non-material needs, as well as the social and economic infrastructures which support them. Permaculture means thinking carefully about our environment, our use of resources and how we supply our needs. It aims to create systems that will sustain not only for the present, but for future generations. definition from Permaculture International Journal ( 
  • Another good introduction article here. My definition - permaculture is about designing a way of living within our means (natural and financial) so that we are prepared if/when we can no longer rely on the supply chain to provide our needs. This means building resilient communities as well as considering how food, energy, fibre and shelter needs can be produced sustainably and locally in the long term.
For someone who wasn't involved in permaculture from the start, it can be difficult to figure out all the different characters and ideas that have participated since the concepts were first developed. Fortunately I found a very detailed explanation here, which did help me to understand how permaculture was developed and how it has changed from the original ideas. My understanding is that permaculture was first proposed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, and first discussed publicly in 1976, as a result of the turmoil of the 60s and 70s and worries of resource and energy scarcity. The first book "Permaculture One" was published in 1978 by both originators, however since then they have worked separately, and many other teachers, practitioners and authors have joined them, both in Australia and overseas.

The difference between permaculture and organic gardening/farming

I have borrowed from a friend Bill Mollison's book "Permaculture – A Designers’ Manual" (although he has published about 17 books (that I could find on Amazon, maybe more), this seems to be the most popular, see his website here), and I have read the "Introduction to Permaculture" pamphlets from Bill's original lectures (free here). Compared to David Holgrem's book, I find Bill's work less structured, and more prone to hyperbole, also he rarely uses references so its hard to follow where his ideas are coming from, although this does not discredit the validity of the permaculture design ideas that he discusses, and the results speak for themselves, he does have some genius ideas, he just doesn't communicate them well in my opinion. David seems to have a more disciplined approach in regards to referencing and is more restrained, I found his book easier to read once I got into it. David references Bill throughout his book, so I assume that there's no hard feelings between them, and that David has respect for Bill's work, which gives Bill some extra credibility.

A completely un-politically correct interview with Bill Mollison, if you can put up with early life without cars in a Tasmanian village, he does have some good points.....

To me, there seem to be two aspects to permaculture, the overarching ethics and principles, or philosophy of permaculture, that can apply to every aspect of life, rather than just gardening or farming, and the design ideas, such as hugelkultur, swales, food forests, chicken tractors, seed saving and rocket stoves and many more. I'm looking forward to learning more about these design ideas and how to apply them to Cheslyn Rise, being able to start a new property from scratch is a very exciting prospect! The important thing is that you can take from permaculture whatever is useful to your own life, you don't have to accept the entire philosophy, you can just pick out design ideas that you like, or you can use it as a basis for all your life decisions, it is very flexible.

Permaculture is based on three ethics: earth care (sustaining natural systems), people care (making the products of natural systems available to people) and fair share (governing our needs to that resources are available to all), and as far as I can find out, these ethics were expounded right from the outset. The permaculture principles appear to have evolved, from a list of 34 from Bill Mollison (listed here, scroll down), to the 12 principles proposed by David Holmgren (also listed here and here). Both lists are self-contained, but are complimentary rather than mutually exclusive. Permaculturalists can benefit from the consideration and application of the principles in both lists.

A far more lucid discussion from David Holmgren about a transition to a future with less energy....

In general, permaculature is all about finding ways to adapt to life without fossil fuels or "energy descent". I think we can all see the general chaos in financial systems, uncertainty over climate change, peak oil and resource availability, the problems are just as real now as they were in the 70s. I don't believe that we can continue to "engineer" our way out of our problems, in fact I think that every technical/engineering solution that takes us further from nature has been a step in the wrong direction and simply caused more problems to be engineered around. I found myself agreeing with all the permaculture ethics and principles. Its exactly what I want to be doing, I just didn't know it had a name and a structure until now! I am looking forward to reading more (and found that my local library actually has a number of permaculture books, so I can try before I buy this time!).

You can also attend permaculture design courses, which I might look at eventually. Given the multitude of approaches to permaculture, I think I'd like to read widely first, rather that just learn about one person's idea of how permaculture should be applied.

Any suggestions of good books or courses? (Even if outside SEQ, as they may help others looking for a course). Any corrections or additions to my beginners' assessment of permaculture?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Frost preparations

Last year I was totally unprepared for the severe frosts that we experienced here in Nanango.  Actually we have our own frosty micro-climate down at Eight Acres, as our neighbours on top of the hill had no frost around their house!  This year I was determined to be ready for frost, and I have taken several preventative actions:
Bella helping to trim the arrowroot
  • I planted frost tolerant veges so I have something growing in the garden - this includes brassicas, peas, broadbeans, silverbeet, leeks and spring onions, and I won't get so upset when the beans and tomatoes die :)
plenty of frost-tolerant brassicas and asian greens this winter :)

  • I bought a small greenhouse for the sensitive plants that I want to keep - chillies, eggplant and avocado that took SO long to mature, I don't want to start from scratch next spring, so I hope to keep them all alive over winter, I also put away the greek basil and the ginger.  We were planning to have the aquaponics greenhouse finished, but got carried away with other projects, so a $40 plastic greenhouse is sufficient to keep a few things safe from frost this winter.
a mini greenhouse to keep a few plants safe over winter
  • I cut back the frost sensitive perinnials - last year the beans, arrowroot and comfrey all died back from the frost and I was left with heaps of brown leaves and stalks to remove, so I thought I may as well cut them back while they were green and use them for mulch before they died.  This also reduced the shade around the garden (great for summer but unnecessary in winter).  In the end I didn't get to use any of it for mulch as Bella and Molly decided to eat it all and I didn't mind.  I didn't have the heart to cut back the giant paw paws though!
Arrowroot and comfrey trimmed
More arrowroot trimming
The paw paws have no idea what is coming!
  • I plan to keep sprouting - even in the middle of winter if you can't get anything to grow outside, you can always sprout!  Over summer I used lots of sprouts in salads, and in winter I like to grow the larger sprouts (mung beans and fenugreek in particular) to throw into stews and steamed veges.
sprouting - always something green to eat even when its cold outside
  • I have changed my watering routine - instead of watering in the afternoon after work using the hose with spray nozzle, I have rigged up a large sprinkler so I can water first thing in the morning, this means the plants won't have soaking wet leaves overnight, which can cause extra frost damage.  Early morning water can also help to warm up frosted leaves before the sun hits them and causes them to heat too quickly.

I should be grateful that we don't have to deal with snow, so many blogs I read can't grow anything over winter, and that would be another challenge in itself!  I guess I get frustrated because we are so close to having a sub-tropical climate here, but for a few cold nights over winter, however if you're prepared, you can at least keep something growing.

Actually I was trying to think of things to which I should be grateful to frost for and I did think of a few:
  • It does kill off a number of annoying weeds and bugs
  • At least I can grow veges that do like some chill time, like carrots, turnips, swedes and broadbeans, and fruit trees like apples and stonefruit (or at least I hope I can grow them!).
Do you get frost?  And how do you deal with it?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Nourishing Traditions - Snacks, desserts and "superfoods"

I have been writing about Nourishing Traditions for a few months now, explaining how I have interpreted the chapters and the recipes that I've found useful.  Reading it again has been really good, I've noticed more recipes that I'd like to try and reminded myself of things I want to make as soon as various produce is in season.  The previous posts are:
This post is about the final chapters on snacks, desserts and super foods.

This chapter includes an interesting list of snacks for between meals eating.  The first snack is nuts, and I was very interested in the suggestion to soak and dry nuts before eating them.  I have never been a fan of nuts as they leave me feeling over full.  This is because of the enzyme inhibitors found in all nuts, seeds and grains.  I had half a packet of hazelnuts in the cupboard that I had never felt like eating, so I tried soaking them in brine and drying them in my dehydrator.  They came out really nice and I am able to eat them comfortably.  I also tried to make pepitas from raw pumpkin seeds, but they never went crunchy, just chewy, so I gave up on that one!

The other snacks include popcorn, apple slices (is that where McD's got it from?), crackers and cookies.  I can't be bothered with making cookies, but I have tried the crackers.  I think this is a good recipe as we buy an awful lot of crackers from the supermarket.

Although Sally recommends that we save dessert for treats, not more than once a week, she does commend the use of eggs, butter, cream and fruit in dessert.  She also recommends using natural sweeteners such as rapadura, honey and maple syrup rather than refined sugar.  The desserts include fruit based desserts, egg based custards, slices, ice cream, sherbet, pies, cakes and gourmet desserts.  The only recipe that I've used from this section is the custard, which came out beautifully with our free-range eggs.  I wish I'd noticed the merringe recipe when I had all those egg whites to use, using honey rather than sugar would be an interesting one to try.  Our typical dessert when we have too much cream (I know, how awful!) is apple crumble (or any other fruit that's going off, mango and berries work too!).  I suspect that the use of rolled oats would not be recommended, as they are not pre-soaked.  The only recipe close is the fruit cobbler, which used arrowroot or bulgar flour and almonds.  Will have to get some arrowroot flour and try this one!  The lemon moose is also on the must-try list when my lemon tree starts to fruit (and I have eggs again)!

chai spice custard
The beverages are all based on either lacto-fermented fruit juices using whey or on wild yeast.  I have tried both a lacto-fermented citrus and ginger ale recipe, and the wild yeast ginger beer.  The ginger beer wasn't very successful and took so long to make the bug and then ferment the beer.  I find that I have plenty of whey, so I prefer the lacto-fermented recipes, and have made both of them a few times now.  They only take 3-4 days to ferment and then can be kept in the fridge and drunk straight or as a cordial, depending how strong they are, I also bottle them in Grolsh bottles and they go pleasingly fizzy.  I want to get hold of some sassafras root and make sarsaparilla (sars) or root beer, but I have no idea where to get it in Australia (even though people here drink a lot of sars).  I don't actually like the taste, it tastes like medicine, but Farmer Pete love sit, so I thought it would be fun to try.  I am also going to make beet kvass as soon as I grow some beets!

This chapter begins by saying that the tonics are medicinal rather than "epicureal" (which I had to google, it means "Devoted to the pursuit of sensual pleasure, especially to the enjoyment of good food and comfort"), so I guess Sally is saying that these foods don't taste nice but they're good for you!  Probably an appropriate warning for a chapter that includes raw liver drink!

I haven't actually tried any of these recipes yet, but they don't all look bad.  The recipes are all drinks, juices or broths.  I want to try the beet kvass, the barley water, the rejuvelac and the potassium broth.

This brief chapter lists some useful superfoods that are high in vitamins or minerals, including acerola powder, amalaki powder, azomite mineral powder, bee pollen, spirulina and chlorella, bitters, butter, cod liver oil, colostrum, evening primrose oil, borage oil and black current oil, glandular and organ extracts, kelp, noni juice, wheat germ oil, probiotics, and yeast.

I'm not a big fan of buying lots of expensive processed products from health-food shops.  I like to think that because we are eating so much from our own organic garden that we shouldn't need to supplement much in the way of minerals.  The only things from this list that I do use are cod liver oil for vit A and D, butter (why not?!) and probiotics (we have kefir or yoghurt almost daily).  I suppose it depends on individual situations which of these products are affordable and useful.

half a teaspoon for each in the morning kefir smoothie - you can hardly taste it...
And while we're on the subject of real food, I read an interesting article with a new conspiracy theory about the proliferation of convenience "food":
Here's another story, closer to the (complicated) truth: food companies, having developed all kinds of new canning and freezing methods while provisioning the troops during World War II, were keen to find a way to sell their new products to the domestic market after the war ended. Homemakers were suspicious at first (some early products, like powdered wine and freeze-dried cheese, never took off — imagine that!), but the companies persisted through clever marketing, convincing women that convenience foods were tasty and fun and easy and modern.
It makes sense, I like it!  It links well with the reason we use chemical fertilisers - lots of leftover ammonium nitrate from WWII as well.

garden full of greens at the moment!

Have you read Nourishing Traditions?  Do you use the recipes?

Here's the rest of the series:

Nourishing Traditions - from start to finish

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sewing dog coats

I have had some fabric for dog coats sitting in the cupboard for a year now and I never got around to sewing them because we always have the fire to keep the house warm so the dogs don't often need coats, but this year if we are camping at the new property over winter the dogs might appreciate a little extra warmth.

eight acres: sewing dog coats
Miss Chime in the first dog coat I made for her

And wee Cheryl in coat with matching bed

I learnt to make dog coats when I volunteered to sew them for the RSPCA.  Another volunteer dropped off at my house a roll of fabric, a giant spool of thread and a newspaper pattern.  I think I made about 50 dog coats that autumn!  Then I bought some fabric and made one for Chime and Cheryl about 5 years ago, Cheryl still has hers, but its had to be extended and has been handed down to Chime, who has lost her original one (Cheryl has another one that Farmer Pete had already bought her before I starting making them, it was too big and I adjusted it).

Seems a shame to wake them to try on their coats :)
Anyway, time for some nice new coats as the old ones get so dirty and don't fit too well.  I made a new pattern for each dog using newspaper and cut out a double thickness of polar fleece for each coat.  As Chime's was smaller and didn't use the full width of the fabric I used the excess fabric to make the tummy strap for each coat. I've put velcro on the neck this time, but you can also sew the neck together so that the coat would slip over the dog's head.  The velcro on the neck is a good idea if the dog isn't used to having a coat and you want to be able to get it on them without going over their head, or if you're not totally sure about the size, I find it easier to finish off the coat nicely this way too, otherwise you have a big thick seam around the neck.

For one dog, I need about 1 m of material, but it depends on the size of the dog of course, and you could get away with a single layer of material, but then you would need to hem it, so the double layer is easier.  I used about 25 cm of velcro for each coat also, but you can get away with less if you sew the neck together, and you can use ties for the tummy strap instead.  I bought extra material because the shop was having a sale where the material was half price if you finished the roll, so I was able to make the dogs matching mats with a double thickness of material.  I have made them beds with stuffing before too, but it always goes lumpy and is difficult to dry if you wash it, I think these mats will be easier to keep clean.  Chime likes to lie on anything soft and fluffy, she lay down on the material when I was trying to cut it out, so I knew she would like a mat!  Cheryl is not so sure...

cutting out the fabric

sewing the tummy strap

sewing the two layers of the coat together
(leave the neck part open so if can be turned the right way out)

turned the right way out
(don't forget to put the strap inside when you do the seam around the outside!)

velcro for the tummy strap

velcro for the neck

reluctant models (it was mid-afternoon - too hot for coats!)

Chime demonstrates the tummy strap

from the other side

I also made mats from the leftover material

I'm not sure why Cheryl is looking so unhappy!
Maybe I'm supposed to throw the ball....

Have you made dog coats for your dogs?  Any tips?

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