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Archive for September 23rd, 2017

Volunteering at Puget Sound Goat Rescue–a job well done

Posted by joeabbott on September 23, 2017

WP_20170915_09_16_34_ProEvery year Microsoft encourages its employees to volunteer a workday in the service of a charitable organization; it’s called the Day of Caring. While they encourage charitable contributions and volunteering any time, this is the one day a year you can look your manager in the eye, say, “I’m going to be at a Day of Caring event”, and there are no questions asked or worries about how your work will get done. Your work will wait as the community benefits from your efforts this day.

To assist in the volunteer efforts on the Day of Caring, Microsoft coordinates staffing at organizations across the Puget Sound and even places employees from other companies at charities in need of help. This year I wanted to volunteer my time at the Puget Sound Goat Rescue (PSGR) and while there wasn’t going to be a Microsoft group helping this not-for-profit business, crews from the local Nordstrom and Amazon companies would be onsite. As this is a place Suzy normally volunteers her time, she would also be on-hand.

Barbara runs the PSGR and setup a few projects for me and promised to send along a couple of helpers. I’ve done some work at the PSGR before and this time she requested I set posts around a garden area she’s building out and, if time allowed, widen a gate to allow wider loads to pass through.

Having seen how innocently destructive goats could be, I asked Barbara if the plan on the left would suffice. We only shared mail but I get the feeling she blanched a bit at seeing the heavy-duty structure, coming back with a polite perhaps not quite so industrial. She didn’t use those words, but I was told the area would only support smaller goats and the biggest load on the posts would be the stretched fencing between them. OK … how about this: the plan on the right:

image clip_image002

The second design was more to her liking. The “double post” on one side of the gate would hold the hinges and ensure the gate (she had a pre-existing gate that would fit here) wouldn’t slump. The others just needed a little extra support to hold up to the fence stretching.

So, last week on Friday, rather than head into Redmond, I drove to Maple Valley with Suzy and my truck loaded with saws, shovels, and all manner of other tools, ready for a day of physical labor.

WP_20170915_11_13_00_ProAt the rescue we started moving materials to the garden patch and, on the way, I pass through the gate she wanted widened. Not only did it need widening, but it had a low beam overhead and a board at the bottom that blocked small animals from crawling\burrowing under, but also posed a tripping hazard. As we had a lot of materials to pass through the gate I was looking down as I passed through … and proceeded in cracking my head so hard I saw stars. I decided then and there that I’d prioritize fixing the gate first … or, at a minimum, removing the old gate structure first.

The gate was located between the legs on a raised deck off the back, upper floor of the house and though well-made, a hammer, power screwdriver, and Sawzall made short work of it. Once I’d removed the gate, and pulled off the upper beam and “tripping plate”, we turned our attention to the garden fence. And at that point I met Kellen and Ryan, both Nordstrom employees.

Kellen had put in posts before and had even worked for the DNR with fire support while in college; Ryan was a bit less experienced but able-bodied. Happily, both were very willing to dig in and get to work.

Over the next four hours or so, we labored on digging holes ~30” deep, into which we dumped some gravel, ensured the installed 4×4 posts were vertical, and then filled the rest of the hole with Sakrete, a dry, bagged concrete product.  For the posts to the left of the gate, I cut the horizontal and diagonal sections and, both happily and unexpectedly, they all fit perfectly on the first try. I’ll downplay the fact that I cut the diagonal brace a quarter inch long so I could “sneak up” on the fit because, well, it fit perfectly on the first try. Admitted Kellen was doing the fitting, so I suspect it was “encouraged” into the space. Kellen is a big boy!


After placing the posts that are shown in the above (right) diagram, we realized that the spacing on both sides had too long of a span between posts, and so we ended up digging two more holes and installing another couple of posts, one on each side. By that time, however, we ran out of Sakrete, so we opted out of installing the diagonal braces supporting the posts that would hold the fencing. The posts seemed sturdy and probably didn’t need the extra support. Probably.

So, we went to lunch very happy with how things turned out.

After lunch Barbara let the volunteers spend time with the goats, either the adults or the kids, and all of them LOVED that part. It was fun to watch a bunch of people just coo over the little goatlings and take turns feeding and holding them. I participated a little but spent quite a bit of time packing up, cleaning the materials, and generally treating the PSGR property as I would my own. And then I turned my attention to finishing the gate below the deck.

It was easy enough to add a second support beam to the hinge side and then another on the side the gate would latch on, but as I looked over both projects with Barbara, she asked a couple questions that suggested I wasn’t “done”.

On the garden fence area, we hadn’t hung the gate. We hadn’t because the posts were drying in concrete and you shouldn’t put load on the post until it’s cured. But, having the hinge side supported by two posts sunk 30” into the ground and three other horizontal braces suggested it could probably handle the hanging weight of the gate just fine. So I finished that off.

On the gate under the house, she asked if the free space (the part not covered by the gate itself) would be enclosed. I pointed to the fencing I’d removed and said, “someone could use that to block it off”. Well, the “someone” was obviously me, so I put in a little more time making that look good.

While I was very happy with how everything turned out, as Suzy and I drove home, we stopped to look at the garden fencing posts. They looked good but I had a nagging worry that we hadn’t finished the job: those diagonal supports giving the posts some extra hold-power when the fence was stretched weren’t in place. Would it matter? I wasn’t sure.

By the time we got home I was I was sure, so I sent Barbara an email saying that, if she would get another couple buckets of gravel and three more bags of Sakrete, I’d come back and install the four diagonal posts. She agreed and so, yesterday afternoon at 3PM with my manager’s approval, I returned to PSGR.


We only had two remaining 2×4 boards, so I cut them in half (48” long) and used those for the braces. After halving them I cut a 45° angle in one end and slotted that end into a quarter-inch slot I cut into each of the posts about 23” up from the ground. They’re a bit short and intersect the post well-below the halfway point that I’d like, but with the posts buried deeply they should provide the additional stability and support they’ll need when the fence is stretched against them.


After placing the chamfered end into the post slot, dug about an 8” deep hole for the free end, added gravel, and covered them with Sakrete. With that done, I screwed the support into the post with three screws, added water to the Sakrete, and made sure everything was set properly. It was a job I’m happy to have returned to complete.


And that’s it: a little volunteer time from my company, a bit of good company doing a quality job, and the conscious to follow-up and make sure it was done the way I’d do on my own property. Let’s call it a job well done.


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