In 1979 my wife and I were classified 'Good Lifers' not in a strict way, we didn't for instance knit our own sandals nor had a goat operated tread mill to grind our own gruel. We did have hens and ducks for eggs and cockerels for meat. We had goats for milk, cheese and yoghurt, a vegetable patch, a log pile, a rotavator, as well as assorted dogs, cats and a horse(s). As part of the good life doctrine I was obliged to build my own critter housing. Little did we know then that building those few arks for our own use would blossom into a life time's commitment. The guides we worked to back in 1979 were simple:
The house should pander to the animals needs and instincts so it befits the creature to use it. For instance, Chicken like a low nest and a high perch. Goats don't like getting wet, so need to be able to get cover quickly when it rains. Ducks are awkward critters without the good sense God allotted them. The housing should be strong, but not too heavy to move, durable, ventilated, dry and secure. I had a customer come into the workshop recently, "Got a complaint," he said, "I bought an ark off you seventeen years back and it's starting to look a bit tired, so I will have to buy another one".
The house has also to be functional from the keepers standpoint. I knew then as I know now, that if a house is challenging to clean then it's the job that keeps going to the bottom of the list. Unobstructed access is vital, cleaning is vital, animal well-being is vital.
Being an eyesore is not an option. Providing the animals' welfare is not compromised or the cleaning accesses hindered in the pursuit of aesthetics, then I endeavour to make my housing pleasing to the eye. As was said by one customer, "This is housing even my neighbour can be proud of".
This ethos has stood us well for thirty five years and I have no hankering to change. We grew our company year on year and built a reputation we were joyously proud of, and had a myriad of adventures along the way, plus meeting and often 'supping' with people from all walks of life. It's not many folk who get to take a Duchess down the pub for sausage & chips, share an old farmer's ham and bread doorstep, or spend a day talking doves and dovecotes with a world renowned film director and his lady actress wife. (There are lots of stories that need telling - check out my BLOG.)
Unfortunately, due partly to the mass importation of copies of my designs from faraway places, in the end we lost our company. But they can't take away what's in my head. I have been given a golden opportunity to start again, and am loving it. This time around I am wiser and more knowledgeable, but in 1979 I was convinced I knew it all.
Long ago when King Arthur was being 'handbagged' by an iron lady a Small Business Advisor (and I remember his name) told me something I have never forgotten. "You," he said, looking at me, "are too cocky by half to succeed in business". He may be right but I guess it depends on what criteria you are valuing success.
This is one cocky old dog that doesn't need to learn any new tricks