Barn Raising Tales: Part 1
Brett arrived at 9:30AM towing a red two-horse trailer and his big Ford truck. The trailer didn't hold a horse, though. It was going to carry Atlas, Ashe, and two Cotswold ewes instead. The four sheep were part of a large livestock barter for the help and expertise building Jasper and Merlin's new home. Brett would also end up leaving with a cage of laying hens (adults), ten Freedom Ranger chicks, and the frozen body of the chicken he slaughtered at the demonstration. In exchange (with the help of the Daughton Boys) a pole barn frame would be hoisted up with rafters and a tin roof.
I remember looking at that pile of wood in the driveway, and wondering how we were going to move 16 ft beams and 12 foot rafters by hand? How could we possibly get it all done? I had forgot to specify that the posts be pressure treated, and that was not a slight omission. How would they not rot in the ground and send the structure toppling over in 4 years? Between the gravity of these concerns and the childlike understanding of the amount of work ahead, I didn't think too much. I decided just to go with the flow, sign the checks, and do as I was told. Brett knew what the barn and wood needed. He knew how to fix and mend mistakes. And I decided if I just trusted the guy there might be a four-posted barn without siding in my woods by sundown. So we got to work.
As we loaded up into my Dakota Brett mentioned, off hand as all get out, that there was something for me in the back of his truck. I didn't think anything of it really. I was grateful but surprises between us have been fairly common. I'd hand him a turkey, he'd hand me a bag of bacon and ham steaks next visit from his pigs. We don't keep score, it's as natural a system as tributaries.
First up was a trip to the work site. I showed him the four post-holes the Daughton Boys had dug, and the stone wall behind the old foundation taken down with a sledge hammer to grade. Then There was the area brush hogged to put in fences. He seemed pretty okay with these best-laid plans and the next step was a trip to the hardware store in Cambridge to buy the nails, screws, hardware, and random supplies that would turn that previously mentioned stack of boards into a home for 1600 pounds of horse flesh. He bought a bucket of roofing tar, a big bucket, and decided that would be our weather-proofing method for the 3 feet of post going into the ground. After the hardware store and grocery store (gotta feed this work crew) I had sunk somewhere around $485 in the barn. (In the world of large outbuilding construction, that is quite a small amount.) And only possible because of the help of Brett and a very-brave 16-year-old boy in the rafters nailing down tin roof about twice his age. More on that bit later... When Brett and I got back from our errands it was already 11AM and the Daughton boys and their mother, Cathy, were already there finishing up last touches on their post holes and brush hogging the fence line. That mixture of boys talking, the mower's roar, and the engine turning off on the Dodge were music to my ears. I took the groceries inside and Brett started walking tools and the bucket-o-pitch to the work site. We were going to build a barn, folks. This was actually happening.
As I headed up the hillside to join everyone in the work of the day, I decided to take a peak in the back of Brett's pickup truck. I was curious. I couldn't help myself. Inside the F250's bed was a vintage pony cart, red as a cherry with a wooden seat and floor. No foolin.
This would be a day to remember, and it had barely started...
photo by jon katz