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So here we are today, with a fallen 106-year-old barn, and a strong need for a replacement to serve our growing farm operations. So, we are making plans to build a new one in the old one’s footprint.

Old Barn Wood, For Sale… Or Not

First we had to clean up after the old one. There was a lot of garbage, debris and mangled  metal in the old one; most of that has been recycled or dumped by now. Then there was the wood… Old barn wood is valuable, yes. But the expensive stuff you see marketed, I’m guessing, is usually harvested from a still-standing barn which had a well-maintained roof, thus rendering the wood also well-maintained, dry and intact.

Our barn was different. A good majority of the siding and beams had sections of rot and pest damage. So, re-using any of it required the patience of making multiple cuts just to find the good sections and remove the bad. The wood was full of nails, huge old fashioned nails, many of which were hidden beneath the mucky surfaces of boards lying in the dirt. If you own a chain saw, you know that’s bad news for trying to buck up 8” thick beams… It’s been no small effort.

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And then there was the general rubble pile problem. We didn’t want to pay someone to clean it up. We would not have felt very safe inviting strangers onto our place to clear the wood on a freebie basis, it was very dangerous and unstable. Like the world’s largest pick-up-sticks game. Once I injured a foot very badly from stepping on a nail, and couldn’t walk on it for weeks. Amazingly, that’s the only serious injury rendered by the barn, but only due to extreme care and some good luck.

So, good friends and our own efforts were the only practical means of starting to sort through the wood. Jerry, Scott and Robert helped a lot. Some wood went for building small farm things, like garden beds and poultry structures. Robert was able to recycle some into a deck, I think. We’ve stacked the salvageable big vertical beams and some of the floor joists and roof rafters, we’ll think of some use for them later. The rest of the rotted and broken stuff went to summer campfires and to burning in our wood stove to heat our house.

What Shall Go in its Place

I’m glad for photos of the original barn, so that we can try to honor its architecture, where possible, when planning a new barn. We can’t duplicate it exactly, for one because people back then didn’t have much structural knowledge, and that building would never meet modern codes! Part of the reason it fell was that it had an improper bracing design.

The old barn was also quite simple and utilitarian, I don’t think it had ever even been painted. So it was just a plain, weathered brown color. Nowadays, we’re surrounded by swanky equestrian estates. So, we’ll be blending some flavor of the old barn with something that fits in with the current region.

Even while it was still standing, the old barn was too treacherous for climbing around and taking measurements. So, guessing vertical  dimensions from photos will have to do. It’s hard to pull accurate measurements off of photos, but this one gives a pretty good notion of what the original numbers were. I took this photo looking out the second story window of the back of our house, after the front end collapsed.

I know that the barn’s center aisle was 16’ O.C. because the concrete piers are still there to measure. And I have a reasonable guess that the whole barn was 46’ wide based on the concrete pad left behind. So, I scaled this photo to match that dimension, and did my best to capture its overall height and roof pitch. I think it was about 27’ high at the peak, had 14’ sidewalls, so had a roof pitch of 6:12. The barn’s overall length was about 168’.

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So, our (hopeful) plans for its successor are pretty close: the proposed new barn has 15’ side walls, a 40’ width, with a 9:12 roof pitch, so will be a total of about 31’ tall. Our house is about 24’ tall, by comparison.

The old barn had some kind of a large shed dormer off the left side, which we presume was for access from the hillside so that they could fill the loft with loose hay from a wagon (in the days before balers were common). We are instead putting a shed dormer on the valley side, where a row of windows will capture the beautiful valley view, add visual interest to the long side of the barn, and give more usable space in the loft.

Virtual Barn

I’ve been creating 3D renderings of ideas, using google’s free tool, Sketchup. It’s been really helpful in visualizing what we want, where we’ll put things, and the flow of animals, tractors, trucks and the like. I think after hours and hours of drawing, we’ve settled pretty well on this idea:

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Here’s a Photoshop’ed sneak peak at what the proposed new barn would look like from the pasture. There are, of course, hurdles to jump still: building permits, financing, and (the most difficult of all) agreeing on the colors! It would be nice if we could get it built this summer, but we’ll just let things take their course. Lord willing and the creek don’t rise! 😀

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