The weather is getting cooler, the leaves are turning colors, and fall is officially here. And with it comes the realization that I am WAY behind in addressing the main issue we faced last winter: the lack of proper infrastructure to deal with cold, wind, and freezing precipitation. I spent entirely too much time and energy last year keeping my animals warm and dry, and in some cases failed in that most important of jobs, and it was the animals who ultimately suffered. At the time I promised myself “never again”, but with the warmer weather came a litany of additional tasks that served as a distraction and pushed our winter woes lower and lower on the list of priorities. But now, with another winter impending, those considerations have percolated back to the top of the list, but now there are only 60 days or so to get things taken care of! Poor planning, I know, but it’s go time now!!
To that end, we decided mid-summer to pull the trigger on building a new barn. When complete, it will be 34′ by 60′, stand 15′ tall to the eaves, and have a 10-12 pitched roof from there. The lower level will have eight 12′ by 12′ animal pens, a feed storage room, a storage/tack/milk room, and a 10′ center drive through alley. There will be a covered lean-to area next to the barn that will be closed up on the north and west sides to provide wind & precipitation protection. The upper level will be a free-span hay loft to store square bales, with holes to toss hay down to the pens as well as out to the lean-to area.
I had started construction on the barn by myself and with the help of several good friends who live nearby, but it became very clear very quickly that the timing wasn’t going to work in my favor as summer waned. So I did the only thing any normal business would do… wait, that’s not true. Very few businesses could do what we did, we called on our customers for help and decided to host an old-fashioned barn raising! We asked for volunteers to bring their tools and help with barn construction for a day, as well as bringing a dish to pass for lunch. We provided the materials and hardware, and also grilled grass-fed burgers from one of our recently butchered cows.
Over the course of the day we had approximately 20 people show up to help, and we were able to complete the floor joists and plywood flooring for the hay mow, as well as standing up and setting all 16 of the roof trusses! It was an amazing day, filled with hard work, good food, and shining examples of a group of people rallying around a business they believe in. We had neighbors, friends from church, and customers all gathering in an experience that many lament as being gone in American society today: community. And that community allowed me to do something I would never have been able to do by myself, watch the barn literally take shape over the course of the day! Of course there is still plenty of work to do and not much time to do it in, but after our barn raising I am so much closer to having a facility to house our animals and keep them warm and dry this winter than I was before.
Huge thanks to all who participated and gave of their time and muscles, as well as to Matthew Kent from the Chillicothe Gazette who covered the event in the local newspaper.