February 19, 2022
Like many farms and homesteads, we find that ours expands and changes little by little each year; we take baby steps toward our short-term and long-term goals. However, 2021 was a year of BIG changes for us. The first of which had been in the workings for over a year: we purchased some vacant acreage adjoining our Homestead at the end of 2020. This new acreage opened up a whole realm of possibilities for us, such as the planning and construction of a new pole building. In our minds, we dreamt of a space (aside from storing “stuff” like all farmers do, whether they intend to or not) to host events and have hands-on training sessions, to have a dry protected area to work on homestead projects and repair equipment, with a section dedicated to livestock stalls. We chose an Amish builder to do the basic construction; we locked in our plans and price in October of 2020. Spring came, and we anxiously waited to hear from our builder. As the prices of wood and metal kept rising and rising, we grew increasingly anxious.
Our fears were relieved one morning in early May when we got the call; the lumber would be delivered the next morning. Let me be clear, while we were so excited to watch our dream become a reality at long last, we were also slightly worried. In case I’ve never mentioned it before, we live on one of the flattest parcels of land in the county. The soil is mainly clay and water drainage is a serious issue we face continually. March-May finds us saturated, some areas completely submerged, with water. Lots of water. (In fact, this part of Ohio was referred to in bygone years as “The Great Black Swamp.”) The long lane to the building site was covered with water in many places; the gravel loose and the ground completely saturated along the entire drive, despite having had dump truck load after dump truck load of gravel added to the base several months prior. We knew there was no way a big rig could make it back there without deeply rutting up the lane. Or getting stuck.
When the delivery truck arrived, I was greatly relieved to see that they’d driven a HD Chevy instead of an 18-wheeler. This still presented a challenge, but the man assured me he could manage. “I buried one up to the bumper last week, but I got her out. I can manage.” So reassuring… He began to attempt an 87-point turn to back the load of trusses and posts down the waterlogged gravel lane. He just couldn’t seem to keep that trailer from sliding into the muddy ditch. Although I was sure he couldn’t hear me, I coached him along from a couple hundred yards away. Like a proverbial armchair quarterback.
Maybe he really could hear me, or maybe he just realized it was a lost cause. He grew visibly annoyed. After peeling out and jolting to a stop the driver awkwardly motioned for me to come over. Admitting he couldn’t back the trailer down the lane, he inquired if there was an area large enough for him to reverse at the building site. Assuring him there was (the barn pad was 50’x90′ roughly, plus the width of the drive) he decided a forward entrance was his best option. With one final attempt, he slowly backed down the road to give himself a running start. Truck and trailer successfully made the turn into the lane at long last, but there were several moments where I just knew for sure he was going to get stuck and I’d have to call for back-up. With one final roar, that big white pick up emerged onto the gravel pad. I might have jumped up and down, maybe even whooped and hollered a little. Just a little.
Within a few days, the weather warmed and the glorious sunshine took much of the moisture with it. Construction began right away and did it ever go quickly! Within 5 working days, the new barn was completely under roof with the concrete floor poured and all the windows and doors installed. (Except the large overhead door that was still on backorder.) Talk about fast! While we were being entertained by the speed and craftsmanship of the construction crew, they had the opportunity to enjoy some entertainment of their own on the other side of the field.
As I stated previously, the ground around here stays pretty saturated during the springtime. The neighbors nearest our barn lot have several semi-trailers backed into their side yard closest to our property line. It’s not exactly a beautiful sight to behold, but being at peace with folks is often more important than having everything just so-so. Live and let live, as they say. As the construction crew were beginning to set the trusses, climbing from beam to beam far above the concrete pad, our neighbor arrived in his semi-tractor. Having underestimated the sodden state of the soil, he backed his truck into the side yard to attach one of the trailers. It didn’t take him very long to figure out that he was now in dire straits. He called up his brother who drove their old pickup back there, in hopes of tugging the big rig out. The pickup was soon buried up to the frame in thick black mud. Some folks are just hard learners (or perhaps exceptionally optimistic) so they tried to pull out the pickup with yet another jalopy they had sitting around up at the house. I’m sure you can figure out the rest.
When I got the chance to step outside for a closer look, I could hear raucous laughter and jeering coming from the building crew. At which point I saw not only 3 of the neighbor’s vehicles sunken into the earth, but also a wrecker. Having accepted defeat (or having run out of functioning vehicles) the neighbors had called in a tow truck to rescue them. In his noble attempt, the driver of the wrecker had also become buried up in the grime. Thus, the situation required a second wrecker to offer its services, this time wisely parked along the roadway and using an extensive series of very long, heavy chains to retrieve the four unfortunate souls from the mire, one at a time. At the end of the day, those Amish fellows went chuckling all the way home to their families with a tale of the foolish English folks they’d witnessed from the rafters.
It’s been many months since the structural completion of our new barn, but we still have a long way to go before it can function in the capacity that we plan for it to. Electricity, water, storage racking, stalls, workspaces… all waiting to be completed. Since we are finishing the inside portion on our own, it’s a rather slow process. That’s okay, it’ll get there in time. As any farmer or homesteader knows, there is always work to do. We create more work for ourselves than we need to sometimes, but it seems to come with the territory. As you’ll see in the next blog post, this barn wasn’t the only new project we had going on around here in 2021. Where there’s a barn, there needs to be a good strong fence, and where there’s a good strong fence… well… you’ll just have to wait and see.
In the meantime, enjoy some more pictures from the barn build!