Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"Where are the Amish people when we need 'em?"

The crane arrived around noon, as did waves of spectators, drawn by the promise of an old-fashioned barn raising and a home-cooked spread. Prior to the arrival of guests (many of whom were bringing kids) I had cordoned off a "spectator's box" a safe distance away from the crane and potentially falling timbers. We created a long serving table out of two saw horses and a couple of 10' 2 x 10s on which we spread out the eats: my mom's fried chicken, three-bean salad, corn muffins, seasoned potatoes, blueberry bread, apple and blueberry pies, and a mess of cookies. Oh, and five gallons of lemon aid, too. Enough was made for all our spectators as well as the entire work crew - in fact we had so much that we made dinner and snacks out of it, too. While we ate and watched the barn going up it was my father-in-law who commented: "Where are the Amish people when we need 'em?" Quote of the day, for sure.

The two "ranges" (long sides of the barn) had been assembled prior to today. All that was required was to attach them to the crane and stand them up. The 2 x 4s that you see nailed to the side of the end post are temporary supports which will be used to brace the frame once it is set into place.

This is a "range". The south range, to be precise. The "X"s are also temporary braces which will be removed once the frame is complete. A lot of people ask about the low wall made of 2 x 10s that runs around the perimeter of the foundation and upon which the frame is now standing. This is designed to give us the necessary headroom on the first floor, since the vertical dimensions of the original frame were not long enough to accomodate two full floors without this alteration. Where the main posts of the barn frame come in contact with this wall, there are solid posts which transfer the load directly to the foundation wall.

South range set and braced; north range ready to go.

Dad watches the progress over lunch break. It was nearly 24 years ago that he and mom were hosting a very similar kind of frame raising (for details, see the "Some Personal History" post from April 2006; you'll have to scroll down to the bottom of the page.) This generational dimension made this day real special for me and my family.

North range on the way up.

Bracing the north range.

Next came the bent girts. (Like a range, a bent is a section of a barn frame. The range is the long section, the bents are the short sections, of which there are four in our barn. The bent girt is one long timber that ties the two main end posts together. The diagonal pieces are called hurricane braces (among other things) and these will add structural stability to the frame.

The entire frame is held together with wooden pegs called trunnels. This is how timber frame structures have been assembled for milennia, and it is how ours was assembled today.

Almost quitting time.

Once the crew cleaned up it was time for cold beer (and some more fried chicken) and a chance to get up into the frame and inspect the day's work.

What a thrill to see this old barn standing again!

For the first time we could walk *into* our new home - a big change from looking at it on paper. One begins to imagine the dimensions of the spaces and mentally walk through them.

Today was one of those very special days that life seems to point to for so many years. When it was happening, it was almost surreal. It was *HAPPENING* - no longer "some day" but "now". And to have such spectacular weather, to have family and friends around, well, it was a good thing. We're no Amish, that's for sure. But I have to say that after today I have a deeper appreciation for the "goodness and rightness" of gatherings of family and friends, the sun burning the neck and cheeks, and the raising of an honest building expertly crafted by farmer's hands over a century and a half ago.

Monday, April 23, 2007


We just received word late this afternoon that the barn raising is ON for tomorrow, Tuesday April 24th, at 12:00 noon. Sorry for the last minute notice, but I only just found out myself. If you are able to stop by, there will be a fried chicken lunch for spectators. Please give us a call before you come so that we can give you parking instructions. With any luck, by dark we'll have a standing barn frame. Champagne to be served under the rafters after quitting time. See you there!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Winter's payback: soon to end?

Cold, raw, windy, rain, sleet...We have Winter to thank for the mild start that enabled us to get the foundation in, and Winter to thank for the state of suspended animation we find ourselves in now. Looks like we have sunshine in the forecast for the end of the week, though. If that's the case, we will be raising the frame as soon as we get a good day. Could be Friday. Could be Saturday. If you're in the area and want to stop by, we'll have fried chicken and corn muffins at noon for spectators. Stay tuned...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Reassembly Begins

Well, the weather has given us a two day window...and weren't we pleased when we drove by the site and saw this! The crew has laid out and assembled the two long walls of the barn frame (the long side sections are called ranges, the short sections, of which there are four, are called bents). What they have done is assembled both ranges in such a way that when they are ready to be erected, they simply will be hoisted up and braced. (What you are looking at toward the right of the picture is the base of the right-hand range; at the left of the picture you can see the top of the range and then the top of the left hand range. When they are raised, the tops of the ranges - currently blocked up at the center of the barn floor - will be picked up by the crane. Can you visualize it?)

This is a close-up showing the foot of one of the main posts. You can see that this is one of the footings that ENER replaced. If you look carefully you can see they spliced in a piece of old timber to replace the rotten section of ours. Nice work!

When we arrived on the site, these three guys were struggling to lay this tie girt (also known as a rafter plate) into place. It is 36' long and weighs a ton! Look at the bend in that thing!

Once they lay it in place, they will then fasten it to the top of the posts of one of the two ranges that are laid out with wooden trunnels (tree-nails) which are made of oak. This is how our barn frame will be held together - just as barns have been for centuries.

This angle shows the tops of the range posts, which if you look carefully widen at the top. When vertical beams (posts) have this flare, they are referred to as "gunstock posts" (imagine the butt end of a rifle and how it flares where the stock sits against the shoulder) and is a really nice detail of our frame. It is typical of older designs...which I like.

This is what one of the joints at the top of those gunstock posts looks like. The protrusion with the hole in it is called a tenon and the slot cut into the timber that receives it is called a mortise. The hole allows for a peg to be driven through both, fastening them together. This method has been used for literally thousands of years to join two pieces of wood.

Earlier I had posted pictures of what I then believed to be our floor boards. Well, I was wrong. THESE are our floorboards. The others really DID seem TOO thick to be flooring. Look closely and you will see how they have been cut with tongue and groove joints so that they lock together nicely when installed. They have a wonderful color to them - can't wait to see them in place.

Parting shot: a microwave plugged into the generator. Love it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

#$*&!!@ winter!

I can't believe this. Just when things look like they might get rolling in earnest. Another delay. Another storm. Anyone else getting sick of winter?

This is even worse! Check out the extended forcast! We need some building weather! Maybe we'll be having a barn raising in the rain...

Deck complete - Unpacking the truck - Waiting for Snow...

My Wolf Cub checking out a stack of purlins, unpacked from the truck, sorted, and ready to go...covered in a tarp because we are due to get slammed with an APRIL SNOWSTORM late tonight! I guess this is Winter making up for treating us so mildly earlier on...

We have basement stairs, at least, temporary ones. It's pretty cool to be able to walk around in the basement of our new home - the first "complete" space. (Actually, it's not completely complete. They still need to pour the floor and put in wndows.)

The completed deck. That "T"-shaped construction at the left is a make-shift table where the contractors lay out the plans. The blue tarp visible on the right covers over the stairwell to the cellar as well as a pile of "sticks" (wooden timbers in the parlance.)

Pile o' purlins in the foreground, other signs of the unpacking of the truck scattered around...all covered up in anticipation of perhaps another WEEK's worth of rain and snow...;-(

Friday, April 06, 2007

New Video Links

I am adding a new link category on the right which will take you to videos of the barn and the construction process which I have posted on YouTube. The first two are clips showing the barn still standing in Maine and the barn laid out in pieces in the parking lot of ENER being inspected prior to restoration. Stay tuned for videos of the construction process.

"The egg is in the nest!"

I received word yesterday from Bud that the barn had successfully been delivered to the site with these words: "The egg is in the nest!" And what a fitting analogy it was. How the driver got that 45' long trailer down the street (he must have backed down the whole way) and then onto the site....I wish I had been there. Apparently the College police were there, anyway. It seems as if every time our project requires a large piece of machinery or a truck the police get all worked up. Hopefully they will get used to us and chill out.

This is what our barn looks like at the moment. Charlie and his crew at ENER very carefully repacked the trailer with the restored barn and all the assorted wood (floor planking, old siding, etc.). The frame has been meticulously tagged so that Bud and his crew can put it all back together like a huge Tinker Toy set.
As you can see from this angle, the deck is almost completed. I love this angle because you can really see the elevation of the house site and the kind of views we are going to have - especially from 12-16' up in the air.
Here is the house and site from an angle I haven't shown before. This shot is taken from the train tracks which are at the foot of the hill at the bottom of our property. It is a freight spur that leads from the center of town where there is a freight yard. It is very infrequently used and the trains move at a snail's pace. In the entire year we have owned the property I've seen a train only once. Anyway, the neighbors tell us that when it comes it's never before 9:00 in the morning or after 7:00 in the evening. Not bad!
Getting the trailer OFF of the site might present as many challenges as getting it ON!
These are chunks of the barn floor planking Scot Hanning gave to us as a part of the package. We had them planed on one side by ENER and will use them as flooring for the second story of the new house (the living floor). I hadn't realized how thick they were! What a spectacular floor these sturdy old planks will make.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

More progress (?) pictures

OK, quick: What's missing from this photo? Yep, you guessed it - the WORKERS! I know the weather is not perfect (cold and rainy, actually) but after a winter of watching and waiting (not to mention making loan payments!) I had kind of hoped that once they got running again, there would be a pretty consistent presence over at the site every day.
I spoke with our builder this evening and asked him for a revised timetable for construction. Basically, we want to know roughly when he thinks we will be able to move into our new home. Since we are trying to sell our current as we speak we kind of need to know what to tell prospective buyers about when the house will be available. I said we really would love to be in by the time our kids head off to school next September. He said he thought that sounded possible...but was reluctant to commit to anything beyond that. I can understand. Building a home is not a science. Still, I wanted to make it clear to him that we have a timetable that we really need to stick to, and that it's more than just about school starting, it's about how long we can AFFORD to exist as we are currently.
Some exciting news: the truck carrying our barn arrives on site tomorrow (sure hope there's someone there to receive it...) Then will begin the process of sorting through its contents and getting the frame ready to be set. Can't wait to see this old frame again! It's been a long while. The last time I saw it standing was almost exactly one year ago. If you'r interested, go back to the blog archives (scroll down and see the right-hand side) for March and April 2006 and review where we were this time last year. Kind of cool.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Back in action...at LAST!

Doesn't look like much, but believe me, something is better than nothing! And "nothing" has been what's been going on these past couple of months. Winter's late arrival and the "freeze" at the bank, then a vacationing builder and mud so thick...on and on. But this past Monday as I made my ritual drive-by at the end of the day I noticed this man-made pole sticking out of the ground at the corner of our lot - clear, unmistakable evidence that SOMEONE had BEEN THERE and DONE SOMETHING that very day! Sure enough, it was as if this tall electrical pole were a homing beacon, a light house to guide our construction crew through the fog of late winter to our project. And by Wednesday this past week, they had come.
In these two shots you can see the crew working on installing the long central support beam that runs the length of the foundation and will support the floor joists. Again, doesn't look like much but we didn't have long to wait...

This shot and the following are from the next day (Thursday or Friday?) so you can see how quickly they are working. We went back for a peek Saturday evening and they had completed 75-80% of the floor substructure as well as putting down the subflooring. I will have pictures of this in a couple of days.
I like this shot and the next because you can see the site's topography really well. Click on the photos to enlarge them and see what I mean. The site drops off just on the other side of the foundation. This house may not be very big, but it is going to have some GREAT views.

I don't often show this angle in the photos I post because, as you can see, the house right next door dominates the view. (See the top photo too and you'll see the house on the OTHER side.) True, out lot is narrow and we will be nice and cozy with our neighbors, but look back at the previous shots and see how open and unobstructed the south and west facing vistas are. When they first visited the site about a year ago, the architects Jason and Noah recognized this and designed the house to expose most of the interior views to the downhill side, which is the most beautiful and unobstructed. We feel SO fortuate to have snagged this building site! Each time we visit we love it more. Can't wait to start living there!
Hmmm, that temporary support doesn't QUITE sit on top of the concrete footing...

Other news to report: Friday Bud told me to call the trucking company and have them deliver the barn to the site on Wednesday of this week. He thinks they will have the deck complete by then and be ready to being unpacking, sorting, and then setting up the frame! This is the BIG MOMENT, the moment we have been waiting for for SO long. The barn raising. I can't report an exact date yet, but be checking back this week becuase I should have an exact day before too long. We are hoping that anyone who is around will be able to come and witness the big event. Stay tuned!