Over the past year, one of the most rewarding and yet physically challenging projects for us has been the ever so slow process of building our “new” barn on the farm. The barn is our first “real” building on the property. (The chickens might argue that their coop was up first – but in spite of their protests – we shall call this the first real one!)
Our barn is the marriage of two old barns into one. One, a barn we found through an on-line posting that needed to be removed to make room for a driveway. The other, a sentimental piece of my own life – a barn that my father built that became a fixture in my parents yard for the last 40 years.
Both barns were getting older and in need of some repair – but both had beautiful wood and features worth preserving. It was a slow process, but with help of family and friends, we worked to preserve them as part of a new barn to serve a new generation once again.
Like many barns of the past – it will hold our garden and farm equipment (in a little lean-to built onto the back). However, the main portion of the barn is being built to house and share our way of life with friends and family. The inside will hold a big summer table, a loft and plenty of space for events – such as canning, wine making or holiday parties. The attached pergola and patio is for an outdoor kitchen where we can enjoy our garden’s harvest and hopefully make dinners in the open summer air.
We began the process at the end of June – trekking our way to Cardington, Ohio to take down a mid-sized barn that we found on craigslist for free. Looking back – it was probably more than Mary and I could handle – but we stuck with it. We had our moments – like straddling a half-torn down roof with a saws-all – only to have bats fly out under my legs. A bit unnerving, but none the less, it gave Mary a great pause to laugh at me as she looked up and waited for me to stop screaming.
A month or so later – we began to take down my Dad’s old barn. A rustic red barn with a past of its own. You see, it was this very barn that my Dad had deconstructed and moved from a relatives property almost 40 years prior in the fall of 1973. My father took apart each board – and rebuilt it, where it stood at my parents house until Mary and I took it down to give it a new life once again. My father passed away when I was just 12 – so it was incredible for me to see Dad’s handwriting on some of the beams and walls where he had painstakingly marked each board to put it back together.
So with both barns down, and piles of wood to work with – the day finally came to start our barn. We had decided to utilize all new posts and a metal roof for structural purposes – but to re-use everything else possible from the two old barns from there on out.
With our own design in hand that we developed from our inventory of “found” barn wood – we broke ground for the holes. We set our first pole in late August – and hoped, at the very least to have a roof in place by winter.
We worked when we could. After work – weekends – vacation days – a little bit of time here and there to keep at it – and by fall – with the help of some great family and friends…we had the walls and roof up.
We recycled and reused everything we could. We took my Dad’s old metal roof, flipped it around – and made it into our new lower sides. We milled down the barn siding boards and made them into our battens for the new one. The brick floor will be put back down with other reclaimed bricks to make the new floor for the inside, outdoor patio and kitchen. The list goes on and on…but for us, it’s keeping history alive.
From the Cardington barn we made our two sets of barn doors from the wall and floor boards.- the pergola and outdoor kitchen that will attach to the left side of the barn will be made from its post and beam skeleton.
Even the nine foot “farm fresh eggs” sign was made entirely from the floor boards. We have also milled down additional floor boards and beams to create a big summer kitchen table to put in the middle of the barn. One that we hope will host some big family style “barn” dinners on.
Our barn will be used as a gathering place for family and friends – hopefully for the next 40 years. We want it to be the centerpiece of our little slice of heaven.
This week, we are finishing up the loft and a few inside details, while getting ready to put on the pergola over the outdoor patio space. Every time we work on it, I know that we both imagine it filled with our friends and families laughter. We can’t wait till it’s all finished – but we cherish every moment we’ve had building it.
I wonder a lot what my father thought when he took it apart forty years ago. I wondered if he struggled like we did with removing nails and beams, and in fact – the whole rebuilding process. In fact – I can’t pass any barn nowadays without thinking about who built it, and what they went through to make it what it is today. I have so much admiration for the builders and craftsman of our past who built our country’s barns and farms.
I love what building this barn has taught Mary and I. We have worked side by side every step of the way during the building process – and that is a memory no one can ever take from us. I’m sure barns of the past that were built by family members had the same type of connection – and it makes me proud to know we are carrying some of the past into our future.
I love our new “old” barn. Every single time I drive into the farm and see it, I smile. I remember working through those hot days with Mary tearing down the old ones to make it. I remember all of the scrapes and cuts and bruises building it. I remember Mary about to kill me as I asked to lay out the squaring lines “just one more time to make sure we got it right”. And through all of the hard work – I remember the great friends and family who helped us tear down and re-build it into “our” barn. I remember all of the laughter and all of the fun that went into it.
It was a lot of hard work and yes, all of that work saved us a lot of money…But more than anything – I get to remember by father every time I look at it – and that is priceless. – Jim
You can See more photos from the build below…