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Sunday, April 2, 2017

By Golly It IS a Barn!

Well, believe it or not, the barn is finally finished.  At least on the outside, by the company.  There is, as there always is, work to be done by us.  Work on an acreage is never really done.  The exterior landscaping and drainage needs fixed.  The interior stall walls need lined with heavy duty, kick worthy, wood.  The stall walls need built and the ever present storage solutions need planned and executed.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Let's step back to last year.

As you may remember I finally got the nerve up to buy the barn. I immediately had the pad built, while the weather was still cooperating.  Then we had to wait for the barn to be delivered. That took a little longer than I had planned, but I am glad it did, as it gave me a chance to recover from the shock of paying over double the highest estimate for the pad. 

One barn, some assembly required.

The barn was delivered in a nice, neat LITTLE pile in the lower driveway at the end of January.  It was so small that it really was hard to believe that it contained enough materials to build such a huge structure.  With the pile in the driveway, the anticipation of the build grew.  And Grew.  And GREW.  AND GREW.  Well, this was just getting annoying.  I knew time was ticking on our decent dry weather.  And the weather had to be dry to work on this hill, on dusty virgin earth.  I knew the further we got into February and March the higher the change for BIG snows and long stretches of piddling rain.  Then there is the wind.  If you think that it's windy on a normal day in Nebraska, you should see it in late February and the month of March.  You could fly elephants out here.

Tick Tick Tick

January turned into February and the days continued to tick by.  How long of a wait was it for them to start on the barn from time of delivery?  I had no idea, but as weeks passed, I was getting more and more anxious about the weather, which up until now had been abnormally dry and snow free.  As we passed Valentines Day I started to get really antsy, after all, some of our biggest snows are in February. 
They are always deep, terribly wet, and take forever to melt.  I finally called on February 19th and found out that we were on the work board for February 21st!  FINALLY! After waiting at home the whole previous week to just show up, it was nice to have a goal in sight.  I was told when I bought the building that it would take 4-5 full days to finish.  So yay! In a week, I'd have my barn!

SNORT! (That would be TOO easy!) 

Anyway, on the morning of February 21st, as promised, three wonderful guys in a truck hauling a seriously large trailer with large earth manipulating equipment showed up bright at early at 815am.  They stood around, like most country boys do before work starts, by surveying the land, hands in pockets, chawing the fat, pointing, and nodding to each other.

  Once that most important task of the day was complete, the proceeded in unloading all the large equipment and set forth in drilling some ridiculously LARGE holes in my perfectly flat barn pad. 

As we are in a permitted county, our barn poles had to be set over 5 feet deep on concrete and IN concrete.  It is these incredibly large posts that support the whole structure, not the earth.  Turns out that just across the road, which is another county, they have no such regulations and the posts are only a couple feet down and backfilled.  It is far cheaper to be sure, but I know the long term effects of structure-rattling winds.  I joke that someday I might end up with another out building on the property when a neighbors barn blows onto mine, like a wayward party bouncy house.

I went inside to bake espresso chocolate chip cookies.  After all, a well fed worker is a happy worker.  I was amazed to hear from the builders that no one has ever brought them food before.  Well, THAT won't be happening here!

While one pair of men drilled 24 inch diameter holes, the third added support pieces to trusses, built posts, and organized parts for future build days.  By the end of day one, my pad was poked full of 42 giant holes.  It was clear that until these portals to the netherworld were filled, the girls would NOT be free ranging at night.

Speaking of the girls, all of the commotion proved to be ridiculously exciting for them.  They would spend HOURS in their giant picture window watching the men and trucks do whatever silly things it was that they were doing. 

Day 2, 22nd of February, was a slower day.  The morning was spent doing small parts assembly while waiting for the county inspector to show up and declare, "yes, those are the right number of holes and yup, they're deep 'nuf".  After he left, the men continued to assemble posts and slid them into their proper holes.  At the end of the day, it looked like a crazy game of twizzle sticks. Today was hot Bavarian Pretzel Day.

Day 3, the 23rd of February, was spent setting each individual post upright, level and plumb, pouring in concrete, and backfilling with 1 inch limestone.  At the end of the day, with the winds picking up force, it was decided that it would be a good idea, a really good idea to add support braces for all the posts.  I think they were beginning to realize that I wasn't kidding when I said it got WINDY, really WINDY up here.  Today was Dark Chocolate Espresso Brownies.  While delivering said brownies, I thought it would be a grand idea to let them know where the doors and windows would be going so they could mark the spots on the horizontal beams for future reference.  It was then that I noticed that I was SHORT one window.  Since I was supplying the windows myself, it called for a last minute run to the only store in town that carried them, a 2.5 hour round trip.  I informed them of the impeding doom of the weather forecast and told them to call me in the morning before they made the 45 minute drive up to my place.  At 3:45pm, I bid them farewell, and headed to the window shop.  Halfway down the hill, it started to rain.  On the drive home, the rain changed to soft slush balls, pretending to be lazy hail.  By the time I got all the way up the hill, the slush was freezing rain.  For the next three hours we had freezing rain.  Then Mother Nature thought it would be more fun to put 5 inches of heavy WET snow on top of all that ice.

Day 4, 24th of February.  Having spent until the wee hours of the morning sending weather reports in, I was looking forward to a nice sleep-in knowing that it was far to wet out to work on the barn. At 8:15am, I was awoken by Doc informing me that the barn crew was outside.  My normal three guys, plus two I had never met.  UGH.  It was at this point that I staggered to the kitchen in disbelief and watched through the bay window as they tried to plod around the pad on a bobcat, sinking their tires 6 inches deep as they went.  Supplies and parts stored on the ground were now invisible to crews and the scissor lift crushed the hidden frame of one of the large bay doors.  After about an hour of trying to work, and standing around gabbing, hands in pockets, they decided to leave for the day.  I told them it would take several days to melt the snow and then dry back out.  So I told them that before they LEFT the office (which had received NO snow at all that night), to call me to see if we were dry enough to work on that new loose dirt pad.  Nodding in agreement, they slinked back down the hill.

We spent the next week incredibly windy and warm.  Just the right conditions to not only eat away the snow, but to help dry out the dirt.  By the 3rd of March we were dry again.  The hens were happy to be out and running amok, but the winds which would gust from 40-60 mph were hindering the next phase of the build, lifting up and attaching the trusses.  Some wind was OK, but blowing a gale just wouldn't do!

Day 5, 8th of March, Joe and Kevin arrived promptly at  8:15.  Today they would be lifting the trusses into place and placing all the support bracing in .  It really was starting to look like a barn.  While it was nice out, almost 50, the brisk wind made it feel below freezing. Bundled up, I hovered near-by while they put up each truss, waiting until I could get to the last one.
  After Joe tipped the last truss onto the skid steer, I nailed a cedar bough to the top and had each of them sign the truss on the inside facing portion at the top.
  They took great delight in the fact that I wanted them to sign their work, no one had ever cared before.   Before the day was out, I not only had all the wood structure up, but I had windows as well!  Today I made Cardamom, cinnamon, almond blondies.

Day 6, 9th of March.  Excitement ruled the day when I saw Joe and Kevin putting up the very first piece of steel siding.  Sure, I planned this odd color scheme and had seen the panels laying in piles on the lawn, but to actually see it UP where it belongs would be the moment of truth.  AWESOME!  It looked just as I wanted it to, like dark old wood.  The panels were large, measuring 3 feet across and were not pieced, but the full length needed.  Once-empty, stick framed walls were quickly covered.  Each new panel that went up provided another break from the wind. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies kept them warm and moving.

Day 7, 10th of March, Today the wall closest to the house was put up, and the window installed.  It was now that I could get the true scope of the barn from the house and how it would look from here on out.  I loved it!  By the end of the day I had 3 walls, but no roof.  The weather threatened snow.  I was mortified at the thought of a 1200 square foot bath tub filling with snow, wetting the floor and then being covered with a roof, never to really deeply dry.  Gratefully, all of the snow and rain stayed to our far North keeping us bone dry, albeit too windy to install a roof.  I don't remember WHAT I baked on that day.

Day 8, 11th of March. Today the final wall was put up and the winds allowed the roof, complete with double-bubble insulation, to go on--well, most of it.  They weren't able to put  the top vent on.  Brownies again.

Day 9, 12th of March A Sunday.  Joe showed up alone to build the doors so they could be hung quickly the next day.  He was only there a couple hours, but he went home with a full plate of raspberry buckle.  The roof looked incredible!  Looks just like a wood barn with an old rusted tin roof.  Of course it looked so good that it decided to snow. It was only two inches, but I was SURE that the guys wouldn't bother to come out on Monday morning.

Day 10, 13th of March.  I was wrong.  At 8:15 am, there they were.  They hung the doors and worked on the trim around the porch.  I was SURE they weren't going to get the roof vent on.  I was wrong again.  They could smell the end of the project.  Joe went up on the roof with a broom and cleared all the snow and slush and carefully plotted his way up.  The vent and its bird filter went on rather quickly. Dark chocolate cake with Italian boiled icing.

Day 11, 14th of March.  There were still many odds and ends that needed to go up.  Trim needed precision hand cut, which takes more time that you think it should.  Minute folds and snips ate away most of the day.  Shortly after lunch, I got them to hang up my barn sign.  They loved it.  I LOVE it and it LOOKS AMAZING!  I am very glad that I didn't go with true stark white for the background color. 

Day 12, 15 March, the project finished with the hanging of the Cleary clover sign, which I originally wasn't going to have them put up at all. The Cleary clover is a giant white sign with a bright green clover, which would look like a bulls-eye on the side of a dark brown barn.  I decided that if we could get rid of the white then it should go up.  I left the packing plastic on and cut away the portion over the white and leaving the plastic covering anything that was green in place as a mask. I primed the white and then sprayed it a matching dark brown.  When it was dry, I peeled off the plastic and sealed the whole thing with several coats of spray poly.  It turned out great and even the guys were impressed with how good the matching sign looked.  And with that, that's all she wrote.  The construction of the barn is finished.

12 days of work spread out over 23 days.  I guess the timeline was brought to us by the same people that bring us football minutes.
The photo makes it look like the coops and the barn are on top of each other, but they really aren't anywhere close.
(snow melting on the roof)

The day after they left I moved the remaining 8 tons of limestone from the driveway to the door area of the porch to thwart the mud and re graded the whole area around the barn to remove the ruts and debris left from construction.  With that dirt I built up the back ramp, alternating layers of dirt and gravel.

The next day would bring a delivery of 16 TONS of topsoil.  I didn't buy the good stuff. 
I regret that.  It was wet, and really clumpy.  It was hard to move and impossible to spread  and level.  Working with it, I knew exactly why the guy that built the barn pad spent/charged me the extra money to use the GOOD dirt!  The next 16 tons that I built, I ordered the good stuff.  They day just flew by scooping, dumping, and leveling that magical gold out.

The inside of the barn now had a floor that went all the way to the baseboards of the structure.  It turns out the pad wasn't as level as it looked and one side had to be built up almost 8 inches.  Remember, the posts hold up the barn, not the dirt.  I then built 2x4 frames for the floor of the barn and staked them to the ground where the animal stalls would be.  These areas would remain dirt, and the framing would keep the gravel and stone I was about to put down from invading this area.

The next morning brought a dump truck with 15 tons of 2.5-inch driveway rock.  This would be the base of the barn floor and would be rolled and compacted into the dirt.  This stuff was a pain in the rump to spread.  The tractor could only do so much and it would NOT be moved with a rake. The only way it really wanted to be moved was to swipe it one way or another with the side of your foot.  I can't tell you how old that got in a hurry.  That afternoon 15 TONS of rake-friendly, 1-inch limestone was delivered.  That was placed on top of the larger gravel and worked in.

Rain was expected for the whole following week, so places outside missing gravel got a pile and just left to be worked to its final position later.

I did take the rainy weather opportunity to put down clover and grass seed, but ran out of time to put down hay. 

So there you have it.

I still need to finish the inside and paint the posts and doors and call the fence guy and build stalls, but besides that..... LOL.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

One more sign you're no longer in the suburbs

You're not worried about your neighbor's dog pooping on your lawn.

Fences are there to keep things in, or to keep things out.  Sometimes both.  That's our understanding as human beings.  Most animals, however, are slightly less clear on the concept.  That's why barbed wire fences surrounding cattle pastures are supplemented with a hot wire.  There's a distinctive sound the first time a calf discovers this.  It's something along the lines of **zzZOT!** "&*()&!@#$ MOO!"

Sometimes animals are able to completely ignore fences.  During free-range time, ol' Zap the rooster used to lead small expeditions under the barbed wire into the cattle pasture next door to find the assorted bugs that sought refuge there.  And you may remember me contemplating whether I could hurdle the barbed wire fence while chasing a fox.

Sometimes fences break.  Or gates are left unlatched.  Or gremlins decide to cause mischief.  Whatever the cause, a cow will see an opportunity and will take it.  Followed by all of her family, friends, acquaintances, and "you-look-familiar-have-we-met?"s.  And suddenly, just as the chickens followed their stomachs to bug-rich lands, these cows follow their stomachs to ungrazed pastures.

When you encounter cows in roads, there's really only one thing to do:  help them find their way home.  This might be because you're the first to discover them, and so you try to contact the owner so the fence can be mended.  This might because the owner is trying to get them back in their pasture but needs a little help.  It might be because you're not going anywhere until the cows have left the road.  Whatever the reason, you do the neighborly thing and lend a hand.

Under Nebraska law, upkeep of a fence is the mutual responsibility of the neighboring landowners, so even though we didn't install the fence between us and the cow pasture, Caryl spent about a week effecting preventative repairs to the barbed wire fence -- replacing posts, tightening the wire, changing the orientation of part of the fence from horizontal to vertical...  That might be a blog entry for another day, but I don't think there were any photos of the process so maybe it won't be a blog entry -- we'll see.

At this point, I should mention a few things in the interest of complete honesty.  The picture of the cow in front of a house?  That's an extremely disused house adjacent to a corn field, and the cows had been moved there to graze on the yummies left behind after harvesting.  If you pay close attention, you can see the hot wire that the farmer temporarily put up around the field.

And:  when we took possession of Dunrovin Station, there was a cow patty between the house and the outbuilding -- but other than the evidence that it's happened in the past, the cows in the adjacent pasture have never escaped since we moved in (except for Houdini the calf).  We've encountered other stray cows here and there, but none have pooped on our lawn in the last 2½ years.  But it's always in the backs of our minds that it might happen, though.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The Old Bench

Sometimes you find the coolest treasures where you're not looking.  Just as when you ARE looking for something, you won't find it.

Last week, during our impending ice storm, I realized that I was completely, and totally out of one of THE most important boredom busters if/when power is lost.  I was out of yarn.  YARN!  I don't even know how that is possible.  Not one skein, not one ball, no bits or bobs, my basket was completely empty.  I think I heard crickets in the basket when I opened the lid.

Luckily, we didn't lose power and I wasn't forced to harvest yarn from another project, shave and spin Doc's leg hair, or worse, figure out if you could knit with chicken feathers.  All I wanted to do was sit down and play with a new (to me), more hand friendly method of knitting.

A few days later the roads were finally ice free, and everyone was ready to get out and about.  I knew I was heading to the yarn shop, but not any yarn shop.  I'm tired at looking at the same old shops, and the same inventory locally.  My favorite shop, Spindle Shuttle and Needle, is just too far of a drive in the winter.  I thought there certainly had to be a small shop in the city that I had missed.  Google to the rescue.  Nope.  But as I scrolled the map out, I was surprised to see a pin in Seward.  Seward?  But I'm there all the time and I've never noticed a yard shop.  Never.  But there it was, right off the main square.  Dare I hope that it really existed?  How could I have missed it for three years?  My finger hovered over the mouse button.  Should I click on it?  Sure, why not. 


It exists!  In my defense, it is on a road in Seward that I've only been down twice in three years, and it's a road that you must pay attention to the road while traveling, not looking up and down at store signage.  Weedy Creek yarn company is a tiny shop that actually shares the front half of an historic long narrow storefront.  The front third of the store is the yarn shop, and the back 2/3rd is a quilting/fabric shop called The Udder Store.  The Udder Store is the little sister satellite shop of the Cosmic Cow fabric store down in Lincoln. 

The quilt store, while small, has some lovely fabrics, especially historic reproduction fabrics.  The yarn shop is very small, but does have enough to keep you sane for the winter, or until you can get your internet order in.  Both are a far better choice than a LONG drive into the city.  I looked around found a couple of great yarns, made my purchase and was looking forward to delving into Portuguese knitting.

As long as I was in town though, I had to stop by and see Pat at Liberty house.  I hadn't been since the start of the New Year. After a whole lot of yackity-yack, I told her that I was going to take a quick spin through the shop and see what she had in that was new before I raced home to let the birds out. (It was after all 52 degrees out!)

There in the summer kitchen I saw it. Actually I saw all the stuff ON it first, then I saw what was hidden underneath.  A wonderfully interesting, paint splotched, crooked legged table sat in the middle of the room where a 1950s kitchen table USED to be.  She looked hearty, and was sturdy, and the price was good, but I really didn't have a place or and idea for her.  That was until I got half way home.  I would, of course, have to hope she wouldn't be sold for the rest of the day, until I could call Pat at 10am to put a hold on it.

While she was too tall, and the legs were wobbly and too small, the bench would make a fabulous coffee table!  I didn't think I would ever bother with a coffee table again.  They always seem to be in the way, cut a room in half, and seemed to accumulate stuff - as any horizontal surface does.  But this table was too good to pass up.  I put a hold on it on Thursday, and picked it up on Friday afternoon. 

We plopped her on the work table in the workshop and on Saturday, in the bright light of day, I took a good look at what all needed done.  OAK.  She is SOLID OAK! Every board is a solid inch thick.  The top is not only an inch thick, but also 24 inches WIDE! Wrap your head around the size of that tree!  The legs were oak as well, but were only 2x3 inches and were far too long and small to support not only the size and weight of the table, but also the aesthetics.  They would have to go.

From Pat I learned that an old man, a very old man, had built this table for his bride as a stand for her wash tubs so that she wouldn't have to move and tote them.  She could just line them up and work from one to the next to the next and then off to the line.  There was even a small hole in one end for the drain on the mangler tub. It is long enough for three large square wash tubs in a row.    Over the years it became a project table, as the many paint drips and splotches can attest to. 

He used nails, many rounds of nails, to not only build, but to repair the joints and secure, and re-secure, the legs.  There was no way those were coming out, so the legs had to be cut off. I then reset all the nails and drilled screw holes to add counter-sunk deck screws to pull it all together as tightly as I could. I filled the holes with putty and walked away so they could dry to their full depth.

While putty dried, I took one of the old legs to the hardware store to have custom paint mixed to match the peeling paint on the table top, and braces to hold the new legs on.  And wood, I needed a 2x4 to make the new legs.  I planned to abut two pieces and keep with the cobbled look of the table instead of using a solid 4x4 post for the legs.

I attached the mountings to the table, and built the legs.  I then spray painted the legs in a blotchy manner with green, tan, brown, and black spray paints and let them dry.  They then were given a solid coat of the custom brown of the table top, and again allowed to dry.

I then roughly rubbed the legs to knock some of the new paint off, revealing the wood grain and other colors underneath.  They look ancient, like they should.  I also painted over the filled screws with the red brown paint, making them look like the peeling stripped paint surrounding them.

When it was all reassembled, I started with layer after layer of water based, satin, polycoat.  I put on a total of 6 layers.  By Tuesday evening, the coffee table was sitting in front of the sofa where it belongs.  I think the old guy would be proud :D

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


It's wintertime in Nebraska, which means anything from 75' and sunny to -20' and a full on blizzard.

This week she decided to go somewhere in between and grant us an ice storm.  We were fully prepared.  The generator was tuned up and ready to run if we lost country power. (We didn't.)  The unused bathtubs were filled with water to be used for flushing toilets if the power to the well went out. (It didn't.)  We had plenty of food that either didn't need to be cooked at all, or that could be cooked on a gas stove top.  Anything that needed baked was baked the day before the storm hit.  The cooler was placed on the front porch for food that needed to be kept cool, but not frozen, just in case.
And we all had fully charged digital every-things, and projects to do to keep us busy.

The storm hit and all went smoothly.

We managed .76 inches of precipitation, but only .40 inches of that decided to become ice.  We were at 32 or colder the whole storm, but at 32' we ended up with a lot of super cooled rain, and not freezing rain.  It sure made for an amazing sunrise.