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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

An Efficient, Economical Barn

by David Foxley of Lander, WY

In “Little Field Notes,” Spring 2010 issue of SFJ, my son Ryan wrote of the central prominence of a barn in any horse powered farm operation. I would expand that to say that a well thought out, functional barn should be the center piece of any farming endeavor, horse powered or fossil fueled, that involves livestock. Although we do not use draft animals, my wife and I do have a small farm on which we raise and house a variety of animals. Our small, efficient barn is indeed the hub of all farm activity. After building and using two previous barns during our lifetimes, I think the one we now have has achieved a level of convenience, efficiency, and economy that is worth passing on. It could easily handle additional needs with a modest expansion. As is, it functions well.

Here’s the design and some thoughts on our small barn. It was easy and low-cost to build, and after three years of use pretty much meets our needs and expectations. The plan is simple and easily enlarged or modified to fulfill a variety of uses. I make no claim to the design being novel, unique, or necessarily my own; it’s just the end result of many years of using barns that almost worked.

An Efficient Economical Barn

Requirements: We needed a place to store eight tons or so of baled hay, grains and horse tack, provide shelter from high elevation Wyoming winters for two or three saddle horses, house a dozen or so laying hens, a pig or two, and provide a place to milk a cow. It handles all of these chores with flying colors as well as providing a tie stall to saddle a couple of horses out of the rain and snow. At 24’ X 24’ it is about the minimum size needed to accomplish this. Though the barn is not large enough to deal with full sized draft horses; it could easily be enlarged to do so. It cost less than $5,000 to build in 2007.

Construction: The basic structure is a standard pole barn. Pressure treated 4x4s are set three feet deep in concrete. They rise 18” above the loft floor, giving us a short pony wall to bear the load of the rafters and provide increased storage and headroom. Paired 2X6s, bolted to the posts, support the 9” engineered joists. Loft joists are full span @16” OC with a doubled, 2X12 center support beam and 3?4” OSB (oriented strand board), tongue and groove flooring. With careful stacking, this floor/loft will hold up to ten tons of small bales with room for hay drop access. Side post spans are a maximum of eight feet, and end spans are twelve. Larger barns, perhaps with longer spans, would require heavier framing. Purlins on the sides are 2x4s with 2×4 sway braces. Carriage bolts or lag screws secure all lower structural members. Although I have worked as a journeyman carpenter and built this pretty much by myself with some help, its construction is simple and straightforward enough that anyone handy enough to farm can easily put it together. My two sons, both top hands with a hammer, helped me frame the loft floor and roof, and a friend helped with the roofing.

Rafters are site cut 2x10s set at a 10 in 12 pitch, selected to match our house as well as provide headroom and a classic appearance. The loft precludes the use of manufactured trusses, although those with the financial means could certainly use them with a loft space built in. Metal roofing, over 2×4 purlins, was installed by two of us on one fine, early summer morning. It sheds our winter snows easily. The floor, except for the coop and tack room, is road base gravel.

I used HardiePanel™ brand of concrete based siding for several reasons. Although very heavy, it resists rot from manure and moisture, looks halfway decent if not painted immediately, as the photos reveal, and comes in ten foot lengths. It is a bit awkward to install and easily broken if not supported, but has lived up to expectations. There are a few problems that will be explained shortly. A “Masonite”™ type of 1’x4’ shingle siding adorns the gables. This matches the gables on our log home and is lightweight, easily cut, and simple for one person to install. The barn is built on a slight slope, so I held the siding level with the high side and filled in with 2×6 pressure treated lumber. Trim is 1×4, pre-primed Masonite™ type material.

Three of the four gates are home built and have stood up well; one pipe gate was an expedient. The chicken coop is insulated on all sides as well as top and bottom. 20 or more degrees below zero is not uncommon in our area. Flooring is 3?4” OSB with two layers of asphalt roofing felt topped with leftover, face down siding for moisture and manure resistance. Interior walls are 7/16” OSB. 2x6s on a 2” in 7’ slope are used on the floor of the tie stall. This area could easily be utilized for an overnight tie area.

Cost: Here we go with the nitty-gritty. I can’t say exactly how much this barn cost, as we were beginning a new house as the structure was reaching completion; some of the materials were intermingled. If I needed an eight foot 2×6 for a concrete form for the house I bought a sixteen footer, used the extra eight feet on the barn, and then used the leftover end after using it to make the forms. I also used odds and ends of “stuff” I had lying around, but not much. An after the fact inventory and cost analysis put the price at about $4,500. No hired labor was used, and I ran the wiring myself. The insulated chicken coop door was a lumber yard mistake that I picked up for next to nothing; windows are cheap, vinyl, double pane sliders, and the barn has yet to be painted. The breaker box/electrical feed is not included, as it is the master panel that feeds our house and serves our well pump, nor is the cost of running a water line and freeze-less hydrant for stock water.

What works? The basic design has proven sound, albeit a wee bit small. We raise a pair of pigs in one stall every summer, leaving the other stall open for other uses. Our horses generally pasture elsewhere during the warmer months, and there are rarely more than two in the corral at any time during the summer months.

The coop also works well, although we have to find an alternate home for new birds in the interim between downy chicks and nearly adult birds. Up to 16 layers are easily housed and the outside run is handily accessible. I’m very glad that I insulated it well.

A short wall separates the tie stall from the alleyway, not only dividing the area but serving as a buttress on the off side of the milk cow. The short alley is handy for cornering smaller critters to doctor or put halters on.

There are three hay drop openings in the loft floor. One is over the manger in the tie stall, the others are over the loafing stalls. These have proven very handy, especially in winter.

What doesn’t work? Very little. Almost everything that doesn’t is a result of design error and could easily be corrected. The hay drop above the tack room side stall is in the far corner. It’s awkward to get at, and access to it eats up considerable storage room. This is a direct result of my unclear instructions to my sons during construction and could be changed without a great deal of trouble. I sometimes think the gate on the other stall would be handier if I would re-hang it to change the hinge side, but probably won’t ever get around to it.

Occasionally, I wish for wider openings (skid steer size) in the stalls and main area, although that would really eat up space on a barn this small. As it is, the stalls are easily mucked out by hand as long as I keep after it. This very fact, I must remind myself, helps slow down the pace of life; it often makes me ponder Wendell Berry’s admonition: “Steady work quiets the mind.” It would also be handy to have a stairway to the loft rather than a ladder, although this would also eat up more room than I wish to spare.

Concrete based siding is quite heavy and easily broken. I foresaw this in the stalls and provided 2×4 and 2×6 backing in potential kick areas. Never the less, a mare kicked a perfect, hoof shaped hole in the wall outside the tie stall. A wainscot of pressed board siding on that side should address the problem. This material, although not as rot resistant as the other siding, has greater flexibility and impact survival. Originally, I used galvanized, ring shank gun nails on the sides but have added roofing screws with washers as a concession to Wyoming winds. Except for tacking the panels in place, I would recommend using screws and washers of some sort. Snow from the roof falls in front of the alley doorway and is somewhat of a nuisance, but there are few options, short of a gable, to remedy this. I just live with it.

A few closing thoughts: When I was growing up it seemed that most barns were either very large, classic, Great Basin dairy barns or ramshackle affairs built of palettes, used plywood, and war surplus materials. Many just didn’t seem to work. This is the third pole barn I’ve designed and built in the last 25 years, and is by far the most successful.

The loft works very well, but I do have a hay elevator to lift the bales. Absent an elevator, I suppose one could install a block and tackle arrange- ment. Allowances for this could be easily framed into the roof structure. Loose hay could be pitched up from a wagon without an extraordinary (!?) amount of work.

As with many things in life, larger would be nice. Expansion in length, rather than width, would be easiest and most cost effective, although either would certainly be an option. At some point in the near future it needs a coat of paint, a loft door, and window shutters.

After three years of use our barn is taking on its own personae. Cobwebs adorn the corners, Robins return each year to nest on the center beam, Barn Swallows have taken up residence, a couple of stray cats hang around in the winter, and the sun shines bright through the east side on a mountain summer morn. Early every day, when Sadie, our goofy Labradoodle and I open the gate to do the chores, the hay dust sparkles in the light; barn smells evoke pleasant memories of distant summers, and Lilly, our Dexter cow noisily announces the need for her breakfast barley. I am pleased that something is right in this world.

An Efficient Economical Barn

An Efficient Economical Barn

Spotlight On: Equipment & Facilities

The New Idea No5 Transplanter

The NEW IDEA No. 5 Transplanter

from issue:

The planting distances or intervals at which the water is released, is controlled by the gear and pinions under the shield near the driver’s right foot. The large, flat-faced gear should be so turned that the arrow on the back points straight up. The numbers on either side of the arrow will then be so arranged that the number 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be on the side of the water trip lever and will denote the various positions in which the Driven Pinion meshes with the gear.

Cultivating Questions The Cost of Working Horses

Cultivating Questions: The Cost of Working Horses

Thanks to the many resources available in the new millennium, it is relatively easy for new and transitioning farmers to learn the business of small-scale organic vegetable production. Economic models of horse-powered market gardens, however, are still few and far between. To fill that information hole, I asked three experienced farmers to join me in tracking work horse hours, expenses and labor over a two-year period and to share the results in the Small Farmer’s Journal.

Farm Drum 27 Case 22 x 36 Threshing Machine

Farm Drum #27: Case 22 x 36 Threshing Machine

by:

Friend and Auctioneer Dennis Turmon has an upcoming auction featuring a Case Threshing machine, and we couldn’t wait when he invited us to take a look. On a blustery Central Oregon day (sorry about the wind noise), Lynn & Dennis take us on a guided tour of the Case 22×36 Thresher.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

by:
from issue:

Over the last few years of making hay, the mowing, turning and making tripods has settled into a fairly comfortable pattern, but the process of getting it all together for the winter is still developing. In the beginning I did what everyone else around here does and got it baled, but one year I decided to try one small stack. The success of this first stack encouraged me to do more, and now most of my hay is stacked loose.

Fencing for Horses

Fencing for Horses

by:
from issue:

The first wire we tried was a small gauge steel wire which was not terribly satisfactory with horses. Half the time they wouldn’t see it and would charge on through. And the other half of the time they would remember getting shocked by something they hadn’t seen there and would refuse to come through when we were standing there with gate wide open. We realized that visibility was an important consideration when working with horses.

Farm Drum 25 Two-Way Plow

Farm Drum #25: Two-Way Plow

by:

Lynn Miller and Ed Joseph discuss the merits of the two-way plow, what to look for when considering purchase, and a little bit of the history of this unique IH / P&O model.

I Built My Own Buckrake

I Built My Own Buckrake

by:
from issue:

One of the fun things about horse farming is the simplicity of many of the machines. This opens the door for tinkerers like me to express themselves. Sometimes it is just plain nice to take a proven design and build one of your own. Last spring I did just that. I built my own buckrake. I’m proud of the fact that it worked as it should and that my rudimentary carpentry skills produced it.

Homemade Cheese Press

Homemade Cheese Press

by:
from issue:

On the Gies farmstead we occasionally wallow in goat milk. From it we make our own butter, yogurt and cheese as well as drink some. This has prompted me to build a little cheese press to help with the extra milk. The press is made from inexpensive 1/2 inch thick plastic cutting boards used for the top and bottom plates and pressure disks, white pvc pipe, and a plastic floor drain cap.

McCormick-Deering Potato Digger

McCormick-Deering Potato Digger

from issue:

McCormick Deering (eventually International Harvestor) made what many believe to be one of the outstanding potato digger models. This post features the text and illustrations from the original manufacturer’s setup and operation literature, handed to the new owners upon purchase. This implement, pulled by two horses or a small suitable tractor, dug up the taters and conveyed them up an inclined, rattling chain which shook off most of the dirt and laid the crop on top of the ground for collection

Multi-Purpose Tool Carrier Equi Idea Multi-V

Multi-Purpose Tool Carrier: EQUI IDEA Multi-V

Building on the experiences with a tool carrier named Multi, consisting of a reversible plow interchangeable with a 5-tine cultivator, the Italian horse drawn equipment manufacturer EQUI IDEA launched in 2012 a new multi-purpose tool carrier named Multi-V. The “V” in its name refers to the first field of use, organic vineyards of Northern Italy. Later on, by designing more tools, other applications were successfully added, such as vegetable gardens and tree nurseries.

Shed and Barn Plans

Below is a short piece from Starting Your Farm, by SFJ editor and publisher Lynn R. Miller. Click the links below to see Chapter One of Starting Your Farm and to view the book in our online bookstore. “You may have purchased a farm with a fantastic set of old barns and sheds. You, on […]

John Deere No 12A Combine

John Deere No. 12-A Straight-Through Combine

from issue:

It is only natural for the owner of a new combine to want to try his machine as early as possible. This results in most new combines being started in the field before the crop is ready for combining. As soon as a binder is seen in the neighbor’s field, the urge to start becomes uncontrollable. When grain is ready for binding, it is not ready for straight combining.

Illusive Herd of Threshasaurus Sighted

Illusive Herd of Threshasaurus Sighted

by:
from issue:

The Threshasaurus’s large size and curious nature may appear antagonistic, but they are mostly curious and largely non-threatening. Be careful when approaching, however, as they do have sharp teeth and many fast moving, exposed pulleys.

Spring Tooth Cultivator Equi Idea Canadese

Spring Tooth Cultivator EQUI IDEA Canadese

Based and inspired by old small french-made cultivators called “Canadien”, the modern version of the Italian “Canadese” revives all the characteristics of this very popular tool amongst smallholders of the bygone times. The Canadese particularly suits, with its light weight and handy construction, small gardens or vegetable fields, especially in hilly or terraced landscapes, where the area for maneuvering at the headlands is limited, requiring that the implement has to be moved often by hand.

Fjordworks Plowing the Market Garden Part 2

Fjordworks: Plowing the Market Garden Part 2

Within the context of the market garden, the principal aim for utilizing the moldboard is to initiate the process of creating a friable zone for the root systems of direct-seeded or transplanted cash crops to establish themselves in, where they will have sufficient access to all the plant nutrients, air, and moisture they require to bear successful fruits. To this end, it is critical for good plant growth to render the soil into a fine-textured crumbly condition and to ensure there is no compaction within the root zone.

Homemade Beet Grinder

Homemade Beet Grinder

by:
from issue:

This is my small beet grinder I built about 6 years ago. It has done nearly daily duty for that time. The beet fodder is added to my goat and rabbit rations which are largely homemade. Adding the pulp to the grain rations has aided me in having goat milk throughout the winter months. My beets are the Colossal Red Mangels. Many grow up to 2 feet long. I cut off enough for a day’s feed and grind it up each morning. Beets oxidize like cut apples. Fresh is best!

Eggs & Their Care

Eggs & Their Care

from issue:

Egg quality is the combined elements of an egg which increase the market value to the producer, the keeping qualities to the distributors, and the nutritive and eye-appeal value to the consumer.

The Brabants Farm

The Brabants’ Farm

by:
from issue:

The Brabants’ Farm is a multi purpose farming operation whose main goal is to promote “horsefarming.” Our philosophy is to support the transformation of regional conventional agriculture and forestry into a sustainable, socially responsible, and less petroleum dependent based agriculture, by utilizing animal drawn technology (“horsefarming”), and by meeting key challenges in 21st century small scale agriculture and forestry in Colombia and throughout South America.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT