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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

Living With Horses

Living With Horses

by:
from issue:

The French breed of Ardennes is closer to what the breed has been in the past. The Ardennes has always been a stockier type of horse, rude as its environment. Today the breed has dramatically changed into a real heavy horse. If the Ardennes had an average weight between 550 and 700kg in the first part of the last century, the balance shows today 1000kg and more. Thus the difference between the Ardennes and their “big” sisters, the Brabants in Belgium, or the Trait du Nord in France, has gone.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 3

by:
from issue:

In parallel with making hay on the ground, nearly every year I have also made some hay on tripods. The attraction of this method is that it only needs one day of good weather to dry the grass sufficiently before it is put on the tripods, and then the hay takes very little harm no matter what the weather, usually coming out green, dry and smelling of hay two weeks later when it can be baled or stacked.

Mini Horse Haying

Mini Horse Haying

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from issue:

The first mini I bought was a three year old gelding named Casper. He taught me a lot about what a 38 inch mini could do just by driving me around the neighborhood. He didn’t cover the miles fast, but he did get me there! It wasn’t long before several more 38 inch tall minis found their way home. I presently have four minis that are relatively quiet, responsive to the bit, and can work without a lot of drama.

Ask A Teamster Neckyokes

Ask A Teamster: Neckyokes

I always chain or otherwise secure slip-on type neckyokes to the tongue so they don’t come off and cause an accident. Neckyokes unexpectedly coming off the tongue have caused countless problems, the likes of which have caused injuries, psychological damage, and even death to horses, and to people as well. Making sure the neckyoke is chained or otherwise secured to the tongue every time you hitch a team is a quick and easy way of eliminating a number of dangerous situations.

A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter

A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter

by:
from issue:

The 18th century saw a tremendous interest in landscaping private parkland on a grand scale with the movement of entire hills and mature trees, all by man and horse power, to fulfill the designs of celebrated gardeners such as Capability Brown. In the mid 1800s the movement of mature trees was revolutionised by the introduction of the Barron tree transplanter. The first planter was designed and built by Barron for the transplantation of maturing trees at Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire.

Shoeing Stocks

An article from the out-of-print Winter 1982 Issue of SFJ.

Happs Plowing A Chance to Share

Happ’s Plowing: A Chance to Share

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from issue:

Dinnertime rolled around before we could get people and horses off the field so that results of judging could be announced. I learned a lot that day, one thing being that people were there to share; not many took the competition side of the competition very seriously. Don Anderson of Toledo, WA was our judge — with a tough job handed to him. Everyone was helping each other so he had to really stay on his toes to know who had done what on the various plots.

Wheel Hoe

The Wheel Hoe: A Tool For Shallow Tillage

When we bought this little farm I soon realized I needed a wheel hoe. The size of the horse and tractor dictated space wasting wide rows in crop production and, to some degree, so does my two wheeled tractor.

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

by:
from issue:

As we start, consider a few things when building a pto cart. Are big drive tires necessary? Is a lot of weight needed? Imagine the cart in use. Try to see it working where you normally go and where you almost never go. Will it be safe and easy to mount or dismount? Can you access the controls of the implement conveniently? Is it easy to hook and unhook? Where is the balance point? I’m sure you will think of other details as you daydream about it.

Fjordworks Plowing the Market Garden

Fjordworks: Plowing the Market Garden Part 1

In a horse-powered market garden in the 1- to 10-acre range the moldboard plow can still serve us very well as one valuable component within a whole tool kit of tillage methods. In the market garden the plow is used principally to turn in crop residue or cover crops with the intention of preparing the ground to sow new seeds. In these instances, the plow is often the most effective tool the horse-powered farmer has on hand for beginning the process of creating a fine seed bed.

Farm Drum 25 Two-Way Plow

Farm Drum #25: Two-Way Plow

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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.

Horse Powered Snow Fencing and Sleigh Fencing

Horse Powered Snow Fencing and Sleigh Fencing

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We were planning on having our cattle out in a sheltered field for the winter but a busy fall and early snows meant our usual fencing tool was going to be ineffective. Through the grazing season we use a reel barrow which allows us to carry posts and pay out or take in wire with a wheel barrow like device which works really well. But not on snow. This was the motivation for turning our sleigh into a “snow fencer” or a “sleigh barrow”.

The Brabants Farm

The Brabants’ Farm

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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.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 2

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 2

by:
from issue:

From reading the Small Farmers Journal, I knew that some people are equally happy with either model, but because McCormick Deering had gone to the trouble of developing the No. 9, it suggests they could see that there were improvements to be made on the No. 7. Even if the improvement was small, with a single horse any improvement was likely to increase my chance of success.

John Deere Model A Tractor

from issue:

Your John Deere Tractor has a range of speeds. These various speeds not only give you the flexibility and adaptability you want, but also they enable you to balance the load and the speed for maximum economy. However, if you are handling a light load and want to travel at slow speed, it is far better to put your tractor into the gear which gives you the speed you want than to use a higher gear and throttle down.

Barn Raising

Barn Raising

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from issue:

Here it was like a beehive with too many fuzzy cheeked teen-agers who couldn’t possibly be experienced enough to be of much help. But work was being accomplished; bents, end walls and partitions were being assembled like magic and raised into place with well-coordinated, effortless ease and precision. No tempers were flaring, no egomaniacs were trying to steal the show, and there was not the usual ten percent doing ninety percent of the work.

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.

Cole One Horse Planters

Cole One Horse Planters

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from issue:

The most populous single horse planting tools were made by Planet Junior. But they were by no means the only company producing these small farm gems. Most manufacturers included a few models and some, like Planet Junior, American and Cole specialized in the implement. What follows are fourteen different models from Cole’s, circa 1910, catalog. We published ten of these in volume 30 number three of Small Farmer’s Journal.

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