Small Farmer's Journal

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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.

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