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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 PST

Barn Raising

A Traditional Timber Frame Horse Barn Raising in the Twenty-First Century

by Arthur Bolduc of Howard, Ohio
photos by Jim McBride

One hundred years ago (1905) Henry Ford put his first automobile on the road, and after WWI he started building farm tractors in earnest. He wanted to be a hero, to perhaps make everybody’s life easier, and to certainly get rich himself. But he didn’t foresee some of the problems his inventions would create; the Plain Folks did.

The Amish, and for a time, the Mennonites and a few others saw the automobile and the tractor as a threat to their way of life. The automobile cost money to buy, to run and to maintain. All money drained out of the farm community. It allowed quick transportation to the nearest city with its bright lights and cheap entertainment. People were seduced into buying gimcrack they didn’t need, and couldn’t afford on loose but enticing credit that was expensive. They bypassed the local farm community merchants, and more money was lost from the local economy.

The Plain Folks lived in communities no more than a half-day’s buggy ride in areas. They had their bulk food stores, shops and cottage industries, all the necessities of life right there in the community. They worshipped Christ, and their church was an assembly of their community members, not an ostentatious building. They held Sunday services on the farms, in their homes.

Their horse-drawn buggies were ample, inexpensive transportation even after the automobile became popular and replaced most horses on the streets and roads. The Plain Folks farmed with horses, that limited the size of their farms to about eighty tillable acres, enough to support a family and about the limit to what they could properly care for with horses. Limiting the size of a farm encouraged good husbandry, a sustainable form of agriculture and also discouraged greed. Horses lived on homegrown feed and replaced themselves at little expense and often a profit to the owner.

There is a limit to how much work a horse can do before it has to be rested. A farm boy knows that and knows what is expected of him when he is sent out to the field with a team. The tractor changed all of that. When a farmer put his son on a tractor that only needed to be stopped for refueling, the kid never knew when he was going to get off or when the work would end. Since tractors were expensive and didn’t make money sitting under the shed, and the kid was just steering, going for a joy ride and not doing a lot of physical work, and the old man let the good times roll! With headlights, they could work far into the night, and a lot of people got injured or killed doing just that.

Yes, there was practically no end to the acreage a farmer with a family could work with a tractor or two or three, and the greed they could generate. Tractor farmers suddenly started looking to buy out neighbors in trouble instead of helping them.
Driven by a tireless machine instead of the 3 mph pace of the horse, a lot of farm boys burned out and started looking for jobs in town. That was okay with the old man. There were plenty of migrant farm laborers driven off their land in Mexico by U.S. corporations who could grow corn and beans cheaper than the local farmers. Unfortunately the displaced farmers had no money with which to buy the corn and beans (that were grown for U.S. industry anyhow) and joined the migrant farm labor army streaming north of the border looking for any work they could find. Unlike the farmer’s son, the migrant laborers could be turned back on the road when there was no work and they were no expense to the farmer.

The Plain Folks answer to a higher authority than the almighty dollar. Their simple Christian lifestyles are based on home economics and they practice a sustainable economy driven by community cooperation rather than avarice competition.
Family is central in their lives, and community is a group of extended families. What is good for the community is usually good for the individual families, and they learn to ask, “what is good for my community?” They keep their buggy horses for short haul transportation, their draft horses for farm power, and their kids at home on the farm in multi-generation households.

In the twenties and thirties when the electric lines started reaching to the farms, the Plain Folks took a good look at the destruction strip mining was wrecking on the countryside in order to feed the coal fired electric generating plants that polluted the air we breathed and they decided they wanted no part of rural electric. Neither did they want the intrusive radio and later television programmed to shape the buying habits of the consumer-crazed nation. The invasive telephones stayed outside in phone booths where they belonged, and meals are never interrupted by tele-marketers.

In their communities of haves without have-nots and very little expensive police presence, the children working alongside their parents and extended family grow into strong, healthy citizens. By the time the boys are eighteen they are experienced farmers, teamsters, carpenters and have a good knowledge of several other trades. With good social skills, work habits, and ethics, they are very employable, but prefer to be self-employed in their own communities.
They realize their labor is one of their most valuable, sustainable resources, and they make the most of it. With community cooperation, they build their own homes, barns and other buildings.

barnraisingCx

There are certainly enough willing hands there to man the pike poles, the ropes and fit the end wall or bent, as it is called, into place.

When one of my neighbors needed a new barn, I thought it would be a pole barn, or even a hoop house. Not so. Bank barns have been around for centuries and they still meet the needs of the horse farmer, and that is what Danny built. He was thinking of what he would hand on to the next generation.

A small bulldozer was brought in to excavate the side of the hill for the foundation. And while the barn foundation was going up, a crew nearby was cutting the timber frame for the barn. I was there September 3, 4, & 5th, 1994 when Rudy Christian and the Timber Framers Guild of America raised the frame for the new barn at Malabar Farm in one of the last great barn raisings of the Twentieth Century. I examined the work closely that was going into Danny’s barn and it was on a par with best work of the Timber Framers of North America at Malabar.

On a misty July morning, with a lot less fanfare than the Great Barn raising at Malabar, Danny’s literally countless relatives and neighbors swarmed over the capped barn foundation. Any ideas I had about lending a hand was soon forgotten, and I retreated a couple of hundred yards to where Jim McBride was setting up a tri-pod for his camera with a long lens.

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With so many workers, I was sure that chaos was going reign before they ever got started, and people were going to get hurt. From my, be helpful and stay out of the way, perch on the hill, I couldn’t tell who was in charge, where they broke up into work teams, or how the crew was organized. Labor, especially skilled-labor, is at a premium on all construction sites. Only in the Navy Sea Bees did I ever see more help standing around than they could efficiently use. And even there, there was a division of labor, everybody had their specialty and didn’t go on until it was their stage of construction. 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.

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Now, we will do the same thing on the other end of the barn.

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With the end bents in place, the internal framing takes place.

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That shed roof went into place so fast I missed it.

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Working together like a well-drilled team, the barn takes shape.

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I focused on individuals, I tried to find the gold bricks; I couldn’t. Nobody was killing himself, they couldn’t, everybody was paying attention and turning to. I saw teen-agers, probably no more than fourteen, taking instructions, queuing on the older more experienced workers and before the day was over they had learned a lot.

From the time they can walk, Amish children are with their working parents in the home and on the farm. They are encouraged to help and they fail a lot. The failures and the unsuccessful attempts don’t count, they are just practice, it’s the little successes that are celebrated. The children love the sense of achievement, the praise from parents and older siblings. They grow up bold and confident, and it showed at the barn raising.

There are no people in their world trying to protect turf, to discourage them for fear of them taking their jobs. There is more work to be done in this world than we can accomplish. Their problem is distinguishing what is worthwhile and what isn’t. They also learn to ask, “What good will come of this?”, and they get answers.

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Between breaks in food preparation the women gathered to watch their heroes & pray nobody got hurt.

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I learned that only one teen-ager slid off the roof and dropped about ten feet into a pile of sand. More embarrassed than hurt, he scrambled back onto the roof and kept on working.

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In spite of intermittent rain, the roof sheathing and felt paper goes on and the barn roof is nearly ready for the metal.

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In spite of a rain-slicked surface, the metal roofing goes on without a mishap.

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Before the roof is closed, the siding is going on.

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The doors were hung, but too damp to paint. That will have to wait, somebody yelled “come and get it!”

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An M.D. who came to watch the barn raising admitted that he carried a lot more than just a black bag (if he owned one) in the back of his stationwagon that morning, but was grateful his services were not needed.

By mid-afternoon, most of the workers were picking up their tools, and the youngsters were busy cleaning up around the job site. There were a few pieces of hardware to be installed, and some trim painting to be done, but that would have to wait until drier weather. I felt that I had witnessed a miracle, at least a victory for the human spirit.

Without power tools*, these farm community neighbors had raised a barn in less than a day and had enjoyed every minute of it. A solid timber frame barn on a solid foundation, that if properly cared for will last at least the three hundred years that Amish built barns have stood in Pennsylvania.

*An ironic note to this story is that Danny’s father, Bill Hostetler, ran a community hardware store on the home farm. Here, six miles from the nearest village with a hardware store, it saved those of us in the Nunda community a lot of running around when a bolt or such broke. A little price shopping revealed he wasn’t charging the markup that some of the hardware chains were. But with the boys running the farm and his own woodworking shop in the hardware building, he was happy, and we appreciated it.

However, when his supplier was bought out by a large corporation, they gave Bill a minimum figure in dollars that he had to buy before they would ship to him. Since he was non-electric and didn’t buy power-tools and other electric items, he couldn’t possibly meet their demands and had to close the hardware business last week.

Spotlight On: People

Rope Tricks

a short piece on rope tricks from the 20th anniversary Small Farmer’s Journal.

In Memoriam Gene Logsdon

In Memoriam: Gene Logsdon

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Gene didn’t see life (or much of anything else) through conventional eyes. I remember his comment about a course he took in psychology when he was trying to argue that animals did in fact have personalities (as any farmer or rancher will tell you is absolutely true), and the teacher basically told him to sit down and shut up because he didn’t know what he was taking about. Gene said: “I was so angry I left the course and then left the whole stupid school.”

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

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Watching Wayne’s sure hands it was easy for me to forget that this is a 91 year old man. There was strength, economy, elegance and thrift in his every stroke.

Parasitic Experiences

Parasitic Experiences

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It all started with a sign. “We Have Worms.” It’s not complicated to make — I tore the cardboard box, handed it to Andy, and he wrote on it with a black magic marker and hung it in the store window. Everyone knows what it means, it means that if you’re not gonna go diggin’ for the earthworms yourself, you come in and and buy bait from him. It’s a seasonal sign; we scrap it every Autumn. No biggie.

UCSC Farm & Garden Apprenticeship

UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden Apprenticeship

UC Santa Cruz is thrilled to welcome applications to the 50th Anniversary year of the UCSC Farm and Garden Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture. The 39 apprentices each year arrive from all regions of the US and abroad, and represent a wide spectrum of ages, backgrounds, and interests. We have a range of course fee waivers available to support participation in the Apprenticeship.

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

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On a sunny early September day I met Doug Flack at his biodynamic and organic farm, just South of Enosburg Falls. Doug is an American Milking Devon breeder with some of the best uddered and well behaved animals I have seen in the breed. The animals are beautifully integrated into his small and diversified farm. His system of management seems to bring out the best in the animals and his enthusiasm for Devon cattle is contagious.

Rainshadow Organics

Rainshadow Organics

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Saralee Lawrence and Ashanti Samuels are Rainshadow Organics, a burgeoning, certified organic operation which fully embraces the tenets of mixed crop and livestock farming. At its core is a full-force market garden. The entire farm comprises one hundred and eighty acres situated in the magnificent, high desert region of central Oregon and subject to a painfully short growing season (some years just slightly over 2 months).

Livery and Feed

Livery & Feed

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A livery stable, for the benefit of those who never heard of one, was an establishment which catered to horses. It boarded them, doctored them, and bred them, whenever any of these services were required. It also furnished “rigs” — a horse and buggy or perhaps a team, for anyone who wished to ride, rather than walk, about the town or countryside. It was a popular service for traveling men who came into town on the railway train and wanted to call on customers in cross-road communities.

The Shallow Insistence

…a life of melody, poetry and farming?

ODHBA 2016 Plowing Match

ODHBA 2016 Plowing Match

The Oregon Draft Horse Breeders Association hosted their 50th Anniversary Plowing Match at the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center in McMinnville, Oregon on April 9, 2016. Small Farmer’s Journal was lucky enough to attend and capture some of the action to share.

New York Horsefarmer Ed Button and his Belgians

New York Horsefarmer: Ed Button and his Belgians

In New York State one does not explore the world of draft horses long before the name of Ed Button is invariably and most respectfully mentioned. Ed’s name can be heard in the conversations of nearly everyone concerned with heavy horses from the most experienced teamsters to the most novice horse hobbyists. His career with Belgians includes a vast catalog of activities: showing, pulling, training, farming, breeding, and driving, which Ed says, “I’ve been doing since I was old enough to hold the lines.”

Elsa

Elsa

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I headed out with a gut feeling not that something was wrong, but that in these conditions there soon enough would be if I did not try. I made my way more or less by instinct across the open field and through the frozen swamp. In amongst saplings, rocks, and old rusty metal and wire there is a large, red haired calf half steaming where mom is aggressively licking her and the other half is iced over where her hooves and legs appear frozen to the ground.

Central Oregon Locavore Online Fundraiser

CENTRAL OREGON LOCAVORE NEEDS YOUR HELP! We at SFJ can relate.  Central Oregon Locavore is running a GoFundMe campaign, similar to our Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.  Follow the links to learn more about Locavore and to show your support. www.centraloregonlocavore.org www.gofundme.com/locavore Central Oregon Locavore works for an ecologically stable and socially just food system […]

Ripening

Poetry Corner: What A Boy Lies Awake Wondering

This is a poem from Paul Hunter’s book Ripening.

Changing of Seasons

LittleField Notes: Changing of Seasons

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We are blessed who are active participants in the life of soil and weather, crops and critters, living a life grounded in seasonal change. This talk of human connection to land and season is not just the rambling romantic musing of an agrarian ideologue. It is rather the result of participating in the deeply vital vocation that is farming and knowing its fruits first hand.

Fjord Horses at Work in the Green Mountains of Vermont

Fjord Horses at Work in the Green Mountains of Vermont

We own a 40 jersey cow herd and sell most of their milk to Cobb Hill Cheese, who makes farmstead cheeses. We have a four-acre market garden, which we cultivate with our team of Fjord horses and which supplies produce to a CSA program, farm stand and whole sale markets. Other members of the community add to the diversity of our farm by raising hay, sheep, chickens, pigs, bees, and berries, and tending the forest and the maple sugar-bush.

Harnessing the Future

Harnessing the Future

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En route to a remote pasture where the Belgian draft horses, Prince and Tom, are grazing, we survey the vast green landscape, a fine mist hovering in distant low lying areas. We are enveloped in a profusion of sweet, earthy balance. Interns and other workers start their chores; one pauses to check his smart phone. Scattered about are many animal-powered rustic implements. This rich and agriculturally diverse, peaceful place is steeped in contrasts: modern and ancient.

Carriage Hill Farm

Carriage Hill Farm: Crown Jewel of Parks

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“Thank you for taking the time to visit our farm.” This is one of the responses that I give to the many visitors as they prepare to leave Carriage Hill Farm, an historical farm which is part of a much larger system of 24 parks within the Five Rivers Metroparks system. The main emphasis of our farm is education and interpretation of an 1880’s family farm with all the equipment and animals from the 1880’s time period.

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