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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

Building a Community, Building a Barn

Building a Community, Building a Barn

Building a Community, Building a Barn

by Donn Hewes of Marathon, NY

In 2010, 20 Amish families moved into our neighborhood and set about farming. They made friends with the locals, cleared brush from abandoned farms and started milking cows. Fifteen more families are expected next year, all from the same area of Pennsylvania, near Punxsutawney. Most of the summer you could see sawmills working, and small homes being built to augment the farm houses that had been bought. Milk dumping stations were built where three or four farmers could bring milk to be picked up. Two small schools were built.

Finally, in the fall it was barn raising season. Three barns were built in about two months. Other old barns are being renovated. Interestingly, this Amish community is committed to making loose hay, so all the new barns they built were large (90’ x 38’ average) and open, with tracks at the peak to handle this style of traditional hay making.

Building a Community, Building a Barn

A barn built in a day!

Building a Community, Building a Barn

Each farmer poured concrete slabs and built their first floor with a little help from their neighbors. Most of these were half block or all block construction with heavy beams and floor joists meant to support a large hay mow above. When this work was done and all the wood for the rest of the barn was cut, planning could begin for a barn raising. Work for cutting, marking and building all the bents would start about two weeks before the actual date. Five to ten workers could cut and mark all the pieces of the barn in little more than a week. The tool of choice for most of the cutting is a chainsaw. Every purlin, box beam, and ridge board is marked for the rafter layout. The rafters are all marked for the 1 x 4 purlins every two feet, that serve as roofing nailers. Even the siding is marked so nails can be started on the ground before a board is passed up and hammered into place.

On the day of the barn raising a large bus would bring many friends and neighbors from Punxsutawney for the day. It was a great sight to see the Amish carpenters climb off the tour bus and pull their nail belts from the luggage area. At the two barn raisings I participated in there were easily a hundred people.

Building a Community, Building a Barn

This barn is 86 feet long, end to end, and features end walls and sides which use 2 x 6 studs and braces to support girts and siding. The truss design directs the ridge and roof loads to the floor.

The lumber used in these barns was all soft wood and mostly hemlock. Most of the farms had a ready supply of standing timber for this purpose. The barn uses a truss design similar to the traditional bents of old style timber framing. Each bent (as the Amish refer to them) or truss has a couple of tension members that relieve the need for major beams that cross the barn floor holding the traditional timber frame together. These trusses make an excellent use of the soft wood resource, that would have been considered inferior lumber for the construction of the traditional heavy timber barn.

Building a Community, Building a Barn

To the best of my knowledge all these barns are built without the need for detailed working drawings. The lead carpenter uses chalk lines on the finished mow floor to outline the structure to be built (the red lines in the drawing above), and describe the cutting of each piece that will be needed. From there most of the work is in their heads. There is a real advantage in using the chalk line method, as each barn may vary in width or length, but this is all accounted for when the lines are snapped and after the lines are down, the building methods, and sequence of parts is always the same. At first I suspected this combination of truss design and soft wood construct was a more recent innovation for the Amish community, but I have been told by one of the lead carpenters that this method of barn building goes back at least 50 years in their community.

Building a Community, Building a Barn

One of the secrets of this barn building method is that the basic barn pattern is repeated without too much variation from farm to farm. When you climb up to help assemble the frame you realize that you can put the same nails in the same braces and beams at each station you come to. This is important so that 100 carpenters can work quickly, and if you have helped with a couple barns before you will understand the basic construction. I was one of the few non-Amish to climb on the first barn as it was being raised and I found out later that Jake, the lead carpenter and one of my new neighbors, was watching me to make sure I figured out what I was doing!

Most everyone had gathered by 8:30 on the day of the raising, and the first bent was already going up. By 10:30 all the bents were up, and rafters were going on. By the time we stopped for lunch almost half the roofing and siding was on. In the afternoon, while one group finished the roofing and siding, another built rolling doors and more folks finished a shed roof added to one end of the barn. By the time I headed for home and chores of my own around 4pm, all the roofing and siding were done and the ringing of hammers was slowly starting to fade.

Building a Community, Building a Barn

The bottom floor of the barn for cows and work horses.

One of the most striking aspects of this development is the strength and confidence that comes from this communal way of living. While it is impressive to build a barn in a day it seems even more impressive to imagine building four barns or six, and all the rest of the needs of a community. On my own farm there are many things I could build; a wind mill, a green house, a meat packing plant, but what will my community support? How will I know when to push ahead or when to conserve? What if the future is not like I expect it to be? For these young Amish families the vision of a shared agricultural community is strong, and clear. It is fun to watch.

Building a Community, Building a Barn

Spotlight On: Livestock

Horseshoeing Part 1A

Horseshoeing Part 1A

Horseshoeing, though apparently simple, involves many difficulties, owing to the fact that the hoof is not an unchanging body, but varies much with respect to form, growth, quality, and elasticity. Furthermore, there are such great differences in the character of ground-surfaces and in the nature of horses’ work that shoeing which is not performed with great ability and care induces disease and makes horses lame.

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 1

by:
from issue:

The practical everyday working of horses and mules in harness has always been at the heart of what the Small Farmer’s Journal is about. And like the Journal, a good horse powered farm keeps the horses at the center: the working nucleus of the farm. All the tractive effort for the pulling of machines, hauling in of crops, hauling out of manures, harvesting and planting is done as much as is practicable with the horses.

The Big Hitch

The Big Hitch

In 1925 Slim Moorehouse drove a hitch of 36 Percheron Horses pulling 10 grain wagons loaded with 1477 bushesl of wheat through the Calgary Stampede Parade. It is out intention to honor a man who was a great horseman and a world record holder. The hitch, horses and wagons, was 350 feet in length and he was the only driver.

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.

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.

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You Part 2

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 2

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Every beginning horse farmer at some point will find himself in need of procuring that first team. After land, this is certainly one of the most critical purchasing decisions you will make in the development of the farm. The animals you choose can make your farming glow and hum with moments of blissful certainty, or contribute to frustration, bewilderment, loss of resolve, and God forbid, horses and people hurt and machines wrecked.

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.

Farmrun On the Anatomy of Thrift

On the Anatomy of Thrift: Side Butchery

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals.

The Anatomy of Thrift: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 2: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals. Harvest Day is the second in the series, which explores the ‘cheer’ that is prepared on the day of slaughter, and dives deep into the philosophy and psychology of our relationship to animals.

Step Ahead Horse Progress Days 2016

Step Ahead: 23rd Annual Horse Progress Days 2016

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I had only been to Horse Progress Days once before, at Mount Hope, Ohio in 2008. It had been an eye-opener, showing how strong and in touch with sustainable farming values the Amish are, and how innovative and sensible their efforts could be. So at the 23rd annual event in Howe, Indiana, I was there partly looking for signs of continuity, and partly for signs of change. Right off I spotted an Amish man with a Blue Tooth in his ear, talking as he walked along.

Camel Power in Georgia

Camel Power in Georgia

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Last spring we got the bright idea to plow some corn with one of the camels, so we went to the shed and drug out the “Planet Jr. one camel cultivating plow”. My 86 year old Grandfather said “Son, don’t worry about thinning that corn, those camels are going to do a fine job of it, for you!” We plowed corn and I have some video to prove it, and as soon as I quit running over the corn and learned how to “drive the plow” we didn’t lose any more corn!

Mule Powered Wrecker Service

Mule Drawn Wrecker Service

This will only add fuel to those late night discoursians about the relative merits of horses over mules or viciversy. Is the horse the smarter one for hitching a ride or is the mule the smarter one for recognizing the political opportunity which this all represents? In any event these boys know what they are doing, or should, so don’t try this at home without horse tranquilizers. Remember that politics is a luke warm bowl of thin soup.

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

This is the account of how one farm put more horse power into the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of its potato crop. Ever since we began farming on our own in 1994 one of our principle aims has been the conversion of our farm operation to live horse power wherever feasible. This has meant replacing mechanized tools such as tractors and rototillers and figuring out how to reduce human labor as we expanded upon the labor capacity of our work horses.

Chicken

How To Cure Chicken Roup: Then and Now

How To Cure The Common (Chicken) Cold

Ask A Teamster Horse Don't Won't Can't Turn

Ask A Teamster: Horse Don’t, Won’t, Can’t Turn

After moving the drop ring on the other side down we went out to the round pen for a test drive. The difference in how she ground drove and turned was amazing – not perfect, but real sweet. With the lines at that level a right turn cue on the line obviously meant go right to her, and a left turn cue meant left. After we drove around for a while with me smiling I couldn’t resist moving the drop rings back up to the line rings – Bam, back to the old confusion.

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

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Simon and his elder sons Simon, Keith, and Ian, with their Belgian Ardennes horses, work good timber in bad places. The felling and extraction operation at the Lake District beauty spot of Tarn Hows was done in often appalling weather, and in the full glare of publicity. It must rank as one of the most spectacular pieces of horse logging, or indeed of commercial horse work done in these islands in recent years.

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.

The Best Kept Secret, Revisited

The Best Kept Secret, Revisited

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At the same time that U.S. commercial beekeeping is circling down in a death spiral, hobby beekeeping is booming and almost every beekeeping club in the country has at least twice as many members as it did twenty years ago. What this means is that if you are fortunate enough to live in a place with relatively clean and varied sources of pollen and nectar, the potential for a successful family-sized commercial apiary is better now than it has been for many decades.

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