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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: How-To & Plans

Book Review Butchering

Two New Butchering Volumes

Danforth’s BUTCHERING is an unqualified MASTERPIECE! One which actually gives me hope for the furtherance of human kind and the ripening of good farming everywhere because, in no small part, of this young author’s sensitive comprehension of the modern disconnect with food, feeding ourselves, and farming.

Horseshoeing Part 2C

Horseshoeing Part 2C

The wear of the shoe is caused much less by the weight of the animal’s body than by the rubbing which takes place between the shoe and the earth whenever the foot is placed to the ground and lifted. The wear of the shoe which occurs when the foot is placed on the ground is termed “grounding wear,” and that which occurs while the foot is being lifted from the ground is termed “swinging-off wear.” When a horse travels normally, both kinds of wear are nearly alike, but are very distinct when the paces are abnormal, especially when there is faulty direction of the limbs.

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Camembert

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Camembert

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Camembert is wonderful to make, even easy to make once the meaning of the steps is known and the rhythm established. Your exceptionally well fed, housed and loved home cow will make just the best and cleanest milk for this method. A perfect camembert is a marvelous marriage of flavor and texture. The ripening process is only a matter of a few weeks and when they’re ripe they’re ripe and do not keep long.

On The Anatomy of Thrift Fat & Slat

On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 3: Fat & Salt

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. Fat & Salt is the third and final video in the series. It is the conceptual conclusion to the illustrated, narrated story that weaves throughout the entire series, and deals instructionally in the matters of preserving pork.

Forging Rings in the Farm Blacksmith Shop

Forging Rings in the Farm Blacksmith Shop

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Fabricating steel rings is a common task in my small farm blacksmith shop. They are often used on tie-rings for my customer’s barns, chain latches on gates, neck yoke rings, etc. It’s simple enough to create a ring over the horn of the anvil or with the use of a bending fork, however, if you want to create multiple rings of the same diameter it’s worthwhile to build a hardy bending jig.

Retrofitting a Fireplace with a Woodstove

How to Retrofit a Fireplace with a Woodstove

Because the venting requirements for a wood stove are different than for a fireplace you need to retrofit a stainless steel chimney liner. A liner provides the draft necessary to ensure that the stove will operate safely and efficiently.

Farm Drum #30 Blacksmithing we Pete Cecil Basic Techniques

Farm Drum #30: Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil – Basic Techniques

Pete Cecil demonstrates basic blacksmithing techniques through crafting a hook in the forge.

Portable A-Frame

Portable A-Frame

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These portable A-frames can be used for lots of lifting projects. Decades ago, when I was horselogging on the coast I used something similar to this to load my short logger truck. Great homemade tool.

The Farm & Bakery Wagon

The Farm & Bakery Wagon

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The first step was to decide on an appropriate chassis, or “running gear.” Eventually I chose to go with the real deal, a wooden-wheeled gear with leaf springs rather than pneumatic tires. Wooden wheels last forever with care and are functional and look the part. I bought an antique delivery wagon that had been left outdoors as an ornament. I was able to reuse some of the wheels and wooden parts of the running gear.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

Lightning Protection for the Farm

Lightning Protection for the Farm

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Lightning-protection systems for buildings give lightning ready-made lines of low resistance. They do this by providing unbroken bodies of material that have lower resistance than any other in the immediate neighborhood. A protection system routes lightning along a known, controlled course between the air and the moist earth. Well-installed and maintained, a lightning-protection system will route lightning with over 90-percent effectiveness.

Building an Inexpensive Pole Barn

Building an Inexpensive Pole Barn

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The inside of the barn can be partitioned into stalls of whatever size we need, using portable panels secured to the upright posts that support the roof. We have a lot of flexibility in use for this barn, making several large aisles or a number of smaller stalls. We can take the panels out or move them to the side for cleaning the barn with a tractor, or for using the barn the rest of the year for machinery.

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

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Heretofore potato production in this country has been conducted along extensive rather than intensive lines. In other words, we have been satisfied to plant twice as many acres as should have been necessary to produce a sufficient quantity of potatoes for our food requirements. Present economic conditions compel the grower to consider more seriously the desirability of reducing the cost of production by increasing the yield per acre.

Hand Plucking Poultry

Hand Plucking Poultry

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I confess that I am cold-hearted and cheap. Though I love raising poultry, I hate spending time and money anywhere but on my little farm. So I process at home. If you are only raising a few birds for yourself, say 25 or 30 at a time, I recommend having a party and doing it all by hand. My journey backward from machines to hands started with a chance encounter with a Kenyan chicken grower visiting the United States. He finishes 15,000 broilers each year.

Plans for Hog Houses

Plans for Hog Houses

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Missouri Sunlit Hog House: This is an east and west type of house lighted by windows in the south roof. A single stack ventilation system with distributed inlets provides ventilation. Pen partitions may be of wood or metal. This plan takes the place of the original Missouri sunlit house since many farmers had difficulty in building it.

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

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Making a pair of tongs was a milestone for a lot of blacksmiths. In times gone past a Journeyman Smith meant just that, a smith that went upon a journey to learn more skills before taking a masters test. When the smith appeared at the door of a prospective employer, he/she would be required to demonstrate their skills. A yard stick for this was to make a pair of tongs.

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

Choosing a Gas or Coal Forge for the Small Farm Shop

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After you’ve built a small farm blacksmith shop, one of the first decisions that you’ll need to make is which type of fuel you’ll be using. Most people choose either gas (propane) or coal, however, wood fired forges are also an option. All three fuel types have pros and cons. The final decision will likely be based on the type of forging that you plan to do and the local availability of the fuel.

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