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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

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: Book Reviews

Art of Working Horses Another Review

Art of Working Horses – Another Review

by:
from issue:

One could loosely say this is a “how-to” book but it is more of an “existential” how-to: how to get yourself into a way of thinking about the world of working horses. Maybe we need to explain what a working horse is. A working horse is one, in harness, given to a specific task. So, in that context, the book illustrates the many ways Miller has worked with his equine partners over the years – helping them understand what he wants them to do, as both work together to create relationships that help achieve desired goals.

Aboard the Planetary Spaceship

Aboard the Planetary Spaceship

SFJ Spring 2016 Preview: Edward O. Wilson’s new book, Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life, offers a plan for the problem of species extinction: the dominant species, man, must hold itself back, must relinquish half the earth’s surface to those endangered. It is a challenging and on the face of it improbable thought, expressed in a terse style. But his phrases are packed because the hour is late.

How To Prune a Formal Hedge

How To Prune A Formal Hedge

This guide to hedge-trimming comes from The Pruning Answer Book by Lewis Hill and Penelope O’Sullivan. Q: What’s the correct way to shear a formal hedge? A: The amount of shearing depends upon the specific plant and whether the hedge is formal or informal. You’ll need to trim an informal hedge only once or twice a year, although more vigorous growers, such as privet and ninebark, may need additional clippings.

Posts

Driving Fence Posts By Hand

Where the soil is soft, loose, and free from stone, posts may be driven more easily and firmly than if set in holes dug for the purpose.

Plowing with the Single Horse

Plowing with the Single Horse

All other aspects being equal, the primary difference in plowing, comfortably, with a single horse is that the animal walks on unplowed ground immediately adjacent to the previous furrow, rather than in the furrow. This will cause the point of draft at the shoulder to be somewhat higher and will dictate hitching longer and/or higher than with the animal walking down 5 to 8 inches lower in the furrow.

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.

Art of Working Horses

Lynn Miller’s New Book: Art of Working Horses

Art of Working Horses, by Lynn R. Miller, follows on the heels of his other eight Work Horse Library titles. This book tells the inside story of how people today find success working horses and mules in harness, whether it be on farm fields, in the woods, or on the road. Over 500 photos and illustrations accompany an anecdote-rich text which makes a case for the future of true horsepower.

"Work Horse Handbook, 2nd Edition" by Lynn Miller

Draft Collars and How To Size Them

It is difficult to accurately measure a horse’s neck without fitting. In other words, there are so many variables involved in the shape and size of a horse’s neck that the only accurate and easy way to size the neck is to use several collars and put them on one at a time until fitting is found.

Old Man Farming

Old Man Farming

Long after his physical capacities have dwindled to pain and stiffening, what drives the solitary old man to continue bringing in the handful of Guernsey cows to milk?

Training Workhorses Training Teamsters Driving Junipers Training

Driving: Juniper’s Training

A final sneak peak at the Second Edition of Lynn R. Miller’s “Training Workhorses / Training Teamsters.” Today’s excerpt, “Driving: Juniper’s Training,” is from Chapter 11, “Starting and Training Older Horses.”

Swallow

Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

Haying With Horses

Hitching Horses To A Mower

When hitching to the mower, first make sure it’s on level ground and out of gear. The cutter bar should be fastened up in the vertical or carrier position. This is for safety of all people in attendance during hitching.

Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees

Storey’s Guide To Keeping Honey Bees

It is well known that the value of pollination and its resultant seed set and fruit formation outweigh any provided by honey bee products like honey and beeswax.

Barbed Wire History and Varieties

Book Excerpt: The invention of barb wire was the most important event in the solution of the fence problem. The question of providing fencing material had become serious, even in the timbered portions of the country, while the great prairie region was almost wholly without resource, save the slow and expensive process of hedging. At this juncture came barb wire, which was at once seen to make a cheap, effective, and durable fence, rapidly built and easily moved.

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

There are four general plans, or methods of plowing fields. These are: (1) to plow from one side of a field to the other; (2) to plow around the field; (3) to plow a field in lands; and (4) to start the plowing in the center of the field.

Farmer Pirates & Dancing Cows

Farmer Pirates & Dancing Cows

From humor-filled stories of a life of farming to incisive examinations of food safety, from magical moments of the re-enchantment of agriculture to the benches we would use for the sharpening of our tools, Farmer Pirates & Dancing Cows offers a full meal of thought and reflection.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 5

You might think that your new farm is fenced all wrong, or that a certain tree is in the wrong place, or that a wet area would be better drained, or that this gully would make a good pond site, or that a depression in the road should be filled, or that the old sheds should all come down right away. Well maybe you’re right on all counts. But maybe, you’re wrong.

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