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Barn Work and House Work

This farming thing isn’t always glamorous.

As I’ve mentioned before, our focus right now is on fixing and setting up the barn, so that we can bring our chickens and geese with us when we move in April or May. Tent living is fine with us, but these animals need a good shelter.

In the fall we also did a fair amount of deconstruction on the house, to get it ready for future work. Once the barn is complete, a little bit more demolition is required on the home and then we can start building our new residence.

The house we’re moving to hadn’t been lived in at all for about ten years, and prior to that it was limited to a summer cottage for several decades. At one point, however, it was the farm house for a busy, working farm. There’s no electricity or running water, but there was plenty of yellowing wallpaper and left behind furniture.

The barn had been through a few transitions in its life. Originally it was most likely a large open space used for threshing wheat, with a few stalls for the family cow and horse, and a loft for hay. At some point it was redesigned to suit more a more commercial cattle operation. The ground floor became a central isle with cow stalls on either side, and a grain silo on one end. The lofts were expanded to fill the barn with as much hay as possible. The roof was replaced with tin and concrete was poured for the floor of one area.

Four months into this project and most of that redesign has been undone by us. It’s on to the building of stalls to suit our animals. Two hay lofts remain, and the outlines of chicken, goose, and goat quarters are in. The floors have been turned over and rebuilt where necessary, and new sliding doors have been built. Also, a whole lot of stuff has been removed.

There are a few handy things I’ve learned through this process. One, back in the fall when we were bringing the house back to its basics, is that water is just as effective at loosening ancient wallpaper as any specialized spray. Another tip is that, if you’re doing barn work in December and January in Maine, always wear a dust mask. Yes, you should do that anyway, but in the winter months all that hot breath in your mask will work wonders in keeping you warm.

Other tips of a more practical nature include that tearing out walls, beams, and nails is not about strength but about leverage, and from the right angle anyone can pull down a wall. Also, if you keep cows or any other large livestock – clean their stalls! This might seem like basic knowledge, but apparently it wasn’t to the farmers who used to cultivate this land. Not only will you have much happier and healthier cattle with clean stalls, but it will also make life much easier for anyone who comes to the farm after you.

That’s the latest in our progress at the new farm. There’s not too much more to do before our updates start to include moving birds and beasts, and starting to till the land.


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