When the barn is ready to be built, the carpenter will come. And so, last fall, Angus Gluck arrived at our farm. He had just moved here from Arizona and was needing to get his hands dirty. When he told me he built barns in his home state of Vermont, I had a feeling this carpenter/musician was the right man for the job.
The “job” has gone through many variations since we first bought land in Bastrop two years ago. My farmer’s instinct is to build it cheap and build it yourself. Throw in a little whimsy and you get my first variation – a pallet barn using the stacks of pallets I had accumulated over the years. We scratched that idea for a more grandiose one – a replica of the old red barn here on Canoga Avenue. When that proved too expensive, we opted for a simple shed barn – basically a roof with poles, half the size. When we could afford it, we’d add on the other half.
With input from Angus and others, we compromised for a more reasonable option – a hybrid of the red barn and a pole barn – a 48 by 36 foot structure made of cedar posts and tall enough to put in a second floor one day. We would add rooms inside, perhaps a concrete floor so we can have a commercial kitchen, or a loft as we expanded.
Two weeks ago, we broke ground in the lower pasture, close to our well and electric line. Our first challenge was digging four-foot holes, deep and wide enough to fit the cedar posts . Unlike Angus’ granite-laden state, we hit not a single rock as we augured, picked, and dug our way into that rich silty loam. But after the 20th hole, we were all sore enough to be glad to take up the next challenge – filling the holes with fresh-cut, 24-feet long cedar poles (harvested from nearby Rozanky trees).
As of today, we have half of them in the ground. It sounds simple and easy enough but the hardest part is, like Madeline, getting them all in a line. If you’ve ever been to Vermont and seen those enduring barns, you appreciate the craftsmanship and care it took to build them. Angus is passing on that tradition to Green Gate Farms. Each post is hewn and heaved – even hugged – into its exactly-right position. We’re talking eighths of inches. Once plumb, we anchor it with braces and fill it with gravel and mortar.
Today, I’m so sore I can barely move. Yet I feel grounded in way that is hard to explain. Something about the solidness of cedar. And working with men who love working with wood and giving it a shape that fits the lay of the land. By the time the frame is built and the roof is on, I’m envisioning that the next phase – building the walls – will start by the time for our farmer-farm birthday-hootenany-camp out-barn dance on June 4 weekend. Erin and I still haven’t decided what we will make the walls out of. Perhaps straw bales, rough-cut pine, the bricks I’ve collected over the years, or even round stones from the river. Regardless, you are invited to come celebrate and lend a hand. I’ve always dreamed of having an old-fashioned barn-raising. Maybe you have, too.