Meet the Barn

In particle physics, the cross sectional area of a uranium nucleus , about 10-28m2, is called  a ‘Barn’ because, in that context, it’s huge:  ‘As big as a barn.’ (And, according to the Zurich Naming Scheme for Nuclear Cross Sections, a millionth of a Barn is called an Outhouse. )Our barn is not huge: it’s about 25 x 30, and it’s an icky, breezy, tumble-down affair, full of spider webs and  sagging, rotted wood. It’s got potential, but it needs work.

The barn has been there forever and, at some point, a previous owner decided to try his hand at raising chickens. He built a 30′ x 90′ “wing” to hold the birds and an office, and quickly went out of business. The climate went to work on it, and by the time Mary bought the property, the ‘chicken wing’ was a mess. Several years ago, we took it down, saving much of the weathered wood.

The first time I met Mary’s kids, they were cooing over a cardboard box full of ducklings. They were cute until they grew up. And so were the ducks, which went on to live in the barn for 2 years. In the summer, they cooled off in a filthy puddle, and in the winter, they huddled together for warmth, waiting for Mary to carry their food thru the snow drifts every day. Their eggs tasted the moral equivalent of gluten free bread. We should of just ate the ducks.

The barn is filthy, the roof leaks, one corner post is rotted through, and most of the sill plates are rotted out. There’s a turnbuckle upstairs which Joe installed when it looked like roof collapse was imminent.

But it has its charms, too. The concrete floor may be tilted, but it’s not heaved. It’s cool in the summer, it’s got a wide-open 2nd floor, and the beams are made of round logs with stubs where the branches were. Two rooms are stacked full of stickered, reclaimed wood from the chicken wing. And when we moved to Morrisville, anything that didn’t fit into the Green house, Stu, Chuck, or at the Mill, we stored in the Barn.

For the first time in my adult life, I am without a workshop while the new house goes up. Making a mess in the living room, where most of my tools are parked, wasn’t going to work, and Mary’s machines at the Mill are a 20 minute drive away. It’s only temporary, but it doesn’t take long to lose your mind, so I started setting up shop in the barn.

The first thing I needed was electricity. There were already a lot of plugs and lights and wires (a few were even grounded), but the cabling defied logic, everything was corroded and the boxes were full of years of crud from birds, insects, and rats.  So I took most of it out, re-used what I could, and re-built it.  By the time I used up most of my cache of old electrical parts and pieces left over from the other half of the barn, the whole affair ended up costing me 4 days of effort and less than $10.  I buried an extension cord in a spaded slit in the lawn, reversed the ‘hot’ in a shed plug, and then “plugged in the barn.” At the barn end of all that cabling, a circular saw doesn’t have a lot of voltage to work with, but it runs and, as God once said, “Let there be light.”

There were a couple of stalls in the front room for large animals, with sturdy metal posts set in concrete, so I shortened them, screwed on some stray 2×4’s, topped it with some old 3/4″ plywood, levelled it, and suddenly I’ve got a very large, very sturdy bench. Total cost: zero.








It’s been a dry summer, but whenever it rains, the wood and tools stored in the  southwest corner got wet. One part of the chicken wing that was in good shape when we took it down was the metal roofing, which we stacked near the burn pile. I picked a nice day, removed the leaky sections of the roof, and replaced them with pieces from our pile of spares. Total cost: $4, for a box of nails I decided not to use.


Here’s a game for ages 5 and up: How many hornets nests can you count in this picture of the barn’s roof? I only got stung once.

I have a cheap laser level, which I mounted on the four corners of the barn, just to see how far out-of-kilter it stands. On the sides on a contour in the field, it’s not too bad: +/- an inch. On the other 2 sides, it’s off by about 6″. I like to think that they built it perpendicular to the land, but it’s more likely that it’s settled. One of the first things I’ll have to do, when I have time, will be to replace the sills and level it.

I don’t know when this will happen, but I’d like to fix it up a little and put it to use. Watch this space.

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