Grit Blogs > The Daily Commute

Build A Loafing Shed: Use Found Materials And Save Money

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief


Tags: farms, outbuildings, construction,

 GRIT Editor Hank Will at the wheel of his 1964 IH pickup.The way our farm is configured, we really needed one more livestock shed for lambing and to keep the guard donkeys out of the rain so I decided to build a loafing shed using found materials. The starting point for the loafing shed was an old native limestone hog shed foundation and knee walls. That hog shed was long gone, but the walls were still sound and the 100-year-old anchor bolts were also still intact. I didn’t want to put a roof over the entire 32 feet of shed, so I decided to just cover half of it.

 Loafing Shed Complete with Donkeys 

The first step in building the loafing shed was to source the timbers. Since we had just renovated a couple of pond dams, which involved removing many mature trees from the dams, I had plenty of fairly straight hackberry trunks to use for rafters and purlins. The farm also has plenty of Osage orange growing in the hedgerows to use for posts … Osage orange lasts more than 30 years in the ground here so I cut two 13-foot long Osage orange posts about a foot in diameter.

Sinking those big posts to the first limestone layer about 5-feet down would have been a heck of an undertaking if I didn’t happen to have the DR Power towable backhoe on hand. That little machine made short the work of planting those posts, which are roughly 12 feet apart. And thanks to my trusty Kubota loader tractor’s hydraulics, lifting the posts into the holes and holding them more or less vertically was a breeze as well.

 Shed posts 

The loader came in handy with setting the two 18-foot long hackberry rafters, which were held fast in the notched posts with 3/4 –inch carriage bolts and to the back wall with the old ½-inch anchor bolts. I didn’t take the time to strip the bark from the hackberry rafters or purlins – they would last longer stripped, but so far the bark is just peeling off and there is no rot in the wood itself.

Once the rafters were set, I installed five 16-foot long hackberry poles perpendicular to the rafters to serve as purlins … I did a little notching to help keep the pitch fairly smooth (to aid with roofing) and a little trimming of knobs and high-spots on those purlins for the same reason. The chainsaw and sawsall came in handy for that work.

 Hackberry roof framing 

After much consideration and deliberation, I was convinced to forego the recycled corrugated steel roofing I had on hand from a demolition project and instead use new – the roof is visible from the road, after all. So down to the small town lumberyard we trekked to source several 16-foot lengths of freshly galvanized corrugated steel … we spent about $120 for sufficient material to cover the roof with some left over for other projects.

Once installed, you can see all the wobbles and sways with my raw-timber roof framing. I could have leveled things better and used some dimensional lumber to even things up a bit, but I think it looks whimsical and I didn’t want to spend the money on dimensional lumber. I’m happy to report that the roof has withstood a 70 mph gust, 25 mph continuous winds and roughly 13 inches of snow load in each of its first two winters. We plan to enclose the front of the shed with panels and gates at some point, but in the meantime, we have a serviceable loafing/lambing shed that the donkeys seek when the rain is cold and some of the sheep pile under when blizzards blow out of the north.

I have more plans for the slowly dwindling tree snags that resulted from our dam repairs – and most of those plans don’t involve campfires. Stay tuned.


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .