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A Labor of Love: Restoring the Old Barn

Red Pine Mountain logoEnvision Vermont and what pops into your head?  Rolling countryside dotted with antique barns?  Only problem is many of these barns are rapidly disappearing as they collapse in disrepair.

We have an old barn on our farm.  It's been featured in the movie, Disappearances. Click on the Disappearances gallery and there it is.  They even used a stack of lumber planed by Mountain Man to make their own actor/logger look more authentic.  (Rent the movie and you'll see lots more of our farm as well.)

But the true meaning of the barn lies in its past when it was the hub of our farm's life.

Originally, it was a three story structure.

Originally a three-story structure

Traces of the old lettering are still visible on the side.

Traces of the old lettering

Here's a view of the inside.  On the highest level, hay was stored.

A view of the inside of the barn

On the second level, there were dairy cows and milking stands.  We still have the old stanchions.

The inside of the barn

It's a huge, vast space.

The inside of the barn is vast.

On the lower level, pigs were housed and perhaps carriages stored.

Lower Level Old Barn

But if we don't do something soon, we will lose our barn.  It's deteriorating from harsh winters and it's sinking into the ground as well.  We've been putting off the decision but we knew this year, we had to decide.  Lose it or fix it?

If you live on a farm then you know money is always a scarce commodity.  Mountain Man plans to do all the work himself and provide most of the materials but even so there will be items we have to buy and they will be expensive.  And when Mountain Man is working on the barn, he can't work on paying projects.  So what to do?  We prayed about it and we both decided we can't let the barn collapse into oblivion.  It's as much a part of history as is the graveyard on our farm, as are the ancient trees in our woods.  There is no way we will let this small part of history decay and collapse.  There, decision made.  We'll find a way somehow.

Mountain Man's first project is to keep the barn from sinking further into the ground.  He shot transits today and he's going to have to raise the front of the barn 15" to level it.

Here he is demonstrating the end of the barn that is raised.

Raised end of barn

And at the other end that has sunk 15 inches.

End of barn to be raised

I'll be sharing photos with you as the rennovation gets in full swing.  And if anyone is traveling to Vermont and would like to participate in a barn re-raising, let us know.

You can always find Mountain Man and Mountain Woman at Red Pine Mountain.

mountain woman
9/21/2010 12:57:16 PM

Thank you Amy!


amy crawford
9/21/2010 8:36:12 AM

Wishing you all the best on your barn restoration project. This will be an exciting project to follow!


mountain woman
9/19/2010 12:06:53 PM

John, Thanks so much for your advice and we both appreciate your suggestions. Guy, thank you for visiting my blog. I love Maine and I just can imagine how beautiful your old barn must be.


mountain woman
9/19/2010 6:43:38 AM

Hi Kim, The traditional barns here are three stories with the lowest level being built into the ground kind of like a basement then the upper floor was for cows and the top for hay just as your barns. I have pictures of the beautiful stone work that was used to form the basement level and I'll post them when I can. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I really appreciate your taking the time to leave a comment.


guy bourrie
9/18/2010 12:10:04 PM

We have an almost identical barn here in Maine. Will be watching and listening carefully to your progress.


john wilder
9/18/2010 10:16:39 AM

Here are a couple of tool suggestions for redoing the barn. You can equip a mini grinder or right angle grinder with a sanding backer and sanding disc and sand the old wood down to new wood. You then hit it with a semi transparent oil stain. You should also use a trailer mounted manlift instead of a a ladder for the high work. Accoriding to OSHA ladders are the number one cause of death and injuries on the work site. Besides that, manlifts increases your productivity by expoential amounts. It is tough twenty or 30 feet off the ground to try and hold onto the ladder with one hand and work with the other hand. With the manlift you can properly work with both hands. Once you need to change positions, you don't have to climb down and reposition the ladder, you just hit the joy stick and can move anywhere around the face of the barn. If you will send me your email address I will send you pics Blessings on you and yours John Wilder


kim baker
9/18/2010 10:16:12 AM

I have never seen a 3 storey barn in Ontario . Only 2 storey, bottom level is for cow milking and the high upper level is for hay storage.


mountain woman
9/18/2010 7:34:29 AM

Hi Jeb, I think we're using something similar to your railroad jack. I had never seen one before and they are the most amazing things. It's incredible to see what you can do by hand without the modern tools. It's been quite an experience for me. It looks so easy to see Mountain Man turning the jack so I tried and I couldn't budge it. And Jeb,thanks so much for the comment about the heart. It means a lot to us. Something so inspiring about just walking into these old structures and feeling the presence of the people who lived before us. They worked so hard under such adverse conditions yet they created enduring, beautiful structures. If we can preserve this small piece of the history of our farm, we both feel we owe it to those who came before us. Thanks so much again.


mountain woman
9/18/2010 7:21:42 AM

Hi Funny Farmer, I spoke with Mountain Man and here's what he said as to what is involved. (If something doesn't make sense, it's because I didn't write it down correctly.) It will depend on the frame structure of the barn to determine how you hold it up while you dig underneath it and then support it. Our barn is built with 8 x 8 timbers which are located 10 to 14 feet apart so in our barn, we can locate key load bearing posts and work that way to lift and support our barn. If your barn is a similar post and beam construction, you can do what we are doing but if your barn has main horizontal sill beams on the ground level and then a stick built frame structure sitting on top of that, the procedure will be different. Mountain Man said he would be happy to look at pictures you might have to provide you with a more accurate analysis and you can contact him at redpinemountainatgmaildotcom. If you want to see more of what we've done so far, you can go to redpinemountaindotcom and look under the Mountain Man section and then my last post on Daily Diary. I'll have more on Grit soon. Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I understand totally what you mean about seeing these incredible pieces of history disappearing. We are very fortunate that we have the equipment and Mountain Man has the skills to work on our barn.


mountain woman
9/18/2010 6:52:09 AM

Hi K.C., Yes, I think Dave and Mountain Man would be great friends. I sure wish he'd head out this way for some barn raising time. It would be fun to watch the two of them in action. I agree about using barn wood for barns and not ripping down the barns to salvage the wood. Thanks so much for visiting me!


jeb
9/17/2010 11:43:29 PM

Great job on the barn restoration Mountain Man and Mountain Woman!! Really appreciate the careful attention given to showing the rest of us how its done. We have a couple barns on our property that are in need of some attention. I've found certain tools indispensable in this process. The first is my "rail-road jack." This baby can slide under a beam that is resting on the ground and catch just enough of the wood to raise the beam off the ground. The other jacks I use are old house moveing "mushroom" jacks. These little giants can pick up any structure I'd ever want to lift. They were housemoving essentials back before pnumatic, computer controled jacks were employed to do the job. Really appreciate your posts and your HEART. --Jeb


funny farmer
9/17/2010 7:32:09 PM

Oh, you are people with my same 'problem'. I LOVE old barns and can stand in them and just hear and feel the spirits of the critters and people who used it and loved it for so many years. The big barn at one place I lived was a three story bank barn with the exact same building techniques. Who would ever cut trees and hand hew beams like these again? Or cut the wooden pegs to join them????? I almost cry as I pass the many many that are out in once busy fields just slowly dying. I totally agree with you that these are historical structures that deserve to be saved. I live in far NE PA where so many of the dairy farmers had to pull out in the 1980's...lots of broken hearts then, for sure. Still some small working dairy farms, but the big 'factory' farms are becoming more plentiful. And they all seem to be surrounded by acres of good pasture. A real shame and loss. The country really has changed and in time these old barns will be gone, except for the few lucky ones, such as yours, who are loved by people able to work on them. Mountain man....I currently have an old smaller barn...but that same wonderful workmanship...and it, too, is sinking on one end. The past owner didn't have the funds to do a job like that and I just wonder what is entailed. Seems to be one corner and it has been going on for some time. What will you be doing to yours? I have no 'Mountain Man' but woiuld love to know how it would be corrected. Right now working on a roof leak............


k.c. compton
9/16/2010 12:41:46 PM

I think Mountain Man and Nebraska Dave sound like soul brothers. >:=} All the best with this project. I love the idea of old barns being used as ... barns! ... rather than "barn wood." Dave--so sorry I missed you when you came to the GRIT offices. What a bummer!Maybe next time you swing through ... --K.C.


mountain woman
9/10/2010 7:04:06 AM

Vickie, Thanks for visiting me. As Mountain Man worked on it and assessed the damage, he realized it wouldn't make it through another year. Just so sad to see these barns collapsing. They will never be made by hand like these were again. It's a labor of love that is definitely worth it. I appreciate your visit.


vickie
9/9/2010 3:18:22 PM

Oh I'm so glad your going to save the old barn. I just love to look at old barns and so many I see have went past that point you were talking about, they are ready to be torn down. I realize like you say money is a big issue so good luck with your might task.


mountain woman
9/7/2010 3:08:00 PM

Thanks Shannon!


s.m.r. saia
9/7/2010 8:16:48 AM

Wow, what a beautiful old barn. Good luck in your renovation project!


mountain woman
9/5/2010 7:26:06 AM

Hi Cindy, I'm afraid the woman power hours are mostly me taking pictures. Mountain Man won't let me help. It's at a fairly dangerous stage right now jacking up the building and getting in the new supports and he's always ensuring the supports hold. I worry the barn will fall on him but he has assured me it won't. It's been interesting already. Found an old lead pipe from the original barn that led water to it and other things. It's a huge, beautiful piece of history and we're doing the right thing preserving it. Yes, it was cool having our farm used in the movie. They used our road and some of our views too. Thanks for visiting me. Hope you are having a great weekend.


cindy murphy
9/4/2010 9:03:29 PM

I love old buildings; there is something so fascinating about them, both inside and out. Barns are a favorite of mine, and yours looks like a beauty, Mountain Woman! I'm sure the cost, energy, and Mountain Manpower hours (and womanpower too!), spent to restore it will be well-worth it. And how very cool it was featured in a movie! Good luck, and looking forward to seeing how the renovation progresses. Take care.


mountain woman
9/4/2010 7:48:06 AM

Hi Nebraska Dave, Mountain Man does take on big projects but perhaps that's because everything around here seems to be a big project. Last year, we ripped off the back half of our house to downsize and this year, he's on to the barn and other things as well as building two houses for clients. He has amazing energy for a man who will be 60 in a few months. I used to worry about him but it's pointless and he's pursuing his passion which is important. Don't know if you know but he started out as a shop teacher for high school kids. Anyway, you and I both agree about living in the barn. I'd love to move out to my new barn to stay with the horses and now the turkeys :-) Seems like it would be the place to be. I can see you with Ranger Rick tucked right by you. Dottie sounds like such a wonderful woman and I would love to hear more stories about her. I do understand about someone you loved and who has died living on with you forever. My husband is such an integral part of me and I hear his voice always pushing me forward as well. I take joy from every day knowing how quickly life on earth is over. You and I had a gift with such wonderful marriages. Thank you Dave as always for visiting me and my RPM blog. Your kindness to me makes my day. There's just no words to express how grateful I am.


mountain woman
9/4/2010 7:39:56 AM

Carolyn, What a wonderful bungalow you must live in! I'm going to visit your blog. The name alone is enchanting. Thanks so much for visiting my blog and I appreciate your well wishes. Preserving our past is so important and well worth it for future generations to understand.


nebraska dave
9/3/2010 6:04:25 PM

@MW, Mountain Man always seems to take on big BIG projects. I kind of wish I lived a little closer and be able to get to know him. I think we would have great stories to tell and maybe even make some of our own together. I am not quite as fearless when it comes to working on a big projects as Mountain Man. I really like his style. I always thought it would be a hoot to renovate an old barn enough to live in but my wife didn’t think that was such a good idea. I just can’t imagine why. My thought was to live in one corner of the barn and park the car right by the bed. Ah well she didn’t think that was a good idea either. I think that’s why God gave Dottie to me. It was to keep me from doing really dumb things in life. For 23 years she was the guiding wisdom in the family. The two did become one and now her wisdom still resides in me and continues to keep me on the straight and narrow. That’s really a good thing. I hope all goes well with the project of barn renovation.


carolyn binder
9/3/2010 1:32:43 PM

Hi Mountain Woman: What a beautiful old New England barn! As the owner/caretaker of a 100 year old bungalow, I applaud your decision to save your barn. It always takes more work and more money than originally anticipated to save a building, but it is truly a labor of love. I will look forward to watching the renovation and wish you and Mountain Man the best of luck. Carolyn www.cowlickcottagefarm.com