Sunday, October 14, 2007

Barn Pix!

The visiting Christian brothers, Ezra and David, have labored these past weeks to resurrect the barn, with my somewhat sketchy oversight. Here are the first photos of the results of their hard work.

The barn has been a blessing and a trial since it was first constructed ca. 2000 (I may be off by as much as a couple years).

It has been a long, hard lesson in "finish what you start, or maybe it isn't even worth starting." Because a proper attachment systen for the roof--used greenhouse plastic from a commercial greenhouse that retires its covers as soon as the warranty expires, for insurance reasons--had never been put in place, the plastic always had some slack. Rain formed huge aerial ponds, pulling more slack then catching more rain. Eventually that weight collapsed one of the bows.

There were other design flaws: the relatively flat slope at the peak didn't shed snow/ice well, so the weight of those further stressed the structure (lightweight steel hoops from a long-defunct quonset hut...someone dragged them over one day and said, "I bet you can figure out a use for these." We also never got the end walls closed in, so it wasn't terribly weatherproof.

But the concept of a greenhouse-style barn proved sound in several dimensions. The natural daylight was great for working with the sheep, skirting fleeces, puttering around on bad-weather days, etc. With a supplementary tarp, things could be stored dry, and the tarps didn't need rigorous tying. It was warm and protected when the day outside was blustery, even if still "well ventilated". A powerful halogen light aimed at the ceiling at night bounced off the plastic and gave a surprisingly uniform light to work by at night (though it proved essential to wire a piece of window screen loosely over it to keep bugs from roasting on the upward-facing glass).

The brilliant idea of running a 2x10 on edge ABOVE the bows to add a peak came from Sue, whose farm I worked on during 2005 and 2006 in the beautiful mountains of south central British Columbia. Her greenhouse had been purchased for a farm on the balmy, snowless coast, then later moved to the land of snowy winters. As with my barn, there wasn't enough pitch to shed snow, and this is how she had solved that problem (and proved it over many years). In my case, supporting the beam with posts, and then "hanging" the bows from it, took weight off the weakened bows and helped get things back in proper alignment. The framing to provide a base for the endwall covering (Lexan twinwall, leftover from my parents' greenhouse, that has sat unused for so long that the green protective film seems permanently bonded to the Lexan) and "wiggle wire" polyfilm attachment system gives it a real "barn roof" example of "form follows function" right down the path of tradition.

With the barn fully enclosed this time, we'll be able to experiment with winter gardening in a "high-tunnel cold frame" setting. Part of that is experimenting with ways of getting rainwater that falls on the roof back to the ground under the roof where we're growing stuff, without a lot of expensive, energy-using pumps & stuff. Success in this will lead to a dedicated high-tunnel nearby, for winter market gardening.

The aluminum storm windows with screens, and the storm door, came from the local Habitat for Humanity ReStore. They'll provide ventilation with a view. By next summer, I'll figure out a shade covering to pull over the whole thing to keep things cooler inside.

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