Welcome. This is one of many entries as part of a 31 Day series. To read earlier posts, please click here.
We're at it again. You know, another one of our massive, all encompassing, exciting, draining projects. And, while we're at it, life still chugs along here with it's regular and harvest time activities. I am grateful to be here today, to serve the words and the story that is still developing. Thank you for coming back and for patiently walking alongside. You make the journey more full.
Neither Weekend Farmer Husband nor I had any intentions for animals on the farm beyond a couple of laying hens and a cat. The house restoration consumed all our energy until we moved in, and once we could camp comfortably in our own home, we quickly moved on to repairing the roof on the animal barn and installing a 44 panel solar array.
An aside - if you have read the Little House on the Prairie books or any other stories/series of the USA's early frontier and settlement days the idea of squatters sort of captures what the moving to the farm experience felt (and sometime still feels) like. The departure is that we have legal rights to occupy the property, but at some level I feel like we still have to earn the privilege of being here. Do we have what it takes to save this house, bring new life to the land, and preserve the buildings? Somehow this relates to camping on our own home...and proving our mettle.
The old board and batten wood sided animal barn is probably original to the property. There are no nails holding the structure together, just solid wooden pegs, and the dimensional lumber and support beams appear to be hand hewn, massive markers of an earlier time. At some point in the mid 90's, near as we can tell, a concrete floor was added, electricity was upgraded, and a pole barn added on to form a "T" to the north. There are multiple animals stalls, a water source, and a hay loft. Clearly this structure was built to shelter animals. Off to the side there's a lean to constructed of (no kidding), old wooden grocery store and wine boxes, covered with metal siding and a slapped on metal roof. It made the perfect "shop" and likely held larger motorized equipment sometime after the upgrades were completed.
Weekend Farmer Husband noodled long and hard burning through notebook after notebook of scribbled details to prepare for the roof tear down, rebuild, and solar installation. Until our current project (yes, yes, I'll tell you eventually), I've never seen him think so long and hard on any one thing. Thinking soon became implementing, and we were up on the roof tearing away and tossing aside wooden shakes that had weathered better than a century.
If we'd known then what we know now, we'd have anticipated that this was another pre dawn to post sunset project. Every weekend, evening, and any other conceivable other "free" time was dedicated to the barn. And, no matter how much planning, there is always the unexpected. But, we persevered not just because snow would fly soon, but because we have a contract to sell the power we produce and our consumer expected us to complete by the agreed upon deadline.
In hindsight, it was a crazy dangerous thing we did. We wouldn't repeat it - at least not without changing a number of practices. After all, we were 26 feet in the air at a 33 degree pitch - imagine a metal playground slide a little better than two stories high and you are handling costly, fragile, and dangerous tools and supplies while holding steady at the very top of the slope. Even with harnesses and safety equipment you are exposed and vulnerable to mistakes, poor planning, harsh weather, and the plain old randomness that we call accidents.
We passed inspections, hook ups were completed, the basic installation was finished and the snow came. Literally, we laid our tools down, came off the roof and didn't revisit the project until the following spring. Most of our tools got put away, but some of those tools we laid down brought a good chuckle the following season as the thaw revealed their whereabouts.
Finally, some rest. We'd occupied Libby for seven months, and between Christmas and New Year's we installed the bathtub in the lower level bathroom. Oh the bliss of a long soak and the relief of warm after the brutal cold of the barn roof. And, I should be very clear, I never went on the roof. This project was completed entirely by Weekend Farmer Husband, our offspring, and friends from church. One of Weekend Farmer Husband's clients lent us some valuable tools and heavy equipment that made the job so much easier, but when I say "we", I really mean "them".
We watched lots of movies at night in the ensuing months. Tired doesn't even begin to describe the lethargy we felt. The indoor and screen time was fun and restorative. After unrelenting work, work, work it was bonding and settling to sink into the couch after supper and veg.
When we ran out of comedies, family, and adventure type movies to share I started watching documentaries. Both Weekend Farmer Husband and I gobble up that genre of program with the key difference his interests run to giant squid and deep sea type things (no, I'm not making that up), and I am drawn to social commentary type films.
After watching a number of compelling programs about food, nutrition, and food production by myself, I invited Weekend Farmer Husband to watch with me. At first he wondered why I watched, "such depressing movies". His kindness kept him at my side and I could see that he was warily engaged in buy in on the surface of the issues.
It was Food, Inc. that had just concluded when I caught his eye and said, "We should get a cow."
He didn't say no.