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The Barn

We're Building a Barn! Continued

As I watched the headers go up, I was again impressed by the flexibility and athleticism of the crew, not to mention their seeming lack of concern for heights. They balanced at all sorts of impossible angles to nail in the headers. I was especially impressed by the foreman, Chris. I'd watched him through the spring take on any job that was needed. When we needed to cut further back into the hill to reduce the erosion concerns, he'd been up on the hill with a chain saw clearing brush.


What a hard job that was! We had to make the very difficult decision to take out four or five mature trees that were just too near the edge of the hill. The trees were all leaning the wrong way. They needed them to fall across the pad so they could cut them up and remove them more easily. But they were all threatening to fall back into the woods, so Chris shimmed up the trees to tie ropes into the upper branches. With a couple of them, the men could wrestle the tree into falling in the right direction, but with the last of them, they had to bring in their mini digger to add a bit more pulling power.


I've cleared a lot of brush in the woods surrounding my house, but it has always been by hand, never with power tools. Watching how fast three men can cut up and remove a felled tree was indeed impressive.


And now with the headers going up, I was watching that same lack of concern over heights as they hung from the edge of the lift or walked along the headers to get to the next section going up. They were part way down the second side when they were interrupted by the arrival of the truck bringing the roof trusses.  

The truck was 85 feet long. I especially wanted to see how something that long was going to maneuver its way up the drive way. If it could get up, then we would certainly be in the clear bringing the horse trailers up. The first challenge was turning off the road into the driveway itself. I thought they were going to take out the stone pillars of the neighbor's driveway, but the driver managed to get in off the road without doing any damage.

However he did need a little assistance getting around the first curve of our new driveway. Wayne went down with his forklift and tied chains to the front of the truck. The added pull gave them just enough power to get the truck past the culvert ditch and onto the straighter part of the driveway. But now they faced an even bigger challenge. The driveway curved past Mary's barn. It was a pretty line to look at, but a hard one for something that long and heavy to manage. The driver said this was the heaviest load of trusses he'd ever carried. When the trusses were finally unloaded the men kept commenting on the size of the lumber that was used in them. The engineers who had approved the plan gave us trusses that hopefully will more that hold up in the snow loads we get here in the Northeast.  


But before we could worry about snow, the driver first had to get the truck over the still settling curve of the driveway. He ended up having to make a choice. He could keep his back wheels or his front wheels on the roadbed, but he couldn't do both. He opted to keep the flatbed tires on the driveway. His cab rolled off the side of the drive, down the ditch and across to the other side where it became mired down in spring mud. It was well and truly stuck. No amount of rocking back and forth was going to dislodge it's tires from the grip of the mud.

Now this is the kind of situation where you'd like to say, "oh well, better luck next time" and walk away. Except you can't. You can't just leave the truck stuck there. Nor did anyone want to have to unload the trusses at this point and carry them one by one up to the building site. They had to get the truck out. This is also where I watched some great horse training characteristics. People become great horse trainers not because they are born with some special talent. Talent will get you just so far with horses. It certainly helps to be athletic, but I've seen lots of athletic riders who never really developed into great horsemen. No matter how good you are as a rider, there's always a horse out there who requires more from you. So great horsemen develop because they are persistent. They don't give up. If one approach doesn't work, they try another. They are creative. They look at tools and see not just the standard way in which that tool can be used, but the new ingenious way that cracks the puzzle.  


I saw these same characteristics in the work crew. The truck was stuck. There was no possibility of failure. They had to get the truck out. So Wayne brought his forklift back. Watching it lumbering towards us out of the gravel of the building site, I couldn't help but think that whoever had designed these giant machines must have played with model dinosaurs as a child. It looked for all the world like a Stegosaurus with it's spiky front end. They attached chains to the fronts of both trucks and pulled. The mud pulled back, holding the truck ever more firmly in its grasp. It was like watching two giant dinosaurs fighting over a bone. The little stegosaur fought and pulled, but the bigger dinosaur wasn't going to let go.

So the little stegosaur was sent away and the truck that dug the bore holes was brought in to have a go. At first it looked looked as though the mud it was going to defeat that truck as well. The chains broke. The front bumper on the bore hole truck bent. They retired the chains, changed the angel they were pulling from, and tried again. The wheels of the big truck began to inch forward. And then finally the mud released its grip, and the truck regained the solid ground of the driveway. The drama was over for the moment.

The truck pulled up onto the building site and slid the trusses off its back end. There was the roof, stacked in a pile in the middle of the building site. They were sixty feet long, the width of the arena. The truck was built like an accordion. The flat bed had been sixty feet to carry the length of the trusses. Now it rolled itself together and became a normal length truck. Turning around in the cramped quarters of the pad was just a minor inconvenience. He was soon back down the driveway, and the work resumed on setting the headers.

While the remaining headers were lifted into place, Wayne's son, Zack, worked on bracing the walls. By the end of the day the back wall was essentially done, but the last of the headers still needed to go up on the pasture side. 

Overnight we got more torrential rains, and this time the building site was not spared. But the gravel did it's job. We were surrounded by mud. At the barn where my horses lived, the driveway was essentially a duck pond, but on the gravel pad the water had drained away and everything was dry - everything that is except the electrical system of the forklift. The lift still worked to go up and down, but the motor that drove it wouldn't turn on. So again they had to practice those horse training skills of ingenuity and persistence. Both the mini digger and the forklift were called into duty to move the lift along and to keep it level as the tires sank into the soft ground around the poles.

The morning was spent, stop and go, lifting headers up, and then pulling the lift out of whatever ground it had become mired down in. The last header went up mid-day, then then the work continued on framing the sides. 

They used the building itself as a ladder. Rung by rung, the structure was taking on more of its final form. The back wall was fully framed up to the headers. 

On the front wall, overlooking the horse's pasture and the hills beyond, the framing only went up two tiers for a total of four feet. The rest of the space was going to remain open to the sky. This got more confused comments from people visiting the site. They just couldn't understand why we were leaving the front open. They kept telling us how we could get curtains to close it off.


We had our set answer ready for them: "We can always close it off later, if we decide to, but we really do want the arena to be open." Indoor arenas are not warm, even when you have them all closed up. If you are building an indoor in the Northeast because you think you're going to be warm and toasty inside in the winter, you are in for a rude shock. Yes, they keep the wind out, but they are still ice boxes. Ice boxes with very limited airflow. I want the open sides. I want the air flow, and I want the beautiful views.

Digging out the side of this hill to create a building site may have its problems, but it has created an amazing setting for the arena. It feels as though we are up in the tree tops looking out. As I watched the framing go up and spent time in the space, visualizing how the arena was going to evolve, I knew the decision to have open sides was very much the right one.  


More preparation followed the framing and bracing of the walls. Each of the trusses had to be measured and marked so they would know where to place the cross bracing. This was a tedious process that took up a good part of a day. 


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