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The Barn

We're Building a Barn! Continued

Once all the trusses were up, they spent another couple of days adding even more bracing to the roof. They were racing to get the metal on, both so they could secure the building, and also so they could free up their crew and equipment to go work on their other project which was beginning to kick into high gear.  


The metal had been sitting down by the road since early spring. Now the fork lift retrieved it and brought it lumbering up the driveway. The forklift could just manage to squeeze it's way down the back side of the arena, but there wasn't room for it on the bank side. So the sheets of roofing were carried up one side of the roof and slid down the other. The men made it look as though they were carrying sheets of tissue paper up the roof, but this was steel they were lifting - hardly a feather weight!

They took great care over the first section, making sure it was absolutely square to the building. Any hair off here would effect every sheet of steel on the roof. Wayne oversaw the process from his vantage point on the peak of the roof. What a view he must have had of the surrounding countryside. I climbed up the side of the building before it was closed in, but I never went up on the roof. I'll leave that to others!

With the first section of roofing on, the inside of the arena changed dramatically. It felt so much darker and less open. But it also gave me a huge umbrella over head. Now instead of working down in Mary's house during the day, I could bring my laptop out to the arena and sit under the protection of the new roof while the men worked on the rest of the arena.


I have no idea what they thought of this arrangement, but it did give me time to experience the arena design and think about what we really wanted. I was loving the openness of the space. I loved the arched ceiling trusses. I loved the open front wall, and I wished we could keep that same open feel in the back. The compromise was putting in clear light panels along the top of the gable end and the back wall of the arena.


I'm writing this now, sitting in the arena, looking up at the light panels. What a perfect choice. They let in so much light. Even under the lean to, it's remarkable how much light comes through the panels. The extra height, the scissor trusses, the open side down the front, the light panels, all make the arena seem so much bigger that it actually is. Everyone who comes remarks on the same thing - how big the arena is, but at 60 by 120 it is really a small arena. Most indoors are much bigger to accommodate larger groups and jumping. For me this is the perfect work space for clicker training.  

It was now mid-May and I was getting ready to head off for five weeks of teaching. Wayne had originally thought he could have the initial work on the arena finished by June 1. It was clear that that wasn't going to happen. They did get most of the roof finished and the first section of steel hung on the back wall before I had to head off, but nothing was done in the barn. The doors and windows weren't up, the poles weren't set for the interior stalls, and the hay loft and deck weren't built. We also didn't have the lean to or the composter, and the site work still needed to be finished. The plan was to move the horses as soon as I got home at the end of June. That gave them five weeks, plenty of time to get the critical things done that we'd need for the horses.  


It was clear that the barn was not going to be finished in time. That was okay. We could house the horses in the indoor and let them finish the barn later, but we would need water, electrical hook-up, footing in the indoor, the composter, the ramps down to the field and fencing. Fencing meant the basic site prep needed to be done. A couple of days before I left, Ann and I met with an electrician and went over our needs. That piece seemed well in hand. As soon as the excavator was finished at the other project, he'd bring his equipment back to finish up the work that still needed to be done here. I left thinking that we were in good shape for a July 1 move.


At first the reports were I got were of progress progressing. Mary sent me pictures of the arena as the doors and windows were hung and the steel was added to the sides. I had so enjoyed the openness of the space, it was just as well that I wasn't there for the closing in of the sides. They finished the lean to, and put the posts in the barn in preparation for building the loft.

Mid-way through June Ann met with Wayne for a progress report. I'd gotten pictures from Mary of the barn interior, but it was Ann who spotted the problem with the interior posts and with the doors. We'd designed the barn with five twelve foot wide stalls facing out along the gable end. Those posts were fine. But across the aisle, the various utility rooms were different sizes. When the crew put the posts in, they went on auto pilot. The norm was to have the posts match on either side of the aisle. They didn't check the plans to see that we had ten foot rooms, not twelve, to give us enough room for an aisle into the arena and for stairs up to the loft.

The dutch doors were also hung wrong. They needed to start at the opposite end of the building so every door would swing open and hinge against the wall of the arena. The way they were hung, the end door had nothing behind it. The doors would all need to be reset.  


The misplacement of the posts triggered many emails back and forth between Ann and myself. Could we change our floor plan so they would not need to move posts? We tried many different configurations and finally settled on a plan that meant moving only one set of posts, but adding in the missing set that they hadn't yet used.  


I kept hearing that the excavator was going to be there next Tuesday, then next week, then next Thursday to finish the work. Time was running out and we did not yet have a composter. And we also didn't have arena footing. Wayne's dump truck was out of commission. They'd had a road accident with it, and it had hit a tree, so he couldn't bring in stone dust for the arena. We couldn't house the horses on the gravel. Something had to be done. Thankfully a friend of Mary's, Marty Gibbons, came to the rescue with his dump truck. He brought in and spread load after load of stone dust.


This was after Ann and I had many email exchanges about what to do next with the surface. The gravel had churned up into huge drifts by all the heavy equipment that had been on it through the spring. There were places where the underlying fabric was showing through. Wayne's crew leveled the gravel and tamped it down. Should we add another layer of fabric to keep the gravel from working up? Or would that layer of fabric also work up to the surface and create it's own problems. We simply didn't know. I've been in so many arenas, and no one seems to have a good consensus on how best to build a good surface. Even when they've gone strictly "by the book", people aren't always happy with the end result.  


In the end we decided to seal the gravel with the stone dust only, no fabric. We'd put that layer in, let it settle and then decide what we wanted to do next. So Mary's friend brought in truck loads of stone dust and spread them six inches deep across the arena. And Wayne's crew put in kick boards in the area where we'd be setting up the temporary stalls. All that was good preparation, but we still didn't have water, electricity, the composter, or any way to get the horses down into the field. And there was still a huge pile of brush making the field unusable.  

They tried burning the brush pile. They waited for a rainy day to set it ablaze. In theory it should have been the answer, but they neglected to tell the town they were going to be burning brush. When the state troopers across the road saw the flames, they thought the barn was on fire. They called the fire department and the rescue squad. I heard about this via email. It's something else I'm glad I missed. Apparently, it was perfectly okay to burn the pile. They just needed to let the town know that's what they were going to be doing. When the fire department arrived, they decided the arena was getting too hot, and they put the fire out. So we were left with a half burned, but still enormous pile of brush and logs.  


So that's what I came home to. We did have temporary water. They had hooked up a line so we could use Mary's well water, but it was looking very doubtful that we would be able to move horses. I flew home on Wednesday, June 30th, and Thursday I stood in the arena surveying one incomplete unit after another. There was so much to be done, and no one was on site getting anything finished. The parking area in front of the arena was cluttered with rolls of fabric, unused steel, lumber and equipment. Even if the barn had been ready, there was no way we could bring a horse trailer up on the pad.


The 4th of July weekend was coming up. This was the weekend we had to move if we were going to move at all, and nothing was ready. Every now and then you have to be a squeaky wheel. I started calling. The messages I left were polite, but clearly not happy. They got action. Chris left the other building site and came and cleared the parking area so we could at least get the horse trailer up to the arena. There wasn't much else he could do at that point. We went over what we needed for the horses. We needed the ramps, the composter, the brush cleared away. And we needed water and electrical.  


I know from experience this is how construction projects work. The initial phase goes so fast and then things slow down. Builders have to keep their crews and their equipment in use so they never have just one project going at a time. We'll see lots of progress for a while, and then the crew will get called to another site where something equally pressing needs to be finished. I understand the process, and I can flow with it - up to a point. But my own schedule locks me into certain constraints. I thought five weeks would give them time to get done the basics of what we needed, and perhaps if the dump truck hadn't broken down, or we'd had a little less rain in the spring, we would have been on schedule, but I also know with construction, there is no such thing as staying on schedule. There is simply working with where you are and what you have.


So on Friday we began the process of setting up temporary quarters for the horses. We had given our thirty day notice to the barn owner where the horses were. She had already rented out the stalls. We could delay for a couple of days, but not much longer. And I was locked in by my travel schedule. I had given myself most of July at home. After that I was away almost every weekend. If I didn't move the horses now, we would have to wait until November. I wanted to get them settled while the weather was still good. So Friday we went shopping. We bought extra round pen panels and floor mats and hauled them into the arena. We set up five stalls along the back wall. Four of the stalls were made out of the John Lyons round pen panels that I already owned. Only one stall had to be made with the new panels. These new panels are not as safe as the others. The spacing of the rails, for one thing are not as horse friendly as they should be. We lined them with the plastic fencing I use to keep the deer off the evergreens in the winter which made me feel better using them.  


We also ran panels across the opening for the back door and across the near end of the arena. So once the horses were in the arena, they were in a safe, fully enclosed space. Even if we forgot to close a stall door properly, they would still be in a fenced area. I used my extra light weight panels to create an ante room beyond the first gate, so again, even if we forgot to latch that gate, they were still contained.  


It took us three days to get the arena set up and most of our stuff moved out of the other barn. Most boarders have only a tack trunk, a saddle, bridle and their horse to move. We had five horses, all their normal stuff, plus the round pen panels, about twenty stall mats - most of which had to be pulled out of the ground and scrubbed clean.  We also had three very heavy steel stall doors which had to be swapped for the original doors that were stored up in the hay loft. We'd put these doors on our horse's stalls because they gave them better ventilation than the original doors that were on the stalls when we moved in. The barn owner had allowed the swap though she really didn't like them. They didn't match the rest of her barn, so she was well pleased to be returning to the original doors.

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