“Tell them that we will take it.” – A chapter of My Stubborn Valentine

February always finds me sharing Valentine’s Day stories, and this year is no exception. Most folks view the adjective “stubborn” as a negative trait. And indeed the very first word of dictionary.com’s definition is “unreasonably“. However, option two and three are much more flattering in that they tell us a stubborn person is:

fixed or set in purpose on opinion; resolute and

obstinately maintained, as a course of action

These describe my Valentine (husband Rob) to a T.

Historically, he’s proven his mettle at seemingly insurmountable projects, the house remodel endeavor being one, and the pond construction another. Along the way there have been many, many others. It’s not for the faint of heart, I can attest to that as I have stood on the sidelines many times wringing my hands about HOW things are going to get done. While. He. Does. Them.

This latest chapter is not a unique situation. Last time I shared some cool barn photos and alluded that there would be more stories about the barn coming. And here they are:

KeeslingBarn1600w
This is the loft of an 1800’s barn that was owned by my parents. It was in disrepair and they weren’t using it. My dad, who is also not one to allow projects to languish, decided it needed to come down. Originally deeded in 1850’s, this farm is where my paternal grandmother grew up. It has a number of unique features, the round pole rafters being one, and a massive timber, known as a “swing beam” spans the lower floor to allow for a larger open space for threshing and other chores requiring room to move a team of horses.

 

Out of the blue, as I am minding my own business, with a somewhat (ha ha) cohesive plan and (ha ha again) manageable schedule – I get the call: It’s my Dad, saying that the West 20 (that’s what they called that farm) barn needed to be torn down, and did we want the beams and wood? We needed to decide fast, as he’d been approached by someone else who was willing to raze the barn and clean up the mess in exchange for the timbers. I almost told Dad just to let them have it. We had no time to take it down, no crew, no machines, no place to go with the timbers, and no idea whatsoever for what we were going to do with them once they were no longer a barn. But in the spirit of partnership, I mention to offer to my husband, who immediately sets about formulating a plan.

I remind him of the aforementioned roadblocks. Any ONE of which were enough, in my mind, to nix the idea. Using my usual coping strategy, I silently freak out; complicated unsolvable problems and details marching through my brain. I handle the issue by not talking about it. My ostrich approach was working well, until one day Rob plopped a slip of paper down on my desk; “Here’s who owns the empty barn down the road. Call them and see if they will rent it to us.” A seemingly sensible statement, taken out of context. However, we had tried for at least 10 years to do this exact thing, with no success. Just like with the purchase of our own farm 25+ years ago, God had His hand in this one – and doors swung wide open. With just one phone call, we were able to secure a lease on the nearby barn for storage purposes.

“Tell them that we will take it.”

was Rob’s decree to me – I make the call to my folks, commit to demolish the barn, and the ball was rolling on yet another project that there was no time for.

IMG_4775 w20 barn
Even in it’s derelict state, the barn was beautiful. For years it kept horses and cattle warm and dry. After that it protected a myriad of farm implements from the elements.

 

As if checking off items from my original list of reasons why this project shouldn’t happen, Rob moves quickly – he finds and buys a bargain machine on Craig’s List that will be useful to disassemble the highest parts of the structure. He arranges for a crew of Amish workers to assist him in the takedown. He schedules rental time on an additional machine that will help the process go even more smoothly.

The previous renters left this spray painted SALE sign, which ended up being the star of my Craig's List ads for for the stuff we needed to clear out.
The previous renters left this spray painted SALE sign on weathered barn wood, which ended up being the star of my Craig’s List ads for for the stuff we needed to clear out to make room for the beams.

At the same time, he recruits a second crew here at home to clear out all the years of accumulated junk and forgotten hay/straw from the rented storage barn (that’s a whole ‘nother story in itself – it felt strange to be having a BARN SALE to disperse someone else’s old stuff – so we could replace it with our own). The mice had chewed the strings on every bale of straw, so he rented a baler from a local farmer and we re-baled several hundred bales just so we could get them out of the loft and get it swept up to make a space for the timbers from the West 20 barn.

In addition, we spent some time wandering around an unfinished room in our house. A big room that was also created with no particular plan in place – it made sense at the time to add a second story above the new attached garage that was built out of necessity, as the old garage had come loose and the house was literally coming apart at the seams. It was a likely project for the use of the hand hewn timbers we would be bringing home, but a complex undertaking as far as figuring out exactly how, to say the least.

IMG_4769 w20 barn
This is all I saw of my husband for days – as he stubbornly persisted at the task at hand. He was on site before the crew arrived each morning, and stayed late each night to clean up the mess and dispose of the wood that was too damaged to repurpose.

 

The Amish crew was on site for a week, and with the help of my husband and son Jordan, the barn became just a frame. And then a pile of timbers. It was impressive, and sad at the same time to see the work done by someone 120+ years ago being undone. Deconstruction was done carefully, the wooden pegs were knocked out and saved, so the joints could be taken apart without damage. Even though we had no clue exactly what the next use was going to be, the beams were handled and preserved as if we did.

Rob plunged onward, and I silently worried about what the heck we were going to do with all that wood. Neither of us have architectural design experience, and the disassembly of this barn brought into focus the fact that it was not going to be a simple task to figure out how to fit these huge timbers into an existing structure. I spent hours on the internet looking at Houzz.com, hoping to find a room that looked like ours, utilizing similar materials to help me come up with an idea. Houzz.com has over FIVE MILLION photos, each more beautiful and creative than the one before it. I was overwhelmed and quickly went from hopeful, to freaking out. (again)

IMG_0789 w20 barn
Not a job for those afraid of heights. I love the details in the picture – the one timber that has rotted completely through but is still trying to stand proud and do it’s job… the dude just casually sitting on that beam waayyy up there in the sky… and the photobombing dragonfly on the left.

 

I was on site many days, too, mostly cleaning up debris and making sure everybody had food and drink. It was really hot that summer and I wilted quickly in the heat. These Amish workers seemed unaffected; they went about their work with surprising ease. During a break, one of them mentioned that he had a cousin who was affiliated with a company that specialized in fitting reclaimed barn timbers INTO PEOPLE’S HOMES.

My husband finds my freaking out approach to navigating problems extremely annoying. And I think God does, too, as He plopped this solution to the dilemma of how to utilize the timbers in our home right into my lap. In disbelief at this “coincidence” and our good fortune, I take down the contact information of this fellow.

IMG_0062 w20 barn
Once the beams were down, Rob arranged and sorted them with the machine – with the skill of a kid playing with Lincoln Logs. Watching this happen, it was easy to forget that these were once entire trees. Until you tried to pick one up and move it by hand.

 

Unlike the folks on the HGTV home improvement shows, we both had businesses to attend to and we couldn’t afford for this to turn into a protracted endeavor. Summer is Rob’s busiest time, moving oversize earthmoving machines for construction jobs, and Fall is my busiest time, as I gear up to promote products at HoofPrints.com for holiday gift giving.

IMG_5703 w20 barn
Keesling’s Incorporated Heavy Equipment Transport Service typically specializes in moving oversize earthmoving machines to and from construction sites, but on this day the rig was recruited to haul timbers from an 1800’s barn some 50+ miles to a site where they were hopefully to be used is elegant home decor.

 

Once the initial urgency of the demolition has passed, and the timbers are carefully stacked in the rented storage space, we collectively notice that we are not 20-something any more. We are tired, and we have a lot of other responsibilities. Fall is upon us, then winter. There are machines to be moved, orders to be filled, firewood to be cut, snow to be shoveled. The salvaged barn wood would sit, tucked away safely, for another year before our weary selves could muster up the energy to even talk about utilizing it on any project.

Want to see what happens next?

Want to see what happens next?

Fun on the Farm Part 1 is here

The Epic Mess of Fixing the Fireplace is here

Tearing Down an Old Barn to Repurpose the Timbers in the house is here

The adventure of utilizing the first few timbers as a Fireplace Mantle is here

Utilizing more timbers in a big room upstairs – Of Trials and Strong Backs is here

No One Will Ever See It – an Adventure In Remodeling is here

We are still not finished, but you can see “The Aftermath” of one barn beam project here

Sometimes you have to look back… at scary pictures here

More looking back… Scary pictures, recycling and repurposing here

20 thoughts on ““Tell them that we will take it.” – A chapter of My Stubborn Valentine”

  1. Terrific storytelling! I’m of two minds about tearing down an old barn. Somehow it seems like a crime…..and yet it has to be done-and respectfully. You guys did good!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the kind words. We did our best to preserve what we could from the old barn. I often found myself looking at the hand hewn timbers – marveling that someone fashioned them with only hand tools – and erected the whole works with only man and horse- power. I was sad to be undoing someone’s hard work – but hopeful they were looking down from Heaven – in approval of our efforts.

      Like

  2. Your story sounds a lot like what happened to my husband and me when we were looking for our first house. When we told the realtor we had around $16,000 to spend he promptly asked if we expected to live in it. Perhaps it was a relative of your house who owned ours. The kitchen was all pea green pegboard walls, except where the pegboard hangers were so we couldn’t move a hanger without exposing a white spot. The bathroom was PINK and black and had a freestanding shower stall to match. The plaster ceiling in the hallway fell down one night while we were asleep. Fortunately, we weren’t under it. Our barn was the “new” barn which was built in 1914 but it hadn’t been used as a dairy for many years and needed a roof immediately if we wanted to save it. I think you should write a book about your trials and successes.

    Like

    1. Thanks for the comment. I can imagine the painted-over pegboard hangers… who does that? Our whole house was carpeted when we bought it – nasty beyond words with the varmints living in and windows broken out. However, it did serve to mostly protect the hardwood floors which was a pleasant surprise. We left it down for the demolition of the plaster inside. Once that was mostly done, I was so happy to be ripping it up and carting to the dumpster – revealing the nice wood beneath. EXCEPT ON THE STAIRS. At one point they’d had a runner rug on the stairs. And someone painted only the exposed sides, leaving bare wood under the runner. That runner was long gone and the whole works was covered by carpet – but I was left with this awful partially painted stairway – nothing could really be done except paint the whole thing or strip it all off and leave the wood natural. OMG what a chore. I set my goal at one step per night (after I came home from working all day). There are fourteen. I said it before, I still don’t know how we ever survived those early stages of the project.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s