Multi-Generational Extreme Recycling

There’s nothing unusual about this photo of three equines enjoying the sun on a breezy winter day. What is unusual is that the new shelter they’re standing in is constructed of mostly repurposed materials, some of which are actually on their third incarnation.

It started in 1973; my parents bought a farm with some wooded land for a home site. I was eleven so I don’t remember a lot, only that it was a hands-on project and it was in the spring; there was a lot of mud and vehicles getting stuck in the process. We lived in the house as it was being built and finished. There were no fences yet so I was tasked with hand-grazing my horses individually for hours each day so they could get green grass and be out of the tiny temporary corral that was our only enclosure for them until fence could be built.

Back then pole barns were a new thing in our area, a guy dad knew fashioned home-made trusses and they erected a steel-sided barn for the horses and to store stuff in. To make the three stalls; dad got some thick, wide boards that were ceiling joists from the defunct Portland Silo Company factory. They lined the back wall and made partitions with the boards, the stall fronts were just long pipe gates. For years I kept my horses in them, after I moved away my younger brother’s 4-H steers joined the remaining equine retirees.

Portland Silo Company Brochure, circa 1920, courtesy Jay County Historical Society, Portland, Indiana

Fast forward to 2021. Dad is 81, mom a couple years younger. The place in the woods is too much to keep up so they downsized and sold it. The barn was getting to be in not-so-good shape and the new owners said they planned to raze it and put up something else in that spot. My ever-frugal husband Rob gets wind of that plan and asks about the stall boards. They’re free for the taking.

The boards have chew marks that were made over the years; my 4-H mare Dolly was a stall kicker so many, many dents from her kicking; she kicked so hard and so much that she would knock the partition boards right off. That habit used to make me so mad – now I cherish the marks she left behind; she’s been gone for 20 years.

In his post-covid, exhausted state, he hooked up the flatbed trailer, rounded up some tools and deconstructed the almost 50 year old stalls. Then he loaded those long hardwood boards that probably weighed close to what he did, and brought them back here.

The red arrows mark what’s left – the amount of wood needed to line the shelter exactly matched what we had on hand.

The heavy boards he brought from my folks’ old place ended up being the absolute EXACT amount that was needed. I mean exact. There were literally only crumbs left once all the pieces were cut and fastened up.

Rob welded the divider that goes over the water fountain from scrap steel (salvaged from another project) that had been laying around here in the way for 30+ years. Some of the sticks were too short, so he welded them end-to-end to get the length he needed. When he finished, there were only two six inch pieces left over.
Who doesn’t need a wrecked 53′ shipping container full of stuff to lean unused bargain trusses against for a few years while you figure out what to do with them?

He’d purchased some trusses from the local home improvement store’s bargain bin – someone had special ordered them and then not taken delivery – they were super cheap. Those had also been sitting here for a while waiting for a plan to be hatched on how to use them. He ended up coming up with a storage type building with a long lean-to on the south side that faces the pasture; a much-needed shelter for the horses.

Rob hung four special nest cups to encourage the Barn Swallows to use the building

The steel siding on the upper walls in the background used to be a roof; it is also reclaimed from another pole barn demolition project.

As I tell it here, it all sounds so very clever. But in reality, it was a tedious, chaotic process that dragged on for several years without a plan; with this stuff sitting around our place looking like nothing but clutter in the interim. Leaving everybody feeling frustrated and pissed off because there wasn’t a plan and the farm looked junky.

I feel like every place on each episode of Hoarders surely started out with a similar intention, and things just got out of hand somehow. We’ve been close to that here many times.

At any rate, we pulled this one off – and some of the crap we had sitting around looking junky got turned into something that’s useful and at a fraction of the cost that it would have been if we’d done it with new materials.

Wanna read more?

  • Is this all I do? Post pictures and stories about life here on the farm? Nope! is my “real” job.
  • You can read more posts about horses here
  • For more fun on the farm, go here
  • Adventures in remodeling are here
  • Is the house haunted? There are some stories about that here
  • Laughable housekeeping advice is here


  1. Great Great Job! I understand the “stuff laying around (clutter)”. My son is a former Ford mechanic (got hurt on the job, of course as have most of the mechanics I know). My garage is full of “stuff” from various vehicles that has come in so handy over the years. The recycle gene has been alive & well here too!! Far too many young people have absolutely no idea how to re-use much of anything. Its throw away & buy new – and likely thats exactly how this whole country & much of the world is in the shape its in. Land fills? Recycle material with no place to go to BE recycled?
    Good post, Gina

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Love this story! It would be so cool to have the old barn lumber from our family farm, long since sold years ago. Beautiful new shelter your husband built!

    Liked by 1 person

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