Pleasant Valley Farm

  (Tionesta, Pennsylvania)
Real Family Farming in Tionesta, PA
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(Almost) An Old-Fashioned Barn Raising

Dan has had a few rare days off of work lately, as his brother Matt (and the other half of the construction company) is out of town visiting his folks. With some time to spend here on the farm, Dan has put some thought into what he'd like to accomplish this week. We decided to get to work on a project we'd been discussing for a couple months now, namely building a new workshop for Dan's blacksmithing. The oldest building on the farm was once a blacksmith shop, but due to the condition of the chimney and the age of the building (late 1800's), we'd rather err on the side of not burning it down. Dan has been working in a small shed, but the 8' x 10' space isn't big enough to accommodate much more than the forge & anvil. So, we decided to build a new workshop big enough for the forge & smithing tools, and also other metalworking tools such as welders, grinders, chop saws, etc. This way, all the tools will be in the same place and a metal project can be worked start to finish in the same place. He was also generous enough to promise me a section of workbench, because I'd like to try my hand at doing some stained glass projects during the off-season. You know, because I need another hobby.

Dan came up with the blueprints himself, and the new shop is 16' x 20'. We began setting a few posts over the weekend, and building in earnest this week. And an amazing thing happened. Some of our friends happened to have a few days off at the same time, and came to see the building go up. One had 20 + years of construction experience and is semi-retired, so it was easy to hand him a tape measure and a saw. Other friends were eager to pick up the cordless nail gun and get the boards secured. We had extra riders over to the Amish sawmill to pick up more rough cut lumber. Enough guys were happily building away that my main job has been picking up scraps of lumber so no one trips, and making sure there are enough refreshments in the crock pot and the cooler.  As much as I feel guilty not making salsa or pickles or dilly beans (and letting the produce go to the livestock or the compost bin), I think about what I'll remember 5, 10 or 20 years from now. Canning is my full-time summer job, but I don't think I'll ever have the opportunity to have a hand in building a blacksmith shop here on the farm, one we hope will outlast us.

 And even though all the men helping are old enough to be Dan's father, no one questions how he is going about with the project. They just ask what needs to be done next, and then grab a ladder or more nails or whatever is called for.  At the same time, he isn't afraid to bounce an idea off of someone on the best way to do something, either. While it's not the enormous project of raising a barn in a day, it surely has the same spirit of community, of helping a neighbor because you know that he would do the same for you. And in an age where almost everything is done by hired experts, or bought already assembled, I also think that there is a need to be a part of the doing of a project like this. To see the raw boards and steel roofing go from piles on the ground to a finished building, to create. It's the same kind of spirit that surely was present 150 or so years ago when the first shop was built, and an amazing thing to be a part of now.


New Roof

Although most of the major farm projects for the year are over, we're thankful that the weather is holding so we can get one last major project accomplished this year.  The hog house is finally getting a new roof!  While the ground level of the building is made of blocks, the upper story was wooden.  The roof has been leaking for some time now, and the big blue tarp over the roof has long been shredded by the weather.  The whole building was turning into an eyesore as well as a danger, as the leaning wood promised to collapse sometime if we didn't get to it ourselves.  Since the bottom is in good shape, Dan and I had decided this spring the best plan would be to tear down the upper story and replace it with a steel roof, sloping only one way so the water would no longer end up in front of the pigs' door to the outside run.  We're hoping this new layout will help to eliminate the giant mud puddle currently in front of their door. Eliminating the second story is really no loss of space, since pigs don't use staircases and we weren't using the space for storage or anything else.  It should cut down on the mice as well, as they had taken over the top story and were abundant below as well.

The project began yesterday, with Dan and his brother knocking down all of the boards not responsible for holding the roof up.  Then ropes were tied to the support beams.  The other end was fastened to the van.  The second story came down with a big crash, but safely for all involved. They've recycled lots of the usable  lumber to build supports and give the roof a proper angle so that snow and rain will slide off.  As I type, the green sheets of metal roofing are being nailed into place.  Daylight will be running short, but we'll try to get it all on tonight.  The the most time consuming part will start- the cleanup!  We'll save any still-usable boards for future projects, but there will still be lots of rotten wood and shingles and random junk that will need to be picked up and disposed of.  We'll give the inside a thorough cleaning and spread the manure on the fields and then line the pens with fresh bedding.  This was really important to get done before winter, this way the sows won't have to go to a new building before the next litter of piglets are born in early March.  

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