Portage River Farm

  (Pinckney, Michigan)
Notes on our struggles and successes on our family farm in rural Michigan.
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Barn Envy

In my opinion, barns are the steam engines of the architectural world. They fascinate me. I don't know exactly what the draw is, but I feel it everyday. They evoke a sense of nostalgia for sure, but it is much more than that.

I grew up in the country and around barns. My father had a sprawling one-story horse barn. My grandfather had an old barn for his cattle with a loft for loose hay. Our neighbors had a more modern steel barn loaded with hay bales that were perfect for making forts and secret hideouts.

On my drives to and from our farm, there are beautiful barns in every direction. I never tire of gazing at them and wishing I could take a closer look. I size them up, note their features, and dream of building the perfect barn of my own.

Unfortunately the farm we purchased last year did not come with a barn. I have enjoyed hours of reading and thinking about the perfect barn for our purposes but I know it will be a number of years before I can afford to build one.

One of the features of my barn plan will be a space to shelter our equipment from the weather. Our tractor and implements have been sitting outside for the six months that we have owned them. I know that many farmers leave them outside year round, but my engineer's sense is that they would stay in better condition if they could be dry and out of the sun most of the time.

The onset of snow and bitterly cold weather finally forced me to consider some temporary shelters. The day after Thanksgiving, the local farm supply store had a sale that included steep discounts on their "Garage-In-A-Box" shelters. They are heavy-duty tents with steel frames intended primarily as shelters for automobiles. They were perfect for my needs and the price was right. After verifying that my tractor would fit inside, I happily purchased two and loaded them into my van.

The primary project of the past two weeks has been constructing these shelters and moving our equipment inside. Aidan and I had a memorable day setting up the first one in the rain. The frame of the second one was assembled on a cold night beneath brilliant stars with the help of my new friend Andrea who is one of our CSA members. Yesterday, Sean and I completed the job by attaching the cover to the second shelter and filling it up with implements.

I'm not sure how long those tents will last, but it is reassuring to know that all of my equipment is protected and out of the weather. Our next task will be to transfer the contents of our shed out into these tents so we can begin converting the shed into a "sugar shack" for the quickly approaching maple season.

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