April 6, 2012

We had a family emergency over the last few days which suddenly bumped everything else off the schedule.

I’m pretty good in a certain sort of crisis. Qualities that in normal life are rather wearing for others around me — intense focus, tunnel vision, and unflagging drive — are now helpful. I just shut off my emotions and problem-solve minute by minute. On the outside, for the most part I can pretend a certain calm.

However the emotions are, of course, still there underneath, roiling away. I have been hugely thankful for the loving support I’ve received. My two sisters and my two girlfriends who are almost like sisters have been available to listen and occasionally to prompt. (Alison has repeatedly reminded me, “Remember to eat!”) The man I’ve been teaching to read heard of the crisis. He’d learned how to text just before Christmas and now sent me a message:  I HER IF U NED ME. They’ve all been there when I needed them and I’ve been so touched and grateful.

Things are calmer now and Luke and I are back to working on the barn addition. Our predicted sunny skies and temperatures in the 40s have been replaced by temperatures in the 20s and blowing snow, but after the last few days, dealing with problems so basic is almost a relief.

Next Steps on the Barn Project

April 2, 2012

Yesterday I spent making lists, cleaning house, and cooking ahead for the week. In mid-March I had an email from Luke, the boy who started working for me when he was fifteen.

Luke is in college now and was writing to let me know he would be home for spring break. Did I have any work for him? After a lot of pencil-chewing and scribbling on yellow pads, I have decided that we will go ahead and frame the barn addition.

This will be a simple lean-to shed off the west side of the barn.

My dream is to have the farm pay for itself and cover its taxes. To this end I am finishing the rental apartment and looking at my meat-raising with a hard eye. It’s not yet clear to me whether beef or lamb sales will be the answer, but I do know that I will need more space under cover. The very cheapest way to do this is to put an addition on the barn, giving me an inexpensive added 10′ x 32′. (Moreover, when Lucy’s aged horse Birch dies of old age, he will not be replaced.)

I have been preparing for this project for over a year, slowly stockpiling materials as I could afford them.

My elderly friend Allen and I put the piers in last spring. That is to say, Allen on the excavator dug the trench for the foundation…

…pulled out the inevitable rocks…

and back-filled around the Sonotubes, while his friend Fred and I held them steady and plumb.

Once that was done, I discovered to my horror that I’d made a math mistake — and then we had torrential rains, which flooded and destroyed the cardboard Sonotubes. So we did it all again. This time I corrected the measurements and we called the concrete truck immediately.

I was alarmed all over again when it became clear that the concrete chute, even with extensions, could not reach to the furthest Sonotubes. But Allen, as usual, was calm. He arranged with the driver to fill the excavator bucket with wet concrete.

His son D arrived in time to operate the excavator for us, piloting carefully over the filled tubes…

… and then Allen and the driver shoveled the sloppy concrete while I stood by with long lengths of rebar and bolts to drop into the setting mix.

A month later, when D came to help spread manure, he spent an hour leveling gravel from the pond around the concrete piers to fix the grade.

Now Luke and I hope to take the next step and erect the frame. Naturally, last night it snowed, so we shall see how it goes.