All good things come to an end – so let's build another
Having so much time on my hands, with an excess of TB restricted cattle, stockman Joe off to pastures new, and generally being one of those idle loafing types, I've decided to renew one of the farm buildings.
This rambling construction started as a pole barn 25 years ago, growing lean-tos as the years passed. The posts which went in the ground were treated Douglas poles – out of Tavi Woodlands, back when the treatment was worth something. The rafters were a load of very greasy European larch poles, out of a garden at Holne, while the purlins were homegrown, ripped down with a chainsaw, and pulled out of the woods with a coloured dobbin called Paddy, who'd learnt his trade lugging a coal cart in Ireland. Curiously the Missus has just bought a fresh oss, also called Paddy. I don't think I'll be allowed to take him in the woods dragging out sticks, though.
The groundwork for the original polebarn was a by-product of a grant-aided silage pit, which didn't cost anything after madcap Derek-the-Digger-man cut and filled at twice the rate the Ministry anticipated. In fact, as I recall, the spare in the budget paid for a whack of concrete. Most of the tin was purchased from a swarthy lad out the back of his Transit "They'm seconds mister, but they'z pretty good." And to be fair, as long as a firm hand was kept on his counting, we had a perfectly sensible deal.
Between the tin and poles, I had to find about £800 plus some toil, although this took some doing as I had absolutely no money – I was 25 before I saw a bank statement which didn't have OD at the end. I always assumed it meant 'overdosed'.
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A couple of years later, having evolved into a slicker operation, we put up the big lean-to. We hired in a woodmizer to convert some blagged round timber, got in more tantalised poles, and a group of pals who turned up one blustery rainy day to hang some frames up. A German pal, Sascha, was an apprentice carpenter and in charge for the day. The first thing he required was a big mallet, with which to cut some mortises into the original poles. How big? I asked, pointing to a log of beech. "Ziss big" he indicated, chalking an outline of a mallet on the end of the fresh green log… which I fashioned immediately with a chainsaw. The resultant dripping wet tool was, of course, so heavy it took two hands to swing. This didn't leave Sash any means of holding a chisel, so it had to be somewhat reduced. Still, six of us put in a hard sodden day and got the frames up in one hit, shared a few beers, and nailed the mallet to a rafter –where it's remained.
But now, with several poles rotting off, and the wiggly worms making their way into any spruce which slipped into the build, it has had to go. I've been sticking a couple of props in the last few winters, in case a snow load collapses the ambitious lean-to. It should be admitted that the advent of the telehandler has tested the creaking timbers further.
So I've collected up some more very tight grown larch – cut on my own mill right opposite – a load of gurt big galvanised posts, and another team of chums. The overall footprint is a touch bigger, and we're going up in the air a few feet – I did once swing a non-breathing newborn lamb in the old lean-to, to drive the gloop out of its airways and get it to take a breath. But when it reached the top of the arc, its head hit the rafter with a wet smack. It did survive, although I don't recommend this exact method.
We're going for a pretty solid build, topped with heavy gauge old-fashioned corrugated. My rationale for this over yer fibre cement is that I don't know anyone who's fallen through a tin roof – as long as you remember where the light sheets are – whereas we all know someone who's gone through those big-6 sheets. You might very well suggest I don't quite trust my sums, and need tin's forgiving nature when things don't line up, but you're a scurrilous old rascal, and I'm sticking to my story.
With wide bays for cattle either side of a central raised feed passage, at the back of which we can stack straw, it should make for an easy working comfortable shed. We'll see. Obviously, Sasha's mallet will be incorporated somewhere up in the new roof.