Making Hay
Week of August 28th, 2005 | The weather was sunny and beautiful.

Shingling our roof.

Shingling our roof.

Hello again! I hope you had a good summer. I've kept busy helping my parents on our farm. I am also currently spending my Saturday's working at our local landscaping nursery center. I enjoy mulching trees, pulling weeds, and selling plants. It will be a seasonal job, with it ending in December, but I'm certain I will be working again next spring. It's good experience working for others besides my parents. Mom, Dad, and I spent a couple of days this past month at my sister's place. We had fun with Jess. We went to the county fair where Jess had three of her paintings entered for competition. She received a third place for one of her entries. We barbecued at her place, played with her cat, Howie, and did some school shopping. It was a nice, relaxing time. I am a senior this year at New Hampton High School. I enjoy the classes that I am currently taking. It is good to go back to school to see my friends and work on the extra-curricular organizations that I am involved in.

As you drive around the countryside, (this area, anyway) far too many farmsteads have become acreages for a family to build a new house or live in the existing house. They work in town somewhere and the other dwellings or buildings either get torn down or stand empty and slowly deteriorate.

I think it's great to preserve old buildings and use them if possible. They hold history, architectural facts, and many memories. This past month, our local community, Alta Vista (town of about 300 people) lost two very old buildings due to a fire. The lumberyard started on fire and spread on to the hardware store. Both buildings were built between 1905-1910. Three other buildings on the block were damaged, too. Just overnight, the town lost two buildings and a business. Eleven area fire departments responded to the fire. Since the town fire hydrants could not keep up with the fire, fire trucks pumped water out of the nearby creek. The creek level dropped at least three inches. Firefighters fought for over twelve hours and saved three other buildings that also could have been destroyed. One of the three is a brick two-story building that was built in 1903. It currently houses a bar & grill, having been the home to other businesses in the past. It's also the community's oldest standing building. We were very fortunate that only two buildings burned down and not any more. We were also fortunate that there was not any wind that night. The hardware store had over a dozen liquid propane tanks next to the building. A lot of water was needed to keep them from blowing up. It is depressing to see old buildings be destroyed by Mother Nature, fire, or even by man. It surely looks different without these buildings in town.

A couple of weeks ago, we began a project to preserve one of our buildings on our farm. We started re-shingling our barn. With a crew of 5 (including Dad and I), our barn looks better and does not leak water anymore. Our barn was built in the 1890's. One of the many features of our barn is the cupola. Many barns have metal cupolas, but only very few have wooden cupolas. A cupola is a top vent on some barns and looks very much like a dome. Our wooden cupola is square with wooden vents on all four sides. The vent is used to supply air to the loft (second floor of barn) for the hay. Dad and I repaired the cupola this year preserving it.

We started the project out with tearing the old shingles off of the barn. There were three layers—1980 asphalt shingles, on top of approximately 1940 wooden shingles, on top of approximately 1890 wooden shingles. After all the shingles were torn off, we had to replace many deteriorated barn boards that were attached to the rafters. Then, we had to pull all the shingle nails out of the barn boards so the new roof could go on. After two days of work with demolishing, we started re-sheathing the roof. Sheathing is the plywood that is nailed on the barn boards so the new shingles can sit on a flat surface. We used an air gun instead of hammers to nail down the sheathing and the shingles. An air gun is an air-powered hammer. The nails are fed through in coils. It runs and sounds like a semi-automatic gun. After the sheathing was placed on, we started shingling. Dad and I thought of using tin. Tin would last longer and can be placed on the barn faster and easier. We decided that tin would not look appropriate for our barn and cost more money. Also, tin is very hard to walk on. With preserving our wooden cupola, we thought about future maintenance on top of the barn. The asphalt shingles we purchased are guaranteed for 30 years, and look like wooden shingles. This is my first major shingling project I ever did. I had fun shingling and am now used to heights and a sloped roof. After four days, Dad, our hired help, and I, re-shingled the south slope, about 1800 square feet.  We plan to do the same with the east slope of the barn, and the chicken house yet this year. Next year, we will do the north slope of the barn. I am really proud of what we did and plan to keep the barn used and preserved for many more years. Too many barns are disappearing today and are tinned instead of shingled. I think the shingles gives a barn more character and gives it the appearance that a barn should look like.

We took all of the old barn shingles to the landfill. We decided not to burnthem mainly because of the air pollution hazard. Many farmers burn trash. Wedon't burn anything except the occasional wood campfires. Farm plastics (trash,silage plastic, and especially bale twine) release dioxins in the air when burned.Dioxin is a deadly gas that can harm humans, kill plants, and even kill animals.A simple step to preserving the air, soil, and water is to stop burning trashand plastic.

Farm Fact: Our Holstein barn (wood over stone) was built before the lumberyard business in Alta Vista started. All the lumbers and timber were pulled up the road by horses in the 1890's from Devon Lumberyard. Devon is currently a ghost town about 4 miles south of our farm. It was on the railroad. The railroad is not in use anymore, either. Since our barn was built, it served many purposes. The barn has housed horses, dairy cows, milking parlor, calf nursery, pig nursery, sow farrowing rooms, chicken rooms, hay storage, grain storage, and a maintenance shop. It is still used today for livestock, crops, and maintenance shop.

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