Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Barn Raising

The barn raising has begun.  This project was started months ago with the idea that the cows needed a place to go during the winter months and that better storage was needed for the hay and grain.  This morning the timbers were raised for the most beautiful cow barn on the Island.
Frederic Brillant is building the barn;  he also built the roof of the kitchen building and the roof over the wood fired oven.  It is a timber frame barn made entirely of Douglas fir held together with locust wood pegs.  
Frederic creates the structure in his wood shop on the west side of the Island and then loads up the sticks and drives them over to the farm.  In the space one day he will erect the main part of the barn.  I expect the roof beams will go up tomorrow.  It is so quick and precise that it appears to be very simple.  Upon closer examination each stick is complicated, different mortises, different tenons on each.  Unusual markings identify the different sticks.  Although I have spent three years looking at the marks on the kitchen roof, I still haven't deciphered them.  I could ask him to explain them, but fear it is actually rather simple.  I enjoy the mystery.
The timelessness of this project excites me.  Although a large cement truck arrived a couple of weeks ago to pour the footings, the process of building this barn probably hasn't changed much in a couple of hundred years.  Some of Frederic's tools in his shop are electrically driven, but many are beautiful hand tools.  If I squint just so on this beautiful sunny day it is the nineteenth century in rural France.  I have also have had fantasies today of what this farm will look like one hundred years hence when the world around it has changed dramatically, but where it is possible that this barn stands, exactly as it was built.
I have had other construction projects over the years.  Most follow a fairly similar pattern.  The crew is usually young guys, ClassicRock blaring from their trucks;  they throw their garbage by the side of the job site and find any question from me an affront.  Here today are two Frenchmen, yammering on in their native tongue.  They are well dressed and concentrate on the task at hand.  No music blares, no refuse remains and my questions provide them with the seed of an interesting story on the history of French building.  
Soon the barn will be finished and the cows will move in.  Seems a bit odd for these gentle bovines to get the best spot on the farm, but they tend to work harder than I, day in and day out.


  1. Will there be a hay loft above the girls for guests to spend the night?

  2. The barn is turning out nicer than my home, so it is more likely that I will move into the hay loft above the cows and enjoy the beautiful craftsmanship.


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