Barn Raising (Dragging?)
Tuesday I headed west into the old cowboy and Indian country past Ink’s Lake, where the pink granite boulders shoot up 10 feet from the ground. It’s the kind of wild country that hasn’t changed much since before this place was Texas. The highway stretches for miles with nothing more in sight than cedar, live oak, cactus and deer. I stopped in to a little Czech bakery on the side of the road for kolaches and a sandwich. The entire diner was empty save for an old couple. Both wore cowboy hats, chewed slowly and stared dead-straight at me without apology. It’s clear I wasn’t local. I’ve only been out this way a few times. Once for a pretty spectacular work retreat where we bunked in old log cabins along Lake Buchanan and then ate at Cooper’s famous BBQ joint in Llano. The more recent trip was to pick up Chula and Boo. They lived on a ranch somewhere in the desolate hills. Today I was here because, once again, I’d found something amazing on Craigslist and decided the two hour trip was worth the investment.
As mentioned earlier, we’ve gone back and forth (and repeat) about a barn situation for some time now. We also lack a garage or workshop out here; a space Jeremy has really been missing (and me too, since tools are scattered around the porches). My vision for a barn always included a people space in the middle for tack, medicines, and feed and then animal shelters built out off either side of the center space. Ideally, the entire building would be scratch built onsite using our own cedar and miscellaneous scrap metal. The reality is that we don’t have that kind of time, considering the growing goats and the potential addition of a dairy cow (not to mention the new pasture that needs to be built, house to be finished, driveway to complete – want me to continue?). In fact, two weeks ago, we almost placed an order for a brand new, modular structure that neither of us were excited about. It was more than we wanted to spend and not exactly what we envisioned. And it was new. I’m not a fan of “new” when so much great material already exists. I also like the idea of objects and spaces with previous lives – just another trademark Jenna quirk.
Last Friday, I found a structure on Craigslist – an old Morgan portable building. Barn red with white trim and huge double front doors. Wood framed and metal sided. It was old and creaky and came with a rusty weather vane perched on top. And it was huge. With this option we could actually have a nice mix of what we originally wanted: something not new, a big center area/people space, and scratch built animal shelters if we built lean-to’s off the sides of the building with cedar and metal. Lean-to building isn’t something to sniff at, and will take time, but nothing close to the amount of time it would take to erect an entire building from scratch. Sold!
The biggest problem would be locating a barn mover who could pull the structure out of its precarious spot between fences and other buildings. The distance of the thing also wasn’t insignificant. I spent most of Monday working with the owner and speaking with several movers. When it looked like we’d found a solution, I made the trip to Llano Tuesday to see the structure, hand over the cash, and crossed my fingers it would arrive intact. Surprisingly, the entire move went smoothly. I sat on the porch and watched as the mover hauled the 12×40 structure up the driveway and slowly moved it into place, at the edge of the forest near the house. When he left, I stepped into the space that had just been emptied the night before. The barn came off a ranch just purchased by a young couple. It was the previous ranch owner’s workshop and walking through the thing, it’s obvious how much time he spent filling this place with shelving, work tables, and tool holders. The entire building contains strategically placed lights, a fan, electrical outlets. It served its purpose for over 20 years out in the dusty hills of Llano and now it will have a completely different life as a barn at the edge of the trees. Today we cleaned her up, and Jer ran an extension cord out to check the lights. They work. He’s already started moving his tools onto the shelves and into drawers. He’s been grinning a little silly since she arrived. (Me too).