Barn Improvements 2.0

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In late 2014, the horses got an entirely new roof on the barn. It’s hard to top that gift, but just before Christmas last month, the horses got new windows, too.

Like the roof, the windows were a necessity. In the horses’ stalls, the original glass panes are long gone, and for a decade, we’ve improvised with plexiglass sheets, which Martin screws in for the winter, and removes in the summer.

But these flimsy plastic sheets aren’t always tough enough to withstand the worst winter winds; sometimes they blow into the stalls over night. And I worry that a horse will catch his lip or nose on a jutting screw head. (You’d be amazed at how horses manage to injure themselves. In leu of screws, we’ve tried using wooden slats, but they never fit properly. Besides, the horses chew them.)

Of course, Home Depot doesn’t stock replacement windows for a 95-year-old Dutch style dairy barn. Trust me, I looked.

But my friend Wild Bill stepped up to the plate and offered to make them for us.

(Why is he “wild”? I’ve known Bill for donkey’s years and the name suits him. Here’s a picture of him with Brynn last year.)


Anyway, this wasn’t a simple project. Weather, wear and time had altered the casings and sills, so each window would have to be designed to fit its respective space. And, they’d need new fittings that would secure each window against the wind, but facilitate removal in the summer.

Wild Bill found a solution. He custom-built the frames for each of the 12 openings. And he came up with a simple but clever latching solution using 4 standard window closures…. and he color-coded the latches so that we’d be able to match each window to its respective sill and casing.


So, there you go. Another project in the can.

If you’re keeping score at home, it’s horses 2, humans 0. We are still living in a house with a leaky roof and broken windows, but the horses, cats, and raccoons & possums are toasty-warm this season!


Photo Op: Props to Martin

Each year, we stock up on 150-200 bales of grass hay, to see our herd through the winter. Typically, a bale weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 lbs.

Recently, however, we bought a truckload of alfalfa and the bales were large and densely packed. We estimate that those whoppers weighed 50-55 pounds each. A couple of rogue bales might’ve been pushing 60.


I groaned and winced as I toted/dragged each bale by its twine strands and built a stack near the drop slot.

But Martin had the unenviable task of heaving those monsters up into the hayloft from the lower truck bed. And as the load in the truck diminished layer by layer, the distance to deliver them grew greater. No longer could Martin hoist them; he had to throw each one upwards through the loft opening.


My hat’s off to you, Martin. That was a beastly chore. I couldn’t have it.

You tossed approximately one ton’s worth of alfalfa up into the loft!

And great news: There’s more on the way.


Snake segue



“You have a lot of snakes around here?”

Roofer John asked me that this morning, as I moved hay bales in the barn. He was barely audible over the screech of metal as his crew tore at the roof above.

“Do we have alotta what?” I asked.

“Snakes,” he said, quieter still.

John’s laconic communication leads me to babble like an idiot. “Snakes? Yea, I guess so. I mean, we have one that lives in our cellar in the winter. We don’t see him but we find his skin in the spring — he’s pretty shy. And sometimes I see them sunning by the barn in the summer. Black snakes — they’re good mousers — so we like them. Wait… why are you asking?”

“We found a dead one.”

“A dead snake? Is it small? Sometimes the cats kill corn snakes,” I offered.

John gave a noncommittal shrug. I followed him and spotted the snake on the ground by the barn — its white belly, face up.

I smirked at John. “Very funny.”

But he wasn’t smiling.



I waited for him to break his deadpan.

“John,” I said, casting a sideways glance at Mike, the sentry standing nearby. “You know that’s not a real snake, right? It was on the cupola on the roof…. to keep the pigeons from using the cupola to enter the hayloft. It’s fake. Your guys probably threw it down.”

Anyone else would be embarrassed or appear sheepish. Or express relief to discover a fake snake. Not John.

“Oh,” he said.

“Did it work up there?”

“Yea… it did.”

“So, I guess it should go back on the new cupola?”

“Yea… I guess it should.”

That’s the longest exchange I’ve had with John. Unfortunately, the pigeon deterrent did not provide a smooth segue into prying, personal questions about Amishness. Hey, speaking of fake snakes, why can’t you drive a car when you’re driving that engine-powered boom lift all over the farm? 

It might be time to channel my info-gathering efforts on Mike. The driver.

Chauffeurs are always in the know.