The Roofing News



Happy Thanksgiving, gang. And my apologies, this post is a day late. As you read this, pretend it’s yesterday:

As I gaze out the window at the rain/snow this Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving, it seems like an opportune time to post the latest barn roof news.

The morning’s pelting rain was present in the hayloft — familiar puddles that gather with every storm. But for the first time in years, the tack room was bone dry. Thanks to our Amish roofing crew.

Well, not “a crew.” It’s just a guy. One Amish guy.


John says he’ll bring reinforcements after Thanksgiving and the wedding season. In the meantime, he’s a one-man act.

But he’s astonishingly industrious.

And that’s after a punishing commute — 2 1/2 hours from his home in Pennsylvania. A five-hour roundtrip every day.

Of course John doesn’t drive, because he’s Amish.

(And let me interrupt to address the perplexities of this religion. John doesn’t operate a car because Amish don’t use modern technology. Yet, he has a cellphone. I don’t get that: Amish shun technology, but cherry-pick some modern conveniences. How does that work? Why is it acceptable to use a power drill, but not a zipper? And you can’t drive a car but you can ride in one? So many questions I’m itching to ask. But I don’t want to treat John like a side show.)

Whatever. The point is, John doesn’t drive. A guy named “Mike” drives him around.

And that’s the odd thing about Mike: he doesn’t do anything, except drive John to and from the job site. Sometimes Mike hands up supplies, or retrieves a tool from the truck. But most of the time he stands around like a sentry. (Which of course begs more questions: How much do you get paid to drive someone around? How is that economically feasible given gas prices? And while you’re standing around, how about you do a project for us? There’s plenty to share.)

But I don’t ask Mike anything.

He stands and watches John. I do, too.


Watching John is mesmerizing — he’s got a slow, methodical pace.

He tears off a section of roof like a strip of taffy, checks the framing, then covers the gap with a fresh metal sheet. He’s never rushed or hurried, yet he makes solid progress. The tack room, mouse house and connecting breezeway are done.

Now all that remains is the big bite: the 80-foot long, Dutch, gambrel dairy barn roof.

Replacing that will require a stretch of good weather. And a crew, not just John.

And they may have to hurry.


Beetle Results & Other Housekeeping


Today’s Funny Farm post is all about updates.

First up: the beetle report.

In response to the most recent “name that bug,” contest, I heard from a lot of you dung beetle lovers.

Alas, the mottled insect pictured above is not the poop-slinging variety.

It is Dynastes tityus — better known as the eastern Hercules beetle. Or rhinoceros beetle, if you prefer. And the pinups I featured were both females, as readers Sarah O’Halloran and Lee Miller correctly noted.

Congrats, you two.


Next on the docket: The Chopper report.

Remember when Jazz went Mike Tyson on my arm? (Original post, here.) I wouldn’t say that he’s 100% reformed, but Jazz has repressed his bad behavior.

Thanks to lime juice.

I launched my citrus attack shortly after the big bite. I didn’t wait for an attempted strike; the moment he flattened his ears, I delivered a shot of lime juice. He curled his lip with distaste. After a few sessions, Jazz put two and two together.

As for the injury, the brilliant bruise has vanished but the swelling remains. It looks less like a goose egg. More like a speed bump. And it’s astonishingly tender after three weeks’ recovery.


Jazz: “What, me bite? Pish posh.”


Finally, outbuilding repairs. Last month I mentioned our barn roof woes and debated the merits of scheduling our Amish crew to commence construction in the fall, versus spring. Readers voted for now, not later. And we agreed.

Recently, I signed the contract and cut a check toward materials and labor. Project barn roof replacement starts:




The winter weather wager


In recent months, Martin and I made a big decision:

We are sending the barn to college. So to speak.

Actually, we are replacing the barn roof, which will cost as much as a year’s tuition and fees at a private college.

What else could we fund with this kind of cash? A new car, an awesome kitchen renovation, a first-class trip around the world. Hell, Martin could buy a fleet of those army trucks he trolls for on Craigslist.

Instead, we’re funding an improvement for the horses, cats and occasional opossum. (See, I can joke now. I’m beyond the nausea-inducing sticker shock phase. Over the summer one contractor quoted twice the price of previous estimates, and I got a little woozy. Do you need to sit down? he asked, sympathetically. Our roofs are guaranteed for 100 years, he added. What did I care? I’d be dead then!)

Speaking of 100 years, that’s the age of the barn, and — aside from a few spots — the roof is original as well. Hence the need for replacement. Viewed from a distance, the roof doesn’t look too tragic. But the leaks are beyond patching. It’s not like a colander with visible holes. Instead, imagine cupping water in your hand: eventually it seeps through your fingers. That’s our roof, dripping at the seams.

After a decade of patch jobs, we are committed to renovation. The big question is “when”?

Our roofer can start in mid-November, a time that taunts winter storms. Precipitation and frigid temps could push the project to Christmas or beyond.

And our contractor mentioned another speed bump. “You know about the wedding season, right?”

I knew that our roofer is Amish. I didn’t know that Amish weddings are held strictly from November to early December, after the harvest, but before winter sets in. (And typically, weddings are celebrated on Tuesdays and Thursdays… now that’s a bite from the work week…)

So, late-fall construction is fraught with what-ifs. The alternative: a springtime build.

In the spring, the project would take just a couple weeks, avoiding winter and matrimonial distractions.

But a five month delay gambles on a season’s worth of bad weather. Any significant rain or snow would be problematic. And this is a possible El Nino year.

So that’s the debate. Do we wager that El Nino’s a bust and wait until spring? Or do we bet on a belated winter and an uneventful wedding season?

We’ve got a few days to flip a coin.


See, it’s nice from afar…