Finally: The Roof!


The barn roof. I promised “after” photos and a rebuild synopsis weeks ago — way back in 2014.

What can I say?

Sometimes life derails your plans.

If you missed the first chapter on the barn roof, you can play catch-up here.

Otherwise, here’s the finished product.



John, our Amish contractor, did a great job. He estimated that roof replacement would require a month, give or take weather woes. And he was spot on. He and his crew dismantled the original roof, circa 1910ish… 1920ish… and rebuilt it within four weeks.

Well done!

There were, however, a few dicey days.

Initially, John planned to tackle the roof in bites, shelling a small section and replacing it, before crabbing along the framework to the next patch of real estate. That’s how construction proceeded for the first few weeks.

But near the end of the renovation, the guys changed their game plan: they stripped the roof naked, in one ambitious, magnificent gulp.

Behold, the belly of the beast:



Unfortunately, this bold declaration of roofing nudity coincided with a shift in the weather forecast: meteorologists swapped their fair-sky guarantee for a wavering prediction of “maybe rain.”

Maybe-rain is a huge motivator. John and the boys moved fast.

Here’s the roof on a Thursday afternoon in mid-December:



And here it is the next day, with rain imminent. See? A flurry of activity when precipitation is breathing down your collar.




So, the barn roof roof is done. Mission accomplished. (Note: when the kids pine for anything, I point to the roof. For example — Brynn: “I wish I could sleep in my own bed.” Me: “You want your own bed? Look at that barn. See that nice shiny roof? There’s your new bed!”)

I’m relieved that this project is completed. I won’t miss the construction scene… living amidst a cast of pickup trucks and a crew of boom lifts and skid loaders. I’m tired of counting the throng of rutted tire tracks snaking through the muddy yard.

But I’ll miss you, John.

John would’ve made a top-notch regular among the Funny Farm cast.

His Amishness was entertaining. Granted, at times he was totally high-tech. John worked off a cell phone and I watched him maneuver earth moving equipment and pilot the boom lift to raise roofing panels skyward.

But in other ways, he was refreshingly clueless. There was the rubber snake incident.

And when he pointed toward a distance cell phone tower — so obviously a tower, thinly veiled to resemble a silo.

“Wow,” marveled John. “They must have a lot of cows at that farm.”

Martin was quiet, before stating, “John? It’s a cell phone tower.”


So many good John lines… so little time.

My favorite exchange?

John was standing beside the barn, trying to make small talk with Martin.

“So,” John said to Martin. “You play polo?”

Martin looked blank. “No, I don’t play polo. Why would you think that I play polo?”

John shrugged, then gestured at the pocket of Martin’s rugby. “Because of your shirt,” he said.

Hey Ralph Lauren, here’s a tip off: the Amish community is unchartered waters.

There’s a final frontier for your Polo brand…






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: