The Barn Report – Completed?

South and east view of the barn.  The greenhouse will be attached to the south side.

South and east view of the barn. The greenhouse will be attached to the south side.

The barn is built – well, let’s say the builder’s part is done –  we still have a whole lot of work ahead of us to finish it to make it functional per our “Grand Plan“, but let’s take a moment here to enjoy the fact that one MAJOR task has been completed.  The structure is up, insulated, doors, windows and gutters installed, concrete poured, rough-in plumbing is in. Check.

North side and west end of barn.  Market processing area will be through the French doors. Garage in the center and wood shop on the far left.

North and west sides of barn. Market processing area will be on the right (west end of bldg., garage/workshop in the center and wood shop on the far left (east end of bldg.)

We need to install the door hardware and caulk around all of the doors and the window.  I’ve started designing the floor plan for the finished processing area so we know where to bring in propane and electrical.  M is going to get the solar electrical stuff together so we can pull our permit for that.  Next steps are to frame and finish the market garden processing area and the bathroom.

M fired up the excavator and dug our first hugelkultur.  This is a Sepp Holzer sized hugelkultur (he likes them BIG!).  M gave me a quick lesson on running the skidsteer and I spent the weekend grabbing stumps, branches and logs with the grapple hook and placing them in the ditch M dug.  I also grabbed a few bucket loads of sod from the barn site clearing pile, but since the pile is sitting right next to one of the wettest spots on the property (and where the large pond will be dug eventually) I had to stop as I was starting to sink in the muck.  It didn’t help matters that it rained cats and dogs the night before…


After we mounded the stumps, roots, branches and logs in, M pulled the dirt back over the top.  Normally you would plant the hugel right away or at least cover crop it, but with the barn construction a couple of months behind schedule and the heavy equipment being at our disposal only for a limited amount of time, we decided to go ahead and get it started.    Since it is almost winter, I am hoping that means no weeds will get a strong hold on it before I can get some things planted in early spring.





We finished the hugel late that Sunday evening.  Exhausted and with a 2 1/2 hour drive ahead, we stripped off our muddy gear and headed for home.  If we had read the weather report we may have noticed below-freezing temperatures forecasted for the entire week.  And if we had thought hard enough about it, we may have realized it would have been prudent to get the shovels out and dig the mud out of the tracks on the excavator and the skidsteer before we left.  Unfortunately we did neither, so when our good buddy J and his Uncle showed up to do the drain work and dig the pond (too technical for us newbies) the following weekend, guess what?  The tracks were frozen to the ground!  Holy crap.  M fired up the propane torch and tried to melt the mud enough to dig it out, but after an hour of messing around with it, J called it a bust.  Boy did we feel dumb especially because it’s J’s equipment.  But J is such a sweetheart he didn’t give us a hard time at all.  He actually said it was his fault since he didn’t think to tell us to dig the mud out.  What a guy.

We still felt pretty dumb.

M installed the door hardware and I spread straw on the hugel.  It was easy to climb up and down it being frozen solid, so I didn’t have to worry about compacting the soil or sinking. We also picked up our half Tamworth hog from a local farmer, so the trip wasn’t an entire bust.  We’ve had a couple of Hampshire/Yorkshire/Duroc/Berkshire crosses, so we are excited to try the Tamworth pork.

It’s finally starting to warm up and we are hoping it will be thawed out enough this next week to get the drains and the pond done.  Fingers crossed.  Guess I’ll be digging mud out of the tracks this weekend.

About La Femme Farmer

Starting up a small farm is the goal for the second half of my life. It's a late start I know, but better late than NEVER! Growing food, cooking and eating are my passions and now I get to do it full-time (and then some). and yes, that's a tomato from my garden!
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5 Responses to The Barn Report – Completed?

  1. Congratulations on the barn! It looks wonderful, and must be a very satisfactory step in the grand plan to be able to check off. And before that cold snap too. Despite the fiasco with the frozen mud on the excavator’s treads, I think that was good timing. What is the longer term plan for the hugelkultur bed? Doesn’t Sepp Holtzer do a lot of trees on his?

  2. Thanks SSF – it does feel good. But funny how one big check mark sets off a zillion new little check-marks-to-be-checked!!
    I’m thinking about planting a lot of perennial vegetables (rhubarb, asparagus, artichokes, etc) on this hugel, maybe some berries on top, but leaving spaces to grow the sun-loving annuals (squash, pumpkins, etc) since the location of this hugel creates a nice little suntrap. This first hugel is going to serve somewhat as a “lab”, so lots of experiments will be conducted here. I’m researching and planning it out this winter. Since we had the heavy equipment available to us and a huge pile of stumps and trees from the road clearing, we thought we’d at least get it started.
    I think Sepp plants trees between his hugels to create shade for certain types of vegetables. You may be thinking of the other permaculture practice of planting trees on the berms of soil created when you dig a swale on contour? We did that with our fruit trees.

    • Yes, I think I was thinking about the trees on the berms from swales. Great idea about the perennial veggies/fruit on the hugel. I know what you mean about the whole new set of checkmarks, and I know at this point, with such a major step finished, the danger for me would be to relax and get around to the smaller stuff later, but I know you’re not like that, and it will be looking a lot like your drawings in the not very distant future!

  3. Bill says:

    I’d never before heard of hugelkultur, but after seeing your post I’ve done some research on them and I really love the concept. I really wish I’d known about it when we were prepping our place 7 years ago. We pushed up huge piles of wood all over the farm as we were clearing for construction and demolishing old buildings. We had the wood and debris pushed into giant brushpiles which we burned. We could’ve made some great hugelkultur. So I’m envious. 🙂

    But seriously, this all looks great!

  4. Thanks Bill! Yes, hugelkultur is definitely a more productive method of getting rid of old wood, slash, etc….. I wish we could have dug another one in since we have our friends excavator but it is just getting to muddy. Maybe Santa will bring us a tractor with a backhoe attachment…

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