Monday, September 28, 2009

Framing fiercely

Our concrete set up well and was ready for stress by last Monday, and so we fired up a college truck and trailer, ran up the road to the old Grange hall the college uses for storage, and pulled out those fine frame sections that last year's class spent so many hours preparing.

All that careful preparation paid off and the frames flew up in record time, so much so that by Friday at noon the main frame of the building was up and the plates and wind braces all in place.

Pictured are Meghan, Kaley, Rory, Matt and myself all engaged in framing tasks.

Now it's time for heavy timbers.

A 30' wide building needs either an expensive truss system, or interior framing, to hold up its roof. Trusses are also used to hold up the ceiling between the first and second floor.

But we will need to put hay in the second floor or attic space, and so trusses can't be used because they will make the hay storage space inaccessible.

Old fashioned rafters must therefore hold up our roof, and so posts must hold up the hay floor. This means we must use post and beam construction techniques for the next few weeks to create that hay floor. This interior post system will also penetrate the hay floor and hold up a rafter beam, which will reduce the necessary weight of the rafters themselves.

This is all an excellent opportunity to learn a few things. Carpentry, physics, math, teamwork, leadership, and coordination: all will be needed to get these frames up and the roof on the building before snow flies.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hump day: Concrete and character

Here's the Day of the Pour. This is without much doubt going to prove to have been our biggest hump-day of all. All the rest of our barn work can be broken into bite-sized chunks, if not one board at one time, or at least less than ten at a time.

But a monolithic slab is just that, one ruddy great big piece of artificial rock.

All our troops pitched in with gusto, and I had to issue surprisingly few of my distinctive ex-NCO's reminders that standing around resting on a rake while others were raking was perhaps not the most productive use of one's time.

By the end of the morning, we had become experienced concrete crew, and when the third truckload showed, all the professor really had to do was watch the crew.

Then it became a matter of weather watching.

It was supposed to be a 30% chance of rain. Light rain is helpful if it arrives right at the moment of bull-floating, unhelpful if it gets heavy enough to wash cement away from sand in the slump and cause weakness, or if it spatters the surface and spoils the finish. By 5 pm we'd had three minor showers and the surface was a little spattered, but enough only to break up the smoothness a little and make for better friction underfoot. This will be a detriment for future mucking-out of the barn, but a distinct safety feature otherwise, so I was not unhappy with the effect.

By 5.30 pm when last I checked, the slab had begun to cure and was already proof against written notes and paw-prints. By Monday we'll be able to hold a dance.

I was overall very pleased. The crew worked well and in good heart, the job got done, and I went home for my weekend feeling like I was "over the hump."

Friday, September 11, 2009


Here's students from Environmental Citizen class working on our animal barn project. We are raking Maine's native gravel, about 28 yards of it, into a hard-compacted pad for the concrete slab that will be laid next week.

I thought the group shot, which I don't believe I took myself -- I'm in the habit of handing the camera to odd students when my hands are too full to take pictures myself -- has a nice gangland atmosphere to it. Tough customers.

The other shots are of Kaylee raking, and Ryan using the rented 350 pound compactor.