St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Young Stock Barn Gets Attention

The Young Stock Barn

In the 1950s with the war over, the farm paid off and 4 boys (born 44,46,48 and 51) and Dad just turning 40, it was time to expand the farming operation.  First the barn got a new cinder block foundation and a Grade A milk house along with some inside improvements to house 24 cows and the horse barn attachment pulled down (it was in rough shape). 
Sixty years old and in need of some work

A box elder tree is invading the barn.  Although box elders are not great firewood, they are OK--actually in the maple family.  I don't use them to cook maple syrup, as that would be too close to cannibalism.  

One branch is lodged on the roof--will be tricky to get off.  I guess some chainsawing on the roof is in order. 

Grade A regulations required that calves couldn’t be tied along the walkways behind the cows, so that meant a new building for calves.   As in all building projects on the farm, they started with identifying some trees suitable for sawing into lumber.  The cow pasture, ½ mile up the road had some American Elms and basswood big enough for boards, even though in 1949 Dad sawed out a few thousand feet of elm and basswood for the garage/granary. 

Although Grandpa Pearl Hanson had a two-man chainsaw co-owned with Earl McLean (I think), Dad didn’t have help so he cut them down himself.  Instead of the big old one-man cross-cut saw, he bought a “Swede Saw,”  a large bow saw with a thin blade that was much lighter, faster and although somewhat difficult on large trees, worked well.  

A Swede saw -- when sharpened right, slices through a tree easily and quickly.  I have Dad's 60 year old one missing the blade, but prefer my chainsaw for logging. 
All winter, between morning and evening cow milking, barn cleaning, manure hauling and feeding silage, hay and grain to the cows and milk to the calves, getting firewood, and the usual farming chores, he would get away for an hour or two and drop trees, trim them with axe and saw, and cut to length for the lumber he needed for his barn.  At this time, Mom, with the 4 boys didn’t have much time to help in the barn and we were too young to do much more than feed calves or throw down silage or hay. 

Dad wanted a small haymow for 200 bales of hay (we hired a neighbor to bale our hay by then) to feed the young stock from Nov - April.  It needs two pens, one for 12 calves and another for 12 replacement heifers.  We sold the bull calves as soon as they were weaned at that time—a few years later, they bought another small farm with barn so we raised all the calves to 2 years old.
He figured about 20x32 would be right – with a 7 foot ceiling and room under the roof for hay.  A plain shed roof.  It would need a cement foundation and a cement floor for easy cleaning, and a large enough door to double as a garage if needed.

To get Lester Bergstrom in with his sawmill, Dad had to get enough logs to turn out 3000 board feet of lumber—more than he needed or wanted to get ready.  However, his father-in-law, Eugene Hanson, who lived nearby on the River Road farm, decided he would cut some logs out too and they would set the mill down on his farm. 

Dad didn’t have a tractor with a loader, so he decided to use the Super C in the spring to get the logs out of the woods pulling them with a chain to the field where he could get them loaded and hauled.  

By spring he had enough but by the time he headed to the woods to drag them out, an early melt had filled the low lying lands where many of the logs were deep with water. 

The portable sawmill was scheduled in a few weeks, so Dad took the Super C into the knee deep water, hooked onto the logs and floated and drug them out.  The ground underneath the water was till frozen, and he actually had an easier time

Loading logs was not particularly hard by hand.  The hayrack was taken off the wagon and a couple of  bunks added.  Then with cant hooks, Dad and his brother, Chancey (Uncle Channy) rolled them up the wagon on a couple of poles used as ramps and chained them down and hauled them to the hillside near Wolf Creek on Grandpa’s farm. 

Grandpa bought the sand farm as he was moving into retirement age.  It was not a good farm, but the house was large, 240 acres of land and lots of wildlife and nature along with huge sand fields.  Since the sand never got muddy in the spring, it was an ideal place to have the portable sawmill setup. 

    You can see photos of the logging setup at Logging  -- an earlier post about wood cutting. 

The sawing went well.  Dad, Grandpa and Uncle Lloyd and Uncle Chan all helped with the work and Dad got enough lumber to build his shed. 
Dad and Byron bought a sawmill, rebuilt it and set it up on the farm so they didn't have to pay to have a portable mill come in.  We still have it, although haven't used it much recently,  Some of the wood for the house we built in Pine Island came from this mill.   

When spring planting was done, and before haying began, Dad staked out the foundation for the new barn and we helped dig the trenches for the concrete.  He borrowed his dad’s motorized cement mixer, hauled many loads of gravel from the town pit just up the road on the corner of Gullickson’s farm, and bought the cement. 

Dad often hired his brothers to help with these projects.  As the youngest of 6 boys, Dad used the expertise of his older brothers to work on projects.  He always hired them or traded work with them.  Maurice, Lloyd, Chancey and Alvin lived in the area, and often would be available for a Saturday.  Later we 4 boys were more involved and Dad had his own crew.

American elm will dry crooked, so the strategy was to nail it down as soon as possible after sawing so it would dry held in place and stay straight.  Basswood didn’t warp, but shrunk while drying—not a problem for rough building projects.

The foundation was finished in a day with Mom making a big dinner and supper for the crew.  The foundation was studded with bolts, threads up, to bolt down the walls. 

A day for the concrete to dry, and Dad was busy building wall sections, standing them up and bolting them down to the foundation.  I think Uncle Maurice and Alvin helped with this.  The walls went up quickly—all rough 2x4s for frame and 1 inch boards nailed to them for the walls. 

The rafters for the peaked roof were also just 2x4s and roof boards home sawn lumber, all nailed together.  No power saws, just hand saws carefully sharpened by Uncle Maurice.  The building was framed and covered in a week.  So far the cost was for the sawmill, nails, and cement. 

Money was not easy to come by in the 1950s when milk prices stuck in the $2 per 100 lbs range and so when it came to roofing, Dad decided on mineral roll roofing – red color.  Cheap, fast and good for 15 years (later it got a tin roof).   The board sides had many gaps – rough lumber is that way, so it also got the same rolled roofing as the top.  Sixty years later it is showing some signs of wear and tear, but it was air tight and fast. 

Today, I started the cleanup of that building by cutting the 30 year old box elder that grew against the foundation and dropped onto the roof.  The journey of a 1000 miles starts with the first step, as Chairman Mao used to tell me. 

My 25 year old 029 Stihl chainsaw makes short work of box elders.  I attribute it's longevity and cutting ability to the 10% ethanol gas I have faithfully used since buying it new.  My backwoods neighbors insist that I should use non-ethanol gas in my small engines, but that is just big oil talking through them ;-)

Defying gravity, this tree fell up and over the roof. Not an easy fix as it messed up the ridge tin too and I have to get up there and saw the limb and nail the roof.  My roofing days are mostly behind me.
 Inside the building are stored miscellaneous items -- mostly junk including old mice eaten upholstered furniture, a fanning mill, lots of scraps of paneling and at least one old oil or wood stove (at least it looks like that from the door).  Some of it is useable, some for a fire, some recyclable and a little actually useful. The stuff is a mess right now!   The reclaimed space will be for 10 bull calves that I am getting this spring to give Margo some exercise. 

Inside box elders is often bright red wood.  Quite pretty!