The story of our new house goes something like this:
John found a dismantled barn for sale in the newspaper about five years ago. He called on it and arranged to meet the guy who owned it at a barn in Pickerington where it was stored. The guy had dreams of putting it back up again someday, but he ran out of time. The people who owned the barn where it was stored wanted to move and they needed it out of there. The guy had marked each beam and photographed each step of the process. It was just what you wanted to find in a dismantled barn. In addition to the 24x36’ structure, he had a 16x16’ building available, too. John took them both plus some oak flooring and other “vintage” lumber. We thought we would use the bigger one for the horse barn and the smaller one for John’s workshop. We’d buy another dismantled barn later and turn it into a house. (la di da!)
Now all we (John) had to do was move it. Getting a dismantled barn loaded into the back of your truck is one of those “easier said than done” things. All I remember about it is that one snowy Easter weekend, John and Jack used a canoe dolly to move several thousand pounds of barn lumber in a rented U-Haul. There was a huge snowstorm going on while they drove along back roads in the dark. Once they arrived at our farm, they had the pleasure of lifting all the beams one more time to load them into our old barn for storage. Good times, good times.
John had the idea for a while that he would put the barn back up himself, perhaps with the help of some Amish people for the main beams. Hoo boy, to think of that now makes me laugh. Or shudder. As it turned out, he asked around at the local lumber company for someone who could put up an old barn. Yes, there was an Amish man he could try, but there was another name that kept coming up: Tom Shingary.
We met Tom at the farm one weekend to discuss the project. He drove up in his maroon and cream conversion van and got out to meet us. He had a ball cap on covering his thick white hair, large blue eyes lined with black lashes, and a round nose. He had a friendly gruff voice, like a grandpa you are a little bit afraid of, but who you know will soften and give you whatever you want if you ask for it politely. After we looked at the beams stacked in our barn and talked at length about what we were planning, Tom asked if we wanted to take a drive and look at some of the other barns he had reassembled—some to work as barns again, and some to work as houses. After that tour, we were convinced that Tom was our man. A year later, he started work with the help of his brothers who own an excavation company, his son who owns a gravel company, a few workers who have changed over the years, and his teenaged grandson from time to time.
The original plan of making it the horse barn changed when we saw what a bulldozer does to the land. John and I were stunned when we came out to the farm one weekend and saw our little hilltop that the barn was supposed to sit on gone. They ran into some limestone rocks while trying to level the site and so it went deeper and deeper until the site was downhill rather than uphill. We cried when we saw it and felt so guilty. We learned a good lesson: go slowly and think it through, because you can’t put it back once you bulldoze it.
To quote John’s famous saying, though, “it couldn’t have worked out any better.” Because we realized that we should make it into our house. The site was perfect—it was the right distance from the cabin, it had a fantastic view, the major upheaval of the land was already done, and who wanted to find another dismantled barn and move it again for our house? We could build something smaller for the horses later. And so our new house was conceived. It has been gestating for a few years, and now it is almost arrived.
“The boys,” as we affectionately call them, arrive every morning, Monday through Saturday, around 7:30 a.m. and work until 3:00 p.m. I hear them laughing and guffawing in-between saw cuts. I hear the radio playing oldies rock some days. They love Cassie, our old coonhound, who ambles down there several times a day to beg food. “We know it’s lunchtime when she comes down here!” They like the house they are building for us, and take pride in doing a good job. I clean up their cigarette butts and pop cans after they leave. I took fresh baked cookies down one day (after Cassie stole one of their lunches). I suppose I’ll miss the boys a little bit when they don’t show up every day in Tom’s white work truck. But, I think I’ll live.
Here are some pictures of what it looks like now…
The view that you get when walking to the house from the cabin (That's going to be the screened in porch below and the star-gazing deck above)
And the other side of the house, facing the road. That is the cedar siding going up on the bottom half. We're going to just let it turn gray over time. Mmm, patina.And the front of the house with the awesome dormers
And there is Tom in the white shirt. The other two have sinced moved on--the fella in the cap became ill with cancer, and the other guy, I'm not sure. They did not want their picture taken. Can you tell? This was taken several years ago, as evidenced by the post and beam still visible on the left. Tom has trimmed down since, after a scare with heart surgery. He's looking good, though he is the one with the bad knees I mentioned. He gets the young guys to climb the ladders.
And here is John's tidy little workshop completed in the same cedar siding as the house. Add the almond windows and a red door and some landscaping to it and you'll know what the finished house will look like.
As a final note on this fifteenth of August, Happy Birthday to John! We'll be celebrating tomorrow with Mary and Jon and the kids and Jackson, too. Pictures forthcoming!