Barn Again

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Strike a match? . . . .

This 100+ year-old barn has been hanging on even though it obviously has not received any tender loving care in a very long time.  About a dozen years ago I removed the old doors from the front and stored them for safe keeping, making myself a promise I would be back to restore the barn of my childhood memories.  Two years ago, we pulled up a trailer and emptied out all the “trash and treasures” that had been dumped inside for the last thirty years.  It was a daunting task and we didn’t get it all, but enough to make a significant dent.  I spent a summer when I was about 13 years old painting the barns, and this north wall still bears faded red paint.  And today we pulled off the sagging end that we will rebuild.  Ahem.

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oops . . . .

We tossed a rope and chain over the end in an attempt to remove the east end which had been pirated for lumber and left hanging in the wind.  We thought the 1 x 6 boards on the roof would snap like twigs, but what a mistake that was.  Everything BUT the roof boards snapped.  Ah well, no harm done, really.  We decided to move the end wall that came down over to a new foundation and start over rebuilding to meet the existing section.

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The work begins . . . .

With a crow bar, I began prying off the boards from the wreckage to be used again.  The condition of the lumber is surprisingly good and I love the aged patina.  We will use all that we can in rebuilding the structure.

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Preservation lumber pile . . . .

By the end of the day I had deconstructed every board, including rafters, support posts and wall boards.  I stacked it all in the order that I removed it.  And headed for a hot soak in the old bathtub–I ached in every place in my body.  Meanwhile, Michael has been all day digging post holes and pounding posts for a paddock we are building for Tillie.  Move over to make room in the tub!

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“Hey, an historic find! . . . .

I had previously stacked a pile of foundation stones near the barn that I dug up from the foundation of an old log cabin that was eventually moved to the Gatchell Museum in Buffalo.  I figured I would need a few good stones to shore up the foundation when and if I ever got started on a restoration, and as I dug out the rotted floor boards and began removing old floor joists my shovel struck something very hard.  A few of the stones originally placed under the barn were still there, sunk down in the dirt and out of view.

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Volunteers needed! . . . .

We knew we would need to add structural support and strengthen the walls.  Working on the structure was making us a little nervous.  Half of the old building seemed sound and stood as sturdy as could be expected, but the end we pulled off was left hanging a bit precariously.  The decision was made to scrounge for structural supports in an ancient pile of leftover lumber nearby.  We found a telephone pole in good condition, cut off two 10′ lengths and began drilling holes for corner posts which we would fill with concrete.  We unearthed one more pole and are searching for a fourth to complete the corner posts of the new/old structure.  An antique oak walking beam Dad purchased in a load of oil field surplus many years ago still seems pretty sound and is long enough for a header front and back.  We will purchase new pressure treated 2 x 6 boards to lay across the foundation stones and build up from there.

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Never too late . . . .

This photo will serve as a reminder of what we started with.  Restoration will take some time, but I cannot wait until we can do the “after” photo.  As I look at this, I am reminded of what was.  And I am reminded of what a wreck our old chicken house was when we began to restore it.  The room on the west end (left) of the barn was the tack room where saddles, bridles and horse paraphernalia were kept.  The double doors in the middle opened to the barrels of rolled oats and animal feed.  The right hand section, sagging precariously, contained two horse stalls with built-in feed bunks. Lumber removed here many years ago left things in pretty bad shape.  A large corral and loading chute, long since removed, was attached on the right.

Why save an ancient wreck of a barn, with all the challenges, grit and grime?  Because it holds so many memories.  Because it is a good deal cheaper to salvage than build new. Because it speaks to the past and is part of our family heritage in this place for nearly 70 years. And because in the end it is worth it.

 

 

 

The Wonder of Wurlitzer

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Jiving with the juke box . . . .

This old Wurlitzer juke box was a standout in a tour of the Pioneer Museum in Douglas, Wyoming recently.  It brought back some memories of an old Wurlitzer that stood in my grandfather’s general store in Kaycee.  The juke box I recall had curved glass neon-filled tubes that changed rainbow colors as the 78 rpm records spun out country tunes from the stars of the 1950’s (Hank Williams, Ernest Tubbs, Homer and Jethro, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Chet Atkins, Patsy Cline, Carter Family and Tennessee Ernie Ford, to name a few).

It took a nickel in those days to buy a song.  I begged for quarters to pick five tunes, and some evenings after closing, my grandfather would take out a huge ring of keys that he kept in his pocket, open the door and push a little lever that allowed us to select a few with no coins.  One of my favorites was Old Kawliga, a sad tale about a cigar store wooden Indian.  I still know most of the words!

I don’t know what happened to the old Wurlitzer, which was sold along with the general store when my grandfather retired in the 1960’s.  But I have my memories of being a little kid with face pressed to the glass, watching the records spin and being enchanted by the changing colors and sound of music.

Cabin Rising

The mast and mainstay . . . .

The mast and mainstay . . . .

This center pole is a Big Horn spruce and rises from the roof down to the main floor of the new cabin.  Dudley (my brother, who has been tagged with that name since Rocky and Bullwinkle days when we were kids) is pouring his soul and spare cash into building this wonderful retreat on the divide of the Big Horns.

The loft, where short people sleep . . . .

The loft, where short people sleep . . . .

When I say “short people,” it includes people of normal height, which does not include Dudley, who is 6 ft. 5 inches tall.

Ranger ramp? . . . .

Ranger ramp? . . . .

Doubt the Ranger will be able to drive up this ramp to unload groceries, but it still makes an easy walk from the parking lot into the cabin.  A stairway is planned going down the other side of the deck.

Structural supports should make for a good dance floor! . . . .

Structural supports should make for a good dance floor! . . . .

I doubt there will be a “load factor” for structure.  Even though we have all put on a few pounds, we shouldn’t rock the boat.

Imagine two bedrooms . . . .

Imagine two bedrooms . . . .

These are sizable rooms, and when you add in the loft, should afford sleeping for at least a couple dozen (just kidding, Dudley)!

Curbside critics . . . .

Curbside critics . . . .

Big John Moses, in the grey hoodie, is the master builder and all agree it is a fine job.

The great basin . . . .

The great basin . . . .

A bit hazy on the day this was shot, but the Big Horn basin rolls out to the west and makes for great viewing from the deck.

Uh oh, water in the hole . . . .

Uh oh, water in the hole . . . .

This culvert is deep and was planned to be where the outhouse would sit.  Trouble is, this spring when it was time to move, it was full of water.  What to do?  Guess Dudley will have the only flush toilet on the SEBH (South End of Big Horns).

The little house in the pines . . . .

The little house in the pines . . . .

Neighbor Tom’s ingenious outhouse is finally on solid ground and over the culvert that was pumped and filled with a few sacks of concrete to stem the tide of water flowing into it.  Oh well, we don’t really need a flush toilet!

A gathering is planned before snow flies and by then the roof and windows will be installed and the cabin will be 95% complete.  Dudley has three sisters who will have all kinds of ideas for the fun part – decorating!

 

Clouds

Get your head in the clouds . . . .

Get your head in the clouds . . . .

Th Wyoming skies are constantly changing and so incredibly beautiful.  A mere camera cannot begin to capture the vastness of the images that envelope us daily.  A few recent shots:

Thunder and sun . . . .

Thunder and sun . . . .

These beautiful clouds aren’t always so benign and can bring with them torrential downpours of lightning, hail and rain.  This was the build-up for just such an evening and although I was lulled by the incredible vision in the sky, I began to prepare for the worst (vehicles inside the garage, hail buckets over flower pots, plastic sheeting over the tomato plants).

Heaven sent . . . .

Heaven sent . . . .

As the storm’s fury begins to subside, a beautiful sunset is forming.  Just another day in Wyoming!

Homestead House

Marriage of convenience . . . .

This photo is of my great grandmother Clara standing in the breezeway between two structures on the homestead, circa 1922.  Both structures were moved from their original sites, which were nearby homesteads that had been relinquished.  The log house was moved yet again a few hundred yards to the west in 1938 to become the newlywed home of my parents and a lean-to was built on the cottage, which moved for the second time to ranch headquarters about five miles southeast in the late 1950’s where it stands today.

The "bunkhouse" . . . .

The “bunkhouse” . . . .

I undertook painting the little house for the first time when I was a teenager.  Very few homestead houses ever saw paint, which was an extravagance few of the early pioneers could afford.  After relocation from the homestead, it became the “bunkhouse” and was home to a cast of characters that worked as hired hands on the ranch.  It was still heated with a wood stove in the early years.

Waiting to be in service again . . . .

Waiting to be in service again . . . .

A hail storm damaged the roof in the 1980’s and Dad replaced the west side of the roof with asbestos shingles, leaving cedar shingles on the east.  In the 1990’s I engaged a local carpenter to replace a broken floor joist and lay a concrete block foundation which finally stabilized the structure, which was still standing on the wooden blocks it was placed on when it came from the homestead site.  In 2001 I repainted the exterior for the second time in my life, and made a few minor repairs, replacing some trim and broken window panes.  By this time the “bunkhouse” was used for storage and considered unfit for human habitat.

Old and new . . . .

Old and new . . . .

My lifelong love for this old structure started getting into my pocketbook in a more serious vein in 2005 when I had the roof finished (fortunately I was able to match the same color shingles as Dad had installed) and we hung a new ceiling.  The old beaver board had warped and was stained with water leaks from the failing roof, but the wooden cross beams were still in good condition.  I matched the paint color, repainted them and we hung them back up over new ceiling tiles, replacing a few that broke in the process.  We laid insulation in the attic and buried an electrical line that eventually will help with lights and ancillary heat.

Design elements . . . .

Design elements . . . .

The carpenter who built the little house was skilled and added some ornamental elements that I treasure.  The interior was painted green sometime in the 1950’s and a new paint job is badly needed, as can be evidenced by the fly specks, paint splatters and heaven only knows what else that adorns the walls.  I purchased paint to redo the interior several years ago, and plan to take it back to the colors that existed when my great grandparents resided here.  I have some concern about removing the green paint splashes from the antelope horns that are part of the original fixture.  It’s a great hat rack and I don’t want to break it!

Kitchen built-ins . . . .

Kitchen built-ins . . . .

The flower bin still functions, as does the pull-out kneading board under the kitchen counter.  The cupboards are built into the wall and have stood the test of time.

Upper kitchen cupboards . . . .

Upper kitchen cupboards . . . .

The interior of the cupboards was lined with wall paper and the interiors will all need to be scraped and cleaned thoroughly.  Years of vet supplies, household cleaners, and miscellaneous junk left quite a mess.

Door to the root cellar . . . .

Door to the root cellar . . . .

Doesn’t everyone have a trap door in the floor leading underground?  The root cellar was where you stored food to keep it cool.  I recently toured our homestead site where the little house sat and the foundation stones, as well as the dug out area of the cellar are still visible.

Safety lock . . . .

Safety lock . . . .

A new and final phase of restoration is underway.  Considering how many years I have devoted to this project over my lifetime, that is probably an exaggeration!  Nevertheless, a plan to re-install the wood stove and chimney, replace rotted window sills, re glaze the windows, paint the interior, caulk, replace one or both of the doors, add screen doors, complete the electrical hookup and whatever else turns up should make it a delightful little guest cottage.

Looks like work . . . .

Looks like work . . . .

Removing windows that have been in place for nearly 100 years is a job requiring patience and more skill than I have, however I am persevering.  Each layer of trim and supporting structure that holds the windows in place has been saved, except the linen-looking rags that were used for weather stripping!  I will attempt to use something else to install the windows as air-tight as possible.  I won’t use caulking, as it makes it impossible to remove the windows for future repairs.

Window repair shop . . . .

Window repair shop . . . .

After refurbishing 20 windows in our historic chicken house, re-doing five for the homestead house seems like a cake walk.  Still, this is a job!  Removing the old glazing is the worst of it.  I have had to replace some window panes that I broke trying to get the points and putty dug out.  I have three windows glazed and painted with oil-base primer.  I will remove the remaining two windows as we install new sills all around.  Once all the windows are restored and in place, I will finish painting the interior.  And my great grandmother Clara is invited to be our first guest.

 

The Inside Poop on Outdoor Crappers

a  darn good outhouse . . . .

welcome to Custer’s Crapper . . . .

The latest in outhouse technology, this charming creation by Mathisen Construction is ready for a ride to the Big Horns to offer all the comforts of home to the rugged individualists willing to risk tires, shocks, axles and much more on the roadless realm to be “alone in the wilderness.”  It will be the anchor for a developing cabin site, making it much easier for all us idle “hangers-on” to spend time looking over the progress, which is very hard to do with no “facilities” (nobody wants to despoil this pristine wilderness with Charmin blossoms behind every tree).

let there be light . . . .

let there be light . . . .

To avoid being shut away in the dark, which is a fearful experience in an outhouse, these nifty windows let in light–what a great idea!

let the cool breezes blow . . . .

let the cool breezes blow . . . .

Window ventilation slots with screens and a door you can latch to keep the cruel winter snows from drifting down upon your head (and the toilet seat) are state-of-the-art!

no splinters here! . . . .

no splinters here! . . . .

Gone are the days of rough lumber benches with a crude opening that may or may not fit your derriere.  And to control flies and other unwanted critters, a lid to seal the deal.

t.p. lock box . . . .

A.W. lock box . . . .

Imagine our surprise when we discovered a special bin for the toilet paper!

the proverbial A.W. . . . .

the proverbial A.W. . . . .

This innovation left us breathless.  Having reached for a roll of toilet paper covered with dust, cobwebs, fly specks and God knows what else, this is a serious improvement in outhouse design and construction.

technological wonders . . . .

technological wonders . . . .

Equipped with gas mask, smoke alarm, bowl brush, plunger (???) and a variety of gizmos for bemusement as well as beneficial application, the list of options grows long when one has time to think about it.  The only item missing is the Monkey Ward Catalog, but that accessory harkens back to “the good old days.”

the Roosevelt . . . .

the Roosevelt . . . .

Built in the 1930’s and so named for FDR who commissioned all sorts of make work projects during the Great Depression, this fine specimen has endured through the years and functions as well in our back yard today as when it was constructed.  Designed to last, these old outhouses still stand as sentinels of the past.

the concrete throne . . . .

the concrete throne . . . .

Advances in technology here!  This modern facility includes a concrete floor and throne with a hardwood lid that opens and closes automatically.  A wooden arm extends over the edge of the toilet lid and is threaded with a rope that glides through a metal pulley near the ceiling.  The rope is attached to the door and is designed so that when it is time to exit the domain, one has to only open the door, causing the rope attached to the lid to lift the wooden arm, closing the throne behind you.  Nice, eh?  Brings back memories of the days when, as children, we delighted in loading the lid, skinnying out the door without triggering the arm to lift, and when the next occupant opened the door –BAM!  The heavy hardwood lid would slam like a rifle shot and render the hapless soul incapable of holding back.  But I digress.

no curtain? . . . .

no curtain? . . . .

This fine example of early day crappers is a testament to the grit and fortitude of our ancestors.  Clawing through snow, rain, thunder, lightning and wild animals for the privilege of relieving oneself in this fashion took more than just imagination!

 

 

 

 

Winter Blooms

bathed in sunlight . . . .

bathed in sunlight . . . .

Flagging spirits in February call for some relief from the cold and snow outdoors.  A trip to a tropical island is not in the cards this winter, so we are making do with some glorious blooms in the window.  Three amaryllis bulbs picked up on sale after Christmas have just now bloomed and are in their glory.  The first one opened in time for Valentine’s Day and now they are all brightening up our winter gloom with 4-8 large flowers on each stalk–nearly twenty blooms total.  Incredible!  A bowl of white tulips are coming to life and will bloom in March, and the winter standby, a red geranium that has bloomed several winters, along with leftover poinsettias from Christmas, make for a cheery dining room window seat.

leftover Christmas spirit . . . .

leftover Christmas spirit . . . .

The poinsettias don’t seem to be losing much of their vigor, even though they’ve been around since mid-December.

a riot of red . . . .

a riot of red . . . .

Summer or winter, this geranium can be counted on to bloom its heart out and fill a space with cheery, fire-engine red blossoms.  It’s a keeper!

pink pales in comparison . . . .

pink pales in comparison . . . .

A cyclamen covered in pretty pink “birds” has been blooming for a couple months, and brings so much pleasure to the dark days of winter.

what's this among the blooms? . . . .

a feline among the flowers . . . . .

Bleu has found a sunny warm spot to enjoy his morning nap.  Curled around the flower pot, he seems to think he is well hidden.  He opened his eyes just as I snapped his picture and is giving me a look that seems to say “buzz off!”