Building a Goat Barn #3: Preparing the Timbers and Digging the Site Out

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Blog entry by David Bareford posted 07-30-2014 06:04 PM 1486 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 2: Harvesting Timber Part 3 of Building a Goat Barn series Part 4: Finally Some Woodworking! »

By the time of the first snowfall in December (again, I’m writing this months after the fact), I had collected enough timber for all of my posts and beams (with a few extras just in case) and about half of my rafters. With the help of Eleanor, my oldest daughter (she’s 9), I drawknifed the bark off the logs and stacked and stickered them for drying over the winter and spring.

By April they had lost considerable amounts of water weight, but many of them showed some considerable checking and end-splitting. The alder seemed more prone to this than the bigleaf maple. Some of the logs would probably not be usable, but the extra length I had given myself might allow me to cut off the worst of the splits. I’m sure I made some kind of rookie mistake when drying, even though I put them in an area of mostly shade uder a tarp…

The next big task was the site preparation. On my land, which is on a fairly steep hill except for the house site itself, the most logical place to place the barn was near the garden and current chicken coop. However, the flattest place I could find had a grade of about 1 foot rise to 5 foot run! It would require digging into the hillside a fair amount, meaning it would be necessary to put in a retaining wall perhaps four feet high. My nephew lives near me and promised me a load of stone from his property to build the wall, so I began clearing the area.

The first task was to clear the blackberry vines, thistles, grasses, and small saplings in the area. Besides a machete, mattock, and scythe, I do admit to using a gas-powered weed trimmer for this not-fun chore. Once I was down to bare earth, I buckled down to digging.

This is the site after digging back (I hoped!) far enough. I removed yards and yards of earth…although that was okay because I would need several yards to eventually put on top of the roof to make the green/living roof anyway. Here is a shot of the pile of dirt I was making:

Around this time, the nearby grass over my septic drain field was getting tall—some of it over my head—so I decided to make some hay, since I would need it as a layer for the green roof between the burlap over the purlins and the pond liner above. My grass is mostly reed canarygrass, and it was overripe for goats to eat, but it would make good straw, so I scythed it down and raked it into windrows. After it dried, I tried my hand at making sheaves—turns out your average medieval peasant would likely laugh at my handiwork—and then I just raked the rest into a pile and covered it to dry.

Next, it was on to making wall frames (henges). Finally, some woodworking!

1 comment so far

View lightweightladylefty's profile


3430 posts in 4248 days

#1 posted 07-31-2014 06:32 AM


I’ve got blisters on my hands and my back is aching just reading your post and viewing the pictures!


-- Jesus is the ONLY reason for ANY season.

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