7 weeks ago I had a concrete slab (see above), blueprints, nails, a pile of wood and the guidance of a Master carpenter; now I have a 3 story, 28X32, wooden frame with doors, windows and a roof. It’s half-way sided, and should be a freestanding, fully-enclosed barn (really more like a workshop/studio/house) within a week. Two months to watch thousands of separate pieces from disparate places (Maine, Taiwan, Montana and Vermont, to name a few) arranged and attached to form a single, unified living space.
I live and build on Pumpkin Hill, my family’s farm spot; we are nestled far away from light pollution and jazz clubs in the Northeastern-ish woods of Lowell, ME; we are, literally, the end of the road. Physically separated from distractions, the barn carries through everything I do. Every morning, I wake up and see the barn smack outside my window. I eat meals, drink beers, write, sit, take naps and have conversations on the surfaces as they rapidly evolve. She is spattered with small mistakes (the mismeasurement on that top step will get me every time!), conquests (no one should hand nail that high up), and abuses (that many hammer marks on an ornery 2X6 is not really necessary) that are only noticeable and relevant to me. She is a perfect record of my growth as a builder in these two months, which makes her a clearer statement than I could ever make in words or diagrams.
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
-Eliot, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’
Somewhere in my brain simple plans, with concrete steps, become challenges that I need to accept–for no particular reason.
For instance, I entertained transforming this garden shed into a bustling chicken coop. I figured it would take…
- building a new roof from planks and cedar shingles, to keep the chickens dry
- caulking the sides, to keep vermin away from eggs
- installing a roost for sleeping, and boxes for laying
Par usual, my basic plan became bloated…
- I need access for cleaning and gathering—so the door needs repair
- the chickens need safe roaming ground—meaning fence posts and chicken wire
- which means they also need an exit—converting the shed
window into a drop down ramp could work
Still nothing complicated. Just more steps. But then the propensity to revise, and re-revise, becomes an activity-or project-in itself:
Maybe I need more space, to have eggs for trade…
…and automated feeders (with homemade corn feed!) for regularity
…and a rooster (but what kind!) for protection
…And what kind of hen! Sussex? Rhode Island Red?
Maybe I should read more…
All the time, those skeptical voices ringing!
‘David. You don’t need a chicken coop’
(me:‘but the eggs are not the point! I’ve been called upon to build it!’)
‘David, eggs cost like $3/dozen’
(me: ‘this is my gauntlet, my Agro Crag, my field of dreams!)
I never built the chicken coop, so this is my proxy. A chicken coop, one of many. A place to turn visions and revisions into action, by balancing our love of planning against our love of producing and reflecting (and self-reflecting).
Essentially this means recipes, food science, darkroom techniques, barn building and random projects connected (loosely) by a commitment to manageability, frankness and style. A DIY blog with color and criticism.