First to arrive this morning was a surprise. Brad Fernholz, who last I heard could not put weight on a broken ankle, arrived chipper and smiling, which he seems to have a fine history of doing, and ready to work. Dale Pederson arrived next with Elmo Volstad and Mike Jacobs about 20 minutes later.
So after all these months of mushy deadlines, after the pouring of the slab in July and the arrival of the trailer-load of timbers last week, all cut to shape and diminsion at Dale’s Stoney Run studio over the summer, the group was finally here at Listening Stones Farm to erect the first, and perhaps the only, brand new building of my lifetime. Oh, we’ve had various options to consider. Personally knowing two house moving companies, there is no doubt we could have found a less expensive option. Thein Moving in Clara City, and Marcus Moving in Raymond, almost always have garages available to move in to erect on a foundation. We wanted something more than a “moved in” garage.
Our farm came with two outbuildings when we bought it. Without paying a whole lot of attention, since the exterior was sealed with metal siding, I thought a little turn of the century granary might serve us. Upon closer inspection it was a damned mess. There simply wasn’t any way it could be salvaged, so last year we had the granary and an iconic old pig barn razed, burned and buried beneath what became our orchard.
I suppose the muse came near the Summer Solstice the summer before last when we drove to Estilline, SD, to visit Rebecca’s old friend, Professor Karl Schmidt’s small permaculture layout, where I simply fell in love with his garage. Althought I had asked for plans, Karl and I could never quite get together on them. Last winter, as cold, snowy winter evenings go, I started playing around on the internet with a dream. That’s where I found a Nebraska firm that specialized in post and beam, timberframe buildings. They mailed a thick envelope full of materials, including a beautiful calendar, and eventually a friendly — aren’t they usually? — sales rep who lived near Sioux Falls, and who promised to stop on his way to his son’s hockey games in Bemidji. That never happened. That’s when I remembered that Dale Pederson had plenty of experience in post and beam construction, and even taught at cultural art schools in both Grand Marais and Milan.
We met for dinner to present our idea. Dale and his wife, Jo, are long time friends, starting with their hosting of a couple for foreign exchange students from my area program. Later I would buy several pieces of their bent wood furniture, and even took a couple of trellis classes from Jo. In short, Dale was interested, and after I laid down some earnest cash, he carried through with a design. When he presented the pencil drawings I might as well have been reading Russian. Give the man credit for being patient, and for helping find ways to maximize our costs in creating the building. He was also proud that his design would be framed for less money than what was listed in the slick brochures from Nebraska. We liked it because a dear friend could and would deliver what we wanted … and, it was money spent “locally.”
Rebecca and my original intent was to erect a combination garage, summer kitchen, workshop and studio, with the possibility of adding a passive solar greenhouse in a year or two. Initially we aimed to erect the building by June. That was pushed back to July, thanks to a South Dakota art show. July didn’t happen, so we tried to find a way around the trip to the BWCA come August. Nope, August was out, so September was targeted. Then it had to be wrapped around the Meander. “Let’s aim to have it up before Thanksgiving,” I told Dale at one of our last meetings. I was hoping this was a joke, since Elmo and Dale had poured the concrete in July.
Over this time many trips were made to Dale’s studio in Wegdahl where positive proof that progress was being made. In those several planning meetings Dale explained different ideas and options, and even drove to Cottonwood for a tour of the insulated panel factory. What was amazing was that he created the entire building off site and transported them to the farm to piece them together. “Like Lincoln Logs,” is how Elmo explained it to me while we watched another piece fit perfectly in place.
That is what happened on this day in October. Last week Dale came with the parts, and he, Elmo and Mike pieced together four separate frame sections. And everything fit together almost perfectly. This morning, not long after they arrived, the crane followed. And up it went, section by section with the crossbeams seemingly dropping perfectly into place. Much of my time was spent on the ground watching, for these fellows have erected several timberframe buildings over the years and work as a team, scrambling up ladders and scaffolding like human ants. My fear of being in the way along with a bum knee kept me on the sidelines most of the day. As we watched another of the connecting crossbeams fall perfectly in place without a touch of the mallot, Elmo smiled and said, “It’s magic!”
So now it’s framed, and we have the floor joists to install. On Friday the insulated panels come. Once those go up, then the windows, electricity, roofing and siding are scheduled. We’re not there yet, but watching the frame go up … one so well planned and constructed … was heartwaming. Having a heated floor for the garage will make winter more tolerable, and having a place for us to do our artwork, canning, and eventually, a winter greenhouse will be heavenly.
This is my first new building of my lifetime. While I can’t wait, I can also feel quite humbled. Frankly, I don’t have any idea of what to say or do. We love our home, and our new building will make a greater place to live. It will tie many of our hopes and dreams together, just as Dale had promised.