Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The 600 square foot sandbox

After removing the brick floor, all that remains is the old foundation surrounding a really big sandbox. With all the rain in the last week, it is nice to see that the soil around here drains really well. On the downside, we can't build any sandcastles... Green Gate Lumber Company. Here is a photo of the old barn, now in pieces. Virtually everything was salvaged, except for the shingles (which were recycled) and some of the wood that was too weathered or rotted to be saved (although it will make some nice campfires this summer). All the lumber and timbers are sorted, stacked and have been covered with the sheetmetal panels that used to be the barn's siding.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

History repeats itself.

A cold, rainy start to the 50k trail race at Lutsen. I opted to be warm and dry instead of fashionable, so kept on my lightweight cycling raincoat. I ran this event in 2003, finishing in tough shape and barely able to walk for a couple of days. Not wanting to suffer like that again, I started slow, or at least thought I was starting slow. I later realized it wasn't slow enough. Dan and I coming through the first checkpoint at around mile 7. I decided to convert my raincoat into a pretty little skirt after the rain stopped and I warmed up (not a slave to fashionhere...). We ran together for quite awhile, then Dan picked up the pace and I decided to let him go. I was surprised to reach the turnaround point at exactly 2 hours- alot faster than anticipated. I came upon Dan again near that same checkpoint, this time on the return trip (now about mile #24). Dan was fading fast, I was feeling good. We chatted briefly, then I went ahead, anxious to finish. Around mile 26, I hit the same 'wall' as in 2003 (at almost the exact same point!). My quads just aren't accustomed to the pounding of the Superior Hiking Trail and I was starting to suffer. I walked the steeper uphills and did my best on the descents. Fortunately, the last few miles are mostly downhill! Everyone said I 'looked strong' near the end, but I felt like crap and just wanted to STOP! Ultra-running is all about being mentally tough and smart enough to know how to pace yourself from the start...I've got alot to learn! It's also about looking good even when you're feeling bad, which I why you'll noticeI left my yellow dress/raincoat in my dropbag so I wouldn't have to wear it across the finish line :) On the good side, I finished a few minutes faster than my 2003 time, in worse conditions. Now I just need to train my brain and my legs for the longer distances- hopefully a 50 mile ultra in July....

Unbuilding the walls

Looks like a lumber yard around here! Lisa and I spent the day pulling apart and removing nails from all the nice big barn wall timbers. Other than the rotted sill plate and a couple areas around the windows and doorway, everything is still in great shape.

Barn down.

Time for a barn-tipping party! All I had to do to knock the walls down was cut through the top and bottom plates at the four corners, then literally push them down by hand. Now the harder task of disassembling and denailing the timbers to save them for later use.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Plan B

No point doing this the hard way! Glen, a local sawmill operator stopped over the other day to talk about some lumber he will be milling for me this summer. I was just about ready to start cutting out the railroad rails when he offered up his boom truck to pluck them out whole (in exchange for me giving him the rails for his sawmill operation). Sounded like a fair trade, so he came back a couple days later after I had removed the hayloft floor and we got them out in a couple hours' time.
I was a little sad as the rails were loaded on his truck, thinking of various ways I could incorporate the rails into the renovated barn if they were still ours. But at least they will get put to good use this way, and the job is done.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Structural Engineering 101

For the most part, i've been impressed with how The Boys put the barn together, especially considering the tools they were likely working with back in the day. But check out the support structure for the hayloft of the barn. They ran 4X4 floor joist across the 15' span of the building, then put up these railroad rails lengthwise to support the floor joists down the center. Looks good, except notice that the rails are supported at the entry end of the barn by a single 4X6 header over the doorway. After taking off the exterior siding, I could see the header was rotted partway through...not good. In their defense, they did run two lengths of threaded rod from the header up the the top plate for extra support, but if the header had continued to rot, the (very heavy) rails would have eventually collapsed.
My plan to remove the two 600 lb rails is to cut them into manageable (like 3 foot) lengths with a portable bandsaw so they can be lifted out and carried away in pieces. The second photos shows the bracing I put up under one rail to hold it in place while it is being cut down....

Thursday, May 17, 2007

I love this bird!

This bird was great! I was up in Ely with my mom for Mother's Day and saw this bird.
It was totally enamored with it's reflection. I got to the car in the morning and this bird is on the driver's side door looking at the window and occasionally pecking at the window. I got closer and the bird would move to the mirror then to the windshield. Still occasionally pecking at the window. It finally flew away when I opened the car door. I then left and came back about 1/2 hour later and the bird was still there. Just admiring itself...Or was it admiring the Prius. Could be... Anyway, I went back and forth to the car four or so times in a two hour period and the bird was still there. I'm just glad I still have a windshield considering all the pecking. My mom and I finally left...the bird is probably still confused as to where it's soulmate went. - Lisa

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


As of this posting, the Ham Lake fire in the BWCA is 25% contained. This picture was taken last week when we were in Ely. It was a pretty amazing site considering the fire was approximately 50 miles away.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Time to play

We've been working hard on the barn, yet find ample time to play and train. Shawn has a 50k trail run coming up and has been doing long training runs. What a great way to enjoy all of the trails and back roads we have up here. He has discovered new trails this spring. I can't wait to check them out. I may need to check them out via bike, I'm not up to the 4 hour run quite yet.

So very hard at work

What better activity could one do on a gorgeous sunny day than to take nails out of the barn boards? While Shawn and his dad were high on the barn roof, I was able to stay on solid ground. We are re-using all of the old barn boards in the new barn. In order to do that, they need to be nail free and that's my job!(and Shawn's too!) ...Okay...I know what you're thinking. There were bigger boards than that!

The barn becomes a shoebox.

Thanks, Dad, for helping to tear the final load of shingles off the barn last week!
The deconstruction pace picked up once the roofing was removed. In an afternoon, I pulled off the 'rafters' that The Boys had probably spent weeks building. The arch trusses consist of three 1X4s bent into the desired shape and nailed together. Opposing sides were toenailed into the toplate and connected at the peak with the smallest collar tie i've ever seen. I was told that the trusses were made by soaking the boards in the river, then letting them dry out while held in a curved jig (ie., stakes pounded into the ground out in the field). I still need to substantiate this method, since I thought that heat (steam) was required to successfully bend wood...maybe they stored the wet boards in their sauna?
The trusses are amazingly light- I was able to pry them off the top plate, pull apart the two halves, and carry them away on my own. In comparison, we'll probably need a crane to lift the new gambrel trusses into position....
The gable ends looked massive, as does the rest of the barn. They were built of 4X4 timbers, stacked on edge and sandwiched within an arched truss. I had planned to deconstruct it in place, piece-by-piece. I was anticipating a couple days worth of cutting and prying for this job. Then the lightbulb went off- who wants to work 20 feet in the air when you could be on the ground? Not me. So I cut through the bottom set of spikes holding the whole gable end to the top plate, then simply pushed it over. Once on the ground, prying apart the timbers went really fast. I was done with both ends by lunch, giving me time for a double workout today...Life is good!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

With tears of joy...

After several days of de-shingling the roof, I'm glad to say the last load has been hauled away. One layer of shingles would not have been too bad, but we found 2 layers of roll roofing under there as well. The farmers (a.k.a. "The Boys") who did the work were kind enough to use spiral-shank roofing nails on the first layer, which I'd say are best removed with a stick of dynamite. Since our local hardware store no longer stocks explosives, we had to resort to prying them off one-by-one. I now see why the roof has survived 80 years of torture.... We were able to find a transfer station (the new, p.c. word for 'dump') that actually recycles shingles. It was 35 miles from the homestead and we had to pass two other transfer stations to get there, but it was the right thing to do. The pile that looks like black dirt in the photo is the ground up shingles that eventually get utilized as backfill by the St. Louis County road crews. It's not the way I had hoped they would be reincarnated- after all the extra effort to 'recycle' them, they're still going to be buried in the ground! At least they will serve a purpose, which is better than taking up space in a landfill... Lisa and I came up with a little contest, just to see if anyone actually reads our blog: The first blogger who correctly guesses (okay, within 50 lbs) the weight of all our barn's shingles wins a free nights stay in the guesthouse whenever it is finally built. Good luck!

Friday, May 04, 2007


We've added a new addition to the Toyota family. We have a new red Prius. We decided with all of the driving I do, it made sense both financially and environmentally to get a Prius. I had a hard time giving up the AWD but I have been told the Prius does fine up here in the winter. We'll see how she does once the snow flies. So, far I like the car a lot. I spend less time at the gas station, which is terrific! So...we now have two cars for sale. Anyone interested in a Focus or Subaru?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


shingle by shingle we are getting closer to the actual building process. Shawn has been up on the scaffolding tearing off the boards and shingles. I help with the shingles until it gets too high. Then I head to the ground (the gloriously stable ground) to take the rusty nails out of the boards so we can re-use the boards in the re-built barn. We actually took the weekend off and went to the cities for the Midwest Mountaineering Expo - heard a couple of good speakers. The Expo offers some terrific presentations on outdoor topics. We also did the Iron Man Bike Ride - beautiful day, lots and lots of people. Good to see some familiar faces. It was fun to be in the cities. It is also good to be back at the Homestead. Lots of work to be done. It is fun and exciting to see the progress... wow, we are really doing this!! Well, off to tear off more shingles...