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We started cleaning out the barn!

Jun 02 2016 -
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This last Memorial day weekend started innocently enough with no idea I would be cleaning out the barn. I had two things I knew I would get done (come hell or high water) and one thing I really wanted to get done but couldn’t do alone. First two projects I finished by Saturday night were my cute wicker chairs that my aunt gave me that you guys saw in my last post and fixing one of my Grandparents’ old benches (I’ll show you guys that little project next week) the third thing I was dependent on my husband to help me do. On our property we have three sheds, one we’ve always called “The Machine Shed” because it used to be where my grandpa kept his tractors etc. The Machine Shed is made of steel so its in good shape and has become our “Wood Shed” as we heat our house with wood. The second of the three sheds we’ve always called “The Well House” and it is probably the “newest” of the sheds and does, in fact, house a pipe that comes out of the floor from an old sand-point well. (Someday we will see if it still has water in it.) The Well House needs a new roof eventually but has a good door on it, a great concrete floor/foundation and is in pretty good shape overall so I told my husband that he could have it to do whatever he wanted to do with it so I’m now dubbing it, Joe’s “Man Shack”.


(Sorry for the horrible map – thought you guys might appreciate some perspective, the big gray snake through the whole thing is our driveway that runs through the yard.)

The last of the three sheds we have is between the barn and the house and was actually a place my Grandpa built for his two daughters so it will probably always be known as “The Play House” Two years ago a bad storm did damage to its shingles so if we didn’t get a new roof on it ASAP we would lose the building. So, Sunday morning Joe and I tackled it and here I am, telling you all about it, without a single picture of during because I am a terrible blogger. Fortunately a few of the pictures taken during our wedding last September included some “before” shots. Yup, that’s me in my wedding dress on the right playing corn hole with my mom’s best friend after the ceremony because I’m classy like that.


When it came to this roof we were definitely in the realm of “the milk is thirty eight days past due but it still smells ok, should we risk it?” We risked it because we did not want to replace the whole dang roof. We had the materials on-hand (FREE) to “fix” it but not the materials on-hand to “replace” it. We covered it with 3/4″ plywood, then tar paper and then shingles. With the two of us hustling we got it done in about three hours. It still needs some serious fixing but now its secure. With the roof finished Joe declared his work complete for the weekend as he had spent five hours the day before (Saturday) mowing our three acres of grass with a little push mower while I had tackled my bench and wicker chairs in the garage. To say the least we were both quite done with our “chore-list” at that point so we had breakfast together then we separated to do whatever it was we both wanted to with the full blessing of the other spouse. For my husband that was working on deer stands and, of course for me, that was cleaning out our newly fixed shed because Joe got his “Man Shack” and this shed was all mine! 😀


There wasn’t a lot of cleaning to do actually, the majority of the shed had been full of furniture that we had already removed years ago. (Both of our bathroom vanities and the Ancient dresser from nowhere were in here.) Besides that there was all my Grandma’s “seed starters” that look a lot like long little drawers to me and I am definitely going to build a cabinet around them for my workshop someday. There was an old “table” that had been my Grandma’s potting bench that I just moved to the back wall under the windows and there were three very icky old vinyl chairs that have become another project for me for another day. After a good sweep it was time for me to go tackle the three saddles we had (regrettably) left in the barn all winter. (Thank the Universe I had the sense to keep my English saddle in the house!) I had totally covered them in plastic (it wasn’t like I didn’t try to keep them safe and dry!) there was just no way in the damp barn environment to keep them from becoming entirely covered in mold. *shudders* It was really bad. Two hours of serious scrubbing later they looked like saddles again and I hauled them down to The Play House along with a storage chest full of horse gear, several bins and all of our crops and bridles. Everything that was leather needs a serious cleaning but I ran out of saddle soap so the bridles I just hung up in their new home and added to my “to-do” list.


I stepped back and proudly surveyed my new “Tack Shack” I was utterly filthy, absolutely soaked (because it was hot) and ready for a cold shower and a nice long sit and (hopefully) nothing else resembling manual labor for the rest of the weekend!!!

Then, I got the text from my mom, “Want to clean out the barn tomorrow?”

Whaaaaaaaaaaat?!??!??!?!? You want to do WHAT?! *slowly lays down on the floor and tries not to cry*

First, you need to understand I don’t normally have my mom available on the weekends so when I have her and she’s motivated to help me do something I can’t (with any sense) say no. The barn is the focus of our yard, it holds all of our hearts and its state of disarray has been bothering ALL of us for years. My mom and aunt grew up in this barn helping my grandparents take care of their herd of milking cows for years upon years. When my grandparents’ retired from milking and sold the cows this barn became their wood working shop where they built hutches and dressers and benches and saved Every. Last. Piece. Of. Wood. Fast forward many years to when my grandparents’ health ended their wood working days and this old barn got totally trashed by family members who (apparently) didn’t know how to throw anything away. Then another family member cut out the majority of the steel stanchions and anything resembling order deteriorated into PILES upon PILES of chaos that was totally soaked and rotted. The roof has been in a steady state of deterioration over the past thirty years and all that water after all those years seeped down into every last inch. Any attempt at cleaning out the barn would be an ENORMOUS and VERY NASTY undertaking.

old-minnesota-100-year-barn old-minnesota-barn

I texted her back with an affirmative, she said she would call her sister (my aunt) and we would start the task in the morning. Joe was working that holiday Monday (lucky bastard) so us three girls would be going at it alone.

We had a good plan and two boxes of garbage bags. We would make a pile of wood that we could safely burn in our house, a pile of wood that we could burn in our fire pit and a pile of wood that was still in good enough shape for me to use for projects. There were literally mountains of excrement from bats, birds, cats and any other creature that thought this barn looked like a good place for a toilet not to mention lots of dead creature bodies. The majority of the floor of this barn I have NEVER seen in my life. A lot of wood was growing so much mold it was completely black and so slimy it was shocking – I was literally SLIPPING in it. Some wood was so deteriorated from moisture that we could only move it with snow shovels. It was endless and honestly not just a little bit demoralizing. Joe came and helped us when he got off work, so much of what I did was just sort and move wood from one pile to another and there were THOUSANDS of little pieces everywhere.

Here are the “after” photos I took this morning:

barn-cleaning old-barn-cleaning-out cleaning-out-100-year-old-barn cleaning-barn

We are now three quarters completely finished cleaning out the barn and restoring order. We have enough wood in our “safe to burn in the house” pile that we can heat the house for a LONG time, not to mention enough wood in our “fire pit” pile to have many summers worth of fires. Most of the wood needs time to air out as it all was in some level of wet. We found a couple of big tarps in the chaos that we will eventually cover all of the wood with so it doesn’t get soaked again but I’m going to wait until we get a serious dry spell and heat this summer before I cover anything. (Sorry the pictures make the barn look so darned creepy I had to use the flash on my camera because I had the power cut to the barn two years ago, the deterioration of the roof combined with electricity just didn’t seem like a “safe” combination to me.)


The barn remains the saddest thing I have in my life that I try hard not to think about. The roof is way past its expiration date and over the last ten years it has deteriorated rapidly. (Our yard is littered every day with shingles flying off of it.) I’ve had a number in my head on the amount of years we have left to save it (maybe 7) and that’s probably wishful thinking. There have been moments when I’ve thought that maybe we should just burn it down and put an end to the horror of watching it slowly decay before our eyes but I know I don’t have the heart for that. How much would it cost to hire someone to cover the barn roof with steel or shingles? I’m guessing upwards of $15,000 and it would be wholly money spent out of nostalgia as the barn is really useless to us besides storage. Of course though, we don’t have that kind of money to spend on anything. We love our barn though and I cannot imagine our yard without it looking over us which is why the work we just put into cleaning it out was the most satisfying kind of work and I can’t wait to finish it.


So, that was my three day “holiday” weekend, my poor aunt and mom limped home around 4 o’clock that Sunday afternoon and then Joe asked if I wanted to go out on the lake and fish with him for awhile. I wanted nothing more then a long shower and at least two strong drinks but I had worked ALL weekend and most of the time without my man when most couples would have spent the holiday together. Of course, it was a beautiful night and a wonderful time and, even though I was exhausted, going out on the lake with him ended up feeling like a gift after such a long hard day. No matter how shitty I feel I was reminded, once again, that opportunities like that night to spend with him are why I do everything that I do.


So, our further “to-do” list: the next time mom, my aunt and I have a chance we’re going to get through the rest of the barn and put our minds finally to some kind of ease about it. At some point Joe and I need to haul away the impressive trash pile that’s been created. Outside work in our yard includes re-shingling the roof on Joe’s “Man Shack” and siding both his Man Shack and my new Tack Shack – I need to buy J channel and corners etc for that but we have the siding and everything we need besides. The siding on the garage still needs some finishing and all of the wood on the house needs a new coat of white paint (trim, soffits etc.) as well as all of our exterior doors and trim also need to be painted and two screen doors need to be added. The railing on the deck needs to be finished and this fall the deck and the privacy fence need to be stained and sealed… I think that’s it for outside work… *laughs insanely while sobbing*

Cleaning out a 100 year old barn in northern Minnesota, working through an entire holiday weekend

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  1. Ann Seabolt
    September 26, 2016 at 11:51 pm

    I hope you do find the funds to save the old barn. It would be a shame to lose such a wonderful part of family history

  2. me.g
    December 14, 2016 at 9:30 am

    Have you checked out sites like this?

    • December 14, 2016 at 3:35 pm

      Hi there, thanks for the resource, I’ll check it out!

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Iris Nacole
Making a shoe rack and closet storage out an old ladder


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