Once the floor boards were removed we had to make an assessment of which beams could support the weight of heavy distilling equipment plus the substantial weight of vats full of liquid. Fortunately we are both engineers and big fans of post and beam construction. We decided that the entire south end of the hay mow would have to be replaced. Many of the existing beams were logs with bark still attached.
Cause for Concern
At some point in time, one of the main support beams had been cut through to make a hay chute. It was hanging suspended in the air so it had to be replaced.
The new beam is ready to be put into place.
Once the tar paper covering came off, we could see the extent of the weather damage. We really needed some serious durability on the exterior walls. Local materials include bluestone and hemlock, and we have both in abundance.
After excavating the old foundation, forms were built and the concrete poured.
Now we are ready for some stone walls!
Now the bottom part of the barn will last for another 150 years. Next up - searching our farm for the right hemlock trees to replace some of the beams inside the barn.
Since the first farms were carved out of the wilderness, logging has been an integral part of the local economy. The dense stands of hemlock provided wood to frame most of the original barns in this part of the Catskills.
Our farm has an abundance of huge old hemlock trees. Some of the trees were over 40 inches in diameter at the base and they usually grow in very inaccessible spots. Logs of this size are difficult to move especially in such rugged terrain.
Loading and Milling
With the hemlock cut, milled and dried we will start to replace and reinforce the beams in the barn. The old beams had to hold the weight of a years worth of hay. Now they will have to be able to support the weight of fermentation vats, a mash tun and blending tanks.
This was the starting point in 2012. The old stone ramps on the barn were falling down, and one wall was heaved in. I guess you have to say we went back to the foundation of things...
The barn was originally built around the civil war, and had been a dairy farm. It was later converted to horse stables. Now it is about to begin a new career as a farm-distillery here in the western Catskills.
A lot of water comes off of the mountain behind the barn. Over many years, the south-facing wall had begun to push in and was not stable, so it had to be rebuilt by the trusty team at Darder Stoneworks.
The west facing wall bears the brunt of the weather. Many years ago the upper part was re-covered with pressed tin, which can withstand the bitter winter wind as well as the afternoon sun in the summer. Pulling off the tar paper on the lower levels revealed that we had a lot of work to do. We decided to put a permanent finish on this level, using the one thing we have in abundance here... Bluestone!