Tuesday, April 20, 2010


It took most of the day yesterday to get caught up on e-mail from the weekend. My job requires that I respond to most of what I get. This blog is not about my job since I will not be working in the city much longer. I hope more of my readers are interested in my homestead.

Back to about 1999.

I thought that I would try to build a barn to be able to store equipment in until we could build our home. After talking to some people that build roads, and getting a cost of crossing Horse Creek, we decided to talk to San Isabel Electric Coop get an estimate of the cost to run power across the creek. The cost to build a road that went down into the creek and up the other side and end on the other side of the creek was $5000. This is called a Texas Crossing. The problem with Texas Crossings is that you cannot cross when water is running, and it does run after a rain. San Isabel said that to run underground power more than 200 feet would require running High Power and putting a transformer near the site that you are going to build. The cost of this would be $10 per foot. I concluded that I could not afford to build too far from the road. It would boil down to the fact that the farther from the road the less money to build. We decided that there were not that many pieces of property past ours on the access road. All property past ours must pass ours, as there are no other routes in and out. The conclusion was to build next to the road.
The next step was to decide what kind of building to build for a barn. The terrain is on a slope away from the road toward the creek. The road is to the south east of the ranch, running northeast by southwest. Notice we are now calling it “The Ranch”. We decided to build into the bank and have a 2 story barn with a loft above the animal stalls. We thought that this would allow us to more easily load hay and feed into the loft from the high side of the terrain. In other words load from truck directly into the loft. I felt confident that I could lay cement blocks well enough to build a block foundation and possible the entire lower level.
I had been looking at used tractors every since we bought the ranch. I didn’t know much about them except my memory of my uncle Doc’s Ford 8N that he used on his farm back in the 1950”s. I found a man that was into buying old tractors, fixing them up for re-sale. After looking at his Fords, he showed me a Massey Ferguson 65 that had a bucket on the front and he could get me a box scraper for the rear. He said that it should be able to do the job I wanted it for. So I left his house $5500 later with the promise that he would deliver the tractor to my house in downtown Denver. As soon as my check cleared his bank, this huge tractor was setting in our driveway, at 2356 South Gilpin Street, Denver Colorado. That is about 2 blocks from the University of Denver. The next thing was to rent or borrow a trailer to take it to the ranch. In the mean time I had to drive it around the neighborhood, you know to get gas and so forth. I scrapped some of the dirt and grease off of it and started painting it. Mrs. Sutton that lived across the street called the code enforcement and they came to see if I was running a paint shop for farm equipment. When I showed them the brush that I was using, they said there was not a problem. Mrs. Sutton is a whole chapter. So after a couple of weeks at the house, I borrowed a car trailer and off it went to its new home on the ranch.

I wanted to make sure that the building was facing as closely to the compass points as possible, with a long side facing south. So the next step was to walk around and decide where to start. With stake and hammer in hand I found a spot about 100 feet from the road and a little to the north of the top of a small hill in the road, I drove the stake into the ground. I thought that if we used the top of the hill as a driveway, we would not have to worry about a culvert to divert water in the rain. It also gives sight to traffic on the road in both directions. I loved just being there.
I remember that day; I just walked around loving the quiet open air with just my thoughts racing in my head. I wanted not to move too fast and mess anything up. At that time I would sleep in the back of the Pick up on a foam pad and a sleeping bag. Sandy and I made a fire and we cooked some hot dogs and heated some Pork n Beans for dinner. We remembered the first time that we had slept out on the land. We had got there late and had bought 2 hammocks and planned to hike up to the top of the ridge and stretch them between trees. We hiked up, and by the time we got there it was dark. We wandered around looking for the perfect spot, and with a flashlight, we tied them up to the trees. We worked in the dark hoping to get settled in before the flashlight batteries gave out. When Sandy climbed into her hammock, she rolled around and fell out the back, ripping the netting. The hammocks were the kind with bug netting that zipped around to enclose the whole thing. Just as we got settled into our hammocks, it began to get light out. It was nearly a full moon rising in the east. We were both up and running around watching this beautiful moonrise. What a great memory.
This time we slept in the back of the pickup though. We slept in sleeping bags on a foam pad. By now we looked forward to dark so the sky would light up. When the sky was lit from the stars, with stake and hammer in hand we wanted to mark the north line from the North Star. I sat on the ground and Sandy walked with a stake and hammer. Every 10 feet or so she would line up a stake with the North Star and the first stake and hammer it in. We could have done it a number of other more modern ways, but not any better or more fun.
Now that I marked the north/south line, we decided on a building with outside dimensions of 24ft by 48ft. That seemed to fit with construction material. We thought that we would have horse stalls on one side approximately 12ft by 12 ft. Then the other side we would have a door on the west side so that we could drive a tractor into to muck out the poo. If it was to have a loft there would be a stairway on the back end, opposite the large door. On the east end of the loft, we could have a door to load grain and hay into the loft. That was the plan in my head at the time.
With those thoughts in mind the tractor work began. I used the box scraper to drag the dirt from east to west, down the slope. I found that it took a combination of the scraper and the bucket to get the job done. After several weekends of tractor work, I was satisfied with the depth of the dig. I got the bottom as level as I could. The next step would be to put in some batting boards and run some string. With a little additional digging with hand tools, I was able to get it level and square. I then bought 24 - 2”x8”x12’s to form the footing. I also bought enough ½ “ re-bar to use as vertical reinforcement.
We were ready for the concrete truck. We ordered the truck to meet us at Exit 77 on I-25 so the truck could follow us to the spot. The day we poured the footing there were three of us there besides the truck driver, Alex, Stephanie and myself. I ran the wheelbarrow, Alex had a piece of 2”x4” to screed off the top, and Stephanie put in the re-bar at 8”intervals. Did I mention that when we got home on Sunday evenings in Denver, we slept well?
To be continued!

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