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Stairway to Heaven

Garth Brown |

One of my long-term frustrations with farming is the accumulation of various tools and parts and pieces of things. Not that I dislike having tools or left-over detritus from construction projects, in fact they often become useful. What I find bothersome is the ensuing clutter that gradually builds, particularly in the barn where I attempt to both work and store stuff.

This is my recently finished project, a-not-up-to-code staircase in the old hops barn. It is plenty strong structurally, but the head clearance is a bit low. In one spot it passes under a beam with about 6'2" clearance rather than the required 6'8"+. Also, I used old scrap wood for everything except the stringers and the treads are different thicknesses. This makes a couple of the steps vary by a touch more than the standard 1/8" or less. Thankfully, this is an ag building and no permits are required to modify it and building codes don't apply for the most part.

Until last week the only way to access the top floor of the old barn was to track down one of the farm's ladders and prop it up to a small hole cut in the siding. Despite this aggravating ease-of-use roadblock I still put a surprising amount of 'junk' on the second floor for storage. Over time though the ground floor of the barn has gradually devolved into a complete mess. I've tried to store too much stuff in an inadequate area, and each thing in "storage" doesn't have a designated space, which is permission for tools and parts and pieces of things to be left strewn about rather than shelved. The new stairs will help solve this problem by opening up more room that I can get to without a headache. The barn renovation now centers on shelf construction. I want shelves galore to hold things I use infrequently by need to have on hand, e.g. a back-up fencing energizer, old hoses and hose parts for repair, fence building materials, pieces of pipe and plumbing tools, automotive lubricants, chainsaw and chainsaw accessories, etc, etc, etc. The list of tools that come in handy on a farm is very long. Many projects have their own tools or parts specific to them such as the little ratchet handle that tightens hi-tensile fence strainers or the hose clamps for joining poly pipe sections together.

The new stairs may not literally lead to heaven, though it feels like I'm going to a better place when I climb them and picture how orderly my barn will be. I wonder, by extension, does that make the ground floor hell?* Normandy's pottery kiln is on the ground floor, and our newly acquired welder is going to be situated there too - so perhaps there is fire and brimstone of a sort. Hopefully the similarities will end there.


* When we moved to the farm the previous owner left the barn in such a terrible state that "hellish" was a fitting descriptor. The cleaning process almost made me want to bulldoze or burn the building. There were feet of anaerobic (goat) manure to dig out of a lower room, 40 lb boxes of old cheese still in plastic wrap turning green and other wonderful colors, salted but still moist sheep and goat hides in two moldering stacks in the back corner, the boxes of meat in wrappers, and the other animal 'deposits'. Pigeon poop everywhere. Dog droppings in spades. Cat crap every couple of feet. More than anything I remember the stench. It smelled of death through and through. It wasn't until the following spring (we moved in during the fall) that the odor really dissipated. The barn still has a long way to go before it will be back to its former glory, but I'm now committed to taking it there.

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