Barn Improvement

Early one July evening, Johnny and I were out feeding the horses and the barn cat when the sky grew dark and the wind picked up. Heavy rain began, so I shut the barn’s north doors and stood in the aisleway waiting for the horses to finish eating. Johnny started walking back to the house. Suddenly, I heard a very loud cracking noise followed by a tremendous boom. I ran out the south doors to see what happened and saw Johnny standing about halfway to the house, gesticulating wildly at something behind me. I turned around and discovered the trailer shed next to the barn had been blown over by a gust of wind. The support posts snapped, collapsing the west wall onto the trailer and flinging the shed’s roof on top of the barn.

well that’s not good

I wasn’t terribly surprised. The previous owners built the shed to house their enormous Class A RV, which meant the shed was very tall. It often swayed and creaked in the wind. It was built right next to the barn, so it rubbed on the barn roof in high winds. I’m impressed the shed lasted as long as it did.

While the old shed wasn’t perfect, it was nice to have somewhere relatively out of the elements to house my trailer. I called my hay supplier, who lives across the street from me. He had a new storage barn built last year, and I wanted to know who built it. He’s very particular and very straightforward, so I knew I could trust his opinion of his builder. I received a glowing recommendation for a local metal building specialist, who stopped by the next day to figure out how to remove the collapsed shed without damaging the trailer or the barn.

I’m still not sure how he managed it, but both the barn roof and the trailer came away unscathed other than some damage to one of the barn’s gutters. The builder drew up plans for a new trailer shed and suggested some improvements like moving it a few feet away from the barn and pouring concrete to form a drainage channel between the barn and the new shed. I figured now was a good time to make more improvements, so I also asked him to add an outdoor wash rack on the northeast corner of the barn, level the dirt-floored stalls with screenings, and install mats in all four stalls.

Construction on the new shed began this week, and it already looks sturdier than the old building! That’s the good news. The bad news is the crew hit a water line in two different place while digging. The water lines near the barn are a nonsensical mess of dead lines, weird junctions, and inexplicable layouts.

my builder insists this will be the nicest building on my place when it’s finished

This has turned into a wholesale plumbing overhaul, as Johnny and I figured it’s probably more economical to have plumbing repairs done while the plumber and equipment are here (not to mention it will be nice to know where the water lines are)! Several plumbing repairs are needed inside the barn: the toilet supply line broke last winter when the space heater shut off after a power outage, the bathroom sink doesn’t work despite our best efforts to figure out what’s wrong with it, the hot water heater has been disconnected since a pipe burst the year we moved in, and the spigots in the indoor wash rack leak. So in addition to installing new lines, moving hydrants, and installing a shutoff for the barn, the plumber is fixing the interior plumbing problems and replacing the hot water heater with an electric tankless heater. We’re also going to replace the tack room’s window unit AC with a unit that provides heat and air so we won’t have to run a space heater in it (which we do to keep the pipes from freezing in the winter).

new, (hopefully) non-scary wash going in!

I’m really excited for these improvements and repairs! I’m looking forward to having a functional bathroom in the barn again as well as having hot water to soak feed in the winter. The outdoor wash rack will be a nice improvement, too. I’ve never used the indoor one since my barn’s concrete is very slippery and the horses are all deeply suspicious of the stocks in the rack. (It is very convenient for hanging wet, muddy blankets, though.) I’m also looking forward to leveling the stalls and putting mats in. My horses are rarely stalled, but they do spend part of the day hanging out in them (as the back of the stalls open into the paddock). Mats will certainly make the minimal amount of cleaning required easier.

After this is wrapped up, I think the only thing left on my barn improvement list will be swapping the fluorescent lights in the aisle for LEDs and reorganizing the tack and feed rooms!