Not all buildings were meant to be preserved. If you saw nothing but Roman ruins every time you turned around, they would soon lose their significance and appeal, wouldn’t they? Sometimes it’s just best to throw in the towel, thank a structure for its useful contribution to the world, and then stick a fork in that turkey, because it’s DONE!
We have been faced with that very situation for several years now. An old granary at the other farm has not been used for anything productive for a long, long time. We quit storing oats in a granary sometime back in the early 1980s, I’m guessing. The one we used was at the home place and was torn down to be replaced by a more spacious yard. The one at the other farm has always been a bit out of the way, so tearing it down wasn’t really going to gain us any valuable real estate. We always thought about the removal project, but never did anything about it.
Since we didn’t buy a couple groups of feeder pigs this past winter, we finally had time this summer to move the granary project up the To Do List. Staff member Lorne started by removing the tin from the lean-to on one side. Then he removed the roof and an addition on the other side. It made the base of the building look easier to get rid of when it was whittled down to size a little bit. We were looking at a building that was almost a 20-foot cube. It was about 20 feet wide, 20 or 24 feet long and it seemed like it was 20 feet high. At least, that’s the reasoning I used to keep me from going up on the roof to remove any tin. Heights are not my thing. The same goes for Guy No. 1.
Here was the engineering brainstorm behind the building. Concrete walls approximately 6 inches thick ran the length of the building. Each one was about 6 or 8 feet apart and stood about 3 feet high. The wood portion of the building rested on concrete foundation footings. The quality of the wood was still pretty good, but probably not good enough to make any Amish dudes want to tear it down for us. Once the building was gone, then we could have some demolition fun and get rid of the foundation. That would open up some space.
Call it reflex or force of habit or whatever you want, but Guy No. 1 and I had the same initial thought about the removal of the building, which involved three steps. Step 1: Light a match. Step 2: Step back. Step 3: Watch that puppy burn.
1, 2, 3, done. Simple Two Guys Farming math.
Of course, we’re not total pyromaniacs. Well, we are, but we still have a bit of a practical streak in us. Perhaps we can credit the German ancestors for that. As fun as a fire would be (and that was the Irish in us talking), it would still leave us with one significant downside. We couldn’t get the fire hot enough to melt all the nails in the building. We’d be puncturing tires for years to come if we burned it and didn’t take out a hundred dump truck loads of the remaining nail-laden ground and replace it with 125 loads of dirt from the field. You really can’t move dirt in July without doing some serious damage to those cornstalks calling it home at the time.
So we kicked around some ideas . . . literally. Okay, it wasn’t so much kicking as pushing. A quick after-hours exercise with the skid loader on my part (sans witnesses) revealed that the building could be lifted from the foundation. Not only lifted, but perhaps even gently nudged in a horizontal direction.
A meeting of the corporate brain trust eventually produced a potential solution, in part because of the role the building had served for years. It stood next to the spot where we park all of our gooseneck trailers. We realized that those gooseneck trailers were pretty much the same height as the foundation of the granary. If, say, you suddenly realized that you could, say, shove that building around, you could maybe park a trailer in such a position as to gently nudge that building right onto that trailer. Next thing you know, you’ve got yourself a shed ready to go places in the world!
We got everything into position that we needed. It didn’t take a lot of nudging to get the shed onto the flatbed trailer. Once it was on, the next step was to figure out how to get it out of the yard. The local Amish farmers have been known to move a building or two in their time. They do it with horsepower. We did, too, but we did it with a John Deere 8420 MFWD at the helm instead of a team of Belgians.
Once we got the building loaded and mobile, we made another discovery. Remember the somewhat cubic dimensions of the shed? You can’t sneak it underneath every power line in the yard when it’s almost a 20-foot cube. A 14-foot cube, no problem. A 16-foot cube, probably. Twenty feet, though? That would require the other Amish solution tradition. They have been known to park a kid on the roof of the building they’re transporting. Not just a kid, though. It’s usually a kid with a stick. As they come to the power lines, the kid holds his stick up and makes sure the building fits under the power line.
Again, we had another corporate powwow. On a 2-to-1 vote, it was decided that The Chairman Emeritus would be nominated to climb up and hold the stick.
Then we switched back to the practical, but yet imaginative, side. If we were sneaking it under the power lines, why did we have to get it under all of the lines and go out the driveway? Why not sneak it under only one or two and go through the hay field instead? With a little bit of Drivers-Ed work, we could do a 14-point turn with that puppy and end up driving straight through to the hay field and not even risk hitting all the other power lines out to the road. Not only that, but we’d skip the whole block-the-entire-roadway-for-a-half-mile-in-the-middle-of-the-day issue. The cows were at the distant pasture on the other farm, so there wouldn’t even be any traffic to get to the timber to unload this shed. Everywhere we looked, it seemed, there was nothing but upside to this deal.
You may find this hard to believe, but I was the cautious voice of reason when it was time to get the shed on the road, as it were. It was resting on the flatbed. The key word there is resting. Having transported cargo of various types and dimensions over the years, I have a couple of rules to live by for successful transport. First on that list is: Strap it down!
Again, on a 2-to-1 vote, it was decided that no straps would be necessary. We got it from the foundation to the flatbed and it didn’t fall off. That meant the trip from the yard to the timber via the hay field should be just as easy. I mean, it’s not like we’d be going across ground that was too steep to continually raise corn or anything! Who’d want to strap down something on a route like that? WIMPS, that’s who! Tie-down straps? We don’t need no stinking tie-down straps!
With Guy No. 1 behind the wheel, we got the shed jockeyed around in the yard and headed for the hay field. I figured we were going from there to the road via a driveway in the field. As we approached the driveway, another executive decision was made. This one had more of a dictator feel to it than a governance-by-committee feel. The power line overhead looked kinda low, and the approach to the road looked kinda steep. Seeing as how I was close by and easily dispensable for anything, I could quickly drive ahead of the mobile shed and remove all the electric fence in the pasture to enable Guy No. 1 to drive straight down to the brush pile in the timber with the cargo. Between gates and fences, we’d really only cross three or four, so why not just go that route? P.S., Guy No. 1 would neither stop nor slow down as he went across the field, so make sure the fence was down as he got to it or he’d just drive through it and I could clean up the mess afterwards. We’d waited 20 years to tear down the granary, but we apparently didn’t have 10 minutes to spare to clear a path for its removal. It reminded me of one of my favorite lines from Dennis Miller. “I was stuck in traffic the other day. Turns out it was a funeral procession. Yeah, I gotta wait around . . . cuz a DEAD GUY needs to make good time!”
I got the first gate opened up wide enough for the procession to pass through with no problem. I got the second one down just before it was run over. Small problem, though. The terrain dropped a bit from that paddock into the next one. That meant the very back end of the trailer caught the electric fence wire as it went through. I flagged Guy No. 1 to a stop and told him to back up so the wire would unhook from the trailer. That’s how the logic flowed in my TV-influenced little brain: Watch scene. Dislike outcome. Hit Rewind. Press Play. Fully expect different outcome.
Guess what. We hit Rewind a couple times, but the scene kept replaying exactly the same each time. Go figure. I should stick with Cut and Paste instead of Rewind.
There was one solution. Again, using TGF corporate logic, it was determined that the youngest and most flexible participant could crawl underneath the trailer and un-snag the wire. Shouldn’t take but a couple seconds. A little extra Tide in the wash that night should pretty well clear up any grass stains on the Levis. Of course, if the shed happened to tip off the flatbed while I was under it (You know, what with the LACK OF TIE-DOWN STRAPS!), grass stains may be the least of my laundry concerns, or those of my estate and my mortician.
I got the wire off and then quickly made my way to the next fence in the pasture to get it out of the way before A.J. Foyt got to it with the shed-on-wheels. It wasn’t as easy as the last one, because I decided not to press my actuarial luck. This fence was yanked clean off the corner post and dragged out of the way before A.J. got there with the load. You can't snag a wire that isn’t there. We had a load that was maybe 16 to 20 feet wide, but I cleared off a path that was 120 feet wide. I wanted to make sure I had all the bases covered before Guy No. 1’s A-D-D-riddled brain kicked into overdrive and he decided to change positions as he approached the last fence. If I gave him 40 feet, he’d choose a spot that was 42 feet from the post and claim it was more level as he dragged the wire with him on the back corner of the shed. Give him a 6-to-1 ratio for hitting that target and then it’s easier to be William Tell.
That was pretty much the last hurdle to clear before we got the cargo into the right spot for a proper download. We now had it positioned right where we wanted it. Well, sort of. We had it positioned about 40 feet from the gulley where the brush pile (read: spare kindling) was. The plan was to take the loader tractor and nudge the cargo from the trailer onto the ground and then push it into the ditch.
The Chairman arrived on the scene with the loader tractor. Since there were no bothersome tie-down straps to remove, I was free to watch from a distance. Our thinking was that the granary would tip off the side of the trailer and either collapse into a heap, or land with a gentle plop and then we'd shove it the rest of the way to the ditch once the trailer was moved out of the way.
Good thing we didn’t burn that baby in its original location. There were apparently a BILLION nails holding it together! The Chairman gave the shed a nudge and it pretty much did a barrel roll into the ditch . . . completely intact!
You’ve heard of Little House on the Prairie? We now have Little House in the Ditch.
My guess is that the shed is haunted and/or possessed. I’ll call Steven King to run it past him. Probably wouldn’t be a bad idea to have him on speed-dial anyway.
Guy No. 2