Montana Barnivation: days 8-10


Day 8: Yesterday’s pointing looks good, so I put up a long run of new tongue & groove lumber to replace the board the horses had worn away.

If you ever had a big hundred year old barn come into your life, wouldn’t you at some point think: I could use to paint me a barn! If so, there may not be a therapy or pills that can ever put a dent in you; so you might as well get at it.


The trim for the low corner needs replacing as well.


That should hold it.


I made this ladder leveling platform back in SLC, knowing I’d have this long drop. It is a platform with a 2X4 backing board- these are joined with thick steel “L” brackets. On the back are two long black steel pointed posts that I welded cross handles of rebar to, slipped through lengths of pipe bound by metal sleeves screwed to the 2×4- and the posts are pounded into the ground. The lower stair platform is held in place by rebar posts pounded into the ground, they have welded cross handles as well- for pulling them back out.


The platform is a bit of overkill for the little ladder, but a must for the big old bent aluminum ladder.


The ladder is completely secure, which makes one-arming a power tool less dramatic.


Before running the paint stripper I whack every single nail with a big framing hammer. All the nails in reach on the back of the barn first, then all in reach on this W side, and now up on the ladder. It becomes a harder and harder job to make clean hits.


I’ve graduated up to the tall ladder, and to my L is a spot too tall for the little ladder and too short for the tall ladder. I am racing against the sun- watch the shadow line disappear as I move down the wall.


I finished just as the sun broke across the bottom of the ladder. I burned off the new grinding disk that E had started with for the low bit, and ran through the used up disk that had been on it before. That leaves one new disk for the big back face.


The ladder support is up on rocks and using all of it’s stair boards- and that bit is not the steepest section. Using a level is key, as a few degrees off at the bottom make for far more at the top. That and the polymer end caps that grip the high wall. Stanley always pushes me on safety.


E has hand scraped up past waist high. I put on the new disk and rip along from where she left off.


It is a long long way from one end to the other.


From up at the barn we look across the corral to the house in the trees and the garage across the county road.


The little ladder is so stable compared to the big AL ladder, I try to get as high up as possible before switching over- the footing is set back the correct distance for the tall ladder (1′ out for every 3′ up), which explains the funny angle.


It is late in the evening and the sun is coming around to this side of the barn now- it hits all four sides of the barn this time of year- for those from Southern latitudes. It washes across my face shield and I can’t see anything when up high (I’m stopping at the top of the windows) so I call it quits for the day.


Day 9: Before finishing the grinding I need to make a fix. I attach the ladder caddy to the truck workbench as I need to be center on the problem and the big ladder would push against the loose door- which is what needs fixing.


I’ve replaced the trim board along the door, and this last bit is a cedar plank. It holds the end of the long hinge, and the previous pine board had not only rotted out, but captured enough moisture to break down the barnwood behind it. Now the wind can’t catch the door as the hinge is firmly attached again.


Back to grinding out yesterdays sun blind area. I also got a bit optimistic and taped off the windows and lower door.


Neither arm is really up for one-armed grinding this morning.


Three clamps hold things level and sturdy.


The truck is a bit bouncy for the big ladder, so back to doing it the right way.


One arm at full extension vs moving the footing again. Just lean into the burn and enjoy it.


E has vacuumed this side to remove paint flour and embedded dirt. Then she masked off the foundation and the windows, and covered the saddles & tack inside. I drive the truck down to the pasture gate to ward off overspray.

At noon we break for breakfast- early coffee was supposed keep me til 10am, but I kept going. Instead of breakfast Dave arrives up for the first time this visit, letting us know he is moving cattle through the corral for sorting tomorrow morning. Huh. Well, that means I have to put all 10 gallons on the barn today- and try to stretch it for the whole area we’ve prepped. Dave heads out after a chat til 1pm, then breakfast at last. My Hobbit schedule is way off- I should be on to supper by now and it looks like second breakfast is right out.


I give the 5 gallon bucket of special  linseed oil red barn paint at least 300 stirs, then load the little electric sprayer that repainted the house white last summer, and begin the first of 4 layers for this lower section. Up to the L you can see how fast it has soaked in and turned dark- I waited for the sun to hit the wall to help the paint dive into the wood.


E has the front vacuumed and together we mask off the stones and hardware.


First blush on the face.


My initial coat is slow and heavy pointed directly at the wood, injecting the paint and creating a small wave of thick paint as I push along. From one end of the door to the other it has soaked in, and I hit it with another more finessed coat- so 2 coats for the front.


I started on the L, jumped to the far R and worked back to the center. Look how much the paint has already changed and darkened to the L compared to the freshly painted center door! It could all use another coat, but I only have two 5 gallon buckets for this trip and have to cover everything I’ve sanded back.


Whose up for one-armed ladder spraying? Just me.


This next bit will take as long as the whole paint job so far, or feel like it. Look for the shadow change up next.


E leaves the hot mess of the corral for the shade of the yard, and sees something above the cellar door.


It is another daytime bat, but a different guy from the under the eve of the ice house. E’s googling says he is likely a Silver Haired bat, and the Ice House bat may be as well.


Somewhere along the wall the second drum of paint was given its 300 stirs.


I put on one last ladderless coat, as this side of the barn takes the brunt of weather and cattle. The upper portion has two coats, vs the lower section’s 5.


A shiny red barn!


Around 8pm and the N wall is in full sun. Perfect for painting.


E does some last minute scraping on the R end, so I start on the L, she finishes up and I track along low, then finish the corner of the W side where the fence leans downhill.


Day 10: This is where the paint ran out last night. We cleared all our gear out and I disassembled the paint gun and cleaned it out. We were home by 10pm for a late late dinner.


The paint is about 7′ up on the R and 10′ up on L. She is stripped up to the window tops, but I’m leaving it ’til next summer. This at least covers any snow line from drifts, and seals the first floor.


I would have liked to paint the trim white as well, but the red paint stayed wet through the day- slowly soaking in and curing out. Early in the morning one of the horses, the only Paint of the group, rubbed his head against the wet paint- but the buffers kept them all from getting it on their bodies. E got the trim ends on the front while I did the red back.


You can’t even tell there was a roundup today.


Here comes yesterday’s motivation.


Dave has a group of 20 late cows- the first calved out in the morning just before the roundup. The 20 mothers have mixed in with all the others over the course of summer fence fiascos and frisky behaviors on the spring cattle drive. Today they are all separated out and put in the horse pasture.


Two riders and 3 four-wheelers bring them in quick.


E watches the sorting begin. We are not firing on all thrusters yet, and let Dave and his crew handle the bovines.


Cut one group up, and the other down- or leave one group in and cut everyone else up & down. It seems today they are in a “down only” drama, so down they go.


The down-gate at the barn wasn’t operating smoothly, so I’m salvaging this old pin-plate from a ghost-gate.


I think this is the moment I realize I’m going to go back to the house and get the sawzall.


This is the down-gate by the barn. I have cut the top board to let the pin swing by and cleaned the hole with a 3/4″ bit.


The strap needs widening to fit the new larger pole. Once in place it binds on the pin, making it hard to pull out- so I widen the hole with a file. Then it just isn’t right still, so I take it off and flip it over. Much better.


It matches the post pretty well- better than new and shiny.


Ping! The pin jumps in the hole and pulls out easy- and no longer hangs up on the top board. Sorting the ladies is problem enough, without having the gate fight you as well.


On the swallow side of the barn E shows me a loose bottom board- backfilled with straw and debris that push it out more.


I pull the board out more to clear the debris, then nail it back in with a longer, better nail. Then do all the nails along the wall (following after E’s diligent “Blessing Tap” salvo).


Knowing it is better than it was is sometimes hard to see.


E has other nails all around the corral for me to prang. And I run a big carriage screw through a loose top rail that had frustrated jumping over the fence for the barn painting.


By mid-afternoon I finally find a bit of motivation to get back on the big ladder and finish some work on the house. Like that black eye of a window looking out on the country road.


I’m wondering who is going to climb up that rickety old ladder and grind down the window frame.


Oh yeah, The Feller; from my father’s chore list for me that always began, “A feller could…”..


When I try to scrape the white overspray off the glass from last summer (and from 1996) with a razor, E wisely tells me to quit screwing around.


Two screws and a bit of scrap from the barn triage and I have a brush extender.


Who knew a paintbrush could weigh this much?


I hear a bright little song behind me, and it is this little goldfinch perched in the tree top next to me.


oooh- the ladder is on the other side now!


The peeling white from the window upwards shows where the no-go line begins with the old bent swaying club-footed ladder.


Now the second floor doesn’t look quite as haunted.


This cataract-eye seems as high, but is quite a bit shorter, which is good, because it houses quite a nest of wasps that need occasional ducking.


I’m beside the wasp entrance at the top of the window, but painting across to the other side- saving the danger zone for last.


The wasps are winding down for the day, and only buzz me to shove past to their hole.


Lasik surgery completed.


Can I be done painting now? No.


It’ll only take a minute and will look so much nicer…


One long minute passes- longer than the minute in The Yellow Submarine.


Hey, there is a door there. I hadn’t quite noticed it before- thanks green trim!


Course, now that window up there looks sorta what, cataracty? haunted housish? dead-eyed? Well, Stanley doesn’t notice, so neither do I. Our time is up and tomorrow we close her down and drive through endless smoke from CA wildfires to SLC.

1 comment
  1. Wow!! You guys are awesome and did an incredible amount of work while you were up there. Doesn’t sound like a fun “vacation” at all, though. Especially because there’s plenty of the same sort of stuff to do around here — the corrals need cleaned, the sheep need sorted, the house is even due for paint! (Maybe we’ll get around to that one day.) Good thing you are willing and able to keep the ole homestead from falling to the ground.

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