Losing & Building a Barn

The Old Barn

The old barn served us well for over twenty years as we built our herd. The two-story hayloft held over 20,000 bales; the lower section housed up to a hundred cows and calves through the winter, both inside and in the outer yards. It was certainly over 200 years old, and before we bought the farm, it was used as a dairy barn which we converted to handle beef cattle.

July 31st, 2007 ~ 2:56 a.m.

About 2:45 a.m., we were aroused by our dogs' frantic barking - the barn, which had been quiet around 2:00, was now engulfed in a roaring and highly suspicious fire. The Norwich Volunteer Fire Department arrived within a half hour and worked tirelessly through the night and following day.

The Norwich squad was assisted by volunteer and professional fire fighters and FAST squad members from Fairlee, Hanover, Hartford, Lyme, Sharon, Strafford, and Thetford; Lebanon fire fighters covered the Norwich station in case there was another emergency. There was even an auxilliary group that brought food and liquids throughout the ordeal.


Before the day was out, we were overwhelmed by the generosity and outpouring of support from so many people. Neighbors set up a bank account for donations; family members and friends helped with the cleanup; food was provided for all, and we began to plan for the future. Vermont extension agent and friend, Sam Comstock, linked us with a UNH barn designer, John Porter, to help us map out an efficient and simple barn plan.

Excavators Graham Webster and Eamonn Donovan, with Scooter Hardy trucking for us, masterminded the heavy clean-up.

Pat Tullar from Orford, friend and fellow beef producer and barn builder, offered to coordinate the building project and became our contractor.

The barn was ready for the cows on Christmas day of 2007, thanks to tireless work during the week from Pat and his crew and steady volunteer support from family members and friends over the weekends.

Jody took a personal day from school to help Pat finish the purlins when his crew went hunting.

Our son Joshua rallied so many friends to help us out. Here, he is surveying the pattern of radiant tubing for the shop and pens for winter calving.

One long weekend was spent putting up the back wall with boards donated by David Ferm's barn dismantling company.

We framed in the pens and prepared for the north end insulation and siding.

This would become the sheltered, bedpack area for the cows when they're not feeding. There is an alley at the back of the pens with a door in each. This makes it easy to move animals into the calving pens at the end.

The cement pad in front of the covered area is ready for the gates and feed line in the front. To the right are the shop and calving area.

Further weekends of volunteer help led to completion of the roof as well as the north end and the closed-in shop and pens.

Two equipment companies were recommended to us and deserve mention because they added such quality and efficiency of our barn. Click on their websites to see the variety of equipment available to farmers.

Zimmerman Cattle Control Equipment
New England distributor: Charlie Russell

Miraco Livestock Water Systems

Zimmerman makes very sturdy gates that can be used to separate the animals in multiple ways. The cows poke through slant rail fences to eat and water at the front of the concrete pad.

Miraco has many different size waterers - with or without a heating element. We chose the L'il Spring models: each one serves two pens and about twenty animals. We found that our cows, who had always battled around the traditional 100-gallon tanks, calmly took turns from the very beginning.
The gates can be open as pictured here; they can swing and shut the animals into the bedpack area to clean the pad; or the animals can be closed into the front or released to the pasture to allow cleaning of the bedpack. The doors at the end of the barn close in the shop and a two-pen calving area.


We are so grateful for the amazing assistance of so many volunteers and workers, and the final structure works perfectly for a family farm like ours. Thanks to all - and you know who you are!!!