In 2012, my wife and our two daughters and I moved from Chicago to southwestern Washington state, outside the small town of Woodland where we bought a lovely five-acre rural property with a small but lovely house. We wanted a change of pace from the city and a chance to be more connected to the land and our food supply. It was this change that also got me into woodworking, after I inherited my grandfather’s hand tools. He was a building contractor in the 1920s and 30s, and his 1909 Disstons and planes started me down the path of electron-free woodworking.
This year, we decided we wanted to add a few goats to our lives, and that meant we needed a shelter for them. Since we would like to eventually milk our does and we live in the rainy Northwest, I wanted a more substantial shelter that included a milking station and room to store hay, feed, etc. Trying to live simply (and build cheaply), I decided to build the barn myself, using as much natural material from our land as possible. I am planning to build an ocatgonal barn about 18 feet across, using a post-and-beam framework with the wall in-filled with cordwood masonry. I chose an octagon because it has a larger enclosed area with less wall perimeter than a rectangle. It will have a living roof over reciprocal frame rafters. More on that later.
While our property, which we call Barewood, has many resources including 4 acres under timber (mostly red alder), it also has the challenge of being on a fairly steep slope and being overgrown with blackberries (hence the need for goats). The best location for the barn was near the garden…which means it is also a good hike uphill from the house and shop. Here is how the chosen site looked when I started:
Keep in mind that I have no power tools apart from a chainsaw, and that means no earth moving equipment except a wheelbarrow and shovels….