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The Diary of Our House And Barn Projects

May, 2008



Dear Families and Friends,

May 1 and 2, Work Holiday and a Bridge

On the last day of April, Axel had his site meeting with Mr. Einbecker to see if the wall of the barn was worth salvaging - and if the project should go ahead. The missing or loose top layer of stone and the pair of vertical cracks had raised serious doubt and the "deconstruction" process had stopped.


As expected, Mr. Einbecker was positive. He thought his best bricklayer could insert a layer of brick over the stone layer and build the wall up to it's original level. From there we would continue with the original plan for a concrete ring around the top , supporting the main roof beams. Axel said he would get confirmation on this from the engineer who did the structural assessment of the building, but we would proceed. Whew.

Meanwhile, nothing is happening today, May First, because it is a Holiday. Actually, it is two or three holidays: Labor Day, Father's Day, and Christi Himmelfahrt, or Ascension Day. Since this holiday falls on Thursday, Friday is also a day without work, generally. This is what's called a "bridge day". In France, our company actually has an official day off but here in Germany most people just don't go to work. On our home project, no workers want to work, so they don't. The U.S. abandoned this inefficient practice years ago. Personally, I approve of the inefficiency.

The new plan has Mr. Nehr back on Monday to remove all the remaining wood beams (and hoping the walls don't fall down.) The main vertical support beam has dropped an inch or two so that needs to be "pushed" back up. As for all the old floor joists, they have to go. Some are rotted on the ends, some are just too large and heavy and a couple have twisted over the last 150 years to the point that one end has rotated almost 45 degrees. Hard to build with.

Then the job shifts to Mr. Einbecker's crew to add whatever they need to the top of the walls to make a buildable surface. I suppose that will take the rest of the week, so we will not see completion of this step before we fly to the States on Thursday.

We have decided on the basic interior structure. The roof needs mid-span support so there are beams running front to back at the level of the sleeping deck. We hope to use old, historic beams as long as we can find a pair that are sound enough. The middle of these two horizontal supports will, in turn, be supported by the end walls and posts in the middle of their span. Again, hopefully old support timbers, with character.

The sleeping deck is too wide to not require support so we will have another front-to-back beam in the middle of the room. To avoid a vertical post in the middle of the room, an iron bar will go up, connecting the beam to the roof.

While we are gone, Mr. Nehr should finish all this support work and, hopefully, all the roof and outer walls too so we will return to a brand new building. That will be exciting!

May 5, Last Demolition



It was Monday and work was happening again. Mr. Nehr came back and removed all the beams, except the main under support. We ended up with lots of air visible and a pile of old beams. Some we are keeping and some have so many bugs in them that they are beyond use.


more air



not saved

roll over again

May 7, Last View

This is just a very quick note. Tomorrow morning we are off to the States so these are our last views before the return in three weeks. By then, we hope things will be very different.

Mr. Eibecker started his work on filling in the gaps in the top of the wall and in making forms for the top-of-wall concrete ring. This work will determine if we come crashing down in the middle of the night -- or not. He also managed to slip in the concrete beam above what will become the door. It does seem like progress.

Now we go away and leave it up to Axel and his crews. We have faith, but it does make us wonder just a bit what we will see when we return.

May 14, Reportedly, What's Happening

We are on the wedding road-trip in the States, but we have received reports that something is still going on back in Pommersfelden.

First, Axel sent us the last of his basic drawings for the building structure. Nothing particularly changed since the last sketches, just more detail for Mr. Nehr to work with.

Reportedly, by Monday the 12th, the stone walls had been reinforced and the concrete ring formed along the top. Then Mr.Nehr came in and built the floor of the main room, finishing by Wednesday making the lower area (garage and storage) weather proof again. This was apparently just in time for rains and a cold front that hit on Thursday.

According to Axel, the plan is for Mr. Nehr to return Monday (19th) and start on the roof. Hopefully good weather will also return then. In any event, when this work starts, neither we nor Axel will be around to supervise since he is taking his family on vacation to Egypt! He returns a week before we do and we both hope to see progress on our return.

May 8 to 25, While we were gone

After we had been back for awhile, we tracked down pictures Mr. Nehr had made for us during the main construction period. The work really was impressive.

Some of the construction happened in Mr. Nehr's shops. The end walls were pre-fabricated in a half-dozen pieces, loaded on the truck, and lifted in place by the truck's crane.
With most of the ends in place, the crew put all the heavy beams in place. I suppose the final triangle was the official "topping off", but we were not around to sponsor the traditional tree-placing ceremony.
After that, the base for the tiles was put on, including precision trimming with a chain saw.
After that, it was tiles. (We ALSO have pictures of this step, but Mr. Nehr's may have been better!)
Down in the garage, the main post was being given a new foundation.
In the end, we have a wonderful wooden attic, with a palace view from the sleeping loft window.


May 30, We're Back

So, what DID happen without supervision? Pretty much everything we could have expected. (See rollover.)

The back view. The windows should get ordered soon, but the blue plastic shows where the large windows will be.

Inside the garage, the left wall has been almost completed and the mezzanine on the right side has been cut back. Now I won't hit my head every time I go in there!

From ground level, it still takes some imagination to believe this is our bathroom and entry. The temporary stairway gives an idea of the grand entrance that WILL be here.

Finally, we can walk around the large "loft" room. There are three old beams, two of which rest on old posts. All the other beams are new -- and big! The space seems very large, even without the sleeping deck that will cover about half of the area above the horizontal beams.

So, there it is: a big barn next to our small house. Such proportions are in keeping with the farming traditions of the area and we can't wait to keep making progress.

John and Marianne

Diaries - Travel

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