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The Big Green Barn: One Man’s Personal Journey to Salvage a 1910 Barn

Posted Sep 09 2008 2:01am

The Big Green Barn The Big Green Barn: One man’s personal journey to salvage a 1910 barn in Southwest Michigan while keeping it as green as possible.

Last July I got a call from friends of mine who told me about a 20 acre parcel that was going on the market just a 1/4 mile down the road from them. They didn’t want the property to fall into the hands of “evil developers”, who might put too many houses on the land or worse yet… build “McMansions”. They asked me to tell anyone I knew about the property. So, I thought I’d drive over and take a look at it, just so I would be ?able to give an accurate description.

That’s when it happened.

The Big Green Barn There, back toward the middle of the property and partially hidden from the road was this amazing barn. Now it had seen better days, but it looked like it was still in great shape. Then and there I? decided - it would be mine. Long story short, I got the property and most importantly, the barn.

My dad and his 13 brothers and sisters were raised on a farm and throughout my childhood we would visit family and friends’ farms. The best part for me was always the ?barn. I felt safe in a barn and I loved the animals who seemed happy and at peace there.

In high school I worked on the horse farm at a camp and spent hours everyday in the barn mucking stalls, filling the loft with hay after the first cutting, The Big Green Barn painting the ?exterior and taking care of the animals. I loved it. It was there that I began to imagine what it would be like to live in a barn and where I began to develop an understanding and love of conservation and preservation. And now, I had been blessed with an amazing opportunity to fulfill a dream; I would be able to preserve a structure integral to our nation’s heritage. I decided that I would work toward keeping the integrity of the barn and I would work toward making it as “green” as I possibly could.

Now where do I start?

I don’t purport to be an expert, but I think it’s way too easy (and very PC) to flap your yap and say, “uh, maw, gawd, I totally believe in being green!” It’s another thing to put your ideas and beliefs into practice, so I started by writing down some “rules” that would be my guide for the project.

  1. Work with craftsmen, contractors and designers who shared my vision and lived within a 35 mile radius of the property whenever possible.
  2. Reuse as much of the old wood that was on the barn.
  3. Purchase materials locally.
  4. Buy products, fixtures, cabinets, etc. from companies whose ethos and manufacturing practices are green.
  5. Use renewable, sustainable or recycled materials.
  6. Purchase EPA certified products.
  7. Use hydronics for heating and cooling.

Seemed simple enough, but when I began to put my “rules” into practice, I realized that it was not to be so simple; especially in Southwest Michigan. I would have to do a lot of research and call on my creativity to make this project a reality - and keep within budget. Fortunately, the universe provided some wonderful surprises and resources.

Check back next week for part two of our series as the project kicks off and we learn about barnwrights.

The Big Green Barn

Written by: John Braun

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