Dutch Barn Preservation Society

Dedicated to the Study and Preservation
of New World Dutch Barns

NEWSLETTER FALL 1995 Vol 8, Issue 2

 

Shortly after the dedication of the relocated and restored Wemp Barn at the Carl Touhey home on October 13, 1990, Vince Schaefer suggested that members of the Dutch Barn Preservation Society should construct a six pole, rye-straw thatched hay barrack to complement the Dutch barn.

The hay barrack is a farm structure consisting of vertical poles supporting a movable roof under which hay or other crops can be stored. In his inimitable way, Vince talked Ev Rau into getting the project started. Vince asked, "What would be needed as far as natural materials?" Well, Ev had built a thing or two, and so thought he knew the answer: Six oak poles 26 feet long, 8 to 9 inches at the butt end. Approximately 480 to 520 bundles of rye straw harvested with a reaper and binder to protect the straightness of the straw. Six rafter plates 6 inches by 6 inches, ten feet long. Eighteen rafter poles 2 inches in diameter and ten feet long. Sixty roofers 17/2 inches in diameter and 8 feet long. Sixty battens 3/4 inches in diameter and 8 feet long, and about 4000 feet of twine! Also thatching tools: hooks, combs, etc., had to be made.

What Ev could not have reckoned on was the time and dedication that would be required to make Vince's dream become a reality.

What follows are some of Ev's recollections of the hay barrack project.

From left, John Kaufman, Thomas Lanni, Dell Thompson, Carl Touhey, Chris Albright and Ev Rau help raise the poles. Photo by Lisa Caputzal

Thomas Lanni arrived at the Rau farm on Lainhart Road about 10:30 AM. The sun was hot and the air was steamy. Ev and Thomas went to an oak hedgerow and cut six straight-growing oak trees the size needed for the main poles. Thomas hauled the poles up to the sawmill with the tractor. Ev squared the poles on his old sawmill. Howie Hoose came with his logging truck and picked up the poles and delivered them to the Wemp Barn.

Work and Recreation Day at the Wemp Barn, July 20, 1991 - Big Day, started drilling two inch holes in the six poles, each a foot apart. Many folks took a turn with the old mortise drill. Remember the good time we had? We thought finishing would be a snap? Thomas Lanni and Carl Touhey picked the location on a slight knoll west of the pond and south of the Dutch Barn. Thomas laid out and staked where the holes for the hay barrack poles should go. With a borrowed post-hole auger Thomas dug the 6 four-foot deep postholes.

August 17, 1991 - Thomas and Ev Rau drilled more holes in barrack poles, after realizing they would be needed to support the roof structure as it was being made.

September 7, 1991 - Hay Barrack Work Day. Thanks to Vince Schaefer, Lou Caputzal (for electric drill), Chris Albright (for generator), John Kaufman (especially for chamfering the six oak poles).

October 22, 1991 - Research and digging at an old hay barrack suggests early settlers charred poles to retard rotting. Probably two things happen. First, charring burns the sugar in the sap wood (food for bacteria). Second, charcoal is not friendly to bacteria, the cause of decay. Ev Rau and Bob Andersen charred the ends of the barrack poles.

October 1991 - Ev Rau tilled two acres of land on the old Ogsbury-Rau Farm, Altamont, NY. Ev planted rye even though it was quite late to do so.

Sometime in the Spring of 1992 - The sky is overcast and gray but our spirits run high with John Kaufman supplying a tripod and block and tackle. The poles were raised and set in the forty-eight inch deep holes. The poles are plumbed and back filled and braced until the backfill settles. Probably the early settlers would have finished in a day or two. (We're learning.)

July 25, 1992 - Started framing the rafter plates. They are made of old material but may be okay. We'll see how they hold up. All we need now is rye straw. Ev Rau plants rye again as the 1991 crop failed. Let's see what 1993 brings.

August 1993 - Thanks to the Altamont Fair Old Machinery Museum and Al Schager, Curator, for loaning the reaper and binder pictured. We could use it if we could make it work. After close examination the trouble was located. A broken drive shaft on the lower canvas elevator roller. Ev Rau made and installed the new shaft. Having not operated a binder for over half a century, Ev and his cousin Reid Lainhart tinkered the machine into working order and cut and bound about one acre the first day and finished the other the next day. Harold Zoch took a video of the operation. The bundles were set up in groups of six or eight with a bundle spread out across the top to shield the rain.

Ev Rau and Reid Lainhart reaping and binding rye straw on Rau farm. Photo by Peg Rau.

Vince Schaefer, center inside barrack, oversees DBPS members work on roof framing. Photo by Clarke Blair.

November 6, 1993 - Ev trucked 60 bundles of straw to the Wemp Barn. First we threshed the seed off the straw.

July 30, 1994 - Another year. The completion seems a long way off, however Vince Schaefer would expect us to finish the project he suggested. Ev Rau delivered about 450 bundles of rye straw to the Wemp Barn. With the Caputzal family from Massachusetts helping, we threshed the grain from the straw. The day was gone before we knew it. Got to keep going. Many hands transfer the straw inside the old Wemp Barn. If you think and listen you will even hear the old timbers rejoice, saying again we will shelter grain just as we did over 200 years ago. The big wooden hinged doors creaked shut and all is secure till next spring.

Spring 1995 - Well, it's Spring 1995 and the Wemp Barn was dedicated October 1990, but "Hope Springs Eternal." Will we finish the Hay Barrack in 1995? We all hope so because completing the Hay Barrack is our way of saying to our late friend Vince Schaefer "We are carrying on." The Wemp Barn had to be cleared of the rye straw, so Bob and Amelia Andersen and children and grandchildren moved the thatching straw from the Wemp Barn to pallets at the Barrack site. Thanks to all the Andersens. Remember we framed the rafter plate with old timbers? One timber was too weathered and it broke. Thanks to Carl Touhey when I told him of the situation, without hesitation Carl said tell me what you need and I will buy it and have it delivered. We both agreed to use pressure-treated 6" x 6" realizing they are modern timbers but knowing we now had a safety factor for many years to come.

Ev Rau, Lou Caputzal, John Kaufman and Jim Schaefer learn to thatch. Home-made thatching tools in foreground. Photo by Lisa Caputzal.

July 13, 1995 - John Kaufman from Hurley, NY located some nice tall rye straw on the old Hasbrouck farm. After an agreement was made and this day selected, the Caputzal family, John Kaufman and Ev Rau arrived at the field about l0AM. It was hot and humid already. Mr. Hasbrouck came into the field with the old flat rake reaper and after a few adjustments cut about 240 loose bundles of rye straw. We all pitched in and hand bound the straw into sheaves or bundles. We then loaded them into John's truck and stored them in John's barn. Boy was it hot. We all have a better idea what the "Good old Days" were like.

July 29, 1995 - Work day, thanks to a good group of people. We removed the thatchings and all framework. The new 6" x 6"s were half-lapped and pinned with bolts and the rafters were assembled.

September 16, 1995 - The framing completed.

October 9, 1995 - Two of the six sections were thatched. Our thanks to John Kaufman for driving from Hurley many times. John, I don't think we could have done it without you.

E. Rau, J. Kaufman, C. Stewart, L. Caputzal and R. Dryden put on "cap" just prior to raising roof. Photo by Thomas Lanni.

October 12, 1995 - Third and fourth sections completed. Now we can comb and jog down the straw and thatch one section in 21/2 to 3 hours. Now we can see it is possible to finish.

October 14, 1995 - The day of the annual meeting the weather is threatening to rain. We started to thatch so all could see how we were doing. We only put the starter course on and the first thatch when it rained. We went inside the Wemp Barn for shelter like baby chicks under a mother hen's wings. It was warm and dry. Later we came to the Barrack to observe how the thatch works in the rain. Our inquisitive eyes saw rain drops slowly descending from the ends of each straw until each drop reached the outer edge and fell to the ground. You might ask why not use shingles and nails? The early settlers constructed their hay barracks with all natural materials and with a few tools. Nails would be a cash outlay.

October 20, 1995 - Bob Andersen and Ev Rau completed fifth section.

October 22, 1995 - Bob Andersen, Thomas Lanni and Ev Rau completed sixth section.

November 4, 1995 - This is the day we have all worked for, and I want to thank each person for whatever help you gave, and I sure wish I had made a list each time we worked so your name could be remembered. Fourteen people made it for the big day. John Kaufman from Hurley, NY, the Caputzal Family from Sheffield, MA, Thomas Lanni from Buskirk, NY, and the rest within ten miles of the site. John brought enough straw to finish the top cap for the hay barrack. All helped. We decided not to raise the barrack with the fulcrum lever because we felt it better to raise all sides evenly. So six block and tackles were placed on the poles. Thanks to members and friends for rigging the tackle.

Well, all is ready for the first lift. Can we raise all that weight three feet, then one foot at a time till it is where we want it? Let's give it a try. The signal to lift was given "Heave Ho!" Much to my surprise it moved up. "Heave Ho!" again till we were able to slide 1 1/2-inch diameter bars through the raising holes in the six poles. Okay, now rest. And so the barrack moved up one foot at a time to its present position.

We all felt joy and accomplishment at seeing the project completed. For us it was a learning experience in figuring out how to do it, but to the early settlers it was a most important shelter for crops, hay, and possibly animals, wagons, etc. We have made this rare hay barrack to educate other people in its use and construction. During the exercise we have learned something else of the 'old ways', the strength and ability of community. Everyone who contributed to this project, including many who have not been mentioned or pictured here, deserves our heartfelt appreciation. Without the effort and support of each and everyone of you the barrack would not stand as it does today.

Those interested in more detailed information about the Dutch hay barrack are referred to the Dutch Barn Miscellany, Volume 1 Number 3, 1988, and the Fall 1989, Vol. 2, Issue 2 of this Newsletter.

And now a personal excerpt from my life. Along with probably hundreds of other people I was introduced to Vincent Schaefer through the Dutch Barn Preservation Society. And if not for him I would not have taken on the hay barrack project. I now take the liberty to share with you what I said at Vince Shaefer's memorial July 28, 1993.

Bob Andersen stands beside completed hay barrack.

"Vince the Man"

The television and newspapers speak of Dr. Vincent Schaefer, the scientist, inventor, founder, etc. I would like to say a few words about Vince our friend.

Vince was outstanding to many. He was like a straight tree in a forest of people. To a stranger walking the forest this tree was strong, thoughtful, sharing, a giver, a doer. What joy just to stand and listen and learn and be encouraged to think and find answers for the benefit of others.

The last time I dialed his phone the answering machine said "Hello, I'm unable to come to the phone. Please leave your message after the tone."

Vince, we just called to say we will miss you very much and to let you know we will carry on. "Yes, we will carry on."

Everett Rau, A Friend

The Dutch Barn Preservation Society

c/o The Mabee Farm Historic Site
1080 Main St. (Rt. 5S)
Rotterdam Junction, NY 12150

Site Phone: (518) 887-5073

 

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