Bring on the Barn Raisers, May 12-24
I’m kind of the opposite of Martha Stewart. So when Niki Vankerk began posting facebook requests for tasty treats to fuel the 50 volunteer timber framers who are landing in Pemberton on Monday, 12 May, to raise us a barn, I ignored her first two posts. I figured Pemberton is full of people more qualified in that department than me.
For the last 10 weeks, site prep has been underway, footings built and concrete poured, wood sourced and prepared, 350 purlins have been sawed. A fundraiser has been held. Local restaurants have planned menus and meals.
As project lead, Randy Churchill, reports on the Timber Framers Guild blog, the foundation is now in and being graded this weekend, timbers will be delivered May 8-9, Village volunteers are staining high purlins and roof sheathing, and 50 volunteers with the Timber Framers Guild are fixing up tools, sorting out what to bring and what to leave and making ready to exit their regular life for a 2 week “working holiday.”
“Destination Pemberton” is on.
Randy Churchill, a Guild member from Vancouver Island, heading a leadership crew of 8, will oversee the 50 volunteers who are making their way from as far away as Virginia, Vermont, Ontario and Arizona, to be part of the barn-raising.
I sent him some questions to help flesh out a short article about the project, and the answers were so inspiring, I share them here. Timber framing might not have been a traditional construction method used widely in the Pemberton Valley, but the ethos of the Timber Framers is a perfect fit.
(Oh yeah. Randy also inspired me to send Niki a message: Count me in for a few dozen muffins and brownies. When I walk past this structure, every day, for the rest of my days in Pemberton, I want to know I put a little bit of my spirit into it, too.)
What kind of days are you logging when you’re here, to raise a barn in 12 days?
Timber farmers are a hard working, dedicated bunch of people. This type of project is a fun working vacation to us – much better than sightseeing or touristy kind of stuff, which most of us avoid. Several of our volunteers are not timber framers, but other professionals, and they commit their two week holidays to a TFG project, instead of a more conventional trip.
Our crew will work hard on site because we really like working hard and know what has to be done to finish.
Our days will start at 0700 with daily crew briefing. We’ll shut down and wrap up tool at 1700. Several people will additionally sharpen tools or fix things to be ready for the next day. The leadership team has a daily challenge to shuffle assignments and prepare for the next day’s educational modules, so we’ll meet before and after work each day for a few minutes.
Everyone is deputized to be safety aware and we don’t want anyone overdoing it. The overall pace may appear a bit crazy, but we focus on individuals and make sure each is within a known comfort zone.
On your website, in the Q+A section, you talk about our instant gratification society, and the fact that custom construction can take time and advance planning. People who are just paying attention now will see this barn go up in 10 days… but how much preparation and advance planning has gone in, to set things up for those 10 days?
Approximately five person-months will go into planning for the cutting and raising event. This is spread out over a year or more, but most intensely three months before. For the month preceding the event, we’ve got 8 people working part-time on preparations.
The entire crew of 50 will spend a few days getting ready for the event. Tools need to be fixed and sharpened. Camping gear needs to be washed. Trucks need to be made travel-worthy for a long trip. Paying work needs to be completed so they can disappear for two weeks. Some of the folks travelling in will be on the road a week or more to get here, driving from Virginia and Ontario and Arizona.
What is the motivation for people to attend a workshop like this, with their personal vacation time? Are most return volunteers who’ve been on other projects?
Half of the crew will have previous project experience. This is a hard project to get to for most of our membership – for pure distance. For some of our other projects, the return rate can be 75%.
Most of us choose to participate for two main reasons:
- the educational opportunity of the project. Everybody learns something, no matter how much of a wizard when they start.
- what we call the “exuberant camaraderie” factor. Our past director put it very well when he said, that ‘you are the best people I know.’
Most of our crew lead exemplary lives in terms of attention to family, work and social ethos. We all find gratification in being around others we enjoy and who enjoy working on something tangible and challenging with us. The satisfaction of creating something large and unique is special. We build buildings, but we also build community.
Why is community such a big part of the Timber Framers Guild’s focus? (Is it because it was originally a true artisan craft, which survived through information passed diligently from master to apprentice? So, it kind of needs the energy of people, or a person to person transmission, to stay vital?) Or because you can’t just raise a big log without many hands?
There are lots of heavy wood craftspeople here in BC – the industry is strong. I count both log builders and timber framers together in this sense because we are “brothers under the bark.”
Finally, do you have funny outfits? I went to a wedding many years ago, where the groom was a graduate of Northwest Community College’s 13 week timber frame craftsman program and his best men wore outfits that looked like they were out of a medieval movie. Do you enjoy being connected to a tradition with lineage?
Tradition and history is a big part of our interest in the craft.
There are many amazing old buildings that we learn things from. Some of our brethren craftpeople have long histories in other countries – Swiss, German, French, Japanese, Chinese, English, Norwegian, others.
I am not formally trained in the trade so don’t have a traditional outfit. My edification has been more chaotic and random, and I am jealous of any young person that has the opportunity to learn a quality trade.
Can you give us some clues as to what to expect from the dedication party? I understand it’s an important tradition…