While some spent the better part of their Fourth of July weekend with activities like grilling, camping or watching baseball, others joined in a different traditional pastime.
On Saturday and Sunday, roughly 100 volunteers and 25 professionals helped out with an old-fashioned barn raising at Root Down Farm in Pescadero. It was organized by Peninsula Open Space Trust, which acquired the 62-acre farm as part of the larger Cloverdale Ranch purchase in 1997.
Now being leased to a livestock operation run by Dede Boies, the Cloverdale Road property has served as a working ranch for more than 100 years. The former barn was just as old, putting it past its useful life, according to POST Senior Stewardship Project Manager Laura O’Leary.
“A lot of it had termite rot,” said O’Leary, a Pescadero resident. “It was barely standing, with several holes in the roof. It was getting unsafe and unstable.”
Using funding from its Farmland Futures Initiative, POST got to work on the design and permitting stages for the barn’s replacement last year. In April, the old structure was dismantled.
Working alongside general contractor Karl Bareis of Santa Cruz Timberframes, the open space organization sought to reconstruct the barn in a sustainable way that was aesthetically similar to the previous structure. When the old barn was taken down, the good wood was salvaged for reuse. The rest of it was harvested last fall by Big Creek Lumber from POST’s San Vicente Redwoods Property in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Bareis then built the timber frame structure in his Bonny Doon workshop. All pieces were labeled in advance of the barn’s on-site assembly, set for the weekend.
“Being a timber frame, it’s built in this older fashion where the joinery is done on all the timbers and it gets assembled on site,” O’Leary said. “It comes together very quickly with no hardware. It’s done like a big jigsaw puzzle.”
It was important to POST to involve the community in the process, she added.
“We’re recognizing that part of protecting farmland is investing in the infrastructure required to make a farm operation viable,” O’Leary said. “We saw a need on this property with a barn literally falling down, and we’re taking the opportunity to rebuild it to its original footprint and historic characteristics.”
Over the weekend, volunteers put up the main posts and beams. There’s still quite a bit of work left, Boies said on Tuesday, but the new space should be completed before the rainy season begins. All told, it will retain the same 4,000-square-foot footprint as its predecessor and have an anticipated lifespan of up to 300 years.
“The barn raising this weekend felt a little surreal to me,” Boies said. “I felt a little speechless at the end of it. The amount of positive energy that went into creating that building was unbelievable.”
Boies had been using the old barn minimally, as it was getting to a point where it wasn’t safe to use. She says the prospect of having a structure that’s just as beautiful but far more functional opens up possibilities that are still hard to wrap her head around.
“The event in and of itself, the structure, and what it will all mean for me and for many years to come is pretty amazing,” Boies said.
O’Leary said she’s talked to locals about the plans for the barn and has been met with enthusiasm.
“A lot of community members seemed quite pleased that it was getting rebuilt in that fashion,” O’Leary said. “These people have grown up their whole lives with that barn. It’s a landmark and an important structure on that farm in terms of it being a functional, operational space.”