A New Home For The Holidays
by Carol Ackland
Two and a half years ago when I reluctantly left our home on Cape Cod to follow my husband to the "wilds" of Vermont, I wondered how I'd adapt to this new lifestyle. Fortunately I soon met Ann Kruuse and Karen Winhold and was introduced to the "joys of Icelandics". My riding experience was pretty limited but I was soon spending as much time as I could riding and getting to know the Icelandics and their owners. The next step, naturally, was buying Kraki, and a year later, Pjakkur. Kraki lived with Ann for a long time, and then he and P.J. moved in with Karen and June at the Vermont Icelandic Horse Farm.
In the beginning I was grateful to have them in someone else's barn being cared for by experienced horse people. In time, however, I got tired of driving long distances to ride or just see the horses. (everything in this valley is far apart!) Our ten acre property, mostly hilly and treed, wasn't the perfect setting for a barn and pasture but pretty soon my husband, Bob, and I were figuring out how we could do it. We even had a riding club meeting here last spring so I could drag all the members around the property to get their suggestions.
. I tried to gain support for my idea of having the barn attached to the house but Bob's concerns about odors and flies, and the location of the septic system, prevented that. We picked a spot only 30 yards from the house so even though I do have to put on a coat and boots, it isn't that far.
We found a Country Design catalog of shed and barn plans which we liked, and ordered plans for $45.00 for a "Two 'n' a Half Horse Barn", which simplified that aspect of the project. It's a typical New England style barn with a main building, 22' x 24', and a 10' x 24' attached shed which houses two horse stalls. We could have made these smaller but decided not to, in case we ever sold to "big" horse people. The barn also includes a small animal stall, tack room, and good size hay loft. Because of our heavy snowfall we did extend the shed roof out a bit further than the plans called for so all the snow wouldn't land right outside the stall doors. We also added a regular door next to the big sliding door, also because of the snow.
Our neighbor and friend, Jeff Swann, is a builder, so again in our tradition of keeping things simple, we hired him to do the job. Every step was exciting for me, from clearing the trees to having the frost walls poured. I'd go out with a tape measure and mark off locations of stalls, doors, windows, etc. and try to imagine what it would be like.
As with most building projects, everything seemed to go along quickly at the beginning, then it slowed down and dragged on much longer than we'd planned. (That would be my first lesson in barn building. The second would be that it always ends up costing more than you planned.....just like any other building project.)
The only "glitch" we encountered was when Jeff was digging a trench for the water line he hit ledge and could only go down 2 1/2 feet in one spot. We couldn't blast because our underground propane tank was too close! If we have enough snow cover, and it doesn't get too cold, the line shouldn't freeze. We're keeping our fingers crossed.
At this point there are just a few things left to be done. An order for a stock window got mixed up and it finally arrived yesterday, about six weeks late. And some trim painting will have to wait now until spring. I'm also waiting to have a small heater installed in the tack room. That, and a hand rail on the loft steps, are little extras I figure I deserve at my age!
P.J. and Mr. Nibs, a miniature donkey who joined our family this summer, have been here almost a month. Kraki has been keeping a friend's horse company down in Waitsfield, but we hope to have him "home for the holidays." Having the animals here in our own barn has given me far more pleasure than I'd ever imagined. It's still a treat for me to be able to look out the window and see them there. The time I enjoy the most is when I go out late in the evening to check on them and "talk" to them a bit. My daughter came out recently and found me sitting in the stall with the donkey! She thinks I'm crazy but I have a feeling those of you who are reading this would understand. Some of the novelty may wear off in a few more months when it's bitter cold and it's always snowing, but I don't think we'll regret our decision to build a barn as long as those Icelandics are there to greet us.