While I was south on Virginia building Pippin Hill–two of our New England crews under the extraordinarily capable leadership of Lucas Robertson and assisted by David Hamilton–simultaneously built the second largest building we have ever put up during one of the worst Boston winters ever had. The first day delivery of two tractor trailers
was an exercise in mud in the midst of snow piled over 20′ high from clearing out the needed space. The slab could not be poured so many of the interior posts were suspended in air for months thanks to the 36′ girders fulfilling more than their intended function. In spite of the savage elements and interminable 150 mile weekly commutes–the crews were able to build this magnificent grocery store that features hydroponically year round grown vegetables and a deli incorporating what you pick on site…. Water Fresh Farm <http://www.waterfreshfarm.com/our_barn.html>
The building also features all the finishes using Vermont Natural Coatings <http://www.vermontnaturalcoatings.com/> which greatly enhances its green quality with no VOC’s used on the siding at all.
On a more personal note–this job represented a quantum existential leap for me in my relationship with Geobarns. Prior to this build–it would have been unthinkable for me to be off site during such an enormous, commercial and high profile project–but the convergence of Pippin Hill with Hopkinton in spite of our best laid plans to the contrary forced me to let go of on site managing this project and as a consequence learn to trust the capable leadership and competence of Lucas in particular and the crews in general. It is difficult for me to adequately convey my gratitude not just for their wonderful accomplishment–but moreover for the needed changes this has brought to our little company and to me personally. This building is a testimonial to the love and devotion of a group of men living and working on site in winter conditions and producing a work of art that has drawn in this community. The client and I have shared more than few tears at the miracle of seeing this dream come to fruition–something as near and dear to his heart as to mine. Our hearts have overflowed with gratitude…and in fact still do.
Today Jorge and Juan and I all got started late…after ruining a cup of coffee with some half and half definitely past its prime…
We decided to router all the deck boards to give them a more defined appearance–and installed the EMT balusters into the railing frames and then routered some nice 2×8′s to create the caps over the uprights. This is something we do all the time at low cost for something that is often quite expensive…but today there was a different route for the router…in that the clients were enthusiastically engaged in the work of building their home–and despite a lack of experience they persisted in their efforts and succeeded in being quite helpful.
They cooked me dinner last night and I cooked them breakfast–with good coffee the second time around–and our meals were an opportunity to express portions of our lives and profound opinions on numerous subjects…while being simultaneously knit together in the common bond of creating their home. I realize just reflecting on this how fortunate I am to develop so many lasting friendships while building–all over the country actually–which is also equally true for many of the crews who stay on site all over the U.S. It is such a privilege to live in someone’s home or at the very least on their property and have regular access to showers, meals and–you guessed it–coffee. All of this interaction generates an enormous amount of conversation–not just about the project at hand but our work, the state of the union, current events, marriage and relationships, food, politics and faith.
Yesterday and today I got to work with two men I essentially have barely met–and as we hugged and said goodbye this afternoon we all commented on how special it was to be a part of this together….building a relationship in the context of building this Geobarn…with the latter a vehicle impelling the former. We have connected over something that actually matters to all of us–which is their home as a place that represents many of their dreams and longings and connection to the creation/outdoors–and the building is also evolving as they become more and more engaged in it and see more and more possibilities as to how it will finish out, how it is already transitioning from indoors to outdoors, how it looks as if it has been here a while and they already envision their landscapes and plantings.
They expressed several times that they are enthralled to be a part of building their house–and how empty a process it would be to simply pay money and show up to get the keys….and in recognizing and acting on these convictions they are making this place into their home…their space, their dwelling, their resting place–right now and for years to come.
We did not get that much vertical construction done–but a lot got built that wasn’t on the drawings–as an unexpected gift of blessing we hadn’t planned for on any plans.
There is no question this is one of the most difficult and challenging jobs we have done–and correspondingly–one of the most creative and client driven designs ever realized. Of course we had no winter until the week we started–and while the ground was not its normal permafrost–it was muddy, filled with ledge, steep, fraught with abundant freshets, and inaccessible for a few months due to Irene from any number of direction. In spite of all that–we were eager to have work for the winter and the clients were game–so here we are three/four months later finishing up the shell on a complicated project that ties three separate buildings together in a house that is marvelously both spacious and diminutive at the same time…ensconced into the steep hill from which it provides spectacular views.
The crew of Andrew and Justin and Morgan and Caleb has done a wonderful job flexing with a number of unpredictable challenges–including some design problems on our part–which in the end were not only rectified but actually improved. The guys have worked in snow and mud and rain and have only been kept from the site when the roads were so muddy that only foot traffic had any hope of getting there. Bethel Mills also deserves real kudos for drivers who negotiated dirt and ice to provide material–have no idea how they pulled it off but they did.
We almost have the shell wrapped up and will be assisting the client with the interior–which will provide some real ownership of the entire process.
Geobarns’ Maine-based crew has begun work on a barn in Bridgewater. Designed as a recreational addition to an historic mountaintop house, the team has had to contend with early-onset mud season (EOMS).
The foundation for the project, by our friend Greg Blanchard, seemed to hit water in every conceivable form. An unknown waterline, from an unknown historic well, subsurface drainage from the surrounding mountainside… we just arrived on site every day to a new surprise. Extremely diligent work has established a workable foundation, and after a brief delay for some leveling, the Maine Men (Matthew, David and Lee) have made quick work of setting the building’s posts. By press time, much of the building’s floor system will be installed, then on to the upper beam.