The Barn: Before

We have a lot of big ideas here at Better Farm.

Workshops. Artist residencies. Recording studio. Green building. Workshares.

But for these things to happen and be successful, we need to look beyond the walls of the main house on the property. And when we do that, we see something large and looming just across the street: the barn.

Built for animals and hay several decades ago, the barn is in very sound condition; save for a few broken windows, lots of clutter, and a bullet hole in the ceiling. But to turn the barn into a recording studio, lofted sleep space, and workshop (on the second, third, and first floors, respectively), there is much to be done.
  • Clear out the clutter. I'm thinking of having a garage sale in the next few weeks, followed by a nice healthy trip to the dump. Anything that can be salvaged and turned into something else (old shutters into cupboard doors, weird containers into planters, mantel into a bar, wood planks into new flooring for the library), should be assessed and set aside with a cohesive plan.

  • Clear out the hay. After this season, there won't be any more hay stored on the second floor of the barn. And once it's gone, we have to get in there with serious broom activity to ensure the mice and snakes go, too.

  • Patch the holes in the roof. The bullet hole and another mysterious tear need to be plugged ASAP.
  • Insulate the walls and ceiling. There are a few very green ways to do this, including straw bale construction or insulation made from recycled jeans.

  • Drop the ceiling. To create a nice sound space for recording on the second level, we have to drop the vaulted ceilings. Bummer, except that we will use the additional ceiling space for lofted bedspace. We're estimating now that it would be easy to have enough room for eight to 12 musicians and artists to cuddle up.
  • Organize the first floor. Through a series of hooks to hang bikes on, shelves to store things, and zoned out work stations, the plan on the first floor is to accommodate our need for storage and space for a small wood shop, welding studio, pottery wheels, or anything else we dream up.

  • Extend the carport. It would be great to construct an overhang for the darling bus, and extend the carport we already have so two or three vehicles can be stowed away from the elements (and porcupines).

  • Install a firepole. Just imagine the magnificence of cruising downstairs in the barn by firepole instead of a cumbersome ladder. If anyone hears of a firehouse getting rid of an old one, please get in touch with us!

  • Build a bathroom. But we're not talking any old bathroom. Because this would be started from scratch, we can go all the way up-front with a compost toilet, rainwater shower, moss floormat, the works.
  • Go green. And lastly, let's throw some solar panels on the roof so all the energy we'll be using for amplifiers and lights comes direct from the sun. Or, let's run the barn off biodiesel. Or wind. Or anything else we can come up with (suggestions welcome).
We've already hit the ground running, but it's going to take a lot of help to get this place ready for next spring's influx of Better dwellers. So don't be shy! All worker bees are welcome.

Nicole Caldwell

Nicole Caldwell is a self-taught environmentalist, green-living savant and sustainability educator with more than a decade of professional writing experience. She is also the co-founder of Better Farm and president of betterArts. Nicole’s work has been featured in Mother Earth News, Reader’s Digest, Time Out New York, and many other publications. Her first book, Better: The Everyday Art of Sustainable Living, is due out this July through New Society Publishers.