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Building a pole barn house – modern homesteading – mother earth news

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Once the roof was up, the walls, windows and other subdivisions were put together. This was an exciting process, because I never knew how a partition would look until the materials and feelings were all on hand. We operated on the belief that things seem to happen when they’re supposed to, and the house grew accordingly.

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We started with the idea that the building would have minimal wall framing with six-mil plastic stretched on both sides. What we ended up with is used 4-by-4 framing in the living room and stretched plastic panels upstairs and in areas we weren’t quite sure of. The wooden sections are filled in with a single thickness of board-and-batting cypress. Doors are courtesy of some friends who came along and gave them to us, and the windows come from an old school and a fraternity house that was demolished on a nearby campus.

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This flexibility with which we altered our house as we went along may be the chief advantage of pole construction: When your walls are non-load bearing, you’re free to change any of them at any time. And that’s a significant freedom, because it givesВ  you a home you can fit into emotionally . . . whatever changes come about in your life.

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Sleeping LoftsOur final big interior project was the building of two sleeping lofts, accessible by ladders, above the level we use as a family room and children’s play area. The girls love their snug nest, which they feel is just like the one in the storybook Heidi. Our own “bedroom,” on the southeast corner of the house, is about 8-by-8 inchesВ with approximately 3 1/2 feet of clearance at the head of the bed and a ceiling that slopes to a height of around two feet over the foot. It’s cozy -almost like an animal’s den- and Renee and I both find ourselves emotionally attached to the space.

Heat and LightWe live quite comfortably year round in our lodge, partly because of our home’s low air inlets and high exhaust vents, installed according to the principles of air circulation as described by Ken Kern. We also make use of south-facing glass areas which are shaded in summer by deciduous trees but admit winter’s warm sunlight to keep the building’s interior cozy and cheerful.

The traditional wood house of North Florida – built over 100 years ago as slave quarters and often still livable today – was originally warmed by a brick fireplace. We like that idea but, in our home, have substituted two wood stoves for the fireplace. One is in the kitchen for cooking and the other (a Franklin) provides the living room with heat and the emotional satisfaction of a winter fire.

Each chilly night we bank up the Franklin heater and lay a fire in the cook stove before turning in. Next morning the air is cold and crisp when I crawl from beneath the electric blanket. But the house doesn’t take long to warm up once the stoves are going, and we didn’t have the flu or even a bad cold all last winter . . . a lot more than most city slickers can say. Even so, the cracks in our walls make it apparent that we’re lucky to live in a climate where there’s only about half an inch of snow every six or seven years.

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