The rebirth from the Barn Fire

Cynthia has written this blog to keep friends informed of events at the farm. Her most recent postings are at the top...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Today was an emotional day for everyone here at Darthia Farm. The kindergarten and first grade of the Peninsula School came for their annual field trip but we weren't so sure there would ever be another. After the fire, we began to get letters from children at the school telling us to "never give up" and that convinced us that we had to keep the farm going. Then they invited us to their school where the K-8 students presented us with their memories of their K-1 fieldtrip.

Today, when they drove up the lane in their school bus, all 50 of them, everything seemed to come together for me. They were excited to see the new horses and sheep and especially the barn with the room set aside for important things like the beautiful book they gave us with all their drawings and stories about the farm.

The barn is now complete. We have 6 new ewes given to us by the Wakeman family in Addison, and our beautiful team of horses who think their new living quarters are just dandy.

We are busy building shelves and putting latches on doors. It's a beautiful barn, and especially beautiful when the animals are in it. I've ordered sleighbells to replace the ones we lost in the fire, paid for by friend who gave me a check at the Common Ground Fair. I don't know how this happened but we came within a few hundred dollars of having donations cover the entire cost of replacing the barn, rebuilding the dye shed, buying the horses.

A neighbor down the road spent two days installing electricity and lighting throughout the barn at no cost to us and the Wednesday Spinners outfitted the new dye shed with dyes and equipment that were lost in the fire.

There is really no way to thank everyone who helped. Some donations were anonymous, some had no addresses, but we appreciate so much the kindness of nearly a thousand people who helped in some way with carpentry, advice, organizing the donations, cooking for crews of workers, contracting, giving us doors, sheep, chickens. This has truly been a wondrous event and clearly shows that if people get together, there is no end to what they can accomplish.

Thank you all for your thoughts, donations, and encouragement.
You can be assured that we will "pass it on."

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Our new barn is 98% completed as of today! Last Saturday we had another work party and laid the hemlock floor in the alley and horse stall, boarded up the rest of the partitions, built a grain bin in the harness/grain room. Then the metal roofers, Holgerson, from Appleton, moved in and completed putting on the metal roof on the barn, sheep loafing area, and dye shed.

Pretty amazing !!

This week we go to the Common Ground Fair in Unity from Thursday through Monday so we won't be working to finish things up but as soon as we get back, we'll get the sheep stall completed and pick up our sheep from Alfie who has donated a ram and some ewes to us. The ram is a full brother to the one we lost in the fire. Bill's planning to bring the horses in the barn TODAY.

Lucky, the lone survivor of the fire, checks out his new digs...

We feel so blessed to have had such an outpouring of help from our friends and even strangers who wanted to pound a nail or two, or bring cookies and soup. As you can see from the photos, all that is left is a door for the sheep hay, a small bit of flooring, a door for the trash room, and some odds and ends. It is the most beautiful barn I have ever seen in my life and we are very grateful to all who made it possible. Please come up and see it any time.

And of course, Bill's new friends, think this is all pretty swell

Monday, September 10, 2012

After months of frustration and waiting, things are moving very fast. Two weeks ago the timber frame company began to put together the frame which they finished last Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, we had the best barn raising ever. On Saturday, over 25 inexperienced and seasoned carpenters decked the hay floors and began putting up the siding. On Sunday, about 23 folks built 90% of the stalls and doors.

It is simply astounding what got done here in two days. We also had lots of food donations and help in the kitchen, which made for some very hearty and delicious meals. We went through over 80 cups of coffee on Saturday, along with four dozen donuts. Mac 'n cheese, chili, pork roast, pasta salads, ham sandwiches, brownies, decadent chocolate cake, filled up the workers and they went back at it until supper time.

Today the roofers are beginning their work and when they've put up a wooden roof, the metal roofers will move in. I think we'll be having horses and sheep in this gorgeous barn by the end of the month. Please come by and check it out.

This coming weekend, we'll be putting down hemlock floors in the alley and in the horse stalls if you're looking for a fun weekend project. Email me at if you're interested in helping out.

As the roof progresses, I'll add pictures. Thanks to everyone who helped out over the weekend and held us in their thoughts. Cynthia, Darthia Farm

Saturday September 1, 2012

I am sitting next to the new barn watching the timbers go up. It is a giant puzzle full of intricate cuts which go together with precision. The timbers are beautiful. I don't usually use that word because it doesn't mean much these days but I can't think of a better word. The joints are perfect, fit together like they are one piece of wood. They have finished with the second floor and are putting in the joists. This afternoon I think I'll see the roof rafters being "flown" up with the large crane.

Next week the roofers will come in, put on a wooden roof and sealant, and then call in the metal roofing guys who come from Appleton. Week after next we will be calling in volunteers to put in floors, walls, interior walls, partitions. And we have a lot of folks lined up to make and bring food to feed the volunteers, but can always use more.

This whole procedure plays like a well choreographed ballet and is fascinating to watch. Please feel welcome to come up any time and take a look, pull up a chair, take some photographs.

After months of feeling lost and scared, I'm beginning to see how it's going to be, with sheep in their stall, horses munching hay from their hayrack, new calves sucking on their bottles, the smell of Bill's lovingly mowed hay for the winter.

If you are interested in helping with carpentry, gofering, or cooking, please contact me at and I'll keep you up-to-date on the progress and when we'll be needing volunteers.

'Lucky' the lone survivor of the fire, keeps his eye on things !

Thanks so much for all your help and concern.

I'll be posting some more pictures very soon.
Monday August 20, 2012

We've had a series of postponements getting the timbers here and erected. They are all cut and should be coming this week. Andy said it would only take about 4 days to put the timbers up.

The dye shed nears completion

They were supposed to begin today but Andy's (the timber frame guy) wife had a freak accident and is in the hospital. She will be all right but required surgery. Although the timbers are not up, we have made some progress. We put up the sign acknowledging all those who helped and are helping in so many ways. My sister, Lisa, and brother-in-law, Don, here from Nova Scotia, helped put the sign up.

and gets its finishing touches !

We also picked up the cupola, which will go on top of the barn at the ridge, and the weathervane, which is a gift from Lisa, Don, and my brother, Bob. The dyeshed is getting outfitted and I expect to do some dyeing the end of the week since my weld is almost mature.

I will post the timbers as they go up but if you're in the area, I suspect you'll see amazing activity at the end of the week.

Thank you to all who are helping us get back on our feet.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Finally - this week there's been a lot of progress. We poured the cement pad for the sheep loafing area, we hired a guy to start work rebuilding my dye shed that was attached to the barn, and, because we moved the barn back 25', we've been able to plant some grass in front of the house. We also built the berm with stone from the old barn's foundation.

Framing up Dye Shed

Next week, August 1, the timber frame company will arrive with cut timbers and begin raising them. We are very excited about it and can now envision the new barn. Our chickens that were raised by the Ellsworth Feed and Seed are out on pasture along with the turkey poults. They seem contented to be out there.

Framing up Dye Shed II

I will post pictures as the rebuild goes along. You are all welcome and encouraged to come up and see the progress. Early in September we will having work parties to board up the barn, make stalls, floors, etc. If you're interested in helping, please email me at and let me know what you are interested in.

Thank you all very much for your donations and kind thoughts.

Almost like a putting green

Pad for the sheep loafing area

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's been a long time since my last entry about the progress of the new barn and for that, I apologize. The timber frame company has been busy cutting the joints for the timbers but we can't see them because they're cutting them in their shop.

Here are some pictures of the timbers and the joints.

But now we have a projected time line.

The approximate start date for the timber frame company to erect the timbers is August 1, with a completion date of August 17. If all goes well, I suspect it will be sooner than that. If you'd like to watch any of it, please feel welcome. Bring a chair and a sandwich and park yourself where you can have a good view of what's happening. I'll update times as it goes along.

After the timbers are up, a crew will frame the roof and sheath in preparation for the metal roof. By August 27, the Holgerson Roof Company will put up a dark green metal roof. We hope to build the sheep loafing area extension before that so that the roofers can just extend the main roof to cover the extension.

The projected date of September 3 is when the volunteers can strap and sheath side walls to prepare for the shiplap siding boards, which have been donated to the farm by MOFGA, harvested from their sustainable woodlot. After that, the decks will be sheathed. That's when we'll need volunteers with hammers and saws, as well has folks with food. We'll have some music going and it will be a regular old barn-raising.

It's going to be a very productive summer here at the farm. In fact, tomorrow morning, we have a neighbor with a bulldozer coming to do some landscaping work. Because we've moved the barn back about 25 feet, we have the ability to reroute the driveway enough to slow down through traffic. We also have a sign coming from Sierra Signs in Hancock that will say – Darthia Farm, rebuilt by human kindness. And truer words have rarely been spoken.

The outpouring of love and support from people all over the country have enabled to plan to rebuild a beautiful post and beam barn that will house our new horses, a flock of sheep donated to us by Alf Wakeman, and some new calves. We'll also have a tack room, a “clean” room for medicines and equipment, stalls for the sheep, stalls for new lambs, four horse stalls, several stalls for calves and pigs. We're very grateful for everyone who has helped and who will be helping with this endeavor. Thank you all.

If you want to participate in carpentry or food preparation, please email me at I will keep this blog up to date as soon as I get more information.

Please come up anytime to see what's happening.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012

No pictures today because Kelpie, our Nova Scotia Duck Toller puppy, chewed the USP cord and the new one won't be here until next week.

We've had a slight delay in the timber frame project because of the heavy rains inland. Apparently, the truck with the last load of timbers, was unable to deliver due to the road conditions from the flooding.

The frame WILL be up by August 1, we are promised. Yesterday, the excavator dug the new waterline to the new site, and through the slab, so that's all ready to go. During August, we will definitely have loads of work for anyone who is interested, boarding up the barn, partitioning stalls, doing interior work, putting down floorboards. If you'd like to help, please email me and I'll let you know what and when. Email address is

Next week we'll get our 3 week old chicks, raised for us by the guys at Ellsworth Feed and Seed. They'll go right outside to pasture. The turkeys that we raised in the horse trailer are going out this morning. We lost a few last night because, for some reason, they all piled into the feeder, and the poults at the bottom suffocated. The horses have been out in the wagon a few times and are proving themselves to be a stellar team.

Hope I'll have pictures soon of the timber frame going up. Stay tuned and thank you.

June 21, 2012

It's been almost a month and a half since the fire and I'm not sure whether it seems like more time or less time since it happened. We are all trying to do what we're supposed to do to keep the farm going but sometimes it's really tough.

The slab is cured and we're just waiting for the timbers to be cut. Below is a diagram of how the cuts are made and how they line up. The finished joint is very strong and beautiful. The barn that burned was made in this fashion and we felt it was important to build the new one with the same joinery.

We're working on the water line and the electric lines so they will be ready when we need them. The horses are getting a good workout pulling a piece of rail up and down the driveway to smooth out the potholes and to familiarize them with Bill and the area. Also, it gives Bill a chance to see how they react to things around them.

Freshly-poured slab

We bought a replacement hay conveyor belt yesterday and will use it when we put hay up in a neighbor's barn. Bill's been bringing in hay and so far we've had enough room to store it in our various outbuildings.

I got kind of a shock today when I was on the porch, looking over the slab, and saw that the large spruce trees at the corner of the driveway were all scorched and dead on the side facing the fire. Every day we notice a new scorch or burn.

Taking care of his new friends

Lucky, the chicken, has been identified as a rooster which creates a dilemma because if we put him with the flock, the other roosters will attack him. For now, Evelisse takes care of him and he follows her everywhere she goes.

The timbers may be going up as soon as a couple of weeks and then we'll start to board it up, put on the roof, make stalls, etc That's when the volunteers will be very important and we'll certainly get the word out via the Ellsworth American, Schoodic Arts for All, and this blog.

Like movie stars

Again, at the risk of seeming redundant, thank you all for your generosity and thoughtfulness.

June 18, 2012

The charred timbers are gone. The smell of burn is only in our minds. And the major disconnect we felt after the fire is dissipating. However, that means that the memories become sharper, clearer, more alarming.

Kids' paintings and letters

Last week we poured the slab for the new barn and the cement is curing in readiness for the timbers, which are being cut.

My old dye shed, attached to the barn, was destroyed by the fire. My dye books, dyes, thermometers, mordants, pots, everything I needed to dye the wool from our sheep. The Wednesday spinners are gathering up materials and supplies to replace what we lost and my son, Tom, is going to rebuild the shed as soon as the timbers have been erected.

After a long road trip - happy to be here !

The biggest news on the farm so far is that our new team of Haflinger draft horses arrived yesterday. They are a perfectly matched team in looks and in temperament, are well trained, beautiful, and today Bill will take them out with the wagon. Our grandchild, Susie, came over yesterday with her friends, and took many pictures while Bill exercised them in the round pen.

Welcome to Darthia Farm !!

Last week the local school held a fundraiser for the barn because all of the kids in the school have been here for field trips and they know the animals. They painted pictures, wrote letters, raised money, and thanked us for all we've done. We thank them. The money they collected went directly to buy our new team. And we brought the chick, Lucky, the lone survivor of the fire, to meet them.

Happy days...

Please take a ride up and see our new horses and watch the progress. Thanks to the generosity of our friends, neighbors, and strangers who want to help, we should have a rebuilt barn stocked with animals by the end of the summer.

May 29, 2012

On the early morning of May 11, the revered old post and beam barn at Darthia Farm, burned to the ground, taking with it our beloved draft horses, all our sheep, two calves, two pigs, and over 60 young fowl. Bill and I tried in vain to get the animals out of the inferno but it was too far along. We believe that most of the animals died of smoke inhalation with the exception of some sheep who were in the outside enclosure.

Before the fire

The community immediately began an incredible outpouring of support in the way of condolences, food, help, and money for a rebuild. To date, we have received almost enough to rebuild the barn in the previous post and beam style and to replace the animals that were lost.

After the Fire

We have offers from builders to help, wood from MOFGA, tools from Johnny's Selected Seeds, proceeds from a book sale at Longfellow Books and Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and myriad donations and letters of support.

A New Beginning

I will be updating this blog at least every week, along with pictures of the progress of the new barn. Bill just bought a team of Haflingers with harness so they will be helping us with this year's haying. The guys at the feed store gave us two pigs that are wallowing happily out back in the sty.

Ivelisse with Lucky at school

We all went through a horrific night but we are climbing out and looking forward, thanks to the fabulous community in which we live. Thank you all from our hearts.