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A Wall becomes a Garage

Our first big build on the farm needed to be the garage. We need a place to store all our tools and growing stockpile of construction supplies and equipment. Plus it felt like a good first major project- big enough to give us a feel for construction work in New Hampshire- the costs, what's available locally, timelines, the labor pool, and the like. Bob got to put his project management skills to work while learning the local context. And not insignificantly, we also wanted to make sure another frost and winter season didn't further damage the little that was left of the original garage.

In all, building this bigger-than-I-had-anticipated 2 car garage took about 6 months, with Bob's brother David managing the day-to-day work and us coming up from Virginia every couple of weeks to lend a hand and write some more checks. In the end, we were able to save the wall that had been built stone-by-stone by Bob's grandfather. We prepared frost walls and poured a new foundation slab, built new walls, added a giant second floor storage space and gambrel-roofed this baby. We added a cement slabbed lean-to on the back side with a metal roof, big enough to house Bob's excavator and other farm toys.

It's large- that's the first thing family and neighbors have remarked about it. In addition to two car bays, there's a workshop area for Bob that holds the potential to become his 2-season above-ground man cave. There's a vast second floor that will eventually serve as storage. In the short term, it might become our campsite when we start construction on the farmhouse.

Being it's so big and so close to the farmhouse, we needed to make some critical design decisions early on, as we want this garage to blend with the eventual farm house. And we only want to paint it once. We'd been debating exterior colors- one day loving a light gray-black windows-white trim exterior look, only the next day to be infatuated with the classic farmhouse white siding-black windows- and warm wood doors vibe. After hemming and hawing and sending untold Pinterest pictures to each other, Bob and I decided to go with the classic white farmhouse. We did want to warm this up a bit and have a slightly modern look so we decided on Pella wood garage and entry way doors. And relief! These look great and are a subtle complement to the variations in color of the stone wall. Phew- glad to have escaped the unbearable frustration of having made an expensive and lasting bad design choice. In spring we'll get the cupola/weathervane on the roof and the carriage door trim on the garage doors and can move on to the next big project: the barn.

A few of our lessons learned thus far:

  1. And I cannot stress this enough: construction during COVID times is expensive. The garage has turned out to be almost a third again as expensive as estimated. With borders closed (an astonishing amount of wood comes from Canada) and everybody home doing projects, wood- especially plywood- was at times in short supply. and so the price went up.

  2. I have the innate ability to pick the most expensive item in whatever category of item we are purchasing. (see: cupola and Pella doors).

  3. You can't undertake a project this big without the support and help from LOTS of family and friends. We are humbled by the help we've gotten- and could not have done without. Bob's brother David is an amazing skilled carpenter who, along with his son Daniel and son-in-law Casey and Bob's tireless son Bobby, got the bulk of the carpentry work done. David's girlfriend Dede served as chauffer and unofficial procurement agent, making endless runs to the hardware store among other helpful tasks. Our neighbors DL and Tony and friend Brian provided technical support, heavy duty equipment, and muscle on more weekends than we can count. One memorable Saturday involved an almost Amish-like barn-raising in which a small crane lifted the pre-made trusses into place. That was the day I learned the importance of coordinated teamwork (and how frigging big this garage was going to be). We are blessed by the hospitality of DL and Trisha, whose home we have crashed and co-opted many a weekend. I could go on... and I have probably forgotten other acts of help and kindness- they have been too many to count. Don't try a project of this size or complexity alone. You will end up a broke, miserable failure.

So winter has come to New Hampshire. Bob, Bobby, and David met their goal of having the garage completed by first snow fall. Which has already fallen. We watched with satisfaction as the recent nor'easter dumped snow on the garage's roof- and saw it slide off the metal roofing like a champ. No more caved-in garages at Prospect Echo Farm!

Now we get to rest- and save up some money (lol). Come spring, we'll start on the next project: the barn.

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