Several times a year, I can be found out at the Hutmacher Farm in Dunn County, North Dakota. Since 2006, this farmstead has been under the care of Preservation North Dakota, and in recent years service-learning students from North Dakota State University have been adding sweat equity to the preservation project. While we’ve had a variety of volunteers over the years from many states (Oklahoma, Washington, Louisiana, Georgia, and many more), the majority of our volunteers are from NDSU. Wherever they come from, we’re just glad they’ve arrived!
Before we get to work, we have an orientation to the place. Here Dr. Tom Isern takes the volunteers on a cemetery walk to introduce them to the Hutmacher family. In the distance, straight up from the fencepost, the original Hutmacher homestead ruins are barely visible.
Since the morning was still chilly, the orientation continued inside the protective walls of the Hutmacher granary, one of five buildings still extant on the farm site. Here’s a perfect photo to show the construction of the roof interior. A single ridgepole runs the length of the building, north to south. Laid up on top of the ridgepole are rafters, all of which rest upon rock and mud walls, built more than a foot thick. Across the rafters, past volunteers laid brush–sometimes plum but only once did we use bullberry (ouch!)–carefully pushing the brush tight to weave a rooftop. On top of the brush are layers of flax, mud, and a sprinkling of scoria. The rafter and wires hanging horizontally were used by the Hutmacher family to string up hams and sausage.
Our weekend goal was to build up the wall of the lean-to chicken house, attached to the garage, and begin throwing on rafters.
Here you can see the chicken-house wall, which last summer had to be taken down a few rows. Too much deterioration in the wall meant it had to be reconstructed, as shown here. A labor of love with mud mixed and spread by hand.
Just like the Hutmacher family, we have to haul in our own water for all purposes.
All this hard work in the windy outdoors makes for some hearty appetites.
From our picnic spot inside the granary, we have a gorgeous view of western North Dakota landscape.
The weather was kinder our second day out. Smiles more prevalent, short sleeves and pulled-down hoods the order of the day.
Such a beautiful sight. The east wall (facing the viewer) and the north wall have been built up to specs, and we’ve begun to lay the rafters across the lean-to. The chicken house relied on the east wall of the garage for support, although in later years this lean-to place was used to store coal. A previous work party labored to dig out the coal remains.
The stunning view from the interior of the chicken house, standing in the doorway and looking north. Although there’s still plenty of work to do next time, our weekend mission is a success.