Monday, 28 February 2011

The Barn

Location of the barn.
The barn is a massive structure, with a 360 sq.m. footprint (c. 23x16m), and around 12m high at the highest point, giving it a rather large volume. As described earlier, it has undergone considerable extension, starting with a relatively small rectangular footprint, with stone construction for the lower 3m, and the remaining as half-timbered, much as it is today.

This modest barn was extending into an irregular polygon (see the red elements in the plans below) around 1922 when the main hall was extended, incorporating a ground floor cellar. The odd-shaped footprint seemed to be on account of the plot of land being irregular, and the little corner that would have made it square falling on a neighbour's plot of land.
Extension floor plan, August 1922.
Extension elevation and sections, August 1922.

By 1947, this was resolved, and the building was squared with another extension, enlarging the cellar at the same time. The plans we have from this time illustrate what it must have looked like back then rather well (see the elevations at the bottom of the image below), and show a much more complex roof surface than exists today.
Extension proposal, May 1947.
 At this point in time, the southern side of the barn (or the left side, when looking at the Hintere Ansicht (Ost), at the lower left of the image above) was adjoined by a neighbours barn, unfortunately not shown in these plans. By 1960, this adjoining barn was razed, and a "modern" extension built onto the southern side housing stalls and a "feeding hall".

Extension proposal, April 1960

At some point in time, the roof on the main barn was simplified into the two surfaces it currently has, but we have no records of when that was done, but presumably between 1947 and 1960.

The barn viewed from the east, January 2011.

Lots of ladders in the main hall.
The main building currently comprises of a central hall, to the north of which are two “cellars” (one was not marked on the above old plans), which are partially underground owing to the barn being built into a slope. Above this is a large, open volume, currently home to bails of straw, spread across several “floors”, for want of a better word. Some of these floors are made of planks, some are simply round timbers laid between the large beams, allowing air to circulate  below the straw, which essentially provides a surface to walk on. One level is like a room within the barn, with a door at one side, but open on the other, the reason for which is a complete mystery to me, but may represent an upper-level door in the former external wall of the original barn. Several ladders, firmly attached to the structural beams, provide access to these upper levels, and are not a climb for those suffering from even the slightest touch of vertigo.

The stalls in the 1960s extension
The extension on the southern side is simple, being divided into two halves, one with a large door for access, and the other with a smaller door. The former might be described as a feed hall, with hatches providing access to the feeding troughs in the stalls housed in the southern half.

Former line of gable at southern end clearly visible, January 2011.

We have no concrete plans for the barn at this stage. The structure appears sound, though some spot repairs to edges of the roof and the gutters is required. We’d like to replace the asbestos sheeting roof of the extension with something else, but even that will have to wait a couple of years, as it is not currently a risk, as they are not decaying. The cellars could do with some freshening up, and the exposed steel beams of their ceilings treated with a rust preventer, and we’ll dispose of the straw, most likely giving it to someone in the locality whose barn burnt down, and who needs bedding for his horses. The stalls would make a great workshop, as it's bright and airy there, so that might be where some of the old furniture will get restored.

However, the biggest short-term job that needs to be done is satisfying the requirements of fire protection, and new rules that came in a couple of years ago. As the house is almost touching the barn, certain measures (we're not sure what yet) have to be taken, but at least the timbers are over a certain dimension threshold, and it appears the filling between the timbers is brick and plaster, and not wattle and daub, which helps. Fire retardant materials or windows may need to be used on the eastern gable of the house to satisfy the rules, which we believe are the remaining outstanding issue for our planning application.
The barns from the front, January 2011.
Of course the brewer in me has all sorts of dreams for the barn, but that’s another story.

I'll post more photos of the interior once the weather brightens up.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

The Schweinestall

Location of Schweinestall.

Let's begin a tour of the outbuildings. On the map to the right, is a small building (highlighted green), approximately 6m x 6m, marked as "Schu", just to the north of the house. This is the former Schweinestall, or pig sty, with a tobacco drying house, built around 1924, and which has lain unused for quite some years.

From the ground plan in 1922, it looks like there was an earlier building, not so deep (perhaps measuring 6 x 3 metres), already here, so perhaps this was a major extension and the blue shading on the cross section in the building plans from 1924 (below) indicates some earlier, reused structure.

Building plans from January, 1924.
The south facade (see photo below) isn't constructed exactly as planned, but I think it's prettier. In fact, even though it's more recent than the house (by at least 80 years), and the materials used were cheap and not the best quality, it has a nice rustic charm.

The chimney indicated on the plans no longer goes out the roof, but it is still present inside.

South facade of Schweinestall, February, 2011.

Lower level.
The lower door leads to the former pig sty, which was more recently used for chickens. There's not much natural light at this level. The windows at the south are small, and there's only one low window on the north, just above ground level, as it's built into the slope behind the house. On the left are concrete walls behind which can be subdivided into a number of stalls. The right is a wood and chickenwire construction. Each side of the walkway has two wooden posts supporting the large beams above.

The door at the top leads into a former tobacco drying house. Instead of getting a ladder every time we want to get into it, it's easier to walk around the back where you can duck into an opening in the wall (see photo below). The neighbourhood kids like to play in here, apparently, but so does the Marder.

Schweinestall viewed from the north.
The top level is open and roomy, and as befits a drying house, there's plenty of air moving through. We've applied to change the use of this building, with the idea of turning it into a work room/home office. The architect suggested putting a toilet and running water into the lower level which is a good idea, giving further options for the future. The top level door, seen below from the inside, would be turned into a window, as would the rear entrance, with access to the top level being provided by a small staircase within. This is probably still not enough for light, so a roof window is proposed on the eastern roof surface. Whether we do this conversion in the next year is dependent on how the main house work goes, and if not, a home office can go into the top attic level of the house instead.

Top level, February, 2011.
From the side, it can be seen how the current extension to the house makes for a bit of a tight fit, so once this is removed it will open up the back. The photo below also shows the degree of slope of the garden immediately behind the house, with a small retaining wall immediately behind the extension. Ultimately, we'd like to level this area with a retaining wall further back, to form a terrace with easy access to the kitchen.

Schweinestall viewed from the east, February, 2011.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Images from the Past.

Having had a look at how the property and surrounding buildings developed from 1922 to the present, as seen from above, here's a quick look at what the buildings looked like in the past, thanks to some photos from the family that built and lived in the house till recently.

The Bauernhaus, date unknown.

The first photo is from an unknown date. We were told it could be the 50's, based on who the man is thought to be, but the style of dress make us think perhaps the 1930s. If anyone looking at this is an expert on historic German farmer clothing styles, let me know!

The thing I like about this image, apart from the pose and the young boy with a cheeky grin sitting behind the man, is it really shows that this was a working farmhouse. Manure and straw has been cleaned out of the stalls on either side of the house. There was a pump right outside the front door, and indeed, from other photos of the village, pumps dotted the area. We know that the water table is high in these surrounds (the cellar is proof of that), and I wonder if a hand pump could be reinstated.

The window boxes are a nice feature, and we still have one, or at least one in the same style, hanging on one of the outbuildings that we'll look at in a later post. To the right of the window just above the main door is a tube for inserting flags. We know because it's still there.
The Bauernhaus, October 2010

What is sad, is the original door frame of red sandstone, interestingly painted white back then, is most likely gone, and not hidden behind the rather ugly tiles that surround the main door now. The current door is wider than its sister opening to the right, while in the old photo, they look about the same, so the chances of removing those tiles to expose a sandstone frame look slim.

I just realised, that the half-doors on the stalls in the top photo are very likely the same ones there today!

Yellow buildings visible in photo.
The other photo (and unfortunately it's a photo I took today of a photo, but I will try to get it again for a scan), doesn't show the house, but dominating the left of the frame is the gable end of a neighbouring house that no longer exists, but which is most probably the building that was still extant on the mid-left of the maps from 1960. That house was certainly knocked down soon after 1960 to build a town hall, which was also knocked down in 2009 or 2010 to make way for a much larger, and very modern-looking town hall, thankfully a little further away from our house.

What is certain is the identity of the buildings in the background, and the small building to the right, presenting the gable end. This is the small building that was knocked down in 1960, and behind it is the neighbours barn, which adjoined our barn until the same year, when it was bought and demolished to build lean-to stalls (see the yellow-shaded buildings in the map to the right). The left hand gable of that former barn is now part of the gable end of our barn, which has since increased slightly in height during the various extension phases.

Neighbouring buildings, date unknown.
The view now, February 2011.
Like most of the photos we've seen of the village, this illustrates the community spirit of villages at the time, as the men of the neighbourhood went off to cut trees (or so we were told). It also shows the former access to the house, which is now the car park (still under construction) for the new town hall.

Any experts care to suggest a year for that tractor?

Sunday, 13 February 2011

The Lay of the Land

Before taking a closer look at the outbuildings, I thought it'd be useful to set the scene with a look of how the complex has developed over the past 100 years (well, about 90) based on plans we were given by the previous owners.

Lageplan from February, 1922.
In 1922, the then owner had applied to extend the barn (the extension marked in red on the plan to the right shows the planned extension to the barn, 179), so we have a general plan of the lands immediately surrounding the house from the planning application. Those plots of land and buildings marked as 179 were part of the property (I've shaded out everything else to make it clearer). Bearing in mind that this was a working farm, it seems small, but we know there were other land holdings nearby, and indeed these were still part of the overall property till we bought the house and immediate surrounds. The corridor marked by the two parallel lines at the bottom of the plan is a small stream. The building, marked 180, was another barn owned by the neighbour. Access to the house and the barns was via a small way, just leading left of the neighbour's barn. It's also interesting to note the little extension at the back of the main house. The current extension is wider than this, but it shows that there was something there before. In fact, this was a bake house, something the previous owner had mentioned, but we hadn't realised how important a part of the house this was till we saw another plan from 1937 that shows the house still divided into two separate halves (note no doors between the halves, and still two sets of stairs, one of which is now gone), and a Backkueche in one.

Floor plan of 1st floor, March 1937.

Lageplan from March, 1937.
It's odd that the ground plan in 1937, shown below, doesn't include the barn extension that was planned in 1922, but we know from later plans that it was most certainly extended, but we'll take a look at the development of the barn in another post. Perhaps plans were not being updated during the war years. The 1937 plan we have was for other works on the main house (a new chimney, and we think new windows on the eastern gable), so the extent of the barn was not essential to the planning.

Lageplan from March, 1960.
By 1960, the property boundaries had simplified considerably, between exchanges of land and a general straightening of boundaries, presumably as the lands around this area were, and indeed still are, part of a Flurbereinigungsgebiet - a rural land consolidation area where slivers of land are exchanged to simplify borders. We have a ground plan because there was yet another application to extend the barn. This time, the adjoining barn of the neighbour (shaded in yellow), and the accompanying plot of land on which it sat, was bought, and the older barn demolished to build an extension for stalls to the barn, which by this time has already been considerably extended. We don't know what the smaller building to the west, also shaded yellow, was, but it was probably knocked down at the same time. Access to the house at this time was still via the small "Weg". By now, the stream may have been partially covered, as it is today. We don't know when the access road at the back of the property dates from, as it was not shown in any of the earlier plans, but it provides a decent access to the land behind the house.

Lageplan from December, 2010.
Not much has changed to the boundaries since then, but the current plan shows the extent of the barn as it is today, more or less three times the size of the original footprint. As a former surveyor, I also have to laugh that the extension to the house (Whs - Wohnhaus) has still not been updated since 1922, as the "new" extension that replaced the former oven is actually twice the width. The biggest change seems to be access, as the former Weg which approached the house at an angle is now a straight road running north-south (and we own part of the paved street).

In total, the plot of land is just short of 3,000 square metres, or about 3/4 of an acre (unless it's an Irish acre). It feels bigger, especially when contemplating cutting the grass.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Introducing the Second Attic Level

Proposed layout for 2nd level attic.
For some reason, we don't have a plan of the current layout of the second attic level, although it's not really needed, as essentially it's a room on each side of the house. On the western side there are two small windows in the gable (the proposed plan to the right is therefore incorrect as it only shows one). The chimney goes through the middle of this room and there's a smoker, of sorts, still present, with greasy streaks down the front of it. The flooring here is in pretty good condition, despite the local Marder (not sure if it's a weasel, pine martin or what, but it's something stoaty) using it as a larder and toilet. Well, it seems to bring pilfered eggs up here, and shits all over the property.

Western room on 2nd level of attic.
Apex on the Western end.
The boards forming boxes were clearly used for storage, but we're not sure what yet. An old electricity cable has been severed, presumably when the supply switched from being overhead cable to underground, not so long ago. The additional beams (which are clearly not original), to the left of the photo above, were likely there to support a pylon that went out through the roof. Just about visible in the background on the right are the next set of steps up to the final level in the apex. It's long and narrow, with a shuttered opening (no glass) at the very tip of the gable. There's not enough room up here to make a proper room, so we plan on opening it up to the floor below, perhaps with a small gallery for a bed or something.

Between this and the eastern room is a half-timbered wattle and daub wall, with one panel removed providing a kind of crawl space. Both sides have stairs up, so it's not exactly essential.

Eastern room on 2nd level of attic.

View towards Eastern gable and barn.
The eastern room is more or less a mirror of the other room. There's a chimney, though without a smoker box, and there's a chance this will be removed completely. The current plan is to open the floor of this room into the proposed bedroom below, leaving half of the floorspace as a gallery. The more I think about it, the less I'm sure why, other than it looking nice. The current proposal includes adding a small spiral staircase out in the hall area of the level below to get up to the gallery, but I'm not sure if it makes sense. We'll see.
The light in here is always nice and warm, probably because the small windows look out onto the roof of the barn, so terracotta light is reflected back in

These rooms will most likely be the last to be completed, although the western room may end up being my home office, depending if we can afford to convert the Schweinestall (pig sty).

Friday, 4 February 2011

Introducing the First Attic Level

Current layout of 2nd floor
Now it's getting interesting. As a farmhouse, the attic levels were certainly used for practical storage, and there's plenty of evidence for this still. However, on the western side there is one room that was a bedroom, probably originally intended as such, as here the windows are relatively large (compared to the eastern gable) and, like the living room below, there are layers and layers of old paint on the walls. This room will remain pretty much as is, including the extremely low ceilings just about 2m high. The partition walls to the north and south, which are original half-timbered, will be opened up somewhat, to let light from the dormer window to the south, and roof window to the north (or at least we have applied to do so). It seems that most people with such low ceilings want to raise the height to modern standards, but we're happy enough to leave this as is, although it may seem a little claustrophobic. It makes sense, as if the ceiling is raised, it has a domino effect on the level above.

Existing bedroom in attic.

Top of the main stairs to 1st attic level.
The two landings/halls on this level continue to reflect the former division of the house into two halves. The current access up leads to a small landing, and a door to a further rustic staircase up the the next level. We plan on opening this up, again for light reasons, but more or less leaving the layout as is. The former hall on the Eastern side is already opened up. Here, it is clear from the floorboards where the former staircase from the level below originally came up. To the North of this hall, the second set of stairs to the next level up also remains, and on the northern side, the extension housing the current bathroom extends out through a hole in the original roof trusses. Until recently, a smoking cabinet was here(I almost kept it), as evidenced now by sooty stains on the woodwork and walls, and a metal plate on the ceiling to protect it. The plan here is to remove the stairs up to the next level, reintroduce a partition, and site the new bathroom in the northern half, with a decent sized window in a dormer gable construction (if permitted). To maintain access up to the next level on this side, a smaller, perhaps spiral staircase will be inserted in the southern end of the hall.

Former hallway, proposed site for new bathroom.

Door to old grain store.
The remaining two rooms on the eastern side are dark and full of character. Here, nothing has been touched for a long time, and the timbers and clay-based plaster are still exposed (see photo below). Three small windows look out onto the barn, and a fourth one is hidden behind an original partition wall to the south. This, and one of the others, no longer let in light, as the gable was clad in corrugated iron(?) sheets some time ago, leaving only two of the windows functioning. One of the window frames look original, and we'd like to keep that and reuse it elsewhere in the house. The large box (and it is pretty large, as it could not be taken down stairs when clearing out the house) is a flour box, divided into two compartments, one for wheat flour and the other for rye flour. There's still some in it. The smaller room to the north was a grain store. It's paved with clay tiles, just about visible through the door in the picture to the right, though not in a great state of repair. The plan here is to turn this into a bedroom, open the wattle and daub panels between the rooms and, like the bedroom on the other end of the house, remove the partition to the South to allow light in from the proposed dormer window. I would very much like to restore the tiles in some way, and they will probably have to be removed and reset in lime-based cement (I'm still learning the terms!). The major proposed change here is to partially open up the ceiling to form a gallery with the next level up. It's an idea we are applying for, but have yet to fully decide upon.