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What's all the hoopla about? OH, LOOK! A new Hoop Building at Coulter Farms!

Posted 11/28/2018 2:50pm by Kinley Coulter.

     One of our most trying challenges here at the farm is making tough decisions.  We find ourselves between a rock and a hard place and end up paralyzed by indecision.  Can’t pull the trigger… but can’t NOT pull the trigger.  

     Take, for example, an issue that has been being bandied about here for the last several years… a significant shortage of animal housing and dry hay storage space.  A simple solution would be to build a 10,000 square foot building and put our lamb flock in half of it and put hay in the other half.  Piece of Cake!  Problem Solved!  
     Oh… wait… an agricultural building like that is going to cost $10/square foot… it turns out that the $100,000 is both the rock AND the hard place.  
     So, the sheep need a warm, comfortable place to have their lambs AND the hay that sits out in the weather gets badly degraded.  Contrary to what some might believe, direct marketing organic dairy products and meat does not produce abundant wheel-barrow loads of pesky cash that we can’t figure out what to do with.  Well, we scratched around for all of the loose change in all of the farm vehicles, and dug around in the nooks and crannies that might accumulate a few crumpled dollar bills, and came up with about $50,000 to spend on a building (not too bad for a little scratching and digging :)  ).  Half the money what?  I’ve got it!  Just build HALF of a 10,000 square foot building...... and live with precious organic hay rotting in the weather OR live with ewes lambing out in the weather?  Sorry.  Neither option is acceptable!  Hmmm…. think, think, think.
     Eureka!  Why pay a bunch of expensive professional builders to put up a building and double the cost of it… we’ll just build it ourselves with free family labor and get a half priced building.  Problem solved.  So, we found a $50,000 hoop building kit and set to work.  
     First challenge?  Find a level spot to accommodate a 65’ x 180’ building.  No problem… umm, small problem… Juniata County, PA has a total of, like,  ten level acres and none of them are on our farm.  So the foundation gets dug deep into the ground on one end and towers, precariously, 10’ above ground on the other end.  This was accomplished with our skid loader’s backhoe and nine semi loads of concrete barriers and blocks.  Piece of cake!
      Another challenge pops up almost immediately.  A big electrical line runs over this proposed building and will need to be moved…how could we have not noticed that!   Sigh, call the electric utility folks.  $6,000… to move a few electrical poles?  
     Next challenge?  The steel hoop trusses weren’t too hard to assemble… but they needed to be lifted with equipment that could reach 40’ high.
 Sigh… $3,000 rental for a telehandler for 6 weeks.  We could have just gotten it for a week, but between rain and mud and chores and farm duties, we spent that long getting the building foundation and frame up.  

       Fourth challenge?  Now we needed a 40’ man-lift to get the trusses all tied together with a bewildering array of purlins and cables….$2,200 rental bill.  An astute business mind might be perceiving, by now, that our $50,000 building kit is not going to be a $50,000 building when it’s done.  It turns out the concrete barriers weren’t free and farm labor isn’t really free, either.  Oh well… at least we’re having fun!
      Fifth challenge?  Building in late fall weather.  All through October and November, we contended with rain and mud, wind and cold....Having erected the frame of the building, all we need is two days without wind and rain to put the enormous cover over the hoop building.  How long could you possibly have to wait for that?  Well, 10 days and counting, so far… while the man-lift sits dormant at $70/day.   As I write this, we are in our third day of gusty winds (38 mph, today)… with rain promised for the weekend.  Sigh… I’m starting to consider the possibility that those expensive builders might be earning every one of the big bucks they charge.  
     Are any of you like me?  It seems that everyone else’s job is easy and overpaid, except for mine… that is, until I try to DO their job.  So, to all of you offended builders… I’m sorry for questioning the value of your work.  But, if those builders were honest, they would probably think our meat and dairy products are over-priced, too.  It turns out, just about everyone does difficult work, works very hard at it and, at best, gets fairly compensated for it.  The world is not nearly as inequitable as it seems once you’ve walked a mile in other people’s moccasins.  
     We are highly resolved to have this building full of sheep and bales by the next email… stay tuned… and whatever you do, keep supporting this escapade with your food dollars.  Things would get pretty grim in a hurry without our faithful customers.