Building The Goose Palace
The man who is most likely to ruin the place he loves is exactly the man who loves it with a reason. The man who will improve the place is the man who loves it without a reason.
— GK Chesterton
In May I announced I was going to timber frame a 12x16 barn, though I did not know how to timber frame, or have much in the way of carpentry experience at all. I owned a circular saw, but before now had mostly used it for brush removal (it performs well at this). I called it the Goose Palace, because it was to be a magnificent home for birds. It is now almost complete.
If follow me on Twitter or Instagram I am sure you have seen dozens of pictures. If not, here are just a few.
An aside, though I think of this often: It is interesting to me to have my son turn 2-years old as I build this. I don’t know how much he will remember, but he must assume that it is the most normal thing in the world, to break from work for a couple months and then use all your spare time to build something. Isn’t that how everything is built? For him it’s true. Nothing could be more typical than this.
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Despite having designed my house, this small barn is the first building that feels thought out from start to finish. Since I wasn’t offloading any of the work to a contractor, even splitting the foundation stones, I necessarily concerned myself with every detail. (That’s not to say I didn’t have help. I mentioned in Start with Creation that working in my driveway lead to coming across a mentor of sorts.) Though it is a very simple building, this level of attention required, that I am responsible for every saw cut and shingle and nail—and every mistake—makes it more beautiful in my eyes, because it is considered more carefully. It is endearing to me even for its flaws. Like my two year old child, I grow with it, have a relationship with it.
The goose palace will be more beautiful still, once there are a few climbing roses to stand out against its austere black. And I have purchased a single old granite step to place in front, when it’s finished. Hopefully the effect of these final touches is quite good, and provides it a fitting elegance.
The siding is pine that I carbonized, a process sometimes called shou sugi ban after the Japanese term for it. Adding a carbon layer colors it—and it pairs perfectly with Benjamin Moore historic black, which is what I’ve used for the windows and window trim—but also makes it more water, rot, and insect resistant. I made a video of the process and posted it on Youtube.
What About the Geese?
They died. They died to a 5k! Runners and walkers streamed past my house one day, and they walked off with them. Lots of people took photos, thinking it funny and strange that some young wild geese (they were too young to look like Toulouse geese yet) joined the race. Hours later, when the race ended and they were mulling about a checkpoint almost a mile away, no one knew where to take them. There was a severe drought in New Hampshire, so it was unlikely they survived even a night in the wilderness.
So the Goose Palace will have no geese, this year. My chickens, about 25, will be moved in soon. They currently reside in a tiny coop and a flophouse.
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The final cost, including all timbers, siding, floors, roofing, and nails, comes to $5,036.72 (though I am probably forgetting a few nails, and this includes no tools, and I need a few door components). All wood used was pine from the local sawmill, except the cedar shingle roof. I used no plywood or OSB or glue products at all, only timbers, wood pegs, nails, and a few screws. Substack subscriptions covered the price of this project, so if you are a paying subscriber I thank you for your contribution to this art, or the next one.
Looks great Simon!
It looks like your foundation is just some granite blocks lying on a gravel pad? Are your sills anchored to those blocks? Having not gone below the frost line, are you concerned about frost heave?
Well done on the build, Simon. And thank you for a break from most of the grim news flooding my inbox. As a father myself, always love seeing the joy of other small people attendant on hanging around projects like this.