Once the building was all tightened up and I was sure the rafters weren’t gonna move around anymore by me jackin’ up the building or suckin’ it back together, it was time to do the roof. ’Cause it needed it bad.
I got a bunch of local guys to help me. The stripping of the roof was intense–layer after layer of rolled roofing, because the former owners never bothered to ever strip it off. In all the years that the barn had been here, they just kept relayering and relayering and relayering. And they were all rotting. Not only that, but every layer that you pulled up, another colony of bats would fly right out in your face, scare the hell outta you. And it’s high–you’re way up there.
Finally, when we stripped it all off we found the original wooden shake shingles. But they were all rotted too. So it was just endless stripping right down to the rafters–wide open to the sky. Then you had to put plywood on it, and of course the rafters aren’t on 16-inch centers, but more vaguely on 26-inch centers, somethin’ wacky. So every sheet of plywood had to be cut. Now we had the whole thing open to the sky, and I was runnin’ out of money.
Then there was the cupola on top of the roof. That was originally just louvres, for ventilation. When you store hay in a barn, just the natural drying process can cause spontaneous combustion, which is how a lot of barns burn down. That’s what cupolas were originally for. Well, I was puttin’ windows in the thing and then decided to insulate and sheet-rock the whole inside of it and run some electricity, so it literally was like building a tiny, little house on top of the barn. So yeah, that was a real picnic. But it got done.
It got all done, almost. Now it was late October 1997, and I ran out of money and time. My family life in Philadelphia had disintegrated before my very eyes, so I had no place to go, except here. And it was comin’ up on winter fast. It started snowing, and the back side of the barn roof was still wide open to the sky. So I got my little cot together and had a little wood stove set up in the corner, and ran some plastic sheeting around it. There was no indoor plumbing or running water yet. And it was cold. And snowin’. Every morning there was three to four inches of snow on the barn floor.
I’d make coffee and cook on the little stove, and just kept workin’ away.