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remodel granary painted red Lon Tonneson
NEW LIFE: With a fresh coat of paint, the remodeled granary is complete.

Learning life lessons while remodeling my old granary

Even at age 65, you can accomplish a lot on your own if you take it slow and steady.

I crossed a big thing off my “five things to do at 65” list this year. I finished converting an old granary on our acreage into a machine shed.

That sounds simple, but the job took me three summers to complete.

It took so long because I’m cheap. I have a hard time hiring carpenters and concrete crews to do jobs what my father and grandfather would have tackled themselves. My dad built a garage himself in the 1960s — with hand tools!

Surely, I could convert a granary, I thought.

Well, I can’t tell you how many times I almost put myself in the hospital while working on the building — like when I fell on a pile of concrete chunks when I was climbing out of the rented skid steer loader; or when I spent several days mixing concrete by hand and didn’t wear a dust mask. I tried to stand on the upwind side. The concrete coating on the tractor is thick and ugly. I wonder what my lungs look like.

Lon Tonnesonforms built under the structure are ready for concrete

GROUND UP: Forms built under the granary structure are ready for concrete. Rehabbing the granary included putting in a new foundation.

I did learn a couple practical things about farmstead projects while working on the granary.

No. 1 is that it would probably would have been cheaper, and safer, to raze the old structure and put up a new building.

No. 2 is that “Bright Red” barn paint from Fleet Farm today isn’t the same “Bright Red” barn paint that store carried years ago. I have a granary with different shades of red on different sides.

There has to be a deeper meaning to both those lessons but I’m not sure what they are.

One of the bigger life lessons gleaned from the project is clear: You can accomplish a lot, even at age 65, if you go slow and work on it one board at a time.

On my list of “six things to do at 66” is replacing our 1930s barn that I have neglected for too many years. It’s sagging and there are holes in the roof. How many summers will this project take me? And, more importantly, will I survive it?

Lon Tonneson1930s barn after snowstorm

NEXT PROJECT: Fixing a 1930s barn, shown here after a snowstorm, is the next project.

Stay tuned.

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