Sunday, December 6, 2009

Appeasing the Nisse

We've been so consumed with thinking about how much we wanted to buy this farm- needed to buy it, if we were going to be able to someday continue farming. So many times the deal seemed just impossible. We kept trying to give up on this place and find somewhere else, anywhere else, but this farm kept calling to us, and we both just had a strong feeling about it being The Place. Even when we'd given up on it completely, we still thought of it as ours.

I'm only a slightly superstitious person, but I'm beginning to suspect that there is a spirit that guards our farm, and that it knew that the farm, and the barn in particular, really needed new owners- ones who would love it, and care for it. Maybe the spirit spotted us the first day we walked around on the property. Maybe it saw us keep coming back, over and over, trying to figure out how to make it all work out and thought "Hah! These two will put everything they have into keeping this place going."

Most of the farmers who settled in Clatsop County were Scandinavian, or from Finland, which is not quite Scandinavian but close. So I suspect that what we have here is a nisse (or tomte, depending on where you come from) - a household spirit type of creature responsible for the care and prosperity of a farm. They seem to have a fair amount of potential for mischief, but if properly respected can actually help a farmer get quite a lot of work done. However, if our nisse was residing in the barn, as they seem inclined to do, he had to be pretty damn concerned about whether or not he'd have a home after this winter.

Just about a week ago, Tim and his crew began stripping off shingles on one side of the barn roof. It was right at the end of a wretched two weeks of pouring rain and wind that had soaked and pummeled the North Coast into a soggy mess. But that Monday morning it began to clear, and all this week it has been sunny- cold and frosty, but clear.

The roof was stripped off in a day. Tim and his guys told us that when they were pulling the old shingles off, in places it was almost like scraping compost off the roof, the shingles were that decomposed. It looks like this was basically the original roof that had just been patched and repaired over the years, but never fully replaced. We aren't quite sure when the barn was built, but people who grew up around here remember it being here in the thirties, so that's seventy years old at least.

With half the roof off, the barn began to dry out, and the swollen floor boards of the hay loft settled back down. It was an amazing experience to climb up into the hay loft early Wednesday morning just after dawn and stand there looking out through the skip sheathing at the cold, clear sky. I'm happy to have seen it, and hope Packy can see what it looks like when the other side of the roof is stripped off, (he had to leave the farm in the dark at around 4am that morning to get to the bakery) but then I hope we never have to see it again in our lifetime.

Later that day they began to nail on the gorgeous new cedar shingles. I still can't believe how fast it went, at least the first half of the side.

The top part where the roof curves in the tricky bit- I'm sorry I wasn't here to see them manage it, although perhaps it's better that I didn't see it, it would have been like watching the high wire act at the circus. Very nerve wracking for those of us on the ground- I can't imagine what it is like looking at it from up there.

Another interesting discovery was that the nails that held the skip sheathing to the rafters were mostly rusted away, and they had to re-nail them all to hold the roof together. I keep wondering- what was holding the barn together during this last big storm?? I still can't figure it out. Sheer willpower on the part of our nisse, perhaps. He must be exhausted, and ready to settle down to a nice rest in a finally dry, cozy barn. If he can just hold off the rain for another week, all will be well.

Hopefully he will adapt and protect greenhouses as well, as Packy and our good friend Joe plan to dismantle the greenhouse at the old farm in Seaside this week in preparation for moving it to it's new home.

I'm sure the nisse is already happier, but just in case he's still a bit cranky at getting so wet this year, we'll make sure to leave him the traditional bowl of porridge (don't forget the butter on top) in the barn on Christmas day.

Hey, we need all the help we can get.

This week- the south side gets its turn...


  1. Dosen't it make you wonder how they curved the roof beams? Very cool!

  2. Wonderful post, great photos. I absolutely love them. I can see why this place called to you so deeply, and I'm happy for you that you finally got it.

  3. make sure your nisse get his bowl of christmas porridge . if you don't , the farm might fail but at the very least , a maiden of the household will have to dance with the nisse and may not survive the waltz