In December, Jan and I and some other friends went to John and Victoria Jungwirth’s, along the Mulligan River and Mulligan Escarpment, for a traditional barn raising party. (This is also where I went last winter to learn about rabbit snaring.) In the old days, families would come from miles away and have a big party to help another family build their house, barn or shop. Timber framing was the old building technique dating back to medieval times using hand cut timbers and pegs. Mostly the timbers are joined together with mortices, tenons and various notches.
To get to John and Victoria’s house, we had to walk a mile on their packed snowmobile trail through a black spruce forest. This was to be a big day for John. He had been planning and preparing to build his shop for 20 years. During that time, he had cut the timbers, squared what needed to be squared, cut the notches, and numbered the logs in particular categories. John cut his logs and timbers with hand tools, probably using the same kinds as they did in the medieval days: chisels, axes and hand drills. One of my jobs was unburying the timbers from 4 feet of snow. Another one of my jobs was knocking the snow off a tree with a 15-foot pole so the snow would not fall on us while we were building. We assembled the timbers as one piece and raised the frame. I hung onto a rope that was connected to the frame in case it began falling backwards. It took 8 of us to lift the frames. After all the wall frames were up, we spent some time fine tuning the pegs and notches. At the end of the day, we had a large fancy dinner that Victoria made us and a sauna. We spent the night, ate a huge breakfast and went back to work putting up the rafters and ceiling beams. John was a happy man after that weekend.