Monday, June 20, 2011

Remembering the Farm - The Machine Shed

Dad farmed for 40 years nowhere to store equipment and nowhere to work on it out of the weather.  He  built a workshop/garage in the early 1950’s but it was only used once to overhaul equipment (motor on the 49 Merc 1 ton) before it filled with junk and was pretty much useless. About 1982 he decided it was time to build a real machine shed.

He bought 12 posts and trusses from a WWII airplane hanger and had enough planks and such also accumulated from auctions that he could build with minimum investment, which was how he did everything.  My brother Ross was in Ontario but would take summer off work to come back to the farm.  My brother Stan had a business in Rosetown but helped out when he could.  I had just started a new job in Regina and was rarely involved.  It was better that way.

My brothers building the forms for the foundation.  You can see the old shop in the background with the green door against it.

My brother Stan leveling the concrete.  You can see the old barn in the background.  It was once the home of my dad’s Uncle Joe and also the Cavell Post Office.  We moved it to the farm in 1952 (?) and converted it into a barn with loft.

Putting up the end truss.  The posts are bolted to the trusses and act as legs.  The trusses and posts were massive, multiple 2x12s bolted together.  The first truss was the tricky one as there was nothing to hold it up and it had to be braced until a couple more were up.  Dad rigged a “boom” on the front end loader to push the first truss up into place.  It didn’t work too well.  The truss came back down with a crash, brushing the peak of Dad’s cap as it fell onto the tractor.  That was the end of work for that day and he hired a crane to come and do the others.  Not sure when he went back to doing it himself.

 There is an aerial shot of the completed shed.  Note the date:  August 17, 1984.

 Two days later it looked like this.  Tornado came through and took it out.  Dad tore it apart and started over, added more length to it to the north, taking out the old shop, and made the final 40 x 132. It had three sections, north and middle were 36 feet long and the south end was 60 feet.

 It never did get doors on it in Dad’s lifetime and true to form, much of it filled up with junk from one end to the other  BUT there was still room for tractors and combine and such.

 Mom and Dad both passed away in 2002.  My brother Stan was the only one of us in Saskatchewan and took responsibility for sorting everything out, including the auction sale in September of that year, doing a superb job of all of it.  This shot was taken just before the sale.  The machine shed dwarfs everything else on the farm site.

 One of the first things Stan had to do was get doors on the machine shed so that stuff could be securely stored.  The farm site was to remain empty until my brother Ross retired two years ago and came back to the farm to live.

 In January of this year, a short in an extension cord started a fire in some shavings and the machine shed burned to the ground.  My brother was pretty sick about it because my dad was so proud of having a real machine shed.  That and the fact he had just moved all his stuff out from Ontario and had it all in the shed.

He is currently in negotiations with the insurance people to rebuild on the spot.  He told me the other day that he submitted a list of contents with over 100,000 items on it.  They’ll be a while sorting it out in Regina.  But rest assured there will be another machine shed on the farm if my brother can pull it off.  But it will be Quonset style.


  1. Quonsets are sturdy and reliable buildings. But I'm not sure they would totally withstand a hurricane or tornado.

    Great story, BF!

  2. Your Dad was very determined person to rebuild the shed and I am sure Ross won't give up until there is a new shed.

  3. How very interesting, particularly with the pictures. The shed that wasn't meant to be, but will be yet.

  4. What a fabulous story.....thanks for telling it.

  5. I have always been slightly amused that a 'Ford' truck is a 'Mercury' and a 'Dodge' truck is a 'Fargo' in Canada. And a 'Ford' car was a 'Meteor'.

    Back in the 70s the local grass-strip airport had a Quonset hangar that they rented out for storage. A heavy snowload caused it to collapse damaging most of the things stored inside.

  6. Maybe quonset wasn't the right word. But I looked it up and yes, that was what I meant.
    Pictures of quonsets here.

  7. Very clever and creative! The Shed looks simple and attractive at the same time! The idea to use the roof for planting is amazing. Delightful post!


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