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Timber-framed barn grows in Waunakee
YANA PASKOVA - State Journal
The barn that Joyce was helping to raise will eventually contain offices, community rooms, public restrooms for hikers and cyclists and space for barn dances � but no nails in its frame.
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THU., APR 6, 2006 - 12:10 AM
Timber-framed barn grows in Waunakee
WAUNAKEE - Mike Yaker likes to think his handiwork will be around 100 years from now, if not 200 or more.

Before a smattering of spectators on Tuesday, the DeForest craftsman and a small crew of helpers began putting up his latest project - a timber- framed barn that will house offices and community rooms at Schumacher Farm Park as well as host a few barn dances.

Timber framing, which goes back thousands of years, uses no nails. Interlocking wooden beams form a skeleton held together by wooden pegs, a process known as peg joinery.

Some barns built this way have lasted more than 700 years in England, said Yaker, 35, owner of Wood Joiners Inc. in DeForest.

"It's not just thinking of ourselves, it's thinking about who might use this building 150 years from now," he said. "It's respect for the materials in a world where people whip up houses that might be torn down in 20 years."

The 120-acre Schumacher Farm Park, part of the Dane County park system, includes a 1910 farmhouse, several outbuildings and a restored prairie, all part of the park's mission to represent rural life in Wisconsin around the time of the Great Depression.

Two years ago, a nearby family donated a 1900s-era barn to the Friends of Schumacher Farm, the largely volunteer group that helps run the site. But just days before the barn was to be lowered onto its foundation, a windstorm blew it over and demolished it.

"We had to stop in our tracks," said Judy Borke, a part- time employee of the friends group. "We had to think of a Plan B."

The new plan: Recreate a 1920s-era barn from scratch, an effort that will cost about $1.2 million - "an astounding number," admits Borke.

Yaker's work, which is limited to the unadorned frame, is only a small part of the project. Much of the expense will come later, when the barn is fully enclosed and the interior is finished. A three-story elevator is part of the plan.

When completed, which could be years from now, the barn will double as a county trailhead where cyclists and hikers can use public restrooms.

The friends group still must raise $800,000. It has $50,000 in hand and is receiving about $270,000 from the county's insurance policy for the blown- over barn, Borke said.

Yaker's small company - it's just him and full-time employee Keith Rockett - usually completes six projects a year, split between commercial buildings and private homes. The beams for the barn took about two months to shape in his workshop before being assembled on-site.

"This is about craftsmanship, not the bottom line," he said.

Allan and Irene Murdoch, a couple in their 60s from Salt Lake City who are temporarily staying in Waunakee, were among the curious taking in the barn-raising this week.

"Well, it sure looks sturdy," Allan Murdoch said of the barn, as a brisk breeze whipped the prairie.

"It's not going to blow over like the last one," Borke assured him.

To help

Schumacher Farm Park is six miles north of Madison and one mile east of Waunakee on Highway 19-113.

To donate to the barn fund, send checks to: Friends of Schumacher Farm, 5682 Highway 19, Waunakee, WI 53597-9534.

For more information, call the park at 608-849-4559.

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