Whalers in Vermont


Walers in Vermont Mountains

I’ve mentioned whales a number of times before on our family’s land locked farm blog. There is no sea to see for a long ways from here despite our high vantage point. But there are walers, sans-whales, in the photo above.

The long horizontal boards that hold our concrete forms together are called walers. This is as opposed to the wailers who ‘sing’ in bands and the whalers who hunter singers at sea. These waler boards take the stress as the tons of concrete, 40,000 lbs per truck, get poured into the 8′ tall forms.

The forms are made of plywood and 2×4 studs. It is amazing how many. It is amazing how much wood goes into building a concrete building. It is especially amazing since there will be no wood in the finished structure, not even in its roof. Fortunately those forms will be available to build other structures in the future. Reuse, recycle, rebuild.

Building this building is a mockup, that is to say a larger scale version, of building our tiny cottage. You can think of the cottage as practice just as the doghouse and various pig houses and mouse houses were practice for the cottage.

The forms are held together with 2′ threaded steel rods that pierce the walers, the plywood, the foam insulation and repeat this on the other side of the space where the concrete will be poured. The tensile strength of the threaded rods lock the system together.

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The scaffolding sits on the projecting portions of the threaded rod, locked tight to the forms. This and safety lines will give us a safe sidewalk to move around while guiding the pump truck hose. We’ll actually pour the concrete in slow rings, gradually spiraling upward so it has time to setup a bit as we work upward.

If we’re really daring, we’ll pour the 16′ high tower at the same time we do the 8′ high walls. We’ll see. We may do that another day. Slower but safer. “A tower!?!” you exclaim, “What folly!” Aye, but with function.

If we were to pour right now we would end up with a solid cube of concrete weighing 15,912,000 pounds. No such luck. That would be rather expensive as it would contain 3,929 cubic-yards of concrete at a cost of about $471,480. One heck an expensive, over sized boat anchor! Fortunately we’re about to put up the inner form walls so the actual building should weigh in at an estimated 1,012,500 pounds. That also saves a pretty penny on concrete. All that thermal mass will be put to good use, tempering the thermal swings and saving us a tremendous amount of electricity as it brings a lingering bit of winter into our relatively temperate summers. Eco-friendly, super-sized refrigeration.

Oh, and just one more thing… We’re building a butcher shop

Outdoors: 45째F/15째F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 67째F/51째F

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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17 Responses to Whalers in Vermont

  1. oshea12566 says:

    Did anyone guess that correctly?

  2. Aye, there were dead on guesses but the wild ones were more fun!

    We sometimes refer to it as a combination family fitness center, art gallery, ice cream storage vault, church of the oinky pig and skate board park. We've never had a flat hard surface before and there are those who dream of riding the roof waves on their little wheels… The skating rink is out though. Very disappointing. :)

  3. Zedman says:

    Shuks Walter! I was lookin forward to a grand old opri nother!!!!!!

    Well in all seriousness I am very glad you are opening your own butcher shop. Will you also do your own on-farm slaughter?

  4. Gail in Montana says:

    LOL, Walter, we did get it right
    ;-). Interesting informations about "whalers" !! I usually learn something when I read your blogs. Thanks for sharing, good luck with your butcher shop. Looks like it's coming right along.

  5. Anne says:

    This is fantastic. I wish I lived closer to you and could get your meat. On farm slaughter THE way it should be. I think it makes the meat taste better and it is less stress for the animals and it means less transport so less carbon foot print and pollution. So when will you start shipping for your fans who can't drive to your lovely mountain?

  6. Chris in VT says:

    Great news! So what will your capacity be? Will you start with just pigs and sheep or also be doing beef right off?

    I wish you were a few months earlier. We just had our four summer beef done. I would have loved to have brought them to you instead.

    I hope you'll be setup for aging meat. That is a big thing we need especially with grassfed beef.

  7. Its good to see that you'll get the walls up before winter.

    We're planning our own big project for the spring, our first house.

    As a carpenter and a self-professed lover of wood, I find it hard to accept your lack of wood in the finished structure(s), but I can appreciate the function of thermal mass in mitigating the temperature swings.

  8. Christophoer, *grin* I love working with wood too but the USDA regulations very specifically rule against the use of wood for food sanitation reasons. In our house, which is also built of stone and masonry, we do have judicious use of wood for counter point of texture.

    For decades I worked with wood restoring other houses. The problems is I heat with wood too. It always made me a little nervous living inside a tinder box.

    Zedman, yes, we'll have on-farm slaughter, butchering and eventually curing & smoking with linked sausage making. It's a many year plan.

    Anne, sorry but we hope not to get into shipping. Keep down those food miles and buy locally!

  9. Chris, our goal is to just be doing slaughter and butchering for our own farm. This will benefit other farmers as it means we'll free up a lot of slots in the schedule of other butchers every week. I'll also write about our experiences in getting setup so that others might walk the same path. As to aging, yes, we have a special room in the design just for that purpose and beef is a possibility down the line. First we have to get all our HACCPs down for pigs.

  10. Mellifera says:

    Awesome! Let us know how getting all the physical facilities/HACCP/other paperwork together goes. It probably won't be in Vermont, but we'll be doing something similar on our farm one of these days (on-farm slaughter/butchering/licensed kitchen… being 5-10 years in the future we can get away with the plans being amorphous). So it'll be good to hear about how to travel the long, long road from pig to sausage.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Ah, Walter, you bring back happy memories! Thirty-five years ago my husband and I sat at a kitchen table and designed our dream house and then built it ourselves. We made the forms, calculated the materials, managed the pours, just the two of us. Later I scraped the plywood and we used it for floors, little rebar holes and all. Back then we didn't know we were "recycling," we were just poor! Those were good times, though! It's good to see folks still can do things for themselves.
    – Daisy

  12. Janet P. says:

    I really really really hope you keep sharing your adventure in this. We raise sheep, cattle and a few pigs, nothing like you have. Getting processing done and getting our meat to customers is a major headache. I know that we are not always getting our own meat back. It is very discouraging. The butcher we take to is the only one within 200 miles that is USDA and the next one is much further so they have a real tight lock on their markets. They screw up and I don't dare say anything or rock the boat with them because I fear they will cut us off. We have to book our slaughter openings four months in advance and with beef we have been raising that animal for two years so he has us by the short and curly hairs with our arm twisted tight. I want to do on farm slaughter but it isn't legal if we want to sell our meat. We have to get that USDA imprint. There is no state slaughter program. My partner and I have talked about the idea of opening a tiny cooperative faciliity with other local farmers. So far it is all just talk though. None of us have the resources to pull it off. The studies I have read talk about it costing millions of dollars to build and operate but if I know you, and I feel like I do from reading your blog so long, then I know you have figured out how to do it and do it right without spending megamoney. Just looking at the past tells me it must be possible because there used to be a lot of small butchers around. I know other farms would be real interested to know how you are managing to do this. I hope you will share details so we can do it too.

  13. Brad says:

    So Walter how are you funding this venture. It has to cost a pretty penny or a hell of a lot more than that in the real world to build your own plant. Just the design alone for a plant has got to be more than a farm your size can afford. You have got to be planning on doing other peoples livestock and this being your main business now. The permitting alone for this sort of thing is horrendous. There was one built in our area a few years ago and the news stories said it cost over a million dollars just for the waste water system to deal with all the sewage going into the town system that had to be pre treated somehow. I think I remember it taking them 8 years to get that plant just to the construction point and then 2 years to build it. The numbers don't work for a farm your size.

  14. Anonymous says:

    All concrete? Huh. I assume some steel and plastic though right. Plumbing and such. Well that explains the no wood comment you have made a couple of times.

  15. Les says:

    Wow Walter Man! You know how to take the bull by the horns! Don’t let go and I hope you succeed. We need more slaughter houses. The big processors are impossible to work with. It leaves the small ranchers like us out in the cold. We can’t get access to markets if we can’t get our meat cut under inspection. Keep us posted on all your progress. I am in awe! But with you that is nothing new!

  16. Cheryl Anderson says:

    So… will there be boundries between the farm… and USDA… Thinking about the book…. Everything I want to do is Illegal….. At times an offsite Slaughter house provides a buffer for constitutional rights… I mean… Part of the concern with NAIS was loosing Constitutional rights on the farm….
    You are going to do what you are going to do… Just wanted to toss in a flag of caution….

  17. Janet, I'll be writing about our project, why we came to be doing it, how we're accomplishing it and more. Hopefully others will do the same. We need more small butcher shops scattered across the rural landscape and ideally as much on-farm as possible.

    Brad, I'll explain about costs, volume and funding in posts to come. The numbers work even for a small farm like ours. It is quite amazing. If anything we can't afford not to have our own on-farm slaughter and butchering.

    Anonymous, Yes, all concrete as that is the prefered material of 10 out of 10 USDA's. Impervious, washable, rigid and long lasting. I'll explain more about those choices in posts to come. We built our tiny cottage in a similar manner – I heat with wood and don't fancy living in my fuel. :) Plumbing is Stainless Steel, PEX and PVC. Electric is copper so there are a few extra flavors beyond dry concrete.

    Cheryl, As explain soon, it was actually the butcher shop project that proceeded NONAIS.org for us and this is a solution to a degree to the tyranny of NAIS. Still, we must not stop fighting to protect our Constitutional rights.

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