Roof Revealed


Butcher Shop Roof Revealed as seen from North Home Field

This week we unbedded the butcher shop roof from its winter slumbers. After we did the last big pour that closed in the building in December 2012 we covered the fresh concrete with a layer of burlap, 2″ pink foam insulation two sheets deep and then two sheets of 6 mil construction plastic to help it cure in the cold weather and get through the winter. Pouring is not recommended in December, it’s cold work, it gets dark early, it snows, it ices and the concrete takes longer to cure. But one does what must be done. We were very glad to close in the building!

Now the snow pack has finally retreated from the roof. It was helped along by a bit of wood ash Will spread on the plastic to darken the snow, lower the albedo and hasten the melting. We even have bare patches in our fields as can be seen in this photo. The animals are excited!

An interesting tid-bit is that the snow pack was thickest over the heavily insulated reefer two thirds of the building. That area is insulated to around R-100 so very little heat was lost to the roof. The area of the abattoir has the least insulation over the 20′ high slaughter room and that had the thinnest snow pack which melted of its own accord before Will ashed. We didn’t heat the building other than a little bit in the Admin section – retained it’s heat of curing and last year’s warmth right through the coldest part of the winter never dropping below 38°F. Given that our part of the world was below -20°F for extended periods, and very windy, that is impressive performance. Thermal mass and insulation to the rescue! My goal is that this will save us tens of thousands of dollars in heating and cooling expenses over the coming years. Waste not, want not.

As of Wednesday the snow was finally completely gone, just bits of ice left from over night. We uncovered the roof once that ice had mostly melted in the late morning – a task that took all four of us. Sheets of 40’x40′ plastic are rather interesting to handle up high in the air on a breezy day. Fortunately, working up on the roof feels like working down on the ground with all the scaffolding we built. Ben is the master scaffold maker, assuring us a safe work space.


Butcher Shop from Driveway (Click for larger image)

On the roof of the butcher shop you might notice there are some ‘structures’ in the middle. These are forms for the future duct work and upper mechanical room that will be on the roof for housing part of the ventilation and refrigeration heat exchange equipment. By making a tall tower we will get to take advantage of natural thermal gradients to assist with the flow of energy and air. One more way to save energy and have a healthy work place.

Other Interesting Details:
Hanging on the scaffolding where they can dry in the sun are burlap coffee bags. These helped to keep the concrete moist and warm during the initial curing process. They were especially handy for the slopes at the roof eves where the pink foam does not conform to the curves.

On the east scaffolding you can see sheets of 2″ pink foam along the railings. These protected the curing concrete flat expanse from the cold. The sun will eat their surface a tiny bit so I would rather have them under cover but it will be a long time before the UV makes much difference. I haven’t decided where that insulation will be used next so they are staying there for the moment. It is a safe location with them tied down tight.

Down on the lower north scaffolding we stored the large sheets of sheet plastic rolled up to be used again. The dogs were not pleased with this. They like to climb the scaffolds and use them as lookouts where they can check out what is happening far away. Turns out, contrary to myths, that they have pretty good eye sight.

In the lower right of the photo is the chute that leads from the south field sorting pen up onto the driveway. Each week we select pigs, most often from the south field groups, and herd them into the sorting pen there so that I can do a final inspection, detection, rejection and selection. The chosen ones get herded along that chute to the driveway and down to the loading pen in the front where the van is docked. There they load into the custom welded back half of the van so we can transport them to the butcher in Massachusetts.

We’ll still be trucking pigs down the three hours to slaughter for a while after we open the butcher shop for meat cutting. The hope is that perhaps this spring the pigs are being born here who will live their entire lives on our farm.

On the left you can see some of the norther herd sows who are in with our Berkshire boar Spitz. In the for left lower corner is their whey feeder. They’re resting on a deep bed of wood chips plus some hay. Nine of those ten sows are Mainline, the tenth is a Blackie Mainline cross. They’ll be farrowing this coming month – a source of many of the spring piglets people have reserved.

Across the road in the first photo is the turn out where we land logs, hay, wood chips, sand and such. You can see the remainder of this winter’s supply.

This year I plan to pour the smooth finish cap layer of the roof that will be properly sloped on top of this structural layer of ceilings. The roof is ‘flat’ but sloped to drain. In our area most roofs are steeply sloped to dump snow but I want to retain the snow as it has useful properties including coolth, being warmer than a bare roof in our worst time of winter and being a great place for dark panels and solar panels. Such a large space is not to be wasted.

That is good enough to act as a roof for a century or more but won’t have quite the thermal performance I want. Eventually we’ll add a few more inches of insulation and reflective barrier plus a top cap of concrete to protect the insulation which will be the final unified roof. This will put the structural shell within an umbrella that will shield it both from the heat of the sun and our fierce winter winds.

A joke is we’ll put an olympic size swimming pool up there… A skate board park might be more fun since we already have ponds. A project for another year.

Outdoors: 54°F/27°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 66°F/60°F

Daily Spark: They say, “You are what you eat.” I guess I’m a vegetarian, because that’s who I eat the most…

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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15 Responses to Roof Revealed

  1. DrFood says:

    You built a cave! I bet that will be the place to hang out in the hot season (if there is any).

    • Aye, exactly right. In the summer it will be cool and in the winter it will be warm. We’ve joked about building a cave, in fact one of the rooms, the cold kitchen for curing and fermenting, is called the Cave. The USDA would frown deeply on the use of a real natural cave but what we’ve built mimics a cave in all the right ways for what we need for advanced value added farm products.

  2. phil says:

    hey walter, quick question:

    Can the domestic pig surivive in natural forest/pasture land with out being fed?
    and how many acres of completely natural forest would it take to feed one hog to butcher weight? and how long would this take if it was even possible? i know they eat roots nuts leaves and shrubs and such.

    i was just curious. thanks.

    • Yes, especially in moderate climates pigs thrive out in the wild. It is called going feral. Wild (feral) hogs are the same species as domestic hogs. Over many generations they are naturally selected for the traits that do better in the wild but they can still breed back to domestic pigs. I do not know how long they take to get to market size nor how much territory they need. As far as I know there are no established populations of feral pigs in Vermont. Our long cold winters are hard to survive. In some warmer states it is a problem. Lakes make great local micro-climates that make it easier to get through winter. The solution would be to let people hunt them year round and put a bounty on them. Eat alien invaders.

      • james says:

        hi walter
        in S. Ga. wild hogs are a big problem they eat lots of crops, hunting helps also trapping is help but the population is growing pretty fast.

        • Eat more pork! :) I’m serious about the bounties. If the government really want to get rid of feral hogs they should offer a bounty on the heads, maybe just the scalp. The hunter or trapper should get to keep the meat – cook well. This has been done before to very successfully drive species to extinction. In the case of feral pigs it would be a good idea. Instead our government messes around with outlawing feral hogs. That is about as successful as outlawing crime, guns or recreational drugs.

      • Edmund says:

        We have a few feral hog populations established here in NY. Judging from your blog posts your winters are a bit harsher and a bit longer than ours in central NY, but not by a huge amount. The depth of the snowpack is probably an issue too. I suspect wild populations would move down out of the mountains to escape the deepest snows.

        I’ve seen video of a Siberian tiger chasing a wild boar through 18 inch deep snow, and apparently boar are a primary prey for that species of tiger. That indicates wild boar are capable of toughing out some rough conditions. As to the stocking rate of feral pigs or wild boar in forest – I bet it is pretty low. There are so many possible factors, depth of snow, length of winter, availability of mast in the fall, fertility of the region’s soils, etc… Edge habitats tend to be more productive for growing meat – so getting some grass and shrubs into the mix should allow for a higher ‘wild’ stocking rate.

  3. Cooper Troxell says:

    This building is enormous! So exciting to see it come together.

    • *grin* For us, yes, but our entire butcher shop with slaughter, smoker, fermenting cave, refrigeration and administration is actually smaller than the kill floor of the very small scale meat processing facility we have been taking our pigs to for years. It is very exciting to have it coming together and wonderful to get to finally see the roof after it has been covered all winter to cure.

  4. Tom Y says:

    Its coming along!

    Get your self a German 88 gun sticking out of one of the windows and you can double duty the shop as a “authentic reproduction” Atlantic Wall gun emplacement for the tourists!

  5. Erin says:

    Walter when will you take down the scaffolding and forms?

    • It will be a while, perhaps a couple of years or so. On the building is a good place to store the forms for the next project and the forms act as siding. The scaffold which hangs on the forms we’ll need for the final roof work we’ll be doing which includes one more layer of insulation and then a cap pour but that doesn’t have to happen this year or even next year. This means the building will continue to look like a porcupine for a while. :)

  6. Daniel Fox says:

    Sounds like you’ve insulated the roof pretty well. My vote is for the skate park :)

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