Barn News

Recovering from Winter

This was not the coldest winter all-time in the Virginia Highlands.  Nor was it the snowiest.  But in both categories it was near the top, and the combination made it a brutal winter.

Many folks are bewildered by my descriptions of weather here in VIRGINIA, being part of the South and all, but my friend MikeM and I compare weather notes frequently between The Barn and where he lives in upstate New York.  The weather in those two places is remarkably similar, it’s just two days off-set depending on which way the weather fronts are moving.  It has to do with our location and elevation of 3000’+.



We had some pretty sobering damage from this past winter.  Most notable were the collapse of a basement foundation for a treasured little granary shed/root cellar due to a century of frost heave cycles and a water table that is at all-time highs (although that is a great portent for hydroelectric power for the coming months), the tale of which will be covered in an upcoming post (the reconstruction is progressing nicely), and the blowing up of the hydro pipeline.

Truly exasperating was the destruction of a thousand feet (!) of the 2″ Schedule 40 penstock for my hydroelectric system.  I believe that water running vigorously in an enclosed pipe can continue to flow until the ambient temperature reaches -17 F.  Guess what?  Yes, it gets that cold in our little holler in the hills.  Did I mention we were in VIRGINIA, which is part of THE SOUTH?  Yep, we had sustained overnight temps in the -20 F range on at least two occasions.  Pipe?  KABOOM!


I have already taken one full truck load of shattered pipe to the dump, and will take another this week.  I am mostly finished with the rerouting of the line (to achieve a smoother downward slope with no swales) and grafting in the new pipe to finish connecting the bottom and the top of the system.  I currently just have the upper pipe end sitting adjacent to the mating pipe where it shattered, and still I am getting something around 8-10 kwH/day.  Combined with the solar panels this is way more than enough for me to work in the barn.  By this time week after next it will all be done.


Not so with the broken basement door, where ~80 mph winds smashed it pretty good.  The Highlands are a windy place, and it is good to know that The Barn has been well-tested by extreme wind loads, and snow loads that would have buried a car if it was parked underneath the avalanche when it let loose.

Stay tuned.