Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

February 11, 2013

Pleasant Hill Ramblings: Transforming trees

By Jean Clark
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — Joe and Joan Gittings have always been fascinated by old barns in Pennsylvania, the New England states and here on the Plateau. Their home in Pleasant Hill, part of Uplands Village, was built in 1952 and is tucked into the woods. They enjoy their chickens, dog, cat and horse and donkey boarded nearby.

Since moving to Pleasant Hill in 2007, they have made improvements to their house, taking care to maintain its vintage look and not disturb the woodland environment in which they live. Joe’s parents were given the book, An Age of Barns by Eric Sloane, which had fascinated both Gittings for years. When they decided to add a structure to their property, they wished to compliment the house, maintain their surroundings and were very much interested in having a timber frame barn.

Dave Myers works the farm Red Barn Gardens on Vandever Rd. in Crossville, but is often in Pleasant Hill delivering vegetables to the Community Supported Agriculture group or attending the Eco Justice films at the Pleasant Hill Community Church, UCC. This past summer he has been joined in his endeavors by Troy Campbell from Vermont, a kindred spirit when it comes to sustainability and environmental issues. The Gittings have become acquainted with them, and one day Joe began describing the kind of structure they were interested in building. Serendipitously, Campbell had built timber frame constructions in Vermont. Myers uses a portable, low horsepower, band sawmill to mill logs.

Desirous of maintaining a low carbon footprint, the Gittings chose the site of the barn carefully. The two trees, red and white oaks, that were removed were milled and returned to the place where they originally grew as part of the frame. The other timbers used were milled from standing dead trees from the farm of Steve and Denise Martin, which is also the home of Red Barn Gardens. Mark Guenther of the Muddy Pond Sorghum Mill and his fine team of mules were hired to pull the logs out of the woods. The woods are left much healthier by harvesting the dead or dying trees and using mules instead of big heavy equipment.

Campbell drew up the plan for the timber frame on the computer using traditional mortise and tenon joinery in the construction. He had been part of timber frame construction of homes, barns and sheds since 1996 in Essex Junction, VT, where he lived before moving to Crossville in 2011. This was the first time he had been part of a project from tree to finished construction.

All timbers used were milled by both Myers and Campbell. The walls had to be assembled, all mortise and tenon joints drilled and pegged using just a few screws in the rafters. Some of the timbers were left with a live edge to show their interesting shapes. Currently, they are milling white pine for the board and batten siding. The barn is not finished as they are preparing the siding and lathing for the roof, which will match the home’s red metal one. There will not be any doors on the front and they haven’t decided on a back door and windows yet.

Other locals who are helping with the building are Oscar Marsh, Tyler Schrade an EMT on the Pleasant Hill ambulance and his sister, Brieka Schrade.

Campbell feels that the structural integrity of the timber frame will stand for much longer than a conventional stick built building. He is interested in doing similar projects. If you are interested, contact him at or by phone at 787-8568. The Gittings are delighted with the beautiful grains of the different kinds of wood. Joan feels that the placement is just right as she can still view the changing forest from any window of the house without the barn being in the way.