Monday, December 12, 2011

The Heart of the Farm

Iconic in rural American landscape, a barn identifies a farm. While most immediately think of a red barn with white trim and a gambrel roof line, there are all sorts of barns. There are dairy barns, hay barns, poultry barns, and multi-use barns. The styles abound; there are bank barns, pole barns, big barns, and little barns. Barns for horses are called stables. For every type of farming, there is specific barn style.

In some ways, a barn is almost a living organism. Over the years, it grows and changes, somehow taking on new subtleties of character. The history of a farm can be traced by observing the changes in the barn structure and design.

Barns are fascinating places. Old barns have a character and “personality” that newer structures do not. It as if you can sense the history, smell the hay and grains, and hear the long gone inhabitants. Certain places are worn from much use: the haymow where cows often ate, the gate where the farmer’s glove rubbed as he opened it, the post that was “just right” for itchy animals to scratch. It is only wishful thinking but, if the walls could talk…

Back in ’97, our barn was just a brand-new, red, rectangular building. We hadn’t even decided exactly how we wanted to utilize the space. Gates were installed, walls erected, animals housed. We were in business. Ours was definitely going to be a “multi-use” barn.

After a very short time, the need for an addition was obvious...then another, and another. Like a crazy quilt, the different materials were stitched together, making the barn we have today. Since we have no level ground here on the hill, the barn is different levels as well as different building styles. Over the years, it has developed character and atmosphere. It’s hard to remember the days of the brand-new barn.

Our barn has seen more living and dying than anywhere else on the farm. Deep philosophical subjects have been debated, hilarious stories told, and tears shed while sitting on hay bales and overturned buckets. Life lessons have been learned in unforgettable ways. Patience was tested and strengthened while waiting for the vet. Learning biology and animal husbandry through the “hands-on” approach has been invaluable.
The barn has seen all sorts of animal inhabitants, visitors from other countries and the routines of daily farm chores. It stores the feedstuffs, provides shelter for the animals, and allows us a place to compose ourselves when the stresses of everyday life get a little much.

In short, the barn is the heart of the farm.

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