Small Farmer's Journal

Facebook  YouTube

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Another Barn Falls In

Another Barn Falls In

Another Barn Falls In

by Brandt Ainsworth of Franklinville, NY
artwork by Brandt’s son, Nicholas

The barn was built around a century ago. A pair of double doors on the front flapped when the wind blew, and a short service door was on the side. It wasn’t a big barn, about 30 feet wide by 40 feet long with a small hay mow above. It had a couple of windows for light, and of course a window in the peak. There was a hitching rail outside that gave it a certain welcoming charm. A charm that seemed to say, “tie up to the rail, and c’mon in.” Maybe it looked welcoming because it had more the shape of a house, than the shape we picture when we think, “barn.” It wasn’t really much of a barn, but it was different, and I always admired it. I often wondered if it was a blacksmith shop in the old days, despite being so far from the village.

I saw the old barn just yesterday, when I was headed home with a load of fence posts. Nobody was around, so I tied the team to a rotted pair of ropes on the the hitching rail and poked around. I fought with small boxelder and sumac trees as I walked around the outside. Looking from the South, it was clear the barn had a definite lean; probably beyond repair. Probably nobody cared anyway, but me. The roof was in good shape, and after nosing around inside, I figured a little work could save it. I knew, however, that there’s nobody who cares enough to do the little work.

I climbed the ladder to the mow, and saw that it was empty except for an old pair of fly nets. I watched my step as I walked around the hay mow. I saw the name, “Edgar”, carved into a rafter with a jack knife. I strained to get close to see if there was a last name I could make out, but slipped on some hay chaff. I caught my footing before my leg went down the hay chute. It took me back to when I was a boy carving my name with a jack knife in an old barn not far away. It also took me back to when I was a 13 year old boy, who became a thirteen year old man when my Dad fell down a hay chute and spent two weeks in the hospital; leaving me to run the farm mostly by myself. My rattling around caused the door to the mow to blow open giving enough light on the wall so I could read some faint words written in pencil. The lettering was the kind taught in a one room school house, and said: “first load of hay put in this barn on June 29, 1914.”

I went back down the ladder. There wasn’t much left downstairs either. A moth-chewed, tick-faced collar, a set of dusty hame covers and various other draft horse supplies nobody bothered to take when they left. The old cider barrel was still in the rafters by the door, but there was no more of the good hard cider in it. A couple of tin cups hung on nails by the barrel, one I think used to be a strip cup for milking, before the old timers used it just for the more fun chore of consuming last fall’s apple crop. I thought about taking one of the cups with me as a keepsake, before the old barn falls in, but it would look out of place with nothing hanging from the nail where the cup hung for so long, so I left it there. My tribute to the old cider drinkers who liked to haunt this barn.

I walked back out the front doors that were stuck open, and gathered up my team. I gave the old barn one last look, before I remembered that I had fence to build so I wouldn’t have to chase cows. As I drove posts, and pounded staples, I thought about what barns used to mean.

Our language is full of expressions about barns. We often use them, but don’t think of the meaning. A show off is said to think of himself: “He thinks he’s so big he can eat hay over the big beam.” A poor shot “can’t hit the broad side of a barn.” Lots of fun stuff happened “out behind the barn.” One with poor manners was “raised in a barn.” A lively event is “a real barn burner.” There’s also proverbs like: “Rain in May – barn full of hay, a wet June will change that tune.” We use the language, but forget how central barns were to our lives.

Growing up on the farm, we always appreciated the content feeling of a full barn in the fall. When the hay mow was full, the straw mow up to the first hip, the grain bins heaped up and screened off from cats, and all the livestock was inside. It was a feeling of accomplishment, relief, contentment, pride, safety, and readiness. “Bring on winter, we’ve got all we need right here in this barn.”

The old timers were justified in their pride for the barns they built and filled. These men were farmers who built these impressive structures, they weren’t professional engineers, designers, masons or even carpenters. They were men that tilled the fields and raised stock who built some of the most impressive, efficient, and picturesque architecture in America. Whatever the type, one hip, two hip, round roof, gamble roof, mail pouch tobacco painted barns, stone walls, board siding or whatever you picture in your mind. You have your old barn, and I have mine. No matter how different the design, it’s still the same.

We’re in the process of building a barn as I write this. The same 30 feet by 40 feet as the nearby barn that’s about to fall in. It will have a good size mow, and more stalls than I need for my horses and oxen, and some overhang lean-tos for equipment. The truth is it will be a dream come true. My first real “horse barn,” not a modified dairy barn. I can picture leaning the collars against the door, drying the sweaty pads in the sun. I can see, possibly next spring, unhooking the black oxen from the Leroy plow, after turning perfect furrows all morning, and taking off the ten and a half inch yoke in the doorway, while the team waits patiently. I can also see, someday, coming home with the big trophy from the horse pull and putting it just inside the door as I pet the team after winning a big pull.

I’m sure the old timers had similar dreams when they built their masterpieces. Maybe their dreams were more practical than mine, my dreams are always bigger than my actions. Maybe their dreams were of simple self-sufficiency with the new barn. I can’t be sure. I can be sure, however, that these men would roll in their graves if they saw their once stately barns falling in, or being torn down to save on taxes. Maybe I should downsize my barn dreams to a simple dream of not having to watch this barn fall in someday while nobody seems to care but me.

Brandt Ainsworth trains horses and oxen.

Spotlight On: People

No Starving Children!

You’d never be able to harvest the broccoli or the hay or milk the cows or make the cheese if it were subject to government process. Not only are our industrial farms too big…

Bud & Mary Rickett

Buck & Mary Rickett: Successful Small Farmers

by:
from issue:

Ten years ago I answered a classified ad and went to a small western Oregon farm to look at some young laying hens that were for sale. That visit to Buck and Mary Rickett’s place made a quiet impression on me that has lasted to this day. On that first visit in ’71 my eager new farmer’s eye and ear absorbed as much as possible of what seemed like an unusual successful, small operation. I asked what must have seemed like an endless stream of questions on that early visit.

New York Horsefarmer Ed Button and his Belgians

New York Horsefarmer: Ed Button and his Belgians

In New York State one does not explore the world of draft horses long before the name of Ed Button is invariably and most respectfully mentioned. Ed’s name can be heard in the conversations of nearly everyone concerned with heavy horses from the most experienced teamsters to the most novice horse hobbyists. His career with Belgians includes a vast catalog of activities: showing, pulling, training, farming, breeding, and driving, which Ed says, “I’ve been doing since I was old enough to hold the lines.”

Harnessing the Future

Harnessing the Future

by:
from issue:

En route to a remote pasture where the Belgian draft horses, Prince and Tom, are grazing, we survey the vast green landscape, a fine mist hovering in distant low lying areas. We are enveloped in a profusion of sweet, earthy balance. Interns and other workers start their chores; one pauses to check his smart phone. Scattered about are many animal-powered rustic implements. This rich and agriculturally diverse, peaceful place is steeped in contrasts: modern and ancient.

Field Weeds and Street Boys

Field Weeds and Street Boys

by:
from issue:

So, our farming system to feed hungry street boys is to have them farm “weeds”. As we have all experienced, weeds are perfectly adapted to their climate, are robust and need no fertilizer nor any of the insecticides to enhance a good crop. Because we are aiming for long term diversified permaculture (this is a Shea native tree area), we needed some very quick marketable crops while we wait for the trees to mature. These field weeds intentionally farmed have a ready market in the big city 5 km north.

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

by:
from issue:

The agricultural system of the Old Believers has long been one of hand labor. Their homesteads (hozyastvas) were not intended for tractors or horses, with the possible exception of their larger potato fields. Traditionally the small peasant hozyastva has its roots in hand labor, and this has helped maintain the health of the land. Understanding the natural systems is easier when one’s hands are in the soil every day as opposed to seeing the land from the seat of a tractor.

Cuban Agriculture

Cuban Agriculture

by:
from issue:

In December of 1979, Mary Jo and I spent two weeks traveling in Cuba on a “Farmer’s Tour of Cuba”. The tour was a first of its kind. It was organized in the U.S. by farmers, was made up of U.S. farmers and agriculturally oriented folks, and was sponsored in Cuba by A.N.A.P., the National Association of Independent Farmers. As we learned about farming we also learned how the individuals, farms, and communities we visited fit into the greater social and economic structure of Cuba.

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley A Farmrun Production by Andrew Plotsky

Beating the Beetles – War & Peace in a Houston Garden

Blooming that is, unless the cucumber beetles arrive first.
And arrive they have … “At first I thought they looked like big, yellow lady bugs.” Paul said, “Then I looked…

The Real Work Karbaumer Farm

The Real Work Karbaumer Farm

by:
from issue:

A bold and opinionated German, Klaus moved to the midwest over 25 years ago from Bavaria and is currently running the only tractor-less farm in Platte County, Missouri operated by draft horses. Karbaumer Farm tries to “live and grow in harmony with Nature and her seasons” and produces over 50 varieties of chemical-free, organic vegetables for the community, providing a CSA or the greater Kansas City area.

What We Really Lose

What We Really Lose

by:
from issue:

A few minutes with my Old Man will bring you stories Hollywood could never write. Stories of driving the canned milk to town at age 12 in the family pickup, not having a car to drive, driving new Cadillacs, eating home raised meals, eating at the Four Seasons as Presidents walked out while he was walking in, farming with only horses, then new tractors, then big tractors, then not farming, then doing it again with 50 year old tractors, then once more with no tractors.

Central Oregon Locavore Online Fundraiser

CENTRAL OREGON LOCAVORE NEEDS YOUR HELP! We at SFJ can relate.  Central Oregon Locavore is running a GoFundMe campaign, similar to our Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.  Follow the links to learn more about Locavore and to show your support. www.centraloregonlocavore.org www.gofundme.com/locavore Central Oregon Locavore works for an ecologically stable and socially just food system […]

Farm To School Programs Take Root

All aim to re-connect school kids with healthy local food.

Almost a Veterinarian

Almost a Veterinarian

by:
from issue:

In 1976, after reading the memoirs of a much-lauded veterinarian/author from Yorkshire England, I got it into my head that I would make a good DVM myself. It was a rather bold aspiration inasmuch as I was a thirty-three year old high school dropout with few credentials and no visible means of support. It was a shot in dark: I hadn’t been in a classroom for fifteen years, but I made my way back to Guelph, Ontario, where the only veterinarian school in Canada was located.

Today I Prepare

Today I Prepare by Lynn Miller Summering towards seated moments found without splinter found with or without care. No audience save the critical unbecoming self. Were it a long race to now, surprised to be amongst the last running with a chance to go to the target beyond end, tanks full with cupped felt. So […]

Portrait of a Garden

Portrait of a Garden

As the seasons slip by at a centuries-old Dutch estate, an 85-year-old pruning master and the owner work on cultivating crops in the kitchen garden. To do this successfully requires a degree of obsessiveness, the old man explains in this calm, observational documentary. The pruning master still works every day. It would be easier if he were only 60 and young.

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

by:
from issue:

Watching Wayne’s sure hands it was easy for me to forget that this is a 91 year old man. There was strength, economy, elegance and thrift in his every stroke.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT