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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: How-To & Plans

Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil Building a Fire

Farm Drum #29: Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil – Building a Fire

Lynn Miller & Pete Cecil talk about Blacksmithing basics, and Pete demonstrates building a fire in the forge.

Haying With Horses

Hitching Horses To A Mower

When hitching to the mower, first make sure it’s on level ground and out of gear. The cutter bar should be fastened up in the vertical or carrier position. This is for safety of all people in attendance during hitching.

Horseshoeing Part 2C

Horseshoeing Part 2C

The wear of the shoe is caused much less by the weight of the animal’s body than by the rubbing which takes place between the shoe and the earth whenever the foot is placed to the ground and lifted. The wear of the shoe which occurs when the foot is placed on the ground is termed “grounding wear,” and that which occurs while the foot is being lifted from the ground is termed “swinging-off wear.” When a horse travels normally, both kinds of wear are nearly alike, but are very distinct when the paces are abnormal, especially when there is faulty direction of the limbs.

An Efficient, Economical Barn

by:
from issue:

A well thought out, functional barn should be the center piece of any farming endeavor, horse powered or fossil fueled, that involves livestock. After building and using two previous barns during our lifetimes, I think the one we now have has achieved a level of convenience, efficiency, and economy that is worth passing on.

Sleds

Sleds

by:
from issue:

The remainder of this section on Agricultural Implements is about homemade equipment for use with draft animals. These implements are all proven and serviceable. They are easily worked by a single animal weighing 1,000 pounds, and probably a good deal less. Sleds rate high on our homestead. They can be pulled over rough terrain. They do well traversing slopes. Being low to the ground, they are very easy to load up.

Henpecked Compost and U-Mix Potting Soil

We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.

Horseshoeing Part 2B

Horseshoeing Part 2B

If we observe horses moving unrestrained over level ground, we will notice differences in the carriage of the feet. Many deviations in the line of flight of hoofs and in the manner in which they are set to the ground occur; for example, horses heavily burdened or pulling heavy loads, and, therefore, not having free use of their limbs, project their limbs irregularly and meet the ground first with the toe; however, careful observation will detect the presence of one or the other of these lines of flight of the foot.

"Work Horse Handbook, 2nd Edition" by Lynn Miller

Draft Collars and How To Size Them

It is difficult to accurately measure a horse’s neck without fitting. In other words, there are so many variables involved in the shape and size of a horse’s neck that the only accurate and easy way to size the neck is to use several collars and put them on one at a time until fitting is found.

Farm Drum 32 Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil

Farm Drum #32: Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil – Finishing the Hook

Pete Cecil demonstrates basic blacksmithing techniques through crafting a hook in the forge.

Barn Raising

Barn Raising

by:
from issue:

Here it was like a beehive with too many fuzzy cheeked teen-agers who couldn’t possibly be experienced enough to be of much help. But work was being accomplished; bents, end walls and partitions were being assembled like magic and raised into place with well-coordinated, effortless ease and precision. No tempers were flaring, no egomaniacs were trying to steal the show, and there was not the usual ten percent doing ninety percent of the work.

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

by:
from issue:

Making a pair of tongs was a milestone for a lot of blacksmiths. In times gone past a Journeyman Smith meant just that, a smith that went upon a journey to learn more skills before taking a masters test. When the smith appeared at the door of a prospective employer, he/she would be required to demonstrate their skills. A yard stick for this was to make a pair of tongs.

Lightning Protection for the Farm

Lightning Protection for the Farm

by:
from issue:

Lightning-protection systems for buildings give lightning ready-made lines of low resistance. They do this by providing unbroken bodies of material that have lower resistance than any other in the immediate neighborhood. A protection system routes lightning along a known, controlled course between the air and the moist earth. Well-installed and maintained, a lightning-protection system will route lightning with over 90-percent effectiveness.

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

by:
from issue:

Heretofore potato production in this country has been conducted along extensive rather than intensive lines. In other words, we have been satisfied to plant twice as many acres as should have been necessary to produce a sufficient quantity of potatoes for our food requirements. Present economic conditions compel the grower to consider more seriously the desirability of reducing the cost of production by increasing the yield per acre.

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

by:
from issue:

The scoop has two steel sides about 5 feet apart sitting on steel runners made out of heavy 2 X 2 angle iron, there is a blade that is lowered and raised by use of a foot release which allows the weight of the blade to lower it and then lock in the down position and the forward motion of the horses to raise it and lock it in the up position. This is accomplished by a clever pivoting action where the tongue attaches to the snow scoop.

Farm Drum #30 Blacksmithing we Pete Cecil Basic Techniques

Farm Drum #30: Blacksmithing with Pete Cecil – Basic Techniques

Pete Cecil demonstrates basic blacksmithing techniques through crafting a hook in the forge.

How To Get Into Farming With No Money

How To Get Into Farming With No Money

by:
from issue:

Let’s assume the beginning ‘farmer’ has absolutely nothing. Nothing but a will to farm and a reasonably normal body. The very first thing you must do is search out a farmer, preferably a farmer who farms close to the way that you want to farm. You must watch him, ask questions, do as you are told and learn everything you can. Very shortly you will be on your own and you will find that the more you learn now, the better you will be when you have only yourself to rely on.

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