Thursday, February 28, 2013

Save or Tear-Down an Old Barn: What To Do?

Farmhouses and barns go together. 

This barn belonged to my great-great grandparents who immigrated to America in the late 1800's. My decision to save or tear-down the barn was based on emotion and finances. You can't ignore either one.  As a little girl I spent a lot of time in this barn and many events occurred in this barn.  I'll share one story.

"It was a winter day in the 1940's. Light snow flurries began around noon. By mid-day, snow turned into a wet heavy sleet. Household chores kept my mother busy during the day, but when she finally turned to look out the kitchen window while starting supper, the snow had turned into an icy sleet.

Everything was dropped as she rushed to put on her heavy coat.  Looking first for a very pregnant cow, mom knew it needed to be sheltered because the calf was due any day, but the cow was gone.  It was not uncommon for cows to escape occasionally through a gate left open but this was not a good day to wonder.  How long had she been gone?  Looking down the hill, my mother saw her standing in the creek, drinking.

It was getting dark.  The cow had to get back in the barn.  My mother slipped and fell going down the hill to get the cow.  The sleet was still falling and with dusk, it was getting cold and the sleet was turning to ice. The cow cannot get excited.  She'll fall and slip down the hill.  She could break a leg and equally as bad, lose her baby.

My mother approached the cow gingerly, careful not to cause her to run. Slowly, she led the cow up the hill only to slip half way up.  They tried again and once more.  The cow started to get nervous.  My mother pulled and pushed with no success.  For a moment, all efforts were still, letting the cow settle down. One more try was made and again, both my mother and cow slipped.  Mom looked toward the hill for a better way to reach the top.  Using another path, step by step, my mother guided the cow sideways and eventually worked their way up the hill through shrubs and brush.  It took an hour but finally mom led the pregnant cow safely into the barnyard and into the barn for shelter.  It was a night my mother remembered and she told this story for 45 years!"

A few days later, the cow delivered a beautiful healthy calf!

For us kids, the barn was a place of adventure.  We would climb up the old wooden ladder and jump into the hay loft, laughing as we tossed hay in the air watching it drop like rain.  In the spring, we would notice the mama cat was pregnant and the next day she was thin.  Where were the baby kittens?  We would watch mama cat climb up into the loft.  Aha! We would giggle with our hands over our mouth.  We knew we had found the treasure.  Up we went on the ladder and there we would find the cutest little kittens all in different colors. Which one was our favorite?

At the end of summer, grain was harvested.  Wheat and barley bags would be stored in the barn until they were taken to the fuel and grain store.  As kids would take our coffee cans and fill them to the brim with newly harvested wheat.  My cousins and I ate a ton of it!  We would fill lunch sacks with wheat (there were no Baggies or Zip Lock bags - only plastic carrot bags) and head to the woods for the entire day where we pretended to be explorers in the wilderness.

So, the question is, "what should I do with the old wood barn"? 

Fix the ol' girl and make her useful again.  There is no question about it.

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