Aug 31, 2016
Old historic barns have always had a special place in my heart. I’m not sure why. It might be the ingenuity that was required to build this structure with the tools at hand. It might be the grace and strength that these old structures show. It might be the way these buildings where used to it’s fullest potential for many years and the way of life these structures are a symbol of. More then likely, it’s a little of them all.
Things I’ve learned about these old barns over the years:
Early settlers usually built near the road for easy access but some where built far off the road. Why did someone decide to build so far away from the road which made much more work maintaining the lane way in the winter and summer? With the barn and animals closer to the center of the farm, it was quicker to get the animals to all the sections of the farm and it was easier to deliver the harvested crop to the barn as well.
If you notice that the old barns in an area are larger then average, it’s a good chance that the soil in that area is rich. Fertile soil means extra space is needed to store the higher yields and more animals could be raised with the grand harvest.
These barns might be old but they are still very useful. It’s not unusual to see an old barn turned into meeting place for family reunions or weddings. Bank barns are still used for there original purpose too. The McCormick’s Heritage Meats still use their 1888 built barn to raise hogs that they butcher and sell themselves. See their whole story, click on their homestead picture.
Why are old barns painted red? Here is a theory from www.LiveScience.com that sounds pretty solid.
Why Are Barns Traditionally Painted Red?
…. barns weren’t originally red in fact, they weren’t painted at all. The early farmers that settled in New England didn’t have much extra money to spend on paint , so most of their barns remained unpainted. By the late 1700s, farmers looking to shield their barns’ wood from the elements began experimenting with ways to make their own protective paint.
A recipe consisting of skimmed milk, lime and red iron oxide created a rusty-colored mixture that became popular among farmers because it was cheap to make and lasted for years. Farmers were able to easily obtain iron oxide the compound that lends natural red clay its coppery color from soil. Linseed oil derived from flax plants was also used to seal bare wood against rotting, and it stained the wood a dark coral hue.
Farmers also noticed that painting their barns with the homemade paint kept the buildings warmer during the wintertime, since the darker color absorbs the sun’s rays more than plain, tan wood. So red paint spread in popularity due to its functionality and convenience, becoming an American (rural) tradition that continues to this day.
In our rural community, it’s great to see a new barn or shed go up. New buildings show the prosperity and hopefulness of the community. But it would be a shame if all the old barns where torn down. Iowa has the right idea with a foundation that financially helps farm owners restore old barns. Click on the barn to learn more about this foundation and the families that have worked together. Should Ontario have something like this?
As you travel the country side, I invite you to take a second look at that old barn so you can wonder about it’s past and dream of it’s future.