A Photo Essay of Old Barns
The Old Barns of Port Oneida Rural Historic District, Michigan
The Old barns in the first part of this essay have been restored, as they are located on Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (National Park Service)in the Port Oneida Rural Historic District. Click on thumbnail photos to see the old barn photos enlarged. Toward the end I have added a few old barn photos from rural Pennsylvania.
Most of the old barns we see as we travel the countryside were built using a technique called timber framing. All of the barns in this photo essay are timber frame structures. Here is a simple definition of timber framing, compliments of Wikipedia. "Traditional timber framing is the method of creating structures using heavy squared-off and carefully fitted and joined timbers with joints secured by large wooden pegs. It is commonplace in wooden buildings from the 19th century and earlier." In the photo set above I have included photos of some timber frame joints from one of the barns in this article.
The old barn on our farm was much larger than the ones in this essay and was the center of all that went on around there, whether work or play. The barn made my childhood. When I was ten years old, my Dad bought me a pony. I named her Missy. She spent a lot of time in the barn where I brushed her and fed her. She even had her only foal, a filly, in that barn.
The hayloft, we called it the hay mount, was very large. Each summer we spent a great deal of time baling hay for the cows. After it was stacked in the hay mount, my brothers and I would build tunnels and forts with the bales. We even camped out in the barn.
D. H. Day Farm In Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
We hung a rope from the inside peak of the hay mount. We'd climb up the end wall where a platform had been built and swing out over the hay. Some of the bales inevitably broke when we were putting them up after baling, so we took that loose hay and piled it high. We'd swing on the rope and let go, falling into the hay. It was fun, unless you had allergies.
Pigeons used the barn as their home as well as my ponies and the cows. They roosted at night high up on the rafters. We learned that if we shined flashlights in their eyes, they wouldn't fly away. One of us would hold the light while the other climbed dangerously high in the dark. We would reach out and pluck the pigeon, all white, black and white, red and white, and put it under our shirt where it stayed as we climbed down. We had a large plywood cage with chicken wire across the front. We put the pigeons in there. After a few weeks we could open it and the pigeons would come back and forth. I think they felt protected from the farm cats. Now, the farm cats are another story.
After we finished milking the cows every morning and evening, we'd drain the milk from the pipeline into a large pan. That was for the cats. Whoever filled the pan would carry it outside where a few cats of various colors and temperaments waited patiently. We would set the pan down and the cats would gather round and begin drinking. Then, they would call out, very loudly in a falsetto voice, "Heeeerrrrre kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty." At the time it was the most natural thing to do. Now I am blushing as I type out that memory.
The rest of the cats would come running. All Forty of them. I know how many of them there were. One day I searched high and low, in every barn and building we had and counted them. Most were feral, and dangerous if you tried to catch them.
When the farmers in our area baled hay, it was a great job market for any teenage boy. We worked for about three dollars an hour from dawn to dusk and beyond. I can't describe how hard that work is. Today, very few farmers use the traditional, small rectangular bales. We took great pride in how high we could throw the bales. My Dad was my hero when he lofted one thirteen bales high. At least that's how I remember it.
We had to be careful about putting hay with high moisture content in the barn, especially if the weather was hot. My uncle had hay that was ready to be baled and the weather was threatening with rain. He felt a lot of pressure to get the hay in, so we did. The temperature was high and the hay was damp. The barn burned to the ground. This link will explain the spontaneous combustion of Hay.
The farm sold in 1975. My mother, brother and I went back to look around the place a few months ago. The milk house is gone as are the three silos and the tool shed. But the big red barn is still there. My brother and I climbed up to the hay mount and remembered good days.
The Barn on Our Indiana Dairy FarmClick thumbnail to view full-size
Barns in Pennsylvania
Here are some barns in Pennsylvania that I found while driving in Lancaster County. Not flashy or newly painted, but they are interesting in their own ways. I hope you enjoy these photos as well.
Barns and Scenery in Lancaster Pennsylvania
Feel free to leave comments below. Tell us of your childhood on the farm or any other old barn story you might have to share.