“Go to the barn. Get the stink off you.”

This contradictory decree was usually issued by a harassed parent when children were underfoot, quarrelsome, cranky and complained of being bored. In other words, when they were stinky. The condition usually occurred when intemperate weather confined said stinky children to the house.

The barn gave mothers respite and the children a magical place to work off their orneriness.  There were calves to brush, hay forts to build, ladders to climb and beams to walk along. Often there was a nest of kittens to find, or a barn owl perched high in the rafters.

The barn was so integral a part of my childhood it wasn’t until later years that I realized the term meant different things to different people.  There are English barns, Dutch barns, round barns, low barns and stone barns, among others.

Bank Barn

When I think of “barn” I picture the bank barn. This is a barn built into a side hill, so that haywagons can drive into the upper or mow section and the livestock is housed on the ground level. In areas with hard winters, these barns have steep roofs to shed snow and provide huge spaces for hay storage.

 

In my book, The Man for Her, I envisioned an English barn at Pine Creek Farm.

This barn is not as large as the barn of my childhood and is all on one floor. The hinged wagon doors allowed Lottie to drive her wagons directly onto the threshing floor. There was no lower level, but livestock was housed on one side of the main aisle while hay and grain were stored on the other. This barn still has a high roof to accommodate the hay mow. That’s why Sean had to climb a ladder up toward the roof, despite his fear of heights.

Round Barn

This is an example of a round or polygonal barn.

These were first built by Shakers in the 1800’s but were not plentiful. They underwent a revival in the 1880’s as farmers sought more efficiencies. The idea was that the circle created more useable space with fewer materials. A central silo was added in later editions to allow gravity to move feed from the top floor to the cattle floor. In theory, the round barn was a great idea, but in practical terms there were drawbacks. It’s biggest shortcoming was the inability to expand. If the barn were built to accommodate twenty milking cows, it could not be expanded to accommodate thirty. As the farmer increased his herd, he had to built another barn.

The barn in this picture has been converted into a craft shop, saving it from the wrecker’s ball.

The interior of a wood frame barn is as beautiful as a cathedral, with soaring timbers, squared off to create sturdy beams. Smaller logs create the rafters and vertical siding allows ventilation between the boards.

 

Sadly, these iconic wooden structures are disappearing from Canada’s rural landscape. Some are merely abandoned as farms cease production. Others are replaced by modern, steel barns as agriculture moves forward with the times.

Modern Barns

Efficient feeding, cleaning and milking parlours make this modern barn state-of-the-art in today’s agribusiness. Via computer the farmer can set a feed schedule for each cow, monitor her milk output and control her milking timetable. Open sides allow light and air to enter the stable, and the use of tractors to clean the barn floor.

Only by embracing such modern inventions can the farmer meet the demand for more food produced at lower cost that twenty-first century consumers expect.

It combines the latest in science and animal husbandry.

I’m not sure it will help kids “get the stink off.”

To read more about the history of the barn in Canada, I suggest this link. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/barns

Do you have a favourite barn memory? Did you ever jump in loose hay? Please share your story.

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