I recently read an article in the Winnipeg Free Press entitled, “Endangered species: 90-year-old wooden barn one-of-a-kind in Western Canada.” Written by Bill Redekop, the article describes the character of an old barn and how the symbolic red barn is quickly becoming extinct as metal buildings become the norm on modern-day operations.
Here is an excerpt from the piece: “A barn used to signify a farm. On the vast majority of farms now there is no barn. If there is, it's just a metal, nondescript building. You've seen one, you've seen a million. No one will ever take a picture of that.”
That's music to the ears of Ed Ledohowski, who recently retired as Manitoba’s heritage consultant. “There are so few barns left. The picture of a family farm with a barn in it is all gone. You only see that in butter commercials,” he says.
It seems like I spent much of my childhood in our family’s barn, I wholeheartedly agree with Ledohowski that a big red barn is truly the heart of a good ranch. Here are four reasons why our family’s barn holds great memories for me:
1. A barn has countless stories.
Our barn was once a dairy barn, and some of the old milking stanchions still hang there, rusting in their place. As a kid, I used to imagine what the barn looked like when it was a milking parlor four generations before me. My grandpa and dad converted it to a working barn, and we ran a lot of cattle through it -- doing everything from semen testing bulls to calving out cows, working calves, and housing my 4-H projects.
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2. A good barn can weather most storms.
Sure, our barn might be sagging a bit in a few places, but with a little tender loving care, we’ve been able to keep the old girl standing after all these years. Many summer hours have been spent painting the exterior walls and trim, replacing tin on the sides, fixing the electricity and water running into the barn, and redoing the roof.
3. After a long, happy life, sometimes you have to say goodbye to the barn.
Although our main barn is still standing strong, we recently had to knock down one of my dad’s old hog barns. Like our main barn, this barn had a lot of stories to tell. It was once used to farrow sows, but it was converted in my time into a smaller calving barn. In its later years, the barn served as storage for square bales. Its last act of service was serving as a scratching surface and windbreak for our herd bulls in the winter. We torched that old facility last summer, and I documented the barn burning in photos.
Check out: 13 images from a barn burning
4. Barns help raise kids and make family memories.
The barn was the center of a lot of ranch work; as a result, that was where I spent much of my time with my family as a kid. I created many fond memories in our barn – breaking show calves with my dad, working on my 4-H projects with my sisters, helping to tattoo heifers, write down bull weights, and pitching a lot of manure, to name a few. You could say that big, old red barn helped raise me. And for that, I’m grateful.
Does your ranch have an old, wooden barn still standing? How old is your barn, and what have you done to maintain it over the years? Share your thoughts in the comments section below, and send me your barn photos for posting to firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to build a gallery.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of Beefmagazine.com or the Penton Farm Progress Group.
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