a childhood saved

A Naturalist's Notebook

When I was 14-15 years old, I wrote a series of 23 essays as a weekly assignment for my high school English class. I called the series "A Naturalist's Notebook." Naturalist's Notebook Table of Contents

On Barns: November 29, 1973

Lately, I have had a peculiar yearning for barns. They are very appealing to me, with their weathered beams and shingles, haylofts, and various other characteristics that only a barn can have.

Near my home, there is a 160-year-old house with a barn nearby. Since I work for the people who own it, I can visit the barn every week or so. This is a great big barn, with a huge hayloft, rusty old tools, a milking stall, and a manure pit in the back of it. The beams are all hand-hewn with an adze, and one can almost feel the pride that the man (or men) must have felt when they built it almost two centuries ago.

Building a barn is a difficult process. First, you must have wood. This requires cutting down a tree, and sawing it into logs. Logs are set aside for beams, and others for boards. A foundation is made and boards are laid over it. Boards are cut from quarter-split logs. Beams are logs that are shaped by an adze.

Barns require a lot of wood, and a lot of strength. In olden times, nails were not used. Instead, wooden pegs were driven into the wood, in holes made by an auger.

On many barns, you will see a door leading to the loft. This is so hay can be thrown down out of the loft onto the ground, or in a wagon.

Another thing which is common to many barns is a wind-vane. Many different styles can be used, and some are quite clever and comical.

Occasionally you find an old insulated barn. Usually these were insulated by old newspaper which is very interesting to read. But most barns were kept warm in winter by animal-heat. The snow insulated the rest of it. Of course, if the barn was poorly built, the first heavy snow would destroy the roof. However, the majority of the old barns were built to last. And last and last! People took great pride in their quality work and unless they were in a hurry, their work was excellent.

Barns are very much a part of America and Americana. They tell us history and inspire us. A barn gives me the feeling that "if they could do something like that then, I can do it now!"

Next: "Dead of Winter?" November 29, 1973