The other day we counted nearly a dozen old barns on our quarter mile street. While a couple are melting back into the landscape, many have been refurbished and a few even still function agriculturally. Mt. Baker can be seen towering above one or two if you get the right perspective and serves as a stun-you-back-to-the-moment sort of view, especially at sunset.
The word barn derives from the old English word byer, or byre. Meaning cattle shed or barley shed. Barns were traditionally built from the timber and, less frequently, stone on the land when clearing for pasture and served to shelter livestock, hay, grain, and later, equipment. They may have gotten their red color from iron oxide mixed with linseed oil which served as a protective barrier for the wooden structures.
In America there are as many barn styles as there are nationalities of the immigrants who farmed. Subsequently, what was being farmed influenced design over time. Repeated years of grain intensive farming, for example, depleted soil causing lowered yields. Many farmers turned to livestock to shore up their finances which necessitated larger buildings.
Today, it is common to see the small original barns in various states of disrepair. Our 100+ year old barn is leaky, drafty, and structurally sketchy. It wouldn’t be worth it to restore if the previous owners hadn’t redone the foundation and floor, or if it wasn’t so dang charming. It is like an anchor to the past that I don’t want to destroy.