Grit Blogs > Windy Meadows Farm

Old Barns ... Looking Back

 Barns are landmarks,
the symbols of rural life that spark our curiosity
and fan the flames of the American spirit."

-Laura Brooks, "American Landmarks: The Barn"

Mary Murray head shotIn this fast-paced, newer-is-better world, I have a soft spot in my heart for things that are old. Old houses, old barns, old ways of doing things.

I understand that "old" oftentimes means more work. We've found our house has "charming" slanted floors & doorways, and finding someone to plaster walls is next to impossible. All these things make renovating challenging, and yes, I've thrown my hands in the air many times thinking it would be better to start new.

But after all, houses from 1864 have seen a lot of laughter, tears, and love. It's comforting to walk on the floors and look through the rooms and out the windows where so many generations before us have done the same.

I feel the same about barns.  So when I saw this old barn down the road with all the boards gone, I understood. Wood rots over time and it would be nice to put new, freshly painted boards on the outside. The frame stood straight and strong...what a fine barn it will be again.
burke barn 

However; when I drove by again a few days later, this is what I saw...

lost barn 

Yes, the frame had been removed...I'm hoping it found a home on a new farm. What you see burning, was a pile of remaining wood. Still, there's a sadness to it all.

This barn below is the most recent to catch my eye. It sits next to an empty farmhouse that looks as if it was a lovely home once upon a time. A large two-story house with loads of character...tall windows and two separate, yet side-by-side front doors. It's the kind of place I'd love to take a peek inside; however, a very large, very impressive "No Trespassing" sign keeps me in line.

There are large stacks of white bee supers in the lower right side. It makes me wonder what the old homestead was once like...with a barn this size and the others behind it, this must have been a busy, thriving farm in its day. For me, it's sad to see these empty homes & barns...I find it hard to believe there wasn't anyone in the family who wanted to claim it.
barn 1 

And this barn. you see the halo over it? That's not a special effect I added through editing. Why yes, barns are heavenly.

haol barn 

I'm going to keep a file and photograph old homes and barns as I find them, and perhaps I'll add them to a weekly post. There's just something captivating in their age and character. And, sadly, I feel that most of these vanishing landmarks will soon exist only through photography.
B and W barn 

 valley barn 
 valley 2 barn 

These words seem so true...

"Those who seek the spirit of America
might do well to look first in the countryside."

-Eric Sloane, "An Age of Barns"   

Mary is a Midwest farmgirl who enjoys the simple pleasures of living in the country. "For us, living where there is plenty of room for gardens, animals, and for kids to play and explore is the best kind of life." You can visit Windy Meadows Farm at

jim hurley
9/3/2012 2:32:31 PM

I really appreciate old Barn's, wish they could talk. I guess some times if we take the time to stop, look and listen they do tell a tale or two. I understand the cost of fixing up an old barn can be expensive. Plus a "new" pole barn often serves a better use if space. Being a history buff anything "old" catch's my eye.i am sure fond memories surround an old barn. Some of my best were in the old barn with my Grand Parents. They have pasted away. The memories linger on. Great article

old school farm boy
6/27/2012 9:01:08 PM

Mary, great story about universal rual landmarks. We have a family farm in Kansas that has been in our family since 1883. A pesky tornado came through the night after the big Greensburg tornado and scalped the barn and flattened the machine shed that are in family pictures dating back to the 1920's. Common sense says the rest of the barn should come down, but with the lower and loft framework still in tact makes me want to determine if its rebuildable. Thanks for the story.

mary murray
6/27/2012 2:38:51 AM

I couldn't agree more, Pat. Well said!

mary murray
6/27/2012 2:37:59 AM

Wendy, I love how you're teaching your children to respect the old character of your home and barn. I think it's so important...especially in today's fast, video game, more is better world. It's so nice to be able to show them how things used to houses were different, and not cookie-cutter as so many are today. And that even those slanting doors and floors, and dirt-floor cellars are really something wonderful to be treasured! Our kids love how there are 6 trees in our cellar apparently holding up our house! (They won't find that in any modern home...and actually, maybe that's a good thing!)

pat croft
6/22/2012 3:18:08 PM

I also love old barns and houses-they cry out to be saved and restored-no one builds anything like that anymore-built to last and with pride!!!

wendy slatt
6/22/2012 2:49:12 PM

Mary, I really enjoyed this post and connect with so much of what you shared. Our home, too, is old (1856) and full of "charming" character. My husband loves to show friends and family that visit every unique, quirky feature, from the pegged floors to the slanting doors. :) I love every bit of it. The barn that came with our property has its own quirkiness too, roofing that has more angle on one side than the other. When Eric was renovating one side into our chicken coop, he asked if he should fix the roof too, to give the barn a more uniform look. I told him not to change a thing. I like to imagine that the family that built this house and the barn were a lot like us...doing the best they could with what they had and not worrying if it came out "perfect", so long as it worked. I hope to teach our children that kind of a character, and maybe someday when it's their turn to take over this place, they too will understand that some old things are worth preserving.

6/19/2012 4:29:25 PM

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mary murray
6/18/2012 2:24:16 PM

Thanks Dave for sharing your good memories of sounds like you had some wonderful times there as a kid! Now about those 13 cows to milk...that's a big job! I know it's hard to keep barns in tact...ours needs a little love as well, and folks just aren't quite as eager for a barn-painting-party as they used to be. I know how tempting it is to sell and start fresh with less hard work...but I agree. I hope the eagerness we see i so many people to get back to their roots and create a homestead for their families will see these old homes & barns coming back to life. I know it's expensive...I know times are's hit all of us. But maybe we'll see that spark come back to the old ways, trying to save those homes & barns...I sure hope so.

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6/18/2012 1:36:35 PM

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nebraska dave
6/17/2012 1:33:29 PM

Mary, barns hold some special memories for me. It was one of the best places to play as a kid. Haymows were the best part. Just climbing up the ladder into the haymow brought excitement. It was always an added benefit to find an egg or two that had been abandoned by the chickens. They were the best exploding stink bombs. Later in high school, many hours were spent in the barn milking 13 cows morning and night. I'm afraid that you are right in your assumption that barns are dying a slow death of neglect. Nebraska is littered with abandoned farm houses and barns. With the advance of the larger acreage farms, more and more farm houses have been left to decay away. The young farms kids have left for the city and don't want the farm life. The increase of value for farm land has caused the potential young farmers to sell the inherited farm and use the money to live a comfortable life in the city. I don't blame them because farm life is a hard busy life but it is sad to see the homestead slowly fading away. Some parts of the country has seen a rereemergence of the homestead with the typical animals and country lifestyle. I am hoping that the Urban homestead will continue to grow and spread across the country. Have a great day in the garden.