Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Old Barns

We are losing a significant part of our heritage every day and few people seem to realize it. Barns. For you urbanites and suburbanites, this may not mean much. However, to those of us that grew up in the rural areas, a barn is much more than some old building sitting on a farm. Or, as more likely today, an old decrepit building at the edge of a housing development... it pains me to see them falling over. Too expensive to maintain, the owners just let them rot away.

Barns, in all their incarnations, were places where many of us played as kids. Going up into the hayloft where we could search for cats, play hide and seek and get thoroughly messy with hay. There was an old long-unused barn where I grew up (in the Adirondacks) and a rope was still attached to the hay pulley. My friends and I would swing from that thing like we were Tarzan. It's a wonder nobody got hurt. It was also a neat place just to search for old stuff, and the old manure pile behind it was a rich source of compost for our gardens. The barn is still standing, so far as I know, but even then it had probably been abandoned for 20 years.

Now I live in southern Michigan, and a 10 minute drive from my house gets me close to barns. Some are still being used -- either as integral parts of a farming operation, or as nothing more than hay/vehicle storage; others are standing and unused, and each year, many more are leaning and falling over in disuse and disrespect. Still, there is are amazing variety of barns here -- a flagstone barn near Chelsea, one made of glazed tiles near Saline, and of course a lot of wood barns that look like the same group of builders built them 100 years ago or thereeabouts. Most of them are painted red with white accents.

There is a really nice book on Michigan barns, by Mary Keithan - Michigan Heritage Barns. All her shots were done with an 8x10 view camera, and her images have caused me to go out and find some of the barns she has photographed. If you are interested in barn preservation, a number of states have preservation programs.

I saw this barn outside of Hastings, MI a couple of years ago and did not photograph it. This past July, I drove back home from Kalamazoo and took the back roads, and retraced my route to take me past this barn so I could get some shots of it. I think it is a 10-sided barn.

Whether they are regularly maintained or left to the ravages of the elements, barns are great photographic subjects. Interesting shapes, interplay of man/nature and the sometimes beautifully weathered wood can inspire you. Spend some time at one and see what magic it works on you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't you be working? XD