I love to drive down the road and look at old barns. They are beautiful to me. They must have such a special story to tell of how they were once used daily and were such an important place on the homestead. I have enjoyed traveling all over Kansas, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina to look at old barns.
I might replace the name “old” with “historical” as these barns have such a rich history. I believe we could all learn how to apply the wisdom that old homesteads had gained from time and experience, and better our life today, if we could learn about the history of these old barns.
If I ever produced a TV show, I might call it “This Old Barn” or “This Barn Has A Story” or something like that, and travel around and interview old time farmers and learn about their barn’s past. Sadly, just like many of the old barns, the old time farmers are disappearing. It won’t be long and there may not be any of this generation left to tell the stories.
Some of these historical barns were used for specific uses like tobacco, or wheat, and some were only for horses or pigs, or a dairy, but most of these historical barns had multi uses on the homestead and housed all sorts of livestock (cows, sheep, pigs, goats, horses, chickens, rabbits, etc.), as well as grains, hay, and various tools and farm equipment all at the same time for the benefit of the homesteaders who lived there. Whatever was stored in them, and however they were used, they were the hub of activity and life on the homestead. They represented the economic stability, and the future of the farm.
This Old Barn
Even though I love these historical barns, when we moved to this homestead, I didn’t like my old barn. It is a complete eye sore and the first thing you see coming up the driveway. Every day, and every time I pulled into the driveway, it reminded me that it was in horrible disrepair that can be seen from the road, that I could not fix it, and I could see no future.
For many reasons, we did not think “this old barn” was salvageable. It is well over a hundred years old and I wish it could be saved, it’s history preserved, and become useful again. But no one that I have met yet seems to know the history of this old barn as it has not been in use with farming as a way of life, or with livestock, for at least the past sixty years or so. The farm has changed hands several times since then. In the past couple of years, another farmer rented the back field for a time after it sat idle for many years, but he did not live here or use the barn. For the past year that I have lived here, I have been very discouraged about the absence of a story, and the absence of homesteading life in this “old” barn.
The problems with the barn are numerous and I couldn’t even begin to list them all. It sits on the property line, adjacent to the neighbor’s fence on the south side, so there is no hope in using it at all on the south side. On that side, the neighbor has a large beautiful fenced pasture that he uses for horses and cows.
Our drive way is on the north and east side, and there is no pasture area on those sides of the barn that we can use. The only space at all to possibly build a pen is an area about 20 feet wide on the east side of the barn. We could not even imagine how we could raise cows or other livestock on this side of the fence and in such a small area and block the access to the back field, and the lack of a decent barn for shelter.
I have asked my husband about making some repairs to the barn, but he says it would not be cost effective. The foundation is in disrepair. There are places where you can see the old stone foundation, but someone came in and poured concrete over that at some point, and there are places where there are holes. The siding is missing almost entirely on the south side, and partially missing or broken on the other sides. And as if all that wasn’t bad enough, the roof leaks and needs replaced and the gutter, windows, and doors are all missing.
When it rains, snows, or the wind blows, most of the barn is wet and cold because of the leaking roof and the missing and broken siding. And there is no running water or electricity working in the barn, though there was a working water spicket and a light on the lower level at sometime in the long ago past, and these linked underground from the old farmhouse, but both resources broke down and were removed at some point. All new lines would need run from the house again for this resource to be available.
There was a room addition added onto the west side of old barn many years ago, and it was placed on gravel foundation with block on the lower half of the west wall, but the addition was not done correctly and needs completely redone. The wood framework of the barn both vertically and horizontally are termite eaten. The wood flooring on the upper level is bad and needs rebuilt or one could fall through. As a matter of fact, the whole barn needs torn down and rebuilt. It is just one huge eye sore and disappointment for a working homestead.
I wish we could fix this old barn. But rebuilding the barn is not an option for us at this time. It would take a lot of money to fix it, and we won’t be able to do that for several years as far as we can tell.
Knowing all these problems with the building when we moved here, we did not have plans to use the old barn as it did not seem like a safe habitat for much of anything, even though it was used for a small scale farm with dairy cows, horses, and hay in the long ago past. There is still old fashion milking stanchions on the lower south side of the barn, and two horse stalls on the north side of the lower level. There is a walkway in between the south and north sides where the farmer who built this old barn walked and fed the animals on either side.
It is certainly not safe now to even store bales of hay in it’s present condition. It seems that we could cause it to collapse under the heavy weight of hay bales, and they would get wet too. We have stored the mower and bikes in the lower barn, on the gravel side where the room addition is, but I don’t even let the kids play in it due to the safety concerns, and they can only enter it with supervision when daddy or I go with them.
This Old Barn Has A “New” Story.
But God clearly had other thoughts about this old barn. He knew what it could be used for without costing us any money to fix it, and a potential we did not and could not see. He does this with human lives too. He sees the potential they have no matter how broken they look. Though they themselves can not fix their circumstances, he can. He knows what they are capable of in their future, and he sees into their future and works out everything for the good of those who love him.
“We know that God is always at work for the good of everyone who loves him. They are the ones God has chosen for his purpose,” Romans 8:28
The north side of the barn still has some siding, and the concrete floor inside the lower level on the north and east end of the barn is still usable. So with a wall for a wind break, and shelter, this old barn could still provide a safe habitat for small animals. It wouldn’t hold up to a cow or a horse as it did years ago, but it may work as a shelter for smaller animals.
The old barn is in use once again and is telling a new story. The barn has become the new home for our five beautiful kittens that were born earlier this summer. It will also house our rabbits for the winter. The rabbits are currently outside next to our chickens, but we will be moving them inside the barn very soon.
Now the old barn has also become a home for a herd of goats on the homestead. We did not seek out this herd of goats. But we found ourself in a situation where someone wanted to give us their goats, plus all the equipment they had accumulated over the years to care for the goats including solar electric fencing, hay feeders, a mineral feeder, a bag of mineral powder, hoof trimmers, a water tank, three calf huts for shelters, and all the hay the goats can eat for the winter.
The goats were owned by an elderly gentleman who’s grandchildren had shown them in 4H. But now they were grown, no longer in 4H, and had moved away. His health was declining, and he did not want to care for them through the harsh Indiana winters any more. He got our name through the local 4H goat club leader, and he contacted us several times asking us if we would like to have them.
We discussed the situation several times, and each time our decision was no, we could not get the goats. We could not even imagine having goats again at this time because of the expenses to set them up and care for them properly, etc. It can cost thousands of dollars to buy livestock, feed them and care for their needs year around, set up fencing, and set up shelter for them. Those are expenses we don’t have in our budget right now. We are doing good just to take care of our family and a few chickens and pet rabbits, cats, and dogs, as the last year of our life was a whirlwind of moving a cross the country, job losses, and under employment. How could we even dream of getting livestock?
“Look at the crows! They don’t plant or harvest, and they don’t have storehouses or barns. But God takes care of them. You are much more important than any birds.” Luke 12:24
But God had placed favor on us, and this man who we did not know wanted to give us his goats. He clearly loved his pet goats and wanted them to have a good home with lots of love and a future.
He also wanted to give us everything we would need to care for his animals for the next year, and help make the transition for us to own and care for them as smooth as possible. Though he did not even know us, his gift of generosity was genuine.
When went to look at the goats, still questioning could we do this or not, it all changed once we met him in person and saw his love for his animals. Instantly our whole family fell in love with his goats. They were calm and friendly. He had them in a large fenced pasture with access into a barn for shelter.
So my husband picked up the supplies the farmer wanted to give us on a Saturday, and got busy putting a pen together! The children helped measuring the distance, stake out the boundary, drive the posts, run the wire, etc. They were so excited to build the pen.
My husband sectioned off a small area on the lower level of the barn for the goats with some leftover wood scraps and a fence panel we were given, set up the calf huts outside the barn just in case the rain coming into the barn is a problem and the goats can use them as a rain shelter, and he built the goat pen outside to the east of the old barn.
He used the neighboring farm’s fence on the south side, the electric fence we were given on the north and east sides, and used the east wall of the barn for the pen’s west side. In the state of Indiana, both neighbors are legally allowed to use a fence that is on the property line. So the neighbor has cows on his side, and we have goats on our side. Our fence supplies went a lot further because we only had to build two sides for a pen, by using the neighbor’s fence and the side of our barn on the other two sides.
The pen is only as wide as the barn, about 20 feet wide because the other three sides are unusable with a neighbor to one side, and a drive way to the other two sides. That is our only access for our drive way and to the back of the property so we had to leave a lane wide enough to drive through and could not make the pen any wider than the barn. But the pen came out as a nice long rectangle, and the goats can go in an out of the old barn through the missing door when ever they want, and knowing what little we started with, we are thrilled with it.
The kids are having so much fun petting and caring for the goats everyday. They water them in the tank we were given, currently with a hose stretched from the house, until freezing winter weather hits our area, and then we will have to put the hose away and carry water in buckets down the hill to them.
The goats eat hay and grass and powdered mineral, free choice. They do not eat any grain. The old farmer who gave the goats to us said he has never given them any grain and they stay healthier if they are only fed fresh grass, hay, and minerals free choice. YAHOO!
When we were ready and the pen was built, the old farmer delivered the goats to us in his livestock trailer. Wow, delivered right to our door. Once again the Lord worked out all the details. Now the goats are settling into their new home, they are well cared for, loved, and they don’t seem to notice the brokeness of the old barn. They are making a new history here, and the barn once again has a new purpose on the homestead.
This old barn has a new story! What an amazing blessing! God knew ahead and saw what we did not see. His plans for us, and his thoughts about us are for a hope and a future.
“I will bless you with a future filled with hope—a future of success, not of suffering.” Jeremiah 29:11