“The old barn in the landscape evokes nostalgia and affection” –Arthur A. Hart
It would be much easier to build a new barn, but we like the look and feel of “old.” The barn at Mule Springs was built somewhere between late 1860 and late 1870, and though we don’t know the precise history of the barn we can guess its approximate date because it pre-twentieth century vertical siding, and the barn was built using square nails. Like many barns of yesteryear, our barn was added on to as needs changed, but the original construction was completed with hand forged nails and mortise and tenon joints.
Hand-hewn logs and square nails are reminiscent of pre- WWI when America was a “ horse-powered rural economy.” In addition to providing storage for hay, these early barns needed to provide, “shelter for horses and cows, and often a place for chickens, hogs, and sheep.” When most Americans lived on the land, the “all purpose barn was the rule.”
Nowadays most farms are huge monoculture agribusinesses, and the former farmhouses are vacant or they house “seasonal laborers.” The old barns are used to store machinery or have been dismantled and the barn wood sold for decorative purposes in modern homes. Picture frames made with old barn wood, wide plank flooring, and curio bathroom trim are examples of uses for these “relics” from America’s early farms.
Our barn will provide shelter for animals, storage for hay, grain, and machinery—plus will have a rustic guest room in the loft. It will be a twenty-first century “all purpose” barn created from a nineteenth century foundation. The reason the skeleton stands is because it’s so dry in this part of Oregon. In a wetter climate the barn would have rotted and fallen long ago.
The next few posts will show our progress with the barn. When you look at these images and see what poor shape the barn is in, does it seem possible we will reach our goal?
Author’s Note: Many of these photos were taken by Tim and Laurie Southworth.