Living and Working in Barns

I live in a barn.

Whether or not you’ve ever even been in a barn, you probably have an idea of what a barn looks like.  Maybe you read or saw Little House on the Prairie, or saw a television show or movie where there might have been a scene or two in a barn.

When I tell people I live in a barn, they think of a cow barn, or maybe a horse barn.  High ceilings, hay mows, silos all around, animals and manure.  I can see they are thinking of those vaulted ceilings and envisioning some light filled cavernous room echoing from all the wood.  That’s not our house, except for all the wood.  We have the entire south side in windows and it is filled with light.  But high ceilings?  Nope.  And that’s good.  I don’t want to heat all that air.

There are different kinds of barns.  We live in a fruit barn.  Apples and cherries were processed and stored here.  Chickens were raised in the basement until they were old enough to go outside.  Winters can be harsh on little chicks, so we start them inside sometimes.  I did that once when I was living in a house on a dairy farm in Baileys Harbor.  I think of doing that again, often.  I like chicks and raising chickens, and fresh eggs, too. But I won’t be starting them in the house.  Too dusty.  I did it once, and that’s a story for another day.

So when I was dairy farming the first time with Dave I spent hours in the barn doing chores.  Milking cows.  Sweeping feed mangers twice a day.  Cleaning the barn, sweeping cow stalls, throwing fresh straw down from the hay mow and putting it in the stalls, throwing fresh lime down on the walk.  Washing the bulk tank every other day after our pickup.  Feeding calves and heifers twice a day.  Those were the easy days, when there was no field work to do.

When I went back into dairy farming with my Dad and Mom my days got longer and pretty soon I spent more time in the barn than in my home.  And it showed.  My barn was clean, and my house was always in disarray.  A farrier once told me that was the way it should be.  I just didn’t have the time, but I certainly didn’t like it that way.

Our barn’s ‘basement’ has 36″ thick field stone walls, and are well insulated, so dry and cool in the summer and dry and warm in the winter.  We heat with a wood boiler that is in the basement, so the kid’s rooms we built in 1994 are very cozy.

Our home, gallery and studio are in this barn.  There are plenty of rodents and bugs.  That could be chalked up to living in the country in the middle of an aging orchard in addition to living in an older building.  Pileated woodpeckers like our cedar shingles because many insects live underneath.  Periodically I have to run outside yelling at the birds to stop eating our house, or I tap loudly on the window or pound on the walls.

I guess there many people, like myself, who thought living in a remodeled barn would be cool.  It is.  Upstairs, here in my office or in our bedroom, the view is beautiful.  Not many bugs fly this high, so the windows can be open without screens.

I can lie in bed in the morning and watch the light change as the sun moves up in the sky.  The window faces east, so morning comes fast up here.  The birds are high up in the trees near the open window and they chitter chatter to each other and themselves.  I can hear the bees and the birds across the orchard at the neighbors suet feeder.  I can hear the wind in the trees.  I can hear the sounds of trucks coming down the hill into town.  I can hear the bell ringing at the Clearing calling the students to breakfast and that sound pushes me out of bed.

I’d say that living in this barn is good, because it’s where I live.  It’s the home my husband John built, the pottery studio he created and the business he started and grew and where I learned pottery and raised my family.  I’d say I don’t want to go back to the first barn I fell in love with, because the animals are gone, that life I had is gone.  But I miss that barn;  and I miss that life;  and I miss that place;  and I miss that part of my life.

Yeah, living and working in barns.


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