Conklin: It takes a barn to make a farm


When driving down country roads, do you ever pay attention to the barns at different farms? Some farms have three or four barns, while others may have only one.

There are five different buildings at our farm. Three are for horses, one for storage, and one is an indoor riding arena. Several years ago, we realized that the three horse barns needed to be painted. So, our daughters, my husband and I set out to paint, not only the barns, but all the fences and gates as well.

We got together all the ladders, brushes, putty knives and sun glasses, that were needed to do the job. By the time we finished, we had used a total of 68 gallons of Weatherbeater to cover everything. It took us the whole three months from August through October to do the job. Time-wise, it worked out very well, because as we changed the calendar to November, the weather changed to bitter cold.

When your barns are an important part of your life, you pay more attention to other barns. It seems that some barns are in good shape, while others are about to fall down.

When some farm families pass their farm down from generation to generation, often the year it was originally built has been painted on the front barn. We’ve seen some as far back as the late 1800s.

The next thing you may notice is how well their barns are kept up. You won’t find broken windows or roofing blowing in the wind at these farms. They may be used as housing for horses, cows, or sheep.

On the other hand, you might see long, low buildings with a lot of exhaust fans running. They will be housing pigs, chickens, turkeys or ducks. When pigs in these pig farms die, and have to be buried, the pig farmer uses horse manure and sawdust to help the animal decompose. So, a pig farmer will haul away manure from a horse farm for this purpose. It’s a win-win situation.

A lot of barns that once housed animals are now used for weddings, and other celebrations where a lot of people need a big space to gather. There is a big barn in Stratford being remodeled for this very purpose. Or, you can find a beautiful brand new barn on old U.S. 23 North at All Occasions. It has just recently been completed for weddings.

Barns that are still good, but no longer used, are being torn down and the framing timbers are used for remodeling older homes, lodges, sports clubs and ski resorts. You will find that older barns were built with wooden pegs which were used at the corners to hold the framing together. You won’t find these wooden pegs used anymore because of being too time consuming. Now, nails serve that purpose.

If you have ever watched “American Pickers” on TV, you have seen inside some of the barns that are back off the highways. They are loaded with stuff from years and years of collecting. You may find good antiques, or just plain junk.

If you want to see a lot of work going on in barns, you need to go to any livestock farm where work goes on seven days a week. These barns are filled with livestock that have to be fed, stalls that have to be cleaned, and buckets that have to be filled with clean water. As for cow barns, the cows have to be milked twice a day, every day of the week. At some stables, the owners of the horses come on a daily basis to take care of their own horses, usually to get them ready for horse shows.

If you want to see a very interesting cow barn that has been converted into very nice church, drive north on U.S. 42 out of Delaware. While living with his family, my husband milked a lot of cows in what is now the basement of that church. The upstairs part, that was the hay mow, is now the sanctuary.

Speaking of hay mows, there are a lot of hay mows that kids get to use for playing basketball. Also the FFA, Future Farmers of America, had pest hunts in barns, as well. In case you haven’t heard of pest hunts, it means they want to get rid of the rats, mice and unwanted birds.

I have been told that since some horses, and other livestock, do not like to cross a bridge, a roof was put over the bridge to make the animals think they were going into a barn. Of course, I’m referring to covered bridges. There is a brand new covered bridge on Whetstone River Road in Marion County. You may enjoy going to see it, and while there, get out of your car and walk across it. It’s beautiful.

Barns are a very important part of any farm. If you didn’t have any barns, could you still call it a farm? The house would be just a house sitting out in the middle of a lot of land.

When I see an old barn barely able to stand against the wind, I often wonder what it looked like when it was newly built. Why did the farmer fail to repair the vital parts that held it all together? I’m told that no matter how bad of shape a barn has become, it can still provide a good home for owls. They are needed to keep the mice and rat population down.

So, you may want to think of that the next time you are out riding on our country roads. It takes a barn to make a farm, whether it’s only one or several more.

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Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.

Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.