What You Will Not Find Here

You will find no advertising, no pop-ups, no tweets. Not even photographs, let alone a slide show. Nothing here will be moving fast. It will hardly be moving at all. Visit when you want a break from frenzy.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Day 17 Outdoors: Old Dairy Barn

Saturday, May 12, 7:30-8:35 p.m.

(The title of this post has been changed.)

When farmhouse and barn were new, the house sat high on the hill, and the barn was in the backyard, but since the house was moved downhill, their respective positions have been reversed. This view of the barn is from the west, as the farmer would have approached it in the old days to milk cows morning and evening. The barn would not, however, have been as dilapidated then as it is today, no longer housing livestock. The tall and massive section was originally roofed with wood shingles. Later, sections of metal roofing were laid on over the shingles, but on half of the western slope of the roof the metal is gone, and the shingles have been deteriorating rapidly. Old boards curve and sag inward. Gaping holes appear. Framing and side walls (of vertical boards) are in better condition.

Cows were kept in the shed on the north end of the barn. Inside, troughs in the concrete floor of this section received their body waste. There was a door between the two sections so that old Joe could transfer bales of hay and straw—the latter their bedding, former their winter food when pasture was snow covered—to their stalls. At either end of the tall section of barn are doors high in the walls where the last bales would have been delivered to the tops of the mountains inside by elevator.

The cowshed walls were simple boards laid horizontally, but at some point in the barn’s history these had been overlaid with sheets of stamped metal. Now, all these years later, much of the stamped metal has been peeled back and torn off by wind rushing down the hill, so that sections of old board are exposed. One small window is boarded shut, as is the small door on this side, while the other window is opaque silver-grey with the grime of decades.

The east side of the barn is kept mowed, but the west face
has been ungroomed for many years. Weeds and large shrubs grow up against the large old doors (not seen here) where machinery and wagons could once go in this side and out the other. This barn was built by a Bohemian farmer and shows his saving ways. Its decay shows the history of farming in Leelanau County: as livestock declined and orchards came to predominate, the old hay barns were no longer needed and not kept in repair. This one was also built without a foundation, its old twisted cedar uprights, seemingly as strong as iron, set directly on the ground, so over the years the barn has settled more and more, wanting to lie down and return to earth.

Late evening sun, soon to set behind the hill, warms the wood. The light changes almost by the moment. The lower its angle, the more detail appears: wood grain, knotholes, the subtle shading that weathering has brought about.

Sparrows flit in the shrubs. Mourning doves call. 


P. J. Grath said...

I must apologize for this photograph of my sketchbook. For some reason, the crop function in my Photoshop program seems to have gone wonky. If I try to crop at all, I lose areas I want to keep as well as what I want to eliminate. In this image, for example, I wanted to slice off the bottom, leaving only the open pages, but could not drag the right-hand margin of the crop box all the way to the edge. If anyone has suggestions, I'd love to have them. Thanks.

Dawn said...

I have no advice for cropping. I can't make anything work anymore! :) Really like these sketches, so detailed...would probably look wonderful framed!

P. J. Grath said...

It's only one sketch, Dawn. Photographing different parts separately shows the details better than the complete sketch, and the photographs somehow (to my eye) look better than the original sketch! But thanks. I'm glad you like it. I enjoyed working on it and seeing in my mind, for the first time, the cows in their stalls and the farmer going to them at milking time.

Gerry said...

I have been having a frazzly week and I kept coming back to this, trying to work my way into the right frame of mind. I was looking for the cow, you see. Oh.

I think it's interesting that you like your photograph of your sketch better than you like your sketch. Or at least that you felt that way on Friday. I felt that the last photo put me at a window looking out at the barn - it added a dimension. Of course you can't put too much stock in what I think, what with the cow and all.

P. J. Grath said...

Okay, Gerry, clearly (in retrospect, where all clarifies) I should have said cow-and-hay barn. A hyphenated phrase would not have brought you back over and over again looking for the cow. I like thinking of you coming back over and over again but wasn't trying to trick you into it.