The Maine farm barn was once a thriving, vibrant center stone in the crown jewels of a country acreage land spread.
But square bales of hay not collected from fields, conveyor belted or lifted up overhead for winter storage now. Man power to hay, less farmers, smaller families all led to big round bales that machines can handle, not humans alone. So the big massive storage capacity of a Maine farm barn is under utilized. Everything has to be on the ground floor now on the Maine farm. Like our Maine schools for handicap access.
Nothing excites but bothers me at the same time as spying a big farm barn while exploring around Maine back roads.
The fact the Maine farm barn is still standing is a testament to it’s construction. And to the caretakers, good stewards that kept the roof shingled, weather tight. That replaced sills that were kicking out, windows that needed re-glazing. But getting that high up to use that many shingles, paint or stain that large an area for something that two thirds of it is has no use. Makes it a labor of love, more than a good business exercise on the investment of time, money, resources.
I spied with my little eye a Maine barn this weekend on US Rt 1A in Limestone, in Aroostook County. That definitely had a better side for profile images. Just like you and I. From the south, the need for some paint for the barn doors and trim. The shingled cedar weathered and au natural. The aging asphalt roof fatique apparent. But big metal cupolas stood stately, proud, straight.
Rusting cupolas, a pair of them used to help vent the big barn full of yearly new harvest hay. That heats up if the moisture is not removed in the field before storage. If put away wet. And that’s the source of many a barn fire total loss destruction. Because hay wasn’t left to dry, condition, cure. And heated up to the point of spontaneous combustion. Barn lighting rods in place, purchased during a good potato year. The overall Maine farm barn seemingly straight. Eye candy for a Maine farm boy that never grew up, excites easily.
But on the north side of the Maine farm barn, that gets the weather, especially out of the northwest, watch out.
We have a problem Houston. And the posts, beams, dowels when the roof is peeled back and side barn cavity exposed to the open elements. All that Maine weather means she will bleed out fast. Exposed, unprotected and like someone did not just leave the barn door open and the old gray mare got away. The entire side of the structure is naked, unprotected, vulnerable Getting wet, drying out. Being lifted up jerked, pushed down hard. Bullied sideways by grounding pounding wrestling winds, Maine weather.
Racking the barn frame and trying to make the place lay down for good and die.
As it sinks, which will happen with enough weather, more time and lack of maintenance to save the Maine barn. This barn’s attached machine shed or animal stable pulled away, helping accelerate the tail spin, stall and dive to the bottom of the farm spread ocean.
The loss of the giant Maine farm barn makes the ones that still roam the Earth, in Maine, elsewhere that much more special, unique, cherished. Insurance companies don’t like them. Know how much they cost to reproduce with six by sixes, eight by eight beams. If there is a fire. There is just so much that goes into a massive Maine farm barn to repair.
Keeping one healthy means find another Maine barn to be an “organ donor”.
Salvaging, scavenging cupolas, metal door hinges and fasteners of the period. Steel cross cables turn buckled to like a girdle and buttress the spread, squat, sag. To work against gravity in combination with careful, slow, tedious jacking. Adding more hurricane bracing. Trying to keep the box square. Or make it rectangular again. The gambrel barn roofs are more needy, higher maintenance than the simple “A” gable ones. But ah, the gambrel barns hold so much more hay. Offer tremendous, usable storage. To draw from over a long Maine winter in hay storage for rows and rows of critters. Or used that way when the family farm, like my Mom who was a Benn from Hodgdon Maine was the norm. Meant eleven kids in her family all pitched in to help perform daily chores on a bustling dairy and potato farming operation.
Like an old rusted 1959 Cadillac, Square Thunderbird, Lincoln, Corvette or other other classic that comes with a parts car. Or two because you need them for the original labor of love restoration if you are a purest. Or have time to tinker, not just ching ching mail order in genuine imitation expensive parts. That look close to what the original yesteryear ride did when she rolled off the production line in Detroit. Playing some R and B, Motown music from it’s dashboard AM radio. Smelling of new upholstery and rug, rubber, vinyl and chrome trim, fresh paint.