Barns in Maine, there was a time when every family farm had one or more sitting in the center of the agricultural enterprise.
One at a time and not mass produced, the original Maine barns built for farming, not wedding events. Yesteryear small growing Maine rural communities rallied together. The local farm families stepped up to take their turn. Much like our Maine Amish communities do one day a week. Thursday is community day which means everyone pack up and meet over at this week’s location to pitch in and lend a hand. All expected to step up and come together over and over like the original farm family settlers. To systematically help create each unique hand built barns in Maine. Built to last, slowly constructed one by one using many hands. To get your very own barn building appointment meant first helping several others put together their farm barns.
Every family member with a specific role in the barn building on the Maine farm.
Large amazing spreads of local food needed to fuel the hard working hungry builders of the farm barn. Barn raisings to piece together the post and hand hewn beam behemoths took the help of many.
The big stately working barns in Maine each secured with mortised joint dowels to create the amazing structures. Slowly constructed to serve the Maine farm families for generations.
Some barn workers in charge of finding the trees, cutting them down. Others shaping the long timbers needed for the skeleton frame of the barns in Maine. Lumber of all dimensions whittled out of whatever the team of horses twitched in from the woodlot sections of the Maine farm acreage. Still more deputized to create cedar shingles, clapboards, board and baton or whatever exterior covering to be applied to the farm barn exterior.
Scaffolding to protect the barn building workers did not remove the dangers being that high in the air performing carpentry maneuvers. You climb, you fall, you would die. That simple. I know of a local roofer who did just that from high a top a barn in Maine being shingled when a fatal accident happened. The staging plank snapped and still shudder thinking about the Maine farm barn shingle roof repair accident.
Roofing, ventilators and cupolas to bring in plenty of natural lighting and air to remove the moisture of newly mowed hayed to be stored in the barn in Maine.
Sills, rocks foundation supports to work best meant selecting a high and dry location with good soil drainage. Hemlock flooring to support the livestock, whatever to be stored in the large capacity farm barn meant another team of individuals hammered each plant in place. Finishing off the hay mow lofts, the standing and box stall pens in the inside of the Maine farm barn. Laughter, singing, hammering heard while installing windows, the weather tight trim boards.
Crafting and hanging doors on blacksmith created hinges and opening hardware another role in the barn raising.
Creating trap doors, upper openings to aid the efficiency utility of the Maine farm barn. Adding pulleys and ropes to help whatever to be stored inside the big farm barns in Maine. Dormers for ventilation and natural lighting because no power. In later years, stringing metal to connected roof top lightning rods. During approaching thunder storms, you better unplug the pasture fence charger quickly. Or you could be the lightning rod during the frantic unloading into the dry barn operation.
The barns in Maine were not for show and all built for specific farm operation purposes.
Maine farm barns. To protect the animals, to store the crops. The needs of the house with a growing family quickly filling it came second to the farm barn. The other auxiliary buildings from hen, granary, workshops and ice house along with the equipment and produce sheds all vital. To creating a sustaining family farm in Maine operation that depended on the business side of the outdoor living off the land lifestyle. Frugal and thrifty, sometimes going without and always stretching the dollars to the maximum created a deep respect on how to handle your precious limited resources. More time considering all the options make it what I was taught. Plan your work, work your plan and you have to have a system. Long hours, up to 40 the count by Tuesday noon dedication a given.
You and I admire them. Old farm barns in Maine.
The well cared for big barn that is still standing. There was a time when hundreds of small family farms dotted the countryside in any small Maine town. Each agricultural producer lean and mean working round the clock to maintain their farmstead homes to raise a family and make a living. But like dinosaurs, one by one due to repair neglect, lack of use, fire, rain, snow, weather and time. You witness their slow painful death as they crumble and gravity pulls them to the ground. The open roof hole on a barn or section taken off in a gust of Northeast winds speeds the bleeding out and barn’s final life gasp.
Early farm barns in Maine, what size were they?
Many I list and sell in my real estate profession are 40×40 simple designs. How come some built with gambrel and others with simple “A” line steep gable roof lines? Great capacity storage. Why were barns in Maine often painted red if colored at all? Because that’s the color you get when linseed or other oils are added to skim milk and lime. You used what you had to protect the exteriors. Or applied board and baton or cedar shingles to let them go all natural without the sealing protection. A Maine farm is loaded with buildings for all the agricultural operations that happen on it. That painting schedule can make it never ending. You just finish up the buildings and time to go back to square one. To begin new paint on wherever your started opening paint cans and reaching for a brush.
The barn red not fire engine bright but more a red orange hue blend caused by blood added to the paint mixture that you did not select from the Sherwin Williams color wheel.
Instead the slaughter of whatever you put in your raised on your farm to put on the family table for meat. That blood added to the home made paint concoction made it a shade like Miss Kitty used in the house of ill repute to entertain the cowboys.
The rowdy boisterous bunch that seemed to like honky tonk tinny piano music, a shot of whiskey and spirited card game. After being out on the dusty trail too long and sleeping propped up against their horse saddle under the stars out on the prairie. Also, ferrous oxide or “rust” stirred in to the flack oil mixture of your own dairy milk and farm field lime protective paint. The rust Kryptonite poison to mold, moss and fungi that you don’t want growing on your Maine barn. Lots never wore paint. Or what color is long worn off by Mother Nature & Jack Frost. Most Maine farmstead houses were New England conservative white.
Each farm barn created in Maine just a little bit better design than the last one raised too.
Not built with wide rolled out blue prints to study but using common sense. Horse sense some call it when you trust your gut and have your head screwed on straight so to speak. Considering where the southern sun would be to position it correctly. Applying barn building knowledge often learned in another country. Carried in your head across the pond. When disease, famine, some form of pestilence forced the move to this new land full of hope and opportunity called America.
Lots of Irish farmers in my area with names like Fitzpatrick to prove the point.
This farm barn below under the blog post spotlight attached to the home located in Drew Plantation Maine, population 45. Listed this with 50 acres of Maine land and sold the old farmstead a few years back. Lack of heat and no repair hastens the decline of the Maine barn’s health and happiness. These old barns were used to work, livestock and hay storage activity.
Sears and Roebuck was the catalog source for everything you needed including barns in Maine.
You could order your Maine barn from Sears. And after a couple weeks, make arrangements to pick it up at the local Maine railroad station. Or the unloading transfer from the flat or box car at the railroad siding nearest your Maine farm. You could order all the other farm buildings around the big center stage barn too. Get the entire collection. Need a milk parlor for your dairy farm? A chicken coop for hens and eggs, one lucky rooster? Maybe a sheep pen, a smaller pony barn to go? Let your fingers do the walking in the latest Sears and Roebuck catalog of barns on your Maine farm spread. To find the one that worked best for your specific farming utility. That also better be a glove custom fit to match your purchasing budget.
The store bought mass produced barns on farms in Maine came in all sizes and prices to put together from Sears and Roebuck.
For example, all pre cut and ready to assemble barns back in the early 1920’s included the say “Country Gentlemen barn”. The blog post header up on top of this Me In Maine article is that barn model if I was a betting man. When out for a Sunday afternoon drive up the hill in Dyer Brook Maine on US RT 2, my Dad pointed out the red barn with the rounded roof in Aroostook County. The four boys and my Mom in the car for the ride were told that barn came in by railroad. Was ordered from the Sears Roebuck catalog and careful loved and put to work on the Tarr farm for many years. Until all but four acres surrounding the location with long views of countryside and Mt Katahdin, Mt Chase and other elevations listed and sold off.
According to the catalog, the cost for the 32′ long by the same width, the barn kit would set you back just a tad over a grand.
A farmer could super size the barn model to stretch the dimensions to 104′ long and 36′ wide. This bigger barn parts package cost almost $4600. That got you all the materials and instructions on how to step by step easily piece it all together. The Sears catalog died with the last spring/summer edition back in 1993. Today, lots of local Maine log cabin and home makers still ship the pre-cut cedar and pine packages all over the World.
The use for the Maine farm barn depended on the type of agriculture happening on the spread.
Growing field crops is not the exact same kind of farming as raising pasture livestock. A combination of the two farming endeavors happened a lot. Because highly specialized agriculture would be years in the making to evolve. Early farming was all about meet your own needs first and foremost. You wanted for little of life’s basic needs. You just did not have the opportunity to sell much raised on the farm because there was little money locally. And accessing far away city markets not an easy proposition.
Long hours of toil, wrestling with the weather, gambling their would be a market for what you produced on the Maine farm. The labor of love for the farming lifestyle that took the entire family to stay on the country land acreage. Depending on the dirt you carefully clear to make open pasture fields from the woods meant stump removal, lots of patience.
No hydraulic diesel power machinery to help the early farmers and work from before sunrise to sundown took never ending discipline.
The earliest America barns made of log walls and thatched roofs. Later ones timber framed and in all sizes. Extensions on the side of barns common. Open shed roof areas to allow animals to shelter from the wind, snow, rain “tacked on”. Or extra structures to service the farms surrounding the big center stone barn. Circling it like wagons under attack. The large apple and other fruit orchards not too far away from the big barn too. Next year’s tree length wood to heat the home stacked handy too. The Maine farm family always working a year, a couple seasons ahead to be prepared.
Planting seeds, cultivating and hoeing by hand and horse or eventually farm tractor.
Harvest in the fall and hopefully recouping all that time and money invested in the farm labor. But knowing even a break even year is a good one in farming. Because come spring, you begin again. Driven by hope, a strong faith and the family farm tradition that combine as the wind to your back.
I love Maine farm barns. Owning one and making sure it is preserved and maintained is a honor as less and less of them populate the countryside. These big barns represent a small family farm independent lifestyle. In the early 1900’s over 80% of folks in rural Maine were farmers. Now nationally less than 2% of the population raises the food to feed the country. Bigger, factory farms are replacing the smaller acreage family ones. Ever thought of owning a small hobby farm in Maine? Check out the Maine real estate listings and you will spy with your eye ones with farm barns.
Many barns in Maine going, going gone down to their knees because important structure beams removed that should have stayed in place.
Put there for a reason by the old timers to resist high winds, winter snow and the test of time. Timbers, cables, turn buckles to steady the structure to make it last under harsh conditions. To add utility to the big barns designed for a slew of different purposes. Some barns in Maine got an overhaul in more recent years. Reworking their design is all well and good but not if you don’t know what you are doing. Weather tight roofs harder to maintain because getting up there is dangerous. I get it and have done it. Especially on a windy day holding a sheet of four by eight metal or a bundle of shingles heading north up a very tall rickety ladder. Money to do the expensive repairs is not always plentiful in frugal rural Maine.
This barn in Maine that just got a new metal roof is a working barn, not just for eye candy pleasure and reminiscing about yesteryear farming lifestyle.
It was a trailer truck terminal for Prem Pak. It houses cattle, pigs, small animals and hay before that use on the Maine farm. Today it is used for storage of people’s toys from pontoon boats or antique cars and travel trailers during the winter months. This 100′ long by 44′ wide Maine barn would cost a fortune to recreate and the people to do it that had the antique know how long dead in the ground for many decades.
One difficult potato farming season in Maine, this old barn had two long firs propped into place on the east side.
The trees from our own woodlot cut, the limbs sliced off and two long “poles” craned into place against wooded blocks to stabilize the structure. On the side where the black and white farm photo shows the corral fencing and new potato barrels on the truck. The old barn was listing and getting out of square. Until slowly racketed back into place and the cross member hurricane bracing added to up in the top story. Along with turnbuckles, cables to beef up and protect the interior roof sections. Gable barns are an “A” and don’t squat like the wider more storage capacity gambrel ones can. This is a gambrel roof Maine farm barn.
The poles were a temporary fix until the next better growing season and money to finish the work on the old farm barn could continue. Growing up on a Maine farm teaches a person, the entire family much patience. Respect and better handling of machinery, the buildings, animals, planted crops headed into careful storage. All that other talents taught so early on that there never was a different approach applied to the simple living in rural Maine.
The sound needs to be pumped up but lots of historical details involving my favorite subject, barns.
Watch a history of Maine farm barns video.
I have put new sills, jack hammered out one cement bay floor of my Northern Maine barn shown in the above aerial view black and white photo.
Replaced old barn windows, hurricane braced and added cables to keep the roof and sides straight and true. Vertical metal siding and even heavier duty steel added to the roof planes. This barn in Maine and the other buildings, land acreage surrounding the sixty foot high structure is near and dear. In my family since back in the turn of the century, there is a very strong attachment. The smell of hay, cleaning out the manure, the exploring up into the upper reaches and use of trap doors for dropping down bales of stored food. Feeding the animals flakes off those bales and the smell of leather harness tack, memories of horse shoes nailed to filed hoofs. All the other farm paraphernalia is a rich part of mine and others heritage in Maine. Have spent a lot of time in Maine barns growing up and not just this one still owned and enjoyed. Hope you enjoyed this blog post on barns in Maine.