Monday, 4 August 2008

Barns

There are four old stone barns on our farm. Each stands at the edge of a field, its door facing into the field, its back to a hedgerow. There were once five barns but in the twentiethcentury one was demolished to provide stone for a new milking parlour. The field where that barn stood is still called Cow House Field, although barely any trace of the barn remains.
In earlier times barns were an essential part of the farm. In Winter cows were housed in them - six to a barn. Each day they would be let out to drink in the beck. While they were out the farmer would clean out the barn with a shovel, throwing the "muck" into a "midden" through a square hole in the wall. Then he would put down fresh straw on the floor and fill the wooden rack with hay. He would also visit twice a day with his pail and stool to milk the cows.
Now these barns stand empty. Some of the larger ones, near to services, have been converted into houses. But many of them are too small and too far away from electric supply to make any kind of conversion viable.
But look inside one and you get a taste of the past. The cobbled floors are often still there - cobbles dislodged by a family of rabbits who have taken over the des. res. The wooden stalls are there, bleached white with age and eaten away in places by woodworm. The hay racks stand empty and behind them is the passage where the farmer stood to put in the hay.
Here and there a roof tiles is slipping; sometimes an ash sapling is growing through the roof; sometimes some of the good stone roof tiles have been removed for use on another building. But mostly these barns are falling into disrepair and will eventually end up as a pile of stones in the corner of a field to be used for some repair job or other.
In the meantime they are left to nesting stock doves and jackdaws, who fly in and out through the square hole used for mucking out in the old days. They lay their eggs and raise their young on the shelf beneath the eaves.

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