The Life Of Our Barn

Patricia M. Snell

Alll photos by the author.
© Copyright 2023 by Patricia M. Snell

Photos by the author.



Almost every week we spend hours in the barn cutting and stacking firewood. During those hours, my mind wanders and I think about the life of our barn. Here are my thoughts.

The Life of Our Barn

Our barn was built in 1830. Itís a 2-story barn, measuring 75í x 35í. It must have been quite an undertaking to raise our big barn in 1830. In its heyday, the barn was the hub of activity on a working farm. The farm was known as Shore Acres because of its proximity to the southwest shore of Lake Ontario. It was mainly a fruit farm. Acres of orchards stretched over to and along the lakeshore. In the early 1900ís, Dr. Gilbert D. Forbes was the owner of the farm. His hired workers ran the farm. The workers and their families lived in the farmhouse - the house we live in today. Dr. Forbes lived in town where he had his home and office. When Dr. Forbes traveled out to oversee his farm, I wish he had taken a picture of the barn. The only picture I have is the one I have in my imagination. I imagine the barn was a fortress protecting every animal and every thing gathered within.

When we bought the property in 1977, the old barn was an abandoned building. It had been neglected for a long time, and it looked like it would never be useful again. Lucky for the barn, my husband came along and envisioned a second life for the barn. Over the course of some years, Bob made repairs and added improvements. He patched a place where a fire damaged an upper wall and roof. He built a third floor. Bob installed 4 doors and a window. He rebuilt walls and poured a concrete floor. Gradually, Bob brought the barn back to life.

In its new life, the barn served many purposes. We parked our van and a truck in it. There was room to store a Porsche for a friend. The barn was a venue for graduation and holiday parties. Bob set up a workshop/man-cave in his barn. There were refrigerators with cold drinks and apples. Thanksgiving turkeys were cooked (1 bird burned) in the barn. Steaks and burgers were grilled there. It was, and still is, a hub for cutting and storing firewood.

When my brother-in-law, Steven, came to live with us starting on Thanksgiving of 1992, the barn was his shelter during the day. Steven spent his days tinkering in our barnís workshop. Iím not sure what tinkering is; doesnít seem like anything productive, but Steven was a great one for tinkering. He finally left our property on the 4th of July in 1995. I donít remember where he went next. I do remember he said he missed tinkering in our barnís workshop. The barn was a godsend for Steven during a difficult period of his life.

Long before Stevenís time, horses took shelter in the barn. There is evidence in the barnís framework to show where horse stalls once stood. The names, ďPБTĒ and ďDANIELĒ can still be seen stenciled onto boards over the stalls area. Were ďPБTĒ and ďDANIELĒ names of horses on the farm? It seems likely. Seeing the names of horses makes the barnís history come alive. I can just imagine PБT and DANIEL standing in their stalls waiting to be fed or taken out to be of service on the farm.

Over decades of time, the barn has become an enabler for Bobís obsession with collecting things. ďBob-the-pack-ratĒ takes in all manner of assorted items, including a kitchen sink. The barnís weathered walls hide a multitude of messy build-up. There are a few one-way paths and open spaces for firewood and tools and equipment. Most of the barn is filled with a random collection of rusted stuff, broken stuff, inherited stuff, antique stuff, the good, the bad, and the ugly stuff. There is no space to park vehicles; no room for parties. Even the third floor is full. A giant barn has its limits when itís used as a receptacle for an obsession with collecting.

In defense of my husband, he sees the mess and wants to clean up, but itís an overwhelming task and not an easy thing for him to tackle. Also to Bobís credit, he has always kept about 1/10 of the first floor uncluttered. That area is dedicated to cutting and storing firewood. Our firewood is like gold to us. It enables us to live comfortably and affordably in our big old drafty house. There is nothing like the comfort from a wood fire in our furnace. The barn is our silent partner for working with firewood; providing us with a protected place for working year-round.

The barn got a facelift in 2020 when we put on a red metal roof. A new overhead door was installed in 2021. Even with those improvements, the barn is showing its age, but we are not giving up on it. Bob and I intend to live here for as long as possible and wring out every bit of life the barn has left to give us. The people who labored to build our barn in 1830 would be glad to see the barn is still standing and valued. It has stood the test of time through blizzards and gale force winds off the lake.

The future life of our barn is uncertain. It needs expensive repairs. I hope the barn outlives us and another Bob comes along and takes the barn under his wing. Meanwhile, we will maintain the barn to give it the dignity it deserves. The spirit of PБT and DANIEL dwell within.

Stand tall, dear old barn. Let your red roof be a beacon for travelers along the lakeshore. Stand with pride. You hold a history of nearly 200 years of service and memories.

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