farmstead files

In which the Queen tears down a barn {Part II}

As I noted in an earlier post, we {Farm Boy and I} and a few pals recently tore down a local barn, a structure that {sadly} needed to come down.  We removed the tin with little to no trouble, though my efficiency with a hammer and wrecking bar is laughable. I mean, I laughed at my “skills.”

In the interest of safety, we rented a man lift to remove the last remaining tin high on the barn’s peak.  The second part of the plan included included collapsing the barn’s roof, so we could safely remove the much-coveted #shiplap on the structure’s exterior, as we feared the barn, in its leaning, would collapse once we removed the shiplap.  Nobody wanted that.


Felling a barn, sorta…

Farm Boy and Troy set up the lift, started up their respective sawzalls and started sawing away at the roof joists. And sawing, sawing, sawing, sawing.  The barn didn’t give an inch.  They requested two massive hammers, pounded away, and still the barn refused to give way. An hour later after back breaking and painful work, the barn finally released the section of roof they’d been working on.  For context, this was a 4’ by 18’ section.  The next section—10’ by 18’—took more back-breaking work and more time, leading us to the conclusion that the original plan required some serious revision.  We’d also discovered that the #shiplap was something of a lost cause.  Mostly rotten, particularly where nails had been and nearly impossible to remove without splintering the board into frustratingly small pieces.  And I already mentioned my deplorable efficiency with a wrecking bar.

Let me interject here that we were unanimously surprised at the barn’s steadfast refusal to give way. Given the structure’s pronounced leaning to the right, we expected an easy felling.  We couldn’t have been more mistaken in our expectations.

Click through the gallery for a full-sized photo //



“Do not go gentle into that good night”

The barn–built the 1920s–has seen The Great Depression, WWII, the Baby Boom, the Vietnam War, the 1980s, the Great Recession. I admired and respected its refusal to fall; it’s refusal to simply throw in the towel after the passage of so much time.  It was clear the structure needed to come down: rotting timbers, rotting shiplap, a crumbling foundation.  And yet, the barn’s refusal to fall—a testament to her builder(s) and her materials—made its inevitable end even more poignant.

After discussing our options and determining what materials we could safely salvage, we decided to not collapse the roof, as we’d proven that the barn was still sturdy.  Hence, we decided to pull the timbers lining the barn’s interior.  Some of these were 3”- 4” thick and 10’ long and had been originally used in a local ore dock and repurposed for use in this early 20th century dairy barn.  As I pulled, whacked, and fumbled my way through the demolition there was –and it’s not an overstatement I don’t think–a sacredness in the work. A marveling at the beams themselves; a marveling at the thick spikes used to hold the barn together, a marveling at the men {likely} who built the structure.

Mixed with the marveling was sadness.  Sadness that we were undoing the work of those before us, but a recognition that the dismantling and second repurposing of the materials, and in particular the old growth timbers from the ore dock, was the best {and only way} to honor the barn.

Click through the gallery for a full-sized photo //


The work also called to mind the poem “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night,” a text that I studied in high school and again in college.  A reminder that all things, animate and inanimate, face an end.

So, I leave you with these words from Dylan Thomas himself:

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


May we face unrelenting Time with the same grace, tenacity, strength, and dignity as this beautiful barn.


Queen P





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  • Reply
    May 12, 2017 at 9:38 AM

    As a former barn owner, I understand the sadness of having to tear down something that had been standing since the early 1900’s. Ours was a hay barn that had one side stripped of it’s barn wood and replaced with fiberglass panels. It also had an attached stable (at least that is what we called it tho it never saw a horse. It was the home to many chickens, two Pygmy goats, four ducks and a flock of turkeys and one rouge pig that came and stayed for a week and completely ruined the dirt floor before it decided to go back home). When we moved to our place back in ’89, there was the mighty barn and stable, an ice house, a huge, huge chicken coop, an old garage, an outhouse and a bunkhouse. Sadly, it has all been removed (some repurposed by dear friends in Solon Springs who you know!) except for the bunkhouse. It was once our school house, then a craft studio, then a place for my hubs to plane wood, then a craft storage place. A few years ago my hubs moved it for me to a more picturesque place among the pines and there it sits….waiting for me to rehab her into my own tiny house/studio. It will break my heart if she falls to the wrecking crew (hubs and his sidekick). When you move out to a place that has barns and outbuildings you don’t really understand the cost to keep these things in good repair. As a one income family, we never had the “extra” money to do so, so one by one they came down and a part of the farm’s history was lost. I love that you and Farm Boy have a passion to give life back to these old pieces of history. Made our Father bless you in your endeavors!

    • Reply
      Queen Patina
      May 12, 2017 at 6:34 PM

      Thanks so much for these thoughts, Robyn! It IS expensive to maintain these old buildings and it is hard to justify the expense of their repair; and yet sadly, when they’re gone, they’re gone. Here’s hoping your bunkhouse/schoolhouse/tiny house/studio becomes a place all your own.

      Again, thanks so much for these thoughts. <3

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