Ruminations In An Old Barn

We went up to Vermilion this weekend to celebrate Easter with Kish’s family.  On Saturday, Richard and I took Effie for a walk and ended up strolling to one of the barns on the Kishman property.  The Kishmans have been farming in Vermilion Township for generations, but no members of the immediate Kishman family are farming any longer.  As a result, this particular barn is not used for anything except storage of knick-knacks and old equipment.

One of the silos at the old Kishman barn

Barns are interesting buildings.  They are designed simply to enclose space and to keep things within that enclosed space dry and out of the elements.  Once you are inside the barn, it seems cavernous, and there is a luxury of abundant space between the concrete, hay covered floor and the rafters high above.  From the evidence of the eaves, the lingering smells, and the design, it looks like the barn has been home to wasps and yellow jackets, swallows and other birds, and cats and rats and livestock.  Blades, cranks, rotors and other assorted dangerous-looking machinery hang from hooks on the wooden walls.  Some of the design elements of the barn seem obvious, but others are mysterious.  You look up at the walls and wonder why there are latched doorways at odd locations on the walls, including one directly below the apex of the vaulted roof.

The old Kishman barn

Standing in the dusty barn — and I expect that every barn is always dusty — and looking around, you get a strong sense of the challenges of the farming life.  It is easy to envision the farmer appearing in the barn on a cold winter morning, wearing his barn coat with his breath visible in the sharp air, to prepare feed for the livestock, or climbing up the ladder to the hayloft on a hot summer day to hoist and then toss a few bales down to the floor below.

Everywhere there are reminders of the enormous physical demands of farming.  For example, the old Kishman barn has two silos that are about 40 feet high, and each of them has a ladder that goes up to the top.  How often do farmers have to climb to the tops of silos, and what do they have to do when they get up there, perched precariously so far about the ground?  How tough was it to breathe if you had to go into the silo to shovel out the last few inches of grain?

Farming no doubt has its rewards, in working with the soil and with animals and in being your own boss.  But it also has to be one of the toughest jobs around.