George is one of the stories in my upcoming book “Down on the Farm”.
“Hi there! Yes, it’s me, George. What? You’ve never heard of a talking barn?
Come on in and let me give you the tour. I was built in the late 1800’s by Sarah’s 4xG grandfather Peter Howell. My base is made of fieldstones to keep my walls from becoming rotted at the bottom.
I am 200 feet long and 75 feet wide with a peaked roof. When I was built I was the biggest barn in Wentworth County.
Do you know where the word ‘barn’ comes from? It means barley house. Barley is an ancient grain first grown in almost all of Europe and Asia or what we sometimes call Eurasia. It has been cultivated for over 13,000 years. That’s even before the end of the last Ice Age. It must be hardy stuff. It is still used today for feeding animals and making beer.
Many critters live inside me. There’s Millie and Herbert and their six kittens, Oscar the horse, Walter the donkey, Trudy the mouse and her brood. Even the ducks and geese like to come inside when the weather is nasty.
I almost forgot Winston and Beatrice my owl friends up in the rafters. They are so quiet during the day that it’s easy to forget that they are home.
I also store the garden equipment like rakes, shovels, hoes and wheelbarrows.
If you look way up high you will see windows at each end. They are for ventilation. It gets awfully stuffy in a barn and without the windows it would get too hot in here for my friends.
They can also be closed with long poles that grab onto window handles when the weather gets too cold. When that happens there is another vent on my roof. It’s the funny square in the middle that looks like a small house.
I really appreciate it when Sarah’s dad Terry leaves the long doors on my east side open during the day. When I was built I just had two small doors that opened up in the middle but Terry made a brand new track that has big sliding doors that open up almost the entire east side.
I can see out across the whole barnyard and watch the ducks and geese splashing around in their pond though I can’t always see the frogs because I’m too far away but I can always hear them. I like the songs they sing on hot summer nights.
You are probably wondering why we have mice, owls, frogs and so many other animals all living together her at Howell Farms.
We have a very strict rule here. Everyone on the farm is safe from the animals that would normally be predators. When Winston and Beatrice, for example go hunting, they must go at least a one-minute flight in any direction.
Have you ever wondered why old barns are usually red?
When you build a wooden barn it must be sealed to protect it from rotting away.
Before modern paints famers used linseed oil, which is made from a grain called Flax. They would add crazy ingredients like milk and lime…not the fruit…the mineral. Next they would stir in rust flakes from machinery and anything else metal that was left outside.
The rust flakes killed fungi (like mushrooms) and mosses that tried to grow in the wood.
Many people still use red paint in honour of tradition.