Friday, August 24, 2012

Barns...a love affair and childhood memories

Several weeks ago Larry and I took off on the bike to explore our own backyard, Whatcom County, on the roads less traveled.  We headed north, zig zagging on roads we hadn’t ridden in a long time and roads we had never ridden on.  We had no destination in mind and you can only go about fifteen miles north when you hit the Canadian border, and about four miles west from our home we hit the Straight of Georgia, so we knew we were going east until we hit the foothills of Mt. Baker.

I began snapping photos of barns almost as soon as we left home.  Some of those shots didn’t turn out so well.  When you suddenly realize there is a really great barn you are approaching, you need to turn on your camera and shoot going 35-50 miles/hour.  If it had truly mattered, Larry would have stopped the bike to turn around and let me take the photo again.  Another day.

Some of these barns were in various stages of decay and some were old and weathered but still being used.  The newer barns don’t hold as much interest for me because they are built to be cost effective, functional, and efficient without any thought to style, cupolas, color, or heritage.  Each barn is unique even if they are similar to other barns just down the road. 

The stories they could tell of haying days and old time milking.  When cows were brought in from the pasture not kept captive in holding pens and barns were used for storage, milking, birthing, and tending sick animals.  Barns where meant for children to play in haylofts full of hay that would feed the cattle in the coming winter months.  There were barn cats that kept the mice at bay and were always underfoot during milking time waiting for a bowl of warm milk.

Seeing these barns brought back childhood memories of spending time at my Aunt Elma’s dairy farm.  I am sure I have a softer, much more romantic memory of those times than my cousins who had chores of helping with the cows and milking.  In the summer time I remember walking with my cousins across the road, through the pasture and trees, over the rise to find the cows and  herd them back to the barn for the afternoon milking.  Once the cows were penned, they went up one of two ramps into the dairy barn and into a stall with a open gate which was closed and the next cow moved down to the next open gate.  The cows were given some feed and their teats were cleaned and someone took a small sample from each teat before the milking machine was attached.  This sample of milk was put in a bowl on the barn floor were a number of cats eagerly awaited their twice daily treat.

I don’t remember getting up early to round up the cows in the morning but I am sure my cousins David, Joyce, Carl, Reta, and John can vividly remember.  I do remember going to the barn after the cows arrived for the morning milking, watching, staying out of the way, and loving every minute of being in the dairy barn.  Only when the milking was done was it breakfast time.

My cousin Rita sent me the history of the family milk barn:  “It was built in 1950, has 6 stanchions where most were just 3. We used air milkers (no pipe line back then) where the milkers had a air hose attached to the milker. Under the concrete risers you can see the air pipes in the picture with Carl Jr. and Dad. When the barn was first built, the air compressor was not electric. Dad would back the tractor up to the feed room door, in which the compressor was kept, and run a belt from the PTO (power take off) on the tractor to the compressor to run. There was a feed room, a storage room, a bathroom and shower, front parlor which where we cleaned and stored the milkers and water cooler to keep milk cool. The cooler would hold 15-18 can of milk, which was picked up daily. We would keep bottles of pop in the cooler and sometimes they would turn over and we would have to fish them out. If you ever fished one out, you know how cold that water would get. The picture of Carl Jr. and Dad was taken in about 1952 when we went totally electric in the house and barn. Electric compressor in barn and electric cook stove in the house!!! Joyce and I went thru pictures today to find these; of course it took us hour’s because we would get off onto talking about other pictures. So when I have a few minutes more to scan pictures there is more to come that I hope you will enjoy.”   Love Reta

My grandmother was famous for her hot rolls, and when my family visited I remember grandma taking dough from the starter and working quietly on a flour covered surface to make the rolls.  There was cereal which all the kids liked, eggs, sausage or bacon, milk, and coffee.  My mom told me that my grandmother grew up on a diary farm but didn’t like to drink milk.  My grandma Melton loved her cornflakes and she poured a little bit of coffee over them because she wouldn’t even use milk on her cereal.  These are the memories I cherish and I can tell my kids and my grandchildren about.

I have had a number of people over the years tell me I should be riding my own motorcycle.  I did own a quad years ago and liked it.  A car accident has left me with reduced strength in one arm, turned my quick thinking left brain into an artistic right brain with a short term memory loss.  I enjoy riding behind Larry on the motorcycle, it gives me time to enjoy all that is around me while we are riding and to write stories in my head that I later try to remember a small percentage of my thoughts and capture them onto paper and post to one of the blogs. 

Today we were on our own riding, a slower pace than when we aren’t keeping up with a group and needing to be mindful of staying together. There was sun, warmth, a mountain glistening above us, very few vehicles of any kind on the roads for such a beautiful day.  We ran parallel on the US side of the US border to the Canadian highway 1 and we stopped west of Sumas to watch the air show in Abbotsford, Canada, hugged the foothills as we skirted Silver Lake,  enjoyed a long leisurely ride on Mosquito Lake Rd., lunch at The Blue Mountain Grill, across Skagit County and up Chuckanut Drive.

Just a little one hundred and sixty mile lunch ride.  

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