Among the 14 barns down our road I mentioned yesterday, 7 are still standing. Two appear to be unused, but the other five are either used for agriculture, or have been restored by rural non-farm owners. I've been fascinated by this pattern of change for years, ever since I spent time in my uncle's barn when I was young. So here are the five barns, and some reflections on the changes going on in the rural area.
It's notable that farmers with farms like this probably farm much more land than their own home farm. So even though half the barns down this road have disappeared, almost all the farmland is still being farmed - either owned outright by neighbouring farmers, or rented, either from retired farmers or rural non-farm residents.
The fate of barns around here lies partly in the changing technology of the hay harvest. I'm old enough to remember cutting hay with a hay rake on my uncle's farm, gathering it loose, and loading it into the hay mow with the big fork that plunged down into the hay load from the rafters. That's why these barns were built as they were, to provide a big hay mow upstairs above the cattle, with a drive in for the hay wagon.
Then square bales took over, but they were still stored in the barn for protection. Now that the big round bales have taken over, there is little need for the upper part of the barn at all. Often barns are therefore replaced with larger one-floor barns for livestock, and a separate building for hay storage, as in the first picture above. In other cases the bales are wrapped in plastic and just stored in long lines outside - no need for a hay barn at all.
I'm not sure that this huge change in the rural landscape is either good or bad; it's just the pattern of what happens over time. Someday perhaps I'll write a bit about the increasing specialization of the southern Ontario landscape and farms, as we continue to move away from the former small mixed farms to large and small but specialized modern operations. In the meantime, enjoy the rural countryside.