The very first thing we built on the farm was the pole barn. We built it as big as we could imagine that we would ever need, 60 feet long by 40 feet wide. Our neighbors had all warned us to build it at least one-third bigger than we thought we might need, and we believed that we were heeding their advice.

Now when I say that “we built” the barn, that is exactly what I mean. We ordered the metal and wood, and it was all delivered on a flat-bed truck that had a boom to unload the metal and trusses, and then Greg and I began to put it all together.

We set the towering poles ourselves, ran the sideboards, climbed up those boards to set the top sill, and then, with a pole attached to the backhoe’s arm, we lifted each of the 40-foot trusses into place and securely hammered in the spikes to hold them there. We attached purlins to each truss as it was set in place for the necessary added stability, and when we were finished, the barn seemed wonderfully huge and cavernous. We stood back and admired our work, ever so proud to have built it ourselves.

Seventeen years have now passed, and curiously, as I look at the barn today, I realize that our neighbors were right. The barn is now cramped, and small, and definitely packed very full. It holds our backhoe, Kleanor K combine, five tractors and their assorted implements, seed drill, manure spreader, firewood-hauling CJ-5, zero-turn mower, log splitter, piles of wire, other piles of metal, and various piles of “stuff” stashed here and there, that we have accumulated over the past 17 years. Even though we have periodically cleared out and reorganized the barn, we have known for a while that it is was well past the time to do a major sorting and culling of the assorted accumulations.

So, for the past several weeks, between our other farm chores, we have donned our oldest jeans, pulled on our boots, and with our fingers safely inside our work gloves, dug on in. Greg gave me very strict instructions. I was not to bury anything deep inside a super big, heavy-duty, commercial-grade trash bag without his explicit permission.

We started to work and clear systematically, making our way along one wall at a time. When we unearthed our collection of old bicycles, one of which I rode over 40 years ago, we gave them to younger friends who love to pedal.

My collection of old lobster pot buoys that had been hanging and gathering dust on the barn’s wall, and had once brought back wistful memories of salt air, found a new home with friends who love all things nautical. It has occurred to me that I have been packing garbage bags with countless broken-down cardboard boxes. I have learned that cardboard is not a good way to store things in a barn. We sorted through odd scraps and lumps of metal,
heavy brake drums from an old trailer, thick sheets of iron and aluminum from what I could not imagine, and iron pieces from old farm machines. The keepers we are organizing into easily accessible bins and shelves.

We found odd pieces of lumber, cut into shapes we could fathom, leaning up against the walls here and there. We took all of the wood out of the barn. The smaller pieces we hauled up to the burn pile that is growing once again. The longer lengths we will save for future construction projects.

Two walls done, two more to go, and then there is still the storage area on top of the tool room, where we piled all of the boxes we moved out from the city. These were the things with which I could not part at the time of our move.

So, bit by bit, the metal recycling pile and the burn pile grow larger, and even though we are divesting and organizing, and even uncovering some usable some space, we are talking about building another barn sometime in the foreseeable future, and this next barn? I imagine that one the size of a soccer field might just be big enough.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at straightcreekvalleyfarm.com.