I am so very sorry to say that my old barn had a couple very bad nights

Mar 16 2019
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I am going to start this post out with the exact same thing I told my Mom that morning this week when I called her, “I’m fine, don’t panic! But… I think something… happened to the barn.” We talked for a minute. I told her I did not want to approach whatever it was alone and she said she’d be over soon. If I EVER call my family they know that it is a life or death situation. I DO NOT answer calls nor do I call anyone. Truly, I almost just messaged her but I didn’t want to miss her before she left for work.

Because there was definitely something WRONG. How wrong was far far worse than I thought at the time.

(Horses are just fine, they’re down in their new shed thank goodness!!)

Every morning I get up, I go to my north window in my closet and I look at the barn. I knew there was something off immediately. I got dressed and went out on my back deck and there was snow in the hay mow. There has never been very much snow in the hay mow and certainly not enough light up there to see the snow from the house.

What I figured was that the hole on the East side of the roof from a tornado years ago just got bigger. (The East is the right side in the pic.) Of course, that did not explain the day light I saw through the front right window.

This is the photo I took then from my north kitchen window. I was zoomed in, trying to get a better look at it.

After the worst winter in weather records my ninety year old barn's back broke. I am so very sad and so very sorry to say that part of her went down.

(Later my Mom would mention that it looked like our old barn was crying.)

So, this was the worst winter we’ve seen in a really really long time. Like, since EVER in the history of us keeping track of the weather. It was the COLDEST EVER, we got more snow in February EVER. This last week it rained and then it froze on top of over four feet of snow! (Actually, in total inches, I am sure its way more than that as we had our first snow in September of last year and we got over three feet of snow in February alone.)

Every single day on Facebook for the last week before this happened I was reading article after article of roofs caving in. Barn after barn, cattle being rescued, huge buildings caving in all across the Midwest and Minnesota.

My barn is at least 90 years old.

Mom got to my house and I threw my shoes on, no coat, no phone, just me and I hopped in her car. I ran because she was white knuckle gripping her steering wheel and because of the look on her face.

I had not thought about the fact that she was driving to my house from the EAST. I had, in NO WAY, considered that it could possibly be that bad!

She backed up and drove back the way she had come, trying to see the roof of the barn through the trees and over and over again I got a glimpse of what made my heart just stop. It was so hard to see! Perspective, through trees, of a ginormous building, is really really difficult!

That portion of the roof has had snow on it for months and our sky has literally been the color of snow for MONTHS. SO, to me, I wasn’t sure but, it felt like it wasn’t snow. It felt (it looked) like it was just gone.

She drove back to my house and up to my horse shed and we looked at the barn, trying to figure out what the hell was wrong or if, maybe it wasn’t that wrong. From that side of it (the West side) we could see definite bulging out from the West hip, there was broken boards sticking out for sure. But the front looked OK. This is the picture of that moment: (Notice the snow on the top of the roof that is the color of the sky and how impossible it makes it to see the actual roof line!)

After the worst winter in weather records my ninety year old barn's back broke. I am so very sad and so very sorry to say that part of her went down.

I jumped out. She gave me her phone so I could get pictures for her of what happened and I plowed my way/ran/fell through SO MUCH snow to get to the barn. There is absolutely no reaching the front door to the barn (I abandoned it months ago) I do, however, have a “path” through my horse pasture to get to the water tank on the West side that’s actually sitting inside the West side door. The only way into the barn right now is to climb over the stock tank.

But I knew this was much much worse then I thought it was before I even got inside.

My barn was lit up and it was full of snow all the way down the East side. I got in there and I headed for the stairwell. I had long since laid the door down to cover up the top of the stairway so I had to lift it up and prop it so it wouldn’t fall while I was up there. Then I had to get the door open at the top of the stairs which I had lashed shut with wire because I didn’t want anyone going up there and breaking an ankle!

My hands were shaking so bad! Before I stepped out I got my mom’s phone unlocked and her camera up and then I took a deep breath and stepped up into my hay mow.

I knew everything was wrong before I entered so I braced myself. There was too much wind, too much light and there were FAR too many pissed off pigeons on the first floor. These are the pictures I took.

After the worst winter in weather records my ninety year old barn's back broke. I am so very sad and so very sorry to say that part of her went down.After the worst winter in weather records my ninety year old barn's back broke. I am so very sad and so very sorry to say that part of her went down.After the worst winter in weather records my ninety year old barn's back broke. I am so very sad and so very sorry to say that part of her went down.

It is VERY difficult to understand what the hell is going on in those pictures and I can tell you that that is exactly how it was in reality too. It was BREATHTAKING. And it was SO wrong it was really really difficult to wrap my head around.

We have always called our old barn a “hip” barn. And whether that’s right or not is beside the point because that’s the term I’m going to use. About 70% of our girl’s roof is practically vertical (straight up) on either side, until it bends over and goes up at a much lesser degree and reaches its peak in the center.

On both sides, between the hips and the center/spine it has been sagging, getting worse, getting flatter, pulling the spine down, accumulating more and more snow every year.

WAY WAY WAY back my Grandpa added a few supportive poles/giant posts to the hip on the West (left) side (you can see them in the pics). My barn broke at the hip on the East (the right side) and it fell, taking the spine with it, literally hinging down on those poles my grandpa put up there so many years ago.

The bulge that we saw was the hip on the left (West) side breaking out (but not letting go) as the East side broke and fell and hung from it.

What you are seeing in those pictures is the right side of the roof, the entire spine and the left side, from the hips up, just hanging there. The spine was still connected to the peak at the back and the front of the barn. You can see in the pictures it twisting up to reach the peak at the top of the back wall.

I was in shock. Literally the usually forty feet away from me so far above me spine of the barn was like hanging what felt like was right in front of me.

I ran back outside and told my mom in such eloquent terms, “Its bad.” She tried to make out the pictures and then just went in there with me, up into the mow, because she needed to see it.

Our old barn is ENORMOUS. It is over sixty feet tall, nearly ninety feet long and over forty feet wide. It is a monolith that pictures just cannot explain.

There is no more humbling a thing then to try and imagine this enormity being built nearly a hundred years ago.

Standing in the hay mow feels like standing where the heart should be in the skeleton of a blue wale but its actually much bigger than that. Those giant timbers reaching up creating that sky sweeping hay mow could easily be described as ribs.

We let my aunt know. We cried. We all got together that night. We cried some more. I believe it was my mom who said, “There is no way its going to just hang there. Its too much weight.”

I somehow was totally convinced that it was totally gonna be fine and not move for another few decades. Which makes NO SENSE except for the fact that the barn has just always been there.

The next morning I got up like I always do and went to get dressed and looked out my north window at the barn just like always. This is the picture I took.

After the worst winter in weather records my ninety year old barn's back broke. I am so very sad and so very sorry to say that part of her went down.

I sent it to my mom and ran out there alone. I am an analytical person. In times of stress I fall on my intelligence, common sense and calculation when I’m having trouble dealing emotionally. I needed to understand how it happened, what had happened, every moment, which boards had broken, what EXACTLY had gone on to my poor old barn that night without me!

I needed to see it and understand it!

And I couldn’t!

The snow was just SO deep and I got so angry at this fucking winter! I literally COULDN’T get to the East side of the barn I couldn’t get to anything and I just screamed at the back wall because it was just standing there all straight and just so totally FINE!

I RAGED. Really Slowly! Because the snow was past my WAIST! It was actually probably hilarious. This total angry melt down of movement while literally not moving AT ALL!

I got back to the West side of the barn and got myself inside and ran to the stairway and I was stopped in my tracks. I was surrounded by soaking, dripping boards, the floor to the hay mow was basically gone, just giant floor joists left. There were broken boards sticking down through everywhere. “Disturbed” is the best way I can describe what the lower level of the barn felt like that morning.

The door at the stairway was shut. And I stopped, turned around and went back outside because I realized that I did not know if that fall had maybe just happened or if something else was about to fall. And my barn is enormous and many many tons heavier right then because it was SOAKED and covered in feet upon feet of snow.

And it was ALL just above my head.

I went back to my house and my mom got there and we sat in her car and stared at the front of our poor old barn. I told her how sorry I was so many times. She was quiet and rightfully so. I was speaking because I didn’t know what else to do because there was nothing I could do and I was out of mind with needing to do something!

The fall and break makes total sense. The windows are not supportive and the door on the front of the barn supported nothing. If you compare the photos the weight of the spine took the front of the barn leaving the bottom sill of the door and the sills of the windows on the left and right sides.

Literally, the GIANT hay mow door just fell back, hinging where it was meant to hinge. The peak that pointed South at my second floor for nearly 100 years is now pointing up at the sky.

I am heartbroken.

My mom said that she felt like her world was shaken, like her foundation, that big solid thing that had ALWAYS been there had just broken.

I feel responsible and sad and I want to say I’m sorry to my mom again because, dammit, IT IS MY BARN, I OWN IT. OUR OLD GIRL IS MY OLD GIRL. No matter how many times I say that its as much mine as my Mom’s or my Aunt’s it really is MINE. Its my barn. And I feel like I let her down. And like I let her break.

It doesn’t matter how many roofing crews told us we were too late. It doesn’t matter that the “experts” said it was NOT SAVABLE.

I still feel like: SCREW THEM! I should have come up with something. Somehow. It would not have been the first, nor the last time I proved someone wrong who claimed they knew better.

Because this is just devastating

I was not ready and I really believe that if this winter had not been so astronomically, biblically, breaking records, SHITTY – then my barn would have been ok for a little longer.

I’m really fricking sad.

I just wrote a little thing for a future blog entry, “Is it weird to feel indebted to a structure?” Because I thanked my barn every day for looking out for me, for drying my teenage tears, for giving me a place to run all the last 33 years of my life.

After the worst winter in weather records my ninety year old barn's back broke. I am so very sad and so very sorry to say that part of her went down.After the worst winter in weather records my ninety year old barn's back broke. I am so very sad and so very sorry to say that part of her went down.

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16 Comments

  1. Liz Nix
    March 18, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    I am so so sorry for your enormous loss. Such a historical structure’s demise is as a death in the family and is grieved as such. You have our condolences and sympathy. You have honored your grandparents’ efforts and legacy to the land and the farm with all you could. Try to accept that you could do no more against the winter and weather. Peace, girl, peace.

    • March 19, 2019 at 8:33 am

      Thank you so much Liz! This winter was so hard on so much of our country. The poor midwest and northern states are being called “disaster zones”. It was so sad the other day seeing a video of farmers trying to save a sheep herd, they had been buried in the snow and very few survived. I am reminded and relieved that no one was hurt and our poor old girl stood for nearly 100 years. But its still such a sad bummer πŸ™

  2. Nancy
    March 19, 2019 at 5:26 pm

    I am so sorry for your devastating personal and family loss. Please don’t go in that structure again. i know that you are brave and strong but don’t do something where you may get hurt when you are all alone. Wait til the snow melts. Make the biggest and best family outdoor table from some of those old boards. Have a big family picnic and celebrate its 100th birthday. Then call a salvage company and make some money. Those old barn beams and wood may have some value. Maybe enough for you to take that much needed and wanted real vacation somewhere warm. Take care and may God bless you with peace and success.

    • March 20, 2019 at 9:13 am

      Thank you Nancy, you are very right! I will be extremely careful and I’m not going near it until this winter is officially over and everything dries out. A big table is a wonderful idea!

  3. March 20, 2019 at 7:38 am

    I’m so very sorry for your loss. As I was reading your story I kept on crossing my fingers and hoping it wasn’t that bad. Oh boy, heartbreaking! 😒 Don’t be so hard on yourself, you’re still working on that legacy! And remember, something good always seems to come from something bad. (Hugs)

    • March 20, 2019 at 8:47 am

      Thank you Cristina, this winter impacted so many across the Midwest with tragedy and loss. We were fortunate that it was the barn and not one of our own roofs. It is still such a bummer though.

  4. March 20, 2019 at 9:12 am

    So sorry about your barn. It really was a beautiful piece of history. πŸ™

  5. March 20, 2019 at 12:15 pm

    Hi Tarah,
    I hadn’t seen this, when I posted about shoveling your house roof. I’m so sorry about your barn. I think I can imagine how huge it was in person, and how huge it is in your heart.
    After my grandparents died, my dad said that all he had left are memories. So keep your precious memories of your barn… don’t throw them away in your sadness.
    I hope you can use a lot of the wood for projects?? Wood that will help your memories last longer. The wood will dry out when spring comes.
    My childhood big red barn was obliterated by a tornado several years ago — it’s so sad. They never even found that big metal roof cupola thing.
    I hope you feel better soon.

    • March 20, 2019 at 3:54 pm

      Oh thank you so much Liberty, my family and I are just so bummed. I think its worse for my mom and my aunt because they don’t see it out the window every day like I do. So, for me, the shock has at least waned and I’m still just really glad the barn is still standing! Lots of ideas for projects too, I hope I can do right by her and maybe make something for each of us so we can always keep a piece of the barn.
      I’m so sorry to hear about your barn πŸ™ It is really tough!

  6. March 20, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    I am so sorry to hear that the roof fell in. It looked so solid and survived so much over the years but nature is a force that cannot be conquered. Thank goodness the horses are all safe and so are you! That is what is important.

    • March 20, 2019 at 3:51 pm

      Thank you Mary and you are SO right. I’m so glad the horses were safe and sound somewhere else!

  7. March 22, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    So sorry Tara that you are losing a historical piece of your life. When I first saw it I thought to myself, I am sure that the wood will not go to waste. As talented as you are I am sure there will be many projects in the future. HOpe your winter will go away soon!

    • March 24, 2019 at 2:29 pm

      Thank you Karren! It was such a bummer for us but everything is looking better now that spring has finally arrived!

  8. Jeannette
    April 26, 2019 at 3:03 pm

    You are right – this really sucks for you. But you did everything you could to live up to what your grandmother and your mother etc. expected of you. You have worked hard and long to take care of that legacy and as I sit here with tears in my eyes all I can think is it’s not your fault. What a beautiful sight to have to wake up to every day for the last how many years?? You were very fortunate to have that – please remember that. You are strong and you will continue along your path. Thanks for taking me along. Please blog soon so we know what you all decide to do. My condolences.

    • April 29, 2019 at 8:38 am

      Thank you so much Jeannette!

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