Thursday, August 5, 2010

Tearing Down

My hands kind of smell like a penny. No, I haven't been counting the pennies that I have saved (if anyone knows me, saving money is not my forte). I have been trying to scrub off years of tarnish on a nearly 100 year old apple butter copper pot. Don't call me wanting apple butter this fall! I'm trying to be a little bit Antiques Roadshow. This pot has been housed for years (thus the tarnish) in my Grandma Mary's barn, and in just a few days, that barn is coming down. So, like those on HGTV, Discovery and the DIY network would all advise, we're digging around in the barn for treasures.

The barn is a fixture on my grandma's farm. As a kid, I would watch out the car window as my approached our beloved grandma's house, watching for its stately white facade to come into view. Only when I saw it would I know that we were close to fresh "Grandma Rolls," a comfy hammock to try to flip over my brother or myself, and kittens, wild ones, to chase.

This barn, however, has not been used in years, and thus, is in disrepair. Although one could drive all around the countryside and see barns in desperate need of repair just left to become more dilapidated, this one is not going to be one of those. My grandma is the antithesis of a hoarder (at 96, she has empty drawers and stark closets in the home she has lived in nearly all her life!), and knows that it's time for the barn to come down. A barn like this one was once used to house horses, but now is a safety concern.

And now the scramble to rescue some of the handhewn boards, an actual washtub on legs, and the aforementioned copper pot begins. As of late, my mom and I have had many conversations about what we could do with wagon wheels, barn siding, and beams. However, both of us have no idea with what do with them. . .any suggestions??? There was talk of possibly preserving this relic, but the cost was crazy expensive, so that was ruled out. Regardless of the historical or sentimental views of this barn, it now has potential to fall upon those who come close to it, and the clearing out of valuable or semi-valuable pieces has begun.

Before I moved out to the middle of nowhere, as I would drive to my grandparents' or inlaws' farmsteads and would be so critical (as I tend to be) of the dilapidated houses, barns, and buildings that were around. I was super judgemental, before I actually understood the process, wondering how hard could this process of removing buildings be? How expensive is lighting a match or taking a sledgehammer to the side of a building?

Answer: strangely difficult.

From a financial perspective, if you want to do the demolition "right," the process is either extremely pricey. The cost to have somebody come in, take it down piece by piece and then remove it is a lot more than one would think. A lot of equipment is around the farm, but there are some pieces missing that would make this job a lot better.

From a labor perspective, tearing down anything is pretty intense. My father in law just took down a building that my mother in law would gently remind him was obstructing her view from her front porch. For the demolition part, it was a day of heavy labor to remove. However, the cleaning out of the building and pulling the tin off the roof took a good two or three days to complete. For farmers, a day of good weather used for something not crop or livestock related is a precious commodity.

And then there's the whole dangerous-ness of the process. Buildings that need to come down are generally not in the best shape, and therefore someone with expertise needs to come out to execute the "coming-down" process, as it could become deadly.

In my short time as a farm wife, I am realizing how my family views dilapidated buildings. . . they want them gone and fast. Regardless of the sentimentality or age or whatever, if a building is dangerous, simply not in use, or taking land out of production, it's a matter of weeks and some one has been contacted to at least take a look at the existing structure. While I am all for keeping our farmstead looking nice, I am a little sad that Grandma's barn has to come down, just because the picture in my mind of her house includes it. However, I am realistic and understand that if a piece of this history comes crashing down, causing somebody bodily injury, no one will care that I used to use it as a landmark for fun times.

Until it comes down, I'll continue to look for treasures to make my house look more "farmhouse chic," and try to be more understanding when folks have falling down buildings around their farmsteads. Maybe they're just not as unsentimental as we are!

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