A Barn on the Brain





I have been quiet here for months. And now the purple asters punctuate goldenrods along the roadside, and the tomatoes sink into weeds. The twelve-foot tall sunflowers, keeling over, seem to have drained their warm colors into the pumpkins. Summer’s upward projects slow, pause, relax—the barn is secured for the winter, spaghetti sauce in jars, book writing complete. Fall brings its spectacular grand finale of sky and color, and a permission to settle ourselves into routine. My brain is grateful.

The barn, in particular, challenged us this summer. Even 18 months ago, our 200-year-old barn gave us headaches, looking dilapidated, but still housing the previous owners old cars and piles of junk. Last fall, finally empty of junk, the barn was dizzying with its crooked beams and floor. Over the winter, we felt vaguely ill watching the barn’s north wall bending in the wind. This summer, the barn pained us both, for different reasons.

Andrew led the restoration efforts, starting by clearing out almost a century of hay and tearing down a filthy dropped ceiling and old electrical wires. With his dad, he carefully jacked up all posts in the leaning north end, some requiring 18 inches of lift. I fretted, declaring that I’d rather bulldoze the barn than see anyone get hurt, but they were careful, and raised the barn safely onto stacked wood towers.

We hired an Amish construction crew to excavate the ruins of the foundation and pour a new one. Friends and neighbors helped to further straighten the barn with giant come-alongs and chains. Meanwhile, I was painting the stack of barn siding, with more help from friends and family, until the afternoon I became the only person injured in this whole summer of barn work.

The fateful doorway

I was heading out behind the barn to paint siding, but detoured through it to admire the progress, enjoying a quiet moment alone. After a few minutes, I decided to get to work. Striding from the main barn through the even-worse side barn, I ducked out the low back door. But—distracted and wearing a ball cap—I miscalculated. The doorjamb’s blow to my head whiplashed my neck and sent me backwards onto the ground.

While I spent the rest of the summer wrestling with worsening, then finally improving concussion symptoms, the barn crew performed miracles. They set the barn down on its new foundation, replaced huge rotten beams, cranked the barn into straightness, and painted the rest of the siding.

I still have some residual headaches and neck pain, but I am much better. We still have some barn doors to build and another year or two of work on the remaining half of the barn, which will include tearing down the concussion-causing side barn, but the main barn is much better. As the fall sky fills with wild geese and the green disappears, our minds have a respite, knowing that the main barn and I will both remain standing this winter.









5 thoughts on “A Barn on the Brain”

  1. What an unbelievable transformation for the old barn -she’s a beauty now. Glad that you’re feeling better. We have been worried about you.

  2. You took a derelict barn and are making it a showplace! What does former owner Bob think when he drives past?! Truly quite an accomplishment! And, to complete your book while suffering from a concussion, handling garden produce and mothering on top of construction, you and Andrew are determined and energetic!!

  3. I’ve missed your writing, but now I understand why you weren’t doing it. I’m sorry to hear about your concussion. Take lots of resting time this winter!

  4. I finally read your post. I am sorry that you got hurt. The “new” barn is beautiful and I am glad that you are healing. Is the book that you finished the mussel book? Is it available yet?

    It just cooled off here. This past week, the last day of Spring Creek augmentation sampling had morning air temps of 56 F. The water felt warm.

    I have to take 13 weeks off work to change from full-time to part-time. My last day is Nov 15. I am feeling sad to see the end of the field season. I need to buy some trees to plant.

    Hello to Andrew and the kids.

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