Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A Hewing Bee. Also Ghost Cows.

You find all sorts of interesting things cleaning out a very old house.  Out at the family farmstead I encountered a copy of the June 16th, 1922 Norwood Times.  It was a commemorative edition, marking the 50th Anniversary of Norwood Minnesota.

It had a lot of recollections of pioneer times, presumably by greybeards who remembered things first hand.  I found the accounts of how log buildings were constructed to be fascinating....because I could walk out to the Civil War era barn and see exactly what was being described!

"The barn was also built of logs, ten to fourteen high, either shingle or straw roof, with no windows for light, the cracks between the logs were plastered with mortar that I am unable to describe with polite words."

There you have it.  Only six tiers of logs visible in this view, they extend up a bit into the next story of the "modern" barn.

Just in case you wanted a closer view of that mortar that can't be described with polite words.  The long structure attached to the wall is a feeding trough for calves.  It is hand made and who knows how old.

In another slightly newer part of the barn, maybe late 1860s, you can see traces of exactly how the thing was built.  Here is an account from the Norwood Times called Building the Old Log House

"Later on when the country became more settled and anyone wanted to build a house, or barn, he would engage his neighbors and have a hewing bee.  A group of men would go into the woods and select and cut down trees and saw off the desired lengths.  The next group would follow and cut off large chips on two sides.  The hewers came next with their broad axes and made a straight mark with a chalk line, the whole length of the log and then hew it smooth on two sides until it was about six to eight inches in diameter.  Rafters were also hewn."

You can still see the lateral "chip marks" placed regularly before the guys with the broad axes, or perhaps in this instance saws, came along to flatten off the sides.  Note also the wooden peg holding this onto the slotted cross beam.  Were iron spikes in short supply or were they just building according to German traditions they brought with them from the old country?

Even the newer parts of the barn carry memories.  I recall this ladder up into the hay loft as being the entry point to a magical place where you could build forts, chase the barn cats.  Probably lose a shoe once in a while.  It is no longer a safe place to explore.

Barns have a nostalgic appeal in their own way.  Houses remember those who lived and died in them. Barns remember a daily cycle of hard work.  Times change for people.  But the needs of cows remain more or less the same.  Here after twenty years of abandonment we find a little patch of hay waiting to be tossed....and the pitchfork with which to do it.

Ghostly cows wait patiently for farmers long, long gone.


Honeybee said...

I love reading these words about the old homestead. Pictures are great, too. Thanks for sharing your family's heritage.

Tacitus2 said...

Thanks HB. Been on a bit of a family nostalgia kick lately for reasons unrelated to Turkey Day.