Wednesday, May 19, 2010

NW Wisconsin Dairy Barns

I have been eager to get out and about the neighborhood to take photos of dairy barns. There are so few of them that are occupied, for the majority of the cows in the county are owned by the huge farms. When my husband and I were kids, most of our neighbors had herds of dairy cows. Now, even among the barns pictured here, only a few are on active dairy farms.

These barns appear to be in fairly good shape, but many of the old, unoccupied barns, from lack of heat in the winter and the springtime thawing and heaving of the ground are quickly going to ruin. It's very sad. We've always marveled at the buildings in England that are hundreds of years old, but they don't have to contend with frost that goes to an average 6 feet deep in the winter - sometimes more!

My husband tells me that the number of dairy cows in the county has not decreased, it's just that the dairy herds have gone from 20 or 40 cows to hundreds of cows in some cases.

Kevin was telling me this morning that when his parents bought their 80 acre farm in the 1950s, they paid $8,000 for the farm and the cows, and were able to make a living for a large family from that farm. Now, that same setup would cost about $300,000. No one seems to be able to make a living from a small family farm anymore, so the husband or wife has to get a second job in order to survive.

Both he and I grew up on farms, so it's a particularly sad thing for both of us to see dairying disappearing as a way of life, and to see the old barns, which were once lit up in the evenings as the farmer fed and milked his dairy herd, fall to ruin and eventually disappear from the landscape.

This is the barn just up the street from us. Our neighbor raises heifers, but I don't think he milks any cows. If you look really closely, you can see their cute little springer spaniel sitting in the yard next to his doghouse. :-)

I am particularly fond of red barns, but perhaps that's because my grandpa had a red barn with a great haymow, and I have fond memories of playing there, sweeping the mangers, and watching the cats drinking from a pan of fresh milk.  The farm I grew up on, by contrast, had a very utilitarian milking parlor and no haymow with its kindle of kittens (I had to look that up). It was efficient, but nothing with which to make warm, fuzzy memories for children in years hence.

Is there an art, a craft, or a way of life that you've noticed is slowly disappearing?

[I wish I could think of a better way to word that. I can almost hear my son saying, ' old magician.']


partialemptynester said...

Sooo nostalgic! I feel the same way about cattle ranches in grandfather was a rancher, but also worked for the Dr. Pepper Bottling Company...I loved to see him coming in for breakfast early in the morning in his coveralls, eat then put on his Dr. Pepper workshirt for the work day, then come home in the evenings to work some was a hard life, but he loved it and wouldn't have had it any other way! Thanks for sharing these beautiful pix!

Deborah said...

Great post my friend. I love red barns too. So many things that we have always had in this country is disappearing. It is so sad. I love what you wrote about the old magician. (funny) :D

Amy Burzese said...

My kind of post and my kind of photography day! I would LOVE seeing all those barns. Another trip on my list!


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