Farm yards of the Past
(country roads Part III)

FTLComm - Tisdale - Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Over the course of the summer months we are going to visit some of the hundreds of farms that now lie derrilect, absorbed by larger operations but the farm yards remain, a testament to the past. We have already had two of these stories this year, one with a
herd of bison near by and the other with a hawk soaring overhead. Both of these earlier stories included QuickTime Virtual reality images but this will not always be the case as some lend themselves to a simple flat picture view as did this one shown on this page.

The country side around Tisdale has become
inordinately beautiful and the eyes that have seen blowing dust last year and snow since then are smiling eyes to see the miles of green fields stretching out to the horizon.

The farm you see today sits on a lonely country road near Tisdale and interested me because of its large still standing horse barn that we can see here across a young but eager crop.

To have its house smoothered in trees (above and below) suggests that it has been years since this was an active farm

perhaps 1982 would be about the time it was last a place were people lived.

But, that barn is a shout from the past. This conventional horse barn was the standard design of the 1920s. This one has laminated rafters while most of that era were hip roofed with straight lumber forming the roof in four segiments.

The concept of such a barn was to house the feed in the loft above the horse stable below which usually had a chop room near the front door and box stalls at the back.
The machine shed seen above lost its integrity through time and has crumbled to the ground. Machine sheds often lacked strength because they were mostly roof with the walls open as doors so that time is not easy on such structures.

This horse barn is in fair shape a few of the rafters are crippled but the structure is still standing erect. They often will give in to the prevailing wind sagging slowly to the East. This building though appears similar to the conventional hip roofed barn has curved laminated rafters. These raftered buildings depended upon the availability of abundant poplar wood that when nailed together into a beam was extremely strong and long lasting.

The traditional barn layout has a cattle shed on its North side although this one may not have been used for cattle as there is no door seen here where there usually is one. The small window to the right of the main door is the house window that gave the farmer a look back to the house without having to open the main door. Most barns of this type have a window like this on each side of the main doorway. Near that window was a peg to hang the lantern that would cast a light into the centre but also allow the lantern to be visible from the house and this way let the house know that someone is in the barn.

Under the windows was the feed alley that let the farmer move in front of the feed troughs (manger) to dump in chop (chopped up oats and barley). Not all barns had this feed alley but it was a feature of many. Many stalls had in addition to the manger for hay a square box in the corner of each stall where a ration of oats or barley was given out each day.

The traditional Saskatchewan barn is constructed around the centre door and the aisle that ran its full length with stalls on either side. At the front of the barn on either side of the main door was an area to store brushes and shoe hammers, special rations and the small items that need a place to be. Between each stall extending out over the gutters on each side of the aisle where the harness pegs, large supported wood arms to hold a full set of harness with the yoke or collar the last item to be hung up because it was the first item to be put on when harnessing a horse..

Many barns had large doors at each end of the centre aisle which allowed the team drawn "stone boat" a wheelesss timber sled that was used to pile the manure on to be hauled away to the "manure pile". Straw was brought into the barn each night to cover the floors of the stalls to act as "bedding" which both provided some absorbancy but also made it easier to clean up the stalls.

Traditionally box stalls were located at the back of the barn, a box stall is a fully walled in area allowing the horse to move about freely and not be tied to their hitch all of the time they are in the barn. A stallion, a nursing mare and her foil would be the usual occupants of the box stall. Because of the location of the box stall many barns only had a large door on the front which meant the stone boat had to be backed into the barn and down the aisle.

Most barns were fitted with a concrete aisle and the stalls were raised slightly and floored with wood since that proved to be better for the animals. The posts that were the end of each stall formed the vertical support to the ceiling beams which was the floor of the loft above.

Absent from this barn is the large roof peek door for the hay lift system (hay sling) that was used for decades where by a winch line with a pulley set up allowed a team to pull vertically the whole load from a hay rack up to the loft door and a ridge poll track allowed the load to be pulled the length of the barn and dumped on the loft floor.

As a kid I was warned so many times and still was able to find the holes in the loft floor. Loft floors were notorious for having worn or surprise trap doors that would be covered with hay and often presented the unsuspecting tourist with quite a let down. The trap doors allowed the hay to be dropped down into the mangers or feed alley from the loft above, thus reducing handling but when you think about it, you realise that the building's shape and design was intended to be a labour saver.

When it came to feeding and housing the farms primary source of power, its horses, the barn was a place that required constant work which on every farm, because it had to be performed every single day was referred to as "chores". The interesting thing about this aspect of horse farming was that one team of horses were specialised as the "chore horses", those used to handle the stone boat and move the feed, always the most reliable and the best trained animals. One of my uncles had a team so well trained that they did all of their chores responding to voice commands.

Timothy W. Shire

Simmie, Scott, Barns in Canada, Castles of Country Canada Creak in the Wind


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Editor : Timothy W. Shire
Faster Than Light Communication
Box 1776, Tisdale, Saskatchewan, Canada, S0E 1T0
306 873 2004