Skip

"the all-time most popular FAQ at The Barn Journal"
May 15, 2013 4:16 PM   Subscribe


 
Serendipity! I was just wondering this last week as I drove down the 401. Left unanswered; the highest degree of dilapidation a barn can reach before it falls over or caves in.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:20 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was awesome. It kinda-sorta answered a question I've had about the whole "we are stardust!" thing - are we dust from our star, or just stars in general?
posted by odinsdream at 4:50 PM on May 15, 2013


This is a very nice explanation, but why aren't other things on the farm red, too? Why not the farmhouse, or the outhouse, or the chicken coop, or the haywagon, etc. etc.? Basically, if barns are red because the universe made red paint cheap, there's nothing that explains why everything made of wood on the farm isn't red.
posted by tss at 5:04 PM on May 15, 2013 [1 favorite]


It kinda-sorta answered a question I've had about the whole "we are stardust!" thing - are we dust from our star, or just stars in general?

Other stars what done blowed up.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:08 PM on May 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


What is the right color red for me to paint my barn?
posted by shothotbot at 5:12 PM on May 15, 2013


Swedish barns, huts and farmhouses are also traditionally painted red with white corners. In our case the paint comes from a specific copper mine that was in use for a millennium until it closed down twenty years ago. The paint is called Falu Rödfärg, and they dug up enough pigment to keep producing it for about another hundred years.

According to the manufacturer, large-scale production started in 1764, although the pigment had been used in smaller amounts for quite some time before that. The style of painting with red and white is so characteristic that I wonder if it really started independently in Virginia and Sweden, or if there was some cultural exchange between the two.
posted by springload at 5:15 PM on May 15, 2013 [8 favorites]


....if barns are red because the universe made red paint cheap, there's nothing that explains why everything made of wood on the farm isn't red.

This is why my prom tuxedo was made of Bondo.
posted by DU at 5:15 PM on May 15, 2013


This is a very nice explanation, but why aren't other things on the farm red, too? Why not the farmhouse, or the outhouse, or the chicken coop, or the haywagon, etc. etc.?

The wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens is red.
posted by Songdog at 5:26 PM on May 15, 2013 [7 favorites]


tss: It might be because other parts don't really have to be painted, or because they are painted another color due to tradition.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 5:27 PM on May 15, 2013


The wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens is red.

That's all well and good but are the plums in the icebox or did you eat them?
posted by Fizz at 5:42 PM on May 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


Red fades fastest so the newly painted barn quickly becomes well worn and doesn't look over fussed with.

My grandfather used to tell the following anecdote about his home county. The German farms were obvious because the barn was well maintained and the house shoddy. The English farms were obvious because the barn was shoddy and the house well maintained. The occasional farm you came across with nice house and nice barn was occupied by a Dutchman.

No my grandpa was not Dutch.
posted by bukvich at 6:07 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd imagine that the cheapest paint was only used in cases where no other criteria applied. Durability or aesthetics might have trumped price for some applications. Spare paint from those projects could then have been used for small jobs that might otherwise have used red. Because free paint trumps cheap paint.
posted by jeffhoward at 6:33 PM on May 15, 2013


Ah, the Great Oxygenization Event, one of the truly astounding (and necessary) episodes in our planet's history. If you don't know about it, you should watch this video segment. It's in the 4 part series that aired on PBS NOVA this spring, using Australia as a proxy for the whole planet in showing how Earth (and life itself) evolved.

The whole video series (4 hours) is well done, but here's how to get to just the 6 minutes or so about the GOE:

1. Go to the PBS site for NOVA's mini-series on Australia: The First 4 Billion Years.

2. Click on the "Australia Awakening" episode in the listing on the left.

3. Click "Watch The Program" on the right.

4. After the ad, jump to the 24m20s point, and watch for 6 minutes.

And THAT is how you get rust, and the barns got their red paint.

More info: the Great Oxygenation Event on Wikipedia
posted by intermod at 6:45 PM on May 15, 2013 [5 favorites]


It kinda-sorta answered a question I've had about the whole "we are stardust!" thing - are we dust from our star, or just stars in general?

Other stars what done blowed up.


And if the elements are heavier than iron, it's from a star that done blowed up real good.
posted by 445supermag at 6:49 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


I live in Minnesota and see grain elevators every day. I have read the Wikipedia page a hundred times but I still don't understand the point of elevating the grain.
posted by miyabo at 7:30 PM on May 15, 2013


iron is going to be, by far, the most plentiful pigment for any species which lives on [sic] a star that isn’t about to blow up.

In other words, barns on planet Zontar are also red.
posted by eye of newt at 7:54 PM on May 15, 2013


I live in Minnesota and see grain elevators every day. I have read the Wikipedia page a hundred times but I still don't understand the point of elevating the grain.

Try building a sand castle from the bottom, it's easier to put new sand on top....or more directly, try laying rails to get your freight train to the top of a pile of grain instead of dumping it down into a train car underneath it.
posted by This_Will_Be_Good at 8:41 PM on May 15, 2013 [2 favorites]


tl;dr: red paint is as cheap as dirt.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:00 PM on May 15, 2013


Serendipity for me too! I caught just a flash of that "we're going to paint a wagon, and we're going to paint it red" Simpson's episode last night, mentally wobbled through to "Arr, t'is a fine barn..", and it left me wondering just this. Thanks for saving me an ask, man of twists.

But, second question arising, why are American barns so tall? Seems counter-intuitive in relation to the manual labor involved, likelihood of high winds, heat conservation, etc.

(And another stray question now forcing itself through the pilar opening of my cortex, some iron oxide paints continue to be reactive after application and will etch themselves into the material you paint on - thus the extraordinary persistence of ochre rock art here in Australia. Could it be that painting a barn red - as opposed to lime washing or whatever - meant less repainting over time?)
posted by Ahab at 9:18 PM on May 15, 2013


This is a very nice explanation, but why aren't other things on the farm red, too? Why not the farmhouse, or the outhouse, or the chicken coop, or the haywagon, etc. etc.? Basically, if barns are red because the universe made red paint cheap, there's nothing that explains why everything made of wood on the farm isn't red.

Maybe they're cheap to replace if they rot, or easier to repair if they fall apart? It might be less bother to repair them than to go to the bother of painting them. A barn is a big expensive thing, worth preserving.
posted by jrochest at 12:56 AM on May 16, 2013


My mom grew up on a dairy farm in rural Vermont, and tells how a neighbor created something of a stir by painting his barn. This would have been around 1950, IIRC. Yes, he used red paint. To this day, the barn on the farm where she grew up is unpainted, as are lots of others in the valley. I believe the owners of those farms feel that painting barns is: A) More work than it's worth, and B) pretentious.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:01 AM on May 16, 2013


I thought it was another of those weird yank traditions without a decent explanation, such as why school. buses are yellow, why you're not metric, why you still have small coins.
posted by wilful at 4:29 AM on May 16, 2013


I live in Minnesota and see grain elevators every day. I have read the Wikipedia page a hundred times but I still don't understand the point of elevating the grain.

Grain acts like a fluid - it flows from high to low using gravity, and this makes it easier to load onto trains and trucks. Think of water-towers - water is pumped up into the tower, to let gravity pressurize the town's water system. Grain is "pumped up" into the grain elevator to store it as it's waiting to be sold at wholesale, and gravity fills grain cars through a system of "pressurized" chutes.

For the train nerd, here's a youtube vid of covered hoppers (grain cars) being filled at night.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:32 AM on May 16, 2013


I can recommend the short documentary Grain Elevator from 1981. It explains the workings of a grain elevator, and is a great short film.

The grain elevator is also painted red.
posted by helicomatic at 5:11 AM on May 16, 2013


Heller draws on Eric Sloane’s American Barns and Covered Bridges, which explains that until the late eighteenth-century, builders carefully considered a site’s wind, sun, and water exposure in order to position bridges and barns in such a way that the weather would treat the wood

More on this please if anyone has it. Not looking for miracle level eureuka moment but this seems like one of those skills that have gone by the wayside that I would love to read more about.
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:13 AM on May 16, 2013


All those pictures of barns makes me want to take a drive through the country.
posted by slogger at 7:29 AM on May 16, 2013


In MO you can tell which old family farmsteads were owned by the Scot/Irish or English because they are red, while German farms had white barns.
I find that pretty cool.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 8:58 AM on May 16, 2013


« Older Important communication skills   |   English and Dravidian Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post