A Story about Building a Barn

February 19, 2019

Old farms come with old stories.  They're hidden in walls and buried beneath the dirt.  They're filtered through generations and are sometimes better left forgotten.  But, they leave their mark and become history. 

Photo above: ghf taken in 1920 by the old alley in Sharpsburg looking north



Growing up on a farm was a little different.  There are no friends with bicycles right next door.  Playing outside usually involved solitude where creativity can run wild.  My best friend for 3 summers was a rooster named, "Baby."  Some of my favorite memories involve endless afternoons carrying around that chicken.  Baby is buried here and so is my first dog.  I know every cracked floor board in the farmhouse and every inch of these 24+/- acres.  Its barns and buildings hold the memories of my childhood.  Calling it "home" does not quite emulate my sentiment for this place, but I can't think of a better word.



The aerial photo below was taken some time around 1945.  Back then times were simple and so was the farm.  It was a homestead where a garden is more important than a front yard.  The hog pen was close to the back door making it easy to drop off that evening's slop and the fence lines were barren as every stick meant heat in the fire.  And, those draft horses earned their keep. 

Over a cup of coffee a few years ago local native, Jim McCoy told me a story about how he used to walk up the hill to borrow the plow horse.  He'd ride it back to Poffenberger's farm to dig up potatoes each fall.  The horse was so familiar with the route that he'd walk himself home after the job was done.  That story got me thinking about how simple and community-oriented those times were and how distant they seem.  Shared crops?  Shared plow horse? Shared land? 


A lot has changed around the farm since then but the bones are the same. 

The picture below was taken a few years ago. 



The outhouse still stands outback, rickety and weathered ...a testament that life may not have been complicated, but it certainly wasn't easy.



This farm is my family home now but it has been home to many before and will be home to many after.

Preserving it's future, to me, is just as important as it's past. 


With so much needing to be done, we needed a niche... a way to keep this farm producing with an income to maintain it.

Built in 1986 and considered to be "new" by all Sharpsburg standards, the stone wall looks like it's been here for a hundred years.  Dad sure made good use of those rock piles.


  Though life is much faster now, time seems to stand still here on this tiny hill overlooking south county.  Much like a capsule, these old bones have been preserved well and they have a story to tell... a story people seem to really enjoy listening to. 


The nostalgia of the homestead and its history is real.   Welcoming guests to the farm became our niche in 2010.  Starting small, our event venue quickly grew and we were ready to spread our wings just a few years later.  We needed a new, county-approved "commercially-up-to-code structure" in which to fly to, but what modern structure could blend with an 1800's house and outbuildings?  That's when we turned to timber framing: an old-fashioned method of building where the wood is joined through mortise and tenon construction. 



Like dad's stone wall,  new doesn't have to look out of place. 




Our dream started simply, but it certainly was NOT easy.



Two long years of sketching, planning, financing, worrying and hoping later, our dream was delivered and dropped in the field early November 2016.  The massive bundles of white oak logs were too heavy to

lift and too daunting to fathom.  Uncertain and overwhelmed, we began.


From our borrowed plow horse (left) to the neighborhood master timber-framer (below) and everything in between, our stars magically aligned that winter of 2016-2017.



We had 6 months to complete the barn before our first wedding in May.

 Al brought along his good buddy from Berkeley Springs, Bruce. (below)

 They are both members of the