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How The Amish Have A Barn Raising


How The Amish Have A Barn Raising

By Josh Brown

June 22, 2022

Amish construction, Amish Way of Life, Livestock

In this day and time when you think construction usually the first thing that comes to mind is power tools, hardhats, and blueprints. But, did you know when the Amish raise a barn or a build a house they usually do all of the work by hand, with no blueprints!!! One of the first things travelers notice when they go to Amish country for the first time, is the enormous size of the barns, houses, and shops the Amish builders construct. If you have ever been in a building trade then you know the Amish usually use hardwood lumber that is much heavier and harder than your normal pine boards, making the whole building process more labor intensive. So, if your like me and have a mind that finds curiosity in the Amish way of life and how the Amish do things in the old fashion way, then this post will be right down your alley. The Crockett Cooner is here again at The Amish Of Ethridge doing a little writing on how the Amish have a old time barn raising party. So sit right back for a good read on Amish Barn raising, that is guaranteed to square up your ideas on Amish construction... 

So What Is An Amish Barn Raising

Amish Build Barn And Home

The Amish's Building  A New Home & Barn

So, if you have ever heard the saying a "barn raising" you might be asking yourself, what does that mean and where did that term originate? The term barn raising is and old saying that originated in the United Kingdom around the early 1900's and then the term made its way to the United States. As farming became more industrialized and farms became larger  in size producing more livestock and crops. It was only natural that the size of the barn should increase to handle a larger capacity of animals, farming equipment, and crop storage. The Amish still stick too the original way of raising a barn, by gathering a large number of members from their Amish community to help one another out with construction task, building cost, and materials need to build a barn. Now you might be wondering why the Amish farmers want to be so helpful to one another? Not only does the Amish religion say to help your fellow man, the amount of physical work that goes into a barn raising is very labor intensive. Keep in mind that the Amish due to their religious teachings do NOT use electric tools in the way that us English folks do. However the Amish will sometimes use a few power tools, powered from a gas powered generator but, this is usually very very rare, especially in the "Old Order" Amish community found in my area of Tennessee.  

If you look closely in the above picture (this is why this pic is so interesting!!!) you will notice that their is in fact an electric table saw being powered by a generator but, everything else in the building process is being done by hand, in an old style of construction!!! Of course the above picture is an Amish home being built and it is hard physically to build but, it does not compare to the amount of hard work that goes into an Amish barn. Amish farmers understand one key point that is very important and is a criterial point of owning and operating a large farm. That point is, help your fellow farmer, neighbor, and friends in your community because, you might need help yourself on a large project.  Seeing as how some Amish barns can be as large as 4500 to 5000 square feet or larger and many of the barns will be three stories tall!! When you see a barn of that magnitude in person being built by hand it's not uncommon to see as many as fifty or more Amish builders, farmers, and Amish sawmill owners on the project each helping one another. Many times even with a barn that has a large square footage layout the Amish builders can have it fully constructed in around three days to a week, and sometimes even quicker! So, if you are now curious and would like a little more information on the term "barn raising", the way us English folks did years ago and the Amish still do to this day. Here is a link with some great vintage barn raising pictures that describes more in depth the entire barn raising process barn raising.  

Amish Barn Raising Construction Styles And Their Functions

When it comes to raising any barn there are many different techniques and styles used. A few of the different types and styles of barns the Amish build and use are Dutch Barns, English A frame Barns, Tobacco Barns, Prairie Barns, Gambrel Roof Barns, Bank Barns (seen many times in my area of Tennessee), and English Gable Roof Barns. Now for the readers that have just read the different styles of barns I've mentioned, I know there are many more barn styles, and also corn cribs, coops for chickens, and tobacco barns but, I'll talk about them later in this post. With the many different styles of barns all with their own purpose and function for use. The Amish community in my area are primarily row crop farmers and have side businesses such as sawmills, tack shops, and wood working shops to supplement their income. But, don't let the row crop farming fool you, also you will see lots of dairy and beef cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, and chickens on Amish farms found here in the Ethridge Amish community. Many of the barns that I have mentioned are built or "raised" on Amish farms in my area for just such animals. For my readers in the extreme northern hemispheres wondering what types of barns the Amish build here in Tennessee. Remember, the amount of snow load on the roofs we get does not come close to comparing to the amount you guys get. So, step A frame roof on barn usually is not seen here in Tennessee like they are in Amish communities in Ohio, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania.   

A very common type of barn seen here in the hills of Tennessee that the Amish build and use are Bank Barns. The Bank Barn is just that, a barn that is built on a slope or the side of a bank to give access to animals such as beef cattle or pigs at the rear lower section of the barn. Many times when the Amish raise a Bank Barn they do so by building the lower walls out of concrete blocks a week or so before the second and third floors of the barns are built to allow for the joints in the block walls to dry. The use of concert in the lower back and side walls of the foundation in Bank Barns the Amish build is to support the weight of the timber above, and for a few other reasons! Below is a list of reasons why the Amish farmers use concrete blocks on the lower foundation of some Bank Barns, Prairie Barns, and some of the Gable Roof Barns here in Tennessee.    

Why The Amish Use Concrete Blocks In The Lower Walls When Raising A Barn

  1. To keep the barn from falling or shifting due to bad weather such as rain, winds (tornados), and snow.
  2. To protect the lower walls from livestock that likes to kick or chew on wood boards.
  3. To help prevent erosion from the base of the barn due to rain water run off and livestock traffic. 
  4. To keep the barn clean and sanatory, its easier to clean block walls compared to wood walls with water.
  5. To repel such things as termites, wood beetles, mice, and rats. 
  6.  Overall to last longer, the concrete block can last much longer in harsh elements compared to even the strongest Oak Boards. 

Now don't misunderstand in most of the Amish Milking Barns found in my area you will see lots of concrete in the floor of the Milking Rooms and also the walls of Amish Milk Barns, to keep the area extremely clean and keep the dairy cattle healthy. But, in the Bank Barns the most interesting part comes when the Amish farmers build the top two or three floors. In the Bank Barns many times the top or  second floor is reserved for hay, straw, and some grain storage. Many times in the construction of the Bank Barn the Amish builders will install pitch down doors in the floor of the hayloft that open to drop hay or straw directly to the floors below to feed the animals or to be used as bedding for the livestock. In different styles of barn constructions the loft many times will be the third floor or could be the second floor of a barn with an attic space above. There are three main styles of lofts found in a barn, they are known as the full loft, partial loft, or the center loft it just depends on what style of barn the Amish are building and how the inside of the barn is constructed to know which term to use.  But for anyone wondering how do the Amish get their hay to the loft? This is where on some Bank Barns and other styles of barns the Amish farmers use the Hay Door to access the "mow" or loft as some people call it. The Hay Door is a small door found at the top floor of the barn, that is opened to give access to the top of the barn from outside. The hay door is used to transfer the hay, straw, or grain from outside into the loft by means of conveyer belt or pitched by hand in square bails or loose. Also a very important function of the Hay Door is to give ventilation to the hay, straw, and grain. Here in Tennessee where the temperature has just today reached 100 degrees things such as hay and straw will generate heat while drying and can become a fire hazard when stacked together so the air circulation in and around the hay, straw, or grain is a must!!! Below in the picture is a great example of the Amish getting air flow through the top of a barn. Take a close look at the second building from the left in the picture. Notice the construction, the hay door if the front is fully open to give ventilation at all times and the rear top back wall of the barn (with light shining through) has spaces between the boards to give some cover from the elements but, allows for some air flow and light even in cooler weather.   

An Amish Old Barn

An Old Style Amish Barn With Ventilation At Top

Amish Barn With Over Hang

The Over Hang On Amish Barn Roof Used To Raise Hay To The Loft

So What Other Features Are Found Inside An Amish Barn

Before the Amish builders raise a new barn a few things are for sure. The Amish builders make a plan ahead of construction time for, the square footage of the new barn, a plan for how and when the barn will be constructed, and what will the barn be used for once its completed. This is because the uses of the barn dictates what the features of the interior of the barn will be. So before I go any further below is a list of terms my readers will need to know, to better understand barn interiors.  

A Few Things To Know Before You Continue Reading On Barn Interiors

  • Bay: The distance between the columns and post in a barn
  • Stall: Usually where animals such as horses, cows, sheep, or goats are kept inside a barn
  • Knee Wall: Usually a small wall found under the roof rafters to give support
  • Wind bracing: A board between the rafters to give support
  • Hay feeder: An area or section inside a barn built, for the purpose of feeding the livestock hay
  • Hallway or Runway: The center section of the barn that spans from end to end
  • Cupola: The square structure found on top of a barn roof used for light and ventilation
  • Double Dutch Door: A Door divided in the middle *usually used in stall doors
  • Cross Buck: The X design found in the middle of barn doors to prevent sagging of heavy wood doors
  • Track Pass or Sliding Door:  A large door usually at the front of a barn with steel wheels at the top that slide on a rail, that allow the door to slide from side to side
  • Ramp: The structure usually outside of the barn at the entrance to give access to the second floor of the barn for trailers, wagons, and livestock also used to load trailers and wagons from above. (*ramp may be made from earth, wood, or stone)
  • Tack or Storage Room: A room inside the barn used to store things such as horse saddles, horse bridles, and equipment
  • Farrowing Crate: Many times found in barns for pigs it is used to keep the sow from crushing the piglets during feeding 
  • Hay prow: It is the overhang of the roof above the hay door that is an extension of the roof used to load hay and heavy objects in the loft (*many times will have a pully system to help raise heavy loads)
  • Hay Trolley:  Is the sliding system in the top of a barn to move loose (*NOT Bailed) hay through the hay door to the loft floor
  • Hay Sling: Is the rope webbing found at the bottom of hay pile on a wagon the hay trolley line attaches to the sling to bundle up the loose hay to lift hay to the loft
  • Hay Fork: It is a metal fork attracted to the trolley line, dropped on top of the loose hay to grab and pick the hay up so the hay can be transported to the loft 
  • Granary Room: It is the room (sometimes) found in the main barn that houses grain for the livestock such as wheat, oats, and rye
  • Lean-To: The room or structure on the side of a barn that leans against the main barn structure (*usually a cover for equipment or to sometimes to access grain chute's or chute's to remove animal droppings)

Now that you have a better understanding of the terminology of barn interiors you will better be able to understand what type of barn you might be looking at on an Amish farm. One great thing about an Amish built barn is the amount of versatility that you find. On most modern commercial farms you will usually notice that the farms primarily focus on one or two particular types of livestock. On most Amish farms there is usually a variety of livestock. So, when the Amish have a barn raising the barn that they build is usually able to accommodate many different types of livestock.   

On one of my many trips to Amish county I ask an Amish farmer, just what all he could do with his barn and what animals the barn could accommodate, here is what he said to me.

"I usually keep my horses in the barn and the chickens on the side of the barn in their coop. But, I have had pigs in their, I built the stalls wide enough for horses on one side and wider for cows on the other side. But, if it will fit a horse or a cow, sheep would have enough room in the stalls too."

I personally knew that on most Amish farms the barns where built to shelter many different types of  livestock. However I did NOT know that one of the main purposes for the Amish barns being so large is due to the space requirements needed for different farm animals

Amish Home And Barn

Lean-To On The Side Of Amish Barn Covering A Buggy

Other Types Of Barns and Coops Built On Amish Farms

Another type of barn that you will see in my area of Tennessee on Amish farms are the Tobacco barns. In different varieties of tobacco crops the process of getting tobacco cured and ready to sale could not be possible without the correct type of barn. A few of the different types of tobacco are Nicotiana tabacum (common name Virginia Tobacco), Perique (common name Saint James, Louisiana Tobacco), and Burley (seen many times in Tennessee). Now for everyone that has never done any research on the different types of tobacco, I'm sure your wondering why I would mention the tobacco plants. The tobacco barn is very important in different drying processes of different varieties of tobaccos.  You have what is commonly know as air cured, fire cured, flu cured, sun cured, and fermentation cured tobaccos. Some of the tobacco drying processes commonly seen here in  Tennessee are air cure and fire cured tobacco. In the barn building process the Amish farmers that grow air cure tobacco will construct a tobacco barn that has many different rafters above head to hang the tobacco leaf's to dry after cutting.  

Tobacco Barn

Air Cured Tobacco Hanging To Dry

Another type of tobacco barn that some of the Amish build in Amish communities located in Western Tennessee is Fire Cured tobacco barns. This is a barn that is constructed much like an air cure tobacco barn. But, the fire cure tobacco barn is constructed so that in the drying process of the tobacco leaves, the leaves can be dried with wooden planks that are set on fire below the tobacco that is hung above them. This drying process helps give the tobacco its "dark fire" smoke flavor an look and is also to remove an excess moisture from the tobacco leaves.  

Amish Pole Barn: A Pole Barn is another type of barn the Amish construct many times to cover crops such as hay, straw, and equipment, or to cover such things as saws for sawmills, crop sales stands or sorghum molasses boilers. The Pole Barn is usually just a roof that has large poles at each corner of the building instead of using the typical studded walls. Often times in a larger Pole Barn there will be cross bracing or wind bracing in the tops of the Pole Barn roofs or connecting the bays of the walls. This is to ensure that the structure is more resilient to high winds. 

Pole Barn

Amish Pole Barn Used To Sale Crops

Amish Chicken Coop: Many times on an Amish farm you will see a flock of chickens just running wild around the Amish barn yard. But, rest assured the Amish farmers have a special place for their chickens. The Amish chicken coops are usually their own independent building. However, many times you will see the Amish farmers have a chicken coop that is connected to their main barn. Usually when you see a chicken coop on an Amish farm that is connected to the main barn the construction of the coop is outstanding in everyway. The Amish chicken coop is usually build on a knee high block wall to help ensure that know predator can break into the coop and hurt the chickens. But, if you see an Amish chicken coop with chicken wire that spans from the ground to the roof, many times you will notice that the Amish farmers have installed predator cloth around the outside wire coop walls. This is to keep out animals such as coyotes, foxes, and racoons that like to dig under the chicken coop walls.

Amish Green House: Another barn type of structure the Amish farmers raise is the Greenhouse. On most all of the Amish farms located in my area of Tennessee you will see quiet a few Greenhouses the Amish have build to start their seedlings out, and also to dry clothing many times in cooler weather. The Amish green house is usually a wooden frame or light metal structure that is covered with plastic and has a wood burning stove for heating the air in the early spring so the Amish farmers can get a head start on early crops. Usually the floor of the Amish green house is limestone rock, concrete, or some form of sawdust to allow the sun to heat the floor through the plastic walls to help generate warmer air inside the green house for plant protection in cold weather.  

Amish Greenhouse

Outside Of An Amish Greenhouse

I hope you had as much fun reading this post on Amish barn raising, as I did writing it. Maybe on your next trip to an Amish community this post will help you better understand a little more about how the Amish raise a barn or any structure for that matter. Thank you all for taking time to read this blog post make sure to leave us a review below, we love to hear from our readers. If you would like more information on everything going on here at The Amish Of Ethridge website make sure to sign up for our news letter. Feel free to look around at the entire Amish Of Ethridge website and make sure to check out our other websites. Lastly if you are browsing the old inner webs make sure to look for the Crockett Cooner and The Amish Of Ethridge on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Thank you all again for reading and have a great day and even better tomorrow.  

Faq

Can you visit an Amish barn?

Many times if the Amish farmers are not busy with work they would be happy to show you their barns.

What do I need to know before going into a barn?

Always wear good shoes there are many times animal droppings on the ground. Make sure to watch out for spiders and snakes. Always view an Amish barn in the winter months, many times in warmer weather a barn will smell really bad. 

Will the Amish build a barn for me?

Sometimes if you live by an Amish community that does work for the general public, yes some Amish builders will build barns for us English folks. 

Why are some Amish barns constructed from wood and some barns are metal?

Wood is a great insulator for animals in the winter months, while metal is usually used to house things like equipment and machinery. 

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