Old Buildings

Author Photo
By Mary Conley

Dear readers,

There is a fairly new and fast-growing Facebook page you might enjoy called “Nebraska Through The Lens,” where anyone can join and post photos taken only in Nebraska. You’ll find beautiful pictures of sunrises, sunsets, wild animals, and so on, but I’ve noticed that people seem to love to take photos of anything old and dilapidated. They sometimes name the place and include a little history, and often viewers comment that they wonder about or like to imagine the history.

Nebraska seemingly has an unending source of old buildings, since farming slowly changed over the years and the old-fashioned farmyard with cows, pigs, chickens and a garden pretty much disappeared and was replaced by feedlots, or a monoculture of some kind of crop, often growing practically to the farmhouse doorstep. When we first passed such abandoned places on the way to our farm, I often felt depressed and wanted to set a match to any old house I saw with broken windows and sagging roof. I did wonder about those who once lived there, and what their lives were like, but it was still just an eyesore to me.

In our case, someone cut off one of those old-fashioned farmyards from the rest of the land and sold it as an acreage. It consists of 20 acres of about everything, and we love it. It has a nice house, but many of the outbuildings could definitely have been a good choice for someone who loves to take photos of ruins.

If you have read my past blogs, you will recall that the whole place was full of weeds, thistles and junk, so we first cleaned up around the buildings. It was not an easy job, but very satisfying.

Part of the farmyard.

Above is one of my favorite photos after the yard cleanup. However, it is misleading. The white building looks in good shape, but actually the front was pretty much it, and all three buildings’ roofs were falling in.

The old chicken house.

This old chicken house would be a great photo for Nebraska Through The Lens. It would have been even better when the weeds, thistles and junk were still around it.

Larry and I like perfection, so our first inclination was to tear down, burn or haul off. We had no idea what we would do with all the leftover cement foundations, but our plans were to take things one step at a time and see what happened. Then our son, Todd, and I read that one need not be hasty in destroying old farm buildings, especially if you can’t afford new ones, as they can often still be used. We would soon have an unexpected use.

When Todd and his family decided to live there for a while, we needed places for animals right away, and the rebuilding and repurposing process began. I’ll have to tell you up front, and probably several times in the future, that it is a very fulfilling and rewarding experience to save a building. It just makes me smile to think about it!

On my next blog I want to share with you the course of how the brooder house became a chicken house, and show you some unbelievable before and after pictures. Stay tuned!

Published on Mar 14, 2014