I will often head out on my bike alone for a training ride. Leaving from Assiniboine Park, following Roblin Blvd, I can be riding across the Canadian prairies, in the middle of farm country in just six kilometers. This is my favorite route when I am alone as the shoulder is wide and safe and I can ride out along the Assiniboine Trail to the lovely small farm community of St. François Xavier and back in just over two hours.
When riding alone, a bike is a perfect vehicle for contemplating life’s greatest mysteries. For instance…….
Why are barns almost always red? Or for that matter, are barns really almost always red, or is that just what I perceive? Apparently, I am not the only person curious about this, as the internet is ripe with dialogue as to why barns are red. Who better than the trusted Farmer’s Almanac or The Barn Journal to answer this pressing question. The Barn Journal? For everything on earth, it seems, there is a group of people devoted to collecting, studying or immortalizing it. Barns are no exception.
After diligent and thorough investigation, I can report that historically, barns were not painted. The typical American barn wasn’t painted in the 18th century. Farmers gave great consideration to the best place to situate their barns to take advantage of sunshine and the wind and ensure that the barn was on high enough ground so that its footings wouldn’t remain wet. The wood would weather naturally without a preservative.
According to GRIT.com, by the late 1700’s, farmers began using artificial preservatives to treat their barns. “Inasmuch as ready-made paint was not available, a farmer mixed his own. He discovered that skimmed milk, lime and red iron oxide made a plastic-like coating that hardened quickly and lasted for years.” Iron oxide, commonly known as rust was plentiful on farms and provided the dark red color of historic “barn red” paint. (Linseed oil was also added to the mixture and its golden color added to the tint of the paint.) Iron oxide was effective as a preservative because it killed mosses and fungi which could potentially grow on damp or wet wood.
With the advent of manufactured paints, the historical red color of handmade paint was retained. Serving the needs of the ever-frugal farmer, barn red paint was the cheapest paint to buy.
What got me started on this wasn’t as one might expect, a red barn, but instead a blue barn. As I rode into Pigeon Lake, just beyond St. François Xavier, I spotted a blue barn. I don’t recall every seeing a blue barn before and it got me thinking about the character of the person who made this non-conventional choice. What was his motivation and inspiration? The barn is well weathered and its paint is peeling, but a beautiful farm vignette, none-the-less. What ever his reason, he must be fully committed to blue barns, because hidden behind trees on the property is the “new” barn, made with metal siding, but blue, like its aged neighbour.
As I sign off today, I will leave you to ponder one of life’s other great mysteries. Why at Pigeon Lake, my turnaround point for today, one finds neither a pigeon nor a lake? Something to contemplate for another ride.