Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
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Monday, December 28, 2009

Storm Over Skarf Mountain

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The farm's founder was a blacksmith. His land was fertile and prime, on the top of a mountain just outside of town. When the sun shined, it shined here from dawn until dusk. His family were leaders of the community. Some of his grandchildren live on the hills behind me.

Like most New England farms, the crops varied with the economy - tobacco, corn, grain, and always dairy. It's been a half a century since the golden Guernseys who once grazed here, last "came home." Except for a bit of hay, both barns and farm house sit empty.

The large barn on the left was the cow barn. The barn has received so many changes and adaptations that it's hard to tell for what purpose it was originally built. There are both metal cow stalls and older wooden ones still in place. To me they look too small to hold the large dairy cows I see on farms today. Most of the up-hill portion of the barn is for hay, but at some time in the past a milk room was carved out of part of the bottom floor. Hidden behind the cow barn in this image, and facing onto a common barnyard, is a small barn for bulls and another for heifers. On the far (south-facing) side of the cow barn are giant doors that swing open onto the barnyard, and in the fall someone still pushes a tall wagon full of hay inside between rows of empty cow stalls where it will stay dry. Beside these large doors is a long row of windows that still fill the milk room with sunlight and whose shadows still mark the passage of a day.

The two, wooden silos were made by the Unadilla Silo Company in 1951. They probably replaced earlier silos in the same spot. Wooden silos were inexpensive, and farmers expected to have to replace them as they aged. The boards of these have shrunk, the iron hoops fallen slack from disuse. The bill for each silo was $250 and another $50 each to ship them from Unadilla, NY. A small passage leads from a space behind the silos down into the milk room. Most summers vines block access.

The buildings on the right include chicken coops, outhouse, a corn crib, machine shed and food storage. They cluster nicely around an area that may once have functioned as a dooryard, orchard, and garden. The old farm house is visible at the back. At the corner where the axis of the barnyard galaxy and the axis of the dooryard galaxy cross is the blacksmith's shop.