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Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

Sunflower Seeds

Celebrating Everyday Spirituality

A Meditation on a Barn

A while ago, one of our readers, Joe Masterleo, sent me one of his poems entitled “A Barn.” I really liked it and thought you might enjoy it too–especially those of you who, like me, actually had or currently have a barn in your life. Joe lives with his wife Ruth in Jamesville, NY. He is a clinical social worker specializing in faith-based counseling. Here’s Joe’s poem that captures “the spirit of every barn.” I found some beautiful pictures (on pexels) that also capture that same spirit.

“A Barn” by Joe Masterleo

A barn is a cathedral, long and wide; a monument to the countryside;

made of stone, steel, and wood; plain and steady, and misunderstood.

Peppering hillsides high and low, with weathervane and silo;

a structure that is seasoned or old, giving shelter from rain and cold.

A place of lofts, beams, and stalls, few windows and overalls;

where life is teeming, born and bred, with much to do and little said.

Rugged dwellings and simple decors, strange odors and dirty floors;

a home for cats, birds, and owls, dirty hands and no towels.

A garage for tractors, wagons, hay, and little time to get away.

A storehouse for a season’s crop; a place to chat when neighbors stop.

A workshop open at all times; a source of grunts, snorts, and whines.

Where hens gather and roosters crow, and livestock huddle at ten below.

A place for forks, shovels, and wrenches, or odds and ends on tool benches;

oil cans, saws, rusty nails, milking stools and water pails.

a symbol for all work and toil; a place to change the tractor oil.

Where moms and dads and kids pitch in, with neighbors, friends, and next of kin.

Where boys become men, forge and hammered, disciplined and mild-mannered.

A place to labor night and day, to keep the creditors away.

Where workers are steadfast and able, making provision for their table.

A common shed much overlooked, where God was born when rooms were booked.

The sacred temple of every farm, a nation’s mainstay, and right arm.

For reflection:

Did any of the words, images, pictures speak to you today?

Here are some facts: In 1850, 64% of the U.S. population lived on farms; in 1920 it was 30.2; in 2008, it was less than 2%. Have we “lost” anything as a people with this decline?

Have you had any experiences with barns that you would like to share? Do you have an experience with farming or farmers that you would like to share with us?

PS: I will be giving a Zoom weekend retreat, Oct. 2-4 sponsored by Mount St. Joseph Conference and Retreat Center in Maple Mount, KY. The weekend is entitled “Holding onto Hope” and runs from Friday evening to Sunday lunch. You can attend in person (single occupancy $190, commuters $90) or online ($60). Check out their website for more details:

I’m giving you a choice of three videos that celebrate farmers and farming. The first is a country song by Luke Bryan, “Here’s to the Farmer.” Next is a short piece by Paul Harvey (remember him?) called “So God Made a Farmer.” And finally, there’s “God Made a Farmer’s Wife,” in honor of a real farmer’s wife’s 90th birthday.

Here’s to the farmer:

Paul Harvey’s “So God Made a Farmer”:

“God Made a Farmer’s Wife,” a tribute to a real farmer’s wife:

I invite you to respond below to anything in today’s blog.

23 Responses

  1. Good morning, Sr. Melannie….
    Good morning, all…

    Joe, your poem is just beautiful! First, we see the barn from afar, but then you show us its structure, its inside, its goings on. Your barn teems with a holy specificity: “a place for forks, shovels, and wrenches…oil cans, saws, rusty nails.” All of God’s creation gathers in your Cathedral that holds the hay that once held Jesus. I will never look at a barn the same way again. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for sharing Sr. Melannie.

    I live in a rural area where a week ago an Amish barn was flattened by a tornado. The Amish community gets together and rebuilds the barn for those in need.

    During the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, it feels like our barns have been flattened by the virus. How will we choose to rebuild our cathedral?

    God bless.


  3. Sister Melannie, All,
    Memories of My Granddad’s Ohio farm, and his barns, are recalled by this week’s post: Red barn, with tin roof, housed the farm equipment (tractor, plow, combine, truck, and lots of tools and stuff)…..Gray barn held the hay mound, couple of wagons, tools, supplies, and was home to Granddad’s milking equipment (all done by hand back then). Granddad always had a dozen or so milk cows, which required milking, twice a day, 24/7. Barns, for me, evoke many childhood memories on Granddad’s farm, doing what a boy does on a farm…. playing, working, exploring, rummaging, growing up…..Sweet thoughts. Thank you, Sister and Joe………Especially like Paul Harvey’s rendition of “And God Made a Farmer”!

  4. Wow! What a reflection. I’ve done many things in my life, but when people ask me what I did in my life, I tell them I’m a retired dairy farmer, which I was for many years. When I started my farm in 1976 there were 13 dairy farms in my county. Now, there are none. My grown children to this day talk about growing up on the farm and how it has reflected there lives. All of them are successful. During our married life, my wife never worked outside, she worked by my side. We just celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary. She’s a keeper! Thanks Sister and Joe I couldn’t have said it better. What a great poem!

  5. Oh..I so loved this poem. Thank you for sharing! There was an element of Gerard Manley Hopkins “Pied Beauty” in it for me. First, my mother is the daughter of a Wisconsin Swiss dairy father, and Irish farm daughter. Annie met Ike at a barn dance on the Godfrey farm, and he began corresponding to her, who he always addressed as “Dear Irish.” Barns can spawn love!

    Second, I commuted from Kalamazoo to East Lansing a couple of times a week to teach at MSU. As soon as I could get off the wild and treacherous I-94 (Trucking highway between Chicago and Detroit) and head up I-69 through rural countryside I began my rosary. By the third decade I would come upon the most gorgeous red barn…noble I would dare say…and I always stopped praying and gazed at it as I passed by, wondering about all the stories it might tell if it could. And corny as it sounds, I’d always say “There She Blows.” Not only was it a sight of grandeur, but very practical too, as it marked the halfway point in my journey. Coming back at night when she appeared, my heart would lighten, thinking “I’m halfway home.” Thanks for such a beautiful reflection today Sr. Melannie. I retired two years ago, and seldom go that way, but your thoughts today make me want to put my husband in the car and head out on a road trip to salute that barn one more time!

  6. This certainly took me back to my growing up years. My grandfather was a farmer. I spent lots of time on the farm. During WWII I even “worked” on the farm. With all the help away at war. I helped cut seed potatoes. Each piece had to have two eyes. At other times I picked strawberries, potatoes and tied up cauliflower so it would stay white. I remember filling a half bushel basket with potatoes. Then an adult would empty it into a burlap bag. I would fill it up again to make a bushel as this was the way potatoes were sold to market.

  7. Thank you Sister Melannie, the poem, the song, the Paul Harvey about a Farmer and the one about a Farmers wife, all so very special. I was born and raised on a farm and I can so relate to it all. Wouldn’t change my childhood for anything. I am 74 and wow have things changed. Again thank you for your blog, I look so forward to Monday’s.
    Have a great week.

  8. Sister Melanie,
    For rhe last 25 years I have been photographing the old Mailpouch Chewing Tobacco barns and surprisingly have found each one to be different! I have met some of the farmers who own the barns, and they let me take as many pictures as I want. Each is such a part of the rural countrysides of the Dtate of Ohio. It’s been such a relaxing hobby to enjoy!

  9. Dear Melannie,
    I love Joe’s poem and the videos. I was born and raised in Manhattan, NY, so I never had a barn in my life. But over the years my favorite place to visit is Lancaster, PA….I love the peace and quiet and beautiful farm lands, and admire the simple yet strong camaraderie among the Amish people.
    Thank you for your unique and inspiring thoughts! God bless you. Josita

  10. there is no better place to grow up than on a farm!! It is so sad that there are so few farmers now!! My mom and mother in law were farmer’s wives!! They were incredible women!! They actually did all of those things!! What precious memories!!

  11. I grew up in Strongville, Ohio. My girlfriend lived on the Seidel Farm with her many siblings. I cherished the times we helped Rena with her varied farm chores. It put us in contact with the animals and farm life. Once we had to catch a prize sheep, wash and rinse it with buckets of hauled water because the 4H was coming to take its picture.
    They also had real hayrides with oxen pulling the wagons. After all those years I remember there names: Buck and Berry. Am so blessed with these memories of nature, beauty, good friends and simpler times. God bless the Seidel family where ever they are right now.

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful poem. Growing up on a farm in Le Center, Minnesota, I didn’t realize at the time how wonderful it was. At the time, I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school and move to a big city. Now, I would give anything to live on a farm. My dad is 94 years old and living in a nursing home. This beautiful poem and song tell his story. He was a very hard working farmer and many times my grandpa would come to help dad with planting and baling. Dad was very proud of his successful, beautiful farm. He tells about his first purchase of cattle, with a handshake from the bank president, just like it states in the song. Of course, at that time, most of the people in Le Center were related to each other. We had horses and many great memories. My brother Bob had a pet cow named ‘Bobby Pin’. My sister trained our Welsh ponie’s colts, Trixie and Flush. My youngest brother still lives on the family farm so we’re able to visit and reminisce, which we do several times a year. I can’t wait to read this poem to my dad and play this song for him. I know they will bring him tears of joy. Thank you.

  13. Sr Melannie and everyone, hello!

    Joe, wonderful poem, beautifully cadenced, lovingly depicted. I echo what John said about the “holy specificity”!

    The best poets grew up on farms! My friends Elena and Mary come soonest to mind. Something about the rhythm of farm life makes one alert to nature, leads one to listen to one’s surroundings, at a heightened level of alertness.

    I enjoyed today’s post immensely! Here to “claim my seat.”

    Wishing everyone peace and light in abundance.

  14. As I spent many of my 79 years living on farms, I want to thank you for the wonderful barn-based poem and related videos.

  15. Good morning all,
    I grew up in a small town in south-central Wisconsin and though we did not live on a farm, my best friend did and sometimes I was invited to spend the nite with her…on a school nite, if you can imagine that. One of the delights for me was being able to ride the school bus home with her, which included many drives up country paths, bumping over the fields to deposit each kid at their farm. I loved being on her farm….going to get the cows back to the barn and just everything about being there. I always was a bit jealous of her for that reason.
    Farms surrounded us back in those days and I am really sad to think that our children and grandchildren generally have no idea what a genuine family operated farm even looks like, much less have the opportunity to experience life on one.
    All of the songs/videos had such a heartfelt message…thank you for the tribute to some of our super-heroes who supplied us with food for our tables, never knowing from one year to the next if their crops would flourish so they could continue doing what was in their blood.

    God bless our farmers,
    Thank you Sr. Melannie,

  16. My Grandpa Brkal moved from Czechkoslovakia to Baroda Michigan to start a small farm. He always prayed in his own language at meal time and we knew it was always with gratitude. He was also a joker and brought, Queenie the horse, to the front door. He opened and asked if they could come in. Thank you for all you do and all you share with us.

  17. What a lovely poem! It brings back such memories of the barns in my life, starting with my Grandparent’s barn in the tiny town of Castleton, Indiana. Grandpa John plowed gardens for our neighbors every spring and the stalls housing his 2 draft horses were in that barn. He used to let me sit on them while they were eating. I remember watching him sharpen his tools and Grandma’s scissors and knives on a big stone grinding wheel. I remember playing in the hayloft with my friends and even watching some adventuresome boys jump out the window.
    I also remember our family’s barn at the other end of town which doubled as a garage and contained our “coke pile” (clean coal) and a “two hole” outdoor toilet. I fondly remember playing with litters of kittens in the hayloft and escaping to it’s privacy when I needed a good cry.
    My husband, Jack, and I raised our large family in the countryside of Central Indiana. We always had a barn which housed ponies, chickens, rabbits and a multitude of cats.
    Barns have always fascinated me. I remember driving around the countryside with our daughter, Melanie, while she took pictures of barns for her 4-H photography project. To this day, I enjoy taking pictures of barns, the older the better.
    P.S. I loved Paul Harvey and used to listen to him everyday on the radio.

  18. I so enjoyed listening to all 3 of these renditions about farmers, their wives and families. I listened to Paul Harvey’s radio station when my husband was playing pro baseball and we were traveling by car between one town and another and viewing the magnificent countryside in the midwest. Sometimes it was stormy, but Paul’s voice kept us on the road. My favorite movie is “Hoosiers”, so small farming towns are special to me. I have been enjoying painting in retirement, and I have one of a barn over my fireplace, and it brings me peace and joy to think about our Lord’s first night was in a barn. Bless all the farmers and their wives!

  19. Thanks, Sister, for prompting some 50+ year old memories. As a kid, some of my buddies and I would help out on a nearby farm in exchange for sharing the farmer’s grand daughter’s ride to school. Mrs. L asked me to dump a bucket of apple peals in the pig pen. Hidden in the bottom of the bucket were broken shards from a dish. That is the day I learned that the pigs defined country strong and a couple of scrawny Pre-teens were way overmatched in trying to make sure the pigs didn’t eat the old pottery. I still can “smell” the experience. We didn’t tell Mrs. L about it. I don’t remember if I got a piece of apple pie, but for sure we were riding in Mr. L’s giant Oldsmobile on Monday morning.

  20. My Mother lived on a farm in Alma, Nebraska. She told me when their house burnt down, they lived in their barn ‘til they could move into town!
    They were such resilient people back then.
    I can’t imagine it myself….
    That poem is beautiful.
    Thank you Sister.

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Meet Sr. Melannie

Hi and welcome to my blog! I’m Sister Melannie, a Sister of Notre Dame residing in Chardon, Ohio, USA. I’ve been very lucky! I was raised in a loving family on a small farm in northeast Ohio. I also entered the SNDs right after high school. Over the years, my ministries have included high school and college teaching, novice director, congregational leadership, spiritual direction, retreat facilitating, and writing. I hope you enjoy “Sunflower Seeds” and will consider subscribing below. I’d love to have you in our “sunflower community.” Thank you!

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