North Coast 50Plus A day away in PA by Doug Bardwell | July 24, 2013 A tour of the barns of Butler County Typically, there are four reasons people hit the road on the weekend [pick one]: a) clear the head, b) forget about the boss, c) reconnect with Mother Nature, or d) have some fun for a change. For my wife and me, it’s usually “D”. Give us a semi-close destination and a reason to go, and we’re off. Any place a day away or less makes for a fun trip. Luckily for us, I had received a brochure from the Butler County Tourism & Convention Bureau called “Barn Trail – a self-guided driving tour.” From Cleveland, western Pennsylvania is less than a two-hour drive, so that was an easy destination. The brochure was filled with fun facts about barns in general and it showed three separate routes with a total of 16 barns to see. Some would be open to tour and others were just to be admired from the road. With brochure in hand, we set off to explore the scenic back roads of Butler County. Being a photographer, I’ve always loved barns. Barns and farms make the perfect subjects for good pictures; a bold dash of red barn, finished at the bottom
with green grass and topped with blue sky. With your primary colors all accounted for, all that’s
needed are some fluffy white clouds to crown your masterpiece.
the road again.
White Oak Farm, built in 1905 was one of the smaller barns we would see, but I loved it as a photographic subject.
Heading north from the Cranberry exit off I-76, we first arrived at Powell Farm, built in 1864. They must have known we were coming. They had placed their cows out in the pasture. The cows were out near the road, so I could photograph them in the foreground with the matching white and black barn in the distance. Next was the oldest barn on the tour – the Harmonist ZieglerWise Barn. Built back in 1805, it is the only remaining barn built by a communal society of German Separatists. It’s also the start of Harmony’s hiking and biking trails, should you want to stretch your legs. Miller Farms was the site of an esker – which is a geologically
Simple in design, with clean white clapboard walls (unusual for barns), black shingles and beautifully proportioned sliding doors, it made a wonderfully photogenic subject. According to the brochure, this barn has led an interesting life; including hosting two rock concerts before becoming a temporary church. White Oak is typical of many of these Pennsylvania bank barns. They get that name because most were built into a hill, enabling livestock to enter from one side on the lower lever. Tractors and wagons would then enter higher up the bank, and store their grain and feed on the upper level of the barn. Smart guys, these barn builders…no stairs or ladders needed to go from one level to another.
significant high ridge formed during the ice age. This one is the largest and best preserved of all those found in Pennsylvania. We picked up the second route in Callery, PA where our first stop was at Marburger Dairy Farm, where we were given a tour of their facilities. (Five of the farms listed will give tours if you call ahead.) Their dairy barns house 150 cows and the operation is all conducted with the premise that happy cows give more milk. I talked with one of the Guernsey cows and she confirmed it was true. We got to sample some of Marburger’s best chocolate milk before we hit
Sunset Hills Alpaca Farm was the larger of the two alpaca farms on the tour. A sizeable alpaca operation, they have
T R AV E L a large gift shop with alpaca fashions and a single unit B&B called The Stargazer, where you can literally roll back your curtains and be eye-toeye with the alpacas. Final stop of the tour was the Succop Conservancy where we would find the Maharg Farm barn. With 50 wooded acres of land, two ponds and trails galore, we could easily fill out the rest of our day here. They also have the first “extreme croquet” course I’ve ever encountered. In just one of the “holes,” you literally play your shot right through the barn and continue on out the other side. Again, with a call ahead, their wonderful personnel will provide a host of activities to keep a whole family busy and interested for the entire day if desired. Heading back home, the “getaway weekend” had fulfilled its purpose. Best part for me was that I had dozens of wonderful photographs to prove it. To have a free copy of the Butler Barn Tour brochure mailed to you, go online at: http://dbhas.info/ButlerBarns and give them your name and mailing address.
Doug Bardwell writes for CBS, Examiner, Technorati and his own blog: www.DougBardwell.com; where he covers technolgy, photography and travel.