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Barn Raisings

Barn raisings occurred primarily in the Midwest where there weren’t a lot of people. They brought the community together to create a shared sense of purpose and to help one of their neighbors, friends, or strangers. As the Industrial Age dawned, fewer and fewer people moved to the rural, most remote parts of the country to farm, and those who were already living there either had barns or hired labor. Eventually, barn raisings disappeared from our cultural consciousness.

Maybe they shouldn’t have.

While not all migration is western, people still move. We move to escape our past. We move to create a future. We move because it’s the only way to start over. We’re really not so far beyond the pioneers of old. We just have I-Phones, GPS, and American Airlines. It takes us hours to get home, instead of days, weeks, or months. However, many of us are far from home. Far from where we started, and we need a barn raising.

A barn raising created permanence. It created stability. It created belonging. It created the future. As migratory creatures, we still need these qualities. The qualities are just needed more as metaphysical symbols than physical buildings.

At some point, we have bought into this idea that it’s good to be as strong as steel. We refuse to ask for help. It is a virtue to be independent to a fault, despite feelings of isolation and loneliness. We credit those who pull themselves up from the brink of despair, but few do it alone.

Setting up a barn raising is not simple. It was an all-day if not several day event. The pioneer needed to ask for the help. The pioneer had to be ready. The community had to be ready to respond.

I have many friends who have migrated. Now, they are stuck in a rut. But because of their stubbornness, they refuse help. They refuse advice. Instead of being guided by their “friends who have gone before” they are trapped by their own obtuseness and faith in independence. They moved from where they were to escape the life they left behind, but they have ignored the next step: looking forward towards the life they want. They are so stuck looking backwards that they never look forward. If this were still migratory pioneers instead of migratory individuals, they would starve to death in winter. They don’t open themselves to the new experiences present in their new location.

We haven’t lost that sense of pioneering spirit. When we return home, sometimes we do it with our head held high, and sometimes with our head held low. But, when we do return home temporarily or forever, shouldn’t we have the opportunity to feel like something we did mattered, even in the smallest way? Shouldn’t we feel that by moving our life blossomed instead of withered?

How do we help those who forgot the single greatest lessons the fathers of our country ever taught us? Without interdependence, we would die. We wouldn’t have food, a house, or a barn. How do we recapture of a sense of community in the face of desperate independence?

Apple Cider, again

When you’re ready to celebrate your own barn raising, or just fall, try this recipe at a party.

Two Gallons of Apple Cider

Four Cinnamon Sticks

One (750 mL) bottle of Apple Jack brandy

One (750 mL) bottle of unflavored brandy

Put two gallons apple cider and four cinnamon sticks into a giant stockpot on the lowest possible heat. I let it simmer for about 5 hours. Immediately before serving, remove from heat and add a bottle of apple brandy and one bottle of unflavored brandy. Serve warm.


I wrote about making homemade apple cider already, and I thought that was a bust. So I went out and bought apple cider, looked at a few recipes, and came up with this instead. I think making homemade apple cider is a good waste of time and money. It is cheaper to buy it than to make it, unless you have an apple orchard. I thought it was great. It went over really well at a party I through last week.


2 gallons of apple cider: $10

Four Cinnamon Sticks: $2.50

One (750 mL) bottle of Apple Jack brandy: $20.00

One (750 mL) bottle of unflavored brandy: $10

Total cost: $42.50

Cost per Drink:

The drink makes 306 ounces. We’re going to call each drink 6 ounces (approximately.) This makes 51 drinks for $0.83/drink.

As always, happy and safe drinking.