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The Big Reveal: Barn Count and Contest Winner

This barn north of Hardy still stands straight despite an almost bare roof. It’s hard to say how much longer it will stand, since no one lives on this farm anymore.

Well, it’s been awhile folks, but I’m back at it, though from a few miles away. I’ve returned to St. John’s, Newfoundland to finish the final course of my master’s programme in Folklore at Memorial University. It’s about as far from the prairie as you can get, and yet it is here in Newfoundland that my journey as a barn hunter began.

Before I came into the Folklore programme, I knew nothing about vernacular architecture (I had never even heard the term before), or ethnography or folk life or any of the concepts which have now become so much a part of my life that it’s hard to believe I was ever ignorant of them. So, it’s good to be back here in Newfoundland with my folkie friends and the support of the Folklore department as I embark on the next, scary step in my barn hunting journey: the thesis proposal. This is basically a paper and accompanying public presentation to convince faculty and my peers that I wasn’t just going dithering around in Saskatchewan all fall, but that my research was worthwhile and that I’m going to be able to actually turn it into a thesis.

All this rambling is to say: I will be busy in the coming months, thus posts will likely be rather sporadic, though I plan to keep doing them whenever I have time. Once I’m through with my coursework and (hopefully) pass through the thesis approval process, I will begin to actually write. Before too long I will be back in Saskatchewan to tie up any loose ends, of which there are likely many.

Now, enough of this boring academic talk and onto what you came here for: the Big Reveal. You’ve all been dying to know just how many barns I found, and who won the contest. As promised, here it is. But first, a few disclaimers. This number is subject to change as I go through my data more meticulously in the coming months, due to some of the issues I’ve mentioned in previous posts, namely the difficulty identifying some barns and the very high probability that I missed a few out of sheer idiocy. Thus this number is not set in stone, but it should be pretty close. My criteria for this barn count consisted of the following:
– barns built before approximately 1960
– all barn roof types and building styles
– barns in varying conditions were included. Basically, if I could tell it had been a barn at one time (even if now collapsed), and had oral confirmation from a local person, I included it.  

Drumroll, trumpeting, indrawn breath:

The number of barns in my study area, which included the rural municipalities of the Gap and Laurier is: 123.

Broken down by municipality, there were 69 barns in the Gap and 54 in Laurier. Again, let me remind you that this number is not fixed, but is subject to revision. But it’s pretty close. And it’s a lot more than I had thought there would be when I started out. I didn’t really know how many there were, but when I started out, if I had to guess I probably would have said 70 altogether. I’m happy that it’s quite a bit higher than that. However, it represents only a portion of how many barns there used to be. I don’t know how many barns there were in this area at the peak of barn building, but it was probably at least twice that number. And I am quite certain that in 10 years, there will be substantially fewer barns in the area.

And now for the winner of the contest! I am pleased to announce that Jeannette Verhelst of Radville had the winning guess with an estimate of 95. Jeanette is a dear friend of mine and an icon in the area due to her selfless devotion to the community.  I had a lovely photo of Jeannette with her winnings, but wouldn’t you know, it got left on the memory card of my camera back in Saskatchewan. However, I can show you what Jeannette won.

Jeannette’s prize was a gift basket containing a few of these homemade bars of soap, though I’m sure she would say the real prize is bragging rights.

Thank you to everyone who entered the contest! Before I sign off, I must mention that my barn hunting partner Stacy Mackenzie had a guess of 112 barns, which was almost bang on, but I disqualified her from the contest because she had insider knowledge, and also because she had already received a gift basket for Christmas. But she deserves recognition for being a great barn hunter and an even better friend.

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