The rural South-Western Wisconsin county where we live used to be farmed predominantly with tobacco, so there is no surprise that our ten-acre farm was once a tobacco farm – the fact that, to a familiar eye, is made loud and clear by our farm’s primary outbuilding – the tobacco shed.
Tobacco sheds, designed for drying and storing tobacco leaves, are characterized by a particular structural feature specific to this operation: every other wall board on a tobacco shed is made to be turned out on demand, creating a series of openings to promote air circulation and aid the drying.
When we moved to this farm seven years ago and centered our operation around rotational grazing of grass-fed beef, the tobacco shed began to be used as a hay barn, for which it is absolutely perfect. It is also a wonderful dry place for my kids to play outside in winter, offering the protection from the wind and snow and a mountain of hay to climb.
In its hay-barn capacity, this building holds a special place in my heart, for it is here that I come in the dead of winter to smell the summer. Dry hay (much like dry spices) has the ability to retain its July fragrance deep into January and February, which never fails to hit you upon entering a barn. It is a magical experience.
This month, a group of students from the high-school where my husband works is using the front of the shed for an art-class project. The images they are going to paint include hanging tobacco bunches, grape vines (since our farm’s second primary feature is an acre of vineyard), and the face of a certain University of Minnesota biologist named Elmer Swenson, who personally developed the majority of our grape varieties especially for Wisconsin and Minnesota.
In order to transfer their desired collage of images onto the vast barn front, the kids and their teacher came out here one night and used a projector to help them outline the shadows of the future design in white paint.
Here is what it looked like:
The next stages of the project will include filling into the outlines with white primer, projecting the actual images in a similar fashion some other night, painting them on, and, lastly, coating the entire front of the barn with sealant. I’ll be sure to post the “after” photos after the project’s been completed.
Pretty cool, don’t you think?