Connie and I really like visiting abandoned farms just like any other history explorer, but at the same time we find them horribly frustrating. Not because they are in any way hard subjects to photograph, they are usually a delight, but rather there are rarely any clues to tell us what happened. What’s the story here? These are the hard questions Connie and I need to know the answers too – who lived here and what’s the reason they left? Unfortunately such information is rarely forthcoming when visiting these places.
So here we are, standing in an incredibly photogenic farm yard, a lonely house and barn on the open prairie and we can shoot until we are blue in the face but we’ll never know anything more about our subject than do already. We can guess I suppose – drought, crop failures, retirement, death in the family, any number of things could have brought about its downfall. Sure, one of those reasons is why they left and now we can fill in the blanks. But we kid ourselves and when we finally leave, we do so with a hollow feeling and wanting to know more.
I’ve passed by this farm a few times, which is located near the village of Mossleigh, but conditions where never right for a visit (meaning too much mud). With things drying out nicely this spring, finally the timing was right and we made it a point to stop by.
On entering the property one is immediately overwhelmed by the feelings of melancholy and loneliness and you can pan 360 degrees and see very little in the way of human activity. This a place of solitude and even the occasional car passing by on the highway does little to change that sensation.
Walking along the driveway we’re quickly drawn to the barn. It’s leaning a bit but not at an alarming angle. Right next to is an old broken down wagon, and a large stack of weathered telephone poles. Who knows what they’re doing here, but soon enough we’ll discover why.
Proving that farmers are an industrious and frugal lot, this fellow has taken the crossbucks from those poles and has bolted them to the barn walls (and the walls in the other outbuildings) to brace them. Maybe it’s awfully windy here?
Inside the barn a series of cables can be seen bracing the walls. The run from front to back and side to side variously at shin and shoulder height and one wonders how did they not get in the way when the farmer was working? Were these used as wind braces or did he store grain here and then used the cables to keep the walls from blowing out?
Making our way to the front of the barn a second partially collapsed wagon is found and it is loaded with some planks. I guess waiting for the day they’ll be needed, which of course will be never. In the leaning shed nearby the remains of an old sleigh are seen, along with a weathered seed cleaner and galvanized wash tub and other bit of flotsam and junk.
We then make our way to the graineries, leaving the house for last, and like other buildings in the yard, save for that house, they are braced with cables on the inside.
It’s here we find a hint regarding when the place could have been abandoned. One of these graineries is lined with OSB (oriented strand board), which did not come into common use until the late seventies or early eighties. With that in mind, we then know people lived here until at least around that time – but we probably already knew that anyway since the yard and building are in overall reasonable shape and things have not deteriorated enough to be too old. Using a pretty predicable formula of weathering, one can assume this place has been abandoned for perhaps no more than twenty years. Give or take of course.
As to when the house was built, given that the area was not well populated until the railway came through just before the great depression and looking at the style of construction, the late 1920s is a good guess. Again, give or take a bit.
After exploring more of the grounds we finally get to the house. Most windows are missing and everything is exposed to the elements, and there are pigeons EVERYWHERE. Overall though its in surprisingly good shape. The walls, ceiling and floor seem solid, although the latter is covered in a mixture of fallen plaster and bird poop. Yuck! Not much has been left behind by the former occupants – there are two old fridges and the obligatory mattress remains (just springs actually). Nearly every old abandoned farm house, it seems, has an old mattress in it. Odd, I wonder why?
The living room was the only one with anything in it. The bedroom was empty and the basement the same. There was only one room we did not enter, the bathroom I assume, since this was were the birds were roosting and we do not went to slog through the thick poop that covered everything. The door was actually being held almost closed by a wall of the stuff.
I was taken in by the weathered front door of the house, with its simple skeleton key type lock. Just inside was a large sink, no doubt placed there so the farmer would wash up prior to entering his home.
In the yard, a power pole still stands and cables can be seen leading to the house and barn. On our visit a storm threatened, but soon gave up and dispersed.
An oil company was or is doing some work just north of here and they have even been using the farm yard to gain access to that land. It’s not clear what they are doing exactly, the chunk of ground they are working has been dug up a bit, but that’s all we saw. If they put a well in though, it will surely destroy the visual charm this old farm has – but I guess such is progress. With that in mind, one should never hesitate to photograph abandoned places, as what you see today could be changed or gone tomorrow.
We enjoyed our visit to the lonely farm house. It’s possible that with some detective work, we could find more about the who’s and whats, but that will be a long difficult job. Who knows though, we may return to this report with an update and that would make me happy.
Also not far away, but in a different direction, is the remains of a Doukhobor village and to read about it, follow this link…
Doukhobors in Alberta – Anastasia Village.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date: March, 2013.
Location: Near Mossleigh, AB.