17. The Barn

Black and white historic photograph depicting back of the Homestead and a large barn. The barn is two and a half stories tall, nearly reaching the height of the mature evergreen trees surrounding the Homestead.

Looking at the garage, parking lot and paved driveway, it is a bit difficult to envision the Homestead as it was in the Dickinsons’ day. A large barn complex took up this entire area behind the house. The livestock, horses and a cow had stalls and a fenced area. A pig was in the sty. Manure provided a steady source of fertilizer for the gardens.


Carriages were stored in a wing of the barn, and there was storage for the hay from the meadow. The wing closest to the present garage held tools, including the grindstone for sharpening scythes. On the second floor there was a room for some of the hired men. 


[The sound of chickens]

 

Outside of the barn, chickens pecked the ground, looking for bugs while Maggie, the housekeeper, checked their coop for eggs. Trellises hung heavy with grapes, almost ripe enough for Emily’s wine jelly. Emily’s mother’s prize winning fig trees grew in the shelter of the trellises. 


The barn area was a significant part of the family’s life. One Christmas, late in the poet’s life, she described the holiday.  

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Atmospherically it was the most beautiful Christmas on record –The Hens came to the Door with Santa Claus, and the Pussies washed themselves in the open Air without chilling their Tongues – (. . . ) Maggie gave her Hens a Check for Potatoes, and each of the Cats a Gilt Edged Bone—and the Horses had both new Blankets from Boston (. . .) It was a lovely Christmas. (L682)