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MPT Documentary Features Historic Barns

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BRANDON OLAND

Carroll County Times

WESTMINSTER, Md. (AP) — Eleanor Shipley peered out a side window of her Westminster home to see if she could spot her husband, Daniel, in nearby fields.

She suspected he was working at the red bay barn on the couple’s 200-acre farm. Sure enough, Daniel, 87, was loading hay into a pickup. He was toiling away outside a barn tied to his family’s livelihood for nearly 70 years.

Local filmmaker Jonathan Slade interviewed the Shipleys for “Historic Barns of Maryland: An Outdoor Maryland Special,” a 57-minute documentary that premiered this week on Maryland Public Television. Slade, an associate professor of communication at McDaniel College, and videographer Tim Pugh traveled throughout the state searching for the agricultural, economic and cultural significance of barns.

The documentary is part of a series that previously featured Maryland’s covered bridges and lighthouses. Slade wrote, edited, directed and produced the film.

“Barns was my idea,” he said. “They found a way to fit it into a series they were already doing.”

The Shipley barn off Bachmans Valley Road, the Marlin Hoff Log Barn at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster and the Donald and Sandra Essich barn in Westminster are among those featured in the documentary.

Daniel said his barn was built in 1918 after lightning struck a previous barn on the site and caused it to burn to the ground. The Shipleys milked cows there for three decades before shifting their focus to corn, wheat, hay and soybeans.

“We had to be there seven days a week for 30 years,” Daniel said. “You didn’t get a weekend.”

This week, Daniel took advantage of warm, sunny weather to work outside his barn, which is mostly used to store hay and as a refuge for a 20-year-old cat that kneads the straw below with its front paws.

Slade said he wanted to start the project to learn more about barns like the one the Shipleys own. He interviewed dozens of farmers, builders, preservationists, architects, historians and artists.

Slade visited a French-style stone barn on the Monocacy Battlefield in Frederick County, tobacco barns along Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore and southern Maryland, and red bank barns along Maryland’s Piedmont Plateau, according to Maryland Public Television.

Maryland has the eighth-most barns built prior to 1960 per square mile in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture conducted in 2007.

With more than 5,200 barns built prior to 1960 to choose from, Slade and Pugh had little difficulty finding ones to chronicle.

They filmed at nearly 50 sites.

“People who had never been on camera in their lives were talking about how (the barns) were built, or when (they) were built and how they tried to take care of it with their limited resources,” Slade said. “It was a really rewarding project.”

Information from: Carroll County Times of Westminster, Md., http://www.carrollcounty.com/

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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