Scattered about the eastern plains of Colorado lie abandoned farms from a time long since passed. I’m not exactly sure what intrigues me most about these scenes, but they are one of my favorite things to photograph. Perhaps it’s because they are reminiscent of an era I wish I could have been a part of. Or maybe it’s the incredible stories of hardship the frontier unleashed on the unsuspecting pioneers. Even if new, some of these building would have provided only minimal protection from the ferocious winds and driving snow. The eastern plains of Colorado can be absolutely brutal to the unprepared.
Wood for building corrals, barns and houses out on the plains is virtually non-existent, except for a few oak trees scattered about. Most of it would have had to come from the mountains, a good 80 miles away. Milling then carting it back east would have been no easy task. Certainly across a bumpy and unforgiving 60 mile dirt road. Building codes and regulations didn’t exist, yet the carpenters of the day certainly knew how to build something that would last. Completely left neglected, many of these farms are still standing.
Cattle can take quite a beating from the weather and still survived. However, some storms can take out even the toughest of the tough. It’s not uncommon for the winters to bring -10°F temperatures with 30 mph winds, dropping the windchill to -30°F. Exposed skin suffers frostbite in just under 5 minutes. Though the cattle have a coat or fur, the wind can pierce right through it. Any protection from the wind increases their odds of survival greatly.
This old stable or barn has a metal roof, which kind of implies it was probably still being used until not that long ago. Not visible in this picture is an old windmill that might also suggest the farm is still used. Like wood, water is also hard to come by, but the windmill can pump groundwater to the surface for cattle and other livestock in a region that is notorious for lacking lakes and ponds. I didn’t see any cattle around, but many of these old farms are hundreds, if not thousands of acres in size. The region has a rolling hills, which makes seeing long distances along the ground impossible in most areas.
Although the Pikes Peak at the base of Colorado Springs is visible in the top picture, it’s right around 60 miles away. That either speaks to its size, or the incredible air quality Colorado has to offer. And even though the winds can whip up dust, on the calm days, it’s possible to see mountain peaks much further away to the southwest. Just a small amount of dust in the air creates an incredible orange glow when the setting sun casts it light across the plains. Despite the gorgeous view, life on this farm must have been tough to say the least.