Scattered about the eastern plains of Colorado lie abandoned old farms from a time long since passed. I’m not exactly sure what intrigues me most about these scenes. But they are perhaps 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 minimal protection from the ferocious winds and driving winter snow. The eastern plains of Colorado can be absolutely brutal to the unprepared.
Wood for building corrals, barns and houses on the plains is virtually non-existent now and in years passed, 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. 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 survive. 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 and so simple structures often accompany these farms.
This old stable has a metal roof, which kind of implies it’s probably not too old. Not visible in this picture is an old windmill that might also suggest the farm is still in use.
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 Pikes Peak at the base of Colorado Springs is just barely visible in the picture to the left, it’s right around 60 miles away. That either speaks to its size, or Colorado’s incredible air quality. 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 incredible sunset colors as the setting sun casts it light across the plains. Despite the gorgeous view, life on this farm and many just like it, must have been tough to say the least.
Sadly, many of these old structures have reached end of life. The hard winters, pounding thunderstorms, and intense summer sunlight continue to weaken and decay these old structures. Two that I know of fell down in a ferocious blizzard two seasons ago. All the more reason for me to keep taking pictures I suppose!
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