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  • Writer's pictureSofias Country Gardens

The drying barn - Rian

The drying barn at Stensund is an old building where the grain was dried with the help of warm air from a wood burning stove. In Swedish it is called Rian, and in Finnish Riihi.

In the times before electricity moisture was a problem when grain was stored, since mould easily destroyed the whole crop. As a solution to this, the grain was harvested in bundles, hung up to dry in a drying barn, and treshed only once it was properly dry. Drying barns were prevalent in most nordic countries, where the season is short and the risk of a wet summer or early autumn destroying the cropswas high. In Finland, there were some local differences to the structure of the barn depending on the parish, with most southern barns similar to each other and larger variations north and east.

In the South of Finland the drying barns usually had two rooms, where one was used for treating and one for drying. The barn at Stensund has an original oven in the inner room, as can be seen in the picture right. (We use the room for storing planks at the moment.) There is no chimney to the oven, as the idea was that the smoke would not only dry the grain but also disinfect it through the gasses from the smoke. The top of the oven was covered with stones to generate heat, in quite a similar way as in saunas. The smoke could however give taste and colour to the grain, which is why wheat was rarely dried this way. The process took two or three days to complete, and a lot of firewood was needed, which also means they were a fire hazard, which is why they were placed a certain distance from any other buildings.

Here you can see the inside of the wall, from the side of the trashing room where the seeds were sorted from the chaffs. It is quite humbling to think how much work was put in to build the building; there are almost no nails used and the loggs were hand crafted by broad-axe and carefully fitted like a lego building in order to create a stable structure.

Next to this room was an area with draughty planked walls, where hay was kept. The reason it was built in planks with gaps between them was indeed to allow air to pass through.

Some years ago this whole building was still filled with all sorts of forgotten stuff, from rusty old tools to a 1930-s combine harvester, from decade old mouldy grain to masses of equally mouldy hay in the hay loft (pictured right, now emptied and renovated). I have this theory that buildings need to be used to feel loved, so one summer we cleaned it all out and repaired the odd plank etc that needed to be fixed.

The only big jobb to do was making a new concrete floor in the part of the barn that used to house the hay. The wooden floor had long since given up the ghost and the dirt floor beneath was much too soggy to effectively house my beloved little Avant tractor and all its spare parts! We also needed to open up a door for easy access to this part of the barn. Years later, it is still not painted...

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