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Best Builds: Millers restore beauty of century-old barn

Progressive Dairyman Editor Peggy Coffeen Published on 09 March 2017
The Millers

Tucked away in a pleasant little valley on the outskirts of Westminster, Maryland, a little old barn has found a big new purpose.

Tanya and C.J. Miller purchased what they saw as a property with unlimited potential six years ago. It included a farmhouse and two-story barn dating back to the late 1890s, along with a few outbuildings and a pond.

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They knew there was a lot of work ahead of them, but through the weathered barn boards and stacked stone foundation, their vision took shape for a barn that could be renovated to raise 4-H show animals for their three daughters, Trinity (15), Atley (13) and Jacey (12).

The restored barn

While the property itself had a unique appeal, the location made it all the more irresistible. The farmette was located just across the field from where Tanya grew up and continues to work today on her family’s Pheasant Echo’s Farm.

“It was pretty awesome to be able to find this piece of property that I saw all the time growing up,” Tanya Miller says. “The fact that my kids are growing up in the same surroundings that I did, go to the same school and have the same teachers is really neat.”

The Millers quickly fell in love with it. “The way that the property sits down low, and the fields are above you, it’s nestled down in here,” she adds. “And C.J. fell in love with the pond.”

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Restoring and renewing

Over the next couple of years, the Millers made their vision come to life. As project managers – and even doing some of the heavy lifting themselves – they pursued their dreams with certain priorities in mind.

“The vision we had for the barn was just so beautiful,” Miller recalls. “Our goal was to preserve the beauty of it.”

And that is exactly what they did. While the inside of the barn is the original rustic wood, the outside has a fresh look. Details like the sliding haymow doors and copulas atop the roof enhance the structure’s authenticity.

Preserved century-old barn

The same stone foundation that has supported the barn for well over 100 years continues to do so today – but with a few modifications. The lower level once used for milking now has pens for the girls’ show steers and pigs. They opened up the wall and dug out underneath the barn to make enough room to accommodate equipment for cleaning the pens.

Of course, there needed to be a place for dairy show heifers at the Miller farm too. An adjacent building that once housed a small herd of cows in freestalls provided the framework for the heifer barn.

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Show heifer barn is a renovated freestall barn

By gutting it out and adding in pens and headlocks, Miller is able to keep on average 20 show heifers right in her backyard. Having had her hand in raising champion Red and Whites like Pheasant Echo’s Re Diego-Red and Pheasant Echo’s Turvy-Red, she looks forward to developing some special heifers for the coming show seasons.

Country charm

While the renovations have given new life and a fresh look to the barn and buildings, the Millers maintained certain aspects that tell the story of history and heritage. One of those is the upstairs floor of the barn.

“The floors, to me, are the coolest thing out there … and the history they must hold,” Miller says. “Some of the wood planks are so wide you have to think about the size of the tree it would have taken and how they did it back then.”

Suspended across the ceiling is the original hay trolley that once conveyed small bales from one end of the loft to the other.

Adding to the character of the property is a towering silo. The farm originally included two concrete silos, but both were removed. Then the Millers heard of a silo in nearby Union Bridge that was being taken down, and their vision evolved to rebuild this structure near the barn.

Silo

This silo perfectly fit the aesthetics of the place, beautifully complementing the style and finish of the restored barn. Miller’s husband and brother-in-law built a staircase inside of the silo that leads to the very top where one can see out the windows.

The barn that brings everyone together

Having the beautiful and versatile barn as part of their home has given the Millers’ family and friends a favorite gathering place.

Upstairs in the barn

“The fact that we have that barn and it’s so easy to open up doors and pull out tables and chairs, it gives our busy family so many opportunities to get together, whether we are having crabs or grilling burgers,” Miller says. “It’s become a gathering spot for our family and friends.”

While event hosting is not a business the Millers are in, the barn doors are opened up for many special occasions. One of the highlights for Miller was seeing her best friend and cousin get married there. In fact, the barn has held three other weddings, numerous family birthday and holiday parties, and last summer, it was the site of the 2016 National Red and White Convention banquet.

Event like weddings held at the barn

The Millers’ property could not be a more perfect place to live out the dream of raising a family while also raising cattle and livestock.

“It is everything I ever imagined it would be,” Miller reflects. “It’s pretty unreal some days to be able to say we live here and it’s ours.”  end mark

PHOTO 1: The Millers have opened up the barn doors for some special occasions, like family weddings. Pictured are Atley, Tanya, Jacey, C.J. and Trinity Miller. Photo by Jennifer Didio. 

PHOTO 2: The view from the farmhouse gives the Millers a glimpse of their restored barn, and off to the distance, Tanya Miller’s family farm, Pheasant Echo’s Farm. Photo provided by Tanya Miller.

PHOTO 3: The Millers’ goal was to preserve the beauty of their century-old barn, and they also wanted to make it functional for their family. The original stone foundation of the barn was opened up, and inside are pens for show steers and pigs. Photo provided by Peggy Coffeen.

PHOTO 4: The show heifer barn is a renovated freestall barn, originally built in the 1950s. Photo provided by Peggy Coffeen.

PHOTO 5: A silo taken down at a nearby farm was rebuilt piece by piece. Inside, there is a staircase leading up to the top. Photo provided by Peggy Coffeen.

PHOTO 6: The walls and floors of the upstairs loft are the original beautifully preserved barn wood. Photo provided by Tanya Miller.

PHOTO 7: The barn has become a gathering place for the Millers’ family and friends, serving as a picturesque backdrop for weddings and parties. Photo by Jennifer Didio. 

Peggy Coffeen
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