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Thread: What is a barn raising? Why do we build fences?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    United States
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    Default What is a barn raising? Why do we build fences?

    What is a barn raising? From Wikipedia:

    A barn raising describes a collective action of a community, in which a barn for one of the members is assembled collectively by members of the community. Barn raising was particularly common in 18th- and 19th-century rural North America. A barn was a necessary structure for any farmer, for example for storage of cereals and hay and keeping of animals. Yet a barn was also a large and costly structure, whose assemble required more labor than a typical family could provide. Barn raising addressed the need by enlisting members of the community, unpaid, to assist in the building of their neighbors' barns. Because each member was entitled to recruit others for help, the favor would eventually return to each participant.

    Barn raising is an example of a fundamental form of human cooperation - indirect reciprocity. In contrast to direct reciprocity (“I help you and you help me”), indirect reciprocity follows the principle of “You help me and I’ll help someone else” or “I help you and someone else will help me”. It is also known as generalized exchange or pay it forward. Other examples of indirect reciprocity include organ and blood donations, open source software and more generally - open collaboration. The tradition of "barn raising" continues, more or less unchanged, in some Amish and Old Order Mennonite communities, particularly in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and some rural parts of Canada. The practice continues outside of these religious communities, albeit less frequently than in the 19th century, in the U.S. states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

    Why do we want to practice barn raising in our community? Why build more barns when it might be easier to just let people use the ones we already have?

    I can think of many reasons, but one of them was stated very well by Robert Frost.

    The Mending Wall
    by Robert Frost

    Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
    That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
    And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
    And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
    The work of hunters is another thing:
    I have come after them and made repair
    Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
    But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
    To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
    No one has seen them made or heard them made,
    But at spring mending-time we find them there.
    I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
    And on a day we meet to walk the line
    And set the wall between us once again.
    We keep the wall between us as we go.
    To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
    And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
    We have to use a spell to make them balance:
    'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
    We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
    Oh, just another kind of out-door game,
    One on a side. It comes to little more:
    There where it is we do not need the wall:
    He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
    My apple trees will never get across
    And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
    He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'.
    Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
    If I could put a notion in his head:
    'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it
    Where there are cows?
    But here there are no cows.
    Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
    What I was walling in or walling out,
    And to whom I was like to give offence.
    Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
    That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,
    But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather
    He said it for himself. I see him there
    Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
    In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
    He moves in darkness as it seems to me~
    Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
    He will not go behind his father's saying,
    And he likes having thought of it so well
    He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

    We are a hub. We exist to serve, not just our own 'members', but the larger community. One of the greatest ways we can serve is by supporting others in serving, because in doing this, we have the potential to reach farther edges of our community, and parts of our community that are different enough that they can not function nearly as well if they are too tightly crowded together in one place.

    Good fences make good neighbors. We can help raise barns and build good fences, and we all benefit from them no matter which barn we come home to and which side of the fence we're on. All the rest still welcome our visit, because we are good neighbors.

    Let's be good neighbors and help if we can.
    Last edited by Savage; May 25th, 2012 at 07:29 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2008


    I love it. Thanks.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    United States
    Blog Entries


    This is one of my favorite analogies when someone suggests that other therian sites are 'competition'. Imagine the following scene if you will.

    We live in a village that is perpetually covered in snowdrifts that need shoveling. Think of it as Whoville if that helps. If people don't get out there and work hard at shoveling snow, the roads eventually clog up and are harder for everyone to use. If the snow piles up too high, some especially vulnerable people can't even get out of their driveways to get the community support they need. That's not good. We care about our village, so we're out here making snow shoveling tools and doing work. It is a big village, so we probably can't keep every single road and driveway clear. But we are doing the best we can.

    While we are working, here comes another work crew down the road to our village. They have shiny new tools and even more people willing to help improve our roads and help everyone have free access to more resources. What do we think of that? Yay! Let's share our tools and our hot chocolate to keep everyone warm while we shovel the snow together. The whole village benefits. The new work crew is not “competition”. They are our best hope for the future. They are another community lifeline with new and diverse ideas, tools and skills. They might be able to reach places we can't, and help more people. That's awesome.

    If you think it is a good idea to throw snowballs at the other work crew until they give up and go away so you can keep all the shoveling work for yourself, you are basically the Grinch. Also not very smart. Discouraging other people from shoveling the same roads as you gets you, what? More work. Fewer and poorer roads for everyone. Also a heart that's three sizes too small. Boo. Everyone loses when you turn it into a competition and forget that the actual goal is community support.

    Of course we know that the real world is not always as simple as a Dr. Seuss story. It's not always a good idea to blindly join hands and sing welcome to Whoville with anyone who comes along. There is such a thing as people who can do harm, whether through malice, ignorance or accident. If the giant snowplow that someone built to try to help with the shoveling is knocking people's houses down because it's being driven too fast, it's okay to hold up a hand and say, Stop! We need to slow down and talk about the direction this thing is going!

    What happens after that depends on how the talking goes, of course. But as a general rule, it serves everyone better if we understand clearly that other therian sites are not “competition” in any way, shape or form. The more resources our community has, the better off we all are. The more choices we have, the greater everyone's chances of finding a supportive community space that meets their needs. The more we support and encourage creators of content for our community, the more content we have.

    This forum called Barn Raising exists for a reason. Way back when most people depended a lot more directly on the land for survival, a neighbor's helping hand was literally a life saving necessity. It's pretty tough to build a barn by yourself, so it was normal for the whole community to pitch in and get it done. A village thrives best when everyone helps build things. That basic principle hasn't actually changed in the digital age. If there are helpful, constructive things we can do to support the building of more good stuff for our community, we should do those things. That's what we're here for!
    Last edited by Savage; March 23rd, 2021 at 10:47 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2021
    North Charleston, SC


    It is similar to the Art Co-op I am a part of. We don't exist to compete, we exist to bring the neighborhood together, build up the historical section to encourage more businesses to move in, and provide a safe haven for everyone to express themselves or be who they want to be, artisan or otherwise. I like places that encourage unity and not division.

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