What's in your barn?: A place of respite

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Adams — Bryan Lamberton loves his barn. Like, really loves it a lot.

The Adams resident loves his barn so much so that he didn't even hesitate before welcoming inside an inquiring stranger who randomly showed up in his dooryard.

"I use it every day of my life," Lamberton said. The Berkshire First Church of the Nazarene pastor said it's where he de-stresses from his ministry work. Gazing at the tools hanging on every wall, the spray paint bottles arranged beneath a Star Trek poster and the bird feeder hanging down in the middle of everything, he added, "I use this as my workshop."

Indeed, a handwritten sign stapled beneath a hose attachment and a cowbell informs visitors: "Bryan's Workshop: Health Care and Tetnus [sic] Shot Required."

These in-barn requirements acknowledge the two challenges Lamberton has had to contend with: his bout with cancer last year, which, before he recovered, left him out of breath and unable to use his workshop; and the splintered wood siding, the hole-y roof, the rotted sills and the uneven floor boards of the 19th-century structure.

"It was built shortly after the Civil War," Lamberton said. He noted that the barn's humble construction was once popular along East Road, where farmers erected outbuildings to raise their cows, sheep and other food for their families.

"They weren't fancy," he said. "They were all little self-sustaining farms."

When Lamberton and his wife, Wendy, took up the property from Wendy's grandparents Ken and Pearl Stewart 14 years ago, they debated whether or not to tear down their barn all together. But Lamberton is a "history fanatic" and naturally inclined toward stewardship. Lamberton frequently drove from Dalton to Adams to mow his in-laws' lawn before the Stewarts passed on their property to him and Wendy.

"I sort of promised Ken and Pearl that I would retain as much of the original property as possible," he said.

Lamberton has kept that promise. The yard continues to be well-mowed and it's now clear of brush and blighted spruce trees, too. From a back corner of his barn, Lamberton pulled out a century-old wood and wheel field harrow, a soil-turning tool that looks like a wheelbarrow without the bucket part and with a rake on the bottom. In the other outbuilding on the property, the old chicken coop, Lamberton pulled down an old, heavy scythe, used for cutting down hay. He also pointed out a wooden hay rake hanging on the far wall, which, like it sounds, was intended to rake hay. While definitely old and well-preserved, none of the implements appeared easy to handle or particularly efficient.

"Life back then was not pretty," Lamberton said. "It was rugged. You can imagine how much more work it must have been."

Lamberton knows first-hand what it's like for simple tasks to become complicated, and what it's like to lose the luxury of tinkering in his workshop.

"Last year was kind of a lost year for me," he said. As he struggled with cancer, he added, "I couldn't even open the [barn] door."

After six months of intensive chemotherapy treatment at Hillcrest Cancer Center in Pittsfield, Lamberton grew healthier. The first chance he got, he patched up the chicken coop, fixing its roof and giving it a fresh coat of sunny yellow paint last spring. He also took some dried out gourds to spray paint and hang in the trees as decorations.

"I told Wendy, `I need color,'" he said.

This year, the gourds are out again, and Lamberton is, too. On the early May afternoon this reporter pulled into his driveway, Lamberton had just finished weed-wacking the yard, and he had a bunch of pots lined up and ready to be planted. He noted the progress in his war against the mice and squirrels when he found a full mousetrap, and he admired the old snowshoes he brought from Maine just the week before and hung up on the front of his barn.

Bryan Lamberton was busy in his barn. What more could he want?

"There will always be something to do until the day I die," he said.

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