Barns project turns into legacy

Nick and Pam Bielemeier are touring the valley in search of as many barns as they can find. The two have been working to photograph and gather details about the county’s many barns for a book project and for The History Museum of Hood River County. The barn above, pictured in spring of 2011, was owned by the late Frank Herman.

Nick Bielemeier
Nick and Pam Bielemeier are touring the valley in search of as many barns as they can find. The two have been working to photograph and gather details about the county’s many barns for a book project and for The History Museum of Hood River County. The barn above, pictured in spring of 2011, was owned by the late Frank Herman.

Almost two years into their project, Nick and Pam Bielemeier continue to discover more unique pieces of history scattered throughout Hood River County.

Last year, at this time, the photographer-writer team had documented just over 100 local barns, with images and by talking to owners, recording oral histories and documenting details of their past whenever possible. Since then they have found at least 100 more around the county, many camouflaged by overgrown trees, tucked away in little valleys and canyons or hidden at the back of orchards and private driveways.

The Bielemeiers undertook the Barns of Hood River County project on somewhat of a whim. They really didn’t know how it would go or where it would lead. And although it has been more work than they imagined and is still far from done, they now know their work is not only visually spectacular but, in a place where the buildings played such a vital role in its past, is also an invaluable preservation of local history and culture.

“There is so much more to the project than just getting a quick few photos of the barns,” Pam said. “We are trying to create an atmosphere; to show more of the feeling of romance of the place where the barn sits and the surrounding vistas of the landscape. When time allows, we visit with the owners to collect the history surrounding the barns. Much of our time this summer will be spent interviewing owners, taking lots of notes, even recording or videotaping the conversations.

“If the original owner or descendent is sharing a story, it is very personal and, of course, historically interesting. Current owners will share stories they have remembered from past owners, passing them down like folklore.”

As a longtime local photographer, Nick has ventured into the digital realm for the project. Using a style called High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography, Nick’s final photos are actually a combination of several digital files. The end result in an image with a range of tones and colors that is not possible in a single photo, or with the naked eye.

“We spend time looking for just the right angles and views, considering the time of day, the weather and the season in which we are photographing,” Pam said. “We spent quite a bit of time capturing the barns in winter this year. After all, the barns were built mostly for winter storage of feed and shelter for the animals.”

In addition to helping The History Museum of Hood River County create a database of images and stories on county barns, the Bielemeiers plan to turn the project into a coffee-table book with Nick’s wildly colorful images and Pam’s stories about the buildings, the farms and the people who used them over the generations.

“It has been our lifelong dream to work together on some type of scenic photo book that would include historic details and stories,” Pam said. “When The History Museum wanted to feature some of the old barns in the valley for an exhibit last year and asked Nick if he was interested in photographing them, we knew we had found our project.

“We are excited to be a part of creating the images and stories that the museum will archive for all future generations. We’re also very excited to publish a book that families will enjoy now and for years to come. They’ll be able to see and read about the buildings that were, and still are, an integral part of the development of this beautiful valley.”

How to help:

The Beilemeiers and The History Museum of Hood River County are looking for as many barns, barn owners, property owners and anyone with stories about local barns as they can to add to the database. The museum is also actively taking tax-deductible donations, earmarked specifically for the project.

For the project, contact the Bielemeiers at 541-386-2662 or; to make a donation contact the museum at 541-386-6772 or

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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