My wife and I were driving to Estes Park to attend a wedding on Friday night. We took Highway 287 from Fort Collins to Longmont and Highway 36 from Longmont to Estes Park. On our drive we saw a number of farms. Almost all of the farms had a red barn, but why?

Why do farmers paint almost always paint their barns red? I went to the same source I have gone to many times before, the Old Farmer's Almanac. I knew it had to be some type of tradition, but what I didn't know was that it started for practical reasons.

Many years ago, choices for paints, sealers and other building materials did not exist. Farmers had to be resourceful in finding or making a paint that would protect and seal the wood on their barns. Hundreds of years ago, many farmers would seal their barns with linseed oil, which is an orange-colored oil derived from the seeds of the flax plant. To this oil, they would add a variety of things, most often milk and lime, but also ferrous oxide, or rust. Rust was plentiful on farms and because it killed fungi and mosses that might grow on barns, and it was very effective as a sealant. It turned the mixture red in color.

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