About Vlkolínec

Stalls (hay barns)

The surroundings of Vlkolínec, whether close or wide, are dotted with small farm buildings, which are called stalls (hay barns) by the locals.
In the past, stalls were used for storage of hay, which served as feed for the cattle during the winter months.  As winters in Liptov are long and freezing, people had to prepare as much feed for the farm animals as possible during the summer months.
There were several reasons for construction and use of stalls. One of the reasons was time. In order to save the time that would be spent on transportation and storage, the dried hay was stored directly at the place where it had been mowed. Moreover, transport of hay to the farms was easier on the snow-covered or frozen soil in winter. Another reason was to save storage space. As a large amount of hay was needed to feed the cattle and many times the capacity of the designated building would not be sufficient, people simply stored the hay at the place where it had been mowed and whenever they needed, they just replenished their direct supply in the farm buildings behind the house. Perhaps the most important reason was protection of feed against fires. Wooden buildings full of hay were susceptible to fires, that is why people protected feed for the cattle by dispersing it in the surrounding area and thus securing enough supply in the event of a fire.
Stalls were usually made from material which was easily accessible, such as wood. Walls were mostly made of logs from the trees in the close vicinity, which were usually connected just by layering the individual hewed pieces on top of each other. The top part consisted of a roof structure covered with wooden shingles. In the 20th century, people made the maintenance of shingle roofs easier by over-layering the shingles with sheet metal, which was obtained from barrels. The shield of the roof had an opening through which the hay was put inside, which was usually covered with a hinged door. The whole structure of the hay barn was placed on stones, to separate it from the ground in order to ensure a longer life of the construction. The bottom of the stall was usually made of timber poles, which helped isolate the hay from the ground, thus allowing it to dry better, prevented it from absorbing moisture and allowed circulation of air.
At present day, stalls are only used sporadically, some of them still serve their purpose and store hay, which, today, is used mainly as feed for woodland animals. Other stalls have been altered and they serve other purposes. Particularly the ones in close proximity to residences are more often used for storage of tools than for storage of hay. In the surroundings, you can also find a hay barn made into a hunters’ hide or a feeder for woodland animals. As stalls usually no longer fulfil their original purpose, they are not regularly maintained. Without maintenance, they are subjected to ravages of time, gradually deteriorating, and therefore they are starting to disappear.
In order to maintain the charm of a foothill village with its small fields and meadows in the surroundings, some of the stalls have been repaired and restored. Even though you will usually no longer find hay inside, they still complete the colouring of the land and they are an inseparable part of Vlkolínec.