Farm – Barn

January 27, 2013 – Want a Little Icing on that Earth?

Even though I’ve got photo editing software that puts this effect on any photo, the following are real, undoctored photos.

The view out the kitchen window looking towards the doghouse and barn.

A maple tree in the front yard.

The detached garage.  Everything is shut down this morning because of the ice.

I was hoping for a power blip or two as I finally broke down and bought a UPS (uninterruptible power supply) this week so the computer would work through power blinks and shut down properly during an extended outage with battery back-up.

May 17, 2012 – Another Barn Destoyed

Another classic turn of the century barn was put to rest. This is what the place where the barn used to be three days ago looks like now.

Usually it’s the same story – some equipment comes, digs a big hole, pushes the destroyed barn into the hole, covers it up, and then corn/beans are planted on top of it.

In the fifteen of so years we’ve been here, this is the sixth barn within two mile of our place to lose the turn of the century barn.

March 9, 2011 – Silly Putty Snow

We awoke to a few inches of very heavy snow with a thick layer of slush underneath.

It’s the kind of snow that tends to swoosh off the barn in one giant slide.

It’s also the kind that isn’t fun to drive in.  Emma needed to be to school early, so she was off before the roads were plowed. The road had three ruts, with each lane sharing the common center rut – a semi-truck approached and as she moved over into the deep slush and the semi blinded her with a windshield full of slush, she lost control and avoided a car traveling behind the semi and ended up resting in the ditch – thankful that she didn’t collide with the oncoming car or roll as she traveled down the steep ditch. She wasn’t the only one as there were 4 vehicles in the ditch on the way to town, including a jeep that had rolled.

one year ago…”Discarded Toyota Marketing Slogans”

June 20, 2010 – Mammatus!

We had a spectacular show Friday night as the second round of storms for the day passed by to the east. A nice field of mammatus clouds developed.

mammatus over barn

I went out anticipating that the thunderheads to the east might have some interesting illumination from the setting sun to the west, but was very pleased to see these clouds and watch as the grew and developed.

skystream under mammatus

The following bit of information is condensed from Wikipedia: Mammatus are most often associated with the anvil cloud that extends from a cumulonimbus (thunderheads). Mammatus are often indicative of a particularly strong storm or maybe even a tornadic storm. These tend to form more often during warm months and are most common over the midwest and eastern portions of the United States.

Mammatus may appear as smooth, ragged or lumpy lobes and may be opaque or semitransparent. Because mammatus occur as a grouping of lobes, the way they clump together can vary from an isolated cluster to a field of mamma that spread over hundreds of kilometers to being organized along a line, and may be composed of unequal or similarly-sized lobes. The individual mammatus lobe average diameters of 1–3 km and lengths on average of 0.5 km. A lobe can last an average of 10 minutes, but a whole cluster of mamma can range from 15 minutes to a few hours. They usually are composed of ice, but also can be a mixture of ice and liquid water.

mammatus clouds

As the sun sank lower, the clouds turned from yellow to red.

It was rather exhilarating to be outside walking under this strange meteorologic phenomenon under a wide open sky!

one year ago…”Emma’s First 5K”

June 8, 2010 – Barn Staining Update

Looks like Claire managed to complete staining the east side of the barn.  There is not complete agreement as the window frames are left unpainted, but daughter claims that was not part of the instruction since no white paint was left in an obvious location.

At any rate, the stain-splattered body tell me that she indeed make a good-faith effort before her looming trip to India!

one year ago…”Spring Lettuce”

December 28, 2009 – Stagecraft Snow

We had about 2-3 inches of what I call “stagecraft snow” Saturday night.

The gentle, large fluffy flakes that lazily fall down on a calm evening.

They gently rest wherever they fall and adorn everyday objects with a new look. Whether it be a hat on top of a fencepost.

Or a symmetrical snow carbon copy on the barn handle.

And even a few moments of the fluffy flakes glinting down in the sunlight.

one year ago…”More Ice; Another Day at Home”

November 13, 2009 – South Side of Barn Painted

The flurry of barn painting this summer is as complete as it is going to be until spring – 3 of the 4 sides stained. Two weekends ago we had 70 degrees and a north wind, so it allowed me to get up high and finish the south side.


The doors and trim on the back need replacement as well, but that’s probably a next year item as well.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #141″

September 9, 2009 – South Side of Barn – Before

I neglected to take a picture of the south side of the barn before I started, so here is one after I couldn’t help myself  and got started.

The weather has been fantastic for painting – upper 70’s and little if any wind for the last 10 days or so and not much change in the forecast going forward.  This side will take more time – almost every door needs to be rebuilt and new trim cut and painted.  I’m also not sure how I’m going to handle painting the top six feet or so – it’s out of ladder range for me – so I’m tossing around renting a cherry picker or hiring it done.

one year ago…”Season’s Turning”

September 8, 2009 – North Side of Barn Painted!

When I started staining the north side of the barn a few weeks ago, I never imagined it would get done so quickly. The combination of dry days in the 70’s and helpers at home to watch when I was on the high areas helped this get done very quickly. It’s very seldom something gets done ahead of schedule, but this project beat winter by a long shot.


We completed the west and north sides of the barn this summer (as long as we don’t look at the east and south sides, we can be happy).

iowa barn

Here’s a head-on view of the north side, recently stained and painted barn. There are still some odd boards to replace, but the barn is more ready for wetness now! The white trim against the red sure makes it look sharp.

one year ago…”Never-Ending Raspberries”

August 24, 2009 – Worst of the North Side Barn Staining

I can’t stand the tacky looking north side of the barn any longer.  I’ve started staining it red to avoid future scraping.

The worst part is complete, above the top windows – it’s probably between 35-40 feet to the top – which is a long way up on a ladder.  I happy that part is complete, and now the trips up and down will be much shorter and not nearly as far to the ground!

one year ago…”Front Page News – Linda”

June 14, 2009 – EZ Barn Door

Today I’m going to pass on a neat trick to rebuild barn doors.  Our barn has entry doors with separate top and bottom doors.  The interior cross-member bracing fits into slots built into the door frame.  The first time I tried to build a replacement door, I measured and built the complete door perfectly square in the shop and when I went to attach it, found out neither the frame, nor the adjoining door was square, so I ended up cutting and shaping the new “square” door to fit and it took way too long.

build barn door

A neighbor saw my struggles and offered a bit of advice – forget working in the shop and build the door in place.  The first step is to nail the interior cross bracing into the slots on the frame.  Just nail the boards in with small finishing nails, because after the door is built, these nails will be pounded out as the door swings open for the first time and either pulled out backwards or pounded into the board.  The top picture shows the two interior boards temporarily nailed in place.

build barn door

Next, measure and attach the exterior boards. In this case, they were all slightly different lengths.  You’ll notice that in this picture the white door trim is split near the threshold.  This bothered me, so shortly after this photo was taken, I got the tractor out and was able to use the loader to push in the bottom threshold beam back into place and replace the white trim board with one straight piece.  The boards are nailed or screwed in place and the hinges attached while the door is still nailed to the frame.

build barn door

After the hinges are on, just tap out the door and remove or pound in the finishing nails holding the first two pieces in place.  Here’s an interior door of the completed door (minus painting).

one year ago…”Nearby Tornado Cell”

May 29, 2009 – Workin’ on the Barn

I’ve made a commitment to paint part of the barn (I bought 9 gallons of stain).  We’ve never painted the barn, so we are starting on the easy sides, the west and east sides.  I’ll have to think some more whether we attack the north and south sides with their more dizzying heights above the ground and figure out how to reach there.

It’s so weathered that’s there’s not much scraping to do as most of the paint is gone.

Martin was excited to do what he could to help stain the barn.  It’s more like pouring the stain on rather than brushing as the boards are very thirsty.

one year ago…”Thingamajig Thursday #120″

April 15, 2009 – Barn Windows and Raccoons

There were three windows that needed to be replaced in the barn and by far the most challenging one was the highest one on the south side of the barn.

In this photo the window is replaced as you can still see the sticker on the top window (no, I’m not going back up to take it off).  There is a rickety old ladder inside the barn that leads up to the window.  I was climbing up it and had Martin as a witness to watch and serve as a witness and run for help in case something went terribly wrong.

I was nearly to the top of the ladder when simultaneously, as I’m grabbing for for the last rung Martin yells out – “Dad a raccoon!” and I see a raccoon scurrying a couple of feet away from my hand. The raccoon scuttled a short distance away and I pulled up the window with a rope and got it installed.  I wish I had the agility of the raccoon at great heights.

one year ago…”Utility Boy-to-Be?”

March 3, 2009 – Getting Ready to Fence Cement Yard

With some mixed species barn, we’ve been having to work harder than we need to to keep the horse away from the lambs.  So, I’m going to put up an electric fence across the cement pad adjacent to the barn, so everyone can easily get outside.  Once the pastures firm up it will be easier to manage, but in the mud season, it will be nice to have a solid place for everyone to be outside.

I’m going to drill holes in the cement, insert some fiberglass poles, and run electric rope.  Since the animals are on a cement yard, I’ve been told I’ll need to run an alternating hot/cold rope fence since the cement prevents a good ground connection – so the animals won’t get shocked until they touch two wires.

one year ago…”Back to Reality”

September 10, 2007 – Horse Stalls in the Barn

The girls have started to attack a barn horse stall.  This one has been filled with corn cobs (and has been since we moved in).  I attached it one afternoon with a wood chipper to make some chicken nest box bedding, but haven’t done much with it lately.

The girls have removed about half of it – filling about 30 gunny sacks full.  The barn has a number of these stalls, the first of which Linda uses to arrange flowers, the others are filled with “stuff.”

The alley along the stalls is this nice red brick.  We were surprised when we cleaned the dumping grounds out of the barn a while after we moved in to find this wonderful floor.  We had someone from the Iowa Barn Foundation come look at the barn and he said if we wanted to the barn would probably be eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of this floor and the unusual roofing support.  We haven’t pursued it, but are fixing up the barn as we have time – mainly needs new windows and doors.

one year ago…

April 15, 2007 – Wendell Berry/Barn Burning

Not many days you can see a barn burn down AND hear Wendell Berry speak!  First, to the barn.  A few months ago, I wrote about a century farm (one that is honored to be owned by the same family for over 100 years) that was let slide into disrepair and intentionally burned).

We were headed to church on Sunday morning and the smoke had just started pouring out of the barn.  Mesmerized with the size of the fire, we pulled over on the side of the road to watch (I wasn’t willing to drive back home to get the camera, some moments have to stay that way).  It was about three minutes from the time the barn was in full flame until it collapsed to the ground.  Huge vortexes of flame shot out of the door to the hay loft.  The barn wasn’t it good shape (see picture from last winter), but it is sad to see another barn go.  It is way too common.  Our skyline changes once again.

That night, about seven hours later, we were driving back to Ames to see Wendell Berry and something had re-ignited the ditch near the barn and the fire was heading south quickly – the fire trucks arrived as we were driving down the road to survey the fire and whether anything was in its path to stop it.  Now we have a complex – our 2 now-famous fires (two different trips) where places we were just at/just arriving burned in Texas – and now, happening across the height of two different fires in the same place, the same day, hours apart.

In case you haven’t seen it, Sugar Creek Farm has a post and incredible photos of an old barn burning down

In the evening we went to see Wendell Berry, an author, poet, social critic, and farmer whose work I have long admired.  He appeared at Iowa State in the Great Hall.  In an attempt to make the evening more intimate, it was set up like a talk show – with other speakers besides Wendell on stage to make conversation.  Unfortunately, the sound system sounded and acted like it was purchased second-hand from a McDonald’s drive-thru, so I wasn’t really sure what all he said – there was an overflow crowd as well. 

When they opened it up to questions from the audience, again, unfortunately, there were questions that didn’t elucidate elaboration, or worse yet, just plain ramblings by people using the microphone to introduce the audience to their web site and pet peeve.  All in all, it was an unsatisfying event that held so much promise to be good.  I’ll have to read his latest book to make up for it.

one year ago…

January 29, 2007 – The Core of Winter?

It seems like today may be the middle of winter. It’s been cold for a few weeks now, and the coldest days of the year are supposed to be here this weekend, followed by more below normal temperatures. The corn stove has been running like a top (knock on maize) lately which adds a delightful look of warmth to have a constant fire in the house at all times. The last few days we’ve had many brief snow squalls followed by sunshine.

one year ago…

November 13, 2006 – Windows (not the Bill Gates kind)

Things at the farm are in a constant state of needing attention. This summer, a couple of windows in the barn lost some panes of glass. Years ago, I would painstakingly reglaze and repoint the window panes into rotting wood, then paint – all told a job over a few days time. Then I got smarter and bought the pre-primed frames and just had a couple of coats of taping, painting, and scraping. Now, I’m a firm believer in the PVC/Vinyl windows for the outbuildings. No painting, no scraping, no waiting, just put them in. (However, I’m not a fan of them for the house!)

Here’s the broken window.

The path to the broken window from inside the barn. I was fortunate it was over the loft, so the ladder journey wasn’t as far.

Finally, the completed fix. I put two new windows in the barn – need one more for the corn crib.

In unrelated news, I was fortunate the battery to the van died in the K-Mart parking lot! I could walk in, buy a new one, and install it on a nice day. I was fortunate in it wasn’t when Linda had the van and kids somewhere on a cold, windy day.

one year ago…

August 8, 2006 – Hoophouse?

We are scheming to put up a hoophouse (actually GJ is scheming, but we’ll be happy to let her). We really don’t have much level ground left. We are thinking on the south side of the barn, shielded from the north wind and on a slightly south slope may be a good place to start. I’ve measured out a 24×36 foot space between the raspberries and peach trees.

For now, I’ve got the perimeter outlined with electric netting. We’ll first let the chickens at it to get the grass out, work it up/level with the tractor and then spread heaps of compost on it and maybe cover it with straw/cardboard to kill whatever grows up – maybe even try to solarize the area. It’s another great experiment.

March 26, 2006 – Goat-Proofing Barn

Ok, so “goat-proofing” may be too optimistic a term for what we did today, but it sure sounds hopeful! Every once in a while, the goats climb over the feed bunks in the barn and get in the main part of the barn. Today, we put up cattle panels above the bunks to help them decide to stay on their side of the barn. Again, with goats, this is all theory.

If you look closely, you can see the panels up on the far wall. We also fixed one of the doors that the Billy knocked off, and fixed one door that had settled and did not close. So, now we are more ready to the kids – Paullina is scheduled to deliver this Friday.

March 22, 2006 – Barn Time

Today, a student from Iowa State came out to visit our barn. The class was doing a project and was looking at “Adaptive Reuse” of barns. She came out and asked some questions, took some pictures, and we lamented about the vanishing barns

Here is a collection of blog entries that show renovation in progress or other interesting local barns.

Here’s the link that shows the “before” and “after” chicken coop

Here’s some before and after of the inside of the corn crib

Outside of Corn Crib Renovation

Here’s a pretty picture of the barn in winter

Here’s some pictures of a neighborhood barn in good shape

Barn in bad shape

Here’s a really cool posting from one of our friends whose barn burned down due to lightning.

January 7, 2006 – April Day in January

Today it was so warm, the kids were running around in short sleeves outside for a bit. Barn cleanup called us today in the warm weather. We’ve had a few more goats than usual with Billy “the stud” at High Hopes. We didn’t realize it was quite so deep.
The doors are narrow, and there is no way to get equipment, other than the “Armstrong pitchfork” in to help cleanup. The cleanup is simple, scrape the stuff out, load it into a two wheel cart,
cleanbarn and haul it away.

It is a rather dreadful job when it lasts more than a couple of hours or so, and this job helped me make friends with it by thinking of it in a new way. Rather than the drudgery of sraping and cleaning it out, like many things at our farm, we like things to have multiple uses.

The good part of barn cleanup is fertilizing the fruit trees and gardens. I used to have to truck the stuff in, now it was a direct trip from the barn to the soil in one trip – mush more efficient than driving and reloading the stuff and then distributing. So, most all of the garden space, fruit trees, and raspberries have been fertilized, and there is some to spare in the compost pile.

December 18, 2005 – Neighborhood Barns #2

Not all the barns are in as good shape as the Aberdeen Angus barn of yesterday. This barn is in exactly the same place (first place on the right) as our place and the Aberdeen Angus barn on three consecutive roads.
jessup barn

This barn is typical of what happens as farms get bigger and fewer people live on the land. This place is rented out and not kept up very well. Old barns are becoming more rare. Since we’ve moved in, there have been two barns within a mile that have been bulldozed and burned. There’s a group dedicated to saving the disappearing barns, the Iowa Barn Foundation.

December 17, 2005 – Neighborhood Barns


This barn is just off the blacktop two miles west of our place. The top line says “Homeland” the bottom line says “Aberdeenangus Cattle.” I like it when people paint the name of their farm or their favorite breed on their barn. I didn’t immediately recognize what “Aberdeenangus” meant, as it wasn’t familiar to me.

A quick google search reveals the name to be “Aberdeen Angus” (the space between Aberdeen and Angus makes all the difference). The cows are originally a small, stocky lowline breed from Scotland. Here’s a bit of history about the Aberdeen Angus from New Zealand. It’s also listed as one of the most rare breeds according to the Rare Breeds Survival Trust. Now, I have another mission to find out the history of this farm and if any of these cattle remain.

December 7, 2005 – Snow on the Roof

The cold snap continues – we are about 25 degrees below normal – lows in the teens below zero. The snow has stayed on the barn nearly a week now – this is longer than any of the last few winters.
Usually, snow is soon followed by a warm day and it doesn’t take much of a warm day for the metal barn roof to shed its load of snow – usually in one or a few big “Swooshes” when the snow slides off in one big avalanche. You don’t want to be near the barn when that happens – it would knock you over and bury you. I’ve been lucky enough to see it happen a time or two. The first time it happened, I heard it and couldn’t figure out what made the noise until I saw the big piles of snow by the barn.

May 19, 2005 – Foggy Morn

We haven’t had a foggy morning for a long time. In fact the weather has been pretty awful the last few weeks, between downpours, off and on drizzle, or 35 mph or more winds, it hasn’t been pleasant. This morning was refreshing to awake to weather calm and foggy. The view of a neighbor’s place at 6 am.
Our timeless barn also benefited slightly from the morning fog and sun.

It was a hard day to be in work as it was in the 80’s and pleasant. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

April 30, 2005 – When will Spring Come Back?

Another freeze last night – record low on this date was 33 until last night’s 31. Most of the day was in the 40’s and windy again. Got two tanks full of water distributed so all the pine trees got watered. We use water off the roof of the barn that goes into a big tank.
water tank
Here’s Emma helping water the trees out in the field.
emma watering

We got just a few more things planted in the garden before the wind sucked the energy out of us.

Girls went to a a dog show in the morning and earned money for their 4-H club by scooping doggy-do from the show rings. This evening some friends from the farm class came over and vaccinated and turned the boys into no chance of being daddies.

March 26 2005 – More Snow

Photo courtesy of Emma! She is captivated how the roof barn and sky melt together! I’m calling this the “Robin Snow” meaning the last snow of the year (typically after the robins return, we get at least some snow). Now we are less confident that the goat is near due after talking to the vet during a pet visit.