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Talking it Over: Granaries and grain bins

Katie Erdman

HANCOCK - Grain bins and granaries just aren't what they used to be. Grain storage on farms today is usually in large bins with big leg systems attached to fill them. We didn't have these huge storage areas on the farm where I grew up. Instead we had corn cribs, granaries and small grain bins.

The corn cribs held the corn that was picked and kept to dry on the cob. Some of this corn on the cob was fed to animals, but most was left to dry until the day when the corn shellers came to the farm. These men brought the big shelling machines and loaded in the corn to be separated into a pile of cobs and a pile of newly shelled corn. On these days the air was filled with small red flecks that also came off the cob and blew around for days after.

Corn shelling days were fun because it meant some extra people on the farm and big meals to be served. The men worked hard and ate heartily. However, they also had time to joke around a little and catch up on what was taking place in the neighborhood. It was the perfect way to keep up on your neighbors as the shellers moved from place to place.

The granaries were one of my favorite places on the farm. They were usually warm in the winter and cool in the summer. We played around on the piles of beans, corn and oats that filled the divided rooms. They were huge mountains to climb and slide down. We often came back into the house with pockets, hair and clothes full of tiny kernels.

We didn't worry too much about the mice skittering around when we played, as long as they kept their distance. I am sure it was a bit dangerous, as the piles could collapse on a young body, but we didn't worry about that in those days.

My dad also had a few grain bins but they were quite small compared to the bins today. However, these were well ventilated and kept the grain better than the old granaries. This meant that crops could be stored longer and more acres planted in order to fill them.

These types of buildings could quickly fill up a farm yard. They were in all shapes, colors and conditions. Anything could be fixed up as a granary. I saw old one-room school houses converted to granaries and even abandoned homes with windows boarded up turned into storage for grain. The different types of buildings added character to the farm places of the past plus a few stories that usually accompanied each one.

While these buildings were sometimes places for play, they were also places for hard work. They needed to be cleaned when empty, re-painted regularly and fixed as the boards rotted easily. Roofs were patched and re-shingled and doors replaced as needed. It was wonderful to reuse some of the old abandoned buildings; however, it also meant more maintenance and care.

I can easily see why the large grain bins on farms today are more popular than those old granaries. I am sure they keep the product better and are much safer. I just miss those old buildings that dressed up farms in the past and the great times that were often spent within and around them.