One of many planned projects has been completed. Recent mild temperatures caused us to become of one mind, focusing on painting the decrepit old granary.

But despite the miraculous transformation, this probably will be the last paint job the old building will receive. The building sags and leans multiple ways. It is working its way off the old cement foundation, and the boards are certainly not in prime condition. Yet, it’s still not too bad for a building that will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2019.

A century ago, this granary was big enough to hold the farmer's grain crop and shelter his farm machinery from the Midwest’s fickle and ever-changing weather. It is old enough to have witnessed the days when a horse pulled the wagons of newly threshed wheat, flax, oats and barley inside the granary, and when the farmer manually scooped each kernel of grain into the bin, adding boards to close up the opening as it filled. Once finished, the horse pulled the wagon out the back door.

From those bins, the young farmer would feed his family and livestock.

The farmer on this farm at that time was a young married man with two children, with two more to come later. The original barn and house were within close proximity of the granary, surrounded by a massive grove that provided wood for keeping the house warm. He probably made the decision to build the granary in 1918.

In his mind, life could only get better. His oldest son was trailing along when he was doing farm chores. This was his life.

In 1918, the Great War had officially ended, and prices for livestock and grains had increased tremendously in the last five years. Chicago wholesale corn price that had averaged 71.0 cents during July-December of 1913 had averaged 90.4 cents during those same months in 1918.

The wheat price too had improved over the last two years. On December 1, 1916, the prices for wheat in Iowa was 156 cents per bushel, but when the farmer did his books in 1918, that same wheat was 199 cents per bushel. (Pennies mattered back then as that is how the price was recorded.)

Most farmers fed the grains they produced to their livestock. In mid-1918, beef cattle per 100 pounds were worth $9.28, compared to $5.96 just five years earlier in 1913. In 1918, the $15.82 per hundred pounds of pork he received was more than double the $7.16 average price paid in 1913. He hoped he could keep his pigs from contracting cholera. Foot and mouth disease at that time was practically non-existent because the prevailing thought was, “prevention is better than the cure”.

His wife didn't complain about the prices she got for eggs and butter either. The wholesale price of butter had doubled since 1913 and was now at 54 cents. And eggs, well, it was a good thing they bought another incubator; the wholesale eggs price averaged 48.3 cents. (And, daughter was getting old enough to help take care of the chicken flock.)

Things were looking pretty good in 1918, when the farmer built the granary–especially when his wife gave birth to a healthy baby son after the small grain harvest was complete in 1919. Life was good, there was no reason to anticipate the farm crisis in the 1920’s, or the drought and depression the 1930’s, or World War II in the 1940’s.

* * * * *

I never met the man who built the granary. That baby son born in 1919 grew up farming the land until he retired, at which time, we purchased the acreage.

Just as it was for the granary builder, this has been good soil to raise a family and call home. That granary has weathered many storms and witnessed a lot of changes; some good, some downright sad. And who knows what lies ahead.


Renae B. Vander Schaaf, freelance writer, lives on a real working farm in northwest Iowa. To Contact Renae B. Vander Schaaf, please email her at [email protected]


BEFORE: What the granary looked like before the paint job.

DURING: Daughter Rachel Vander Schaaf painting. That side of the granary had been under a leanto so it's paint was in pretty good condition. It took a bit of paint to cover up the red!

AFTER: The freshly painted granery. (Not too bad considering it is almost 100 years old!)