If you traveled rural Wisconsin during the 20th Century, you were greeted at nearly every farm by a tube-like structure sticking 20 to 80 feet into the sky. Many farms had more than one of these tubes, made of poured concrete, concrete staves, or blue-painted steel, the older ones of brick or wood. All served the same purpose – to ferment and store feed (usually corn or hay) for livestock. These are called silos.
You don’t see as many upright silos today. Farmers are choosing other methods, like plastic bags or concrete bunkers, to store their feed. Our 12 x 40 ft. concrete stave silo is connected to the barn by a small room that we creatively call the silo room. It was here that the silage I pitched down the metal chute, one silage-fork full at a time, gathered in a huge mound, ready for twice-a-day feedings of our 40-some cows and heifers, one scoop-shovel full at a time.
Today, our silo room has been rebuilt and now includes skylights to brighten the empty space. The rusted chute has been removed. The openings where 12 silo doors once hung have been covered with screens to keep the birds out and to let the northern light in. The metal roof, peppered with bullet holes, creates a domed celestial observatory to the sky. Rain leaking through the roof paints ephemeral patterns on the concrete wall, textured by 50 years of acidic corn silage. Stand in the center of the silo’s floor and the dome above will amplify your every sound – a stereo on steroids.
As a teenager I remember battling a dreadful fear of heights the first time I climbed to the top. In a matter of minutes, though it seemed like hours, I grew up a lot. I remember the time I almost killed myself in a near-miss accident with the silage fork. In winter I remember the miserable chore of chipping away with an ax at the silage frozen one-foot-thick to the silo's wall.
There are lots of memories generated by an old silo – my Sister Silo.
Author’s note: I upload posts as I complete them, so one written about a recent event may precede posts about earlier events. The introduction to each post shows where it fits into the history. For an introduction to my memoir, visit Whole Hearted - A Farm Love Story.
This blog is a book in the making. If you're a new visitor, read Whole Hearted - A Farm Love Story. You can also find a copy in Prologue.