Up until the late fifties, and maybe early sixties, corncribs were widely used to dry and store corn still on the cob. They were often wooden buildings with slatted walls for ventilation. Some had elevators that allowed corn to be delivered and stored in upstairs bins, and some stored grain there as well. Some were even big enough to drive a wagon through to load corn. Its hard to go anywhere in Iowa without seeing one of these buildings among the cluster of farms. Some are used for storage, some have even been converted to living spaces, but many stand empty and dilapidated under the hard Iowa sun, like tombstones.
I’m not quite sure when the corncrib on our property was built. The concrete was poured in 1967 though. I know that because someone wrote it in the wet cement, and if you go to the county website that’s when its listed as being built. But if you look at the rough cut timbers that still stand strong, the building itself tells a different story. An older story.
If you look past the aluminum siding you’ll see a glimpse of a world gone by. A world where attending a harvest bee was a social event and winning a corn picking contest was a rite of manhood. Those things have been erased by the era of automation and efficiency, and all we have left are these husks to remind us of the way things were. Once upon a time.
When you step inside, you see a lot of space, both on the main floor and, if you dare to make the climb up the rickety ladder, upstairs where the bats roost and the rats nest and the Iowa wind drifting through the opens spaces sounds like moaning ghosts too tired to simply disappear.
In the old days you’d run a wagon through the crib, and you’d pull the wooden slat on this shoot to fill with corn or grain from the top bin.
The side bins would also be full of corn. You’d pull up these slats built into the bottom of the main walls and shovel out the corn as it flowed from the bins.
The space is peaceful, in a strange kind of way. I like the sounds, and the solitude. But at first I was concerned there wasn’t enough room for me among the birds. But what to do with the space?
Converting the space to a woodshop makes the most sense.
This will allow me a dedicated space to store wood and tools while I continue to convert the single detached garage into a working space.
I inherited quite a few things from my dad’s shop when he passed away last month. My wife jokingly said that the corncrib is turning into a shrine to him, and I guess it kind of is. That’s okay. My dad enjoyed working in his shop, tinkering around with things. He would have enjoyed this space I think. Maybe its him I hear every now and then, when the wind blows. Memories are ghosts that possess the things our loved ones leave behind. They haunt.
So this is the first phase of converting our corncrib into a usable space. We’ve talked about eventually putting an office or an apartment upstairs. Right now it would make for a killer haunted house. Halloween is right around the corner!
More to come.