This tractor is retired. It’s reached its golden years and no longer works long hours each day. After a lifetime of hard work, it feels a little lost if it has nothing to do. So it does a few odd jobs here and there.
This corn crib is a rarity these days. I still see a few of the round ones around, but very few of the rectangular ones are left. The emptiness and the cold grey of the day seem to work hand in hand.
Likely a scrap iron collector and gas axe are in it’s future, but I hope not. Something about seeing these around help anchor the area to it’s past, or perhaps more accurately, anchor the past to the area. The corn crib represents more than just a corn crib.
We are used to seeing landscape photos of sunrises and sunsets over mountains, and bodies of water. I’ll admit to being a little envious of those folks who live near the mountains or coastlines, or can at least travel to them on a regular basis.
Living most of my life out on the prairie farmlands of Minnesota and even now being on the edge of the farmlands, I tend to feel that if you were to make a living as a landscape photographer you’d want to live near the mountains or large body of water so you could increase your chances of catching the “right” light.
Sometimes though, the prairie landscaper gets lucky. An old country road with some ice becomes the interesting foreground and your eye rides it to the psychedelic sky. It’s nothing like something you’d see out west in one of the national parks, but rural folks are used to making due.
The round bales separate the silos and soybeans as the promise of a late summer rain shower passes. The sun is peaking from the passing clouds and lights up the white barn.
This is a photo of my grandfather taken around 1980 of him spraying potatos with “something” probably a fungicide or pesticide to keep the plants from being eaten.
My grandfather, Andy Pfeiffer, farmed the bottom of a dried up lake located North of Windom, MN. It was very fertile peat dirt. So fertile infact, my mother talks about it actually catching fire when she was young. The dirt was quite dry and due to the amount of organic material, it would catch fire and actually smolder. If you wanted the fire out, you needed to cultivate to mix the soil.
My grandfather grew about 20-25 acres of potatoes. In September they were ready to be dug. This he did with the same tractor and an antique potato digger which was basically a spade on wheels with a web belt that would bounce the potatos and knock the dirt off as they tumbled off the back of the machine.
It looked like total chaos when harvest came. The field would be full of cars and people as folks came with the whole family and made an event out of picking their potatoes. There were always people following very close to the digger and picking potatoes off of it or trying to have them fall into their buckets. My grandfather would stop and politely or sometimes less politely tell them to stand clear. The last thing he wanted was someone getting a hand caught in the webbing of the digger. But people don’t think of that happening and how bad that would be, they are just trying to fill their sack quickly and get the choice potatoes before someone else does.
Folks would follow the digger through the field and gather up potatoes into 100lb gunny sacks. There were several people my grandfather hired that would come and sew your gunny sack with twine and help you load it into your car. The hundred pound sacks were sold for $2.50 – $7.50 depending on the potato market that year. He farmed into the late 1980’s before retiring.
For a long time I kept seeing silos in Minnesota with the intials A.C.O. on them. The first one I thought maybe it was the owners initials, but after seeing a number of these on different farms, I was pretty sure it wasn’t the farmers initials. Turns out I was right. The initials are those of Adolph Casimir Ochs.
Adolph Casimir Ochs located his brick plant in Springfield, Minnesota. However, some of his popular ACO silos were built hundreds of miles from the Springfield brick plant. This particular barn is near St. James, MN and features a regular size silo and something that looks like a mini silo right next to it.
Here is a site with a lot of info on the silos and Minnesota brick companies in general.
In a couple of weeks the crops will start to come up and the fields will turn a lush green color. This beautiful old barn features vertical wood siding and a stone or concrete wall foundation.
Vertical siding was used in barn construction prior to the overlapping wooden siding that was available later. The vertical siding meant less trapping of moisture in the seems than horizontal non overlapped siding would allow, so was the preferred method for wood barns until overlapping siding became widely available.
This looks like an amalgamation of out buildings from one or more farms. They were probably consolidated to allow for storage of equipment or other items that might be used when needed. Some of them have fallen into various states of disrepair and will one day vanish.
In the background you can see what’s left of a windmill used to pump water for the people and livestock that once lived on this farm site. The house and barn are long gone.
This is a scene that is played out across rural America again and again. As farmers retire or die, there is no one to pass the family farm onto because the kids have all moved away to the city to make a living.
The farm is auctioned for the land. The building site usually decays for a number of years, perhaps there is a good outbuilding that can be used for storage. Eventually though, the trees are bulldozed the buildings torn down and the acreage is tilled as farmers are forced to grow or get out to make a living.