Outbuildings #1 – The Silo

"Outbuildings," Carol Crump Bryner, collage, 2014

Most of the real work on the farm happened in the barn, in the fields, and in the house. But other jobs required outbuildings that were specific in purpose and sometimes hastily erected and as quickly abandoned when seasons or activities changed. Others had longer lives and a more major presence. They were spread out around the property in an almost haphazard way. A few of them I remember from childhood, but others I know only from photos.


The Silo

September 27, 1924 – “A nice month so far for gathering in the crops which have been quite plentiful. They are now filling the silos. They have put up another silo to make room for all the corn. Edith has been quite helpful in helping them to spread corn in the silo dressed in Ellsworth’s uniform. Three or four days more will finish the corn. The potatoes are good. Apples are nice. Bill [hired man] is taking the apples to Hew Haven once a week, selling them by the load.” – Lydia Jane Hall

The barn on the farm had two silos, but it’s this one I remember most vividly. In mid-summer the men filled it with corn (or maybe hay and grasses – I’m not sure what they put in it) that in a week or so started fermenting and becoming silage to feed to the cows. If you’ve never smelled silage you’re missing one of the olfactory wonders of the world. I don’t think there is anything that smells as nasty as silage, and that’s the truth.

"Silo," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2013

“Silo,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2013

On Friday – September Window

10 thoughts on “Outbuildings #1 – The Silo

  1. Patti Burkett

    Filling the solo was dangerous business, at least to the mind of an elementary aged girl who had heard all the stories. I knew the machine that chopped up the corn could chop off your arm, “if you get too close”. And I knew that someone had been buried alive by the sileage in the silo, so “you should never go in there.” You can imagine my dismay when someone took me in there on the day the sileage was being made to see what it was like. Climbing up the ladder on the outside was bad enough (I’m pretty afraid of heights) but then we stayed in there while the sileage dropped down from above and we worked with rakes to spread it out to the edges. My image of being buried alive came to life and either the sileage would start coming in so fast it would bury us right then and there, or, even worse, there would be a quicksand effect and we would slowly start sinking deeper with every move! Luckily, I survived to tell the tale!!

    1. Carol Post author

      I wonder who that “someone” was who took you in there. I never did go inside, but heard the tales of danger and disaster in silos. You were brave to go – that was a really, really tall ladder, and I, too, am glad you survived!

  2. Karen Dederick Kowalski

    I have the same memories of all the dangers that the silos could render that were instilled in me at a very early age. The smell was bad but had a sweetness to it. I never climbed the ladder either, but I was not afraid of the height, just the basic fear of the silo kept me away.

    1. Carol Post author

      I’m always amazed by people not afraid of heights. I get shaky just thinking about climbing up to the top of that silo. But we certainly were all instilled with those fears in order to keep us safe. In those days parents and grandparents didn’t really have the time to hover over us every minute. We were just let loose outside and had to take care of ourselves to a great extent.

  3. Netzy

    Hi Carol, I need to smell silage!!!!! The artwork in your heading appears to be a collage??? As always you post such interesting items.

  4. Carol Post author

    Well, you only need to smell it for a few minutes!
    Yes, that’s a collage. I felt the need of a little color on the mostly black and white page. Wonder if you’re back teaching school this fall?

  5. Mike Foster

    The only first-hand experience I had with silos was painting the inside of Kranyak’s with linseed oil to protect the wood from the fermenting silage. The silo was empty at that point but still pretty fragrant. Dave was the one who did the job that Patti describes and that Edith did back in the 20’s. He would come back from Anderson’s farm covered in corn fragments and dust having leveled the silage for hours as it poured down on top of him. The other hazard he described was never being able to see your feet as you raked and leveled. He came home more than once with a puncture through his boot from a pitch fork. My parents remember one of the Wall boys dying after being buried in silage. Farming has never been as easy life.

    1. Carol Post author

      That’s so interesting about not seeing your feet. It does sound like a dangerous job and a good character builder for young workers. You’re right. farming has never been easy.

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