July 13th…….”WHAT WAS THE TALL ROUND THING NEXT TO YOUR FAMILY BARN THAT WE SAW IN SOME OLD PHOTO? WHAT WAS ITS PURPOSE ON YOUR FARM”??
That stationary sentinel stood sky-high and stoic in all of its immense concrete wonder!!! For well over three quarters of a century, our enormous silo stood in silent salute to seeing that generations of our animals had ground up corn safely stored up for them to eat during the harsh winters there on our family farm in south central Minnesota.
The very word, “silo”, itself comes from the ancient Greek language and stands for “a pit to store corn or grain”. Our handsome “pit” was vertical in nature and had been built well before the turn of the century (before the year 1900) by an ingenious scaffolding and crane system that grew up in the center of the area what would be the new silo. Each vertical cement stave (“stave” is a long block of material) by cement stave was lifted to the edge of the silo and mortared in place. With each layer of staves settled into their destiny, a giant iron hoop would then be placed over the stave joints and a tightening turnbuckle was cranked down tight to reinforce each “story” of the silo as it grew towards the sky. Some farms had domed roofs over their silos, but, for some reason lost to history, our silo was open to the sky.
To the north side of our silo was a vertical tunnel that encased numerous doors that doubled as ladder rungs for climbing to the very top of this dizzying “mountain” of concrete. Being the little adventurer I was, at that young age, I loved climbing higher and higher in that tunnel of ladder/doors, while listening to the howling winter winds buffeting the protective tunnel that encased me at those wuthering heights. At the high, windy top of the silo, I would climb through the topmost open door and begin my daily task of using a large, twelve-tine silage fork to begin tossing down the chopped, green corn (that we called silage) to the far, far floor below of the barn’s Silage Room for feeding our animals that morning or evening.
Still turgid, in its chlorophyll-green glory, our father set aside a certain percentage of his corn crop each year for the purpose of creating this juicy, corn delight for his livestock to enjoy later in the frigid seasons that would be upon us in Fall and Winter. Since very few farmers could afford to purchase their own set of forage gathering equipment, our family would hire out this operation to one or more farmers who did have such mechanical wonders at their disposal. A pull-behind “Forage Harvester” (chopper) was hooked up to a tractor that drew this assembly down each corn row as it gobbled up cornstalks and chopped them into tiny pieces that was then fired into what’s called a “Silage Wagon”.
The “Silage Wagon” had a covered roof, for this fine material to stay in place, and, at the front, had two upper rows of churning teeth and a sideways conveyor belt that would be used to offload its green cargo when it arrived at the silo.
Back at the silo itself, there was a “Forage Blower” snuggled up to the wall of the silo with its cloud-reaching filler tube extended to the highest edge of the silo’s wall with a curved spout hooked over that edge and was now aimed down into the silo’s cavernous, empty tube hollow below. The blower, whose Power Take Off (PTO) linkage arm was hooked up to a tractor was just waiting for the silage load to arrive.
Laboring up the incline to our yard, a tractor pulled it’s bulging, green load of cow yummies right up alongside the blower and dropped it’s side auger chute to the blower below. Someone aboard the “Blower” tractor, brought the engine alive and pulled the engine throttle lever back to full speed. When the PTO clutch was engaged, the rotary fan blades inside the Forage Blower sounded like a jet engine revving up for “take off”!!! Next in line was the Silage Wagon’s PTO that was also engaged from its tractor and brought to life those churning teeth, the front conveyor belt and a forwarding conveyor system on the floor of the wagon that began to purge the wagon of her fragrant, green corn chips that augered nicely down into the blower and were fired up, up, up and over the top of our silo.
With every passing year, my little farmer boy body stood back in utter amazement and awe at the spectacle of power, ingenuity and creative mechanical genius that went into this farm operation that had been refined many times over, since the days of our forefather farmers in how to take green cornstalks, reduce them to a tiny size and shoot them sky-high into our handsome silo.
In the early winter evenings, with the silo at its full-to-the-brim capacity, I would ascend to the pinnacle of green silage silo “heaven” and gaze over the top edge of the silo to drink in the serene scene of snow-whitened farmlands that stretched out for miles in the illuminating full moon that reflected off of those sleeping fields. Magical was the setting before my young farmer boy eyes to experience this beauty in an almost daylight illumination; even though stars winked at me from God’s glorious heaven above me. I laid there on my back for the longest time and saw the purest starlight that could bedazzle this very happy Norwegian Farmer’s Son!!