No battens

WHAT? There is space between the boards in this Madison County barn. Covering the gaps are often long thin strips of wood called battens. Battens keep out rain, snow, and wind, but not in this barn. No battens, maybe just a few flying bats. Was this intentional? No one is left to ask, but some say this provides better ventilation. It could be desirable in summer but drafty in winter. 

This is a Pennsylvania-Dutch style bank barn, referred to as a Sweitzer (Swiss influenced) design, built around 1876. A view of it, seen below, doesn’t give an appearance of spaces between the boards.

Inside, on the basement level, is an amazing 40-foot-long 12” x 12” hand-hewn beam that supports the loft floor. See photo below. Finding a tree this size to make a 40-foot beam would be almost impossible today. One of the hand-hewn support posts, also pictured below, would also have been quite a task for a pioneer builder.

William and Mary Seerley settled on this 200-acre farm in 1856, built the barn, an elegant home, and the combination limestone smokehouse/milkhouse seen below, still in use by the current owners, although not for milk storage. The house has been replaced but the other two buildings were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009. They are treasures and a tribute to our Iowa pioneers.

New Year Greetings

No pigs at your house? Then how about making a snow pig to celebrate the New Year like these German boys are doing on this vintage New Year postcard? Of course snow is needed.

Pigs are big business in Iowa. Over five thousand hog confinement farms exist, raising millions of pigs every year. Not many farms, however, use an older barn like the one pictured above in Mills County. After the Sell family sold their Century Farm several years ago, the new owners, Seth and Ashley Warren, remodeled the barn and are now raising “show” pigs.

There’s a big market for these pigs today, sold to those who are interested in raising them for fairs or other special events for prizes. The competition is keen and the rewards great for those who win.

This barn, either a Louden or Gordon-Van Tine Company design, has wings that might look like it is ready to fly. Below is a view inside minus the actual pigs, as visitor access inside is not permitted to prevent pigs’ exposure to diseases.