The barn at Brooks

The best barn in Adams County in 1953, according to an ad for the sale of the property, was this one at the north edge of Brooks. It is still the finest barn, at least in Brooks. (2021 photo)

James and Mary Miles Flowers Dawson moved to this farm in 1870. Their sons, who were carpenters, built their large three-story home in 1903 and this barn in 1913. They also rode the train to Omaha daily for some years to work at Brandeis department store. 

The barn is original except for the four large windows installed many years ago for additional light. The long row of small windows on one end and two sets of double sliding doors, each with multiple windows, are unusual features. The loft is gigantic. The barn was in use until the late 1940s, but is now the current owners’ workshop.

The town of Brooks has had four names in its history. First it was Canaan City, then Brookville, then Simpson, named after Methodist Bishop Simpson when Brooks Seminary was established. At that time, the south section of town was still called Brookville, which was confusing, so in 1871 it became Brooks, its fourth and final name. The population is 40 today.

 The barn and home are remnants of the town’s history. The local public school, east of the barn, closed in 1968. The seminary, north of the barn, had a brief existence in 1859 before moving to Simpson College in Indianola.

Corn planting history

The blog on June 26 featured the Dobbin round barn at State Center. This barn has the original round metal rack used for drying ears of corn.

The ears were attached to the rack by a clip fastened to a spike pushed into each ear. With almost 600 kernels on each ear and hundreds of ears on the rack, it would have held enough seed for the yearly planting. Really? Many farms in earlier days were small, 80 to 160 acres, with a rotation of corn, oats, alfalfa or red clover, and grassland pasture. Thus, not that many acres were dedicated just to corn each year.

How was all that corn shelled? Several contacts regarding this subject believed the ears were shelled by hand, rather than by a hand-cranked corn sheller, which would have broken some of the kernels.

A horse-drawn planter placed two or three kernels in each hill, with the hills spaced 38 inches apart in the row. The rows were also 38 inches wide. Today, single seeds are planted just six to eight inches apart, with 30-inch wide rows. Quite a difference! Notice how close each stalk is to its neighbor in the field pictured below. (2021 photo)

A State Center treasure

A new look! This Marshall County barn, built on the farm of Henry and Lillian Dobbin in 1919 and now owned by Christy Dobbin Chambers and her husband Jon, has undergone a major renovation.

In 2019-20, parts of the ring that had supported the roof were replaced. The photo below shows the ring, with new sections in lighter-colored wood. 

It was reshingled in the spring of 2021, then repainted. When the photo at the top was taken in late 2021, minor window repairs and painting of the small section below the cupola roof were all that was needed to complete the project. It was an expensive undertaking, paid for in part by a grant from the Iowa Barn Foundation. Check page 132 of Iowa Barns yesterday and today for a more extensive history.

The floor surrounding the silo, where the dairy cow stanchions and horse stalls are located, is unique. It consists of uniformly spaced rectangular wood blocks, with long triangles added to fill in the circular path around the barn.

 The next photo shows the interlocking design that keeps the wood blocks in place. According to advertising for this type of flooring, it was less tiring for the cows and horses to stand on a wood floor than on concrete.

The next blog will feature a rack used for drying corn found in this barn, and some corn planting facts that will surprise you. Stay tuned. 

Switzerland in May

In May, farmers lead their cows, wearing flowers and bells, to high mountain pastures to graze for the summer. It is a cultural experience with a long tradition, influenced by tourism today. Cheese made during the summer is brought down when the cows return in August or September, a cause for celebration and selling of the cheese. (2019 photo)

Many of us can trace our roots to Switzerland, where our ancestral farmers lived and worked. My paternal ancestors emigrated from Switzerland over 250 years ago, and many generations later their descendants were still farmers, including my father and Mennonite grandparents. 

Memorial Day in Silver City

Silver City Cemetery in Mills County is the site of an annual Memorial Day program organized by William Somervell. Terry’s Texas Rangers, portrayed here, was organized in 1861 as a group of volunteers for the Confederate States Army, and fought in a number of battles.

In 2021, the program began with the American Legion Post 439 color guard, a bagpiper, and riders portraying the Texas Rangers on horseback. The horse on the left in the first row is the riderless horse, with the commander’s boots placed backwards in the stirrups, looking back at his troops. At the end of the procession are civilians dressed in period costume. (See photo below)

The pastor of Silver City United Methodist Church spoke, followed by chaplains of the Legion and Legion Auxiliary. Memorial wreaths were placed in the cemetery and it concluded with a cannon 21-gun salute, a bugler playing taps, and music by a small group of musicians.

Somervell’s Percheron draft horses were originally stabled in the 1904 barn below, renovated to resemble Kentucky horse barns. Today, his seventeen horses reside in a nearby barn. Percherons were used to pull heavy cannons in the war because of their strength, and also were widely used in farming as a draft animal after 1850.  Wind your way to Silver City to celebrate Memorial Day in 2022.

The big yellow barn

This big yellow barn, built in the late 1920s, had steel siding added in the mid-1980s and has been a part of the farm laboratory for the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) Agribusiness program since 2005. Utilizing the barn are cattle as well as hogs in a farrow-to-finish component.

DMACC leases land and farm buildings from Dallas County for a hands-on real world experience for Ag Business students interested in farm management and production agriculture. It also serves as a model of good conservation practices. The 325 acres leased includes 100 acres of corn, 100 acres of soybeans, with the remaining acres of pasture and hay for the livestock. Various test plots for seed companies are also part of the program.

The farm was originally “the poor farm” or “county farm,” later known as the Dallas County Care Facility. Now, after a $5.5 million remodel of the buildings, completed in 2016, it has become a Dallas County Human Services campus, housing county departments including Public Health, Environmental Health, Community Services, Mental Health/Developmental Disabilities, County Sheriff Communications Center, and more.

The combination of the community college program and county offices is a great plus for Dallas County. The location is: 25747 N Avenue on U.S. Highway 169, north of Adel.


It’s lambing season on farms and thousands of lambs are making their debut in the world. In 2021,Texas was the largest sheep producing state, followed by California. Iowa was #8.

In Iowa on January 1, 2021, there were 160,000 head of sheep and lambs and a total breeding stock of 114,000 head. In the photo below, taken in March 2022, a mom and her two-day old lamb on the Larsen farm at St. Anthony greet visitors.

This sheep isn’t alive but the “hen and chicks” plants are, in the city of Sisteron, France (2011 photo)

Easter Greetings

A Milking Shorthorn story

What were YOU doing at age five? Marcia Shaver was showing her first calf at the Iowa State Fair at age five. That was almost 80 years ago. She is pictured here at age four on the cover of Milking Shorthorn Journal, March 1941. Thus began her legacy of showing and judging cattle at the Iowa State Fair, the National Dairy Cattle Congress, the Chicago International, the National Show in Madison, Wisconsin, the World Dairy Expo, 13 state fairs, and many other shows. 

At the 2005 World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin, Marcia showed the grand champion, Mysha Lady Di, pictured below, a highlight of her career. She was also the official judge at the 2000 Sydney, Australia Royal Show. At the Mysha Farm near St. Anthony she still keeps in contact with friends all over the world she has made through the years and also checks on the cattle she owns based on farms in a few other states.

The Milking Shorthorn story began when her father, Noran Shaver, worked at the Clampitt farm south of New Providence milking 40 cows by hand in the era before milking machines. Below is a photo of the Clampitt barn built in 1916, destroyed by a tornado in 1989. See page 247 of Iowa Barns Yesterday and Today for another photo of the barn and more of the Clampitt story.

What was a project that many farmers did years ago in the summer? Her father owned a boxcar and he and his sons would take 12 head from Lawn Hill (near New Providence) in specially constructed stalls in the boxcar, first heading north into Minnesota and then south to Texas. This was a project to make money for the farm and sell a few bulls, stopping at fairs and other shows along the way. Imagine the work and logistics this project would involve.

Marcia and her father continued their love of raising and showing cattle for decades after he bought a farm west of St. Anthony that he named Mysha Farm, now owned by Marcia. He attended his last Iowa State Fair shortly before his death at age 93.

Being a dairy farmer has been a lifelong adventure for the Shaver family, where dedication and breeding prize cattle is legendary. Marcia Shaver-Floyd has broken barriers for women and forged the path for girls to pursue their dreams of raising and showing prize cattle. (Photos courtesy of Marcia Shaver-Floyd)

A silo observatory

Do you have a spare silo but don’t know what to do with it? Here’s an idea. This Johnson County silo now has a series of steps inside all the way to the top, offering a magnificent 360-degree view of the surrounding countryside. Below is a long-distance view taken by a drone. (Ritter photo)  

The silo idea was the brainchild of Scott Ritter who spent weekends and evenings constructing it, beginning in the summer of 2014 and finishing in late 2015. Enter below to start the climb to the top.

There is a series of steps every four vertical feet, a four-foot landing, then more steps, winding all the way to the top of this 60-foot concrete stave silo. That was a heavy-duty project, lugging pre-cut heavy boards up more and more steps as he headed to the top. Below is a view of the underside of two tiers of the steps, which gives you an idea of the scope of the project. 

This view shows the very tiny steps installed outside when the silo was built, date unknown. It would have been a treacherous climb. Today they are just decorative, but serve as a reminder of what climbing them would have been like in earlier times.

This ordinary silo has become an extraordinary silo–with a new life. What a great idea this was! Scott Ritter’s dream has become a reality.