Letters: Silo filling brings back memories

We received many interesting letters in response to Sam Moore’s article on silo filling

Filling the Silo

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Dangerous work environment

I was interested in Sam Moore’s article on filling silos (Farm Collector, September 2011). I grew up on a dairy farm in the 1950s outside Middletown, in eastern New York. We filled the silo each spring with chopped rye; it made great silage and the cows loved it. However, the smell was real bad. In the fall we filled the silo with corn. We had a one-row Papac chopper with its own engine. The blower was powered by a belt driven by our John Deere Model A.

When I was 14, my job was to unload the wagons into the blower. I would be all by myself unloading the wagons while everyone else was chopping or hauling wagons back and forth. I think today of the danger of a teenager working over top of an auger and the fan blowing the silage into the silo. One slip and I would have been in the silo along with the silage. But in those days we did not think of that: There was too much work to be done to think about what might happen.

I am now retired and live in Gonzales, Texas. My grandson and I restore tractors and sell tractor parts. My grandson has won several blue ribbons for his restored tractors at San Antonio and Houston stock shows.

Robert Day, Gonzales, Texas 

Sounds like a tall tale

After reading Sam Moore’s column on silo filling in Farm Collector, I am reminded of an old story. It was told by my father many times so it must be true.

The story goes that when it was silo-filling time, a neighbor of my father’s would take a horse, mule or donkey and push it through one of the doors of a wooden silo (these doors must have been very large). In order to stay alive, the animal would have to walk on the  silage as it came in. When the animal finally reached the top of the silo, the neighbor would shoot the poor animal and cut it up and throw it out of the silo and the silo would be well packed. This neighbor would also, in order to clean his chimney in the fall of the year, grab a goose, take it up to the top of the chimney and drop it in and as it came down the chimney with its wings flapping, the chimney would be clean but the goose would be pretty dirty.

Those were the days.

Bill Sook, Willmar, Minn. 

Sam Moore replies: Thanks for sharing this story. While it may have been true, I have the feeling it was more of a “rural legend.” I’ve never seen a silo with doors large enough to get a horse through; sheep or goats, maybe, but not a horse. Anyway it’s a good story; thanks for sending it. 

Memories of hard work

Sam Moore’s column on filling the silo brought back memories of growing up in the 1950s and ’60s. We had two cement block silos built sometime in the 1930s. As a young child I was fascinated by silo filling. I wondered how the blower made the silage go up the pipes; it looked like magic to me. I also thought how fun it would be if I could use a silage fork and help pull the silage off the wagon. That fascination didn’t last long when I finally became old enough to help out. My arms and shoulders ached from the hard work. However, we did have help from the design of the silage wagons in addition to forking it off. The wagons had a movable front end on chains that helped push the silage along, but it was tricky to use. If you left it go too long, too much silage would fall in and would clog the blower and the pipes. Then there was big trouble. Dad would have to be called in from the field to climb up the silo and get the pipes unplugged. That clearly wasn’t his favorite job.

Other memories include getting a neighbor with a self-propelled chopper to come over and “open up” the fields. Getting the moisture content just right was important too. We sometimes ran water from a hose into the blower to increase moisture content. It was a good feeling when the job was done, knowing we had feed for the beef cows during the winter. I rarely had to climb the silo to throw the silage down, but I did have to carry it down the aisles and spread it in front of the cows. I enjoyed helping outside and really preferred that to housework. Plus, I didn’t have too much choice in a family of three girls.

Colleen Gengler, Iona, Minn. 

Remembering silo chore

I enjoyed Sam Moore’s column on silo filling in Farm Collector. I remember filling silo when I was a young boy. We had a corn binder pulled by a 1948 Allis- Chalmers C; my grandfather pulled the binder. I drove a 1952 Allis WD, while the corn was thrown on a flatbed hay wagon and then hauled to the ensilage cutter, which was belt-powered by a 1950 Allis WD. The ensilage cutter was on four steel wheels. It was a task every year to get the old steel pipe pulled to the top of the silo. Usually I was the one who crawled into the silo and forked the ensilage around.

The cutter would sometimes plug; what a job to unplug it. As it was old and decrepit, the burrs would work loose on the fan cover no matter how many lock washers or how much Loctite was applied. We filled silo that way until about 1965. The cutter was eventually sold to an Amish farmer near Smicksburg.

My grandfather got out of the milk business when Country Belle Dairy went broke. We quit filling silo then and went with beef cattle. The old barn is now gone but I look from my back patio everyday at the brick silo, which is still standing. Most of the farm is leased out now, though I still plant about 5 acres of sweet corn for market.

I still have the old WD’s in my Allis-Chalmers collection. It is so amazing the work those tractors did. Our collection includes a 1937 WC with spoke wheels, a 1939 B, 1949 G, 1949 WF, 1950 WD narrow front end, 1952 WD wide front, 1957 WD45, 1958 D17, and a 1960 D17 that I use on the farm. Plus my wife has a totally restored 1955 Ferguson 35.

Randy Patsy, East Brady, Pa.