A little road trip
By HANS MADSEN
DUNCOMBE – After sitting in the same spot since it was built in 1915, an old barn in need of a little restoration got to go out for a drive through the countryside Thursday morning.
From the original farm site north of 245th Street to a new home and foundation on 255th Street a bit west of Swallow Avenue, the barn made the entire trip between the two sites cross country over the fields.
Matt and Libby Mitchell are the proud new owners of the structure.
“We’ve talked about it for a long time,” he said. “We want it back to looking and working the way it did originally.”
She has plans beyond that.
“We’ll put some cows and pigs in it,” she said.
Matt Mitchell knows how much work he’s in for. He’s already restored two other barns. He frequently works with friends Myles Propst, of Fort Dodge, and Alex Stewart, of Callender.
While he knows the build date, he’s not sure yet who constructed it, although a clue was left behind.
“We’ll try to figure out who,” Matt Mitchell said. “There’s a board with names we’re going to look over when we set it down.”
There are probably a thousand stories that could be told from its hundred-plus years of life.
“If it could only talk,” he said.
His neighbors easily gave their blessing to the barn being driven over their fields.
“There’s too many good neighbors to list,” he said. “They’ve all been great.”
Restoring the barn will be a labor of love.
“It’s been on the horizon over 100 years,” he said. “To tear it down or burn it would have been a tragedy.”
Traces of its use remained inside.
“The whole loft was a quarter full,” he said. “We pitched it all with a pitchfork.”
The moving process was done by Vote House Moving, of Bradgate. It’s all a low, slow and careful process. The barn was braced, steel support beams put into place, the building was lifted up then driven carefully across the fields. Once at the new farm, it was set back down to be slid into place on a new foundation.
Mitchell had prepared the field path by driving a blade over it to smooth out the field ruts.
Much of his family gathered to watch the slow motion drive.
Among those was his dad, David Mitchell, who was enjoying watching the process and in complete approval of the project.
“Why do this?” he asked. “For the love of old things and to save some of Iowa.”
The Mitchells were also able to get help from the Iowa Barn Foundation. Matt Mitchell said it paid for about half the moving costs.
As the barn pulled up next to the new foundation, he still had getting it into place to watch, which he did a bit nervously.
“I haven’t slept in a year and a half,” he joked.
After the barn was driven into place, there was an important old farm tradition to follow. A big hearty meal of homemade food inside the wood heated shop building.
And yes, there was homemade pie.
Crews will be lowering the barn onto the foundation the next day.
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