Trees in Silos
April 30, 2012 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Because they protect young trees from wind, animal browsers, and weather, abandoned and open silos can sometimes make an excellent tree habitat. Silo Trees: NYT, flickr pool, Missouri Department of Conservation, TGAW, Ken Wolf
posted by Toekneesan (9 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I passed by the silo tree mentioned at the beginning of the Missouri Conservation article many times while driving to visit my girlfriend while in college. Looks like it's still going still growing strong!
posted by zsazsa at 8:32 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

These are great images. I try to imagine what it must be like for the tree, and it makes sense. The tree thinks "I'm a big tube reaching to the sky". For the tree, being inside a silo must be like being inside the womb; "big mommy tube is all around me."
posted by twoleftfeet at 8:50 PM on April 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

They look like triffids hiding out waiting for a passer by.
posted by stbalbach at 9:01 PM on April 30, 2012

For some reason, I was expecting trees growing in missile silos.

I love seeing nature take over man-made structures. There's something very peaceful and beautiful about it. Its a softening of our creations' hard edges.
posted by Joh at 9:26 PM on April 30, 2012

Tree silos are one of the loveliest visions of rural decay.

Silos are such odd structures, especially when they are no longer used for their original purpose. They are usually the tallest enclosed structures wherever they happen to be, and they are much taller than you think they are (something you realize with a special clarity when you climb to the top of one and look down.) They loom. They echo.

Silos with trees in them are extra special. There used to be one a few miles away from us - I never got to explore it, but I used to dream about it. I dreamed the silo was my art gallery, and there was a spiral staircase that ran along the walls from the top, which was replaced with a glass dome. The art was on the walls, and the tree grew in the center. Sometimes there was art in the tree as well.

I was unfamiliar with the Guggenheim museum at the time, and they don't have a tree, anyway.
posted by louche mustachio at 9:37 PM on April 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

The NYT and Missouri DoC bob mention hackberries, which are GREAT TREES. They are drought-tolerant, have an upright-vase growth habit similar to elms, and their berries are not poisonous and taste like black pepper. (The seed inside is like 90% of the size of the tiny fruit, so not a lot of fruit.) Also I've met several dogs who go berserk trying to eat ALL the berries off the ground.

I can see how they'd be extra pretty growing out of silos with their reaching-up branches.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:25 PM on April 30, 2012

There are a couple of these growing in silos on my dad's family's home place in Kansas. I don't think this style of silo has seen use anywhere I've been in (most of?) my lifetime, but they're still all over the place. A lot of them have outlasted the barns and main houses of the farms where they were built.

We used to get yelled at as kids for climbing up the silo. The aunts were all afraid that either we'd fall off and plummet to our doom or the whole structure would collapse around us.

One of my dad's cousins, a really great guy named Fred who spent a lot of time on that farm as a kid, succumbed to cancer a few years back. He had a good spell somewhere in there, and was out to the farm for Thanksgiving dinner. I have this really vivid memory of someone running in the house and yelling "Fred's on top of the silo!" and sure enough there he was at the top of the ladder, grinning like an idiot and ignoring the old ladies yelling at him to get down.
posted by brennen at 10:40 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

A couple of years ago I was up in Illinois, visiting family. One brother lives 80 miles west of Chicago, a small town which was a farm community when he bought some land there and was in my mind still a farm community. He still raises and shows and trades draft horses (Belgians, spectacular animals, big as your car and lots prettier), they're kept down in the pasture; he sold his small farm, built a house in town, but still has those horses and I expect he's going to die in that pasture, I hope that's where he goes anyways, I believe that's where he'd want to go.

So he and I do chores, a favorite thing for me when visiting there, get out and feed the horses and who knows whatever else might come up, and if I'm lucky we'll drive around, see this and see that, just spending time, having fun. On our drive last time I visited, I mentioned that the silos roofs hadn't been replaced, that I'd noticed it on one silo and then sortof thought I'd seen others and I had; my brother told me that they are not in use any longer so why would they maintain them. And why aren't they in use any longer? Well, take a look -- where's the cows? And he told me about it.

There aren't any cows out there, not any longer. All of those spectacular farms, that entire way of life, it's pretty much gone, the cows now in factory dairies -- you see a picture of a cow on your package of cheese, and that cow is in the pasture mooing at the daisies, don't you believe it. That's over. The cow that gave the milk that made that cheese probably hasn't seen any daisies and probably won't, either.

That conversation went on. Those barns, those spectacular barns, huge wooden structures -- they are now tax liabilities. You'd do best -- and more and more people are -- you'd do best to tear them down, and put up a metal building instead, one of those soul-less pieces of garbage; a heartache, to me. All the other outbuildings the same, an old farm would have a barn, a corn crib maybe, machine sheds, silo(s), maybe four of five nice old wooden buildings, now getting torn down. Call me sentimental but I just think that an exception could be made for those old sweeties, those wonderful buildings, the amazing craft that went into building them to be just dumped?

More conversation. Notice that the fences are all gone now -- why would you need a fence up if you don't have a herd of cows to contain? And that extra few feet at the edge of the field, where the fence-line was, that can now be planted in soy-beans, or corn-santo, or whatever it is that they're putting in this year. And that, those fence-lines being gone, that has just about totally wiped out all the pheasants that lived there, and the doves; they lived in that grass around the fence-lines, and were protected there. It's cut the deer population also. The whole hunting thing, which was huge when I was a kid, so much of that is different, if not gone. It used to be that you'd drive down those farm roads and pheasants flushed up and flying and google-google-googling as they flew in front of you; now, last time I was there, I didn't see one. THAT is a drag, those birds are beautiful, and very cool. Gone, now, mostly.

The farmers, who when they were dairy farmers were up every morning -- Christmas, Thanksgiving, if your wife was sick, if *you* were sick -- those farmers were up before the sun every morning and out with those cows. "Cold, is it cold this morning?" "Why, it's 26 degrees below zero!" "Put on those gloves, son, let's get a move on." Farmers didn't go on vacations to Disneyland, or anywhere else, the didn't go anywhere, not until their son was old enough to take it on while they were gone, and they didn't want to *be* gone. They hoped their son would take that farm next door, now that Old Johnsen was ailing so, and wasn't keeping up, and there was a good chance that the son *would* take it, and the chain went on.

Those people were amazing, outlandishly cool human beings -- they could grow corn and cows and kids and warts, too, they could build a barn or fix one, they could roof it, they could build a house, they could fix the plumbing in the house, and the electric, they could fix the car and the truck and the tractor and any other damn thing that needed fixing, they had the tools and they had the knowledge and they had the jam to take some goddamn thing apart, look at it, figure the goddamn thing out and put it back together except now it's working, where it wasn't before they took it apart.

They could hunt, fish, gut animals and skin them out and tan the hide if they wanted it, they had guns and knives and fishing tackle and warm clothes and good boots and it wasn't some affectation for them, it was just life, their life, their way of life. That double-barreled twelve gauge, they shot that wild damn coyote with it, the big son-of-a-bitching thing, and they shot that buck that's up there on the wall with it, too; he was tough meat but it was satisfying to eat. Alan showed me that bolt-action .22 magnum rifle, and he showed me the bullets it shot, and I'd shot a .22 before and I'd seen .22 bullets before -- .22 shorts, .22 longs, .22 long-rifles -- but those .22 magnum bullets seemed long as pencils and they were super-cool and I wanted a .22 magnum *so* *bad* and I pretty much still do, though they make no sense at all anymore, the ammo so expensive and .22 long-rifle almost every bit as fast due to changes in gunpowder technology. Still, I want one, and if you saw those bullets you would, too, though you'd break the bank to shoot it much, compared to a vanilla .22 today.

Farm kids then, they drove before they could see over the steering wheel -- they stood, while sortof holding the wheel, they could shift, everything -- and I know this to be true because I spent a week on a farm, a couple of times, when I was a kid, and Alan, the kid my age, was driving everything that they had out there, and I got to ride with him, it was completely matter-of-fact. Did you know that they'd send the kid to round up the cows for milking, in either the pick-up or that one old car, and he'd do it without a problem? He'd honk the horn at them to get them moving but they pretty much knew the drill anyways.

And Alan knew more about sex then that I do today, probably, much less back before I'd even ever jerked off, as Alan had seen cows doing their thing and chickens and roosters and horses and whatever else; those kids just were more aware of so many things, many more things that I was at that time. Those weeks on that farm were important, fifty years in the past almost and I can still bring it back without too much trouble. We'd climb around in the barn, Alan and I, I remember as yesterday shooting his Daisy bb gun from up in the hay mow and as the bb passed into the sunlight you could track it, from where we sat in the shade.

My brother and I drove past one farm, the barns still standing, two of them, huge white beauties. My brother told me that the man who owned that farm had to have been a big man, that when he went into town on Saturday to buy nails and put some money in the bank he would be looked at with eyes of respect, because doing what he was doing was huge, twice the work of many men. You can bet he walked tall, even if his leg hurt from where that one mare had kicked him last week, you can bet he walked tall and would look you in the eye. That man probably thirty years in the grave, those barns empty, now, in fact in the two years since I saw them they might have been torn down.

Adore the silos while we've got 'em and more especially the barns and outbuildings, try to get close to some of them or in them, just be in them and around them; they feel good, you'll feel good. If you can get into an abandoned barn or outbuilding, that is just so great, try to figure out what this old tool was for, see the old hammer, oil-stained deeply into the wooden handle, an old pair of gloves stuck on a hook, just inside the door. I was in a lot of them when I was a kid, not enough of them but enough to know that I like them and nosing around in them and to recommend it to you, too.
posted by dancestoblue at 12:53 AM on May 1, 2012 [6 favorites]

I did a blog post on Flickr about trees in silos today. Thanks again for the inspiration, Metafilter.
posted by pkingdesign at 1:23 PM on May 30, 2012

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