Iowa Farm Structures

Yup, I was in Iowa this weekend. I hadn’t been down there to see my dad since Christmas on account of this Covid-19 thing. He’s 85 years old, lives all alone, and, like many Americans, hasn’t been going anywhere or visiting anybody. And that’s particularly hard on him because he’s a way more social person than I ever was. When I talked to him on the phone last week he admitted he was feeling very lonely.

Call it Corona-fatigue or Covid-complacency or just plain carelessness, but I made a trip down there this weekend. My dad and I had a fun visit, I helped him with some yard work, we cooked together, and I took him grocery shopping.

Ah yes, the grocery store . . . to my immense surprise, fewer than half of the shoppers were wearing face coverings. I knew the governor was a Trump-loving, socialism-hating, liberty-over-public-health, let the people make their own decisions on masks no matter who it effects type, so of course there would be no mask mandates. But I really believed the CITIZENS of the state where I spent my formative years would use good judgement. I guess I give them too much credit. No wonder my dad doesn’t go anywhere.

I brought my bike to Iowa, of course, and I managed to work in a couple of very nice rides. May I show you a few pictures?

Brick farm house

The white roof of some kind of storage shelter and, in the distance, one of Oelwein, Iowa’s impressive skyscrapers.

In my photos, I decided to focus on the BUILDINGS of rural Iowa. There were some really nice farm landscapes, but I decided not to feature them because they look very much like southern Minnesota’s farm landscapes. I’ve shown those plenty of times.

Here are some buildings that I thought were picture-worthy at the time, but now I can’t figure out WHY I thought that.

It could be argued that this isn’t really a building, but if it was, it could be called “The Fairbank, IA Social Center.”

As I rode along, I came up with another new game. It’s very similar to the last game I invented, which I called Scary? Or Whimsical? This one is titled, Prosperous Or Not Prosperous. The rules are as follows: Ride your bike through Iowa farm country and rate the farms based on the appearance of the buildings you see. It’s fun! Let’s play!


The presence of horses make this a tougher call than the last one, but based on the buildings, I have to go with NOT PROSPEROUS.

Junk in the yard. Run down barn and silo in the overgrown brush. Peeling paint on the farmhouse. NOT PROSPEROUS.

Too easy. PROSPEROUS. (And nice new prosperous blacktop as well.)

PROSPEROUS, fer sher.


There is an old saying that I learned back in grade school. It goes something like this: “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover.”

In the same way, you can’t judge the prosperity of a farm by a few buildings. I think I can safely say that every one of the farms in this area fall somewhere between fairly prosperous and extremely prosperous. For example, after I took that picture immediately above I noticed that there was a beautiful home and some big out-buildings further down a long driveway.

In other cases, I saw prosperous-looking buildings mixed in with the run-down, weather-beaten buildings. I assume those buildings still serve some purpose because the farmers never tear them down.

Therefore, this game was a big trick. They were ALL PROSPEROUS.

I had to show one landscape picture. It features The Reckless Mr. Bing Bong at the end of a fjord. (Can I call this 100′ peninsula with 2-foot high cliffs a fjord?) In addition to the beautiful fjord, there are the colorful trees to right and their reflection in scenic Lake Oelwein. It looks a lot like Norway.

I have a few concluding words. First, Iowa is beautiful. I never appreciated that when I lived there at ages 12 to 18. I never appreciated it very much when going back to visit my parents for the next 40-something years either. Maybe it’s age, maybe it’s cycling that has spurred a new appreciation for farm land. I don’t know.

Hi. My name is Greg and I ride my bike a lot. That is to say, I ride my bike almost every day. I go on long rides and short rides. Sunny rides, cloudy rides, and rainy rides. I like commuting, errand-running, day-tripping, overnighting, and touring on my bike. I ride on city streets, highways, gravel, single track, and snow with equal enthusiasm. Sometimes I ride fast and sometimes I ride slow. I try to keep my feet on the pedals at stop lights and I do not dismount when I hop up on a curb. I have a roadie bike, a mountain bike and a touring bike. I try to accept any challenge a bike ride can throw at me without complaint. But I don't like bugs.

13 response to "Iowa Farm Structures"

  1. By: Bill Stone Posted: October 11, 2020

    Maybe this is an entirely different part of Iowa — not a tiny state — but did any of these prosperous or non-prosperous farms lose crops or buildings to the mega-derecho?

    • By: gregblood Posted: October 11, 2020

      No, the derecho rolled through about 50 miles south of this area. Many crops, barns, silos, trees and homes were flattened down there. Until that happened, I had never even heard of a derecho. It’s quite a thing.

        • By: gregblood Posted: October 12, 2020

          I remember reading your account of the storm a few years ago, but I didn’t remember you used the term derecho. So I guess I HAVE heard of it before. Anyway, now that I am more familiar with what a derecho is, your story was even more harrowing the second time around.

          The derecho in Iowa a couple months ago was a doozy. I didn’t hear that it had huge hail or anything, but apparently the city of Cedar Rapids had sustained 90-100 m.p.h. winds for a full hour. I have a nephew who lives down there and his wife said the sounds of the wind, trees falling on roofs, power lines breaking, and windows smashing was the scariest thing she ever experienced . . . and she was in a HOUSE.

          • By: The Navigator Posted: October 13, 2020

            Yes, I think derechos are defined by sustained high winds over a large area. But the severe storms within it can have hail and tornados. The NOAA storm report for that derecho has more wind reports than hail reports. I don’t remember the sound of the wind (I was in a protected little valley) being more deafening than the sound of the thunder or the heavy rain on the tent – it was ALL just very noisy and very scary. Given time again, I would have told the park ranger to grab my bike, I would have grabbed my four packed panniers and just left the tent and spent the night in the tornado shelter. Hindsight is 20/20 and smart phones give you access to a lot more info to make decisions now. I got so lucky that night not to be a bit further south.

  2. By: Rich-Illinois Posted: October 11, 2020

    Why Gregory!? Haven’t you heard? Covid 19 is no big deal, in fact its disappearing! (Rolls Eyes)
    That last photo of your Halloween post is indeed very frightening.

    Many no longer used farm buildings are present here too. Im guessing there is a lot of nostalgia connected to them which might explain why they still stand.

    Great photos, great of you to visit your father.

    • By: gregblood Posted: October 12, 2020

      Yes, I have been informed that Covid-19 is no big deal and that it’s disappearing. (More eye-rolling.) You know that nephew I mentioned in my reply above to Emily? The one who lives in Cedar Rapids and lived through a derecho? He’s a huge Trump supporter and I’m guessing he believed in the conspiracy theories about Covid. Well, he’s in the national guard and when they tested him, guess what? He tested positive. He’s young, he’s healthy, he probably only suffered mild symptoms, so he’ll probably continue to believe what he believes. (I should add that the nephew is from The Feeshko’s side of the family which has several devout Republicans.)

  3. By: Rocky Posted: October 12, 2020

    Glad you got a chance to visit with your dad. Great photos!

    • By: gregblood Posted: October 12, 2020

      Thank you, Rocky. I like my own photos — that’s why I take them in the first place — but it’s always nice to hear that an acclaimed video maker like you appreciates them too.

  4. By: The Navigator Posted: October 12, 2020

    I just visited my old neighbour (81 and whom I think of as my Aussie father as he and his wife sort of adopted me when I moved in and lived next to him for 6 months). Like your dad, he is very lonely and I hadn’t seen him since March. It would have been so sad to leave your dad at the end of the visit!
    I love all yellows and browns and end of season colours in your photos. And you have highlighted one good thing about the Midwest when you are on a bike… if you need a toilet or water, etc, just look for a water tower and head that direction to find a town!

    • By: gregblood Posted: October 12, 2020

      No doubt, on rural highways all the way from Ohio to western Montana, those water towers are like a beacon of hope and hospitality. The only thing that pisses me off about them is that they often SEEM to be only a mile away, but it takes eight miles of pedaling to get there.

  5. By: BobinVT Posted: October 12, 2020

    Great that you got to visit your Dad, both for him and you. I know what you mean about going to a place that’s treating the virus differently. We have a reservation for this winter to spend a couple months down in Georgia. But, given the uncertainty if the next couple of months, we’re not very confident it could happen. I’m really not sure I can handle being in an area that doesn’t take covid seriously, and from what I’ve read, Georgia would be a lot like what you experienced in Iowa.

    • By: gregblood Posted: October 12, 2020

      I don’t know where you’re going in Georgia, but I’m guessing the further you get from Atlanta the more you will encounter anti-maskers. I’ll bet there are some towns where almost nobody wears them. In a way, I get it. There are many rural areas that haven’t been effected at all. When you don’t know anybody who has gotten the virus, I suppose it would be easy to think your area is safe. But really, that’s kind of like thinking, “nobody in my town has ever been killed by a tornado, so I’m not going to hide in the basement just because some civil defense sirens are blasting.”

      I’d say go ahead and enjoy your winter vacation. Wear your face coverings in all public places. I have a lot of confidence in them, just as surgeons do.

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