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How To Make Storing Grain In A Quonset Easier

It’s a beautiful harvest day. The truck load of No. 1 wheat is being augered into our row of shiny new hopper bottom bins…Wake up! You’re dreaming again! Oh, yes, it was only a dream. Now back to reality and the real grain storage on Ancient Acres.

When I started farming back in 1975, my only grain storage was a 40 x 80 foot wooden quonset built in 1957 by George Burgess, my uncle. I’m not terribly forward-thinking, so I’ve been using this ever since — much the dismay of our three sons.

Storing grain in the quonset used to involve a lot of work if I had different grades and types of grain. I would build movable walls out of OSB, plywood, and whatever sticks and boards I could find. Then, if the crop was good, the wall would start to lean over, and we would need more sticks and boards to prop them up. Once or twice we had a collapse but no casualties were reported. “The Leaning Walls of Tullis” (named after the extinct nearby town) were a much unloved tradition on our farm.

Then came the time to haul grain. It seemed like 80 per cent of the grain would have to be shovelled into the auger. This wasn’t too bad when the trucks only held 200 bushels. However, with the advent of tridems and B-trains this was definitely getting tiresome. When we finally got a hydraulic bin sweep there was much rejoicing. In the last two or three years, we’ve discovered that grain vacs have been invented and this is great for cleaning the quonset.

It’s been a lot of work, but it’s cheap grain storage. For the last 35 years we’ve stored grain in it and it hasn’t cost a lot for maintenance. We can put 10,000 bushels in there if we squeeze it in. If the moisture is up around 17 per cent, it will still keep over winter without spoiling.

True, the roof has always leaked. This quonset was built with a ship-lap roof deck and cedar shingles. There’s a bit of a peak added to the top, but still it’s not steep enough to keep a cedar roof from leaking. Also the shingles were not No. 1s, but No. 3s with lots of knot holes in them. It likely leaked almost from the time it was built. I’ve thought of re-roofing but the cost of covering 4,000-plus square feet with something that doesn’t leak has always scared me. I just keep patching up the old cedar and we shovel out a bit of funny smelling grain every year. We probably lose on average about 10 or 20 bushels a year. That’s about $100 worth of grain and I’ve always rationalized that at this price it’s not worth putting on a roof.

Over the years we’ve made a few additions that have helped make it more usable. See Figure 1.

1. Centre Wall:

For the most part, Ben has been the idea guy for improving the quonset. A few years ago he suggested a centre wall, so we built one. It starts at the far end and goes down the centre for 40 feet. It’s eight feet tall and secured by cables top and bottom. It’s also lag bolted to the floor. When Uncle George built this he was thoughtful enough to put steel tie down brackets in the concrete every two feet along each side. We use these to attach cables from the outside edge of the floor to the top of the wall. The nice thing about cables is that we have pins attaching them to the floor so that they can be quickly unhooked when you’re hauling grain. We also have bottom cables to keep the bottom of the wall from moving. These we leave in place at all times.

We often add makeshift extensions to the wall to make it longer if needed. ( “The Leaning Walls of Tullis” continue). We didn’t make the permanent wall any longer than 40 feet because then it would

Figure 1

be too hard to back a truck into the quonset. We can fill the centre wall up to its full eight-foot height without any danger. The wall is made of two sets of 2″x4″ studs with sheets of OSB in the middle. The top plate is triple (three layers of two-inch lumber) for added strength.

2. Corner bins

Another helpful idea was to put bins in the front corners on either side of the doors. This area is not much use for grain storage without some walls to keep the grain from running out the front door. I put up these bins years ago and they hold about 600 bushels each. They are 14 feet long, six feet wide at the bottom, and the walls are six feet high. There’s one cable in the middle to keep the thing from collapsing when it’s full. We seem to use these every year but they are not easy to clean out. Lots of shovel work. However there’s a rumour that a grain vac is coming to live at our farm, so this will make them much more back-friendly. designed these, and by hinging the tops and side panels made it easy to clean up around them. We may add one on each side in the middle but we’re not sure yet.

4. Roof Hatches

The final things that made life easy are roof hatches for loading grain. In the old days, I’d just back the two-ton into the quonset and unload grain until the axle of the auger was covered. Then you’d drag it out a few more feet and do it again. I can’t understand why our sons couldn’t see the fun in this.

With roof hatches, however, you can just put the auger in the roof and unload three or four thousand bushels without moving the auger. Isn’t new technology amazing? We put one hatch on each side but we may put a couple more on the roof in the future.

There you have it, the secret of storing grain in a quonset. If you have a quonset some of these ideas might make it a bit more useful for you. Until the bin fairy comes along to grant our wish for those new hopper bins, we’ll still likely be using our quonset.

Enjoy the summer and good luck with your harvest.

RonSettlerfarmswithhiswifeSheilaand theirsonsBenandDan.Theyalsooperated arepairandsalvagebusinessatLuckyLake, Sask.YoucancontactRonat306-858-2681or emailat [email protected]


For the last 35 years we’ve stored grain in it and it hasn’t cost a lot for maintenance

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