It’s all the rage these days. Repurpose an old grain bin into a gazebo, outdoor kitchen, bar, family hangout, whatever you want to call it.
First, a bit of a history lesson. I know, I’m totally boring. I love knowing the history behind ALL the junk. It’s part of my personality…one of my top five strengths is Input, which means I collect information. And the information that is relevant to my junk is fascinating to me, so I love researching all the stuff relating to it.
‘Government bins’ dot the landscape of the entire country. They’re called government bins because the Commodity Credit Corporation, or CCC, a federal program, purchased and built them to offset the grain storage crisis that ensued when farmers’ crop production overran storage capacity available for crops. The program began in the 1930s and ended in the early 1970s, when farmers were allowed to purchase the bins from the CCC for on-farm storage.
You can read more about the history of the program at https://naldc.nal.usda.gov/download/CAT10848608/PDF. Seriously, you should check out the link for the simple fact that it’s all scanned copies of ancient documents. Like, the history is there in fo’real typewriter font. I actually reached out and touched my computer screen because I love pretty old paper.
Because there are more efficient means of grain storage available these days, most of the government bins in the landscape are used for storage of other things: tools, junk, and a few are used annually for fescue storage. And many of them stand perpetually empty.
My friend Leonard has a super-organized grain bin that is full of spare parts for his farm equipment. He is seriously the most organized man I have ever met, which is super admirable to me because my workshop is piles of tools on the bench with no obvious rightful place on the wall or in drawers, and my junk shed is a wreck even if I just cleaned and organized it because I’m like a tornado when I’m creating.
My grandpa had two empty bins on his place that he gave to me. They aren’t actual ‘government bins’; he bought them brand new, but they are the same size. About 5 years ago, Farmer and I undertook the task of bringing them home and turning them into useful structures again. We borrowed my bestie’s lowboy semi trailer and pulled it with our little Mack truck. We rigged up a long boom on the 4230 to have enough loader clearance to handle the bins, which are 16 feet in diameter.
First we cut the anchor wires on the bins, then Farmer rode the loader to the top and hooked them onto the boom before I loaded them onto the lowboy.
Is there really anything sexier than a man who will ride on top of a flimsy metal structure while his lady moves it from its mooring to a trailer? We weren’t even married yet. The only time I’ve found him more attractive is when our paths cross between the junk shed and the house, and he pecks me on the cheek and says “Have fun welding; I gotta go do laundry.”
We brought home two 1,000-bushel bins and the cap from a taller, skinnier bin that didn’t survive when I tried, unsuccessfully, to lay it down in one piece.
I needed to take the trailer back within a week, so we had to make some decisions on final resting places for the two complete bins. The tall skinny one was supposed to be a woodshed for our Hardy stove, but, well, I destroyed that bin, so we needed a different solution for a woodshed.
We ended up using the torch cut a hole in the back side of one of the bins, then we set it just a couple inches over the front edge of the Hardy stove, leaving the rest of the stove sticking out the back of the bin.
We anchored the new woodshed in place by digging three holes, two feet deep and evenly spaced around the bin. We threaded heavy wire through the anchor brackets on the side of the bin, then tied the wire to steel strap metal before putting the straps down in the holes and filling the holes with cement.
It works great! There’s plenty of room on both sides of the aisle for hedge wood, aka Osage orange, aka Bois d’Arc. It burns hot, and there’s plenty of it around the area to harvest. Hedge used to be just that: a hedge to keep livestock in one area. It’s great for using as line posts and corner posts for fence because even buried in the ground, it lasts for a hundred years or more without rotting. Farmers clearing land push out hedge trees all the time; Farmer is always willing to go in and clean up the trees so we have plenty of firewood. He cuts and splits wood almost every weekend in the winter; I’ll share the awesome log splitter he built soon.
We live on a ridge, where there isn’t a lot of level ground, and the western side of the bin sits on a railroad tie to level it up. We built it up with landscape pavers and then filled it with gravel and dirt. Then we filled the floor inside with gravel as well.
The other complete bin is a gazebo in the back yard. I set the bin near the swimming pool, and anchored it with the sides still intact.
My 20-year class reunion was a couple years ago, and a classmate came out and helped me finish the gazebo for our reunion, which was held here at the house. We dug holes and set recycled telephone poles inside the bin walls before setting them in concrete. Then we blew holes in the metal on the top ring, two holes for each post, before we used the electric impact to run lag screws in from the outside. This anchored the bin cap to the posts. Last, we used the torch to cut the walls away.
It turned out great! Unfortunately, we didn’t get to use it for the reunion. On Friday evening, we all had a catered dinner here in the front yard for adults. It was a lovely evening. Saturday was the day for all of us to spend visiting with family and friends at the All-School Reunion, held in town at the school and the city park. The ultimate plan was to spend Sunday afternoon and evening here with our families, swimming and hanging out with barbecue, sitting in the shade of the binzebo. Then it proceeded to not only rain buckets but storm to beat the band and we had to cancel. I WILL have a reunion here someday, so MJ, if you’re reading this, your work was not in vain.
The swimming pool is currently being converted into a greenhouse, so the landscape in the back yard is definitely changing, but the binzebo stays. We have a firepit next to the binzebo and a chiminea under the roof that the girls and I love to use to roast lil smokies and marshmallows. We will be making some changes to the binzebo this year, like hanging a swing between two of the posts, and putting a bar between two of them as well. The binzebo is basically the hub of our outdoor living space.
Here’s a peek at it. It’s at the top of my toilet tank lid path that goes from the veggie garden to the fire pit. We already use it regularly in fair weather, but have several projects to do before I’ll feel like it’s truly complete, and I’ll keep you in the loop as we go. Everything we have done with it so far has included using salvaged materials or materials acquired in trade, and in keeping with that, I’ve got plans for new tweaks to the project that include my junk!
We also have the cap off of that third bin that I destroyed…my original plan was for it to be a sort of tiki hut at the corner of our inground pool. Butttt….our pool has become another project altogether, that you’ll see in upcoming postings, so the cap sits in our back yard waiting for a new life. Stay tuned to see what we do with all of that!
If you’re interested in putting a bin in your back yard, get in touch with me at [email protected] I have access to them at reasonable prices and can help you with the logistics on moving one.
I have several pins on my Pinterest site that are all about moving grain bins; you can check them out on my DIY Tips & Tricks board at http://www.pinterest.com/junkyardfarmgirl64759.
The following affiliate links are to books that are staples in my library of DIY inspiration and know-how.
How to Build with Secondhand Stuff https://amzn.to/2OrHII5
Don’t Throw That Away! 1,001 Ways to Reuse Your Stuff https://amzn.to/36V0AW7