If someone offers you a free barn…


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Is there such a thing as a free barn? Here’s the story of our “free” barn – how we moved it, restored it, and lived in it for over two years. Now it’s the home to our construction company Oak Tree Homes.

free iowa barn

If someone offers you a free barn…

Run! Run far! Run fast! As we’ve learned over the last two years, there is no such thing as a free barn. Unless you have deep pockets and/or a strong desire to preserve American heritage, be very skeptical of free barns.

Several years ago my husband and I bought the perfect 5 acre lot of land to build our forever home on. After following the military around for ten years and moving every year and half on average, we were so excited by the prospect to have a “forever” home.

The land is gorgeous. It has trees. It’s up on a little hill. It has pasture. It’s removed from almost everyone else. We love it except for one thing. It was missing a barn – and any tie to American farm heritage. There were no out buildings on it. And that was a big deal to us.

As fate would have it, our closest neighbors (a quarter mile away) had a round topped barn in bad shape that they were weeks from burning to the ground.

free barn

It was an old dairy barn, built in two stages. The main part was built in 1940s from a kit purchased in Wisconsin. It was built around an older barn dating from the late 1800s. You can see that there were two portions of the barn and that one, the side wing, had collapsed. While the front potion of the barn was still standing, it was in extremely rough condition. The roof was missing a lot of shingles and some siding. There were holes in the floor. Wild animals had taken up residence there.

Still, we fell in love with this barn.

free iowa barn

Where else do you see workmanship and rafters like that? To build a new barn to look old would be outrageously, and prohibitively, expensive.

So when the barn owners said we could have it, at no cost, we were thrilled!! Little did we realized what exactly we were getting ourselves in to.

Next week, I’ll share the story of moving the barn from its old home, to its new home. It was so amazing to watch this huge old barn drive off into the Iowa sunset!

If you’d like to see how the barn looks today, click over to my Facebook page for the most current picture. While you’re there, go ahead and “like” it so you don’t miss any of the story! You’ll find the rest of the story here.

Read the rest of the story here.

Getting the barn ready to move

Moving the barn

Pulling the barn to the new foundation

Fire! and haunted barns

I hope you enjoy this story! We love our free barn. <3

About Michelle Marine

Michelle Marine is the author of How to Raise Chickens for Meat, a long-time green-living enthusiast, and rural Iowa mom of four. She empowers families to grow and eat seasonal, local foods; to reduce their ecological footprint; and to come together through impactful travel.

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  1. So “never look a gift horse in the mouth” doesn’t always work. It looks great on your Facebook pictures though!

  2. In the unlikely event that I’m ever offered a free barn, I am well prepared to say “No, thank you.” 🙂


  4. It seems like free stuff usually has a price attached. 🙂 Saw pics on your facebook page of what it looks like now…very cool. If I lived in Iowa, I think I would want a restored barn on my lot too.

  5. I love old barns – they make me think of my childhood in Indiana and Americana and all that stuff. I want a barn someday. But I now know to avoid free ones. 🙂

  6. So after all this time would you still run away from a free barn? Even if the barn is in great shape, eg. very little rot. We’ve been offered the “free” barn.


    1. That’s the million dollar question, Paul. No, we don’t regret. It’s such an awesome barn and it really deserved another chance at a new life. We’ve been living in our barn for the last two years while we’ve been building our Passive House and we’re finally about done. If you value saving neat old structures and like a good story, I say go for. Just beware – there’s no such thing as a free barn! 🙂