facebook pinterest twitter google instagram rss

Do You Believe in Ghosts? ~ Barn Renovation Part 5

Do You Believe in Ghosts? In this installment of our barn restoration story, we describe some paranormal activity we’ve had out at our barn! Crazy but true story.

Do You Believe in Ghosts? ~ Barn Renovation Part 5

When I last left off with our barn renovation efforts, we had just pulled the barn from its old home a quarter mile away to its new foundation on our property. When I look back on these old pictures, I cannot for the life of me, figure out what the heck we were thinking. Does this really look like something that ought to be saved?

old barn sitting on stilts after being moved

At its old home, the barn was sunk down into the ground. Picture a garden basement, if you will. We wanted the barn to stick up out of the ground further. So we had to build it up quite a high compared to how it had been originally. The home movers jacked it up with their blocks and my husband built temporary supports. It looked like this:

old barn sitting on stilts after being moved

old barn sitting on stilts after being moved

Then, the moving company picked their support beams and jacks up, and the barn sat there. For a long time. It had taken all of our money to get the barn to our property and we had to wait a while before we had money again to start rebuilding. We joked a lot that when we had the time to work on the barn, we had no money. And when we had the money to work it, we had no time. It was a vicious cycle.

We moved the barn in August 2009. It sat like the next picture until the spring of 2010 – except without that half of the tin roof or the dormer. I can’t believe I can’t find a picture of the barn as it looked all winter. I know I must have one…

old barn sitting on stilts after being moved

Anyway, here’s where it gets a little freaky. When we bought the property we moved the barn to, we had no idea it was haunted. After we bought the 5 acres though, we heard from person after person that we had bought haunted land. Of course, we just laughed. Really? Ghosts? But our ghost even had a name: Charlie Wacker. And we heard stories of his antics and practical jokes. Vivid stories. It was a little weird. And so many people told us over and over: “that place is haunted.” I tried not to let it bother me.

But back to the barn – 2009/2010 was a super windy winter. The barn was obviously very poorly supported yet it stood. In the spring, our crew went back to work. They started with the tin roof. Getting a tight roof was the highest priority because without a roof, everything would continue to rot – but they only got half the roof on before they decided walls might be a wise decision for the structural integrity of the barn. My husband decided a dormer would be nice so he could look out of the barn and see our future house – it will be built on the east side of the barn. So he built a dormer. Then they went to work building the barn side walls. We debated about using tin or wood for the walls, but we eventually settled on wood.

barn in the process of being repaired

My husband, his parents, and our construction crew worked for a solid week building new walls. They finished up on a windy Friday afternoon. We had several little brush fires burning near the barn that we carefully put out before we left. I went home first and my husband stayed longer to make sure everything was tidied up and the fires were under control, and then he finally came home around 6:30-7:00 pm. We had a late supper and were sitting around talking when the phone rang. Our neighbors (the former owners of the barn) called to tell us that our barn was on fire and burning.

I can’t even begin to describe the sinking feeling in the bottom of my stomach. We had paid quite a lot of money to have the barn moved to our property. We had just worked on it non-stop for the last couple of weeks, and it finally looked like it might have a future. We had not insured it. And it was so windy. We knew, without a doubt, that the barn would be pile of rubble and ashes when we got there. And we felt so sick.

We loaded the kids in the van, drove to pick up one of our crew (his great-grandfather had originally built the barn), and headed out to assess the damage. When we got there, we were shocked to see a line of fire trucks – probably 10 trucks lined the dirt road out to our barn. Our town fire department was there and so was the next closet town’s department as well but only a couple trucks were actually at the barn. It was dark, cold, and windy. But the barn was still there. In fact, it suffered very little damage, all things considered. Only the south side burned and it had just started burning the support beams when it was extinguished.

barn after the fire

We were later shocked to find out that the fire department went first to the wrong property and ended up taking 45 minutes after the initial 911 call to get to our property. They heard our last name and headed immediately out to my husband’s parents’ farm. Not that many people knew we owned our land. And it took the fire department 45 minutes to figure out where the fire was and get there.

Of course, after people heard about the fire, many told us that the ghost, Charlie Wacker, was mad at us for moving the barn out there. On the contrary- we felt very lucky and credited Charlie for saving our barn!

Since then, we’ve made a ton of progress on the barn. You can see a pretty current picture at the top of my blog page. We sort of forgot about Charlie Wacker until very recently.

March has been barn month for us. My husband, his parents, and our crew again, have been hard at work finishing the mow so we can move our home building / remodeling company offices out there. One day I went to the barn to see the progress and Dan (my husband) said the guys were freaked out because the big overhead doors kept opening and closing – on their own – and a lot. I looked at Dan- I was surprised to hear this.  My husband is not one to buy into ghosts and such, but he said it was really freaky. He was there and saw it too and said there was no reason those doors should be randomly opening and closing like they had been. I was officially freaked out.

A couple days later I mentioned the ghost to a friend of mine while we were chatting on the phone. She told me in all seriousness that we needed to introduce ourselves to Charlie Wacker. I thought it was a bit strange, but you know what? I told my husband and he did! The next time I was at the barn, I also spoke up and introduced myself, too. I felt a little strange talking out loud to “no one” in the barn, but I said Hi to Charlie Wacker. I introduced myself and thanked him for saving our barn from the fire. I told him he was welcome to stay in our barn and keep it safe. And I asked him to please make sure the doors were shut when everyone was gone.

Since then do you know how many times those big overhead doors have opened and closed on their own? Not once.

So, I’m curious. Do you believe in ghosts? Because I never did before, but I’m starting to now.

If you’d like to read the rest of the story about moving our barn, it’s here.

Stringtown Amish Bulk Food Store in Kalona Iowa

Kalona Iowa has lots of fun Amish stores including Stringtown Grocery – one of my favorite bulk food stores around. Some of my favorite things to buy at Stringtown change depending on the seasons, but some are always the same. Wondering about Stringtown? Here’s what to know!

Stringtown Amish Bulk Food Store in Kalona Iowa

Stringtown in Kalona is not your typical grocery store. If you’ve never been to an Amish store before, you might not know what to expect. But if you have been to an Amish bulk food store, you probably have a pretty good idea of the type of food you can find at Stringtown. I love shopping at Stringtown for certain items, but tend to be more careful about other things. Here’s what you need to know about Stringtown and the stuff you’ll find there!

Location and Hours:

Stringtown’s address is 2266 540th SW. Just down the street from the Kalona Cheese Factory, Stringtown is outside Kalona and off Highway 1 on the way to Iowa City. It keeps pretty typical business hours, except that it’s closed on religious holiday and on Sundays. The hours are:

Monday, Wednesday, Thursday 8 am – 5 pm

Tuesday, 10 am –  6 pm

Friday, 9 am – 6 pm

Saturday 8 am – 4 pm

 Stringtown Amish Bulk Food Store in Kalona Iowa

I was most excited to find 50 lb of Hard Red Wheat Montana for $23. I stocked up on hard white wheat for a little less in Missouri, but I’ve really been wanting some hard red wheat. I like the hard white wheat for artisan bread, waffles, cakes, and pancakes, because it is more similar to unbleached flour, but I love the red wheat for my 100% Whole Wheat Bread.

tattler lids from Stringtown Amish Bulk Food Store in Kalona Iowa

I also found BPA-free canning lids! Amazon.com sells them, too, but Tattler Reusable Regular Canning Lids & Rubber Rings – 12/pkg were quite a bit cheaper at Stringtown.

I was so excited to find rye berries for super cheap – .43 / lb!!!
rye berries from stringtown

And finally, I got some more black beans and some RAW almonds. Did you know that nuts are pasteurized unless they specifically say raw? Yup. I just found this out recently. The “raw” nuts I’ve been buying from Sam’s Club are not raw at all. So I added a bag of raw almonds to my purchase. A couple dozen farm fresh eggs rounded out the purchase. I spent just over $60.

raw and black beans from stringtown grocery

Of course, I cross-referenced their prices with prices on my Grocery Price-Point List. Most of them are still good! 🙂 Do you shop at Amish bulk food stores? I highly recommend them. They have great products and super prices.

What’s your favorite store in Kalona Iowa? I’d love to hear!

Like this post? You might like this one too:

Another one of my favorite Amish stores in Kalona Iowa is Central Discount Grocery. Check out all they have to offer here!


If someone offers you a free barn…

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