April 29, 2008
Randolph Co. -- It looks quite inviting to see people rocking in rocking chairs and hearing birds chatter when sitting on a front porch.
A big metal re-cycling project makes it possible for Jack Thompson's family and friends to experience the quieter side of life anytime they wish.
Pull up a rocking chair, breathe the clean, country air and hear about a re-cycling project that makes almost any environmentalist green with envy.
"I wanted something unique," says Jack while sitting in a rocking chair with a gentle breeze blowing and the subtle sound of water flowing in a near-by fountain made of rocks sitting in a black kettle.
Jack felt it made sense to use the sides and top of an old grain storage bin 23 feet wide and 28 feet tall already on the property that hadn't been used in 20 years. It could hold 8,500 bushels of corn and when mixed with hay could feed 50 cows for a year.
It one sense, the grain bin was more of a food pantry for livestock.
As a kid, Jack harvested corn and stored it in the bin, but times change and the bin wasn't needed anymore. Rats and weeds took over. They had the run of the bin for decades until Jack started developing his plans.
His project needed sides and a roof anyway, regardless of what he built.
"It was already here so why not use it," says Jack.
While he had a clear idea of what he wanted, he didn't have a clear view of the centerpiece of what was to become his second home, about a 30-minute drive from Albany.
Weeds blocked the view and were so big that he used a bulldozer to push them away to start construction. They had two decades to settle in.
"It (the bin) was full of rats and rust, corn debris, but we cleaned it out. We pressure washed everything," says Jack.
He had an idea, but not everyone thought it was a good one.
"I had a lot of doubters," says Jack.
Family members questioned his conversion plan, even his mother.
"I hated to see him put his money in and it not turn out like he thought it would," says Ann Thompson.
What made them even more nervous was that Jack had no written plans. He knew what he wanted and thanks to his best friend, Tony Jenkins, they took the bin and made it livable for humans, literally.
"A lot of challenge and a lot of fun to build," says Jack.
Amazingly, it took a few months to make the conversion with Jack and Tony working long and hard on weekends.
"Everything is built in a circle. You have to think a lot about angles and turns," says Jack.
A visitor rarely notices the kitchen and living room built in a circle. A TV hangs on the wall and the kitchen cabinets look ordinary, but someone might notice a gentle curve at their top.
Several people told Jack he could never insulate the bin enough for heating and cooling, but he did.
A sleeping area is upstairs near Jack's pride a joy-the ceiling.
Jack and Tony visually re-created the top of the grain bin using varnished wood instead of metal. The work of art illustrates their pride in creativity and workmanship hidden in other parts of the home.
Jack had a front porch, a kitchen, a living room and a sleeping area upstairs, but he needed more space to entertain. So, they built a small addition that includes the master bedroom, spacious laundry and bathrooms and attached it to the grain bin. However, inside, it feels like one big, happy entertainment center.
"It turned out well, I think," says Jack who says he has more friends now than before he started the project, maybe more people green with recycling envy.