If you’re in the habit of poking around old farm ruins, you may come across what look like stone mushrooms, comprising of a pillar and flat round top. If you’re lucky you may come across a set of them with lintels laid between them like the photo here. For years I wondered what these were and in truth, you’ll more likely see them now arranged out of context as quaint garden features.
Of course they once fulfilled a useful function. ‘Corn’ which can be any type of cereal: barley, rye, wheat, oats was reaped with a hook and made into stooks for drying & storage. When needed for animal feed a handful would be taken and tossed. When needed for human consumption the corn would be threshed by hand to separate the grains and winnowed to get rid of the chaff.
Storage was the problem: rats and mice love a good stook of corn. These stone mushrooms were used as corn stands on which to stack the corn, to raise the corn off the ground – both to facilitate drying but also the mushroom overhangs were designed to defeat the rat who is a mighty climber.
Surviving corn stands are usually in stone but I have come across this iron set in a private collection. If you’d like more information on their use & different styles, then Michael Conry is your man as he has written various books relating to curious matters like this including ‘Corn Stacks on Stilts’: http://www.conry-michael-books.com/books.html