SUTHERLAND, Iowa | Two grain bins bask in the sun, catching rays bouncing off Dog Creek Lake three miles southeast of Sutherland in rural O'Brien County.
Peek inside and you see not bushels of corn or soybeans, but, rather, couches, Smart TVs, refrigerators, bathrooms and double-beds.
Welcome to the Grain Bin Cabins, the newest features at Dog Creek Park, a 160-acre getaway operated by the O'Brien County Conservation Board.
The cabins, which can each house up to 14 guests, are rented for $150 per night, at a 2-night minimum.
Terry Boltjes, a director serving the O'Brien County Conservation Board the past 28 years, expects a 12-year payback on these $140,000 bins.
Beyond the direct payback, however, there are other things to consider, items difficult to gauge on a profit-and-loss statement. For example, the first guests to stay in the Grain Bin Cabins last month hailed from Texas. A visitor experiencing life at Dog Creek Park and greater O'Brien County might be inclined to return at some point, to invest in the quality of life found around here.
"We know it's good for our area restaurants and gas stations as people who come here are spending money," said Boltjes.
The origin of these twin bins (their layout is identical, only the interior colors change) can be traced to Bill's Cabin, a fixture some 12 yards south of the No. 8 green at the Primghar Golf & Country Club in Primghar, Iowa.
Bill's Cabin, also known at the Grain Bin Hotel, is the brainchild of brothers Kurt and Jim Edwards, who transformed an old grain bin into a two-level suite for those wishing to stay near the golf course. The bin, which opened just over a decade ago, sleeps four to six people.
"My sister, Lanelle Avery, of Colorado, stayed at Bill's Cabin a few years ago," said Boltjes, a Sutherland resident who resided in Primghar for 15 years and got to know the Jim and Curt Edwards well. "She and all of her friends were so impressed with it."
Boltjes toyed with the idea of doing something at Dog Creek Park, but on a bigger scale. The O'Brien County Conservation Board worked with CS Asgrow of nearby Calumet, Iowa, which built the bins that measure 1,200 square feet of living space on two levels. One is named Bean Bin Cabin, the other is Corn Bin Cabin. Both are handicap accessible.
"We directed them toward the south to get solar gain," said Boltjes.
Radiant floor heat through concrete stain help the units heat and cool efficiently. The walls have Spray Foam insulation and there's 20 inches of insulation at the top.
"We did do a lot of the work in-house," said Boltjes as he motioned toward two matching grain bin shelters and fire pits set within sidewalks leading to the cabins.
Users will soon learn they have more than 1,000 acres of public hunting ground near the county park, a selling point come fall when pheasant and deer seasons commence. One of the wall decorations, after all, is an 8-point buck Boltjes harvested near Sutherland seven years ago.
"Turkeys come within 30 yards of the deck," said Boltjes as he walks around a massive deck that looks out into a lake that measures 18 feet at its maximum depth. The lake features crappie, large-mouth bass, catfish and bluegills.
The cabins help round out a county park that boasts of nearly 30 campsites, a playground area, basketball court and more.
"It's a very peaceful setting out here," said Boltjes. "The people who have stayed here were in awe.
"For a bunch of park rangers, we think they turned out nicely."