Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Bonneyville Mill

Back in the old days.......and I mean before the age of the automobile, tractors and the like, if you were a farmer and needed to get any of your grain processed, you had to somehow "tote" it to a grist mill somewhere.  Some of the old timers would do exactly that.  They would hitch up a team of horses to their wooden wagon and haul the grain to get it ground into flour or livestock feed. In later days farmers would bring their grains to the mill with the wagons hitched to their newly found tractors.

I am very fortunate to live near one of these old mills that is still in operation today as an attraction and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  This mill is called Bonneyville Mill and is located in Elkhart County, Indiana just east of the little town of Bristol.  The mill is right in the heart of the 223 acre Bonneyville Mill County Park and is open from May through October every year.

Each fall, usually in September, the Bonneyville Mill County Park hosts an event called "Bonneyville Heritage Day" where there are a lot of things going on to bring attention to Elkhart County's rich agricultural heritage. Antique tractor and machinery exhibits abound as well as sawmill demonstrations and, of course, the grinding of corn, wheat, rye and buckwheat which can purchased. You can learn the history behind this old mill here. [http://www.elkhartcountyparks.org/properties_locations/bonneyville_mill.htm]
Very interesting history indeed.

Here are a couple of photos that I took of this old mill in 2011.  I think it's a beautiful structure!

Anytime you are in this part of the country and you're inclined to find your mind wandering back to the "good ol' days", it would be well worth your time to look up this gorgeous site.

Friday, January 15, 2016

What The Heck Do You Do With Your Restored Old Iron?

Answer is....I don't know there is a perfect, absolute answer to this question.  The main reason is that there are too many people that collects an old piece of iron (or two or three) or restores them and they may all have different ideas.  Display 'em, use them on their hobby farms, invest in them, whatever!  But one thing is for sure, there are a lot of these people who attend antique tractor shows with their machines solely for the purpose of the parade.  You get to drive 'em, right?

Aaaah.....the parade!  Back in the early fall of 2014, I had visited the 32nd annual Antique Engine and Tractor Show held by The Michigan Flywheelers on the grounds of their Museum.  Their Antique Engine and Tractor Show is one of the state of Michigan's largest shows of its kind.  And of course, when it came time for the parade that day, I decided to get me a good spot about the middle of the parade route, and prepared my trusty Canon EOS digital camera.

There were hundreds of old tractors in this show and there were at least 50 of them entered in the parade.  There were lots of the more common tractors built by International Harvester, John Deere, Case, Allis Chalmers, Minneapolis Moline, etc. but also some of the more rare manufacturers, too.  One of these "rare" tractors was the "Love" tractor like the 1939 model shown here during the parade that day.  The Love tractor company was located in Benton Harbor, Michigan in the early days and later relocated to Eau Claire. Michigan.

The company was founded by Jabez Love of Benton Harbor, Michigan soon after he got out of college.  Living around the "fruit belt" of Southwest lower Michigan, he saw the need for the fruit farmers in the area to get their produce to market faster.  He decided to build a vehicle from car and truck parts that would not only be sturdy, but would have a better top speed than the tractors that were being built in that time and day.  

Jabaz build row crop tractors in the early years beginning in 1933.  They were not popular in the area for fruit farmers though and the production didn't last very long before Jabaz was only producing the wide front orchard type tractors.  These were made between the years 1933 and 1936 and could reach 40 mph.  Really?  That was amazing for this time period.  Well, in this part of the country, a lot of the land was used to produce apples, peaches, grapes and other fruits and his wide front orchard tractor was the best application for operation in orchards and vineyards.  

These tractors were made all the way through 1937 when Jabaz began to redesign his orchard tractors with a new style hood that became famous for its look.... like the one shown in these photos.  These newly designed tractors could still work in fields plowing, discing, etc but could also reach 60 mph on the road.  This road speed was a step above most other tractors being built at the time.  The Model 30 had a 218 Cubic Inch Chrysler Industrial six cylinder engine (like the one shown in this post) and proved to be a real work horse.
As I said before, there were a lot of other tractors in the parade that day, but this one really caught my eye and I thought that I'd kind of let some other folks know a little bit of history about these old beasts.  Some of you viewers may already know the history of the these tractors and the Love company, but for those of you who don't.......Enjoy!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The History of Farming Must Guide Our Future

A farmer’s love for the earth and its seasons permeates his whole outlook. We may love the heavy farm equipment and modern tractors that make the work go faster – we need to stop and think (and learn) if we are doing what is best for the healthy regeneration of the planet. Examining some of the slower farming methods of the past can give us insights into how to best move forward into our collective future. The time to revert to some of these methods, for the sake of our health, and the health of the soils and the natural environment, is upon us.

Wangari Maathai, Nobel Laureate and soil activist, explains: “We take the soil for granted because it’s there; it’s everywhere, except when all of it is taken by the wind or by the running water. And then you are left with bare rock, and you realize you can’t do much with bare rock.”
In the pre-industrial age farming was a much different profession, in fact, most families who had some land would grow the majority of their own food – working together to plant, weed, tend, grow, harvest, prepare, and store food they had grown themselves from season to season. Animal-powered plows and hand sowing was common.
Seed saving was common as well because it also made the most sense: save the best seeds from your most prolific and hearty growers from year to year and you have healthier, more disease resistant, larger, tastier, crops every planting season. These became what we now call heirloom varieties – varieties that were selectively bred for favorable characteristics over time by the farmers who knew and observed their yields. If they picked the early or late germinators, they could even change the timing of their cops to avoid other seasonal issues, like frost, heavy rain, or recurring pests.

Unfortunately, we now also have GMO seeds, and seeds that are genetically designed to produce sterile fruits – making it harder and harder for farmers to eke out a living or scrape together the funds needed to buy seeds year after year. These seeds also do away with hand selection of robust plants, leaving little for the observant farmer to do but tend their growth and then do it all again the next year with virtually identical seeds – with no attempts to change in yields or productivity.
Community seed libraries are sprouting (pun intended) up around the nation, and growing our own food, saving the seeds, and swapping our seeds and surpluses with our friends, family and neighbors has become a revolutionary act.

Additionally, low tech solutions to farming are, while slower, much healthier for the soil and all the microorganisms that live therein. In a handful of soil there are hundreds of millions of organisms including bacteria, fungi, nematodes, insects, and others. Most of them work together symbiotically, essentially acting like the stomachs of the roots and creating a perfect environment for the transfer and uptake of nutrients from the surrounding soil – to the plants that grow in it. All of these microorganisms work together, to allow for not only the transfer of nutrients and the best conduction of water across membranes as well. 
In a commercially or mechanically farmed and tilled property – the soil unfortunately becomes compacted over time. The act of tilling and the pressure of the wheels, and the exposing lower parts of the soil or breaking through tough compacted layers may provide a temporary solution of opening up the ground in order to plant a seed. Unfortunately, these practices do nothing to create a rich healthy soil in the long-term - leading to unresolved and unhealed scarring year after year. This leads to cumulative unfavorable conditions like nutrient or water runoff issues, soil erosion, blow off, and more.

The easiest, healthiest soil is made from the breakdown of bio matter over time becoming a mixture of composted plant matter, bacteria, and fungi. This rich topsoil can include leaves, branches, twigs, grass, dead animals, manure, and other natural breakdowns over time that refuel the soil and create soft, sponge-like topsoil. If you’ve ever been in a protected old-growth forest, you’ll know what I’m talking about – the ground feels springy beneath your feet when you walk and the moisture held in those layers is apparent – especially in early mornings when the fog covers the forest floor.

It’s time to have heart-to-heart conversations with our soils, as Paul Gautschi does in his conversations with God in the Documentary Back to Eden, and ask the earth what it needs to heal and regenerate – before we lose our ability to grow healthy foods entirely. As Miguel Altieri, professor of Agroecology at the University of California explains in the documentary, Dirt! The Movie, “If we don’t take care of the soil, which is just the first five centimeters of life that is on the earth, our future is totally condemned.”

This article was written by Christine Rudolph [christinerudolph91@gmail.com] and sent to us for reposting here on our blog.  Thanks Christine!