Last night when I was leaving the farm I checked in on the pigs and had to laugh. With the temperature in the 40's they were all looking for a little time under the heat lamps. So far everyone is doing well. Sometimes when you move little animals they can get sick from the changes in the environment. This group is happy and healthy and enjoying life at Wagner Farm.
Friday, April 30, 2010
Have you ever had to ask a favor that you really needed? For the last five years the folks at Egg Harbor Cafe have been the greatest sponsors of the Dairy Breakfast. They bring the food, the cooks and a lot of fun. So this year I made my annual trip over to see Jon to talk about the event and he jumped right in to tell me all about the donations they had gotten for the food and the staff that is fighting to get to come work the Breakfast. To have an eager partner like Egg Harbor is worth a million. Now I have a favor to ask those of you who go to Egg Harbor, please thank them for their support of the farm. This event would not be the same without their generous support and encouragement. How nice it is to have friends!
The last two days have been the fulfillment of a long time goal of mine. When I was in Tippecanoe County, Indiana I helped out with really neat program that Purdue University put on that gave school kids a glimpse at different areas within the broad scope of agriculture. It is one thing to read about the machinery, crops and livestock but to actually see it in person is quite another story. During my time on the advisory board for Cook County Farm Bureau I have gotten to help out with their ag education efforts in many different ways. One of their successful programs has been Ag Day at the Chicago High School for the Ag Sciences. Haley Loy, the director for the program and I started throwing around the idea of doing a program at Wagner with all the animals and equipment right on site for the kids to see. In the two days the program ran we have seen almost 650 visitors! As the presenter for the "Technology in Farming" segment I can say the kids have been very interested and excited to move through the six different stations. I'm lucky I have the grand-daddy of props with a new John Deere 9400 combine. My presentation starts out with talking about what you would have to have for a plant to grow and then expanding it to what role a farmer has in the process. One of the facts that I put out there is in 1840 it took a farmer 35 hours to produce one acre of corn. That would be the plowing, planting, cultivating and harvesting. As mechanization came into wider use and efficiencies grew that same acre now takes 38 minutes. A truly amazing change.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
So each year the farm opens the season with a new exhibit. This year, thanks to Jim, we have an awesome addition. With Wagner Farm originally a truck farm it only seems logical that we needed an exhibit on what truck farming was and its importance here in Chicago. Once we had the idea it was time for the design and construction. Jim who was an agricultural engineer prior to his career as a farmer was the perfect man for the job. He designed a wagon off pictures of old produce wagons that were actually at the Water Street market. We got a fiberglass draft horse and Carlin painted it to look like an old grey Percheron. The end product was just perfect. A great way to start the season! Thanks Jim
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
If you find yourself in the area on Wednesday night come by the farm for the unveiling of our newest exhibit. Jim and the crew have been working tirelessly on the Truck farming interactive and it is ready for use. At 7:00 pm in the Heritage Center we will be having a little party and letting all the "kids" (no matter your age) play.
We just returned from getting our new crop of 4-H lambs from Kelly Hoffman in Indiana. This group has to be one of the best we have gotten yet. Kelly and his family sorted out a good number young wither lambs for the kids to pick from. We had a lottery for position and then let the kids go in the pen and select their lamb. This year we brought home 17, yes, I said 17 of them. It is a far cry from the 4 we did the first year there were lambs at the farm.
Monday, April 26, 2010
With spring work list comes the annual changing of the American flag on the front of the Wagner barn. One would think that you could get more than 365 days from a flag but by the time we take it down it is ready for a well earned retirement.
Some folks are surprised to hear the the flag on the front of the barn is not a new thing. There is a great story about why we fly the flag but it has to fit in the realm of "total lore" since we can't historically document the story. Still it is worth telling.
According to the myth, the flag was first put on the barn as a way of distinguishing it from the multitude of other farm barns in the area. The reason the Wagner barn was worth calling out was it was in-line with one of the aircraft run ways at the Glenview Naval Air Station. For those new to the Glenview there used to be a major Navy base on the land now occupied by the Glen. In World War 2, a great many Marine and Navy pilots did their training at Glenview. As the story goes, these pilots had to learn to land and take off from an aircraft carrier at sea. Since the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans were constantly targeted by Japanese and German submarines it made sense to use the Great Lakes as the body of water to do the carrier training. As the pilots left Glenview they would head east and travel out over Lake Michigan looking for the USS Sable or Wolverine to land on. After three successful landings the pilots were deemed qualified for action and sent to war. Today the skies are pretty quiet outside of the occasional passenger jet heading to O'Hare field but the flag keeps flying on the old Wagner barn.
Friday, April 23, 2010
This post is going to be a little bit out of order in that the work that Jeff and I did was actually completed just prior to the pigs getting to the farm. Still, I thought it was kind of neat to show some of the prep work that was done on the site in getting ready for the influx of critters this spring. The building that the 4-H animals are housed in is just west of the main barn. The building has been a great change from years past in that now we have sold shelter, concrete floors and access to both water and electricity. One of the downfalls to our shed was that great amounts of mud next to the shed. Mud isn't so much the enemy here but the smell and insects that it propagates are. The water that causes the crux of the issue needed to be given a new exit from the building area. To do this Jeff and I installed a couple of drainage lines at each side of the shed. Then we covered the lines with two different layers of rock that will hopefully peculate the water to the PVC lines and then away from the building. The first real test looks to be this weekend as the forecasters are calling for three days of rain. Sure hope this works.
The annual growing of the herd has started at the farm this week. Yesterday Julie Tracy and I went to Josh Foltz's farm and picked up the 4-H kid's pigs. It was interesting how fast the excitement grew around the farm when we pulled up. I was hardly out of the truck before visitors were lifting their kids up to peek into the trailer. Please come and see the new additions.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Yesterday Jeff and I were working in the 4-H building and Jessica and Tim came running up with something they had found in the barn. They were up in the loft getting rations for the calves and in the absolute corner of the barn, behind a beam they found a folded up old newspaper from 1967. They were pretty impressed by this old Chicago Tribune. Why was it there? Who left it? We'll never know.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Just east of the farm is New Trier High School. We have participated in a couple of programs with them over the years and one of my favorites is the "Senior Project". During part of April and all of May the seniors can select an internship and work at it instead of going to class. The internship is meant to give some perspective to the students about the career that they are considering. This year we are very happy to have the help from Marc Meyer who has some interest in veternary medicine. He started on Monday and we have already got him milking cows, building fence, cleaning pens and threshing broom corn. With the crazy pace of spring on the farm it will be great having him around.
I would have to say that the chicken has to be one of the fastest growing animals on the farm. It was only five weeks ago we got the just hatched chicks from the Benson family. With temperatures rising along with their size the babes will head outside to the kid coop next week.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
At the farm we are happy to have been able to partner with many local Boy Scout members as they work on potential Eagle Scout projects. This year we are sponsoring 3 different efforts at the site. Alex Pullman is the first to take on his project this year. He and members of his troop have been hard at work painting the livestock shed near the main barn. One thing you can count on with Eagle Scouts is their hard work. Great job Alex.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Wagner Farm offers many programs through the Park District that are available to the public. One of our more popular offerings is called Dairy Detectives. Participants get the chance to learn how to hand milk and machine milk our cow. Afterwards they make homemade ice cream to enjoy for all their hard work! Next class is on Friday, May 7 at 3:45. Call the Glenview Park District Park Center to get in on this fun experience!!
Monday, April 12, 2010
One of the programs we offer at the farm is a chance for some of the volunteers to drive the draft horses. I started doing classes on this subject while I was working at Living History Farm in Des Moines, Iowa. My friends Tony, Rick, Joe and I developed a set course that people could take that would not only introduce them to the big horses but give them the confidence to start learning and experiencing driving. The classes were a huge success and I have continued teaching them at all the museums that I have worked at.
To drive the draft horses it takes some real skill. I know many people think you just grab the drive lines and say "giddy-up". I remember when I used to think roughly the same thing. When I first got my first historical interpreters job I was being trained on farming methods of the 1900's Iowa farm. The guy who was showing me around said, "hey, you grew up on a farm - I bet you know how to drive horses. Not wanting to disappoint anyone on my first day I said I had been around them before. With that he handed me the lines and sent me to the field to start raking hay. The team was Bob and Bill, an old team of matched black Percherons that knew enough to keep us all out of trouble. The truth of the matter was while I did grow up on a farm and had ridden horses this draft stuff was like nothing I had ever done before. It was so neat to work in the field and hear the ground that you were crossing. I had never been able to take in so much of the life in the field while on a tractor. As time went by I got better at driving and learned that I was lucky to have come out of my first experience as well as I did. Driving horses is something that you never stop learning about.
To keep the lessons going at Wagner Farm I have been taking all of my teamsters out for some one on one time. We talk a lot about different scenarios and how we as drivers would handle the situation. Between offering wagon rides, farm work and the exercise program the horses, and our drivers are exposed to a lot of different experiences.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Did you ever wonder how to clipped the toe nails on a cow? In one of the earlier blog post I introduced you to our horse farrier and how that process worked. It is much the same for the bovine but the "man handling" part is a little easier with the help of a special lift and the expertise of Miller Hoof trimming.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
When I first started at Wagner there was one thing that was a bit hard to get used to at first and that was being on a farm and having it surrounded by houses. Even the other agricultural museums that I worked on didn't have families living at the edge of the fences. This arrangement has been interesting for both side of the line. When the cows used to make it a routine of escaping it was to the detriment of many of the neighbors gardens and plantings. Then there is the always popular manure spreading day on the farm. I am sure we are loved that week. Through it all we still have managed to have a great relationship with our friends on the other side of the fence. This week the farm hosted a meeting for those who live around the property to come and hear a little update for the season and to ask any questions they might have. There were many old stories shared and it was a great time to catch up.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Each year, to show our appreciation for the hardwork and dedication of our staff and volunteers, we take everyone on a fieldtrip to a local museum or historic site. This year we visited the Chicago History Museum. We had time to visit the many exhibits and then had the opportunity for a guided tour. Volunteer Mike Bourcek led us on a very interesting and agricultural-based tour of the main gallery. Afterwards we enjoyed lunch in the museum's cafe and did some shopping at the gift shop. As you can see from the photos, everyone had a great day!
Friday, April 2, 2010
A good way to know that spring is on its way: when you hear the pop pop sound of a tractor and smell the fresh manure in the air! Today Jeff and Beth headed out to fertilize the fields. Farmers keep all of the manure from the winter to use for fertilizer- we gather it into a manure spreader that is hooked up on to the back of a tractor. As the spreader moves it rotates the manure through the back and throws it out onto the field. After the manure is spread a disc is hooked to the back of the tractor and helps turn it into the soil. The field we fertlized today will house our oats for the upcoming season.