Saturday, November 27, 2010
Friday, November 26, 2010
The other day my friend Jon stopped by the farm to drop some stuff off. Jon also works at a historic farm so we usually try to show off a bit when one of us gets something kind of neat in. This time it was Jon who was given corn from the mid 1940's. They guy who donated it said he remembered they used to have it hanging on corn dryers in a sign of patriotism during the Second World War. I know the pictures don't really do it justice but the ears are uniquely red, white and blue. After all this time it is really unlikely that the seeds will grow but I thought I would plant some in the greenhouse and give it a try. If we get some germination I will definitely let you all know.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Friday, November 19, 2010
I had a meeting today that was kind of fun. In the summer I hired Steve Sargent who is a local architect to draw the buildings of Wagner Farm. I did this as a bit of an insurance policy in case something like a fire were to take one of our historic buildings we could precisely replicate it. After last week's fire at the century old Park Service's building this seems like a pretty timely idea. Now that we have the plans we will store them off site in hopes that we will not have to use them for their intended purpose.
When Steve and I were reviewing the plans the idea did come up of using the drawing to help staff, docents and even visitors to better understand how buildings at the time were put together. From the balloon framing to the mortise and tenon construction, buildings are made the same way today. The drawings allow the skin to be pulled back and the secrets revealed. Steve said something that was kind of neat when he commented on how beautifully symmetric the barn is. The Wagner family didn't leave a lot of artifacts but the ones they did leave are pretty good.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
One more story from museum conference. On Friday evening there is a dinner that usually involves a program or some type of entertainment. Because this conference was in central Wisconsin the planners had something really neat for the group. No it wasn't a cheese demonstration or "meet a Green Bay Packer". They had the Wisconsin Historical Society's Circus World Museum at Baraboo come and demonstrate some of the antique circus instruments. What an entertaining and original program! At the end of the evening they invited anyone who would like to play one of the instruments to come and try. In the Wagner crew there was one person we knew we could count on and that was Joyce. A master pianist she put here fingers straight to work and did a great job.
Wednesday, November 17, 2010
At this year's Midwest museum conference Jim and I presented a paper titled, "Commodities, Cutbacks, Confinements and the Nematode: A Tale of Modern Agriculture and Dissent in America. It might seem like a strange presentation to give to a group of historians but it was meant to shed some light and perspective on where agriculture is today. From government payments to GPS guided equipment farming has definitely changed. One of my favorite quotes on the subject came from a professor I knew at Purdue, Dr. Don Paarlberg. He said, "If a farmer from Old Testament times could have visited an American farm in the year 1900, he would have recognized- and had the skill to use most of the tools he saw: the hoe, the plow, the harrow, the rake. If he were to visit an American farm today, he might think he was on a different planet. The changes that occurred in American agriculture during the 20th century exceeded in magnitude all the changes that had occurred during the 10,000 years since human beings first converted themselves from hunters and gatherers to herdsmen and cultivators." The advent of technology and it's adoption is not the only reason for the dramatic change in this field. The increase in world population and the decrease in available land have also shaped the direction of 21st century farming. In writing this program I found a couple of interesting points. Did you know that in the United States we are losing two acres of prime farmland a minute to development? Do we really need that new subdivision or mall? At this pace we are going to build right over the top of our dinner table. Another fact that I found somewhat alarming is the average age of the farmer is 56.2. While 50 isn't old it does give you some pause to think what that number might look like in say 20 years. Our abundance of food and those who raise it are easy to take for granted. That fact might be changing soon.
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
This week my family and I got to go to Washington DC to witness the dedication of an oak tree at the Smithsonian. What made the event so special is the tree that was planted honors of a very special group of service members, the recipients of the Medal of Honor. This medal is the highest award our country bestows and is only given for those acts of extreme bravery.The idea for this project originated with our own Brett McNish. Brett grew up in Glenview and was a member of the Wagner Farm Historical Buildings and Grounds Commission. Currently, Brett is a horticultural curator for the Smithsonian.
About four years ago Brett came up with the idea to incorporate something special into some of the plantings that he was planning for the museum. The result was amazing. Brett even collected dirt from battlefields around the world and had that mixed into the soil that was surrounding the tree. At the ceremony, Brian Thacker, Medal of Honor recipient dedicated the oak tree to the veterans of all wars and to the hope for peace in the world.
Thank you to all the veterans. Great job Brett.
Click here for more on this.
Our good friend over at the Grove, Steve just lent us a project that we are very eager to work on. I will rephrase that a bit since it is really Paul and Dick who do our restoration work. The tractor is a Massey-Harris 33. This was about the equal to the John Deere A or International M when you think horse power. However, there were no-where near as many 33's made as there were A's or M's. The tractor was built in 1955. The pictures are of ours and then what we hope the finished product will look like. So this will be the WF winter project!
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Right before the Corn Harvest event I told about how we had to go out and purchase shocks of corn for the program since the critters ate all of ours from the field. Despite the record attendance of 2,300 visitors that day we still ended up with some of the shocks left. Thanks to Paul we are getting ready to hand shuck the wagon load and add it to the crib.
This process is a lot like how it was done in the 1920's-1940's.
Before machines like the corn binder, farmers would take a wagon and a team out to the field and harvest all the corn by hand picking each ear off the stock. Because the corn was "check planted" the spacing was even both side to side and front to back. All the plants were 42" (The reason for 42"? The average size of a horse's rump. They had to have that space so that the corn wouldn't be stepped on during cultivation) from each other. Just imagine a perfect 42" square - then the sides of the square being rows. It is kind of like a military cemetery. All the headstones form a perfect line no matter what direction you look at them. With plants in a square they used to say picking corn was a sort of a "farmers square dance" since you sway to one side, pick the corn then step forward and sway the other working your way through the field. Just imagine picking a 40 acre field of corn. The really good pickers would work so fast that they could keep an ear of corn in the air at all times. A reasonable expectation might be 4 acres a day for hand picking. Once the corn binder was introduced the process of picking corn rapidly increased. The binder was pulled through the field and would cut and wrap about 6 or so stalks together. This gives us a shock. Then the farmers would come through the field and tie a bunch of the shocks together and let them finish drying. In the fall many people associate the shocks with the season but few realize what the purpose of a shock. Once the shocks dried then they were loaded on a wagon and brought to the farmyard. Then they were either shucked out by hand or if the farmer had invested in a machine called a husker/shredder the ears were mechanically removed at a much faster pace. After WW 2 farming technology took another huge leap forward and combines were introduce and they would combine the jobs of picking and shelling (taking the kernels off the cob). So there is your little ag history lesson for the day. Anyone want to help us shuck??
Monday, November 8, 2010
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
I'm going to go out on a limb and make a generalization. Our community's high school kids are really amazing folks. I'm not saying that other town's kids aren't but, the things that District 225's young people do really stand out and speaks to the kinds of people this town is raising and sending into the world. This past weekend Glenbrook North and South High Schools came together for a fundraising event to benefit the Northfield Township Food Bank. There were games, treats and even a haunted house. All the planning, set up and staffing was taken on by the students. At the end of the day they raised over $2,000 for their cause. A pretty good afternoon's work. However, my praise of these kids and their teachers isn't just for this event but rather for what they take on cumulatively. From the V-show and theatrical presentations to the sports fields and the outreach into our town, they do us proud. Especially when many places can only complain about the trouble being stirred up by the "hooligan" high schoolers. Do the kids ever make mistakes? Sure. It's hard to not make a wrong decision now and again but these kids are worth being proud of. As the director of a museum that employs a lot of high schoolers for work in the soda fountain, gift shop and for programs like the birthday parties I have been so pleasantly surprised at how responsible the kids are for this being their first job. So I want to thank the young adults of our town for being the kinds of role models that I wouldn't mind my own child emulating.
A pat on the back to our own - Molly, John, Charles, Carolyn, Leanne, Nolan, Grace, Elizabeth, Haley, Marcella, Cody and Olivia!