6284 26 Mile Road, Homer, Michigan 49245-9406
Now that the hectic pace of summer and fall is slowing down, I felt it would be a good time to send in an article and some photos of our fall festival.
Here in Michigan, this has been an unusual fall and winter with unusually high temperatures with almost no snow. We have the corn all harvested here at home and the deer hunting season is over. This is always exciting for the whole neighborhood, young and old. We had pretty good luck here by getting six bucks, one winning two area contests.
Enough talk about the home farm. I'll give you a little background on the 'Blair Farm.'
The Fall Festival is held the last weekend in September, in Homer, Michigan. Homer is a town with a population of approximately 1600 people, located in South Central Michigan. In 1973 two ladies, Maude and Bess Blair, were concerned with what to do with their property, as they had never married. Their farm of approximately 100 acres had been in their family for over 150 years, and was located two miles east of Homer on Highway M-60. They made the decision to donate the complete farm to the Homer Historical Society with a request to preserve the past history and to educate the general public on rural farm life.
The farm consists of a house, hip roof barn, chicken coop, a general storage building and an out-house. It sits among 250-year-old red and white oak trees, plus approximately a 20-acre woods with a nature trail. All buildings have been completely restored, with the large red barn just being completed.
One of the stipulations of the Blair sisters was to NOT charge admission. All of the work has been done from donations of labor and money. The generosity has been very rewarding for all.
We have many demonstrations and displays including early farm machinery at the fall festival. This year seemed very exciting for myself as our threshing project went well.
An active Society member, Terry Crandall ('T.C.'), who always has a good wheat crop, and his neighbor, Milt Railer, who has a nice pair of Belgian horses (two-tons plus), set the time together on when to cut the grain. I agreed to furnish a bundle wagon, threshing machine and steam engine. So home I went to take care of my end of the bargain. My 24 x 75 Port Huron engine was all boiler inspected and ready to go, given maximum pressure.
My thresh machine, which is a 1918, 28' Port Huron 'Rusher,' with a little tightening and straightening, I felt was ready to go. I had looked for several years to find one in good condition, as this is an allwood machine.
I built the new wagon on steel with standards on both ends. I even re-did the old water wagon, as we could drive my engine to the show.
One of the most enjoyable things that happened while getting the machinery ready to go was the old-time threshermen in their 80s and 90s who stopped by quite frequently with their tales of the past and gave me information to make sure I was doing things 'right!' We had as many as six lawn chairs to accommodate the 'advisors.' Some of them requested ringside seats at our threshing show, which I was very glad to provide.
I put chairs in front of the cookshack especially for them.
The cookshack that's another whole story! This is a building, 9 feet wide, 24 feet long, mounted on steel and wood wheels, which was pulled from job to job for cooking and sleeping facilities, etc., and was generally parked in the woods near the sawmill on a skid row in the winter months, and parked near the threshing jobs in the summer months. The cookshack was repaired and redone over the summer.
We took the separator over to the Blair Farm a day ahead of time and set it up along with the cookshack.
Troy Pawson and Frank Hill, who is 87 years old, drove the engine to the grounds. Keith Grosshans and his wife came along later with the grain and wood wagon. I heard a chugging noise coming in and looked up and here .was 'T.C.' with his model A coupe with his wife in the front, and his three kids in the rumble-seat with their picnic basket. What a sight!
'T.C.' also brought an old stationary baler for the straw stack (poke and tie the wires by hand-variety). We threshed every two hours throughout the day. Everything went very well. I think Troy Pawson, a Peerless man, and a very knowledgeable and qualified engineer, got a little tired of all the Port Huron 'talk,' as Mark Newman, another Port Huron man showed up!
Bob Ackley, an area sawmill owner and farmer, built himself a portable sawmill which he can pull behind one of his many John Deere tractors. He brings it to our show and it is always a real crowd pleaser.
We had a large crowd causing the parking lot to overflow into the camping area. By the way, we had a record number of campers in our primitive camping area4!
The real backbone of the society is the ladies group, as they set up most of the displays in the house and in the barn, taking great pains in keeping the details proper for a Victorian home. Along with cleaning, painting, putting in flower beds, arranging for hostesses in the house and barn, keeping track of the membership dues, organizing the craft sale and displays, they also make apple butter from scratch. The sale of the apple butter has been one of our traditions and has become very popular. They also set up a food tent and tables where they serve the noon meal. The tent allows people a place to sit in the shade and enjoy the festivities. When walking by the tent, I asked if there was any homemade blueberry pie left. One of the ladies spoke up and said 'You had better hurry! We have sold over 300 pieces of pie so far, and it's going fast!'
The generosity of financial, physical and moral support of the group of people that participate and meet at these gatherings inspires one to perpetuate the deep values of the past into the present and future.
Well, I will close for now and have enclosed some photos from our Fall Festival. A good time was had by all!