Branch No. 6 Show at Koster Ranch

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Jacob Price's Peteluma press, c. 1865 owned by Ken McCrary, baling at Koster Ranch in 1990. Crew: Paul Reno, Cliff & Bill Koster and Dominic Duarte.
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Dave Lyons mowing with an 1870 Champion wobble gear mower in the drought stricken hay field at Koster ranch, 1990. Mower is not restored, cuts as good as ever.

Oakland, California 94602

As you know we have had four years of drought and this winter is starting off cold, with no rain to speak of yet. The drought hurt our grain bearing crops; the cold got the citrus.

Last winter I planted a crop of barley and winter peas, a real mixture, to have a hay crop to bale hay with the ‘Peteluma’ on June 9 and 10. Irrigation water was cut back 50 percent so we lost that in April.

I had to get out the swather and trim up around the wheat field for hay. The commercial combine usually passes through the San Joquin Valley the last week in May.

And it so happens we had half the rain we got, in three days over Memorial weekend. We got out the binder and cut wheat for the Threshing Bee the last week in May. The ground really had a soaking and the weather stayed cloudy and cold.

We had to keep hay turned or it wouldn’t have dried enough to shock the grain bundles. Lots of cut hay on the ground spoiled. The rain packed the ground so hard the bean crop couldn’t come through and we had to replant it. So at show time, June 9 and 10, the local farmers were behind on farming, which hurt the attendance crowd.

We left a patch of wheat standing to cut with the Benicia header during the show. Saturday morning where we started heading grain, a slug o grain was caught between the draper and platform bottom. The draper buckles were down and that finished that operation for the day.

The wind blew in the afternoon so we couldn’t thresh until around 5 P.M. Then it was so bad, Irv Baker had to set his Rumely engine four feet off center to keep the belt on. We did get two loads of bundles out of the way.

The Peteluma was our featured attraction of the show, and it baled 13 bales before running out of hay. The bales were 24 x 24 x 48 and weighed 176 to 246 pounds. The first one took 26 1/2 minutes to make, while the last one Sunday evening took 6 1/2 minutes. So, we did improve a lot Sunday, though the wind really blew.

The header was repaired Saturday night, but it was too windy to use it or thresh at all. So we baled hay and the Peteluma saved the show for us. There were several gas engines there, but they didn’t like the wind, either. We did get all the grain threshed by late Sunday afternoon.

All was not bad, though. The tractor boys really had a field day with all that stubble field, and the ground was at ideal plowing conditions. We could pull twice as many plows and twice as deep. There were furrows we couldn’t cross with a horse and wagon, but Roster’s big land plane made quick work of smoothing it down with no need for the sub soiler. We also got out the old John Deere combine that hadn’t run in years and got the two truck loads of grain the header didn’t get.

I worked most of the fall fixing up plows and adding more to stock for the 1992 show. I finally found a left handed walking plow at the horse auction. It had a one shank horse drawn subsoiling plow. That really showed four head of drafters, working full load to perfection with little effort on the skinner’s part.

On June 2nd I went to Davis to help the U. C. Davis Antique Engine boys put on their Field Days. I took up the eight foot binder and four horse eveners. They really had a problem with the wet ground. We bound grain from 10 A.M. until 2 P.M. Saturday and Sunday.

It was the most even wheat field I’ve ever seen cut. Eight hours of cutting without moving a lever and only one reth reading, no bindweed, wild sunflowers or hogweed to interfere with the cycle or knotter.

By 2 P.M. Saturday the threshing had about two bushels of grain when the engine and separator clogged up from wet straw. I believe they did manage to get two bales. Modern harvest crews are not like the old days. If the show gates opened at 10 A.M., that is when the separator crew arrived for work. When the wet stack was out of the way they started on the new cut of dry grain, then things worked.

The boys at Davis have all the facilities for having a good show, but we do have problems, such as the Branch #6, Branch #13 and Davis boys wanting to have three shows in too close an area on the same two weekends. The Branch threshing takes place on working wheat farms. U. C. Davis has to have theirs before the college kids go home the second week of June, so they have to come off when the grain is ripe. Branch #13 really doesn’t depend on the grain being ready as most of their members have the small engines.

When I was at the Brooks, Oregon show in August they had the best crop of grain I have seen them produce. And they did do a good job of cutting and hauling it to thresh.

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