Dairyland Driftings


| September/October 1961



Steaming Tobacco Beds

Steaming Tobacco Beds at Durward Steinmetz's, May 1961. Durward leveling off the next bed and George Christian, time keeper, seated on the ground. (See Dairyland Driftings.)

On our agenda for some time was the trip we made to the DURWARD STEINMETZ'S at LaFarge, Wis., to witness the steaming of tobacco beds. Funny thing, but indirectly due to the process of steaming 'bacco beds, I first found out about THE IRON-MEN ALBUM at about the time the publication got started. Back in the 'forties', I was paging thru an American Thresherman (about a 1927 vintage) and came across a picture of Homer Holp and his father from Brookville, Ohio, with two steam engines on their way home from steaming tobacco beds. My curiosity a-roused me to chance a letter to these steam men-at least we had a common interest in steam. To my delight and surprise here comes a reply from HOMER HOLP and he informed me of THE FARM ALBUM (as it was called in its humble beginning in 1946 and up to Vol. 5th 1 Sept. 1950 whence it adopted the title IRON-MEN ALBUM). Believe you me, I could never thank Homer enough for the friendly gesture, but to this date I haven't met him in person.

Getting back to the Steinmetz trip, something like 250 miles to our Southeast. GEORGE CHRISTIAN from Swanville, Minnesota, accompanied us for he too has a yen for steam. Before we got to Steinmetz's we chanced to see the EVER TRUGGSTAD outfit steaming beds at Westby. He was using a 45 Case No. 20841. The Steinmetz's were busy too, using their 20 hp Advance, No. 13492. George landed a 'job' as official time-keeper since he always carries a watch and this type of 'work' suits him fine.

I noted in the last ALBUM, E. P. NELSON of Bird City, Kansas, asked as to the purpose of the steaming process. Checking with DURWARD I found: the soil is plowed 6' to 8' deep, leveled off with a garden rake, then the steam pan lowered on steam hose exit, dirt banked around edges and steam turned on for about a half hour, killing all weeds, weed seeds, plant disease and releases soil fertility, and heat hastens growth of young plants. An ounce of tobacco could plant 8 acres - so plants are seeded in these beds an when about 6 inches high, transplanted to the fields. Since tobacco raising involves much hard labor the acreage is usually limited.

Alice has no rating as a poet but while watching the steaming process composed the following - (I gotta watch this or I'll end up with a ladies column).

We took a trip and went to see -
The Durward Steinmetz family.
We steamed tobacco beds and had lots of fun -
For us from the north we had not seen this done.
We put potatoes and eggs under the steam pan -
Turned on the steam for half an hour and then
Picked up the 'tatoes and eggs and made a bee line -
Up to the house, and did we dine!
There aren't very many who cook dinner this way -
But they sure are missing something is all I can say.
Durward and Koletta are part of a team -
And when there's an engine around there's sure to be steam.
Peggy and Jill are their two gals,
And they are two of our best pals.
When it comes to firing up an engine they know how -
But I don't think they could milk 'Ginger', their cow.
Time is going and soon we must head for home.
We sure hate to leave, but we must roam.
Back to Frederic and our holstein cows -
And dream of our trip and our stay at the Steinmetz house.

Of course we took time to visit other steam fans too - drove down to see HARRY SCHELL at Blue River who has converted his 6-18 Case No. 19660 into a traction job, fact is he had plowed his garden with it the day before. Thence over to Richland Center where we met CHAS STODDARD who has built a honey Advance Rumely engine, cylinder 3-1/8x4. Stopped at HARVEY HOSKIN'S who had bought Steinmetz's 24 hp 'Minnie'. Very fine people indeed.