Category Archives: History

photo of Tour of the Miniature Dutch Village with Doug Heerema

Back in Time – Visiting the Pella Historical Village

Teardrop log: June 19, 2017

Located just across the street from the Royal Amsterdam Hotelon the Molengracht Plaza where we have been staying, is the Pella Historical Village. It offers a look at how early Pella pioneers lived after they left Holland in the 1840’s.

On the grounds, we found the Sod House, a replica of the housing during Pella’s early years. We learned how wooden shoes were made at the Werkplaats. Among the buildings, is the boyhood home of Wyatt Earp, one of the most famous or infamous characters of the Old West, still standing in the historical village.

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Doug Heerema, our tour guide took us through the enchanting Miniature Dutch Village. It was begun by George Heernan in 1938, as a work study project for students in Pella’s schools and Central College, as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Many of the original structures were created at 1/24 scale and restored in 1978. New buildings have been added. The village is populated with dolls that reflect authentic daily life in a Dutch village. All four seasons are portrayed with a boy flying a kite, flower sellers, farmers gathering hay and ice skaters on frozen canals.

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Having been in the museum business, I always check out the gift shop when we visit a museum. This one was amazing! One source observed that it had every type of Dutch gift you could want from dishes to wooden shoes. I bought a bag of flour produced at the mill and a Pella cookbook to go with it.

We enjoyed exploring historic Pella. There was not enough time so see everything on the list. We will definitely put this magic place in the list for future trips on the Teardrop Trail!

photo of the Pella Cookbook and Windmill Flour

Pella Cookbook and Windmill Flour

photo of The Vermeer Mill and Historical Village

The Vermeer Mill — A Dutch Windmill Tour

Teardrop Trail Log: June 19, 2017

The star of Pella is the Vermeer Mill — it’s certainly the first thing you notice when you drive into town. Having arrived Saturday evening we were intrigued but could only admire it from the outside. It wasn’t open for tours until Monday morning.

photo In the Historical Village

In the Historic Village

One enters the windmill through the Pella Historical Village gift shop. The tours start at regular intervals for whoever is there. We were shown a short film and presentation by Doug Heerema, one of the mill guides. He then showed us another floor of the museum where an astonishing miniature village is located — but more on this in a later post. Riding an elevator to the fifth floor, we were introduced to Jim Brandl, the “molenaar” or miller for a tour of the Vermeer Mill.

The mill is connected to the museum by a wooden bridge, and on it, you find a panoramic view of Pella. Ahead is an enormous ship’s wheel — used to turn the mill structure to direct it into the wind. It was a clear, fine day with a light breeze, and the miller made a few adjustments. The massive cloth-covered sails began turning as we walked around the platform. Moveable barriers prevent absent-minded tourists from walking into the sails which swing by with impressive speed.

Inside, we found a profusion of massive wooden beams supporting the roof of the mill, which rises two more floors above. Equally massive wooden gears turn a large, wooden shaft which turns the mill stones at about eye level. Grain from a hopper is shaken into the center of the top stone and flour falls from a chute to a waiting bag below. A beautiful modern example of an 1850’s “koren molen” (grain mill) that still works today.

Built by the Verbij Hoogmade BV company in the Netherlands and re-assembled in Pella in 2002, the Vermeer Mill stands on a 40-foot-high brick base to reach a height of 124 feet at the tip of the tallest sail. Made of 16 different wood species from 6 countries, the mill supports two, five-foot in diameter, 3500-pound mill stones. 500 pounds of flour can be ground in one hour with a brisk wind. With woods like Purpleheart, Ironwood, Acidwood, Oak, Scots Elm, Teak, Lignumvitae and the exquisite joinery needed to build with them, this is a feast for anyone interested in fine woodworking.

The third floor is a small museum showing Dutch mill technology. Scale models show the mill’s inner workings, while a series of framed prints show the many variations of mill developed for specialized uses.

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The second floor is a recreation of the molenaar’s living arrangements. Compact but comfortable, it is the ultimate in thrift and short commute. This way, he was always nearby in case of bad weather to turn the mill cap into the wind. The “bed stede” or bed is interesting. The doors could be closed for warmth, but it was shorter than we’re used to, as people in the 1850’s believed it was unhealthy to sleep lying flat.

photo of The Molenaar's Home

The Molenaar’s Home

Pre-1940 IHC and Farmall Tractors with a Titan 10-20 Engine Start

Teardrop Trail Log: June 16, 2017

Marilyn had completed her obligations at Octane Press for the day, and we decided to look at other exhibits around the ‘Roundup. The next stop was the Pavilion, a very large covered arena where the Pre-1940 International, IHC and Farmall tractors were gathered. As we climbed the bleachers to get a better look, a late-teens Titan model 10-20 was starting in the arena. A few minutes later we were standing next to the now-running tractor, marveling at the meticulous restoration and intricate, visible workings of the engine. I was able to capture some video of it in the parade the next day. Magnificent!

Other restorers were holding forth next to their antique machines, to knots of interested, young farmers. It seems the passion for old machinery is wide-spread with enthusiasm that spans generations.

Red Power Roundup – 2017 Hit-or-Miss Corn Sheller

Teardrop Trail Log: June 16, 2017

I always look forward to seeing the “latest” in really old technology at the ‘Roundup, and this year encountered a great display of International Harvester model LA “hit-or-miss” engines shelling and grinding corn, as well as pumping water. I’ve mentioned them on the blog before, but this was unique. Over a half-dozen beautifully restored engines, all running, and many connected to applications with canvas belts like a McCormick/Deering Corn Sheller, a small grain mill, cob mill and a well-pump.

In order to show the entire workflow, small, functional elevators lifted the corn kernels from application to application. Best of all, a supply of dried corn — complete with cob and husk — was provided so observers could try it out. Passing children at the ‘Roundup were fascinated as they fed shucked corn into the sheller via a pipe and could watch the result. Several club members were running the exhibit; keeping the machines serviced with water and fuel and answering questions.

These small engines were common back in the day, and provided vital extra power before rural electrification. They could pump water, grind corn and lift grain into bins and cribs — saving farm families from much difficult work. I still remember the well pump on my grandparents farm, electrified by the time I came along, but no doubt once powered by one of these versatile engines.

photo of presenter and Irma Harding

Femineering, My Irma Harding Presentation

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2017

graphic of Irma Harding with "They're Femineered"

They’re Femineered

I can still remember meeting Lee Klancher from Octane Press and discussing food and cookbooks. Sometimes the universe can create amazing opportunities. I was delighted when Lee introduced me to Irma Harding and invited me to write Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding. It was a great project that has put me in touch with so many wonderful people. Octane Press has hosted book signings and my presentations at each of the Red Power Round Ups. I always love to meet Irma’s fans and enjoy hearing people share their personal family stories about relatives who canned as well as how they started preserving food.

It has been fun being “Irma’s ghost writer” and telling her stories as well as the stories of the home economists who took Irma’s message to the women of the Mid-West farm county and taught them how to freeze food. This year’s topic was Femineering, a term developed by International Harvester to highlight and honor the unique contributions of the women who helped develop the refrigerators and freezers. One of the old newsletters describes how the “feminine eye continued watching, spot-checking the production lines and testing performance under laboratory conditions.”

It was nice to see several friends from previous presentations. I had met Marsha Corbin, the Executive Director at the Old Trails Region in West Central Missouri at a past Red Power Roundup. She had invited me to share one of my Irma Harding presentations for the Missouri Cattle Women. After the presentation ended, Travis Loschen and his wife Meghan stopped to say hi. They had seen several of the Irma presentations at the last few Red Power Roundups. They have an incredible Irma Harding Collection in the garage of their home in Royal, Illinois. Check out the video. Irma’s fans are a dedicated group!

photo of presenter and Irma Harding

Femineering in action

Red Power Roundup 2017 Walkabout

Teardrop Trail Log: June 15, 2017

This was my fourth experience with the Red Power Roundup. Huron, Sedalia and Union Grove had been memorable, but the Iowa State Fair was the largest layout I had ever seen. Previous attendance had been between 15,000 and 25,000, but the estimate for this gathering was 50,000. This was going to be special!

Marilyn safely ensconced with her adoring public at the Octane Press booth, I set out for a quick tour of the nearby environs. The vendors, including Octane, were mostly located in the “Varied Industries Building.” I spent about and hour in its air-conditioned interior and headed outside.

I was immediately introduced to the “Machinery Grounds,” and beautiful red tractors were visible in every direction. Not surprisingly, much of the grounds were large concrete lots. But a pleasant wooded park was also nearby and crowded with the fascinating machines. In one curious display, 15 progressively-sized tractors — both toy and real — were connected together end-to-end. I couldn’t help wondering what the point of that was, but I would find out while watching the parade a couple of days later.

I enjoy looking at old machinery, in part because my grandparents were farmers and I had free reign of their place on summer visits as a child. There was plenty of old machinery there to look at and play with, and the fascination was born. As mentioned in an earlier post, my morning walkabout ended by meeting a new friend, Ron. The young man with the pedal tractor Marilyn and I had encountered earlier in the day (and would see again later on) made a cameo appearance also.

photo of Jim Experiencing Scenic Point near Jasper, Arkansas

The Ambassador in the Ozarks

photo of the Mimosa trees that are common along the road

Mimosa trees are common along the road

After having lunch at the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, it was time to beat feet. It looked like a 4-hour trip to Little Rock, but we didn’t know the roads and couldn’t go quite as fast as travel estimates since we were pulling the Ambassador. It looked pretty doable though, and Marilyn is a master navigator. As she considered various routes, I enjoyed the scenery.

As we crossed the border into Arkansas, Marilyn settled on Highway 7 — a route that would take us through the Ozarks. Based on the National Geographic Road Atlas, it looked like the most direct path and seemed to be on a substantial road. It was very scenic, but the road was winding, narrow and hilly. I was hoping the travel estimates accounted for diminished road speed and began to think we might be a little late into Little Rock. This is part of traveling through new territory. You can’t always predict what you’ll find, and you just have accept it.

photo of The Tower

The Tower

The forest and road seemed to go on forever. We had passed through Harrison some time ago and the road was still narrow and hilly. The dense Ozark forest was interesting though.  Then, we began ascending and had to slow down. After passing through Jasper, we continued up the mountain. In a little while, we broke into a clearing and were on top of the world. Stopping at the Scenic Point Gift Shop, we got out to look around. The views were spectacular, and best of all, there was an old wooden tower to climb. From the top, you could see the Buffalo River basin. Missouri is visible to the north, with views that encompass about 1.3 million acres in all directions. Far from an unwanted delay in our trip, this had turned serendipitous, with the discovery of a place we would have to revisit and explore. Salute!

 

photo of Buffalo River Canyon

Buffalo River Canyon

photo of One happy gardener!

Seed Geek’s Heaven – Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company

Teardrop Trail Log: June 24, 2016

graphic of Baker Creek Banner

Baker Creek Banner

As we started planning our trip, I noticed that we would be going close to Mansfield, Missouri, the home of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. I became aware of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds at The Natural Gardener, one of the most unique and beautiful garden centers in the world. I discovered it in 2005, upon my arrival in Austin. A rack of colorful seed packets from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds had appeared in the store and I took a few to try. I was hooked. I started searching for more information and discovered some of the interesting facts about the company. The business has grown since it was founded by Jeremiath “Jere” Gettle at age 17, in his bedroom on his family’s civil war-era farm in the rolling hills of the Ozark region. The catalog, lavishly illustrated with vibrant, colorful photographs, offers more than 1,800 varieties of vegetables, fruits and flowers from 75 countries.

We drove from Springfield to Mansfield and followed the directions to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. They have created an old-timey pioneer village that was built with the assistance of Amish and Mennonite carpenters. Bakerville is reminiscent of a late 19th century homestead. We began exploring the village that includes a mercantile, restaurant, a natural bakery, garden museum, blacksmith shop, a windmill, speaker and music barns. It is also home to many breeds of historic poultry and livestock. I was amazed by the seed store with hundreds of seeds and wanted one of everything. As we were looking down on test gardens, seed warehouses and the Amish barn where orders are processed, I recognized David Kaiser. He appears in many of the catalogue photographs, videos and on the website and has achieved celebrity status. He was a neighbor who made friends with Jere and has assumed the role of sidekick modeled after “Gabby Hayes.” Dave has been described as a people person. He greeted us and chatted with us as we ate lunch. A true talking icon who made us feel very welcome. Check out Baker Creek’s Whole Seed Catalogue.

photo of Dave Kaiser, one of the faces of Baker Creek

Dave Kaiser, one of the faces of Baker Creek

photo of the Darst International Harvester Museum

Darsts’ International Harvester Museum

Teardrop Trail Log: June 23, 2016

movie of Tracto, the Talking Robot

Tracto, the Talking Robot

Next stop – the Darst International Harvester Museum. One online source describes a visit to the museum as a history lesson because the couple, Darrell and Kevin, have a story to go with each item. We met Darrell at our very first Red Power Round Up in 2014 at the State Fair Grounds in Huron, South Dakota. Last year, we had the pleasure of stopping in Madison and seeing both Kevin and Darrell as well as their amazing collection of tractors, thousands of IH keepsakes and memorabilia. Darrell is the editor of Harvester Highlights, the quarterly publication of the International Harvester Collectors Club that provides for the preservation of International Harvester history, products and memorabilia. Tracto, the 8-foot talking robot, built from 227 tractor and implement parts, greets visitors at the museum like he had done at county fairs, state fairs and special events for 60 years. Darst had known Tracto since he was 13 when he met the robot at a corn picking contest and now has lovingly restored him.

Kevin has been described as the queen of IH refrigeration and freezer collectables. She has a corner dedicated to International Harvester refrigerators, freezers, documentation and mementos. My publisher, Lee Klancher introduced us as I began working on Canning, Pickling and Freezing with Irma Harding, the IH “Betty Crocker” spokeswoman for home refrigeration . Kevin had known many of the IH home economists from the promotional team and has letters describing the role of these women in the company. It was good to see the Darsts again as we started discussing another book project.

photo of Marilyn and Kevin with Irma Harding in the Darst Museum

Marilyn and Kevin with Irma Harding

photo of An Amish "tractor"

Touring the Amish Country

Teardrop trail log: June 23

photo of A shock of oats

A shock of oats

After the memorable breakfast at Funny Pages, we had a few hours to explore. Our friend Kevin Darst, a mail carrier in the area and International Harvester collector had suggested visiting the Amish country in nearby Clark, Missouri. We set off, expecting to find the businesses located in the center of town but that wasn’t the case. A quick search on the Internet produced a map of the stores in the Amish Community. The colony was founded in 1953 and is one of the three largest in the state. The region is described as “a tightly knit area with Amish farms adjacent to each other for miles along its country roads.” The shops, located at the farms and along the rural roads sell rugs and leather, and other businesses dot the community. Many homes sell eggs, baked goods and produce in season.

photo of Amish buggy

Amish high style transportation

We stopped at South Side Sales, an Amish Grocery. A buggy was parked across from the entrance. They specialize in bulk foods with 16 kinds of beans, 18 kinds of flour and over 100 kinds of spices. They also sell produce from neighboring Amish families. Many of the products sold in the store come from a company in Pennsylvania that sells products from many of the Amish farms in the southeastern part of the state. We picked up some egg noodles to enjoy at home, memories of our trip.

Farming remains an important aspect of life. We watched the farmers cutting and loose stacking the hay in the field with their horse-drawn equipment. What a contrast between men with draft horses doing the tasks and the farm equipment at Red Power Round Up! Watching for the horse-drawn buggies we headed toward Madison.

photo of a horse-drawn buggy

A friendly wave