Barbed wire samples at the Spring Valley Historical Society Ag Building, and items for sale from the 1908 Sears Catalog.
Barbed wire samples at the Spring Valley Historical Society Ag Building, and items for sale from the 1908 Sears Catalog.
As Ag Days weekend approaches, the practice of farming is on our minds. Have you noticed the lack of field fencing along roads unless the folks have animals to enclose? Years ago, property was fenced and gated to keep the cattle, pigs, sheep and horses under control.

Heaven forbid, just about the time everyone was ready for church on a Sunday morning, the cows would get out and head for Ma's vegetable garden or the neighbors' corn fields. What a scramble to get them rounded up and back in their own digs.

The local historical society's Ag Building has many reminders of early farming. A neat item on exhibit is the six varieties of barbed wire as shown here: Hodge Spur Rowel, 1887; Reynold's Necktie, 1878; Upham Snail Barb, 1883; Stover's Clip, 1875; Hollner Wrap Around, 1878; and Brinkerhoff Ribbon, 1881. The 1908 Sears catalog showed the post hole digger: "Extra heavy drop forged tool steel seamless simplex post hole digger - fastest and best; easy to operate, nothing to get out of order, no welds, malleable parts to break or become loose. Hardwood handle. Wt. 10 lbs.; 84 cents; better than the $1.25 kind elsewhere." I remember my dad wielding one of these.

Is anyone still putting up hay? The Minnesota brand hay loader is a wonder - a large machine with rows of wire fingers that picked up the rolls of hay and deposited them on the hayrack pulled by a team of patient horses, with a crew of busy kids wielding hayforks to distribute the load evenly en route to the barn.

Also displayed are a variety of hayforks used to move hay from the hayrack to the barn loft - single, double, or four-tined forks, as well as a section of barn beam with the hay carrier and pulleys. My dad, Carl Boucsein, lost a section of a middle finger to one of those pulleys.

When it came to harvesting wheat or oats, the 1860-70 Champion Reaper is a marvelous contraption, dangerous but effective. It's too involved to explain in one paragraph, but stop in at the society's Ag Building to see this invention. The Minnesota brand grain binder is an even larger machine, looking complicated but extremely efficient in operation. There is even a 50-pound bag of Minnesota Twine and, as you might know, these Minnesota brand items were made by inmates at the Minnesota State Prison at Stillwater.

Grain was often harvested by hand, using the Morgan pattern grain cradle, described in the Sears catalog: "With silver steel scythe, made of clear straight grain timber, nicely varnished, with rustproof coppered wire braces and highest grade 45" blade. The quality is absolutely the best, the workmanship the finest; price $2.23."

Grain was often processed in a fanning mill to separate the grain from the chaff. On display: The Badger Fanning Mill made by Vaugh Mfg. Co., La Crosse, Wis. Look for corn knives and double thumbed corn picking mitts, plus an enormous all wooden wheelbarrow, once used at the local elevator.

To weigh the produce, one could use the 600 pound scale - on display is the Reliable, but Sears promoted the New Century Standard Portable Platform Scale herein described: "Guaranteed for 10 years, sealed to U.S. Standard weights, fitted with solid brass, single beam, milled and polished; made of smooth gray iron, wheels on solid steel axles; everything works with free and easy action ensuring accurate and sensitive weighing qualities; platform and pillar and cap of clear hard maple. 600 # scale - wt. 146 lbs. $7.56; shipped from the southern Michigan factory."

Richard Sears (who received all his education in our Spring Valley schools) had a "gift" when it came to merchandising. Each of the thousands of items in his catalogs was obviously "the best" and therefore we could depend on their "Money-Back-Guarantee!"

Two of my favorites among the exhibits are the wooden wagon jacks used to lift a wagon or surrey axle so wooden wheels could be removed and repaired or replaced. They are so simple in design and yet so effective.

A gentleman named Jim Bossart worked for the society for several years under the Green Thumb program, and for fun, he constructed a "threshing scene," which is now on display. In a l6" x 48" glass box, it shows a typical farm event: The Case tractor providing power for the threshing machine, two teams with loads of oat bundles being tossed on the thresher, the resulting straw pile; two more teams of horses with alert drivers hauling grain and other paraphernalia. Of course, the pet dog is keeping an eye on things.

While on tour of the facility, in the old-time kitchen at the Washburn-Zittleman House you will note the cistern pump mounted on the dry sink, and all the "ag equipment" in the pantry, with milk pans, cream skimmers, cheese tubs, churns, and an egg basket.

Have a good time at Ag Days, and visit the local museums for guided tours.