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SCHOOL HILL

On a Sunday afternoon free of other attractions (or distractions) such as a Green Bay Packer game, some 40 members and guests of the Lakeshore Two Cylinder Tractor Club enjoyed a leisurely 25-mile trek through the countryside in southwest Manitowoc County.

The caravan consisted of 10 older model farm tractors representing the John Deere, Case, Farmall, Allis Chalmers, Massey Harris, and International Harvester brand names. Four of them pulled hay wagons occupied by riders ranging in age from pre kindergarten to their 80s.

Following a chili and dessert fuel-up meal at the town of Meeme hall in School Hill, the traveling contingent headed west on Highway X, south on Moraine Road, west on Washington, north on Cedar Lake Road, west on Rockville Road, north on Lax Chapel Road, west on Point Creek Road, north on Steinthal Road, east on Town Line Road, north again on Lax Chapel, east on Newton Road and then east on Church Road to a rest and refreshment stop in St. Nazianz. The day's trek was completed on Highway A south of St. Nazianz to Christel Road east and then south on Marken Road back to School Hill.

Getting acquainted

While on the route for nearly three hours, people on wagons who were not acquainted before that day quickly established a camaraderie that led to a sharing of lifetime experiences and memories encompassing child raising and family life; Christmas tree preferences; and even tales of apparent haunted house episodes.

Along the way, residents who were outside waved their greetings and approval to the passing group. The tractorcade also passed a hiker and a woman walking her dogs.

A main attraction for the ride at a pace of not much faster than 10 miles per hour is being able to notice features on the landscape that are likely to be missed when zipping through the same location at 50 to 70 miles per hour.

Qualifying on that point were two honeybee colonies and well over a dozen natural or man-made ponds and lakes — most of them not named. From the roadway at high speeds, a good view of several of those bodies of water is screened by trees and other vegetation. What was surprising was that no wildlife animal species — mammals or birds — were seen anywhere along the route.

Anyone traveling at high speed would probably not notice the sign for the Pigeon River Ag Museum along Washington Road, the entrance sign to the Pathways for a Better Life on the east side of Lax Chapel Road, the solar panel in the small community of Steinthal and a small sawmill near St. Nazianz.

Landscape overview

Land use along the route is quite varied, including agricultural land, woodlots, land that might be in conservation reserve programs, hunting or recreation land, a gravel pit, farmsteads with either well-kept or collapsing older buildings and residential yards that ranged from being cluttered to being in good order and decorated. A few residences had a small grove of apple trees.

Seen along the way were a few farms with beef cattle, several with horses and associated corrals and roaming lots, one place with several small animal species, a herd of a rare cattle breed (American British whites) in a pasture and only one operating dairy farm.

Because of the relatively early date of the excursion and the late growing season, one missing element on the Sunday afternoon as the skies began to clear after two days of intermittent rains was the typical display of autumn colors in the foliage. With yellow to rusty and bright red leaves, several patches of sumac were the exception.

Cropping review

Within the farm fields from which corn had been harvested, there were still some spots with standing water in the wake of excess rainfall during the previous three weeks. Very little of the corn still had any green leaves — not due to a freeze but due rather to an outbreak of northern corn leaf blight which struck widely and quickly in the first half of September this year.

Although the time of maturity had arrived for soybeans, not one of the fields along the day's route had been harvested. A combination of water-logged soils and the prolonged periods of high humidity delayed the drying and harvesting of the soybeans.

Thanks to the frequent rainfalls, alfalfa fields along the way were thriving with very healthy growth. In some cases, there was still a possibility of a fourth cutting or even a very unusual fifth cutting in one cropping year.

What was evident to the group of travelers, including in their own lives in some cases, was the major change during recent decades across the landscape to what had been one household family farms for three or more generations in the area.

Among the way, there were many farmsteads on which the change is very apparent. This includes barns needing paint, that are beginning to crumble or that have fallen along with concrete or stone silos that haven't been used to store feed for many years.

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