Since the calendar says spring is here, I thought it would be a good time to write about farming. Though longer days look advantageous, getting out on our land will take a bit longer, so I asked my husband to reminisce.
To jar Bob's memory, I brought out an old Manzke family album. In it are a lot of Bob's baby pictures, but what I wanted was farming, so we searched past his childhood days and stopped on farm work photos in black and white. Considering their age (taken in the 60s), they scanned fairly well.
Here's what Bob said.
Fifty years ago, our farm had 20 wood stanchions. These were made of 2-by-6s — one permanent and another that pivoted and latched on top. We were milking 30 to 35 cows, so we had to bring the cows to the stanchions in shifts (Bob was a teenager at this time).
We had three milk machines and carried the milk in open buckets outside and up four steps into the milk house. There we dumped the milk into cans and put the cans in a can cooler.
When I went to Joliet Junior College for agriculture, I was introduced to modern milking parlors. I saw them when my class visited some modern dairy farms.
Dad was really opposed to having a parlor. He said the cows would get too wild and that we wouldn't know our cows well enough.
One day, the Gierkes, our neighbors, came over and asked if Dad wanted to go to an auction in Indiana at the Dr. Scholl's Farm (yes, the foot doctor). They were selling their cows; I stayed home and did the milking.
Dad spent the day watching cows being milked at the modern Scholl dairy. He was intrigued by the process. When he came home that night, Dad was all set to build one of those newfangled milking parlors on the Manzke farm.
A few days later, an artificial inseminator came to our farm, and Dad was talking to him about building a milking parlor. It turned out the man knew of a set of three Clay side-opening milking stalls for sale. These had never been installed, and when we found them, they were sitting in a barn with chickens roosting on them. I even remember what we paid for them. After some dealing, we got them for $100 each, including instructions and a design for a parlor.
We built the parlor ourselves. We dug the pit with our Allis Chalmers D-15 tractor and loader. The cement blocks we used were seconds bought at the Brick Yard in Blue Island. Dad made a point in saying to the clerk that we'd pay cash. They made a deal that included delivery to the farm. The trucker drove up with the blocks on a flatbed and unloaded them by hand.
Will Wollenzien, another neighbor, taught us how to lay the block, and we built the milking parlor ourselves.
Of course, our cows had to be trained to enter the parlor. Ten days before milking in the parlor, we started by training the cows to come inside the parlor stalls by putting grain in each feeder.
The last thing we did was paint the parlor walls a bright white. The cows didn't like the change and wouldn't come in at all. We had to start training all over again.
Eventually, the Manzke farm had their modern parlor in operation. And the newfangled operation worked for years, until our move to Wisconsin in 1977 when the cows were sold. Bob never went into the barn again.
FYI: Visit us at the WPS Farm Show, March 29-31, in Oshkosh (I'll have books to sell). We'll be at the Wisconsin State Farmer booth (North Tent #0128) in between hangars A and C. Hope to see you there.