Leroy Butchering a Cow as Papa & Mama Anticipate the Good Meat


"The Old Plain View Farm's Equipment, Farm Animals & Farm Buildings"

"History Lesson-Plain View Farm Equipment,"

by Leroy Stadem

(The Youngest of Nine),

May, 2010

Requests and admonitions have come from various sources to write down as much information about Plain View Farm as possible, otherwise HISTORY WILL BE LOST! I don't know where people get time to write books! It's hard enough to sit down and write a letter and/or a page or two of "old time remembrances". [does anyone hear grouse in the vicinity, or is it snipe? The amount of wildlife on Plain View Farm is amazing!"--Ed,]

Oldest sister, Pearl Ginther and son Ronald presented the latest request for historical information. It was this: "Could you write down what you know about the hitching up of the horses, and also about the equipment used on the farm...?"

I remember hearing a few stories about the years before my existence, and since sis Pearl is 18 years older than I am, I can only go by what Papa (the name for our Dad, Alfred Stadem) talked about regarding Pearl's expertise with horses and equipment. He often talked about how she was able to plow with five horses, using two of the horses on the lead, pulling the gang plow (the name for a 2 bottom plow). Many of you have heard the story of how Pearl rigged up a buggy, loaded up her five younger sisters (Arthur, Ruth, nor I had been born yet), and drove the three miles from the old Stadem farm to the 80 acre farm, where Papa and Mama were working. That day Pearl was to be at home, ion charge until Alfred and Bessie returned at the end of the day. This was prior to when "Plain View Farm" had any buildings on the land. How old was Pearl then? Well, the farm building went up in 1918 and 1919, so since Pearl was 100 years old in 2009, she could only have been nine or ten years old at the most!! Uffda! When they saw her coming, they were sure disaster had occurred. in order for her to have done that. [Pearl recalls that her Paper did not get after her, but spoke privately to her concerning the hitching of one part that was not done quite right. She was certain she was going to be bawled out, but instead he corrected her handling of the hitch so that she could do it perfectly next time.-- Ed.].

Now let's move ahead to about 1937. These are my recollections from when I was around 10 years old, and helping with the work.


Most of the time there were three horses on the farm, due to a variety of reasons--the Depression, the dust storms, the grasshoppers, and the fact that horses could get sleeping sickness. I do remember the names of some of the horses: Ted, Sandy, Kate, Prince, and of course Jenny, our trusty mule, which many of the early grandchildren could ride.


All of our equipment was powered by horses when I was young. Since we were now downs to three horses the farming methods changed, and actually one spring, we had only two horses.

A. Tractor

The old Waterloo Boy, forerunner of the John Deere, was revived for plowing mostly. It was very hard to start. You had to pull the fly wheel. (I guess it was the magneto that was the culprit.) It ran on distillate, a form of kerosene. It also took a five-gallon container of water on every round. Papa wouldn't stop, but jump off, get the 5-gallon can, climb on the front, pour in the water, and be set for another round pulling the 3 or 4 bottom plow. The steel front wheels seemed to stay in the furrow--most of the time.

B. Plow

When we were down to two horses, we used the walking plow, a two section drag, and a garden cultivator. However, most of my plowing was done with three horses on a sulky plow, which was a one bottom plow with a seat to ride.

C. Drag

One section per horse was probably the rule when it came to drags. That meant no riding on a drag cart. Of course, an advantage in walking was that you could walk to the side to avoid the dust. D. Disc

Three Horses worked OK to pull the disc. Often extra weight was needed for the discs to penetrate the dry ground. Papa would wire heavy weights on it--big old rocks worked fine. Disking wad done on last year's corn ground.

E. Drill and Seeders

We had a drill and two seeders to plant the seeds, an Endgate Seeder, and a Hand Seeder. I recall using all three methods of seeding on our 80 acres. Farmers were used to lending machinery, especially the type that was seldom used, or used only by small farmers. The drill we had was intended for four horses. It had two tongues with a horse on each side. For the times that we didn't have four horses, Papa extended a long neck yoke between the two tongues, and two horses pulled it by hitching them up in the middle.

F. Corn Planter

"Lazy farmers drilled in their corn. Good farmers checked theirs." Checked corn was planted a corn row distance apart. This required a corn planter wire which would drop the kernels far enough apart so that a cultivator could be pulled both ways in the field--lengthwise and crosswise. Most of my buddies who were my age never planted corn. Their dads did it. Papa wanted us to learn it all!

G. Cultivation

When we were down to two horses, we would have two garden cultivators going. You would have the lines to control the horse draped over your neck, and then your hands were holding the cultivator. The lines to control the horse could also be held b y a visiting grandchild who would be riding on, and steering the horse. most of the time a one row cultivator, pulled by two horses, was the machine used in my years. however, when we got four horses, then I would be operating the two row cultivator. That was great, but when I looked across the fence at my schoolmates, riding on an "M" Farmall or an "A" John Deere, it was hard not to be envious.

H. Binder

The binder tied bundles of cut grain stalks. To get to run the binder was quite a challenge. There were so many moving parts that needed watching. You wanted to make sure the twine was getting the grain tied into bundles, because you were the one to do a lot of the shocking, and had to pick up the loose grain dropped in the winnow was no fun.

I. Hayrack

Two horses were used to haul a hayrack full of bundles of grain to the threshing machine located in the grain field, or the hayrack full of bundles could be hauled to the farm area to stack and be threshed at a later time. We did both methods. In addition to hauling grain bundles, the hayrack was, of course, used to haul hay to the barn. Then the hayrack was loaded by filling slings with hay. The hay fixture with rope was used to pull the slings that were strategically placed while loading the hay rack, so these sling loads pulled by the horses into the bay loft of the barn would empty the whole rack, and eliminate a lot of hay pitching with a fork.

J. Haybucker

This machine was used to push windrows into a pile, so they could more easily be stacked b y hand, or loaded with a pitch fork into a hayrack. It was used more often to load the stacker.

K. Hay Stacker

Our hay stacker was called an Overshot. Horses were used to pull the load, which was shoved onto the overshots tines by the hay bucker, and then it would, like a catapult, shoot the hay overhead and dump it high in the stack [sounds like fun if you were on the receiving end and got it down your neck!--Ed.]

L. Mower

Our mower was pulled by two horses. It had a sickle bar out to the right side which cut grass or hay. The hay would then lay until partly dry, so as not to mold in the stack. Prairie grass was very hard to mow.

M. Rake

We had A dump rake pulled by two horses. The operator would dump the hay to form windrows, ready for the hay bucker to feed the hay stacker to keep the person in the stack working like a trooper. (The person working the stack could be a guy or a gal, as Mama did probably more than her share of hay stacking!) But we were so happy to get hay for the cows and horses for the winter!

N. Threshing Machine

A threshing machine separated the grain from the chaff, or straw. A threshing run, or threshing bee, would be done in the grain field, with the neighbors cooperating and helping each other to finish. Or we would do our own stacking of bundles at the farm area, and then get Adolph and Melvin ("Molly") Stadem to come and thresh with their 36 in. machine. (Later they went to a 28 in. machine.) This is what Bernice and Papa were doing on October 20, 1927, the day I was born. Papa used to say, "Leroy stopped the threshing machine." Papa had a machine made mostly of wood, except for the gears and belts, of course. I never saw sit operate. It was under a shed next to the old chicken house. It was a favorite place to hide during hide and seek games. There is a part or two left of that machine on the farm.

O. Well Digger

Papa bought a second hand well digging outfit that was horse powered. I helped him dig some wells as well as the cistern by the barn. These wells were called auger wells. A three-foot diameter was the largest size we could do. Building a curb, and placing that in the hole after striking water was part of the whole job. This was a machine Papa used to bring in some income as he dug wells for others [his well digging book accounts and name of customers and the costs of a horse and expenses is in the PVF archives--Ed.]. It is quite ironical that we always had water problems on the farm. Before I was old enough to remember, Papa had dug a 60 foot well just to the east of where the last barn stood. It was an OK well, but never was quite enough, especially during the dry years. I helped dig two more wells, one to the south of the old cow's yard, and one in the pasture west of the road.

P. Cisterns

The cistern by the house could still hold water, with some repairs. We will have to decide if it is worth repairing--for show? For water storage off the roof? For remembrances? Papa dug it about the same time as the house was to be built, I'm sure. That cistern was one of the life preserving units on the farm. It was the only source of drinking water, cooking water, clothes washing water, and bathing water. That cistern was also our refrigerator!

The house basement was good to keep the cream and eggs somewhat cool during the summer, or to keep from freezing in the winter. Potatoes and canned goods were stored in the basement too. But to have cold milk to drink, we would hang a gallon pail on a rope down in the cistern! Careful!!! If it spilled, can you imagine what would happen to our only source of water for the house? We would also lower the cream that was to be churned into butter down into the cistern. Cold cream made butter much sooner than warm cream...and it was usually sour cream. The by-product from making butter was buttermilk, and boy, was that buttermilk ever a premium when it had aged a few days and hung down cool! The cistern is 20 feet deep. We would clan it out--hopefully once a year or so--especially when the water got low, because we had to store the water that was left until time to let it fill again. I don't think we ever had water trucked in, but we learned conservationism!

To supplement the rain water, in the winter we would shovel clean snow into the cistern. Since the water would never freeze, the snow would melt in a fairly short time. Most of the time we pulled the water up in a bucket. In my early boyhood years, I remember a cistern pump, the interesting old style chain of metal cups that brought the water up [I saw a cup and part of a chain on the farm, a fragment of that long-ago cistern pump--Ed.] When I was a young adult the cistern got an update. Hans Spilde helped me put in the piped water system that was used until the time the house was taken over by Ruth and Tom Harrington. The folks (my parents) were thrilled with the running water--bathroom and all--but it took carefuk supervision when visitors (grandchildren) let the water run, or flushing was done unnecessarily! (I know one of you said Grandma (Bergit) was harsh on you once when you used water to wash your head--I suppose you were using more than she thought you should! Ufdah.)

The Cistern by the Barn

This cistern is no longer there. It caved in when care wasn't taken to preserve it. That is the one I helped dig. The well digger couldn't do all the work. We had to get down in the hole and shape it wider, so the dirt could be lifted out. It took some days to get the hold made and then we did the job of plastering the sides of the cistern. Papa envisioned watering the cows in the barn on stormy days with this new cistern so close to the barn. Then neither man, nor beast, nor water would freeze!


This is a little insight into what it was like using the equipment on the farm in the 1930's and into the 1940's. We were always thankful when the work was accomplished, and more thankful that no one got hurt. We thanked God during our family devotions, went to bed for a good night's rest, and were able to get at the work waiting the next day.




What happened to the granary? It actually became the structure over the hog house! Papa got the idea, "Why not dig intot he hillside just tot he east of the basement barn and the old well,and then after building a foundation, move the granary over to it to form a warm home for the pigs!"


How did this granary move to its new location? Using no equipment, no tractors, not even horses! Just the trusty old well rig that had a hand crank geared to turn easy, but able to pull a large load with its steel cable. We first pulled the granary up the hill straight east with several roller type wooden rollers and also pipes from around the farm, so the building wouldn't slide. Then when the granary was straight north fo the newly made foundation, we relocated the well rig to the south of the foundation, and pulled the granary unto its new location. We had to make sure it was held back by ropes around stakes which were manned to let the building roll gently. The mission was accomplished! After windows, doors, farrowing pens and electricity were all in place, Papa had the best hog house in the country. He even had an easy way to bring grain from above with a slide trap and spout. (Actually the basement barn had a similar feeindg operation for the cows since an oats bin was constructed in the northeast corner of the hay mow area.)

There were two other building additions made to the farm during this time. One was a straw shed and the second was a brooder house for baby chicks.


The straw shed took shape just to the east of the hoghouse, where years before a silage pit had been dug. The silage pit was used during the dry years when the planted corn seldom got enough rain to produce anything except the stalks. The straw shed was also used as a place to put the car during the bitter cold winter days and nights. Starting the car was always a challenge on the farm. Some tricks which made it easier were: by jacking up the back wheel to make the crank easier to turn; by heating the radiator fluid, and by pulling the automobile with horses to get the flywheel to turn fast enough so that the engine would start. These tricks would work some times but, often times were met with frustration. So the strawshed was designed to be a place of warmth for the cattle and also the car. There was an extra length on the north end for the car, and enough room for the livestock on the south side. The warmth of the cattle did the trick, but once in a while the car still wouldn't go--the tires were slipping a little and you can guess why!

When electricity came to the farm, engine headbolt heaters also came, so again, REA [Rural Electricity Administration?] to the Rescue!


There were two ways we got baby chicks. Often we ordered them and they came through the mail in boxes with air holes. Sometimes setting hens and their nests of eggs would be brought into the southeast corner of the house basement. There the hens would set until the eggs hatched. Baby chicks needed to be kept warm, so a brooder house was built. What a small building, but, oh, how serviceable. Lumber from the leftovers of the original barn was used to build a double walled building. The walls were packed with straw for insulation. Heat for the building was provided by a small oil burner at first, then later, of course, electricity was used.


Well, now the list of buildings is complete. Oh, oh, not quite complete. We always had (and there still is) an outhouse! Sometimes it was called "The First Home Freezer"! During the night, we were able to use the pottie, which was stored under the bed. One of its nicknames was the "white owl." Also, it was well known that the boys would sometimes stand or squat in the barn or chicken house, but there were no catalogues to use, and the corn cobs were not very clean to start with [I thought this was just a family joke, and asked Mom to verify that, but she said, no, they did use corncobs--Ed.]. This has reminded me of an old story that is too cute to pass up telling. When using the outhouse, a person would use three corn cobs as toiletry for cleaning up. One would be white, and the others could be brown. The person would use the brown ones first, then the white one to see if you needed the other brown one. UFTA!!


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