Learning From the Past: Adventures in Farm History, Part 4

| 1/25/2011 10:55:29 AM

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This piece is the final installment of a four-part series on the author's discovery of the history of her organic farm. Read the other pieces, on how she began tracing the history of her farm, the immigrant stories of the farm's early owners and the historic farm sales of the Bruchmiller family.  

Høyland Farm: A Modern Organic Vegetable Farmhoyland farm barn

After Otto Bruchmiller died in 1916, three of his children — Lizzie, Herb and Trudie — moved to southeast Colorado, where a new irrigation canal provided dependable water for farming. Anna and her husband worked in a restaurant in California, Carl and his family moved into Lawrence and ran a livestock hauling business. Emma and her husband continued to live in Lawrence. Dollie traveled the world, working as a nurse. In 1919, Bruchmiller Farm, rather worn out from years of row cropping and erosion, was sold.

The farm changed hands several times in the '20s. In 1932, like many other properties in the area, it was sold at sheriff's sale in Oskaloosa and became a rental property. With cars and slightly better roads, country people could have a garden, a cow and a job in town. Three or four families came and went during the '30s and early '40s, mostly struggling to make it while renting a cheap old house. The paint peeled on the house and barn, the fences sagged. 

In 1946, Maynard Wipprecht, a soldier returning from WWII, brought his bride from Scotland to the place he had bought in Kansas. There was no running water or electricity, the outhouse was just past  the garden, the cookstove burned wood, the bedrooms were chilly and the porches were beginning to lean. Maynard Wipprecht sold the farm to his parents, who farmed with two Morgan horses. They finally got electricity in 1954, but the indoor plumbing took another ten years. When the Wipprechts sold the place to retire to Wyandotte County, a local fixer-upper bought the farm, living here and working on it for a year, then selling it again.

In 1976, we bought the farm — complete with indoor plumbing. Now we have come full circle. It is a farm again, but the crops are fruits and vegetables for our CSA and the farmers market. We rebuilt the barn, twice, and are finally replacing the fences. The house is remodeled, sturdy and cozy, but with echoes of the past. We still battle the mice, just as Otto and Augusta did. We replanted fruit trees to replace the large orchard that dwindled from the 1890s and disappeared during the drought of the '30s. We are rebuilding the soil, a painfully slow process. Native prairie grasses are spreading through our pastures, making them look as they must have when Otto and Augusta first arrived. A horse stands by the gate. Our hens have a new chicken house, and we are thinking of getting a few Dexter cows and guinea hogs. I wish we could have Otto to talk to for awhile. How did he load his hogs into the spring wagon to get them to town? Did they have any tricks to keep the hens laying during the winter? Was there a windmill to pump water for the animals, or did they have to carry it in buckets?

hoyland farm lettuceStudying the history of our farm has made some lessons clear. First of all, this hilly country is best for grassland, not row crops. It has taken decades to repair the soil, and the process is not yet complete. Although we raise vegetables on part of our acreage, we use grass strips, terracing, cover crops and crop residue to reduce erosion. Having a mix of crops and animals makes sense, so the animals provide fertility for the soil. We are about to try portable, woven electric fence with a solar charger so we can move chickens and a few cows around to convert more of the grass into meat, eggs and fertilizer. Like the Bruchmillers, we find fruit to be productive but not dependable, because of our erratic climate. Diversity helps insure against disaster.

Cari Guthrie
8/25/2012 1:49:36 PM

what a wonderful history of your farm. I truly enjoyed reading about it - thank you for posting it .I pray blessings on you and your family as you preserve the life of your farm:) - cari

brandie matthews
11/6/2011 6:10:51 AM

Joy, I am Fredericka's granddaughter, Brandie Briggs (Matthews). I enjoyed reading your story on the farm. At 97, Grandma is having some trouble with her memory and thoughts. But, I usually recharge her a bit with moments I can recount of stories she told me in the past. That farm is many of them. Thank you for the lovely posts. Grandma has had a remarkable life and it all started with a farm that Otto built with love, determination and strong family bonds.

Sue K.
2/2/2011 10:23:43 AM

I truly enjoyed Joy's account on the history of her farm. I live in an old school one-room house and have looked up some of the information on my home as well. Don't know if I'll ever find a picture of here when it was a school house. Joy, Thank You for taking us on your journey through the history of your farm!!

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