Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Threshing Oats Like it is 1921!

Since moving to Pennsylvania, we have attended enough fairs and shows to fill a lifetime. Ok, I am exaggerating, but there have been several! It is the 'fair-iest' and 'festival-iest' place I have ever lived. (And there is your vocabulary lesson for today! heehee!)

Last week was the Butler Farm Show. It is very similar to the Big Butler County Fair as far as events and animals, but it has a different location and is the yearly final event for 4-H clubs.

We attended partly to learn more about the 4-H clubs offered in our area and also for the fun and educational opportunities. One of these was the Threshing Demonstration. Since it rained most afternoons, the threshing was canceled several times this week, but we did manage to catch it Thursday afternoon.

This is a Case Thresher. It dates to approximately 1920 and during restoration some parts had to be created, so it is not completely authentic. Although, I argue that a farmer in the 20's & 30's would have used whatever they could to repair the farm equipment - so it might be more authentic than they believe!

The top toothed metal part is the part that was created. Because parts are no longer made for these threshers, the restorers took a part from a combine and cut it down to fit. This is called the 'straw walker' if I remember correctly. It catches the straw and bounces it over the teeth, walking to the end where it is blown up into the pipe that blows the straw to the ground. The lower part is where the oats fall as they are shaken from the straw.

This is the 'fan' that blows the chaff/straw up into the pipe. 

The pipe blew out the straw creating a sizeable pile, but only one bag of oats came from all this straw! Above is early in the demonstration and below is after the threshing as they began to bale the hay. 

The hay baler is a 1920 baler and was originally run by a motor that attached to its frame. The motor has not been repaired yet, although they hope to have it by next year, so a tractor was attached to the belt to make the baler work. 

I think I got ahead of myself... so let me get back to the thresher itself. It was also run by a tractor moving a belt. The man in the black t-shirt (back left in photo) forked oats onto the conveyor belt. The oats dropped out into the lower part of the machine as the straw was bounced across the straw walker. As the oats gathered in the lower portion of the thresher they are forced up and over the top of the machine and an auger spins them to the chute that drops them into the bag. 

You can see that the 'hay' has small round things all through it - those are the oats, still on their stems. I thought that was pretty neat! 

Here is the final product. This man was really nice and spent a long time showing us how everything worked and making sure we got to see the insides of the machines. He was very pleased that the kids wanted to understand these old machines. We all took a little handful of oats and MT spent the rest of the demonstration eating raw oats. Oh, they were so good!


I really wish I'd asked his name, but the man in the brown shirt explained how the baler worked too. It was pretty impressive how tight the bales were. 

When the wires were first twisted together, they just hung loose, but as the bale was released from the machine the hay expanded and the wires were tight. See them hanging loosely in the photo above?

As the bale begins to come out of the baler, note that the wires are digging into the hay bale. I think it must take a lot of trial and error to learn how tight to tie the wire at first. If it is too tight, the wires will snap as the bale is released so the tension is extremely important. Those adjustment wheels on top of the baler in the above picture help determine how tightly packed the bales are. The men baling today regularly adjusted them. Their goal for these bales was a tight bale for archery practice. An archery instructor had requested these bales for his team. 

I thanked the man for taking so much time to explain everything, and he said that he loves getting to tell kids about these things. He loves knowing that kids are still interested in learning about the past! For us, the demonstration was much more interesting with his explanations, and I appreciated that!


Sunday, August 11, 2013

Addictive Alpacas

Maggie loves alpacas. She wants her own little herd of these very sweet animals. But alpacas come with a pretty high price tag and probably should be owned and cared for by a person with some knowledge about the animal. Although she has researched them extensively, none of us have had an opportunity to actually interact with one, until today...

In June, while attending the Big Butler County Fair, we came across this sign:

While in the booth we noticed a sign about a 4-H Alpaca club! We met for our first meeting today and it was the most fun 4-H meeting I have ever attended! We discussed the plan for getting this club started, learned a little about Alpacas, then headed out to visit the Alpacas.

Alpacas are herd animals. They have no natural defenses, so they stay close to one another for security. They are very gentle, slightly timid, animals. They are not as large as llamas - the alpacas were 4 - 5 feet tall (that's my guess anyway). They do not have top teeth, so are incapable of biting a person. They do spit occasionally, but usually at each other, not at people. They will come for food, but they do not like to be petted on the head. (Yep! I was listening at the meeting!) 

 As part of this 4-H club, the students will be showing alpacas at various shows and fairs. Some competitions will include taking the animal through an obstacle course, so a couple of the moms present set up a simple obstacle course and the 7 kids present took turns walking 5 alpacas through the course.

All but one of these alpacas have been trained to complete the obstacle course, and that one learned very quickly! It was interesting to watch how easily the children were able to work with the alpacas. They are quick learners, super gentle, and social animals. The alpacas were all about a year old, and only two of the children had any experience with alpacas.

MT is just over 4 feet tall and his alpaca, Collin, was just about his height. FRitW walked Collin as well, and later walked Captain. Captain was slightly bigger than Collin.

Maggie with Captain. Alpacas are shaved in May, so his fleece is pretty thin right now. They winter very well since they usually have a nice heavy coat by the time the snows arrive.

MT with Collin. MT walked Collin through the obstacle course at least 15 times. Even when Collin tried to run or avoid an obstacle, MT had the strength to control him and get him back on track. I was so surprised by how easy they are to handle!

FRitW posing with Collin. You can see how small alpacas are. Collin is not fully grown, but will only weigh 100 - 150 pounds full grown. He might be about a foot taller than he is now.

Collin decided to try to escape, but FRitW was able to hold him and get him calmed quickly and take him right back through the obstacle course.

After today's meeting, I am feeling much more comfortable around alpacas. They are such sweet, gentle animals. Through our 4-H club we will have the opportunity to work with our host's alpaca herd, 'adopt' an alpaca, show that alpaca at fairs and competitions, and learn about the care and feeding of alpacas. The older kids in the group may get to adopt a female and follow her through pregnancy and birth, and help train the baby. In another year or so, who knows? Maybe Maggie will get to start her own herd!