Friday, August 21, 2009

Field Trip - Steam Powered Threshing Bee, Part One

You made some great guesses last week when I mentioned that the Farmer and I were going on a little adventure that involved steam. Ang. knew for sure where we were going because she was raised in Sycamore, Illinois and rode her bike or walked to the threshing bee.

I want all of you to come along with us as we experience one of the most interesting summertime activities that northern Illinois has to offer.

The old-time threshing bee is held about 15 miles from here on the grounds of the Taylor Marshall farm. It's in the middle of corn and soybean fields. We turn right off the main road and find ourselves in a traffic jam. Unheard of except during this event. There's lots of help directing traffic.

As you can see there's not a car in sight from the other direction.

There's an entire field filled with the trailers that haul the big equipment to the site. On the opposite side of the farm is a huge camping area with RV's and tents.

The signs point the way.

This is not a road, it's a path through the grassy field that's been worn down by the constant passage of cars. This is a four day event. Get up early because this is run by farmers and it opens at 6 a.m.!

We are having fun as the trusty Impala bumps across the field. We're off-roading in a Chevy! We believed we'd left early but look.......

the field is jam packed with cars! That means we're going to need to park a long distance from the entrance.

It doesn't matter because there are shuttle "buses" to take us to the gate.

These are hay wagons pulled by vintage tractors. They've rigged a Conestoga-type structure covered with a tarp to protect riders from the elements.

Bordering the parking area is an open field that is used to showcase the plowing abilities of the old tractors.

Take a close look. That is Illinois topsoil. Yes, it's that black and rich. It never ceases to amaze me. This is why it's a crime to plunk another house on top of what was once a field covered with some of the world's richest soil.

Our hay wagon has arrived and it's time for the show. The blue tarp makes everyone look like blue Martians.

The entrance fee is $6.00. I asked for the senior citizen discount but that's only offered on Thursday.

I love the hand painted sign. Speaking of which, once we get inside the gate there are signs to direct us to the important areas including the airbrush tattoos.

Last year the Farmer was very, very unhappy. We'd walked around the show going clockwise. He was anticipating the booth with the roasted sweet corn but when we got there they had run out!!! How do you run out of sweet corn at a threshing bee? The Farmer was taking no chances this year. We're heading straight to the back to the corn stand.

There it is. It's hosted by the Hampshire Sportsman and Conservation Club.

They also serve brats but we're not interested in those, we're here for the sweet corn.

Here's how you roast sweet corn. Soak the corn in a large tub of salt water.

Pull them out and put them on a very hot grill. Roast, turning occasionally, until the husks are beginning to turn brown.

Pull back the husk, using it as a handle. Walk over to the butter and salt merry-go-round.

Butter it up good. Salt to taste.

Dig in.

Yes, it's that good!!!

We finish our corn in no time flat and the Farmer promises he'll be back later in the afternoon for more. With food in our stomach it's time for the main event, the tractors!

These boys collect BIG TOYS. They are big, dirty, hot-as-hell and amazing machines. I can't imagine someone coming home and saying, "Honey, I just bought a two ton fire breathing dragon."

Here's a huge Minneapolis. For scale, look at the woman on the left. She's just stepped off the back of the tractor.

Here's another machine.

It's an environmentalists nightmare!!!

They're like something out of a storybook. Look at this colorful machine.

The controls look complicated. It's a steam boilers on wheels and looks mighty dangerous to me. This guy is working the controls and it's not like driving a stick-shift car.

When the tractors are at rest they're very quiet. All you hear is the ominous hissing as water droplets hit the hot metal.

Speaking of storybooks, what was the name of the steam engine in the children's book? I can't remember. Here's a real, live working steam engine.

It's a two-man operation.

I say hooray for the folks that spend their time and resources to save these machines for future generations. They're a different breed of historical archivists.

Besides plowing fields, these engines were used to do many tasks on the farm. They have large flywheels that attached to belts that would use the power to run other machines such as the threshers, corn grinders and sawmills. We'll see that tomorrow.

This old truck actually runs! It looks like something out of a vintage movie set.

It hooks up to a rig that shucks corn.

That's it for today. Come back tomorrow when we have MORE FOOD and see some of the vintage tractors run by conventional gas engines.

Thanks for coming along today. I hope you enjoyed the sweet corn. And remember, there's always a giveaway connected with my field trips. Tune in tomorrow.


Ang. said...

It was almost as good as actually being there. :) Next year we are going! I have not been in 15 years!!! I know a lot has changed. Like when did Lukens Rd get lines? On the other hand I am sure that there are many of those steam engines that I grew up seeing year after year. They are like old friends and I am anxious to see them again!

Kitty said...

Are you talking about "Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel"? The steam shovel was Mary Anne. (I vaguely remember it but had to look it up).

It's great these old machines are still around to see how they worked.

LydaBabes Going Ons!!!! said...

That looked like fun.....Pickneyville is what I was thinking of ....they have a great show. In fact it is this week end...Kinda fer from ya.....great show.....

Becky K. said...

What an efficient way to salt and butter than yummy looking corn!

Are you allowed to pick your teeth?

Becky K.

Karen Deborah said...

Wow all I ever wanted was to be a farmers wife. why didn't I just move to Illinois? That's the best dirt I have ever laid eyes on. It looks like pure compost.
I have learned to enjoy corn just plain it really is great, saves a lot of calories that way. You had a wonderful day, and your a lovely teacher.
That old truck looks just like Mater from the movie "Cars" have you seen it?

Ang. said...

On a side note, I just remembered my Dad telling me that the creek that ran through our farm was dug with a steam shovel. I wish that I could remember more of what he told me now after I saw the pictures you took.

Anonymous said...

We use to have a steam engine show in our little bitty town of Valley Center, Ks. Been gone for years now. But that reminds me of vintage trains that are in Abilene, KS, home of past president, Eisenhauer,(Ike) Retired railroaders keep these old trains going and you can even take a several mile trip on them. Maybe a "longer" trip for you and the farmer.

Ruta M. said...

Thanks for sharing your trip. it really feels like I have been on a visit. I just loved the salt and butter dispenser. It made me laugh out loud.People don't barbecue sweet corn here (too expensive?) but we had some when we visited my family in Canada many years ago.
Re the train, are you thinking of Thomas The Tank Engine? known and loved by every small boy here, and many small girls.

J'Ollie Primitives said...

Was it Stanley the Steam Engine?

Arthur Mcinnis said...

Really amazing locomotive vehicles!

It's great that you had fun during the Steam Powered Threshing Bee. Those tractors definitely looked like they came straight from a story book. Today, the steam powered vehicles utilize 3 macon controls valves to easily manipulate the temperature. Macon valves and similar devices can help regulate the flow of steam. Thus, helping the 'driver' in getting his desired temperature.

Hope I could also visit a Threshing bee this year. Thanks!

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