The Back Four(ty)
The Homestead Act gave title to 160 acres of land to anyone who would live and farm a place for a certain number of years. This certainly helped to settle the country back when any area west of the Mississippi was still the "Wild West." Of those 160 acres, many farms had a portion of land located away from the road, buildings, and the prying eyes of the neighbors that was lovingly referred to as "The Back Forty." These acres might have been the roughest areas of the farm, or literally the back-most area of the farm.
At our site north of Tipton, we don't have 40 acres total, but we do have 4 acres in the back of the Village that we refer to as "The Back Forty." This area is planted with corn, oats, and hay. The corn is picked in the fall to be used in the following year's A Day on the Prairie corn shelling demonstrations with vintage equipment and once even a hand operated sheller was brought out for folks try. The oats are harvested and stored until the Day on the Prairie event that year for our threshing demonstration also with vintage equipment. These demonstrations bring up many "back in the day" stories as our older guests reminisce about growing up on the farm. And our younger guest are quite intrigued by how different things are from today's large combines and tractor trailers. When possible we also host a demonstration of the use of horse drawn implements, this year (2018) it was held in October as spring got ahead of us and we used an antique tractor to get the crops in, in a timely manner. Board member Bob Davidson, led this years demonstration with his horses and donated implements and others brought their horses along to have a go at the plow.
Also on this area of land we have an old saw mill that board member Mike Rekemeyer restored to working order in 2017 and that year for the first time we had a sawmill demonstration. Board member Bob Davidson ran the saw while board members Mike Rekemeyer and Rodne Wendt pulled the lumber that was cut off and came down the line. The demonstration was a crowd pleaser to say the least and our guests were happy to see it return this year. Of course the sawmills of years past were run by the local sawyer so we moved in the small cabin that had been beside the Ag Museum on the fairgrounds and made the necessary repairs it needed. Board member Mike Rekemeyer then decorated the cabin as we would imagine a bachelor at the turn of the 20th century might have lived, complete with a rope bed, table for one, and antler decor. This building has been named "Buck's" cabin after a sawyer that lived and ran a sawmill in Cedar County.
During the Day on the Prairie we have been adding to the farming demonstrations and displays on the back 40. This year we had a few more tractors on display including a Farmall F14 that board member Mike Rekemeyer got up and running and a donated Witte engine generator that he also brought back to working order with the assistance of Mr. Elijah. Hopefully we can continue to find folks who like to show off their farming equipment to continue to grow this display. We would be really excited if we could find someone who would bring and display their steam engine, maybe even hooking it to the sawmill so folks can see how things used to be done.