August 14, 2013

Nelson Pioneer Farm ice cream social a trip into the past

The Oskaloosa Herald


The Mahaska County Historical Society held an old-fashioned ice cream social Saturday at Nelson Pioneer Farm.

Serenades & Sundaes was a day-long event where people could come to the farm and learn about pioneer skills enjoy some tasty treats while listening to some country music.

At various parts of the pioneer farm, people could learn about feeding chickens, making butter and cheese, learn about milking a cow, and see a blacksmith in action. The Mott General Store also was opened for visitors to tour.

Kelly Simmons, of Oskaloosa, gave demonstrations on making butter and cheese.

She used a milk paddle to make homemade butter.

“This is from my family,” she said as she cranked the paddle.

Simmons said she does such demonstrations at schools and for her children and grandchildren, but Saturday was her first time at Nelson Pioneer Farm.

Simmons said it takes about 20 minutes of cranking the milk paddle before the butter-making process bears fruit. If the milk being processed in the milk paddle is cold, then you can successfully make butter.

“You made butter either early in the morning or late at night,” she said. On the other hand, to make homemade cheese, the temperature needs to be warm, she added.

Bob and Jan Williams, of Grinnell, set up a corn grinder and corn sheller near Simmons' butter-making stand.

“I grew up with one of these,” Bob said of the corn sheller. “This one works good.”

Bob said you could either shell corn or walnuts with the corn sheller.

Both Bob and Jan grew up on farms.

They gave a quick demonstration of grinding corn after the ears of corn were processed in the corn sheller. The ground corn was used for chicken feed.

“I helped with the chickens,” Jan said of recalling her childhood on the farm.

Dave Gordy, of Ottumwa, and his family arrived at Nelson Pioneer Farm Saturday in period dress. He set up the blacksmith's shop while the rest of his family helped at other parts of the farm.

“We do living history displays,” Gordy said. “I've been doing living history displays for 18 years.”

Gordy unpacked his tools and got the fire going in the blacksmith's shop.

“Today, I'm going to make some hitching post rings, some hooks and maybe a knife,” he said.

Gordy said he learned blacksmithing as an apprentice with a friend from Illinois and a lot of on-th-job practice.

“A lot of it is just technique, and that's just time,” he said. “Blacksmithing is definitely not about how hot the fire is, it's all on hammer technique.”

Gordy said the first things a blacksmith make is his tools, such as a coal rake and poker.

Blacksmiths use coal, especially coked coal to get intense heat to work with metal. Temperatures get as hot as 5,000 degrees, and if the fire is white-hot, that's at 7,000 degrees, Gordy said.

“That's welding hot,” he added.

Gordy heated a metal rod and bent it with hammer and anvil until it made a hitching post ring.

Nelson Pioneer Farm Curator Kelly Halbert said the ice cream social began at 2 p.m., and at 3:30 p.m., Bob and Sheila Everhart performed some old-time country music until 4:45 p.m., to round out the day.

Herald Editor Duane Nollen can be reached by email at oskynews@oskyherald.com