Monday, November 19, 2012

Place Bound - Pros and Cons

Place Bound - Pros and Cons
What are the pros and cons of living your whole life in one place?  North American Indian Tribes moved about seeking food sources.  Many tribes did, however, roam seasonally within a small area. When the Europeans settled the Midwest they purchased land or homesteaded a farm.  Through the 1800s and into the early 1900s those settlers, and most of their kids and grand-kids lived on or near the original farm.  Of course that changed with the migration of farm workers to the cities for factory jobs.  Today families are scattered all over the world but connected with their electronic gadgets.

Overhiser Orchards is the home for a family that is an exceptions to that migration pattern.  The families of five generations have lived and worked at the farm starting in 1863.  Rural farm living can be very satisfying.  Within your community you know everyone and can help and be helped by neighbors.  Your land becomes as much a part of your total being as your family.  You know the hills, valleys, soil, drainage, air flow, trees, wildlife, wildflowers and how the seasonal changes impact your crops.  Certain places can invoke fond or not so fond memories.  I have fond memories of the land I lived on while growing up.  Think of some of the places you have lived the kindle fond memories.  Thanks be to God for this good earth upon which we can stay in one place or move about. 

When Henry settled the original farm he set the house on the top of the maple covered ridge that overlooked the road to the south.  Today the five teenage Overhiser kids have a basketball court on the original home site.  Backtracking in history, this one spot on this good earth has supported the following uses:
  • Presently a basketball court
  • Mobile home parking  site for Allan and Kim
  • Location of Grandpa Bill's shuffleboard court
  • Home site for William and Edna family until the house burned in 1927
  • Home of William Albert and Daisy family until the death of William Albert in 1915
  • Home of Henry and Sarah family from 1863 until William Albert and first wife Alta May lived in the house.
  • Pre-1863 Maple forest and home of wild amimals that were hunted by the indians of the area.
  • Before the trees the terrain was shaped by the ice age and the melting of the glaciers.

Thanksgiving at the Farm - 2012
The birds have been killed and dressed.  The farm is all warped up for winter.  Allan and Kim are down for a long winter nap with visions of next years fruit dancing in their heads.  One need to go back to 1945 to find a comparable year for crop loss.  This is the worst lost Allan can remember in his 52 years.  The fruit trees, however, have survived the spring freezes and summer drougth so should be producing fruit this next year, God willing.

2012 was a good year for growing kids.  Here is the roster: Aaron is 6' - 3" and will be 16 on December 9.  Kelsy, Kortny, Alex and Adam will be 15 this next May 13.  Aaron plays on the varsity basketball team and the other kids are also playing basketball this winter.   

Monday, September 24, 2012

Allan and Kim Tie Knot - 1982

Allan and Kim Tie Knot - 1982
Kim Myers and Allan Overhiser were both 1978 Fennville grads.  They started dating their junior year.  Kim was a cheerleader for Allan's basketball team.  Kim played basketball, softball and tennis.  Kim was good at math and worked as a bank teller in the fall of '78 before starting at Western Michigan University (WMU).  She started out in computer science and then switched to accounting.  Allan had started at WMU in the fall of '78.  In Allan's second year he selected agribusiness as a major after thinking he might want to work the family farm.  College weekends were spent at home doing laundry and loading up with meals for the week.  Summers 79, 80 and  81 Allan helped Dad (Albert) run the farm.
1982 was a very busy year.  Mom retired from teaching at South Haven.  Kim and Allan graduated from WMU.  Allan continued his on the job training with dad and then there was the September 25th wedding.  It was at the Douglas Community Church with a reception at the St Peters Catholic Church Reception Hall.  It was a very festive gathering of family and friends 30 years ago.

Grandma Edna had been widowed in 1969 and continued to live in the house on the original farmstead.  Allan and Kim moved into a mobile home just east of Edna's house.  The mobile home was located on the site of the 1860s house that Henry built.  It was very beneficial for Edna to have care givers on call.  Allan and Kim very much enjoyed having always happy Edna to "look after".

Allan and Albert worked the farm and Kim worked at Fleming Brother's Oil Company and later at DuWell in Bangor.  This was following in the footsteps of mom having the regular job (teaching) while Albert farmed and made money some years.  In 1984 a farm partnership was formed between Albert/June and Allan/Kim.  On the last day of August that same year a hail storm destroyed the peaches that had not been picked as well as all the plums and apples.  The farm did not have any crop insurance so it was a lean year financially.  The 2012 total freeze killing of all the fruit was similar to the 1945 freeze.

At The Farm September 24, 2012
The retail building and animal barn will be open 9 to 5 Friday, Saturday and Sunday through the end of October.  One major farm improvement has just been completed. The pond on the original farm had dried up so it was mowed and then dredged.  Water is filling in the pond that will be stocked with fish.  A boat and dock may be coming soon.

Adam and Alex are playing soccer and Kortny and Kelsy are playing volleyball.  The quads are all in the marching band which keeps Kim and Grandma Meyers busy altering uniforms.  Aaron is playing tackle on the football team but can not wait for basketball season to get started.  He is tall and still growing.  Will he be taller than 6' 4" uncle Tobe (Edna's brother)?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

School Boy AllanO

School Boy Allan O
Mother June taught at Lincoln Elementary in the South Haven system.  Allan attended the Fennville schools.  Summers were times for hard work.  Albert took charge of the farm in 1961 and bought the first cherry shaker in 1970.  Allan remembers he, his Dad (Albert), and a crew would shake their tart cherries and the orchards of others during most of the month of July.  That was a rush rush hot hot harvest time.  August was the peach harvest month then back to school.  He belonged to a 4 H club, church group, and spent lots of time with his older cousin Scott Evans.  When Martin and Chuck's kids would come to visit Allan was the activities director and tried to keep the snowmobiles and horses running.

In 1974- 75 Allan's class was split into two sessions because a new high school was being built.  It was a fun time with classes in the morning and golf in the afternoons.  Cousin Scott's class was the first to graduate from the new high school building.  In high school, Allan played basketball and baseball for 4 years, golf for 3 years and football for 1 year.  In 1976 Mom and Dad bought a newish Chevy from Uncle Dutch (Ralph) Evans.  Allan (age 16) was given the family car (1970 Chevy Bell Air) to drive.  Of course, Allan had been driving farm equipment and play equipment most of his life.  Kim Myers was in Allan's class and they started dating their senior year.  Tune in next month and learn if that romance flourishes. 

At The Farm July 5, 2012
Remember, no u-pick this summer.  The sour cherries that survived the freeze are being pitted and will be available fresh this weekend (July 6-8) and then frozen pitted tart cherries will be available as long as they last.  There will be some peaches for sale at the retail building starting the end of July.  Plans are to be open weekends (Fri, Sat & Sun) for most of the growing season.  The animal barn is stocked and fruit and vegetables will be for sale at the stand.

Because of the frozen harvest, the farm is receiving the best most complete trimming it has ever had.  Allan's smaller than normal summer crew will also be working on several deferred maintenance and improvement projects.  The kids are playing sports and working on the farm.

Friday, June 1, 2012

It's A Boy! - 1960

It's A Boy! - 1960
I (Martin) graduated from South Haven in 1958 and brother Charles in 1959.  Our mother June was teaching.  Albert "drove truck" and helped Grandpa Bill run the farms.  In the fall of 1959 Chuck and I were both attending MSU.  Monthly, a laundry box containing dirty white shirts would be shipped home.  Mom would wash, starch, iron and ship them back because sweaters over white shirts were what we wore on campus.  One of those boxes contained a 7 page letter.  On page 7 Mom said, "guess what, you are going to have a new brother or sister".
The birth occurred on January 4, 1960.  If Allan Wade Overhiser had not joined the family the fruit farm may not have passed to a 5th generation.  When June returned to teaching, Albert's sister Doris Adkin cared for Allan.  In 1998 that same Aunt Doris helped care for Allan and Kim's quadruplets.  For us older brothers, Allan was like a nephew.  Many of Allan's first cousins were older.  Scott Evans, Judy Brown, Jeff and Ed Overhiser and the Peet girls- Nan and Pam were closer to his age.

Preschool days for the future farmer were filled with farm life, included always having a dog and cats.  As he got older his play things included tractors, ponies and snowmobiles.  At age 12, during the month of July, he was a full time member of Albert's tart cherry shaking crew.    Allan's 8 nieces and nephews joined the family between 1963 and 1971 (Martin and Chuck's children).  They recall Allan being a very easy going young uncle who did not get annoyed when his spaces were invaded or his toys and pets mishandled.

Christmas vacation 1961 Albert, June and the three boys traveled to Kissimmee Florida to visit Grandpa and Grandma Evans.  This was the first family trip with the three boys.  Allan was almost one and talking.  Homer Evans recalled him saying "fix my bottle and put me to bed".  The second extended trip with the three "boys" would have been to the Wisconsin Dells in 1972 to see the Tommy Bartlett Water Show.  This would have included Mom, Dad, Allan, Chuck's family (6) and our family (6).  At the time, Chuck and family lived in Waukegan and we lived in Plymouth, MN.  The third and final Albert and June vacation with the "boys" would be 1989 to Las Vegas to celebrate Albert and June's 50 wedding anniversary.

Enjoy the photos of young Allan. 

At The Farm June 1, 2012
Starting in July the retail building will be open on weekends only and stocked with fruits and vegetables from the farm or neighboring farms.  The petting barn will also be housing animals.  THERE WILL BE NO U-PICK THIS SUMMER.

The April freeze destroyed all the sweet cherries, apples and pears.  A few tart cherries and peaches did survive and these will be sold at the farm as will pumpkins in the fall.  For the Casco area, the freeze was similar to the 1945 freeze but not as bad as the 1906 fall freeze that killed all the fruit trees.  Just like baseball, there is always hope that the crops will be better next year.

Adam, Alex, Kelsy and Kortny have graduated from 8th grade and will join Aaron at the Fennville High School next year.  All the kids are enjoying their sports.  Aaron will be playing summer basketball and is dunking at age 15.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

April Freeze - 2012

April Freeze - 2012
It is May Day as I write.  Remember how nice it was in March?  The temperatures were more like May.  Crops were pushed ahead by 3 to 4 weeks.  The sap was running in the maple trees.  Some could see it coming.  Like the receding tide before a tsunami or the calm before the storm.  We most always have frost and freeze in April and early May.  

At the farm, Allan has only bad news to report.  His fruit had survived quite well until last Friday (April 27).  When he got up early that morning it was 24 degrees.  The leaves and buds were frozen solid.  It looks like all the fruit is gone with maybe a very few scattered exceptions.  Orchard and general farm maintenance will continue throughout the summer with or without fruit to harvest.  It is not known at this time weather the retail building and animal barn will be open this summer.

The freeze of 2012 will go down in history along with 1906 and 1945.  All the fruit trees in Michigan were killed as a result of the October 10, 1906 freeze.  The trees had not even started hardening off for winter.  Some later varieties peach trees and many apple trees still had fruit on them.  The fruit farmers who did replant new trees only did so in the most favorable locations such as along Lake Michigan.  The spring freeze of '45 was very similar to this year, warm March and then April freeze.  Allan remembers, when he was a young boy, in the late 1960s that a freeze destroyed much of the fruit.

Allan and Kim do have some crop insurance which will help out financially.  Farm workers and farmers without insurance will experience extreme hardship.  We all will keep these families in our thoughts and prayers. 

Next month we will get a detailed farm update and I will continue the family history.

The farm kids are all still involved in one of more sports (baseball, basketball, softball and soccer).

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Cherry Shaker

The Cherry Shaker
Albert and June had taken over the farm operations prior to Grandpa Bill's passing (12-27-1969).  June continued to teach and was very involved in the summer harvest.  Albert still "drove truck" (as Albert would say) for Pullman Industries but tried to reduce his runs to Detroit during the summer months.  Every fruit item was hand-picked and finding workers when needed was always a challenge.  Sometimes there would be close to 100 people picking sour cherries.  This crew was a mix of migrant families, area residents and relatives.

While brother Chuck and I were in Jr and Senior High School in the 50s we were the "Orchard Bosses".  This involved assigning rows, distributing ladders and buckets, spreading empty lugs, picking up the full lugs, keeping a record of lugs picked, getting teased by the adult pickers, and loading lugs on the truck so they could be taken to the Michigan Fruit Canners in South Haven.  We did not know it at the time, but we were learning leadership skills by immersion, trial and error.

In the late 60s Albert had wanted to buy a shaker system to harvest sour cherries.  June was opposed to borrowing the money to purchase the equipment.  She was well aware of how often the farm had ended the year with a loss.  Their two non-farm jobs kept the bills paid for the "hobby farm".

In the summer of 1969 June was the "Orchard Boss" when Albert had to make truck runs for Pullman Industries.  She did not enjoy that experience.  She learned that elementary students were easier to supervise than adult cherry pickers.  After that summer June agreed to the shaker purchase.  It was used equipment and cost over $4,000.  You could buy a new Chevrolet Pickup Truck for $2,000 and gas cost only 36 cents a gallon.  A few years later they upgraded from a limb shaker to a trunk shaker.  High pressure salesman, Art Hamlin, walked in and sold it to Albert while he was taking a bath.  Now some 40+ years later Allan is still using the same catching frame and conveyor system for sour cherries and plums.  It has, however, been rebuilt twice.  A crew of 7 to 8 people now harvest the sour cherries in mid July.

At The Farm April 1, 2012
Mother Nature, as always, is playing a big role in the fruit development this year.  The warmer temperatures have caused the blossoms and buds to pop sooner than normal.  Can the little fruits make it through the spring without getting damaged by Mr. Frost?  Time will tell.

There were freezing temps in the area March 26 and 27 but the warmer lake breezes kept the farm just above freezing.  Cherry and peach blossoms are now buds and the apple blossoms will finish blooming the second week in April.  So there is still time to see some blooms.  Allan and his assistant Lester will be doing the spring spraying as soon as the bees are finished.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Charming Edna

Charming Edna Mildred Trowbridge Overhiser

Tribute by Casco Township blueberry farmer George Fleming (retired Methodist Pastor)
In the early 1970's, my wife, Edna, and I made a trip to Florida and while on that trip we visited Edna Overhiser and Ethel Ransom who were then widow women wintering together in Florida.  EdnaO and Ethel were delighted to see us and made us feel very welcome.  It was truly a very beautiful thing to discover that these women, then widowed and alone and entitled to self-pity, could instead find strength and joy in sharing life with each other and allowing a life-long friendship to blossom further.

EdnaO was always a very warm and outgoing person.  When I was helping my father on the oil delivery truck as a young boy in the 1950s, dad and I always looked forward to making deliveries to Edna and Bill's house for Edna always greeted us so kindly when we came to her door.  Edna was delighted to have us and others visit her in Florida.  Whenever I returned back to a Casco function in the later years of Edna's life, she greeted me enthusiastically and made me feel very special, as I am sure she did for many others.

I believe Edna brought warmth to our entire Casco Church and community as she reached out and fostered friendship and good will among us.  A poet once said, "One friend can change the entire landscape."  Many of us can say, EdnaO was such a friend to us, a friend who blessed us and often renewed our perspective on life.  She was a very good neighbor and a great friend.  She truly enriched the life of our total community.

George, thank you very much.  Many of us feel the same way about Edan.  She was always cheerful and engaging in a playful way.  Our memories of Edna give us all a chuckle and a feeling of gratitude that she was with us.  Now I will list some events to highlight Edna's final years and the farm transition from generation 3 to farm generations 4 and 5:
  • 1964-5 Albert and June started purchasing the original farm and gave Bill and Edna a life lease on the house and Bill took the role of farm worker for Albert.  Bill enjoyed doing the spraying of the fruit trees.
  • 12-7-1969 Bill passed and Edna started her 22 years as a widow, mother, grandmother and friend to many.
  • In 1982, after College, Allan and Kim moved into a mobile home next to Edna's house and were always very attentive to Edna's needs. 
  • In 1984 Allan and Kim entered into a farm partnership with Albert and June and jointly operated the farm until Albert and June entered retirement mode.  Albert did continued to help on the farm as he was able.
  • At her 90th birthday party in 1985 Edna was starting to show her age.
  • 1989-90 Edna may have had a mini stoke and moved to Grand Haven to live with daughter Janet and Jack Brown.  While there she broke a hip and became wheel chair bound and moved to a nursing home and was the well known dispenser of good humor.  After passing 12/7/1991 she rejoined Bill.
  • In 1990 -91 Allan and Kim expanded and renovated Bill and Edna's house and then added five children to the house in 1996 and 98.   Our mother June passed in 1997 and Albert in 2008.
 At The Farm March 3, 2012 
The weather outside is not as frightful as farmers would like.  Time will tell what impact the warm winter will have on the fruit development this spring.  Prime blossom time at the farm should the last week of April and the first two weeks of May.  Trimming continues along with all the other winter chores.  

Allan was the guest speaker at the Marshall Area Garden Club on Feb 21 and did a fabulous job talking about "Growing Fruit Trees".  Some 60 to 70 people there learned about the difficulties of running a commercial fruit farm.  His trimming demonstration was very helpful to the hobby fruit growers.  The kids stay very busy with school and activities.  It is tournament time for Aaron's basketball team and Alex and Adam will be starting play in an 8th grade AAU league.  Kortny and Kelsy are finishing there basketball season.  

Monday, February 6, 2012

Snow Bird Farmers

Snow Bird Farmers
From 1900 to 1906 Grandpa Bill spent winters at the Palma Sola Hotel on the Manatee River between Bradenton and the Intracoastal Waterway.  His parents owned and operated the Hotel in the winters.  Bill's parents (William Albert and Daisy) welcomed many of their Michigan relatives and farming neighbors to stay at the hotel.  As a result, for decades Casco Township farmers have been wintering in FL. (For more info about the hotel see lower left blog archives 2009 April and May).
In the late 1940s Bill got reconnected to Florida.  He and Edna started taking short trips south with their youngest son Billy (William Douglas 5Feb1936/30May2009).   As Billy got older he would stay with relatives and Bill and Edna would stay in FL for a couple of months.  Driving south they very seldom stopped at restaurants as Edna would pack road food.  While in FL they found cheap housing near fishing rivers.  They would eat lots of apples and canned goods from the farm, FL oranges, clams, oysters and fried fresh caught fish.  Many of their close friends would visit or travel with them.  Most times their FL base was in the Sebastian area along the Sebastian or Indian Rivers on the East Coast.  Some years they rented at Victory Court Cabins.   From an old photo album we know they took side trips to Silver Springs, Cypress Gardens, Spook Hill, Fort Meyers, Venice, Punta Gorda, Arcadia's Plaza Hotel, down the keys to Marathon, and the Palma Sola - Bradenton - Cortez area where the former family hotel was located.

Two couples that were very close friends with B and E were Ethel-Nelson Ransom and Eunice-Wilsee Osman.  The women had lots in common - Garden Club, raising kids, running a farm house, making their own house dresses, and  assisting farm CEOs.  The men were in lodge, attended farm meetings together, competed at raising fruit, and worked their butts off on the farm especially during harvest.  When these couples were in FL they would take side trips, fish, cook and eat meals together, squeeze orange juice, and play shuffleboard.  Bill even built a shuffleboard court at the farm.  The drive to FL or Loon Lake was always in a Mercury with Bill's boat, motor and luggage towed behind.  It was a good life made possible by not being tied daily to a dairy farm.

In the 1950s and 60s Bill and Edna were handing over more of the farm operations to my dad Albert as he scaled back his truck driving.  During that time B and E spent more winter time in FL and summer time at Look Lake.  Bill acquired his love for fishing in FL while he was just a kid (ages 4 to 10). That fishing love lasted until the day he died at age 73.  On Dec 27, 1969 he and Edna had fished the Indian River.  That night while watching the 11:00 o'clock news Grandpa Bill suffered a fatal heart attack while seated in a recliner  - RIP!
At The Farm - February 5, 2012
Q - How is this mild MI winter going to impact the fruit?  Allan - We are always concerned that an early warm spring can bring on the blossoms and then get killed by freezing temperatures.  With a warm winter, like we are having, the fruit can deactivate and loose its cold hardness.  Peaches will not reactivate so might not develop fruit.  The other fruits can reactivate and produce fruit.  
Q - Are you planning anything changes at the farm that customers will notice?  Allan - We will be adding some changes to the petting barn area so its easier for the kids to interact with the animals and may have more animals this year.
Q - Is it true that you are speaking to the Marshall Area Garden Club on Feb 21?  Allan - Yes, I am looking forward to that meeting.
Q - Are you and the family taking any get away trips this winter?  Kim - Nothing planned but sure would like one.  The Quads are going on the 8th grade school trip to DC in April.
Q - Do you think your basketball team is improving?  Aaron -  Yes we are.  Our so so records would be great if we had won more or all of our close games.  (Aaron is a freshman starter on the Fennville Varsity Basketball Team 5-10 record).
Q - How can you fend off cabin fever?  Martin -Think about what you most look forward to this coming spring.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Social Life -1950s

Social Life - 1950s
Leisure crossroads or corners was the social gathering place (107th Ave and 64th St) for East Casco Township.  It included the Evangelical United Brethren Church (EUB), Riley's Handy Store, the Community Hall, and the Fire Station.  A great deal of informal socializing or "loafing" was carried on at the store.  Men sit on the benches in front of the store after dinner and chores were done.  On occasion Riley would  show free movies on the north side of his store building and softball games where played north of the store.

Most everyone in the area attended the EUB Church led by Rev. Crosby and then Rev. Litchfield in the 50s.  Opal Barden was the organist and her son Richard frequently played his marimba.  Richard is still playing at the new Casco United Methodist Church.  One of his favorite hymns is "His Eye Is On The Sparrow".  Fund raising dinners by the Ladies Aid Society of the EUB Church were don't-miss social gatherings.  Dinners were in the small Church basement until the new Community Hall was built across the street in 1953.  This new community hall with large basement and kitchen replaced the Knights of the Maccabees Hall.  The Grange members also used the hall for their Saturday meetings and noon meal.
Many men belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) benevolent fraternal organization.  The Rebekah Lodge was a branch/auxiliary of the IOOF open to all women.  Both groups used the community hall and supported a summer camping program for youth.  Some women of the community belonged to the East Casco Garden Study Club.  Membership was limited in number because the club meetings were held at member homes.  If you were hosting the club meeting your garden was on tour.  Many of these same women (and couples) would meet on occasion to play cards and would take winter trips to the same area in Florida.

Another "social club" for men was the Township Fire Dept.  Fire Chief Harry Overhiser lived within a long stones throw of the station.  Riley Overhiser ran the store, never went anywhere, and lived a short stones throw from the one truck station.  Riley (the dispatcher) would take fire calls and push a button to activate the siren.  The first volunteer to arrive drove the truck and others follow along.  In the 1960s a second truck was purchased and the Dept became much more organized and connected with the South Haven Fire Dept.  The men also had a softball team and dear hunting groups.

The all men Casco Band of the 50s was formed in 1928.  It practiced Monday nights and performed in and around the community.  Brothers Riley (trombone), Ward (clarinet), and Ray (cornet) Overhiser were members and at one time there were 7 Adkins in the band.  The Casco Band is still practicing and performing today and has allowed some women to join.
The Casco - South Haven Pomological Society was made up of fruit growers from SW Michigan.  The members from the Casco area helped organize an annual Parade of Peaches with dinner at the Community Hall.  The well attended annual farm machinery show was also hosted by the East Casco farmers for farmers from all over the state.  The equipment was set up on Arlie Overhiser's field across from Riley's store and Rankin Lyman was in charge of a dinner at the hall.

For the youth of the community there were school activities, EUB Youth Fellowship, movies in South Haven, dances and roller skating in Allegan.  Family gatherings were also super social events.  Living on the farm was hard work but there were many opportunities for fun.

At The Farm January 6, 2012
Allan survived his birthday on the 4th and has been attending lots of meetings to start the year.  Aaron, the freshman, is having fun playing on the Fennville varsity basketball team.  The family has been kept busy and entertained attending the games.  The fruit trees are resting and getting their annual trims so they will be ready to produce this next summer.