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.