|Corn grown in glass bottle to study roots|
Isaac Werner regarded farming as a profession, deserving of serious study, experimentation, and record keeping. His journal entries each day began with the weather, including temperature, moisture, and wind. He used the almanacs of two different forecasters. He subscribed to farming journals and submitted letters and articles to them. He read bulletins from Kansas State College, the land grant agricultural college, and he corresponded with Professor Shelton, head of the college experimental farm.
|Testing see germination|
For his own farm he acquired seed varieties from other regions, experimenting with what did best in his sandy loam soil and prairie weather. He tried different planting depths and spacing of seeds. He modified the equipment he bought, improving it for his soil type.
For his community, he initiated the founding of the Stafford County Agricultural Society and was a member and lecturer of the Farmers' Alliance. He shared work and ideas with his fellow farmers and formed a small group of the more progressive farmers in his community which met to consider untried crops and methods. He studied cooperative farming and formed a group of neighbors to plant a potato patch on his land. He was definitely a professional farmer.
|Testing moisture absorption in different soils|
Like many farm daughters, I loved to trail along after my father, watching him work and asking him questions. I still remember one evening when he explained the seed germination test he was conducting. As I recall, he used damp cloth or paper towels between two panes of glass, with seeds between the moistened material to see how many would sprout.
When a friend gave me a textbook first published in 1911 titled "Productive Farming," some of the illustrations reminded me of the experiments Isaac and my father had conducted. The Preface describes "This book is intended to suit the needs of rural schools of all kinds, and graded village and city schools chiefly below high-school rank." As I flipped through the pages, I thought about the many children today who know so little of farming and the rural landscape. For them, corn and peas come from cans on the shelves of their local grocery store. Only a few would have seen their mothers make bread from flour, and even those would lack real understanding of how flour is produced. Perhaps these children would benefit from trying some of the experiments reproduced in this blog from the old 1911 textbook.
|Plan for school farm|
While many people think the school garden is a new concept, the 1911 farming book included a plan for a 10-acre school farm, as well as a diagram for a less ambitious garden, with vegetables planted in the corners and along the sides of the school play ground. The image at left shows the 10-acre plan, but picture the lower-right play ground and school rectangle with the perimeter and corners used for gardening rather than trees and you can imagine the suggested school garden.
It is significant that the century-old book emphasized the importance of preserving the play area with enough room for physical activity without allowing the gardens to inhibit the children's exercise. Diet and exercise were important ideas to teach.
Once again I was reminded by this 1911 book how much we can learn from history, and how the ideas we regard as uniquely modern are often merely a rediscovery of the wisdom from the past.
With the holidays approaching and children home from school, perhaps there are some ideas in this blog for activities to do with children and grandchildren, or for teachers to incorporate into their (already busy) curriculum. Remember, you can click on the images to enlarge them for reading the directions for the experiments.