Come see steam and internal combustion engines at the Ashtabula County Antique Engine Club's 28th annual show this Fourth of July weekend in Williamsfield. If you have roots in farming or are turned on by engines you'll enjoy the event.
See a restored railroad passenger depot, a small hit-and-miss engine, a newly acquired huge, 16,000 pound, 120 horsepower, two-cylinder, two-cycle diesel engine. The club is restoring this engine and generator so it can produce electricity again.
A former backyard neighbor told me she enjoyed looking at my garden in the spring after the soil had been tilled and especially after a rain. She said, "The sight of the soil reminds me of my grandfather's farm in northwestern Trumbull County." Sue didn't grow up on a farm but visited her grandfather's place as a girl. Those childhood days so impressed her that even viewing my small garden stimulated memories of good times. She used to ride on the tractors and wagons. Those were days of fun for a city kid.
Neither of my grandfathers made a living as farmers, nor did my father or father-in-law. All four men, however, planted vegetable gardens. In the 1940s, my father called his a "Victory Garden." They used hand equipment to plow and cultivate.
My city garden more than 30 years ago started with 2 inches of top soil over unrelenting clay. Neighbors told us that because our yard was so flat, when there was a winter thaw, water would pool and freeze to the great joy of the local kids who used it as a skating rink.
I have amended the clay with plant stems, roots, leaves, kitchen compost, farm manure and some dolomitic limestone. There is now 18 inches of good, friable soil. The growing area is domed up from the flat ice-skating days. No water stands in the garden more than a few minutes, even after a heavy rain. I used to turn the soil with a spade, then Sally gave me a gasoline powered tiller. Most of the time I have been able to get the tiller running. Another neighbor would get the tiller started for me when I despaired. Gary would some times say, "It really is a very simple and efficient engine to operate." I ignored his well-meaning comments, as I thanked him for his help.
I have less garden to till now, as I have been moving from annuals to perennials. My raspberries and blueberries do nicely, though raspberries are poor neighbors (they spread beyond the assigned bounds) and blueberries need netting to keep our friends the birds at bay. Sally and I have added roses, peonies, lilacs, Johnson geraniums and an Alpine Spruce. But there will always be pole beans, tomatoes, swiss chard, parsnips and Brussels sprouts in rotation. We try new plants from time to time. I didn't think corn or okra would prosper in our partially shaded area, but they did well. Avoiding frost has always been an issue. Soil temperature, moisture and insects are issues, too.
I don't pay much attention to appearance. I see myself moving toward a vertical look to conserve space. A friend last year charitably said, "What a fine garden you have." From where he stood, he couldn't see the weeds.
As Sue was reminded of earlier farm experiences, so was I when Wayne Johnson invited me to visit the Ashtabula County Antique Engine Club last Fourth of July weekend. I have since visited it again and we are going yet again this weekend, July 3, 4 and 5. They have a fine Agriculture Heritage Museum to demonstrate the changes in efficiency of farm equipment over 200 years. The site is easy to find. Drive 3.5 miles east of state Route 11 on Route 322. It is on the right. Transportation will be available for those who have difficulty walking the grounds or using wheelchairs.
You will be surrounded by acres of engines of every size and the "putt ... putt ... putt" sound of energy in the making. Ask to see a hit-and-miss engine. Listen for the "pop ...whoosh ...whoosh ...whoosh ...whoosh ...pop" sound that will identify it. Enjoy a sentimental journey back to your own farm experiences.