Oct. 16, 2006

A harvest of memories

By Jennifer Gallus
Staff Writer

The Donald and Myrtle Schlagel family farm is a 210-acre farm in rural Howard Lake that continues to yield not only great crops, but also great memories.

Indeed, that is true. In fact, the farm started with Donald’s grandfather about 150 years ago. Donald grew up in the original farm house his grandfather built. He married Myrtle in 1940, and they built a home on family land just down the road in 1949.

The farm has 111 acres that are tillable. This year, the Schlagel’s had 57 acres in corn, and 56 acres in soybeans, reported Donald. “We purchased the seed from Heartland Seed out of Dassel,” he said.

Even though the area experienced drought conditions this past summer, Donald reports that their soybeans look better than ever. The soybeans pictured measured close to four feet tall.

Donald proudly announced that their soybeans are at 14 percent moisture, and their corn is also at about 14 percent moisture. “We won’t even have to dry them this year,” Donald said.

Donald is 87 years old, and when asked how long he has been farming, he said, “Eighty seven years, I’ve farmed all my life.”

Myrtle remembers that the 40-acre piece of land that they bought from Donald’s parents was all woods. To clear the land, Donald and Myrtle worked together with a two-person saw to cut the trees down. “It was mostly Donald and I, and the guy that blasted the stumps out,” Myrtle said.

While building the new house, Myrtle remembers walking there, from the original farm house, with her baby in a clothes basket. She would varnish wood at the new house, and her baby would sit content, for the most part, in the basket.

After Donald and Myrtle finished the house, and for many years, the couple would have to walk to the original homestead to milk the cows twice per day.

Sometimes, the snow was so high in the winter that, as they walked to go milk cows, “the snow was almost as high as the telephone poles. As you walked, you were even with the telephone wires,” Myrtle said.

The couple had six children, and sadly, one passed away at a very young age. One of Donald’s favorite memories is of their children helping out with milking the cows. He also enjoyed their pigs, chickens, and horses.

Another favorite memory of Donald’s is plowing the fields with two one-bottom plows and two horses. Donald said that it would take all fall for him to plow the fields. Donald said that he bought his first tractor in 1940, which was an International Harvester H, and he paid $975 for it.

Later, he bought two five-bottom plows, and a 1950T Oliver tractor, which cut his plowing time down to two days.

When Donald suffered a stroke in 1994, it was in the middle of harvest. On the weekend of Donald and Myrtle’s 54th wedding anniversary, Donald came home from the hospital to find more than 15 tractors pulling various implements to perform a variety of fall harvest and clean-up tasks.

Friends and neighbors pulled together to help on Schlagel’s farm. Those that didn’t have tractors, and the wives of those who did, brought food and drink for all.

Myrtle remembers seeing all those people and thinking to herself, “What am I going to feed all of them?” Then, all kinds of food and drink starting showing up at their house. They even grilled pork chops.

One of the Schlagel’s sons climbed to the top of the silo at the end of the day to take a photo of all the tractors that were working the farm that day. However, some had already gone home before the photo was taken.

In addition to farming, Donald was a livestock trucker. He had his own business, hauling livestock to South St. Paul. Donald also hauled sweet corn for the Winsted Canning Factory.

Myrtle worked at the Winsted Canning Factory for about five years. It was a seasonal job, during the sweet corn season, and her hours were from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. “Then, I went home and took care of the kids, washed clothes and hung them out on the line, helped milk the cows, fed the chickens, and sold eggs,” Myrtle said.

After the canning factory job, Myrtle worked in the kitchen at St. Mary’s in Winsted for 25 years.

After all their hard work, Donald and Myrtle are taking it easy now-a-days. Myrtle says this is her time to relax.

The Schlagels’ five remaining children, David and Mary Schlagel, Gary Schlagel, Diane and Clem Bayerl, Cindy and Donald Laxen, and Galen Schlagel, all take part in working the family farm now.

Daughter Cindy Laxen said, “They put a lot of hard work into that farm, and took good care of it.”

Then Myrtle laughed and said, “That’s why our bones are all shot!”

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