Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Sunday Herald, Boston, January 7, 1909 Milking Cows by Foot Pressure, Steam and Electrical Machinery

The Sunday Herald, Boston, January 7, 1909
Milking Cows by Foot Pressure, Steam and Electrical Machinery

Practical Farm Experiments Show that Ordinary Hand Methods are Less Cleanly, More Expensive and Much Slower than the New Devices

So many improvements in milking machines have been made in the last half dozen years that more than 1000 such devices are now in use on the larger dairy farms. They are giving, on the whole, very good satisfaction. In many instances the supply of milk has been slightly increased. Greater sanitary benefits have been realized. Cost of operation has been reduced. Time has been saved. No ill effects have been observed in the cows, and in general numerous annoyances of old standing have been eliminated most effectively though New England farmers have not yet shown decided willingness to take up with the machines, the less conservative dairymen of the Middle West think pretty well of them.

While farm help is numerous enough in this part of the country, it is frequently a scarcity on the larger farms just west and east of the Mississippi. That scarcity of milkers, as well as the unreliability of many of them, has had a tendency to keep many men from going into dairy farming. It has compelled more than one dairyman to give up his projects.

Milking two cows at the same time with one machine, is one of the innovations, and, imperfect as it is, it indicates pretty clearly how things are going to be done in the next years. A few machines have been devised to keep the milk from the two cows separate. On any of the great farms of the Middle West today may be seen in the interior of a large barn long rows of cows patiently submitting to the process of mechanical milking over and above their occasional mooings is the buzzling of the motor apparatus.

The annual reports of the United States Commissioner of patents show that from 1872 to 1905, inclusive, 127 patents were taken out in this country alone for milking machines or separate parts of them. A number of machines have been successful in extracting the milk from the cow by either pressure or suction, or, by the two combined, but have fallen short of being practical in some vital point.

Naturally inventors have attempted to imitate the way in which the calf sucks. The difficulty has been to reproduce the peculiar influence which the sucking calf has upon the cow and to devise  machine which will not irritate the animal and which will do its work without injury. Another difficulty in devising a cow milker has been to construct it so that it could be adjusted to all cows.

C.B. Lane, assistant chief of the dairy machines [said] they milked an average of 52 ½ try [?] , a sub-department of the United States department of agriculture, has recently made a most interesting report of his study of milking machines. In order to have an expression of direct opinion, he sent a number of questions to all dairymen who were known to have used machines for a considerable time.

Nine reported that heifers adapted themselves readily to the machines; one stated that heifers took to them more readily than old cows, and one reported no experience. Of the five instances where one man handled two machines, the average number of cows milked was 23, and the average time required to milk them was 47 minutes, or practically two minutes per cow. In the instance where one man handled three machines he milked 30 cows in 60 minutes. In the case where two men handled four machines 27 cows were milked in 40 minutes. In the two instances where two men handled five machines they milked an average of 52 ½ cows in 68 ½ minutes. Where two men handled six machines the time required was one minute per cow. Again, where three men and boys were just learning they milked 30 cows in 55 to 75 minutes.

Six dairymen stated that they found little difference in the amount of milk produced, whether the cows were milked by hand or machine; four thought the machines increased the flow and one stated that the effect of the machines on production was good.

All the dairymen reported machine milking to be superior to hand milking.

In the course of his investigations Mr. Lane made it his business to be present in a barn of about 40 cows the first time the machines were put in operation. “Some of the animals,” he says , “were a little restless at first, owing to the sight of the machines and the clicking of the pulsators, buy soon they become quiet and reconciled to their action. The feature which is perhaps a little surprising is that heifers took to the machines as readily as the older cows.

“Only one cow in the herd in question made any disturbance at all while the machines were being attached, and this was due principally to attaching the machine on the opposite side from that on which the cow has been accustomed to be milked by hand. This cow, however, soon became quiet. The majority of the cows appeared to like the machines and stood quietly chewing their cuds without manifesting any discomfort. A careful examination was made of the cows’ teats and udders in several dairies where the machines had been in operation for several months (in one case over three years) and no ill effects were discovered. On two or three occasions it was observed that when strangers came into the barn during milking time a cow would appear frightened and refuse to give down all of her milk. This occurred with cows being milked either by hand or by machine. When the machines are properly adjusted, cows of a nervous disposition do not seem to resent the method.

One of the most interesting milking machines which has been in use on a number of large dairy farms consists of an ordinary milk pail made of block tin and holding about 15 quarts. On top of this pail is a tight fitting lid of aluminum. On this lid is mounted a pump or pulsator which works automatically and causes the intermittent action of the machine. Connections are made by means of rubber tubing to the exhaust and air pressure pipes, which are led through the stable with convenient branches between the cows. Two rubber tubes, each about three feet long, are also connected with convenient nozzles on the lid, and on the other end of each are four cups which fit snugly over the cow’s teats, two cows being milked into one pail. As the pulsator oscillates (at the rate of about 60 times a minute) the vacuum is alternately turned on and off, the teat cups causing suction and release at each alternate stroke.

The machinery for operating the pulsator consists of an exhaust pump and a compressor; the exhaust produces the suction and operates the pulsator in the opposite direction.

A feature of another machine is a simple air pump, composed of two cylinders, each of which is in its action independent of the other. One cylinder milks one cow and one the other. One cylinder milks one cow and one the other. The valve chambers supported at the ends of the rods, are for the purpose of keeping the milk from running back into the pump, and also to give the pump sufficient and continued suction for the space of about 10 to 15 seconds. When the pressure is off of one of these valve chambers the milk flows from it of its own gravity into the pail. Each cow can be milked separately or both can be milked into one pail, as desired.
Cows can be milked into either open or closed pails. The machine is operated by either hand or power. The hand machine being convertible into a power machine by simply bolting an air device to it. In the operation of the power machine it is necessary to pipe [to] the stables [with] a compressed air tank, which must be filled by some power running an air compressor. There are no pulsators or vacuum pumps in the construction of the machine. The teat cups are provided with a rubber sleeve.

Mehring  Milker
Mehring Milker
Then there is a foot power milker designed for use on the smaller farms. It has a suction pump worked by foot power, two pieces of rubber hose and eight suction cups, which attach to the texts of the two cows, milking them both at the same time. The milk passes through the cylinder and also through the valve in the pump piston itself. The operator sits between the two cows and works the pump with his feet.

On opening the spigot the suction rapidly draws the cups up and down over the teats and the milk begins to flow into the pail which is hung on the spout of the pump. By means of a spigot the suction may be cut off when the teat is empty. The milk is conveyed from the spigot to the head, where the milk from all four teats unites and passes into large hose, which carries it to the pail.

A fourth machine draws the milk by intermittent suction, which may be created by either a vacuum pump or steam ejector. Connected with the vacuum pump is a vacuum reservoir and a pipe running the whole length of the stable, with a connection valve or vacuum cock between each pair of cows. A safety valve is connected to the reservoir to prevent the vacuum from running higher than is desired.

The machine is placed between the pair of cows. A rubber tube connects the pail top or pulsator with the vacuum cock above the stanchions. On opening the cock the air is drawn from the pail. Then the motor immediately starts. The pressure is about 7 ½ pounds to the square inch. The flexible tubes lead from the pail cover.

At the end of each tube are four cups, which are fitted over the teats of the cow. The milk from the two cows is discharged into one pail. The vacuum pulsations run from 50 to 70 per minute, and may be easily adjusted to the speed required. The milk in passing from the cow to the pail goes through a glass inspection tube, so that the operator may watch the flow. When the milk ceases to run, the suction is turned off and the action of the machine stops.

In a business in which every cent of outgo and income counts, every former obviously wishes to know something about the cost of equipping his cow stable with milking machines. Here are some statistics, furnished by Mr. Lane, which will apply to a herd of 40 cows:
  1. An engine or some power with which to drive the machine for milking up to 8 cows at a time, a 2-horsepower gasoline engine may be used, costing…$105.00
  2. A vacuum pump, costing…75.00
  3. A vacuum tank, like a tank that is used in connection with ranges or stoves in kitchens…11.00
  4. The piping with valves, etc., etc., necessary in barn, depending upon extent of plant, number of cows, etc., costing for 42 cow dairy about…25.00
  5. Four milking machines, costing…300.00
  6. Total…$516.00
One machine milks two cows at a time, and it has been found practicable to allow one machine to every 10 or 12 cows when equipping the herd.

In a general way it may be said that the entire cost of installing a plant for herds of different sizes would be about as follows:  

For a dairy of 30 cows, with 2 milking machines, milking 2 cows each or 4 cows at one time, cost per cow…12.00 

For a dairy of 60 cows, with 4 machines, milking 8 cows at one time, cost per cow… 

For a dairy of 70 cows, with 5 machines, milking 10 cows at one time, cost per cow… 

For dairy of 110 cows with 8 machines, milking 16 cows at one time, requiring about a 4 horsepower engine and a large pump, cost per cow…10.00 

One good careful man or woman can operate four machines milking eight cows simultaneously, and an additional hand can not only carry away the milk but assist in manipulating the cow’s udders. The operating expense of the machines is comparatively small.The kind of power which a farmer may choose for the operation of his milkers is not important provided that it be uniform and dependable, gasoline engines one of the most common just now. For farmers located near cities electricity is a convenient power. Sometimes it is possible to make arrangements with the trolley roads. Where steam is used for other purposes on the farms---as most notably in the Middle West---it can be made to run milkers at little extra expense. 

It is Mr. Lane’s conclusion that “the large dairyman will be the first to adopt the cow milker for the reason that his equipment will cost him less per cow that it will the small dairyman. Again, the large dairyman has more at stake and has to depend entirely upon the hired men to do the work. If they fail him the work falls upon himself or perhaps upon a very limited number of helpers. With the installation of the milking machine the large dairyman is much more independent, and, if necessary, can milk a herd of 50 cows without assistance. However, there seems to be no good reason why a dairyman with a herd of even 10 or 12 cows could not use a machine with profit. The power required could be secured at small cost, and the time saved could be used to advantage in working the team longer on the farm in other ways.”

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Winter Workshops at Willowbrook: Sign up now!

Winter Workshops at Willowbrook: Give a class as a holiday gift or make these projects to give as gifts. Classes at our two blacksmith shops. Visit our website for workshop updates. 10 % Discount on tuition for Members.

Making Your Own Season Greetings Cards at the Print Shop Ages 8 and above. Limited to a group of 8. In this off season class you will learn some of the basics of composing lead type and letter press printing. You will compose your own holiday card using one of our die cuts, one of dozens of handmade linoleum cut blocks used for this purpose in years past, or create your own pen and Styrofoam image for printing to go with a text that you compose and print on one of the museum's letter presses. The class will be three hours plus. The date and time is by arrangement. You will take home the cards you make. $45.

By Appointment, weekdays or weekends, Blacksmithing 101: Ages 13 and above. 5 HOURS PLUS. $70.

By Appointment, weekdays or weekends. Letter Press Printing ( Ages 8 and above). 3 HOURS PLUS. $45.. We can organize this class for your group.
By Appointment, weekdays or weekends. Animation and Early Motion Pictures ( Ages 8 and above ). 3 HOURS. $45 

Sat. & Sun., Nov. 22 & 23, 10-4PM or By Appointment: Metal Casting in Aluminum and Brass with Peter Grant (www.oddduckfoundry.com).  2-Days: $200.

Sat. & Sun., Dec. 1 & 2, 10-4PM. Two Day Tomahawk & Bowie Hunting Knife Making Class with Adriaan Berber (www.adriaangerberknives.com). Handle kits available ($20). Tools and materials provided. $250

Fridays, Dec. 7, 14 and/or 21, 5-9PM. Blacksmithing Studio. Materials and tools provided. $40 or a package of three for $100. 

Sat. & Sun., Dec. 8-9, 10-4PM. Blacksmithing: Make a Coat Rack and/or Other Project. (see the photo of the rack in the right column) $200

Sat. & Sun., Dec. 29-30, 9-4PM. Two Day or One Day Class: 1st Day: Make a Propane Blacksmithing Forge; 2nd Day" Make a Bowie Hunting Knife with Your Forge.  1st day: $300; 2nd day: $125; two day price: $400.

More Details: www.willowbrookmuseum.org.
For reservations or information:
19th Century Willowbrook Village
 the way life used to be!
70 Elm Street, P.O. Box 28, Newfield, ME 04056,
Tel. (207) 793-2784; director@willowbrookmuseum.org


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cider Mill Stories: A Newly Restored Gem at 19th Century Willowbrook Village

Cider Mill Stories: A Newly Restored Gem at 19th Century Willowbrook Village

This is an apple cider press story; it begins with me witnessing cider making the old fashioned way as a child. My family had an orchard of Baldwin apples that were sold to a local cider mill regularly, but I never witnessed what went on in the local mill down the road which used modern equipment to press what I knew to be the wormiest apples you ever did see.  Watching the eight foot press with wooden screws produce golden cider which ran down a channel chiseled into its granite slab pedestal on one of many visits to Museum Village, near my hometown of Warwick, NY, made quite an impression on me.  This first press in my experience was likely of pre-industrial vintage. Some 40 years later I was back at Museum Village as its museum director when I had to go that far afield from my adopted Maine home to secure a paid museum directorship.

Taking this position meant returning to an area I had left after high school and long separations from my family and home (my wife teaches in Bangor). Eventually the distance and separation forced me to return home to Maine and teach until a time when I could find a comparable museum directorship there. On my first day of interviewing at Museum Village, I made a B-line for the cider press I remembered, after a first stop at the equally memorable complete mastodon housed in the nearby natural history building on the campus. This museum has many similarities to Maine’s own 19th Century Willowbrook Village in Newfield, where I now serve as director, in that it has more than 25 structures and a comprehensive collection of 19th century American material culture.

What I discovered was that the press and grinder at Museum Village had lost the shed that once housed it in recent years; the deteriorated remains of which lingered amidst the saplings and vegetation that had reclaimed the site. The paved path to the cider mill had disappeared under decades of leaves. The mill was no longer part of  the museum’s self-guided tour like many other buildings in this contrived “village” of yore created in the  late 1940s to house one man’s collection ( like the story of many other museum villages, like Sturbridge, Greenfield Village, and Willowbrook, which opened in 1970 exactly 20 years after Old Museum Village at Smith’s Clove).  

On one of the museum founder’s many collecting sprees, the hand hewn armature and oak screws of the press were purchased from a barn 10 miles outside Brattleboro, Vermont and the granite slab that had once held another press was found near Northampton, MA. The grinder, which originated from an apple whiskey distillery in New Jersey, was a truly unique piece as it consisted of a crude granite stone cradled on a wooden framework. The granite piece had been drilled out to create a type of mortise and its pestle was another granite piece that fit inside its recess. A metal shaft was fastened into this pestle which could be turned with a long wooden handle 360 degrees to crush apples fed into it. The contents seemingly had to be shoveled out and up into the square pressing frames ( seen in the early postcard photo). No lattice basket was used.

When I saw the press again after many decades it sat there listing to one side and the grinder was both deteriorated and buried under debris from the mill. The wooden press was in remarkable condition for being exposed to the elements for so long. It was all seemingly salvageable and within weeks of becoming director I spent after hours cleaning up the site with the intention of disassembling the press and grinder and storing it for the purpose of restoration and operation in the future. It became a bit of an obsession.  I got the local municipality to show up one day with a front end loader and help me disassemble and lower the huge beams onto pallets.  The area near the museum had grown as an agri-tourism destination with more apple orchards than I remembered due to the demands of a new generation of families focused on good food choices. This demographic willingly traveled more than an hour from the city to get what they needed on weekends. Resurrecting this cider press might be a “wow factor” for re-invigorating interest in the museum that had far less visitation than in the 1970s when I frequented it. Unfortunately, there were a lot of other things that took priority over this piece given the museum’s ongoing financial struggles; kudos to all those that continue to keep faith in this museum that touched so many lives and continues to do so.  

The idea of making cider with such a huge apparatus has stayed with me even though I didn’t have the opportunity to save that particular press of childhood memory and of recent experience. Spin forward to July of 2013 when I am offered the directorship of 19th Century Willowbrook Village in Newfield. The position had been offered to me in 2011, about the time I was making the decision to return to Maine.  Given the fact that I was leaving a museum that I loved due to the long separations from my family the distance between York and Penobscot counties didn’t seem much better.  I turned the position down only to be offered it again 15 months later after teaching high school for a year. I jumped on it the second time around.

Seeing Willowbrook’s twin screw cider press confirmed that this really was the right decision. The long standing static display of this press was a bit puzzling though as it was in part anchored into the ground, a dry stack fieldstone hole had been constructed below it for the purpose of collecting cider, and there was a long trough construction that the apple crusher was propped up on to collect crushed apples that were presumably shoveled into the square frames contained within the square lattice basket. This was of a later period than the aforementioned press at Museum Village; it includes cast metal screws rather than oak ones albeit the use of both materials for these times of screws overlapped.

Ashley Gerry, who has been on Willowbrook’s staff for more than 20 years, in addition to running his own maple sugaring house and countless other things, and who can do just about anything if given the task, had when we got to talking about the museum’s press shared that he had often dreamed of making  the twin metal screws operable. He too doubted the accuracy of the way that the press was set-up. We shared a common dream about making the thing right which resulted in me sitting down and writing several grants that focused on developing a combination of programming and hands-on exhibits emphasizing Southern Maine’s  apple industry.  Funds were awarded for the purpose of restoring the museum’s twin screw press ( a Waterville Iron Manufacturing Co., “Webber and Haviland” casting;  1843-July 1, 1875 was the only period in which these two names alone were used) and  flat-belt pulley driven grinder to develop an annual cider festival event and hands-on history programming centered around them. Making a wooden hand-crank apple sorter operable and child friendly is another future plan. Partial funding for the press and grinder came from the Davis Family Foundation of Yarmouth and Narragansett Number One Foundation of Buxton.

About the time we began the restoration, a fellow showed up at the museum looking for someone who could pour a lead babbit for his 1880s shingle mill. My guy Ashley had poured a babbit in months past for the museum’s 1894 Armitage-Herschell steam engine which runs our horse carousel. The plan for a future babbit pouring was struck and to make a long story short this guy was currently rebuilding a foundation and replacing sills in a local barn that he claimed had a similar apple cider press and grinder in situ that he believed was once powered by a horse treadmill. We were there the next day looking at the cider mill which was very similar to Willowbrook’s. The remarkable thing about all the cider making equipment at the site was that it appeared as though someone had walked away from it a century ago and never returned. Everything was intact.

The press and grinder were configured in a two story space in a barn. Apples had been poured in a hopper at the front barn door below the square lattice basket with a channeled plate composed of multiple boards that fit together with crudely carved story marks by someone who presumed to know Roman numerals but didn’t;  our own has identical story marks. In the hopper was an apparatus that looked like a barn cleaner that carried apples above the twin screws where the apple crusher was positioned and subsequently crushed them and dropped them below. A line shaft with flat belt pulleys was attached to the barn cleaner as well as the crusher. A third flywheel ran to the power source outside. Whether there was a horse, steam or gas as a power source we don’t know, but it could have been any one of these.  On the second floor of the mill there was a trap door and a block and tackle above it. There were wooden barrels positioned on wood rails around the room; the cider was put into barrels below and then hoisted to this space (See photo documentation at: 19thcenturywillowbrookvillage.blogspot.com).

This was a huge breakthrough for our project as we had an untouched working model to inform the configuration of our press and grinder. We have since then re-wooded the grinder with oak and re-placed the galvanized tin sheathing on its grinding drum with stainless to make the cider more palatable. The new teeth are identical to the original as we used the same puncture method to form the convex, jagged cutting blades of the grinding drum. We will create cribbing to raise the apparatus to a height above the twin screws. All the timbers of the original mortise and tenon framework were replicated with 10 inch wide rough cut hemlock from Stillwater. We will create a new lattice basket and frames for the crushed apples soon.

We created a free standing unit that sits on a new concrete slab with a drainage system that was partially donated by F.R. Carroll Cement of Limerick. This week we re-created the channeled pressing plate out of two layers of 1 ½ inch tongue and groove spruce; the original with its prominent story marks will be displayed. We will create a smaller size lattice basket, as the original was good for more than 50 bushels. We will be making more modest batches of cider. Our vintage Hocking Valley Senior produced 17 gallons of cider this past September 20-21 weekend from nearly 9 bushels of cider apples. We invited the public to bring their own apples and plastic jugs; we anticipate cider making with the large press and grinder by the end of October.  The grinder will be powered by a1880s horse treadmill that visitors can climb abroad and power.

We are currently receiving requests for October field trips by area schools, and we are offering the experience of cider making in addition to all the other offerings that are new at Willowbrook this season, including out Titantic and Carpathia Marconi radio rooms with a working telegraph system, our working Victorian kitchen, our new granary scenario that also requires that visitors hop aboard a horse treadmill and power an 1870s portable grist mill. There is other new hands-on programming at Willowbrook that it is worth a visit to see, but what will be most satisfying is seeing golden cider run from our cider press once again as it once did long ago.