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The Wrack

The Wrack is the Wells Reserve blog, our collective logbook on the web.

One Door Closes, and Another Opens!

Posted by | August 10, 2020 | Filed under: Culture

I don’t drink a lot of milk, but I made an exception for the Guernsey milk that volunteer Tomas Dundzila brought back from Stillbrook Acres in Gray, Maine. Both Tomas and I had recently trained to lead history tours of "Laudholm’s Farming Past." 

Discussions about high butterfat content had me typing "Guernsey milk in Maine" into the Google search engine. Sampling some Guernsey milk could be a way to connect with the story of the dairy farm enterprise that once flourished here. It could also be blended with some Gifford’s French vanilla ice cream to make a killer frappe!

In the early 1900s, the Lord family produced Guernsey dairy products with the motto, "Where Quality Counts." Photo by the author.

I was excited about dairy and about sharing Laudholm’s history with visitors. Due to the pandemic, the story was evolving a bit, getting an update. It began as a dilemma. With staff returning to offices in the Visitor Center, did it make sense to bring visitors into the farmhouse?  No. The tour needed an alternate route.

Enter new facilities manager and history enthusiast, Brian Greenwood, who had joined the staff in April with some large, complex projects at the top of his to-do list. Things like, “Ready Hay and Horse barn for fireproofing by shifting entire contents therein.” With volunteers working alongside him, Brian quickly got to work evaluating the condition of all the reserve’s historic buildings, and organizing a staggering inventory of tools and equipment

The bull barn sits quietly on the north side of campus, sheltering the overflow of all those tools and equipment. Home of the Lord family’s cherished Guernsey bulls until 1952, it is typically not open to the public. Even before the pandemic, Program Coordinator Caryn Beiter wanted to somehow include it in a tour program. 

Brian and a small group of dedicated volunteers worked hard through the spring. They inventoried. They organized. They Kondo-ized. They asked: Do we need this many propane cylinders? No. Can we build more effective storage for all these event signs and put them all in one place? Yes. Can we give the research program additional equipment storage options in the chicken coop? Also yes.

At a time when much had closed down, cluttered spaces opened up. The marvelous workings of the large barn’s hay scale revealed themselves in the barn workshop. A former garage showed its beadboard ceilings, massive steam radiators, and hot-cold water car wash. 

Items came forth from the dusty depths: an antique thermostat, an early electric sewing machine with its manual (1907), and gorgeous brass tractor engine parts, gleaming and heavy as stones. 

And the Bull Barn. From humble storage space to history tour darling! It wears its 100+ years well. Come see it on a tour of Laudholm’s Farming Past! Many thanks to Brian, Caryn, and the maintenance and docent volunteers. Their cheerful teamwork and preparation made the effort seem as easy as a Guernsey’s gentle temperament.

A Meloney Automatic Registering Milk Scale (c. 1911) awaits a milk pail in the Hay and Horse barn. Photo by the author.

Vintage milk cans in the bull barn entrance. Photo by the author.

And speaking of Guernseys, how tasty is their milk? Cool, rich, and creamy. No ice cream needed.


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