For passers-by on their way to Buena Vista Park, the drive up the bluff could feel like a trip through time.
Work this spring at Nolls’ Dairy Farm on the bluffs above Alma has taken on the look of both the present and the past, according to Curtis Noll, one of the farm’s owners.
“(We) had a different day on Nolls’ Dairy Farm today as spread manure with two totally different spreaders,” said Curtis, who farms with his wife, Kathy, son, Scott, and brother, Mark. “My 18-year-old team of Percheron mares provided the power to pull my John Deere Model M horse-drawn manure spreader making the trip to the field and back 14 times. At the same time my brother used our 7140 Case/IH hooked to a Kuhn Knight spreader to haul from our free-stall pit.”
Noll’s team of Percheron mares, Dixie and Dolly, was driven by his 15-year-old grandson, Axel.
“I have been working with my grandson over winter driving the horses on a sled,” Curtis Noll said. “My efforts have paid off as he can now harness, hitch, and drive my team all by himself.”
Noll said the family worked on spreading from two separate places as the horse spreader works the best when using manure from a bedding pack. Both were loaded with the aid of a skid steer.
The Nolls’ dairy farm has been in the family since 1929. Axel is Scott’s son and Curtis and Kathy’s oldest grandson.
Noll’s John Deere Model M spreader was produced around the time of World War II and beyond by the company along with a Model L, which was also a ground-driven spreader but was designed for use with tractors. From the rear of the widespread beater to the front panel they were exactly the same on the assembly line as the front mountings determined which way it went, Noll said.
Noll found three Model L’s locally around 1990 and dismantled them, savings the best parts from each. He found several other parts at a local John Deere dealer at that time, cleaned everything up and painted the parts either green or yellow. The parts laid in a heap until 2004, when the farm hosted the Buffalo County Dairy breakfast. Prior to the breakfast the spreader was completely reassembled by Francis Derks of Stanley and Ben Gingerich of Medford.
“Francis had the correct front end for horses making my spreader a true M,” Noll said. “Needless to say it was on display for the breakfast. It is the only JD piece of machinery on our farm as we are all red. … One of the best horse-drawn spreaders ever made.”
Like many farmers, Noll said some extra hands around the farm were welcome to help with spring chores.
“With the schools closed we have some extra help,” Noll said. “Soon to be 16 and cannot make an appointment for a driver’s test but can drive horses. Sort of ironic when you think about it.”