Tag Archives: Wilhome Farms

Emma and the Williams farm at Bloomfield, 13 of 12!

Wilhome Farms, Bloomfield, 1978
Wilhome Farms, Bloomfield, 1978

July of 2014 has been quite the month for Wilhome Farms. July 1st marked a gathering of my father, his sisters and some of their families at the farm. July 31st will mark a massive farm family picnic, known in Holstein circles as a Twilight Meeting. In between, my brother Don and his son, Justin have pulled out all the stops to spruce things up, complete with the absolutely enormous job of scrubbing, priming and painting the metal roof of the barn, some 60 ft. above the ground.

I can’t tell you how much the gathering on Canada Day meant to all of us. We found ourselves sitting in a circle on the lawn with each person (some from nearby, some from as far away as Alberta and Ohio), telling a story about their experiences on the farm. We listened attentively, we laughed, we shouted in horror. A few of us shed a quiet tear. The stories were so rich. Many of them I’d never heard before. Some of the stories centred around the kitchen. Many were about mis-deeds such as the mistreatment of younger siblings/cousins or mis-calculations with farm machinery and the ensuing consequences! Some were about singing together, driving for the very first time and listening to our grandfather laugh. One was about the youngest male cousin who was forbidden to shoot groundhogs (and collect the bounty). Our ever-practical and gentle grandmother promptly helped him skin a mouse, for which he too was given a bounty! It was a great, great day.

I’m happy my soul had a chance to grow on this fertile patch of ground. I’m glad I shared its precious soil and water along with the many animals and this big, complicated and wonderful family!

Bob Williams with his sisters Roberta, Betty and Shirley, Canada Day 2014.
Bob Williams with his sisters Roberta, Betty and Shirley, Canada Day 2014.

Emma and the Williams farm at Bloomfield, 11 of 12

Spring-fed water has nourished thousands of animals on Wilhome Farms including these Holsteins in 1960.
Spring-fed water has nourished thousands of animals on Wilhome Farms including these Holsteins in 1960.

It may seem strange to include the history of the farm’s water sources in a series such is this, but I know from the two years I spent on a ‘property’ (farm) on the Darling Downs of Australia that there is nothing so crucial to life as water. The water on the farm at Bloomfield is the coldest, clearest, most refreshing water I have ever known. It has sustained thousands of animals and dozens of humans in the 200 years the family has lived on the land above it. I think it deserves a reflection of its own.

My mom, Helen Williams, in the house and barn log she prepared in 1982 writes of the well Caleb Williams secured before his marriage to Gloranah Young. “The creek was too far away from the house for a fresh water supply at the time. The same went for the spring to the north in a pine thicket. Near the house Caleb dug down about 12 ft. and struck clear, cold water, dug deeper and lined the well with stones from the gravel ridge. He bailed water out with a bucket or a balanced well-sweep made of a long pole. “

Later, when Caleb and Gloranah’s son John built the large barn which stands to this day across the road from the house, a good well and watering trough were established in the barnyard. The creek and the nearby spring provided a source of water when the cattle grazed to the south of the barn in the summer.

In 1944 with the availability of electric pumps my grandfather, Morley Williams, installed a water line between the spring and the farm buildings on the ridge. Over the years it has provided water to four households and five larger barns. At the peak of the animal production, it watered 1000 pigs/year and approximately 100 head of cows, heifers and calves/year.

Although Book One’s unpleasant swimming scene with Edmund Franklin took place in Bloomfield, I recalled my time spent skinny-dipping with the neighbour girls in the pool of creek water closest the bridge to write that passage.

My aunts have told me of how, as girls, they used to drink from the ice-cold waters of the spring by grasping one another by the ankles and lowering the thirsty girl, head-first into the water.

My parents have always impressed upon us the importance of protecting the water source. My grandfather, dad, brother and nephew have left buffer zones, practiced no-till cropping and for over 70 years have kept the cattle from muddying the waters of what was once called Trout Creek and is now known as Waring Creek. They have also worked with community groups on conservation methods that have kept the water clear and pure.

In the late 1990s when a proposed gravel pit threatened the very source of the water my parents and dozens of others, at great personal expense, took the development to the Ontario Municipal Board and WON!

Emma and the Williams farm at Bloomfield, 10 of 12

Robert and Morley Williams, 5th and 6th generation farmers at Wilhome Farms. Circa 1960.
Robert and Morley Williams, 5th and 6th generation farmers at Wilhome Farms. Circa 1960.

By 1875 John Williams decided that the time had come for a new and ample barn. Plans for the structure 60 ft. by 105 ft., and a full 60 ft. from the basement floor to the peak, (the posts were to be a full 35 ft.!) made it, at that time, the largest barn in “The County”. Construction on the gentle slope south of the house began with cutting pine for frames and siding and cedar for shingles at the family’s mill. All of the many beams were hewn by hand. “The result was a side-hill barn with room for horse and cow stables in the basement as well as a room for machinery. A granary and stable for seven horses occupied the east end of the main floor which had two driveways entering from the north side and one from the west end. The mow space, served by horse forks, normally took care of the whole crop, and as threshed from one mow, the straw was delivered into another mow. A floor was laid below the peak of the barn which was lighted by dormer windows. In this loft, a granary was built, equipped with a winch for lifting and lowering the grain. A horse-stairs or ramp allowed the horses to be taken to and from the basement without leaving the building.

Hundreds of pounds of wrought iron nails fastened the vertical siding. The cost of the barn was about $4,000.”*

This barn, renovated and modernized over the years with stable cleaners, then a gravity-fed manure system; milking machines, then a pipeline system, along with the accompanying silos and outer buildings is the heart of Wilhome Farms to this day.

Each child who has grown up on the farm has memories of this barn – the suffocating heat of the hay mow in July and the golden steam that curls into the winter morning sunshine from warm bodies of the cows. We have built forts, waged battles and “hidden and searched” for endless hours in the hay and straw mows. We have played in the cool, smooth kernels of corn or itch-inducing barley just as others play in sand at the beach. We’ve swung from sisal ropes on lazy, rainy days. We know the sweet smell of hay and cow’s breath, the sourness of rancid milk and calf scours and the familiarity of cow manure and mice. We have stepped into what we thought of as “adulthood” with the milking of our first cows and shared cookies and cold drinks to revive our tired bodies before the afternoon chores. Some of us, with accompanying goats, have wended our way along the dusty beams high, high, high above the barn floor. For me and my aunts it is the memories of family voices blended in song as we “did the chores” that continue to make us smile. Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound…


*Merton Williams’s “The Samuel Williams-Jemima Platt Family”.