Curran Homestead offers glimpse of farming history

Posted July 26, 2009, at 9:19 p.m.

ORRINGTON, Maine — Visitors this weekend to the Curran Homestead, a living history farm and museum on Fields Pond Road, enjoyed a trip back in time.

On Saturday, youngsters and adults alike enjoyed “A Downeast Wild West” — a day of Western-themed activities including lasso practice, butter-churning, washtub-scrubbing and a buffalo bean-bag toss. A challenging maze led the way west along the Oregon Trail with scenic stops along the Missouri River and Utah’s Monument Valley.

On Sunday, the Curran Homestead celebrated Maine’s 20th annual Open Farm Day, with the cozy 1830 farmhouse, its barns and sheds open for touring. Remnants of the Wild West remained to keep youngsters busy. Barbecues on both days kept visitors well-fed.

Newly hired director of education Bob Schmick said the Curran Homestead offers an important window into the past on farming practices, housekeeping and social customs in Maine, with a special focus on the notion of “Yankee ingenuity.”

Handmade tools and contraptions abound, such as a cobbled-together device to keep the old barn door from sliding off its track, and a lime spreader designed to traverse the farm’s stony fields. Many items on display at the Curran Homestead have been donated from other old farms in the area, Schmick said.

A milk-delivery sleigh, a shingle mill, antique tractors and a cider press are among the items stored in the rambling barns. In the house, visitors can appreciate two ornate foot-pumped parlor organs, a wood-and-gas kitchen range and a number of old portraits of the Curran family, Irish immigrants who farmed here until the 1970s.

The overcast conditions dampened attendance, but among those touring the farm on Sunday were Sean Trahan of Orrington, his future brother-in-law Todd Sturgeon of Newton, Kan., and Sturgeon’s 12-year-old twin boys, Cole and Drake. Trahan said that in the late 1970s, when they were teenagers, he and his own twin brother worked for aging siblings Alfred and Catherine Curran, the last of the family to work the farm and reside in the Cape-style house.

“We’d milk the cows and feed the cats,” Trahan said. “We baled hay and chopped firewood and made sure the bathtub in the pasture was full of water for the cows.”

Trahan, who moved away to Boston for 10 years and now has returned to Orrington, recalled that Catherine Curran was fearful of thunderstorms and would sit inside while her brother and the two young farmhands sat on the front porch to watch the storms roll by. He said area residents would pay Alfred Curran a quarter to park their cars in the farmyard while they swam at the small beach at Fields Pond, which is across the road on property now owned by Maine Audubon.

“It’s changed a lot,” said Trahan, who will be married this Saturday. “But it’s good to see the place is being looked after.”

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