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Windmill adds to ranch’s historical style

       Rock Ledge Ranch took another step toward its historic roots this spring with the installation of a working windmill.

Up goes the tail for the Rock Ledge Ranch windmill during installation. A Barnhart Pump Co. truck is in the foreground. The "OK" stands for a Challenge Windmill product line in 1885.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Recently refurbished after years on a ranch in Texas, the 30-foot-high ironwork is topped by a wheel and tail assembly that spins when the breezes blow.
       The motion activates a pump to draw water from a well drilled 40 feet down. At more than 15 gallons a minute, that should be plenty for the five horses in the barn, according to ranch manager Andy Morris.
       “It's a project I've been wanting to do,” he said, pointing out that the Chambers family, who farmed on roughly the same site as Rock Ledge in the late 1800s, were known to have operated a windmill.
       The $5,000 purchase/ installation cost was covered by a donation from the annual Holly Berry House Folk Art Festival - a long-time, three-day September event that raises money for the ranch.
       “Isn't that exciting?” said Holly Berry owner Kathy Read, when asked about the project. “That's such a great way to talk about the original wind power. I think people will enjoy it. There's a lot of education involved in it.”
       Morris figures that the device will help with ranch water costs. “An average draft horse drinks around 10 gallons of water per day,” he calculated. “So the savings would be approximately 18,250 gallons per year (10 gallons X five horses X 365 days =18,250).”
       According to Morris, the iron frame is from a unit originally made in 1885 by the Challenge Windmill and Feed Company in Batavia, Illinois, as part of its “OK” product line. “It was the first solid wheel windmill made by the Challenge company,” he said.
       After being transported from Texas, the device was refurbished in Falcon by Ray, Adam and Garrett Balsick, Morris added.
       Rock Ledge Ranch is a 230-acre, city-owned site off Gateway Road at North 30th Street. Including two restored historic houses, a blacksmith shop and American Indian area, the facility has a regular season during the summer months.
       This year the season will be June 3 to Aug. 15 (open Wednesdays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Admission is $8 for adults, with discounts for others.
       Also through the year are various special events. Upcoming are the annual sheep-shearing June 6 and Family Fourth celebration of Independence Day July 4.

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