Father and Son Keep Clos to the Soil While Going Modern, Women Folks Busy, Useful
By Betty Ansorge Hanson, June 1949
Ellison Bay, WI – The “good life” that can be lived in Door County reaches a kind of acme in the Sidney Telfers’ existence at Driftwood at Ellison Bay, close to the northern tip of the peninsula. The Telfers, senior and junior, their wives and the grandchildren, live back-to-back on either side of a 125-acre tract, 60 acres of which is orchard.
Sidney Telfer, senior, comes from Fort Atkinson, a horticultural center in Wisconsin. Men from his hometown had stock in the Ellison Bay Orchard Company, and sent Telfer and his bride, the form Inze Wallace, to the peninsula in 1917. The original purpose of the move was to have dairy cattle in the orchards, but the idea was soon abandoned.
“They forgot the cattle, but they kept me,” said Telfer. “I managed the orchards for 20 years until the company sold them.” For another five years Telfer managed for the new owner.
In 1942, the family came to their present home, a pleasant, comfortable two-story stone house, with a fireplace lighting up the paneled walls. Deep windowsills remind the visitor of the snug protection of thick stone walls. Surrounding woods protect the house from winter storms.
Friends of Jensen
For the past 25 years their lives have been enriched by their friendship with Jens Jensen, noted landscape architect and close neighbor. For the past three years they have studied sketching with Gerhard Miller in the latter’s weekly class conducted at Jensen’s school, “The Clearing.”
In the recent regional rural art exhibit at the Neville Public Museum in Green Bay, Telfer’s “Lant Stand” was one of four chosen from among 50 to be sent to the state exhibit in Madison. The picture, a protest against the cutting of timber, has been purchased for the permanent rural art collection of the University of Wisconsin college of agriculture.
Another entry, “Sugar Bush,” has as its subject Telfer’s own maple grove of 200 trees, tapped annually for syrup. Mrs. Telfer cans the luscious liquid for year-round use. She also makes a delicious candy by cooking down then electrically beating the syrup.
When their beloved Mr. Jensen was hospitalized in Madison this spring, the sketch class assembled at the Telfers and went over to plant the garden at “The Clearing.” Of all the get-well expressions Jensen received, this one was probably most appreciated by the octogenarian lover of the soil.
Make Winter Pilgrimages
The Telfers make annual winter pilgrimages to their former homes, Fort Atkinson and Chicago. Since their daughter Dorothy, and her husband, Joseph Sladky, settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico, they also have made treks to the southwest, where their love of riding was revived. However, a peek into their walk-in freezer suggests that they could hibernate here without deprivation.
When asked about its capacity, they replied, “Oh, about two cows and a pig.” But no such monotony is there in the aluminum foil and shellene packages. Nor did they have to import this freezer from a great distance. A good neighbor, Winfield Rogers of Ellison Bay, is an engineer who designs and builds such equipment.
They have their own beef cattle, their own chickens, their own pigs, and most recently added – their own riding horse. Mrs. Telfer chose a gray wester pony, with a brand on his right hip. Telfer’s black mare is a standard bred horse with lots of fire and only one rider. In the row of richly tooled saddles is a smaller one for grandson Lee, 6, who will help break the year-old colt in another year. The riders try to get our every day, manage to average three times a week, and are still finding exciting new trails in the fairly near radius of their own home.
Son Helps Out
Leisure to do all these things like riding, sketching, and traveling is provided by the presence of their son Sidney, junior, and his wife Marion, whom he met at Platteville State Teachers college while taking an agricultural course. The former Miss Riter was from Belmont, and was raised on a farm, so she is devoted to her home and the acreage that surrounds it.
The children, Lee and Kathy, 5, are growing up in the same kind of life their parents and aunt Dorothy had, learning from nature and at a safe distance from movies, comic books, and bubble gum. Lee hasn’t started school yet because most rural schools don’t have kindergartens. He probably could run rings around the graduate of a two-year kindergarten with first-hand information. When Lee’s parents go on trips, the “seniors” remain at home to do the daily work.
Earlier this month the senior Telfers joined the Edgar Rudolphs of Sevastopol in a trip to Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota, for the Farm Bureau training school. This is an annual meet allowing leaders from the Midwest to get together, exchange ideas, and listen to director from Liberty Grove Township, having been chosen when the bureau was reorganized five years ago.
Active in Community
He is assistant secretary and treasurer of the Door County Fruit Growers’ Cooperative, president of the Liberty Grove Mutual Fire Insurance Company and forestry leader for the Top o’ the Thumb 4-H club. For 16 years his township sent him to the Door County board.
Faced with the problem of encouraging deer while discouraging their efforts to eat his orchards, Telfer chose to keep both animals and trees. Finding that a shock from electric fence make the deer wary of any single strand, he crisscrossed the orchards with ordinary binder twine, and found that it worked. Young trees he protected with three stakes. For these and another innovation he was recognized by “The Country Gentleman” in November 1948, and March 1949.
Seeing the tremendous efforts that was put forth to cultivate orchards, Telfer asked, “Why?” The answer was to conserve moisture. Daring to be different, Telfer planted his first orchard in sod in 1930, and has continued the practice. R.H. Roberts of the university says, “The trees are happy.” Size and quality of fruit compare with that from cultivate orchards. He plants the trees in old alfalfa, mulches them with hay, straw and manure for the first three years, and then just lets them grow.
Park Board Member
A member of the park board, Telfer has seen acquisition of the following county parks: Chaudoir dock, Sugar Creek Park, Door Bluff Sanctuary, Washington Island Park, and Meridian sanctuary. The last is a 93-acre tract lining the inland side of Highway 57 and will preserve the woodsy character of that drive.
Having served the Wisconsin State Horticultural society as vice president and president, Telfer was given honorary recognition in November 1944, for “eminent services… in promoting cooperative marketing of fruit and advancing fruit growing in Wisconsin.” The Door County Memorial hospital claims him as a trustee who has already served a year.
Inez Telfer was one of six women who managed to buy the old Ellison home and its sand beach as a community center. The Ellison Bay Woman’s Club bought form Mrs. Palmer Johnson, the former Sylvia Icke, the home in which Sylvia was brought up. At one time it had been the first store in Ellison Bay, and it also was once the post office. The club house, in it the beginnings of a public library, and it now serves as a meeting place and youth center. The clubhouse in snow time was Mrs. Telfer’s first painting subject, which now hangs in the living room at Driftwood.
Mrs. Telfer is now president of the Northeastern Wisconsin Federation of Moravian Women, including Upper Michigan. A member of the northern circle of the Sturgeon Bay Eastern Star, she admits irregular attendance at meetings that are 40 miles from home. The same goes for her husband and the Masons.
Belying the tradition of the work-worn farm woman, Mrs. Telfer looks like a fashion plate with a beauty shop hairdo, smart clothes for the country, including green suede “flats” for walking in the woods, and long, red fingernails. Her domestic help is a dishwasher bought as soon as electricity came to Ellison Bay 18 years ago.
The Telfers have everything the human heart could desire, plus the youth to and help enjoy their good life for many years to come.