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Rescue of a relic: Worn-out windmill restored to former glory

ADRIAN -- Across the rural landscape of southwest Minnesota, towering wind turbines cast a futuristic look over farm fields just starting to green up after the spring plant. The three blades of each turbine cut through the air, making a swooshing...

2573549+Restored Windmill 1 WEB.jpg
Julie Buntjer/Daily Globe

ADRIAN - Across the rural landscape of southwest Minnesota, towering wind turbines cast a futuristic look over farm fields just starting to green up after the spring plant. The three blades of each turbine cut through the air, making a swooshing sound as they harvest the wind and generate electricity to power homes and businesses. Decades ago, this landscape was home not to wind turbines, but to windmills. Far smaller in stature - yet tall enough to put fear in anyone who had to climb them - they, too, had an important job to do.Along the banks of the west branch of the Little Rock River in Nobles County’s Little Rock Township, Reynold and Tena Tiesler erected a 45-foot-tall windmill in the road ditch to pump water from the creek to a 1,000-gallon storage tank on their farm. The windmill generated the power to keep the pump running, pushing the water through a quarter-mile-long underground piping system.
During the dog days of summer when there was nary a breeze and the water tank was getting low, the Tieslers drove their B John Deere to the windmill and ran a belt from the tractor’s flywheel to the windmill’s pump. Bill Tiesler, grandson of Reynold and Tena, recalled standing out there as a kid, waiting for two or three hours as the tractor chugged, providing the power to pump water up the hill to fill the tank.While Reynold and Tena relied on the cool water from the river, so, too, did their son, Glen, and his wife, Gayla, and their family of six kids who lived in a second house on the farm. Brothers Mark and Bill were among those six kids, each of whom learned at an early age to operate the B John Deere. Of course, they had other chores around the farm as well. The family farrowed sows in the summer, ran a 30-cow dairy and had stock cows back in those days.That old windmill, made of steel and churning day and night, kept the water flowing for them all. “That’s the only well (on the farm), so it had to be original,” said Donna Tiesler, an aunt to Mark and Bill, who lives just a mile from where the windmill stood. The family estimates it was put up in the 1920s or 1930s, but no one knows for sure. “My husband and son climbed it,” Donna said. “My husband because he had to fix it; my son because it was there.”While a 45-foot-tall windmill pales in comparison to the wind turbines of today, Bill said it was a “pretty good size, back in the day.”“They had to get it up that high to catch the wind because it was down in the valley,” he said.“I climbed it, but I didn’t particularly like it up there,” added Mark. “When it was breezy, it felt like the ground was moving underneath you.”The windmill remained in use up until the late 1970s or early 1980s, when the family converted the system to an electric pump.The workhorse, they decided, was ready for retirement.In the years that followed, the steel structure began to show its age. Weathered by the harsh winds along the Buffalo Ridge, one day the entire fan just fell to the ground. It was salvaged by the Tieslers and given to Randy Kruse of Adrian. Kruse had wanted to put up a windmill, and the fan was a start, though he later found one in better condition - without the dents and bends incurred when the fan fell from the Tiesler windmill.As time went on, Mark said his dad wanted the windmill taken down and repaired to its former glory. After Glen died last July at age 79, his family decided to carry out his wish.“Dad didn’t want to see it go to waste,” said Mark.Just as the Tieslers looked for a way to save the windmill, rural Adrian farmer Jim Lynn had contacted Kruse, a welding and repair shop owner in Adrian, in his quest to find one. Kruse still had the fan from the Tiesler windmill and knew the family was willing to part with the base.It quickly became apparent the windmill was destined for a facelift.“I just like the old look of them,” Lynn said of his wish to erect a windmill on his farm. “I’ve been looking for a long time.”The Tiesler windmill needed extensive work, though. The head drive was shot, the tail was missing, and the fan, well, it still had its dents and bends.“The frame itself was OK,” Bill said optimistically.In fact, it was still standing tall, which proved a bit of a challenge.“We didn’t know how to get it down because it was so tall,” said Mark, adding that they borrowed a telehandler from Lance Bullerman of Adrian to gently bring the tower to the ground without damaging the structure. Once down, the structure was loaded on a fifth wheel trailer to be hauled from the Tiesler farm to the Lynn farm about 12 miles away.Lynn hired Terry Rodman, a rural Jasper man who restores and collects antique and international windmills, to restore the Tiesler tower to its original glory.“(Rodman) rebuilt the mechanics,” said Lynn. “He found the tail for me and painted it.”The fan, retrieved from Randy Kruse, made the windmill complete.“I tried to use everything (original) that I could,” Lynn added.The repair work took Rodman, who restores windmills in his spare time, a couple of months. When it was finished about a month ago, Lynn had the windmill erected on his farm.Today, it stands atop the hill on the Lynn farm, its blades whirling in the wind in gentle greeting to the Lynns and visitors to their farm-based Barn Fresh store.ADRIAN - Across the rural landscape of southwest Minnesota, towering wind turbines cast a futuristic look over farm fields just starting to green up after the spring plant. The three blades of each turbine cut through the air, making a swooshing sound as they harvest the wind and generate electricity to power homes and businesses.Decades ago, this landscape was home not to wind turbines, but to windmills. Far smaller in stature - yet tall enough to put fear in anyone who had to climb them - they, too, had an important job to do.Along the banks of the west branch of the Little Rock River in Nobles County’s Little Rock Township, Reynold and Tena Tiesler erected a 45-foot-tall windmill in the road ditch to pump water from the creek to a 1,000-gallon storage tank on their farm. The windmill generated the power to keep the pump running, pushing the water through a quarter-mile-long underground piping system.
During the dog days of summer when there was nary a breeze and the water tank was getting low, the Tieslers drove their B John Deere to the windmill and ran a belt from the tractor’s flywheel to the windmill’s pump. Bill Tiesler, grandson of Reynold and Tena, recalled standing out there as a kid, waiting for two or three hours as the tractor chugged, providing the power to pump water up the hill to fill the tank.While Reynold and Tena relied on the cool water from the river, so, too, did their son, Glen, and his wife, Gayla, and their family of six kids who lived in a second house on the farm. Brothers Mark and Bill were among those six kids, each of whom learned at an early age to operate the B John Deere. Of course, they had other chores around the farm as well. The family farrowed sows in the summer, ran a 30-cow dairy and had stock cows back in those days.That old windmill, made of steel and churning day and night, kept the water flowing for them all. “That’s the only well (on the farm), so it had to be original,” said Donna Tiesler, an aunt to Mark and Bill, who lives just a mile from where the windmill stood. The family estimates it was put up in the 1920s or 1930s, but no one knows for sure.“My husband and son climbed it,” Donna said. “My husband because he had to fix it; my son because it was there.”While a 45-foot-tall windmill pales in comparison to the wind turbines of today, Bill said it was a “pretty good size, back in the day.”“They had to get it up that high to catch the wind because it was down in the valley,” he said.“I climbed it, but I didn’t particularly like it up there,” added Mark. “When it was breezy, it felt like the ground was moving underneath you.”The windmill remained in use up until the late 1970s or early 1980s, when the family converted the system to an electric pump.The workhorse, they decided, was ready for retirement.In the years that followed, the steel structure began to show its age. Weathered by the harsh winds along the Buffalo Ridge, one day the entire fan just fell to the ground. It was salvaged by the Tieslers and given to Randy Kruse of Adrian. Kruse had wanted to put up a windmill, and the fan was a start, though he later found one in better condition - without the dents and bends incurred when the fan fell from the Tiesler windmill.As time went on, Mark said his dad wanted the windmill taken down and repaired to its former glory. After Glen died last July at age 79, his family decided to carry out his wish.“Dad didn’t want to see it go to waste,” said Mark.Just as the Tieslers looked for a way to save the windmill, rural Adrian farmer Jim Lynn had contacted Kruse, a welding and repair shop owner in Adrian, in his quest to find one. Kruse still had the fan from the Tiesler windmill and knew the family was willing to part with the base.It quickly became apparent the windmill was destined for a facelift.“I just like the old look of them,” Lynn said of his wish to erect a windmill on his farm. “I’ve been looking for a long time.”The Tiesler windmill needed extensive work, though. The head drive was shot, the tail was missing, and the fan, well, it still had its dents and bends.“The frame itself was OK,” Bill said optimistically.In fact, it was still standing tall, which proved a bit of a challenge.“We didn’t know how to get it down because it was so tall,” said Mark, adding that they borrowed a telehandler from Lance Bullerman of Adrian to gently bring the tower to the ground without damaging the structure. Once down, the structure was loaded on a fifth wheel trailer to be hauled from the Tiesler farm to the Lynn farm about 12 miles away.Lynn hired Terry Rodman, a rural Jasper man who restores and collects antique and international windmills, to restore the Tiesler tower to its original glory.“(Rodman) rebuilt the mechanics,” said Lynn. “He found the tail for me and painted it.”The fan, retrieved from Randy Kruse, made the windmill complete.“I tried to use everything (original) that I could,” Lynn added.The repair work took Rodman, who restores windmills in his spare time, a couple of months. When it was finished about a month ago, Lynn had the windmill erected on his farm.Today, it stands atop the hill on the Lynn farm, its blades whirling in the wind in gentle greeting to the Lynns and visitors to their farm-based Barn Fresh store.

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