Port Austin Air Force Station was one of twenty-eight stations built as part of the second segment of the Air Defense Command permanent radar network. Prompted by the start of the Korean War, on July 11, 1950, the Secretary of the Air Force asked the Secretary of Defense for approval to expedite construction of the permanent network. Receiving the Defense Secretary’s approval on July 21, the Air Force directed the Corps of Engineers to proceed with construction.
Over the years, the equipment at the station was upgraded or modified to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the information gathered by the radars. The site came under Tactical Air Command control in October 1979 with the inactivation of Aerospace Defense Command and the transfer of the site to Air Defense, Tactical Air Command (ADTAC).
In 1982, the main bearing of the search radar failed catastrophically. The FAA long-range radar site at Canton Michigan was then used as a temporary data-tie site until a replacement search radar could be installed at the base in 1983. The site remained in use as an Air Force site until 30 September 1988 when it was closed altogether.
Sebewaing Brewing Company brewed Sebewaing Beer until 1965. The brewery began life as the E.O. Braendle Brewery in 1880. A fire destroyed the wood frame building in 1893. It was rebuilt with brick walls three feet thick and operated the brewery until Prohibition. The Sebewaing name began during Prohibition when in 1927, the Sebewaing Products Company was organized to produce malt extract. As sales exceeded a million dollars per year, the brewery became Sebewaing’s main identity.
During its peak in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the brewery employed about 30 people. In 1962, a group of Detroit businessmen gained control of the company. The group expanded sales heavily throughout the region and state, in the hopes of taking the company’s brews national. In 1965, a brutal proxy battle eventually wound up putting the brewery back in the hands of local control, but the damage had been done. Sales declined and the reputation of the brewery suffered, and it closed in 1966.
The last day of the Sebewaing Brewing Company was June 4, 1966.
In the movie Dr. Zhivago there is a memorable quote that goes something like, ”if you scratch a Russian a peasant can be found”. In our case the quote is “if you give a suburbanite a cool idea the frontierswoman come out.” Melissa got the idea of straw bale gardening from a book by Joel Karsten. Joel comes to us from Minnesota where the growing season is incredibly short and the soil tough to cultivate. The situation in northern Huron County Michigan is similar. With a large lot next to our cottage consisting of mostly of sand and a little acidic oak leaf loam the opportunity to put in a real successful garden was remote. So Melissa decided to experiment.
You Want Straw For What?
In farm country straw is used for animal bedding. In addition it’s typically cut and baled in the fall in huge rolls consisting of several hundred pounds. Finding baled straw in smaller bales is proved tough. However we managed to find a supply near Bayport that delivered a dozen bales to our lot. After heaving them into place and placing a snow fence around the site to deter deer, (good luck with that said a friend), we had an impressive structure of straw in neat rows and surrounded by security. We looked like a Denver based horticulture operation. Now what.
Time to experiment!
Our season has not started where someone can be full time up in the tip of the thumb. We still had to go to work. So we decided to get a couple of bales for the suburban back yard and start the 12 week “cooking” process required to break down the fibrous matter into lush soil-less material in which to plant. This offered us a chance to carefully hone skills required of our 12 bail garden up north. We spent about two weeks alternating between spreading organic fertilizer (pee-you) and watering. By the final days the bales are now decomposing with an internal temperature exceeding 90 degrees. I sacrificed my digital beer brewing thermometer for the cause.
Transferring this Experience into a Working Garden.
Over a Memorial Weekend campfire and several bottles of “2 Buck Chuck” we convinced our friends and neighbors to at the cottage contribute the effort by hosing down our northern garden each day then spend alternate days of spreading cool smelling chicken poop 10-10-10 onto the top of the bales. With 12 bales cooking I hope that the wind is blowing off the beach. its ripe! This 2nd weekend of June is finally planting weekend. Stay tuned.