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Today's story Past Week's stories Timbergreen Trails I & II A Catt in Our House Wildflowers Timbergreen Forestry

airview of the farmTimbergreen Farm is a family enterprise located in the driftless area of southwestern Wisconsin some five miles from Spring Green. It is made up of 300 acreas of hills and valleys, much of it wooded, through which wind several miles of trails. Bill and Helen Birkemeier have owned the property since 1973 but only moved there permanently upon Bill's retirement in 1988. They have made sometimes less than successful efforts at raising beef, corn, and hay, but currently are content to sit back and watch others do the work.

One parcel of the farm was originally deeded to one William and Mary Jarvis in 1855 with a mortgage to the Watertown and Madison Rail Road Company and a second to Parley and Harriet Eaton in 1857. Other early owners included Richard and Helen Davis, J J. Hess, Miles and Francis White, William and Nancy Ecker, and a score of others. Frank Schwartz purchased much of the acreage in 1895 with adjoining lands owned by Joseph Soeldner. The Soeldner homestead is a quarter mile up the road and was constructed with logs from the farm, covered with cedar siding. One of Joseph's sons told us of his brothers' favorite pastime of tormenting the bachelor down the road at every opportunity. Other stories about Frank told of his great strength, as he reportedly could lift a full-grown Holstein cow. He burned down the house in the '40's rendering lard and rebuilt with much difficulty during the war years when many supplies were almost impossible to obtain. Frank died in 1960, and in 1962, Donald and Betty Gabelt purchased the land and were the last to operate it as a dairy farm. They sold to Edward Kolner, a Madison doctor, who rented out the house, and the Birkemeier's bought it in 1973. Since that time, the house has been remodeled and enlarged and a sawmill with solar kilns has been added.

Bill spent thirty of his working years as a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, following positions at the University of Arkansas and Purdue. When he is not busy in the woodworking shop or repairing the seemingly ever-present piece of equipment that is broken, he enjoys hiking the trails with his collie, Sunny. Helen raised six children, is an organist, gardener, and amatuer naturalist, watching birds and bugs. She grows and propogates wildflowers for the farm, selling many at openhouses held each spring (see Wildflowers) and writes a weekly column for the Home News, Spring Green's newpaper (see the current issue of Timbergreen Trails and past issues of "Timbergreen Trails"). Jim owns Timbergreen Forestry, a firm dedicated to the serving of landowners with property containing woodlands. He operates a sawmill and lumber enterprise at the farm and installs custom flooring. Jim is a graduate forester from the University of Wisconsin and a consulting forester.

Other members of the family include:

-Richard and Laurie Birkemeier of Norwalk, California. Dick is a professor of trumpet at California State University at Long Beach and is director of the Americus Brass Band, a civil war recreation.

-Bill and Christine Hansen of Great Falls, Montana. Bill is an independent consulting geologist after working for seventeen years with the United States Geological Survey and the Bureau of Land Management. Chris is mother to five children, Peter, Amber, Jacob, Billy, and Helen.

-Dianne Smith and her son Josh of Kansas City, Kansas;

-Cathleen Piotrowski of Madison, Wisconsin.