The historic Flora School at the north end of Wallowa County celebrated “School Day” on Saturday, June 1.

This year they added more fun and educational events for participants and visitors, including sheep shearing, and how to pack a horse for a pack trip. In addition there was penmanship practice and a children’s story time.

Visitors watched wool-spinning, helped churn fresh local cream into butter, and met local pioneer artisans and musicians. The baby yak, raised as a bottle-fed baby by Flora’s own Yak breeder and herder, was a big draw.

Demonstrations of the fine farrier arts of horse-shoeing also proved popular.

School Day also included the usual not-to-be missed pioneer Dutch Oven lunch, with sumptuous juicy chicken, fresh coleslaw from the RimRock Inn, and made-totally-from-scratch campfire baked beans.

Music, mostly old-fashioned folk, played by local musicians, kept feet tapping throughout the day.

Brian Cook, of Irrigon, Oregon, and his three outstanding half-Percheron gray mules, Kent, Mary, and Jean, provided free wagon tours around historic Flora.

Cook and his mules will be in Portland’s Grand Floral Parade this coming weekend, pulling a Steam Pumper fire-engine.

The most popular and attention-getting portion of School Day is the blacksmith competition. This year was a treat for smithy afficianodos.

Forged in Fire champions, Mike Rowley of Enterprise and David Roeder of Tri-Cities, Washington, competed head-to-head along with smith Nathan Thompson. As many as 30 visitors crowded around the forges to watch the contestants produce a pair of tongs, that they then used to help fabricate a dining set — a knife, fork and spoon.

“Building a good set of tongs is a real test of blacksmith art,” said Erwin Smith, a judge of the competition. “It’s one test that has been used to see if you are truly a Journeyman blacksmith.”

Smith runs the Crowfoot Forge School of Blacksmithing in Moscow, Idaho, and brought several of his students to watch the fun.

Nathan Thompson won the competition. At the end of the day the smiths dedicated a special sculpture — a beautiful and very sturdy quilt-stand —t hat they constructed in honor of Marie Norris, a quilter who perished on her way home last year.

Flora School has volunteers and followers from all over the United States and the world, not just from Wallowa County.

This year, folks from Portland, Boise, Lewiston, Clarkston, and Pasco showed up.

All proceeds from the all-volunteer event went to the Flora School Foundation Education Center, a 501C-3 nonprofit dedicated to fully restoring the historic building and ensuring that pioneer skills in living and agriculture are not lost.

For more information about the Flora School Foundation and Education Center,, contact Vanessa Thompson: or 541-828-7911 or Nathan Thompson: 509-876-7812 or or

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