Bartels Farm and the Doodlebug Mystery


A doodlebug! What? Do not panic, it is not a new species of invasive insect. Read on to discover its ingenious meaning from just after World War I, through the Great Depression and beyond. These “critters” have even been credited with helping America win battles here on the home front during World War II.

Clue #1: Doodlebugs and Bartels Farm

Doodlebugs are known by several other names; and they have helped save many farmers or ranchers from financial ruin. Like Doodlebugs, Centennial Farms of Colorado is proven to be versatile.

The family-owned Bartels Farm has been an agricultural business since 1905, current owner Doug Bartels said. He recalled that his Larimer County land was originally homesteaded in the 1880s by another family.

Then in 1902 or 2003, great-grandfather Clyde Bartels purchased the property. But because of taxes, being then what they are now, he unfortunately gave it up almost immediately. The next buyer also gave up what appeared to be an area of ​​hot potatoes. But the persistent Clyde, with errant tax money in hand, bought the land back in 1905…and hit it big!

Initially a sheep ranching business run by Clyde and his son Frank, the acreage of northern Colorado adapted as needed throughout the decades of the 20th century. Frank’s only child, Duane, continued to grow crops, including sugar beets. He added hay and corn to feed his animals and harvested barley for Coors Brewing as well as cucumbers for the Dreher Pickle Factory.

Clue #2: Scrambolas — A Focus on Harvesting

Eventually, Duane and his son Doug replaced the sheep with a pig farm. They also leased feedlots to cattlemen. Today, corn, wheat and barley are still mainstays. However, Bartels Farm, now owned by Doug and Nancy Bartels, has become particularly well known for its beautiful pumpkin patch and expansive vegetable garden.

Corn and pumpkins are among the dozens of types of produce available at Bartels Farm. Photo courtesy Bartels Farm

In 2000, Doug Bartels found himself with a surplus of pumpkins destined for a local florist. To avoid waste, he opened the land to the public for the purchase of pumpkins. Each following year, the Bartels Pumpkin Patch grew in size and also added seasonal decorations for sale (Indian corn, pumpkins, gourds, straw bales and more). Additional crops, some from the large vegetable garden, are offered to the public each year during the pick-your-own months from mid-July to November 1.

Three growing youngsters learn exactly how tall they are during a Halloween extravaganza at Bartels Farm. Photo courtesy Bartels Farm

However, it is the pumpkin patch that attracts delighted children from near and far. The youngsters are excitedly jostling around the grounds in search of that perfect orange orb they’re sure they’ve grown just for them!

Parents appreciate FREE admission; Free parking; FREE punkin chunkin, farm animals meet and greet, and a mini straw maze for kids. All FREE.

Doug Bartels and his team have assembled a town in the Wild West. Looks like a visitor was able to see it from inside. Photo courtesy Bartels Farm

For older children and adults, make way for the corn maze.

Clue #3: Steampunk T. — It’s A-Maz-ing!

There are corn mazes; and then there are the A-MAZ-ING corn mazes! Bartels’ offers a unique, hand-carved 16-acre with narrow passageways that zigzag through the cornfield from mid-September through October. Children ages 10 and up, and accompanied by a buddy, happily encounter circles, dead ends and multiple paths as they search for the elusive exit. It usually takes about 30 minutes to successfully locate the exit.

Bartels indicated that he always kept his friendly maze just fun, themeless or design-free, non-profit, and definitely not scary; just difficult. However, at the request of a client, he may be considering adding ghostly creepiness for Halloween 2022. Boo! Stay tuned.

Hint #4: Jitterbug — Special Events

Farm aficionados flock like the original Bartels sheep to events open to groups of all sizes. Original owner Clyde Bartels would likely be wide-eyed in wonder at the sight of yellow school buses arriving loaded with students on field trips; happy wedding parties strolling through verdant gardens; birthday boys, girls and their guests celebrating big days.

A cute yellow school bus wall at Bartels Farm looks enough like the real thing to greet incoming children for field trips. Photo courtesy Bartels Farm

Today, it takes real ingenuity and innovative financing to keep farmland productive enough to meet the economic challenges of the early 21st century. Clyde’s descendant, Doug, while enjoying his land, also enjoys sharing its richness and beauty with others. It takes a big heart and a lot of patience too.

Clue #5: Field Crawler — Centennial Designation

Bartels Farm received the Colorado Centennial Farm designation in 2005. In a ceremony held at the Pueblo State Fair, the family accepted the honor along with literature and a large steel plaque.

Agricultural acreage qualifies for the exceptional designation once it has been in the same family for 100 years or more. These properties are becoming scarce as more and more people sell/subdivide their land or their heirs choose urban rather than rural lifestyles. Over time, century-old farms and ranches will likely become, as the saying goes, as rare as hens’ teeth.

Can he be anything other than happy on Sunflower Lane at Bartels Farm? Photo courtesy Bartels Farm

Now entering its sixth generation of farming operations, Bartels Farm has a chance to last into its second century and possibly beyond.

Mystery Solution – and a Doodlebug is…

Alright, so what is a Doodlebug and its purpose in life?

About three years ago, Doug Bartels purchased a peculiar-looking, basic farm vehicle. All Ault, Colorado salesman Mike Johnson remembered of the antique was that he bought it at an estate or farm sale.

It was basically a frame with an engine, seat, steering wheel and large steel wheels rather than rubber tires. The part was supposed to be in working order, although Bartels had never tried it. But now he’s gotten interested, as have a few friends who want to see if they can get the tractor started pretty naked.

That’s right, tractor. Just as Bartels Farm has had to adapt over time, in the past it needed a decentralized tractor. New “showroom” models were hard to come by during the postwar and Great Depression due to metal shortages.

Catalog and tool companies recognized the need for aftermarket conversion kits. Prices depended on year and source, but ranged from an affordable $20 to a low headbutt of $300.

About three years ago, Doug Bartels purchased a peculiar-looking, basic farm vehicle. All Ault, Colorado salesman Mike Johnson remembered of the antique was that he bought it at an estate or farm sale. Photo courtesy Bartels Farm

From the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s, the ubiquitous but obsolete Ford cars provided innovative farmers and ranchers with a way to create their own distinctive vehicles. Then, from paved roads to agricultural fields, they went! Quite a feat, thanks to the kits sold by catalogs as well known as Sears & Roebuck Co.; Montgomery Ward, New Deal, Peru Plow Co., Thrifty Farmer, Pull Ford and Johnson Mfg. Co.

The history of these unique tractors is fascinating reading.

“The Doodlebug tractor is the colloquial American English name for a homemade tractor made in the United States during World War II, when production tractors were rare,” says Wikipedia, adding, “The 1940s doodlebug was usually based on a 1920s or 1930s tractor. from the Ford automobile era that was later modified by either completely removing or modifying part of the vehicle’s body.

The webpage indicates that several collectors’ clubs hold summer competitions to test the functionality and strength of their contraptions by pulling heavy stone boats in a tractor pull.

Wikipedia lists the names of these clever creations: Doodlebugs, Friday Tractors, Scrambolas, Jitterbugs, Field Crawlers, Ruxells. DoodleBug (aka: “The old DB”) was a nickname for the spare kit made by David Bradley.

The Doodlebugs were proclaimed champions in the tough post-war days of World War II. They ploughed, made hay, hauled logs, pulled up stumps, towed all sorts of loads and agricultural implements. This required adequate ground clearance for all conditions and types of terrain. And certainly durability.

American farmers weren’t the only ones who liked “the old DBs”. Wikipedia noted that, until the availability of mass-production tractors in the 1950s, homemade doodlebugs were popular among small Swedish farmers from the 1930s. Ordinances governed the rules for modifying and enforcing the speed limit (20 mph). Teenagers 15 and older in rural areas continue to enjoy small, peculiar tractors as a popular pastime.

Doodlebugs and Bartels Farm: Both endure as adaptations to changing situations.

This finely feathered team member heralds the start of another exciting day at Bartels Farm. Photo courtesy Bartels Farm


For more information about Bartels Farm, its calendar of events, to reserve time for group tours or special occasions, call Doug Bartels at (970) 493-3853. Stop by to buy fresh seasonal produce, pick your own… or to see if Doug already has his Doodlebug! Bartels Farm is located at 3424 E. Douglas Road, Fort Collins, Colorado. Or visit the farm’s website at

A family poses for a fall photo with a cart full of Bartels Farm produce. Photo courtesy Bartels Farm

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