Ed Filhart raised 12 kids with his wife of 46 years, Mary, on their farm in Shepherd. Now they have 24 grandchildren who come to visit frequently. Most days Ed spends his time maintaining the farm and training his Belgian horses to pull wagons and carts for yard work.
Ed horses around with his grandson Jesse, 6, by putting his hat on his grandson's small head. The large family met at the Stan’s Cider Mill in Rosebush, to make cider for the whole family out of the apples from the old MacIntosh apple tree behind the Filhart's house.
Ed does most of the labor on the farm. However, the children and grandchildren come to help on special days. On a sunny afternoon, Emma, 7, and Ed pick raspberries from the patch behind the barn.
Emma, 7, would rather eat the raspberries straight off the plant than fill up her carton. "Don't eat too many," warned Ed, "you'll get a stomach ache."
Five of the Filhart's grandchildren play in the yard; planting corn in their sandbox, climbing the old apple tree looking for the best apples to munch on and swinging on the tree swing.
Ed and Mary Filhart play tri-dominos on a Tuesday night at their kitchen table. "And then it gets quiet again," said Ed after their children and grandchildren say their goodbyes. Ed and Mary, who have been married for 46 years, spend their evenings together playing card games and winding down from the day.
Ed and Mary Filhart know a little bit about raising everything, from horses to crops to children.
On a back country road in Shepherd, their white house sits adjacent to a green pasture where their horses graze.
Ed raises and trains Belgian colts and horses and he has two colts and four Belgian horses, which he broke to ride in teams and pull wagons for yard work.
Five of the Filhart's grandchildren play in the yard.
“The horses used to do everything on the farm,” Ed said. “Now we use tractors.”
Ed has trained all of his work horses from birth, never purchasing a horse already broken.
A swing set, sandbox, small garden and an old apple tree lay behind the home that used to house the Filhart’s 12 children. Now the children are all grown, but most of them have stayed near the Shepherd farm to be close to their siblings, nieces, nephews and in-laws.
In the early morning, the farm is quiet except for the two dogs, Louie and Willie, who loyally follow Ed around the yard.
Late afternoon is when the farm comes to life.
Members of this large family are always coming by the farm to help and bring the 24 grandchildren together to play in the yard.
Ed’s sons and son-in-laws come to help him with the heavy labor of farm work. They use corn stacked in the walls of a small barn to mix-up feed for the horses. The family comes to the farm to help pick raspberries, apples and tomatoes from the garden. The Filharts also grow large soy beans and corn crops.
When it comes to the fun tasks around the farm, the whole family lends a hand. On a warm, sunny September afternoon, Ed spent time with his daughters and grandchildren picking raspberries from the patch behind their house.
“Don’t eat too many,” Ed said to his family. “You’ll get a stomach ache.”
The grandchildren competed to see who could fill their carton of raspberries the fastest. Emma, 7, decided she'd rather eat them right off the plant then collect them for later.
When the family leaves to go back to their respectful homes, Ed and Mary are left in their front yard waving goodbye as their grandchildren shout farewells from the car windows all the way down the long, dirt drive.
“And then it gets quiet again,” Ed said.
It is hard to get the family together for events and holidays, so this year Christmas will be celebrated mid-November instead of December.
It’s the only time the entire extended family can come together.
“The kids are all very close and supportive of each other,” Mary said.
Their closeness can be attributed to their once close quarters. Before they added an addition to their home, the Filharts only had one bathroom and said there would be a line in front of the bathroom door before school.
Although only Ed and Mary reside in the house now, they said it is still home to the whole family.
(Image/story credit: Tanya Moutzalias)