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No metal wasted on Mollenbeck farm

Barely a scrap of leftover metal goes to waste on Wilfred Mollenbeck's farm near St. Gregor. There are samples of his metal creations all over the yard, but the one that sticks out the most stands over 40 feet high.
Wilfred Mollenbeck, pictured outside his current project, an open-plan cabin that sits 40' above ground, offering an aerial view of the Mollenbeck farm and surrounding countryside.

Barely a scrap of leftover metal goes to waste on Wilfred Mollenbeck's farm near St. Gregor.
There are samples of his metal creations all over the yard, but the one that sticks out the most stands over 40 feet high. Painted red, Mollenbeck's current project doesn't exactly blend into the skyline. And it's only one of many fantastic projects the welder from St. Gregor has achieved over the years.
At 62, Mollenbeck has been in the metal business ever since he was a young lad. He runs a welding and fabrication shop that he and brother Robert took over from their father, a German immigrant who came to Canada in the late 1920s. Now Mollenbeck's two sons help the two brothers with the business, and they all live on the farm.
A boyish energy radiates from this self-taught artisan - for he not only works with metal, he paints murals, too. Over a period of time, one of his pastimes had been painting large murals on the walls inside the hangar that once served as the family's welding workshop.
Two years ago it burned down, and the Mollenbecks lost pretty much everything - including his artwork. Luckily he had taken pictures of the murals, the only trace that remains.
"We used to build bin hopper cones and grain tillers, and do a lot of repair work," said Mollenbeck of the family welding business. "After the fire, we never got back into it, we're just trying to rebuild everything. Now we're pretty well up and going again."
After a long day in the welding shop, Mollenbeck unwinds by working on his projects, spending an average of two hours a day on them.
At the side of the road near the entrance to the farm is a spaceship with aliens that look as if they could be waving at cars going by. Almost camouflaged by the surrounding trees, an unsuspecting passerby would have to look twice to make sure he wasn't seeing a real UFO.
On the grounds of the property there are at least a dozen other metallic creations that dot the landscape.
In the front garden of the home Mollenbeck shares with his wife, Joan, he has created a typical western scene reminiscent of cowboy country in the desert. Spiky green cacti, a saddle draped over a rock, a couple of guitars just waiting to be picked up and strummed, and a silver bridge leading from the front garden to the house - all exquisitely made of metal.
On the roof of the garage adjacent to their house sits a small-scale helicopter, its helix spinning in the wind like a weather vane.
"I built that with my grandson," says Mollenbeck. "One day he said to me, 'Grandad, let's build something,' so I built that with him."
There's even the original model of his most recent achievement - the cabin with a view - in a scaled-down size, only eight feet high as opposed to the full-scale version.
"I built that thing 30 years ago," said Mollenbeck of the model version. "The story has been an ongoing thing for all my life. That's just what I do."
It's hard for the untrained eye to see, but the little house at the top of the model version comprises two storeys, is fully furnished, and has a swimming pool on the roof.
In the end, the full-scale model hasn't been built exactly the way he had originally intended. Made almost entirely out of salvaged materials, Mollenbeck assembled the base of it in his workshop before it was lifted into place by a crane that his son Kevin operates.
A winding metal staircase encircles the 40-foot high pole that juts vertically toward the sky and supports the room-with-a-view perched on top, also lifted into place by the crane.
The 360° view from on high is, to say the least, unobstructed. From the floor of the multi-sided room the walls slope out on an angle. There is a narrow walkway that skirts the room on the outside, protected by a metal railing that Mollenbeck assures me is perfectly solid and safe. Still, it's not for the faint of heart.
"I'm kind of known for doing crazy things around here," he said with a laugh.
What do the locals think about it?
"It's pretty cool," commented Annelies Kupers, who works at Buck's Bar and Grill in St. Gregor.
Why does he do it? It's really quite simple.
"He does it because he can," said Duane Grieman, owner of the bar.
Mollenbeck's answer is slightly different: "Well, everybody builds a cabin at the lake or a deck on the house, and I wanted to do something different."
Although he is a welder by trade, he certainly hit the nail on the head when he said that.