The first frost of the fall has come and gone, which means all but the cold-hardiest vegetables are dead and gone. Farmer Rob has planted clover in the raised garden beds to help winterize them. Not only will the clover keep out weeds and prevent erosion, it will also help fix nitrogen in the soil.
Can you spot the coyote in the photo above?
Farmer Rob spotted this coyote making its way along the edge of a Howell Farm pasture at about 10am. Then it disappeared into the woods.
I’ve heard many coyotes calling in the night, but this is the first time I’ve seen a coyote with my own eyes that I’m 100% sure was a coyote. When I was a Howell Farm intern six years ago, I watched a four-legged animal dash out of the barnyard at night that I think was a coyote, but I can’t be sure.
Coincidently, I’ve been thinking about coyotes recently. Two nights ago I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Coywolf” about the Eastern Coyote, which has some wolf genes that make it larger and less timid than the Western Coyote. Eastern Coyotes are also more likely to take down a deer than smaller coyotes. Overall, coyote populations have been rising in places where they historically aren’t found, like inner cities.
There’s also a scientific study I read recently that mentions lyme disease, white tailed deer, mice, foxes and coyotes. Conventional wisdom has been that high deer populations are a major driver of lyme disease in humans, because deer harbor many deer ticks, which transmit the disease.
This new study found, however, found a much closer correlation between fox populations and the rate of lyme disease in humans: The more foxes there are, the less lyme disease. The hypothesis is that foxes eat mice, which are the main transmitters of lyme disease to humans. Coyotes come into play because coyotes often kill foxes or drive them away. Rising coyote populations have meant fewer foxes. Habitat fragmentation also plays a role. Small forest fragments host more mice but fewer mice predators than larger forests.
A summary of that study is here:
Today the Howell Farm “Hometown Teams Corn Maze” had some special visitors—members of the various organizations that helped make the Smithsonian’s Hometown Teams: How Sports Shape America traveling museum exhibit a big success. In 2014, the exhibit visited six New Jersey locations, including the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center, the Atlantic City Historical Museum, Howell Living History Farm, Bridgeton Public Library, Hudson County Community College, and the Morris Museum. The exhibit was brought to New Jersey by the New Jersey Council for the Humanities and the Smithsonian Institution.
At the start of the maze tour, Howell Farm director Pete Watson explained that Howell Farm’s maze was one of the first corn mazes in the country, and is now in its 18th year. Maze challengers have two main objectives: “To get out” and “To answer questions.” This year, to fit the maze theme, those questions are related to New Jersey sports history.
Farmer Pete also explained that coming up with tough maze trivia questions has become more of a challenge in the modern age of smart phones. The maze designers are now instructed to make sure no answers to maze questions can be found in the first three pages of a Google search.
Some shots of the fully restored and beautifully decorated Henry Phillips farmhouse.
It was on October 1 that Farmer Jeremy filled the grain drill with wheat seed and planted it in one of the fields along Wooden’s Lane. Now, two weeks later, the results are evident. The wheat is two to three inches tall and a vibrant green. Germination appears to be very good. Judging from the rows, it also looks like Farmer Jeremy drove the horses in relatively straight lines.
Now the wheat will grow over the fall and winter (slowing down a great deal in the winter) before shooting up again in the spring, until it is finally ready to be harvested next summer.
After a night of drenching rain (and a very dry September) Howell Farm woke up feeling lush and well-watered this morning. Add in 70-degree temperatures, a light breeze, blue skies, fiery fall foliage and big puffy clouds, and everyone seems to agree that it has been a very beautiful day on the farm.
After a complete restoration several years in the making, the historic, 18th-century Henry Phillips Farmhouse was dedicated this past Saturday. Interior photos coming soon.
Farmer Ian was out in the field today behind four draft horses pulling a disc harrow and plank. Once harrowed, the field will be planted with spelt and some wheat. With rain in the forecast, planting might happen as soon as tomorrow.
Farmer Pete explained the benefit of pulling a wooden plank behind the harrow, which does more than break up the soil further. A holdover technique from Farmer Halsey, the plank also creates a smooth and uniform surface on top of the soil. During planting, this makes it a lot easier for the farmer to see what row he just planted and where to line up the seed drill for the next pass.
September 2014 was warm and dry in the north half of New Jersey.
According to the latest report of the New Jersey state climatologist, September was the 29th warmest on record. In terms of precipitation, the southern part of the state received slightly less than average precipitation while the northern half was very dry--the seventh driest September on record for the region.
Read the entire report here:
Fortunately, some early October rain has helped soften the soil for fall plowing, harrowing and planting.
The wheat is being planted right at this moment.
A short time ago, I watched as Farmer Jeremy emptied a bag of wheat seed into the seed box of the grain drill. Howell Farm plants a variety of wheat known as “Pronghorn,” known for being a little taller than some other varieties of modern wheat. This tall variety works well on a historical farm such as Howell Farm for several reasons. It closer resembles the taller wheat that would have been growing at Howell Farm in the year 1900, and it works better with our historical harvesting equipment, which is suited for the taller varieties. It also provides more straw, which can be put to good use on the farm.
Following Farmer Jeremy's planting, Farmer Ian is following behind with a horse-drawn roller to pack the seed.
In other news, the field corn is still not ready for picking, though our corn picking program is scheduled for this coming weekend. (Such are the challenges of needing to schedule a public harvest program a year in advance.) Looking at the still green stalks of corn, Farmer Ian thinks it might be a full 3 or 4 weeks before the corn is ready for harvest.
Fall has definitely begun to arrive on the fall. Strikes of yellow, red and orange leaves are now visible among the remaining green.
|THE FURROW: The online newsletter of Howell Living History Farm||