Video of some harvesting action by Jeff Kelly:
Saturday's potato harvest yielded 1,460 pounds of potatoes for donation to the Greater Mercer Food Cooperative, plus a few more pounds for on-the-farm potato chips. Joining our farmers and Jack and Chester the draft horses were some 34 families from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and North Carolina, plus 11 returned Peace Corps volunteers.
Video of some harvesting action by Jeff Kelly:
With September almost upon us, it's the end of the Intern season. Intern Katie's last day was Saturday, and Intern Alex's last day will be this coming Saturday.
Today, Intern Alex took the oxen for a spin--not just for old times' sake, but also to fill up a garbage can with sawdust.
A few highlights from the weekly farmers’ meeting:
-Fall plowing is coming soon, and Farmer Jeremy is curious to put a plow in the ground to see how the soil turns over. He’s afraid it’s been too dry. “I have a feeling we won’t be able to plow until it rains,” he said. Hopefully that will be before the plowing match in two weeks.
-Farmer Jeremy also remarked that it’s been the best fly season he’s ever seen. By best, he means he’s hardly seen any of the big, hard-biting “bombers” that harass the draft horses and oxen for a few weeks each summer.
-Around the farm today there will be fence-post fixing, hay baling, and draft horses rides for visiting children.
The corn in the Howell Farm corn maze is standing 10 feet tall, in some sections taller still. After a corn maze last year that wasn’t Howell Farm’s best ever, due to deer damage, a deer fence installed early on this season has helped produced a beautiful maze.
This year’s sports-themed corn maze opens to the public on September 13.
Here are all the dates:
Saturday September 13, 20 & 27: 12-8 pm, last exit 9 pm
Sunday September 14, 21 & 28: 12-4 pm, last exit 5 pm
Friday October 3, 10, 17 & 24: 5-8 pm, last exit 9 pm
Saturdays in October: 12-8 pm, last exit 9 pm
Sundays in October: 12-4 pm, last exit 5 pm
Weekends: (609) 397-2555
Weekdays: (609) 737-3299
Ages 10 & up: $10
Ages 5-9: $8
Ages 4 and under free
Group Rates for 20 or more, pre-paid (call for details)
Howell Farm’s annual potato harvest is this Saturday, August 16. Farm staff, interns and visitors will pick potatoes to be donated to the Greater Mercer Food Cooperative.
The harvest will take place from 11am to 3 pm. Visitors of all ages can join the harvest crew for as long or short a time as they like.
Today, Farmer Rob got an early start to the harvest with the help of some young visitors. He says that, considering the lack of rain and munching deer, the potato yield was looking pretty good.
After lessons in mucking stalls, feeding, watering, brushing, and harnessing, the excitement for a novice draft horse driver rises considerably once he or she finally gets the lines in their hands. Today, Farmer Kevin gave Intern Katie a lesson in ground driving—driving the horses when not attached to any equipment.
Like any good relationship, the relationship between a driver and horses relies on good communication. In this case, that relationship includes verbal commands, body language, keeping the right amount of tension on the lines, and well timed tugs on the lines to indicate a desire to turn left or right.
Backing oxen to be hooked to a farming implement is somewhat akin to parallel parking. Intern Katie did well today during some practice sessions.
This week, the farm's young chickens, raised as chicks in a coal-fired brooder starting in March, are starting to lay their first eggs. These first eggs are small, but they will soon get bigger. Young hens are often called pullets, and these first small eggs are called pullet eggs.
Most of the hay cut at Howell Farm gets baled using a baling machine and then stored as square bales (actually rectangular) in the barn.
But every year some of the hay is also collected loose on a wagon, as it would have been 100 years ago.
Last Wednesday, Farmer Rob and the Howell Farm interns partook in the annual tradition of stacking hay on a wagon as it came off the hayloader—an escalator-like contraption, pulled by draft horses, that picks up the hay from the ground and lifts it onto the back of the wagon, to then be dispersed evenly by a worker waiting with a pitchfork.
Intern Alex reports that “It’s definitely tougher than baling hay.” The hay comes off the loader so fast that it’s often necessary to stop the horses to allow the man or woman with a pitchfork time to catch up.
The process of making hay starts a few days before collection. On the previous Saturday, the hay was cut, and then it was raked on both Tuesday and Wednesday, creating straight rows that make loading easier. Moving the hay around also helps it dry.
One wagon worth of loose hay was collected, enough to feed the oxen for a few months this winter. Farmer Rob reports that it is “pretty nice hay.”
The last part of the process will take place this Saturday, when the hay is lifted into the top of the ox barn using a giant claw on a pulley, with the hoisting rope pulled by either the oxen or some draft horses.
A report from Farmer Rob on recent sauerkraut making activities:
Cabbage is shredded and packed in quart jars with one tablespoon of salt per jar. Other optional ingredients like carrots and juniper berries can be added, too. The cabbage is bruised to release liquid by pounding and pressing with a wooden pestle.
The jars are covered with lids, but not too tightly, so that the carbon dioxide gas given off by the lactobacillus bacteria can escape. After a few days to a week of vigorous fermentation, the lids can be tightened. It is best that the jars be kept in a tub or other container that does not react with salt during this phase, as some brine will escape.
The salt and exclusion of air provide an an environment that favors the lactobacillus bacteria. The bacteria consume sugar and give off lactic acid which pickles the cabbage.
Lactic acid fermentation is very trendy, and very traditional. Sauerkraut has long been recognized as a winter source of vitamin C, and more recently is getting recognition for being a probiotic, providing organisms that are beneficial to our guts.
Sauerkraut is German for "sour cabbage". During WWI, sauerkraut was dubbed "Liberty Cabbage", and during WWII, "Victory Cabbage" when Germany and things German were not in favor.