So far, our new team of oxen have been relegated to light pulling work because of ill-fitting bows for their yoke. That all changed this week when a new pair of bows arrived in the mail. Today Farmer Rob took out the cordless drill and made holes in the bows for the pins.
Farmer Rob is experimenting with a first for Howell Farm: green sprouting potatoes.
Here's the idea: Let your seed potatoes grow sprouts in a warm place with plenty of sunshine (as opposed to the darkness of a potato bag). This allows for, according to the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, "the development of short, strong, green sprouts and, if all goes well, a faster-growing plant."
At Saturday's potato planting, both green sprouted and unsprouted potatoes will be planted. Farmer Rob hopes the experiment will turn out as he expects: better, earlier potatoes from the green sprouted rows.
By and by, Howell Farm's draft horses push, rub and scrape against the gates of the tub yard. After years of abuse, it's time for some new gates, which are being installed as I type.
First comes manure spreading. Then plowing. Then the disc harrow. And finally, planting. It took a little longer this spring than usual, but yesterday Farmer Jeremy hitched the seed drill to a team of draft horses and planted the oats.
A strip of green grass (photo 3) still cuts a diagonal across the middle of the field. This is an old-fashioned method of erosion control.
And this morning, as if resting, the seed drill sits out in the barnyard, ready for the next crop.
The first barn swallow of the year was spotted at Howell Farm yesterday, April 17. We don't have a picture, yet, but soon there will be many more, migrating north from as far as Argentina.
Spring plowing began at Howell Farm one week ago. And as I type, Farmer Ian is out in the field with his team of draft horses, continuing to plow up the oat field. He reports that the soil condition is good -- not too wet and not too dry. Joining Ian is a special visitor, former Howell Farm Plowing Match champion Pat Hlubik, who brought three horses of his own to help with the job.
Farmer Rob is waiting on a new, better fitting set of bows for the oxen yoke before he attempts to plow with the farm's new team of oxen. The bows are scheduled to arrive soon.
April 27 is potato planting day at Howell Farm. In preparation, Farmer Rob and Intern Virginia loaded compost into the manure spreader this morning and spread it across the field. (Jim and John the oxen did the pulling.)
The compost comes from a big pile of rotted hay bales and sundry other organic matter that was located behind the farm's workshop.
Every spring, Howell Farm draft horses and farmers help plow up a community garden in Trenton. So today Ian and Larry (the farmers) and Jack and Chester (the horses) took the annual pilgrimage to the city. More than 50 school children and other visitors took an opportunity to help guide the walking plow, while the event received coverage from the Star-Ledger and Philadelphia Inquirer.
It was a hard day's work -- Jack and Chester came back full of sweat. They're still shedding their winter coats, and today the weather took a sudden turn toward hot.
Intern Virginia applied a coat of linseed oil mixed with some turpentine to the ox yokes and bows this afternoon. The idea, of course, is that taking care of the equipment will extend its working life.
Intern Virginia dug a deep hole in the kitchen garden today. She's building a self-heating "hotbed." The hole will be filled with packed manure, then compost, then covered over with glass.)
While digging, Virginia unearthed a rotted boot. Ever since, the talk around the farm has been speculation about where it came from. Was it left behind by an intern of years ago? Or is it older still?
The Furrow is the online newsletter of The Friends of Howell Living History Farm. We will be updating this site about once a week with crop reports and other insights into life on a horse-drawn living history farm.
|THE FURROW: The online newsletter of Howell Living History Farm