Farmer Jeremy devoted the afternoon to running a cultipacker over a field that was recently planted with winter wheat. It's a blustery day here, but very sunny and still warm. Howell Farm has yet to see its first frost of the fall. Farmer Jeremy remarked that it's been one of the mildest Octobers he can recall. As for the yet to be realized frost date, he said, "It's late, but not crazy late."
The newest livestock in the Howell Farm barnyard are Jig and Jolly, a team of three-year-old Jersey working steers. They were donated to the farm by Chuck Duncan, of Connecticut, who trained them.
Farmer Rob yoked up Jig and Jolly for the first time today and hitched them to a light farm implement. On their maiden voyage, they responded quickly to the basic commands of the ox drover: “Haw (turn left),” “gee (turn right),” and “whoa (stop).” After a few laps, Farmer Rob was pleased. “Impressive, fellows,” he told the new team.
Jig and Jolly still have some growing to do. They won’t earn the title of “oxen” until they are four years old.
The oxen came with a yoke from Wisconsin that has Farmer Rob intrigued. The metal ring on the yoke is so worn that Rob wonders if perhaps the yoke made its way west hundreds of years ago aboard a working team of pioneer-led oxen.
Then Farmer Rob got to talking yokes with some farm visitors and shared a few interesting nuggets. The word for “yoke” is very similar in many languages, suggesting it’s quite old and has traveled great distances. In ancient Sanskrit, in fact, the word “yoga,” means “yoke” or “union.”
After much growing, the Howell Farm feed corn is ready to be picked and stored for the winter. School children visiting Howell Farm today wove through the drying corn stalks and harvested ears, which were then gathered in a horse-drawn wagon. Most of it is destined for the corn crib, guarded by a sign that says, "Don't open until Christmas."
The students learned that, 100 years ago, there's a good chance they'd be spending a lot of their Octobers doing this repetitive task -- picking corn.
On October 8, Farmer Ian planted wheat in one of Howell Farm's lower farm fields. Today, ten days later, the wheat is up. By the looks of it, it's been up for several days.
The variety of wheat we chose to plant this autumn shares several characteristics with the style of wheat farmers would have planted in the year 1900. This wheat is taller than most modern wheat varieties, and it's also bearded -- it has bristly hairs on top. These bristles will deter the deer from eating the crop. At least that's the plan.
The first of Howell Farm’s two winter wheat fields was planted on Saturday. Using draft horses Tom and Jeb and a horse-powered grain drill, Farmer Ian planted 3 acres of wheat in what had been an oat field this spring. The three acres required six bushels of wheat seed.
Planting the wheat was only the final step in a long process of field preparation. First the field was plowed, then it was run over with a soil pulverizer, then it was disc harrowed, and finally it was graded with a spring tooth harrow and a long flat board.
Today, Farmer Jeremy is out in our second wheat field with four horses and a harrow. He hopes to have it ready for planting in a few days. One potential complication: Tomorrow’s forecast is calling for more than an inch of rain.
I caught up with Intern Daniel today down at the Howell Farm forge, where he was working on blacksmithing his first ever door handle. Photos below:
Children from Trenton have been lending a hand with chores at Howell Farm for many years. Trenton is 15 miles south of the farm, down Highway 29.
Wednesday afternoons are often the day we receive a visit from the Capital Corridor Community Development Corporation’s youth group, and yesterday was one such Wednesday.
With the sun low in the sky, the children – ages 5 to 12 – helped feed the chickens, pigs, and sheep. After these jobs were done, they helped out with a chore that’s usually unnecessary: hurricane cleanup. Many of Howell Farm’s fences were washed away by Hurricane Irene’s flood waters, so the children helped us search a tall grassy field where many of the fence posts were swept. Upon discovering a post, the children formed groups and hauled them back to a pile next to the farm lane.
“The kids love to run in open fields,” Mr. Harris, the group’s leader, said as we walked behind. “They like the open air. We came and brought our kites flying once.”
The Capital Corridor group has been visiting the farm for about five years, and will soon, Mr. Harris tells me, celebrate the organization’s 10th anniversary of making a positive impact in Trenton. See pictures from the visit below, and learn more about the CCCDC here:
From 1920 until 1948, Howell Farm was owned and operated by a man named Xenophon Cromwell and then his son, Hart. The Cromwells were dairy farmers.
Later, in the 1960s and early 70s, the farm was owned by Charles and Inez Howell (the farm’s namesakes) and leased to tenant farmers who raised cattle.
Now, 40 years later, the Howell Farm bovine population is again on the rise.
Until a few weeks ago, the cows here numbered three: Jake and Chris, our two mature oxen, and Daisy, a Jersey cow used for milking. Since then, they’ve been joined in the barn by Layla, a milking shorthorn, and Ray, her calf. Last week came the news that Daisy is pregnant. She’s due next summer.
Today, to cap off the bonanza, Farmer Rob picked up two mixed-breed calves from farmer Pat Hlubik in New Egypt. These two calves, yet to be named, will help drink some of Layla’s milk, and will receive training as oxen.
So that’s seven cows at Howell Farm these days, equal to the seven horses in the barn. The horses, however, will soon be firmly back in control. Ray, who has been on loan from Cherry Grove Farm in Lawrenceville, will return home by the end of the week.
Meanwhile, out in the fields…
Fall plowing continues, although not exactly as planned. It’s been too wet to continue plowing in the lower fields, so Farmer Jeremy and interns plowed today in an upper field that still needs some smoothing out from the 2011 plowing match.
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||