Farmer Ian hitched up two teams today to the disc harrow. This field will soon be ready to plant with wheat.
There's an old saying at Howell Farm that goes, "[Manure] is money."
It's true -- for farmers of the late 1800s, reclaimed manure from livestock was a major source of a farm's fertility.
Today, Farmer Rob headed out to the ox pasture with a pitchfork to gather some of the biggest cow pies, which had been accumulating. These cow pies will get dumped on the manure pile, which will eventually be loaded into the manure spreader and finally spread over a field.
Commentary from Farmer Rob:
These commands tell the oxen to either step towards the other (put in) or away from him (put out). They are useful for creating space to get between them for hitching or other purposes, or for squaring them up in preparation for pulling or especially backing up. If their back ends are splayed out with respect to each other, they will diverge as they back up and progress will eventually halt. Put in/put out can also be used to sidestep the oxen to aim a cart when backing it into a barn.
When the oxen are pulling a heavy load and they turn, the chain will bear against the inside ox's leg, which is uncomfortable or can even cause injury. Put out can be used in conjunction with the turning commands to tell the ox to step away from the chain.
Bob Hughes, one of New Jersey's master beekeepers, stopped by Howell Farm today to check on our two hives. Bob currently looks after more than two hundred hives throughout the region.
Bob opened up the first hive and was extremely pleased by what he saw. Bees and honeycomb were busting from the seems. In fact, rarely has he seen such a healthy, lively hive. The word he used was "gangbusters."
The bees themselves weren't aggressive at all, especially once he sprayed them with some calming smoke. We each stood with bees buzzing around us -- no stings to report.
Bob handed me a piece of honeycomb straight from the hive, dripping with honey. "Goldenrod honey," he said. He can tell from the taste, and because of the time of year. As I chewed the waxy honeycomb, it could not have been sweeter. By the time Bob stopped handing me honeycomb, I must have swallowed half a jar of honey. My stomach later told me perhaps that was too much of a good thing.
The second beehive, just a few feet away from the first hive, was a different story. As Bob opened it up to look inside, there were far fewer bees, and no honeycomb in the upper apartments. These bees were doing just okay. But nothing to worry about, Bob said.
Throughout the state, most of Bob's beehives are having a good year, he reports. Which is good news -- a few years ago New Jersey beekeepers and many other throughout the country and world suffered mass die-offs of honey bee colonies. According to recent media reports, "Nutritional stress, pathogens (mites, viruses and fungus), and pesticides," have all been implicated in creating a one-two-three punch against honey bees. And the latest: "Two recent studies published in Science strengthen the case that a relatively new class of systemic insecticides entitled 'neonicotinoid pesticides' are indeed key drivers behind recent pollinator decline."
The winter wheat is off to a great start -- in large part thanks to some warm autumn weather and a good amount of rain. Planted last Thursday, the first sprouts showed themselves by Tuesday. And today, just eight days later, the field is a blanket of young green.
The variety seen here is a modern variety -- shorter than historic varieties and bred to have larger seed heads. In another field still to be sown, the plan is to plant a more historical variety -- taller with small seed heads, plus a long "beard." The beard helps discourage the deer from munching.
In the never ending arms race between squirrels and farmers with a corn crib, the Howell Farm agriculturalists have deployed a new advancement of the burgeoning industrial revolution -- wire fencing. Farmer Rob and volunteers have been fortifying slits in the corn crib with a layer of wire mesh, which should keep out some squirrels while preserving the open design of the crib, which allows the corn to air dry. The job looks like it's about half done.
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||