At the Howell Farm workshop, the final touches are being completed on a windmill that will be placed in the Howell Farm barnyard on Saturday. If all goes according to plan, it will soon be pumping water from the well.
On Thursday morning, Howell Farm woke up to its first frost of the autumn, followed by another harder frost this morning. In the kitchen garden, this means the less hardy of the vegetables are dead and done for the season, but so too are some of the weeds. For the farmers, it means it's time to start wearing extra layers of clothes in the morning.
Soil conditions on the farm are just about ideal for plowing -- not too wet, not too dry. The weather is also cooperating -- not too hot, not too cold, and not a breath of wind to speak of.
And yet, as Farmer Jeremy explained this morning, his rounds in the upper crop field have still been challenging. Blame it on a tractor.
In the spring, when there was more farm work to complete than Howell Farm's small team of farmers had the manpower to tackle, a tractor helped save some labor by discing the upper crop field. And though the labor saved was significant, it comes at a price. A big tractor weighs many times more than a team of draft horses, and the soil is compacted under the tractor's weight with each pass.
This compaction makes for much harder plowing six months later. Rather than being light and fluffy, the soil is dense and requires more effort to turn over. So some of that saved labor is given back in the end.
Autumn has arrived on the farm, from the colorful leaves to the pumpkin display in front of the visitor's center. It's hard to pick just one (spring, summer and after a winter snowstorm are all contenders) but this is certainly one of the most beautiful times of the year in the Pleasant Valley.
After one of the most pleasant and mild starts to October in memory, the weather has finally taken a turn for the worse. Following a rain storm on Monday, the forecast for today, Friday, Saturday and Sunday calls for rain and clouds. The farm can use the rain, however, as after a record-setting June in terms of precipitation, the rest of the summer was a little on the dry side.
The kitchen garden at Howell Farm qualifies, in my estimation, as a garden that employs best practices – it uses many of the same techniques found on organic farms, including raised beds, organic compost, cover cropping, and crop rotation, applied on a micro-scale.
In yet another example of the modern world and the historical merging at Howell Farm, visitors can now scan pieces of equipment with their smart phones and see a video of the machine in action. Right now the video options are limited, but we hope to add more soon.
This weekend at Howell Farm is the Fall Festival, at which wheat threshing is always one of the main attractions. Today all the farmers are getting ready, including checking over the equipment.
Farmer Rob showed me a worn canvas ban that was replaced on the wheat thresher. By the looks of it, the band has seen a lot of revolutions in its day.
At different times, the wheat thresher will be powered by two nineteenth-century forms of power: animal power and steam. The draft horses will pull a mechanical gear, which powers a flywheel. And a steam engine will burn coal to produce steam, turning its own flywheel.
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