Prior to these technologies, farms such as Howell Farm relied on animal traction and a machine of gears often called a “ring power” or “sweep.” If you’ve seen the movie “Conan the Barbarian” and remember a young Conan walking around in circles while pushing a large wheel, that’s the general idea.
Coles Roberts, a New Jersey farmer and agricultural historian, recently donated an antique ring power to Howell Farm. The machine looks as if it hasn’t been used in about 100 years. The task has fallen to Rob Flory, one of Howell Farm’s equipment gurus, to take it apart, clean it, and put it all back together. The Howell Farm interns are lending a hand as well.
In the photos above, you can see Rob and his son Martin, a mechanic in training, starting to disassemble the machine. Check back for updates as this project progresses.