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Farm News

April 2017

Spring is in the air and many of our living history farms and agricultural museums are busy with the tasks at hand.  The FARM PIG loves to hear about what members are up to and the following is what we learned for this month’s eUpdate. 

The George Murrell Home Historic Site in Park Hill, Oklahoma has added Banty chickens to their existing flock of Dominique chickens. Their staff and volunteers have enhanced the size of their corn and sorghum fields and recently acquired a sorghum press. In the kitchen garden, they are rotating out a few vegetables to stymie the squash bugs and borer worms and are putting in a long bed of herbs. May Day is also coming up, scheduled for Saturday May 6 from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm. If anyone is in the area, they should stop by and check it out. The event will host plowing, planting, games, and a dance around the May pole to cap it off.

Fort Nisqually Living History Museum in Tacoma, Washington has recently completed their new Poultry House exhibit and will be adding Speckled Sussex heritage chickens to their flock of mixed birds. Many spring vegetables have been planted and continue to need cultivation in the kitchen garden. Due to the vast amounts of rain fall this year, the spring grain crop has yet to be planted, but a break in the weather may be coming, and heritage grains will be sown during the Sewing to Sowing event on April 15. The museum invites you to join them in welcoming spring, 19th century style! Crowd favorite Blackberry Patch Farm will be on hand again this year with baby lambs. Folks can check out our new poultry house and visit with chicks. Families can get their hands dirty in the Fort’s heritage gardens, which include the kitchen garden, a small orchard, and a newly expanded field crop area. Visitors can help operate the Fort’s 1800’s winnowing machine and learn more about the agricultural enterprises of the Hudson’s Bay Company. A fine assortment of needlework by the Fort’s sewing guild will be on display, and some special handmade items will be available for sale. The ladies will demonstrate various hand-sewing techniques as well as operating one of the world’s earliest sewing machines, the Wheeler and Wilson. There will be several dozen historic interpreters to visit with as they cheerfully cook in the kitchen, spin yarn in the Laborers’ Dwelling, and hammer in the blacksmith’s shop.

Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas has been busy with new Gulf Coast Native lambs that were born this spring. Additionally, turkeys were added to the farm last fall and they continue to entertain guests of the farm. Their next event is the 16th Annual Spring Into Nash event where activities will include heritage toys, kitchen gardening, cotton planting, farm animals, tractor-drawn wagon rides, field cultivation, wood carving demonstrations, jump rope making, wood-burning stove cooking demonstrations, and blacksmith demonstrations. Children and adults alike will enjoy learning what life was like when the city's earliest settlers made their home in Grapevine. Another event on April 28 is the Farm to Fork Experience.  Staff invite you to join them at Nash Farm to experience the flavors of farm-fresh 19th century inspired cuisine. The evening will begin at 6:30 p.m. with a reception around the farmhouse. The reception will include stations with culinary creations from the kitchen garden, smokehouse, hen house and more, along with a selection of Grapevine wines. The family-style meal will be served in the meadow and will include a variety of farm fresh items. The evening will include brief introductions of dishes by both the chef and farm historians. The Long Star String Band will accompany the evening with 19th century music. Don’t miss this opportunity for a relaxing and enjoyable evening on the farm.

If you have something that you would like to share with the FARM PIG for the next eUpdate, please email FARM PIG co-chair, Jim Lauderdale at jiml@tacomaparks.com.  

February 2017

The FARM PIG is proud to announce that Farming Workshops will be offered at the upcoming annual conference this June. The following is a list of these workshop offerings:

Friday (Full Day):

The Heyday Of Haymaking:  19th Century Hay and Tool Making Techniques
Matthew Schofield and Nathan Kalvitis
Genesee Country Village and Museum

Blade Sheep Shearing
Joe Schott
Landis Valley Village and Farm Museum

Saturday (Full Day):

The Log Building, Building Class
Wind Chapman
Long Mountain Living History Center

Workhorse Training For Safety and Success
Joyce Henry 

Conference attendees will need to register for these workshops when completing their conference registration. There will be a limited number of spaces available, so all interested parties are encouraged to sign up as soon as registration opens. 

The FARM PIG will also host the annual plowing competition. Conference organizers have scheduled this to occur on Tuesday during the conference. Judges for the match are needed. If you would be interested in participating as a judge, please contact Matt Schofield at mschofield@gcv.org.

December 2016

The FARM PIG is happy to announce that the “Position Statement on the Use of Livestock in Museum Settings 2016” has been approved by ALHFAM’s board and will be added to the FARM page. Additionally, there are two other documents that ALHFAM members may find useful. The first of these is the “Handling Public Concerns on the Use of Livestock in Museum Settings 2016” and “Livestock Care in Museums 2016.”  Please view these pages for more helpful information.   

The FARM PIG co-chairs are in the planning stages for offering a hands-on workshop during the annual conference. Over the last two years, the FARM PIG worked to provide School of the Mule in Baton Rouge and Farmer’s Boot Camp in Colonial Williamsburg.  The hands-on workshops were very well received and attended. Many ALHFAMers have asked that these continue. We are requesting that members submit ideas for this workshop as soon as possible. Some of the activities, concepts, and best practices that have been requested so far include hay stacking, horsemanship, animal behaviors, how to use hand tools, heritage gardening techniques, sharpening hand tools, mowing with scythe, and handling livestock. If you have more ideas that you would like to submit, please email the Jim Lauderdale at jiml@tacomaparks.com

Finally, we are also planning to host the plowing competition as done in the past. More information on that will be forthcoming.  

November 2016

The ALHFAM Ag Map is Growing!

Have you checked out the ALHFAM Historic Agriculture Resources Map? If not, you should. Available for about a year, the map continues to expand and include more resources. It’s organized by resource type and is easy to search by keyword or by region.

The map features information about ALHFAM members that have and/or use historic agricultural collections and techniques. It was created to help us share our historic agricultural assets with each other and the general public. The map is keyword searchable so if you’d like to know which other sites grow pumpkins or use oxen (or whatever interests you), the information is at your fingertips.

Inclusion in the map is available to ALHFAM members only, but feel free to share the link freely with anyone who may be interested. If you would like to have your institution featured in the map, please email AHARM@alhfam.org.

October 2016

Several FARM folks have been at work on livestock care policies.  This project is being spearheaded by Deb Arenz and should be completed soon. The three documents that are currently in the works are: “Position Statement on the Use of Livestock in Museum Settings;” “Livestock Care in Museums;” and “Handling Public Concerns on the Use of Livestock in Museum Settings.”

Murrell Home’s inaugural Antique Agricultural Festival was a real one-stop spot for people of all ages to learn about 19th century agricultural practices in Cherokee Nation. This event took place on October 7-9.  Living historians from all over Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas came out to demonstrate skills important to maintain life in mid-1800s Indian Territory. Several of the demonstrations included dyeing wool, making soap, making apple butter, and hand threshing grain. Hassie the mule was on hoof Saturday to work her magic in the fields with a plowing demonstration while other demonstrators cultivated gardens with hand tools. Other activities included corn grinding, wool processing, and woodworking as well as blacksmithing to demonstrate some important trades of the 19th century. 19th century games also delighted visitors of all ages. Finally, vendors sold their wares while guests listened to live music and gained agricultural information from educator booths. For more information, please visit http://www.antiqueag.org/

September 2016

Minutes from FARM meeting in Baton Rouge (thanks to Deb Reid for taking notes):

1.        The first item for discussion, FARM needs a new chair:

  • Jim Lauderdale has joined Jon Kuester as the new FARM PIG co-chair. Ed Schultz will remain an advisor.

o    Keeping track of info; sharing with FARM PIG members
o    Encouraging membership
o    Sharing new ideas
o    Sharing skills
o    Promoting existing workshops
o    Prepare reports for the PIG twice a year for the board.
o    Interacting with ALHFAM President (“chair” of the PIGS)
o    Identify resources; generate articles for the Bulletin; face book posts; Proceedings; keeping members aware of Skills Database
o    Generate SKILLS clips

2.        FARM PIG needs SOP

  • Deb Arenz has three documents that are being circulated at this time. These include: Handling Public Concerns on the Use of Livestock in Museum Settings; Livestock Care in Museums; and Position Statement on the Use of Livestock in Museum Settings. 
  • The FARM will have an opportunity to review these when they reach final draft stage.
  • FARM PIG could develop a range of responses to Animal Welfare/Animal Rights questions.
  • Jon Kuester (channeled by Deb Reid) urged folks to look at the guidelines provided by FASS, too: http://www.fass.org/docs/agguide3rd/Ag_Guide_3rd_ed.pdf
  • And Barb Corson’s article from the 2011 ALHFAM conference (West Virginia) about what to look for in animals as evidence of their communicating distress, is really well done – as is everything Barb does.

3.        What sessions should the FARM PIG consider for the 2017 conference?

  • Horticulture?
  • Dave Fowler says “Keep the Farmer Boot Camp”

4.        The Farm PIG has two info sheets on ALHFAM.org

  • One about livestock care and policies at living history farms, first written by a team in 1999, and revised in 2006, and formatted for the web in 2009.
    • NOTE – this is going to be reprinted in Interpreting Agriculture at Museums and Historic Sites (by Debra A. Reid for the AASLH series, Interpreting Agriculture, published by Rowman & Littlefield) unless the editors absolutely refuse to include it, but I’m [Deb Reid] lobbying hard for keeping it. They are trying to cut page numbers, and because this is already on the internet, it might have to go. . .
  • The MOMCC Magazine also reprinted essays about livestock and agriculture in 2011 and the entire issue is available in a PDF. It included an article by Jon Kuester that provided an overview of things to consider when developing livestock policies and procedures at your site. (Dave Fowler has used this and recommended it).
  • The other FARM PIG info sheet is about plows, by Bob Powell.
  • ALHFAM members can use “ASK ALHFAM” to find information published over the years in ALHFAM Bulletin, Proceedings, and in conferences.
  • NOTE: Jim Slining at Tillers International, is interested in working with ALHFAM as a training ground.

The leadership team of the FARM PIG and their focuses:

·          Jon Kuester and Jim Lauderdale- Co-chairs

·          Pete Watson, Ed Schultz, and Jim Slining- Workshops

·          Bob Powell- Plowing master and Horseman of the British Isles

·          Barb Corson- FARM webpage and Horseman trainer

·          Sean O’Herron- Livestock policies/ communications guru

·          Deb Arenz- Map of sites on webpage, advocate, and ramrod to get things done.

·          Lauren Muney- Mistress of the Historic Farming Facebook page

·          Chet Tomlinson- Scythe Master and Master of historic seeds.


Update on FARM related workshops:

·          The plowing workshop at Howell LHF is cancelled.

·          The scythe mowing got cancelled in early summer as well.

·          The Dairy workshop has been postponed but not canceled so there is still hope.

o    Note: Anyone that has FARM related skills workshops that they would like to include in future e-Updates should submit the details to the co-chairs. 

February, 2016

  • We are developing proposals for the following workshops for 2016: Dairying, Plowing, and Scythe Mowing. Pete Watson will be leading this initiative with colleagues from four different sites.
  • SEALHFAM 2016 conference will have a mule plowing workshop and a regional plowing contest: For more information review the conference schedule
  • MAALHFAM 2016 conference has a historic farming session being presented For more information review the conference schedule
  • The Facebook "ALHFAM Historic Farming" page is getting great attention:  It has many topics and photos of interest to those interested in actual historic farming, or interpreting historic farming. There are 250 “members” (people are allowed to post), and an unknowable amount of people who can read the page but can’t post (or answer a post) unless becoming a member. There are an average of 110 people to see each post - which is a lot of people who are thinking ‘historic farming’ at that exact minute. The posts have ranged from asking a question, to passing on weblinks and photos.
  • FARM PIG webpage---we would like to add photographs of other agricultural and/or livestock programs at ALHFAM member sites. Please send your photos to Barb Corson at hooftales@msn.com and she will forward them to the webmaster.

  • The ALHFAM Historic Agriculture Resources Map, a project of the Farm Professional Interest Group, features information about ALHFAM members that have and/or use historic agricultural collections and techniques. This tool was created to help us share our historic agricultural assets with each other and the general public. While inclusion in the map is available to ALHFAM members only, please feel free to share the link freely with anyone who may be interested.    If you are interested in having your institution listed, please email AHARM@alhfam.org
  • Several members are interested in exploring the possibility of an illustrated, online, relational database of agricultural themes and artifacts based on resources identified by a consortium of curators, ALHFAM members, and agricultural historians.  If a project like this interests you, please contact Deb Arenz: deb.arenz@nebraska.gov

ALHFAM Historic Agriculture Resources Map

The ALHFAM Historic Agriculture Resources Map, a project of the Farm Professional Interest Group, features information about ALHFAM members that have and/or use historic agricultural collections and techniques. This tool was created to help us share our historic agricultural assets with each other and the general public. While inclusion in the map is available to ALHFAM members only, please feel free to share the link freely with anyone who may be interested.

View the Map Now

Spike Tooth Cultivator at GCVM

In January we were able to concentrate on building some tools for our field work.  The spike tooth cultivator was a project that had great importance, being able to do more than just cultivate, it was a common tool turned to when soil needed to be stirred, weeded, loosened, aerated or otherwise torn up.

The cultivator is the crotch of a larger tree with even branches. The tree section is then hewn to have even faces top and bottom, this will aid in the drilling and mortising of the holes for the harrow teeth. One long bolt should be placed through the cultivator to secure the bottom of the V from eventual wear and possible splitting. The Bottom of the V should also have a bracket from which it is pulled.

Harrow teeth made from 3/4 inch square stock should be tapered to a point and have a blunt head. Depending on the aggressive nature of the device the number of teeth can very. We choose 11 teeth. To lay out the teeth it is best to hang the device on a block and tackle. Next use string weighted with common 1/2 inch nuts. Take each string and stick a thumb tack to it where the tooth should be located. See the picture attached for the overall look. This is a step of the design that will benefit from more careful placement. Examine any early cut of a harrow and you will find the cut shows the tooth pattern with lines traced to the rear of the harrow; as if it were creating those marks as it moved forward. Once the tooth pattern is identified drill and mortise each tooth in. The last step is to make the handles. They should be mounted with extra space to walk between the device. As many harrows do, this device might require cleaning from clogged material. Be mindful of this when placing the handles.

As noted in “Sowing Modernity” the design of the cultivator of this style will face the same issue as the V or A framed harrows. The tooth or teeth which cut the center mark should not be located in the front, instead shift it to the rear of the device. This will ensure the device’s over all shape it allowing the ground to be torn into instead of creating a furrow as wide as the device is. 

Matthew Sanbury, Coordinator of Historic Trades & Agriculture, Genesee Country Village & Museum

December at Barrington Living History Farm, Washington Texas

December brings the cool Blue Northers; those cold fronts that blow in from the North that, behind the howling winds, rests a clear blue sky, crisp cold mornings and dry weather.  The farmers at Barrington relish those weather fronts.  At last we can say goodbye to the triple digit days of scorching heat and relentless humidity if only for a few short months.

The corn as already been harvested, hauled to the mill and brought back to the farm in the form of meal.  Cotton has been harvested, the bare stalks burned off the fields and the ashes plowed under.  With major field work behind us, the farmer at Barrington have spent December focusing on rail splitting, fence repair and building.  We have created a new livestock paddock that gives us additional space to hold oxen, cows and calves or visiting livestock. 

The new paddock was made with farm-split cedar rails stacked five high in the traditional “snake”, “worm” or “Virginia fence” pattern.  Instead of stabilizing the corners with the commonly used “stake and rider” we chose to try what was detailed in Mr. S. Edward Todd’s The Young Farmers’ Manual (1859), as the “stake and cap”.  Stakes, which are basically sharpened saplings are driven into the ground opposite each other at each joint in the rail fence.  They are then bound together with the cap; a piece of wood containing two holes that slide down the stakes and rest under the top rail.  Mr. Todd recognized that labor required in riving and boring caps for every pair of stakes and suggested the following:

In lieu of caps many farmers use wire for holding the stakes together, which, by many, is considered preferable to caps. 

We took his advice and used wire.  This was our first endeavor making a “stake and cap” style rail fence and the end result we are quite pleased with.  While it may lack the height provided by a “stake and rider”, it rivals and may even surpass it in stability and strength.  It was also economical as it reduced the total number of rails required for the project by nearly 300.  The winter months provide a brief reprieve from field work and allow us to take time to mend and make new.  March will be here soon, which means corn planting time!

Jonathan Failor, Barrington Living History Farm

October Means Planting at Volkening Heritage Farm

October, more than any month in the calendar, evokes images of harvest time. Corn shocks and pumpkins have been interwoven into our common psyche as signs of fall and harvest. For most corn loving American farmers this is true, but for the grain loving Germans of Schaumburg Illinois October means planting time.

Schaumburg Township, located just west of Chicago, was a haven for German Lutherans in the last half of the 19th century. Starting around 1850, German immigrants developed a conservative closed society based around their Missouri Synod Church. These new settlers from the old world new little to nothing about corn and chose instead to focus their attention on small grain production. In 1880 Schaumburg farmers produced more than nine times as many bushels of oats than the national average for farms across the country. They also produced more than three times as many bushels of wheat and twice as many bushels of flax, rye and buckwheat. With all of these crops coming ready for harvest between July and August, the fall was left open for that peculiar practice of planting winter wheat.

Today at Volkening Heritage Farm we follow the patterns and seasons of Schaumburg’s German Forefathers. As such, every October we plow down the oat stubble and plant hard red winter wheat. As Schaumburg farmers were not to apt to adopt new technology either, we forgo the drill and plant broadcast style with the help of several hundred school kids. Children are wonderful little soil tampers and with a quick harrowing, to even out the large piles of spilled grain, we have a finished wheat field ready for the snow.

Jonathan Kuester, Volkening Heritage Farm

Making a Large Harrow at Colonial Williamsburg

Washington's Harrow Drawing

CW Replica Harrow

CW Replica Harrow Working

Our larger replica harrow of 1963 finally wore out, necessitating research to determine an appropriate replacement.  Traditional European precedents suggested square frame over triangular.  George Washington drew a picture of one, copied from Kames’ The Gentleman Farmer, Edinburgh, 1776.  Kames identified it as “common”, and provided detailed specs.  It conformed nicely to other square spike toothed coarse harrows.  So we built one this spring.

The available white oak timber for the “bulls” (main timbers through which the spikes are set) was one inch thinner than Kames’ prescribed 3 ½” thickness, but otherwise all dimensions were the same.  Since the wood had been salvaged from hurricane Irene (2011), it had twisted so that modern mechanical planning was necessary to keep the four 5 foot long bulls in plane to receive the smaller cross pieces making the frame.  Those mortises were also mechanically cut because they needed to be perfect, and I didn’t possess the time, patience, or skill to cut sixteen perfectly by hand!  Our blacksmiths made the hardware which consisted primarily of twenty rather long iron spikes.  All components were joined in time for late spring plowing.

Shortly after delivery we experienced severe checking of the bulls, indicating that the wood, though sealed, had not cured sufficiently.  Teeth loosened.  The remedy will require an undocumented (though period appropriate) reinforcement consisting of additional iron end brackets.  So far the new harrow draws well from a hemp rope connector, and breaks down newly plowed ground well.  Its coarse tooth pattern and high riding frame keep clogging to a minimum.  Additional weight keeps its tail down so all twenty teeth can work. 

Wayne Randolph, Historic Farmer at Colonial Williamsburg

Some Notes on Making Hams & Bacon at Genesee Country Museum

The Genesee Country Village and Museum is currently smoking our yield from hog butchering. Last year we did this process with mixed results, but new changes to our brine recipe, and smoking method should produce better results this year.

This years yield was butchered on Saturday 11-24-12. After which we dry cured with salt and saltpeter. Once the pork was sweated enough we mixed up our brine, which came on recommendation by Chris and Susan Gordy. The meat was submerged in the brine for several weeks, while being turned once a week.

Upon completion of the brining process the meat was hung in the smokehouse. We plan on smoking the meat continuously for five to six weeks. Currently we are burning cherry and apple wood to produce the smoke needed. The trees that were harvested for the smoking were cut down live about 4 months ago. Some was split, but most was kept in a larger size to smolder rather than burn.

Unlike most accounts of the fires position in the smokehouse, we have settled on our previous method of burning the wood inside an old cast iron kettle. The constriction of air movement plays itself to our cause of creating a bed of embers with little flame. Though we have a stone smoke house and could use the dirt floor we have settled on this method with good results.

We are still in the stage of experimenting with this process and are excited to see the results of this years hard work. We hope to experiment with burning corn cobs instead of fruit wood, as well as possibly advancing our brine.

Matthew Sanbury
Coordinator of Historic Trades and Agriculture at Genesee Country Village & Museum

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