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Farm News

August 2018

Hopefully the summer event season has been a successful one for you. August typically marks the last month of those summer events and many places/living historians begin to look forward to the autumn events that are right around the corner. 

On August 11 and 12, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum will host the annual Brigade Encampment. While the main focus of this event is on the fur trade as it relates to the historic Fort Nisqually, there will be an agricultural focus on saving seeds from the summer harvest. 

On September 1, Howell Farm in Lambertville, New Jersey, will host their annual plow match during Labor Day weekend. 

A fun note that was shared by Barbara Corson included the fact that Landis Valley Museum in Lititz, Pennsylvania, has a new ox, four year old cross-breed named Sable. Sable joins the museum’s ox in residence, Patrick, a seven year old Randall Lineback.


Finally, Lauren Muney reported the following: “ALHFAM has started on a new initiative, Skills Training and Preservation (“STP”), designed to help our ALHFAMily document and preserve important skills, details, and training needed for working your sites and passing down vital interpretation, trades information and/or even activities needed to make your site work well. These skills are especially important on historic-farm sites as well as village- and trades- sites. The initial ideas are being formed now, and will be ready for presentation to ALHFAM as a whole in early 2019. Look for this exciting and vital new addition to ALHFAM’s mission to bring history to life.”  Hopefully, members of the FARM PIG will support this new initiative in any way possible.

Those are all of the updates that were shared by the time the eUpdate was published. As a reminder, if you have news about things happening in your area, please send those details to FARM Chair, Jim Lauderdale by emailing jiml@tacomaparks.com.


July 2018

July is here and hopefully you enjoyed an Independence Day celebration of your own. 

The old saying, “Knee high by the fourth of July,” doesn’t apply to our friends at Hunter’s Home – our host for the national conference.  Their corn was over head high within two weeks of the conference.  Thanks again for hosting a great conference.  

A big thank you to the staff at Pawnee Bill’s Ranch for allowing us to host our plowing competition.  We appreciate the boulders you planted for us too! ;)  Below is a list of our plowing competition winners by class: 

Novice Plowing Competition –
6th Henry Crawford
5th Kelsey Patton
4th Victoria Haynes
3rd Heather Gilreath
2nd Sonrisa Crespin
1st Debra Reid

Apprentice Plowing Competition –
6th Lauren Muney
5th Cody Joliff
4th Matt Koch
3rd Ellen Gasser
2nd Betsy McCabe
1st Nick Frazee

Expert Plowing Competition –
2nd Kevin Lynch
1st Dave Hruska

Congratulations to all of our winners and thanks to all competitors for keeping this ALHFAM tradition alive and well!

The Farm PIG supported Farmer’s Boot Camp: Poultry 101 was also a great success during the conference workshops.  A big THANK YOU to Barb Corson, Victoria Haynes and Dave Hruska for leading the workshop and to the staff of OHS and Hunter’s Home that led the building of the chicken coop. 

Thanks to the FARM PIG members that attended the annual PIG meeting. I have attached those meeting minutes here for all to view

Stepping away from the conference now, Cody Joliff at Nash Farm in Grapevine, Texas commented that he is looking for a list of Wagon Makers. Nash Farm is interested in buying a hotel taxi, wagonette style perhaps for hauling a small group, which would be horse drawn.

They are also looking for chuck wagon box plans & hardware. Contact Cody Jolliff cjolliff@grapevinetexasusa.com if you have information to share.

As always, if you have news, updates, questions or concerns, you may contact the FARM Chair, Jim Lauderdale, at jiml@tacomaparks.com.  


June 2018

Barbara Corson reports the workshop "Keeping a Home Dairy” at Landis Valley Museum is scheduled for June 14 and 15. Landis Valley Museum will be the host and the instructor will be Barbara Corson. Both the host site and the instructor are ALHFAM members. Here is a link to the event: http://www.landisvalleymuseum.org/index.php/visit/calendar-events/summer-institute/.

Ben Baumgartner, Barrington Living History Farm, reports that Barrington has a new team of Durham (Milking Shorthorn) oxen. Three total, the pair are Marco and Polo, and as a single we have William. Having just arrived to our park from Kentucky in the middle of May, they have already settled in well and have been put to work cultivating the fields of cotton and corn. We hope to rejuvenate our historic farming by exclusively using draft animal power (no behind the curtain cheating with the tractor.) We’re starting with cultivation for now, but are hoping to incorporate plowing by the fall.

May 2018

By now, I’m sure many of you are well on your way to having your crops planted or at least having your fields prepared. 

Joel Johnson, Fort Nisqually, reports that garden peas, lettuce, potatoes, leeks, beets, carrots, and a few other vegetables have all been planted and are coming up quite nicely.  Additionally, barley and peas have been planted as field crops. This will be followed up with turnips and Coleseed soon. The poultry yard is being worked and refreshed now using historic farming practices. 

Matt Schofield, Genesee Country Village, reports “We are hard at work spreading compost and gearing up for spring tillage. It is hard to believe we had snow and ice two weeks ago, but we’re hitting the ground running. Animal “Run Ins” are getting resided after 40 years and our Hog Island Sheep are due to lamb any day now. I think the ewes will wait for the cold rain later this week.”

Debra Reid coordinated a working group on Agriculture and Public History for the National Council on Public History with agricultural historian, David Vail, and other NCPH members committed to engaging the public with agriculture and the environment. For case studies submitted and comments they generated, see http://ncph.org/phc/agriculture-and-public-history-2018-working-group/

Reid also blogged about the group work at: http://ncph.org/history-at-work/agriculture-and-public-history-working-group/

Take a look at these resources before ALHFAM 2018, where the conversation will continue during sessions on “Agriculture and Public History,” and “Interpreting the Environment.”

Happy Historic Farming Everyone!

A quick reminder to register for the Annual Conference in Tahlequah, OK, if you have not already. The Farm & Livestock PIG is looking forward to the annual plowing match and hope you are too! We will also host the annual meeting of the Farm & Livestock PIG during the conference. If you have items to add to that meeting agenda, please send to Co-Chair Jim Lauderdale at jiml@tacomaparks.com


April 2018

April is here, spring is in the air, and many ALHFAMers are busy planting or making preparations to plant this year’s crop. Here’s a few words from FARMers around the country.

Cody Joliff, Nash Farm, reports two ram lambs (Gulf Coast Native) were born recently. Nash Farm is interested to know what GCN breeders are in their region (Mountain-Plains) as they are looking to buy, sell, or trade for a new ram. For those that do not already use this site, The Livestock Conservancy posts heritage breed information including breeders on their website.   Nash Farm will also host their annual Spring into Nash event on April 21. For more information, visit https://www.grapevinetexasusa.com/nash-farm/events/spring-into-nash/.

Joel Johnson, Fort Nisqually, reports that the spring garden is well underway with potatoes, peas, and greens all being planted. Coleseed, turnips, and barley are also slated to be planted at Fort Nisqually’s annual Sewing to Sowing event on April 14. For more information, please visit https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/fort-events.

Ed Schultz, Colonial Williamsburg, would like to remind everyone that the ALHFAM Seeds and Plants Committee was absorbed by the FARM PIG during the annual meeting last year. Anyone interested in heritage seeds/plants are encouraged to reach out to the FARM PIG by email or on the Historic Farming Facebook page

As always, if you have news you want to share or a question to ask the group, please email co-chair, Jim Lauderdale at jiml@tacomaparks.com.


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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