Monday, January 25, 2010

The Farm, the Chickens, and the Hawk!

Farms have always had the challenge of being part of the larger ecosystem. That tie to the larger world has been a challenge for the Lippitt Farm this winter. First in December a Fox spent several weeks trying to eat our Cayuga Ducks. Raccoons raided our barn and ate over a bushel of seed corn. Now in January a Hawk has been preying upon our Chickens. Our farm seems to have exactly the same problems that our predecessors would have had in 1845. It isn’t easy to keep wildlife from seeing the farm as a source of food!
Our historic farm has a lot of livestock and poultry through the winter even though the visitors are not here to see them. That is because many of our animals are rare or historic breeds. If we want to have them we must raise them ourselves. The farmers are working at the farm and are in the barns every day. Their vigilance prevented the fox from succeeding, and led to the capture and relocation of a chicken-thieving hawk!

Here is a first-hand account of our adventures with the hawk from Marieanne Coursen, one of our farmers:

I saw a hawk sitting on the barnyard fence. I scolded it and it flew off only to land on the fence on the other side of the Brook barn. That night I had a terrible time getting the chickens into the henhouse. Three of them were hiding in the sheep pen and would not be chased out. I thought sure they would come out once I let the sheep in but no. I finally managed to get them out and into the henhouse. Then I had to search for the rest of the chickens. I found a few more cowering in corners but came up short of 2 of them.

On Thursday we discovered a hawk in the granary. It would not fly out. Just kept flying in the peak and did not want to come down low enough to fly through the door. I took a few pictures of it and they are attached. Isn't it ironic that a hawk got the chickens after all the trouble with the foxes and raccoons?

The hawk ended up spending 2 nights in the granary because it just would not fly out. On Thursday Ray (the trapper) caught it with a net and took it away. I wish it could have stayed because the sparrows got pretty scarce while it was around.”

We think this was a Sharp Shinned Hawk or a Coopers Hawk. If any readers are knowledgeable on the subject please reply and let us know the breed of this hawk. Just as our predecessors would in 1845 we can only respond by being vigilant and keeping the barns locked up tight at night. Hopefully this will be the end of our adventures with hungry wildlife this winter.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Blacksmiths Seeking Knowledge: Traveling to Conferences and Hammer-ins

In two weeks time I have made two trips, spent 6 days driving, and covered 2,400 miles to get to Blacksmith’s conferences and Hammer-ins. My travels illustrate the lengths to which Blacksmiths will go to network and add to their skills. There are events large and small at all times of the year and all across the nation. This is the culmination of a long road that began with the first National Blacksmithing Conference in 1973.

One on one tutorial classes such as we offer at The Farmers’ Museum are one of the fastest ways to develop new skills. Memberships in educational organizations are another good way to learn new skills and meet others interested in blacksmithing. There are over 50 organizations nationwide. All hold educational workshops called “hammer-ins”. They may teach everything from basic skills to advanced classes in forge welding, tool making, or other needed skills.

Here are a few notable Hammer-in’s and events planned for this year by organizations that seek to preserve and teach about blacksmithing.

April & September 2010. Northeastern Blacksmiths spring Hammer-in at Ashokan, NY.

April & October 2010. New York State Designer Blacksmiths Spring & Fall Hammer-ins. More information should be available on the web site in coming months.

June 2-5th, 2010: Artist Blacksmith Assoc. of North America’s conference in Memphis, Tenn. This is huge event, with demonstrators and attendees for around the world.

Sept. 24, 25 & 26 Quad State Conference 2010: Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil’s Quad State Roundup. This may be the largest annual blacksmithing event in the U.S., and possibly in the world. There are at least 4 demonstrators presenting at a time, near 1,000 guests, and is a great place to find new and old tools.

This is just a small sampling of the conferences and learning opportunities this year.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Blacksmith Conferences

How can someone learn more about blacksmithing? Find and join the nearest blacksmithing organization. The U.S. is fortunate to have a nationwide organization (ABANA) as well as more than 50 state and regional organizations. These are non-profit groups run by volunteers with the goal of preserving and teaching the art of blacksmithing.

I have just returned from the "6th Annual Bill Gichner Memorial Hammer In" held by the Mid Atlantic Smiths Association. It is an example of the best features of a mid-sized blacksmith’s conference. The conference was held in a huge maintenance barn on a family farm in Maryland. The conference started with a huge Friday dinner and continued until after lunch on Sunday. Meals were provided as part of the conference fee, and I have never eaten better at a conference. The shrimp boil was my particular favorite.

There were two demonstrators that demonstrated by turn in 1.5 hour stints. The demonstrators, Kim Thomas and Pat Livengood, focused on methods to make classic elements of European inspired ironwork. Their work can be seen at: They worked right in front of the crowd, answered questions, and even held a slide show of their work in the evening after dinner. Easygoing and skilled demonstrators, they engage the audience and shared a tremendous amount of knowledge.

Pat Livengood started smithing as a farrier, and still works with the speed and dispatch of someone working on a deadline. A horse will stand for you only so long! His work at the anvil shows how to move metal smoothly and precisely. Pat’s demonstration featured using a 10 inch metal ring as the frame for beautiful ironwork. Here is an example of his work:

Kim Thomas’s presentations focused on using modern structural iron to provide shortcuts to making accurate German inspired scrollwork. He used a number of drawings to demonstrate how to train your eye to see the simple forms within a complex form. If you are interested in Colonial American or European iron then their demonstration is worthwhile.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Lippitt Farm's animals in winter

Winter at The Farmers’ Museum is a slower time of year. The animals may not be seeing large crowds of people, but do have to face the challenges of a winter in the frozen North. They have warm stalls and coops for the evening but generally go outside every day.

The Dominick Chickens patrol the barnyard looking for dropped grain. If there is a cold breeze they head into the Sweet-Marble Barn.

The rooster was in the doorway of the Brooks log barn. He puffed up for protection against the cold, and was balancing with one foot drawn up to keep warm. Silly looking, isn’t he?
The sheep have thick, luxurious fleeces. The Cheviot Sheep look almost round with wool.

The Southdown Sheep have wooly faces and look ready to face the cold.

Zeb our Percheron horse has grown a thick winter’s coat. He looks pretty stoic eating in the field.
We have three more months of winter. The animals at the Lippit farm look well prepared.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Two Thousand and Nine has been a busy and productive year in the Peleg Field's Blacksmith Shop. I want to thank all who volunteered, visited the Museum, and visited our blog this year. Your support has made it a good year for us despite the worldwide economic concerns. May the New Year bring to you good health, happiness, and prosperity.

Here are a few pictures of the Museum in late December to round out our year. The sun was trying to shine through a snow storm. On these dark winter days the snow gives everything a luminous glow.
Best wishes to all,

Steven Kellogg
Peleg Field's Blacksmith Shop.
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