Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fresh Tilled Soil: Using the 1830’s Horse-drawn Plow

Repair to 1830’s Horse-drawn plow has been a year long project here at the Blacksmith Shop. Our previous blogs tell the story of it’s return to use for the Lippitt Farm.

When plowing day came Farmer Wayne was as excited as a kid on Christmas. It was cool but sunny on Wednesday when the Zeb and Farmer Marieanne came to the Blacksmith shop with the Stone Boat to pick up the plow.

They brought the Stone Boat through the village to Peleg Field’s Blacksmith Shop to retrieve the repaired 1830's plow.

The Stone Boat was used to carry the plow down to the garden patch outside of the Lippitt Farmhouse.

Next the plow was unloaded and attached to the Singletree attached to Zeb’s harness. Farmer Marieanne Coursen is the Teamster holding the lines. Farmer Wayne Coursen is the Ploughman guiding the plow. Here they are turning a furrow.  This 1830's plow is newly repaired, and has turned a furrow in a lifetime.

First furrow!

The plow needed a few small adjustments to reach the proper depth. The Depth Gauge wheel helps guide the plow to the desired depth.

Zeb our Percheron is an old hand at plowing. His knowledge and Marieanne’s handling of the lines allowed the Ploughman to end the furrow, turn the plow, and start a new furrow going the other direction. It is an exciting ballet to see a 1,700lb horse make his turn while the Teamster is at the other end of 20 foot lines!

They are plowing a garden plot outside the Lippitt Farmhouse.  Vegetables are grown and stored in the root cellar to be used in our traditional hearth cooking.  The Farmers and Zeb plow the furrows back and forth.

Farmer Wayne, Farmer Marieanne, and I are happy to see the plow working so well.  It took over a year to research and perform the repairs on the plow.  Here's to a good day's work!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Old Tools and Hidden Secrets: An 18th Century Dutch Wheeled Plow

What secrets can be told by the archeological traces of use and wear on old tools? Sometimes a surprising amount. One of the rare and old tools in The Farmers’ Museum collection is an 18th century Dutch-pattern wheeled plow.

This plow is over two centuries old, and represents a style of plow technology brought here by settlers of Dutch decent. Plow technology was rapidly evolving, and only one generation later this style was no longer made. But a working plow is a valuable item, and the great wear to the wooden parts of the plow suggest it was used for a considerable length of time. All plows of this era were made of wood, iron, and steel parts. The wooden parts would wear and be repaired or replaced by the farmer or blacksmith.
The wear patterns on this plow are interesting. The heart of the plow is the plow point. It is a very complicated forging made up from multiple parts of wrought iron welded in the forge. The smooth and rounded edges of all surfaces document years of abrasion and wear from plowing.

This early style of plow was made in a time when iron was terribly expensive. Anything that could be made from wood instead of iron was made from wood. Not only are the handles and main beam wood, but even part of the moldboard that turns the soil is wood.
Years of use have taken their toll. An iron bracket connects the front wheel truck to the plow beam. The bracket is held in place by friction and a wooden peg. Look at the wear of the wooden wheel carriage into the hardwood of the beam! Years or even decades of use have worn a groove over an inch into the hardwood beam.
The underside of the wheel truck is a hardwood block. This block would be pushing through dead weeds and also be rubbing on the dirt and sod of the previous row’s furrow. We think of grass and plowed dirt as soft. But look how every surface of this block is worn, rounded, and shaped by the abrasion of soft dirt and grass! This piece is probably original to the plow when it was made.
What a grand old tool. The evidence of wear on the handle, plow beam, iron point, and wheel truck tell part of the story of this old girl and the farm family that used her. A family made their living and earned the grain for their daily bread by use of this plow. It is with great respect that we preserve her so that her story can be read by future generations.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Finishing the 1830's horse-drawn plow

In March of 2009 the Lippitt Farm staff at The Farmers’ Museum brought an 1830’s plow to the Field’s Blacksmith Shop.  The plow was in rough shape.  It had been purchased at a local antique store for use in demonstrations.  Only the core parts were intact.  The moldboard, plow point, and shin were fine.  We have been working on it as time allowed for a year and a month.  Here is Farmer Wayne polishing decades of rust from the mouldboard  by scrubbing it with an old soft brick:
All of the wooden parts and most of the bolts and brackets were rotten, rusted, worn or missing.   Here is the original wooden beam.  It still retained the holes and rust stains to indicate where hardware was missing.  Our task became to figure out what parts were needed and to make them.
We set out to repair the plow using historically accurate methods and to put it back into use at The Farmers’ Museum.  Farmer Wayne carved a replacement wooden plow beam by using the decayed original as a model.  Here is the new beam and some of the newly forged bolts.
I made plow bolts, carriage bolts, and a 24-inch long by 1/4” stretcher bolt, and nuts.  We also made the gauge wheel bracket. 
Our last forging project is the largest.  We are forging a replacement knife coulter blade.  This is the part of the plow that cuts the sod and roots before the plow rolls the soil and sod over.   It is a heavy piece.  We have forged it using two and three smiths at a time.  The finished part looks simple but will have taken about 16 hours of work.
This plow is a great example of plows as used in the 1830’s.  It has probably not been used in the last 80 to 100 years.  Our plowing is about to start.  We plow our gardens, hop fields, potato field, and grain plots.  Returning this piece of historic equipment to use has been a long road.  My thanks to the farmers Rick, Wayne, and Marieanne for making this project possible.  I think the farmers are even more excited than I about the chance to put the 1830’s plow to use!
The maiden voyage of this tool will involve adjusting the bite and the draft of the plow.  That controlled the width of the plowed strip and the depth of cut.  Zeb our Percheron draft horse will pull the plow for this test.  It will be hard work, but he is a plowing veteran.  This is his 13th year of plowing at The Farmers’ Museum. 
After Zeb helps us to fine-tune the plow it will be used by our team of oxen.  Jigs and Buckwheat have never had such an important and difficult job to do at the farm.  They will earn their hay this summer!
Check back soon.  We will post a video later this week of the 1830’s plow being used once again!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Good Morning on the Farm

Here is a guest blog post by Marieanne Coursen, one of our farmers at The Farmers' Museum.  She wants to share a behind-the-scenes view of a morning on the farm in spring!  

I always enjoy starting the day on the farm, especially, of course, if it is a beautiful spring day!  The sun is still low in the sky and is streaming into the barns.

The animals still spend their nights inside, so they are pleased to see me since it means time to go out and eat! 

We put hay outside for Zeb, our draft horse, the cattle, and the sheep and then they can all head out to their paddocks.

The ducks are laying eggs like crazy this time of year.  They always lay their eggs on the floor in the henhouse in the morning.  This morning I found a duck hen on the nest of eggs behind the door inside the house.  There are about a dozen eggs there already, so I am not sure if she was laying an egg or is thinking about setting.  Yesterday, a chicken hen was on this nest of eggs and she really had that "broody" look about her so I thought she might have taken on the task of hatching the eggs.  Hopefully, someone will take on this responsibility at some point so we can have some ducklings.

Our turkeys have also begun laying eggs.  So far, I have been collecting them and they are used for cooking.  One day soon I will set up some nesting areas inside the turkey house and then we will let them keep their eggs and hatch some poults.

I love watching the turkeys come out for the day, the toms strut their stuff while the hens browse for yummy tidbits in the fresh spring grass.  Our two tom turkeys are looking quite handsome these days.

Once all the animals have been attended to, we have one more chore.  We need to keep the smoke going in our smokehouse at all times.  Wayne, Rick and I are always challenging each other to see who can fix the fire just right so that the smoke continues all the way through the day or night.  If it is still going when we get to work in the morning someone will have earned some bragging rights!

Once the morning chores are done we take a coffee break and then go back to work.  This time of year we are focusing on getting fields and gardens ready for planting.

Would any blog fans like to join me for morning chores?  We have a craft class called  “Farm Chores,” available at individual and family rates.   It is an opportunity to get a closer look at the animals here and to go behind the scenes and see what goes on here at the farm before the ticket office opens.  Arrangements can be made by calling Kaaren Wyckoff at (607) 547-1410.  Just make sure to wear muck boots and some work gloves.  I look forward to some company for morning farm chores!
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