Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mending Farm Tools at the Blacksmith Shop

Every tool that is used at the Lippitt Farmstead can wear and need mending. Some of the agricultural tools used with our horse and oxen at The Farmers' Museum have been in use since James K. Polk was President! At the Peleg Field's Blacksmith Shop, we use the same traditional metalworking methods to repair the farm equipment as was used in their original construction.

Recently, the seed roller was brought to the shop by our ox team Jigs and Buckwheat.  It had a broken metal bracket.  We removed the bracket and began repairs.
The broken bracket had new steel forge-welded in place.  Then the bolt holes were punched, and the bracket bent to the proper shape.  That should be as good as new!
Horse drawn farm equipment often had parts that deteriorated throug use and were designed to be replaced.  Unfortunately for us, sometimes the company that made the replacement part has been out of business for a century!  We can usually figure out how to make the needed part at the Blacksmith Shop.  Over the course of a year we have done major repairs on the plow and the seed roller, and smaller repairs on the spring tooth harrow, ox cart, and ox yoke.  This illustrates to us how necessary the Blacksmith would have been to a farmer in the 19th century.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Draft Power: Fall work for the oxen.

Fall is a busy season for the farmers at The Farmers’ Museum. The last of the late summer crops are cleaned up and cleared from the fields. Our draft animals get used for a wide variety of work. Cutting corn stalks and hauling crops to the barn for the winter is one large job.

Oxen hauling corn:

Our oxen have also been busy hauling other crops. They have hauled the fall pumpkin and mangle wetzel (fodder beets) to the barn for winter cattle feed. The oxen also played a major part in our Tractor Festival in October to haul oats from the barn to the threshing machine, and then take the straw and cleaned oats back to the barn.

Oxen hauling oats:
Another essential task is to clean up the fields, plant fall crops, and prepare for the future. The ground in the fields needs to be plowed and harrowed to prepare for the next spring’s growing season. These activities plow under and composts crop stubble and prepare the soil for the next crop. Jigs and Buckwheat (the oxen) have pulled the plow and the harrow to condition the soil and make a smooth seedbed.
This fall our main field is planted to winter wheat. This hardy crop sprouts quickly in the fall and develops strong roots before the arrival of winter snow. It stays alive but dormant through the winter.

In the spring ,when the snow melts, these winter cover crops grow quickly. They can be grown to full harvest before any other crop is ready. The oxen will be used then to haul shocks of wheat in from the field, and to again plow the field for the next crop.

Jigs and Buckwheat at Field's Blacksmith Shop:
Jigs and Buckwheat have been put to hard work this fall.  They are now fully grown, and are learning to do real work.  They have plowed, harrowed, and rolled the fields and have done their duty hauling crops to the barn.  You could say they have been pulling their own weight around the farm!  Our next blog will look at the repairs we have done to the farm equipment at The Farmers' Museum in Field's Blacksmith Shop!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Blacksmithing Conference: The SOFA Quad-State Roundup!

Where do blacksmiths go on vacation? To a blacksmith’s conference of course! The largest annual Blacksmithing conference in the U.S. is held in late September each year by the Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil blacksmithing group. The conference is call the Quad-State Roundup, and is held at the Miami County Fairgrounds in Troy, Ohio.

One of the attractions to the event is the sale of new and old tools. Hundreds of blacksmiths and tool collectors bring items to sell off the tailgate of their trucks or trailers.  There were more old anvils, old tools, and new blacksmithing tools in one place than I had ever seen before.

The blacksmithing demonstrations are the heart of this event. Each year it has four presenters demonstrating traditional ironworking, bladesmithing, architectural ironwork, and artistic smithing. Each year there are different demonstrators doing work of the highest quality.   The 2010 Demonstrators were Marsha Nelson, J.W. Randall, Caleb Kullman, and Whitney Potter. 

Caleb Kullman Demonstrating:
This year the SOFA organization dedicated a new stone and brick forge in the Traditional Blacksmithing building. The featured demonstrator was Marsha Nelson, a very talented blacksmith from Kentucky. The Farmers’ Museum is very proud to say that she is an alumna of our shop and worked with Master Smith Paul Spaulding in the early 1980s.  Here is Marsha, the first demonstrator to use the newly dedicated forge:

Marsha’s demonstration guided the watchers through the making of forged cooking utensils. Spatulas, forks with flow-in brass ornamentation, and ladles were demonstrated.  She was a very popular demonstrator, and the three sets of bleacher in the workshop were often full.

Marsha demonstrated forging a cooking fork:

She brought to the demonstration a piece made during her time at The Farmers' Museum, complete with our shop touchmark:
Skimmer with beautiful pierced brass bowl:

Spatula with flow-in brass ornamentation:

The conference never seems long enough to see everything.  In addition to the tailgate sales and the wonderfully organized blacksmithing demonstrations, the conference is a place of great comraderie among smiths.  I renewed old friendships and met a lot of people.

My thanks to the Southern Ohio Forge and Anvil and the dozens of volunteers that make the Quad State Roundup such a wonderful yearly event.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

2010 Tractor Festival at The Farmers' Museum

Columbus Day Weekend of 2010 saw a new event at The Farmers’ Museum. For almost 70 years our Museum has been preserving and demonstrating aspects of farm life in the 19th century. But now the 20th century is also part of our nation’s history. The new Tractor Festival showcases the tools, methods, and equipment used in the last century on American farms.

The day dawned frosty and cold.  Columbus Day happened to fall on 10/10/2010!

Our Farmers outdid themselves. Oxen Jigs and Buckwheat hauled tons of oats from the barn to the thresher.  The day could not have been more beautiful.

The Rumsey Williams wooden threshing machine was made in nearby St. Johnsville. For several hours each day the Farm staff and volunteers threshed oats from the straw. The oats were bagged for animal feed and the straw returned to the barn.

Dozens of volunteers brought their restored classics and working modern tractors and farm machines. There were too many to show them all here, but they ranged from machines made in the 1930s to the present.

A John Deere was present with a restored two-row corn picker! This machine attached all around the tractor and allowed it to pick field corn from stalks standing in the field! These were complex machines, and now are replaced by combines and corn choppers. It was great to see an example of this tool survive.

The largest tractor was a the local Cooperstown Holstein Corporation's John Deere with grain wagon. It was almost as big as our Farmhouse!

Tractor Festival will be an annual event. Be sure to join us on Columbus Day Weekend 2011 (October 8 and 9) for an even more exciting event.
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