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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter
A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter

The restored tree transplanter outside Gus Kitson’s farm. An idea of its size can be gained by comparison with Gus Kitson, height 5 ft. 8 in. and his Suffolk horse, height 17.3hh.

A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter

by Daphne Turner of Brighton, Sussex, England
photographs by David Baker

Today the Royal Botanical Garden at Kew, West London, England, is a world leader in the collection and scientific investigation of every type of plant, and open to a public who appreciate its open spaces, temperate and hot houses exhibiting plants from every kind of climate and its variety of outdoor features, but its beginnings in 1759 as a private garden for Princess Augusta were far more exclusive. The 18th century saw a tremendous interest in landscaping private parkland on a grand scale with the movement of entire hills and mature trees, all by man and horse power, to fulfill the designs of celebrated gardeners such as Capability Brown. As part of this trend Kew’s earliest major tree planting started in 1761, with a second wave in 1846. Since then tree planting has continued with only a gap between the First and Second World Wars. Nowadays mechanisation does away with the great manual effort needed in the past but in the mid 1800s the movement of mature trees was revolutionised by the introduction of the Barron tree transplanter. As has been reported elsewhere the first planter was designed and built by Barron in the mid 1800s for the transplantation of maturing trees at Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire.

A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter

Nigel Oakley and Punch backing the loaded transplanter over the prepared site.

Today the only known example of this machine is at Kew, and since the 1930’s when it was last used, it had been decaying under a tree. Had it not been for Tony Kirkham, head of Horticultural Operations, that would have been the end of the story but he had the foresight to recognise its significance and spent ten years obtaining the funding to make the planter’s renovation possible thus preventing it from passing into legend as the last of its kind. David Baker and I had become aware of this fascinating piece of equipment when our friend Gus Kitson, a Suffolk wheelwright, had been asked to restore it. From Gus’s description of its condition the 150 mile journey to Suffolk was almost too much for the planter but he managed to unload it in one piece, and the first time David and I saw it in Gus’s barn it was once again a solid, fully usable and pristine machine, the restoration partially incorporating timber from Kew.

To celebrate the return of this renovated giant to Kew it was decided to have a tree planting weekend in early November 2000, and for those lucky enough to see the planter and its team in action it was an exciting, memorable two days which held the public’s attention throughout.

A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter

The crew accompanying the transplanter loaded with a tree.

As Suffolk horses were last used with the planter Tony Kirkham wanted to use them at the Kew debut and it was arranged that Nigel Oakley and David Chaplin, well known in the world of the Suffolk horse would provide 5 year old Thomas and 8 year old Punch. To add an air of authenticity the crew would dress in Victorian clothes and to increase the sense of occasion, Gus’s assistant John Barber, who includes being Town Crier for Southwold amongst his many activities, also agreed to appear in his magnificent scarlet and black uniform complete with handbell to announce and explain the history of the machine before each planting.

Gus had asked David to be his official photographer, and so early Saturday morning David and I drove into Kew Gardens through the nostalgically named Oxen Gate and found the Suffolk party comfortably settled in one of the staff canteens for the weekend. Christine Oakley and Jean Chaplin cooked up a fortifying breakfast for us all before going out to plait up the horses’ tails and manes and then it was time for harnessing up, collecting the crew together and marching out to hitch into the planter.

A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter

Raising the rootball by levering the front and rear winches so the supporting planks can be removed. Note the planks each side of the hole to support the weight of the planter.

Fortunately the entire weekend remained dry and we even saw the sun for some of the time so our “Victorian” workers did not have to resort to modern wet weather gear and they looked the part in waistcoats, neckerchiefs, and caps, with the hierarchy in jackets and bowlers. In fact the atmosphere generated was so authentic that Tony Kirkham and Nigel Oakley in particular shifted into full thespian mode at times and “Are you ready Oakley?” in a strong Yorkshire accent receiving the reply “Yes, Guv’nor” was among some of the dialogue, topped with the final accolade. “You’ve done well, Oakley. Go to the Office and see about a bonus.” True to the spirit of the time, the majority of the men stuck to “Yes, sir. No, sir.”

The trees being transplanted into the main avenue were 7 year old cedars from Italy and to save time were lifted into the planter by JCB, although of course it would have been necessary to go through the process of dismantling the planter to load them in the past. However, the public found this just as interesting as other parts of the process. The plan was to plant trees first by the Victorian method on one side of the avenue and by modern machinery on the other alternately to acquaint visitors with the old and new methods.

A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter

Tony Kirkham supervising the lowering of the tree by four teams each of two workers.

Thomas and Punch were hitched in tandem into the planter and, followed by a large crowd, pulled the load to the prepared site. Although we had no rain the ground was very wet and it was quite a pull for the horses to get the planter up a slight incline and into position for backing. Whilst Thomas was unhitched and led aside, John Barber rang his handbell, and preceded his introduction with “Ovez, Ovez.”

The reader can see from the accompanying photographs the tremendous strength needed to push back the machine, but what is not so easy to appreciate is the skill necessary to back it precisely over the planks each side of the hole. Once in position the wheels were chocked. Punch taken out of the shafts and the planks near the centre of the hole removed. Tony Kirkham then took up his post as overseer, checking everyone was in place and ready. Using levers the two men on the front and rear winches raised the rootball so the planks on which it had rested during transport could be removed. The weight of the rootball was now taken on ropes slung beneath it as two teams, each of two men, on each side of the planter, steadily and evenly lowered it into the hole. Tony ensuring all was carried out according to the clear instructions he gave for every stage. Finally the ropes were removed.

A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter

Removing the transplanter after positioning the tree in the ground. The rear winch and wheel assembly are removed and the side timbers supported by workers and timber props, prior to moving the planter forward for reassembly. During the forward movement the workers have to take the whole weight of the side pieces on their shoulders.

We now had the tree in place enclosed by the planter and great was the mystification of the spectators as to how matters would proceed. I even heard one man ask if a machine would be brought along to lift the transplanter up and over the tree in its entirety and carry it away!

Again Tony checked all was ready and then gave instructions for the rear winch to be manhandled to the ground. Once that had been removed the crew gathered down each side of the planter, and as the rear wheels were removed, took the entire weight of the side pieces on their shoulders. Meanwhile Punch had been put back into the shafts, and when the command was given, pulled the front wheels with the side pieces still supported by the men, forward until they were well clear of the tree. Wooden props were then placed under the side arms whilst first the rear wheels and then the rear winch were replaced. Finally Thomas was hitched into tandem and the equipment pulled back to the tree loading area, whilst modern equipment was used to firmly anchor the rootball with metal stays and replace the earth. Such was the teamwork that from pulling the load up the incline to moving the reassembled planter away from the site was timed at 20 minutes.

A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter

Having moved the planter forward it is reassembled with the rear wheels and winch which have to be manhandled into position.

It had originally been planned to plant three trees on Saturday and one on Sunday but everything went so well and the spectators’ interest was so great that eventually three trees were planted both days. It was a pleasure to see a crowd of around 200 of all ages at every planting and especially to see the children’s delight at being so close to the horses. Even the crew, who knew they would be full of aches on the Monday, were thrilled with their weekend, especially as there had been no problems. Apparently in its day the transplanter was nicknamed The Devil as it has a bad reputation for breaking arms.

But I still don’t know if Nigel Oakley collected his bonus from the Office!

Spotlight On: Equipment & Facilities

I Built My Own Buckrake

I Built My Own Buckrake

by:
from issue:

One of the fun things about horse farming is the simplicity of many of the machines. This opens the door for tinkerers like me to express themselves. Sometimes it is just plain nice to take a proven design and build one of your own. Last spring I did just that. I built my own buckrake. I’m proud of the fact that it worked as it should and that my rudimentary carpentry skills produced it.

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

There are four general plans, or methods of plowing fields. These are: (1) to plow from one side of a field to the other; (2) to plow around the field; (3) to plow a field in lands; and (4) to start the plowing in the center of the field.

Students on the Lines

Students on the Lines & McD Grain Indicator Plate

from issue:

We conclude our online presentation of Volume 41 Issue 2 with beautiful photos from Walt Bernard’s Workhorse Workshops (www.workhorseworkshops.com) and some hard-to-find info on the McCormick-Deering Plain Fluted Feed “R” Grain Drill Grain Indicator Plate.

International Harvester Fertilizer Distributor

International Harvester Fertilizer Distributor

from issue:

Because of the many varieties and mixtures of fertilizer, it is impossible to give complete tables listing them. It is, however, very easy to determine the distribution of any particular fertilizer by proceeding as follows. Put a cloth, or some large sheets of paper under the machine and turn the main driving wheel 57 times for 7′, 51 times for 8′ and 46 times for 9′ machine. Weigh the amount ejected which will indicate the amount distributed per one-tenth of an acre.

Bobsled Building Plans

Bobsled Building Plans

Here are two, old-style, heavy-duty, bobsled building plans featuring the sort of sleds you might have found in New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. (In fact you might get lucky and find them still.) These are designed to haul cord wood on the sled frame.

Wheel Hoe

The Wheel Hoe: A Tool For Shallow Tillage

When we bought this little farm I soon realized I needed a wheel hoe. The size of the horse and tractor dictated space wasting wide rows in crop production and, to some degree, so does my two wheeled tractor.

Work Bridle Styles

Work Bridle Styles

Here are fourteen work bridle styles taken from a 1920’s era harness catalog. Regional variants came with different names and configurations, so much so that we have elected to identify these images by letter instead of name so you may reference these pictures directly when ordering harness or talking about repairs or fit concerns with trainers or harness makers. In one region some were know as pigeon wing and others referred to them as batwing or mule bridles.

Barbed Wire History and Varieties

Book Excerpt: The invention of barb wire was the most important event in the solution of the fence problem. The question of providing fencing material had become serious, even in the timbered portions of the country, while the great prairie region was almost wholly without resource, save the slow and expensive process of hedging. At this juncture came barb wire, which was at once seen to make a cheap, effective, and durable fence, rapidly built and easily moved.

Farm Drum 27 Case 22 x 36 Threshing Machine

Farm Drum #27: Case 22 x 36 Threshing Machine

by:

Friend and Auctioneer Dennis Turmon has an upcoming auction featuring a Case Threshing machine, and we couldn’t wait when he invited us to take a look. On a blustery Central Oregon day (sorry about the wind noise), Lynn & Dennis take us on a guided tour of the Case 22×36 Thresher.

Cultivating Questions The Cost of Working Horses

Cultivating Questions: The Cost of Working Horses

Thanks to the many resources available in the new millennium, it is relatively easy for new and transitioning farmers to learn the business of small-scale organic vegetable production. Economic models of horse-powered market gardens, however, are still few and far between. To fill that information hole, I asked three experienced farmers to join me in tracking work horse hours, expenses and labor over a two-year period and to share the results in the Small Farmer’s Journal.

Cole One Horse Planters

Cole One Horse Planters

by:
from issue:

The most populous single horse planting tools were made by Planet Junior. But they were by no means the only company producing these small farm gems. Most manufacturers included a few models and some, like Planet Junior, American and Cole specialized in the implement. What follows are fourteen different models from Cole’s, circa 1910, catalog. We published ten of these in volume 30 number three of Small Farmer’s Journal.

A Hidden Treasure

A Hidden Treasure

When David and Gus visited Mr. Hemmett they had an unexpected find. Not only was there the small tip-cart but other full sized farm wagons. The first that David looked at was a double shafted Lincolnshire wagon designed for the flat lands of that county and too big and heavy for his Suffolk mare of 16.2 hands. But tucked at the back under a tarpaulin was the ideal vehicle – a Norfolk wagon that could take either a single or double shaft and was suitable for the smaller draught horse.

McCormick-Deering No 7 Mower Manual in English & French

McCormick-Deering No. 7 Mower Manual in English & French

Instructions for Setting Up and Operating the McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 VERTICAL LIFT TWO-HORSE MOWERS — Instructions pour le Montage et le Fonctionnement des FAUCHEUSES A DEUX CHEVAUX McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 À RELEVAGE VERTICAL

Eggs & Their Care

Eggs & Their Care

from issue:

Egg quality is the combined elements of an egg which increase the market value to the producer, the keeping qualities to the distributors, and the nutritive and eye-appeal value to the consumer.

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

by:
from issue:

The scoop has two steel sides about 5 feet apart sitting on steel runners made out of heavy 2 X 2 angle iron, there is a blade that is lowered and raised by use of a foot release which allows the weight of the blade to lower it and then lock in the down position and the forward motion of the horses to raise it and lock it in the up position. This is accomplished by a clever pivoting action where the tongue attaches to the snow scoop.

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

by:
from issue:

Making a pair of tongs was a milestone for a lot of blacksmiths. In times gone past a Journeyman Smith meant just that, a smith that went upon a journey to learn more skills before taking a masters test. When the smith appeared at the door of a prospective employer, he/she would be required to demonstrate their skills. A yard stick for this was to make a pair of tongs.

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

Book Excerpt: The enclosed gear, late model John Deere, Case, Oliver, David Bradley, and McCormick Deering International mowers I (we) are so fond of had a zenith of popular manufacture and use that lasted just short of 25 years. Millions of farmers with millions of mowers, built to have a serviceable life of 100 plus years, all pushed into the fence rows. I say, it was far too short of a period.

Delivery Wagon Plans

Delivery Wagon Plans

from issue:

While the low down delivery wagon is an improvement, the objectionable features are increased. But with all those objections the low down wagons increase every year. Their convenience outweighs all other objections. They are handy for country delivery and are fitted up inside to suit either grocers, bakers, butchers or milk delivery, or a combination of the four.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT