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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

Carriage Hill Farm

Carriage Hill Farm

Carriage Hill Farm: Crown Jewel of Parks

by Jim Butcher of Springfield, OH, photos by Jim Scherer

To learn more about Carriage Hill Farm, please visit their website: www.metroparks.org/historical-farm – ed.

“Thank you for taking the time to visit our farm.” This is one of the responses that I give to the many visitors as they prepare to leave Carriage Hill Farm, an historical farm which is part of a much larger system of 24 parks within the Five Rivers Metroparks system.

The farm has been part of my life for over 30 years, first as a scout leader, then as a volunteer, and now as an employee of a great facility that touches the lives of several thousand people each year. The main emphasis of our farm is education and interpretation of an 1880’s family farm with all the equipment and animals from the 1880’s time period. Our staff teaches anyone who will take the time to find out how the ways of the past have created the mainstays of today.

Carriage Hill Farm

Picking ear corn.

My Grandfather started molding my mind at the ripe old age of five. That was the first year that I was allowed to spend an entire summer “working” beside him. Accepting his love for the earth and growing crops and raising animals, he is still ingrained in my soul and I’m passing on what I have learned from my “Grandpa” to anyone who will accept my vision. Several years ago I found out the meaning of my Grandfather’s name, George, from Greek, “Geo or earth”, or earth worker. The word was later changed to farmer… how fitting!

My “work” place is a fantastic site to visit and learn about farming, especially farming with horses. We have about 100 acres within the historic site, using horse power to do the majority of the work in the yearly cycle of the crops, as well as tilling and harvesting old varieties of modern day crops that cover 15 acres.

Carriage Hill Farm

Jim Butcher with a prize heritage variety corn ear.

Our crops include five different small grains: Mediterranean Red winter wheat, six row barley, oats, rye and spelt (also called Russian wheat) and are as close to the varieties of the 1880s that are still available. Two varieties of open pollinated corn, Reid’s yellow dent and Bloody Butcher, were developed or improved during our time period. Broomcorn, brown seed flax for linseed oil, Honey Drip sorghum for molasses, Connecticut pumpkins, Connecticut Seed leaf tobacco and vegetables from the truck garden and kitchen garden are also raised as yearly crops at Carriage Hill.

Carriage Hill Farm

Raking hay.

All of these items are incorporated into programs for the education of the public. Of course there are favorite programs that the public like to see, such as, anything using the horses. Most often, the only thing that the public asks about is plowing. Regardless of the time of year, people always inquire, “Were you plowing?” This gives me an opportunity to explain what we were doing and why. Also, tending the fields, cultivating crops and gardens, harvesting hay and using the grapple hooks and trolley to put the load into the hay mow, are more activities you can watch at the farm. Also you can see the farmer using the grain binder to make bundles of grain for shocks, set in the field to dry, and hauled in for the two threshing events we have, using a small six horsepower steam engine. Run by our state licensed volunteers, they also have the only agricultural steam instruction class approved by the State of Ohio to receive a license to operate an Ag steam engine.

Carriage Hill Farm

Loading hay with the loader.

We have the Arnold family diaries available from over forty years of the family’s life on this farm. With these diaries, we are able to document the events that shaped their decisions in producing crops and other items for sale, such as, eggs, butter, and custom work. They were accomplished at blacksmithing and with the steam engine, one of the first in the county; they improved the efficiency of harvest and other aspects of farm life. When the time came for butchering, they used the steam engine for heating the scalding water in a watering trough. Using a hose, it was a lot easier to do than to build fires and boil water in kettles. We demonstrate this process each year as we do a traditional butchering program.

We have developed workshops to increase our volunteers, such as completing two draft horse training classes in 2004 attended by 23 people with varying degrees of knowledge about horses. We used one Saturday to do class work, books, and pictures and then another day with hands on, harnessing, hitching and beginning driving, ground driving for the inexperienced and wagon driving for the other more advanced members of the group. We have also worked with Midwest Open-Air Museums Coordinating Council to put together draft horse and multi horse hitch workshops.

Carriage Hill Farm

Bringing in the hay.

Volunteers and staff hosted over 30 weekend programs, plus the farmstead is staffed each weekend so the skills in the blacksmith shop, woodshop, farmhouse and fields are explained to the visitors. Cooking is always a good draw for everyone. The wonderful smells coming from the kitchen is a sure attraction. The cooks pay attention to the 120 year old recipes, using as much material as possible that has been produced on the farm.

As time avails itself, repairs must be done to all of the horse drawn equipment. A lot of the machinery that we use must be rebuilt or repaired because it was worn out when it was set aside. Research must be done to make sure the equipment is right for the time period, and if possible, a color scheme to complete the paint job, which is usually with very bright colors.

Carriage Hill Farm

Magnificent Carriage Hill Percheron team.

Our staff compiled a program called “Country Fair.” It is designed to mirror the 1880 county fair that communities held to find out who had grown, or made, the “BEST.” It was a time of showing off, without bragging, about what you had accomplished. As this idea evolved, I wanted to have a plowing contest at Carriage Hill, to find the best team and plow master in our area.

After reading an article in Small Farmer’s Journal about an Ohio State plowing contest, I called Dean Hopkins and Gary Hopkins. I expressed my interest in having a contest at our park. We arranged to have them visit the park and with their help and guidance we had a trial run. We called it “Draft Horse Fun Days.” Much to my surprise, over 20 teams showed up from all over the state. I guess some other people wanted to see horses work also.

Carriage Hill Farm

Apples into the cider press.

That was Labor Day weekend 2004. This year the program was expanded to become the U.S. Plowing Contest with 88 horses from 11 states in attendance to have a good time and make new friends. There were winners in the field, but the real winners were the many people who made this, and other programs, possible to be witnessed by a generation or generations who have not had the pleasure of watching the interaction of the drivers and horse or mule teams.

Many years ago a friend of mine told me, “We are where we are, because of the efforts of the people who came before us.” I hope that some of my efforts in being responsible for the education of an unknowing generation will somehow touch another individual to continue where I will leave off. Everyday I expect to learn something and to pass that information on at sometime.

Carriage Hill Farm

One of the Percheron teams heads for the barn.

I enjoy interacting with people, especially the older group of folks who start out their conversation with “I remember talking to, doing this or seeing that at my fathers, grandfathers or other family farms.” This will become another learning experience for me, and maybe they will say something that will become another piece of the ever evolving history about early farm life or the equipment they used or maybe answer one of my many questions about why they did what they did.

As each day closes, I think about the many ways I have been blessed. It always goes back to some small insignificant event of the day, a song from a bird, seeing an insect completing a life cycle or the smile on the face of a child who has just had an enriching encounter with an 1800 pound Percheron. I’m usually pretty tired at the end of each day, yet looking forward to doing it all over again tomorrow.

Carriage Hill Farm

Headed for the thresher.

Spring time is the second busiest time of the year. The work windows are small and the work requirements are many for getting in the crops. Trying to figure out the timing for all of the programs, like making sure the corn is ready, and the sorghum has time to convert starch to sugar to be sweet enough to make good molasses. Spring lambs are being born, and if we’re lucky, a new calf or foal will help fill the time, and there seems to always be a new litter of pigs in the barn.

In the fall, Carriage Hill is generally the most crowded with activities with the days getting shorter and cooler weather coming.

Carriage Hill Farm

Small steam tractor running the threshing machine.

The ground does not dry quick enough to get all the planting and ground work done in time, but it is a most satisfying feeling to “lay by” the fields until springtime when all that needs to be done is complete and a shift in priorities is here.

Winter is not far behind, and with it, comes a whole new set of challenges and opportunities. Maybe there will be an ice harvest and the ice house can be filled again this January, so we can have that ice cream next June, if the cow has a calf and the milk flow is enough to fill everyone’s needs, including the barn cats.

Jim Butcher
Historical Farm Specialist
November 1, 2005

Carriage Hill Farm

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

Congo Farm Project

Congo Farm Project

by:
from issue:

I was at day one, standing outside an old burnt-out Belgian plantation house, donated to us by the progressive young chief of the village of Luvungi. My Congolese friend and I had told him that we would need to hire some workers to help clear the land around the compound, and to put a new roof on the building. I thought we should be able to attract at least 20 workers. Then, I looked out to see a crowd of about 800 eager villagers, each one with their own hoe.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 3

What goes with the sale? What does not? Do not assume the irrigation pipe and portable hen houses are selling. Find out if they go with the deal, and in writing.

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

by:
from issue:

The agricultural system of the Old Believers has long been one of hand labor. Their homesteads (hozyastvas) were not intended for tractors or horses, with the possible exception of their larger potato fields. Traditionally the small peasant hozyastva has its roots in hand labor, and this has helped maintain the health of the land. Understanding the natural systems is easier when one’s hands are in the soil every day as opposed to seeing the land from the seat of a tractor.

A Tour of Various Draft Farms

A Tour of Various Draft Farms

Amidst all of the possibility that is out there, all of the options and uncertainties, it helps to remember that there is also a strong community in the draft-farming world. There are a great many like-minded yet still diverse people working with draft horses and ready to share their experiences. What will serve us well within this great variety of farms and farmers is to keep in touch, to learn from one another’s good ideas and mistakes and to keep on farming with draft power.

Personal Food Production

Personal Food Production

by:
from issue:

We can argue about when, but someday within several decades, oil and the plentiful super-market food we take for granted will be in short supply and/or very expensive. We must all start immediately to grow as much of our own food as possible. This is the fun part and is the subject of a vast popular movement highlighted by innumerable books, magazines, and web sites. Square-foot gardening, raised beds, and permaculture are the new rage. We don’t need thirty-million acres of lawns. Flowers aren’t very filling either.

Useful Birds

Useful Birds

by:
from issue:

Whether a bird is beneficial or injurious depends almost entirely upon what it eats. Birds are often accused of eating this or that product of cultivation, when an examination of the stomachs shows the accusation to be unfounded. Accordingly, the Biological Survey has conducted for some years past a systematic investigation of the food of those species which are most common about the farm and garden.

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.

Fjord Horses at Work in the Green Mountains of Vermont

Fjord Horses at Work in the Green Mountains of Vermont

We own a 40 jersey cow herd and sell most of their milk to Cobb Hill Cheese, who makes farmstead cheeses. We have a four-acre market garden, which we cultivate with our team of Fjord horses and which supplies produce to a CSA program, farm stand and whole sale markets. Other members of the community add to the diversity of our farm by raising hay, sheep, chickens, pigs, bees, and berries, and tending the forest and the maple sugar-bush.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

Wild Potatoes and Calcium

Wild potatoes bring increased calcium for better tubers.Have you ever cut into a potato to find a dark spot or hollow part? Early research shows that these defects are likely the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato — and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality.

Such a One Horse Outfit

Such a One Horse Outfit

by:
from issue:

One day my stepfather brought over a magazine he had recently subscribed to. It was called Small Farmer’s Journal published by a guy named Lynn Miller. That issue had a short story about an old man that used a single small mule to garden and skid firewood with. I was totally fascinated with the prospect of having a horse and him earning his keep. It sorta seemed like having your cake and eating it too.

Laying Out Fields For Plowing

Laying Out Fields For Plowing

from issue:

Before starting to plow a field much time can be saved if the field is first staked out in uniform width lands. Methods that leave dead furrows running down the slope should be avoided, as water may collect in them and cause serious erosion. The method of starting at the sides and plowing around and around to finish in the center of the field will, if practiced year after year, create low areas at the dead furrows.

Cultivating Questions A Diversity of Cropping Systems

Cultivating Questions: A Diversity of Cropping Systems

As a matter of convenience, we plant all of our field vegetables in widely spaced single rows so we can cultivate the crops with one setup on the riding cultivator. Row cropping makes sense for us because we are more limited by labor than land and we don’t use irrigation for the field vegetables. As for the economics of planting produce in work horse friendly single rows, revenue is comparable to many multiple row tractor systems.

LittleField Notes Prodigal Sun & Food Ethics

LittleField Notes: Prodigal Sun & Food Ethics

by:
from issue:

To my great delight a sizable portion of the general eating public has over the past few years decided to begin to care a great deal about where their food comes from. This is good for small farmers. It bodes well for the future of the planet and leaves me hopeful. People seem to be taking Wendell Berry’s words to heart that “eating is an agricultural act;” that with every forkful we are participating in the act of farming.

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