Monday, July 6, 2015

Trouble With Crows

 Wherever there is an abundance of food, there will be an abundance of critters.  Such is the case on the farm I am working on. With planting corn comes the duty of killing crows. I decided to look in my new book for some old methods of keeping crows at bay.

 This excerpt comes from the book "The Southern Gardener and Receipt Book" by Phineas Thornton published in 1839.


 Soak seed corn in a solution of Glauber salts, from
twenty-four to forty-eight hours before planting and 
no living animal, with the sense of taste will eat it. 
This method of preventing crows from destroying 
corn was accidentally discovered by John B. Swasey, 
Esq., of Meredith, N. H., several years since. He 
directed his hired man to soak a quantity of seed corn
preparatory to planting, in a solution of saltpetre. 
BY mistake Glauber salts were taken for nitre ; the
mistake was not discovered, until it was nearly all 
planted; the piece of ground was finished with dry
corn. The part of the piece planted with soaked 
corn remained undisturbed ; while the dry corn was 
nearly all destroyed by crows, blackbirds, and 
squirrels.  Page 269

Saturday, July 4, 2015

This is America : My Struggle with Social Media

 Happy Independence Day!

 Busy! That is all I can say. My current job working at Hazelfield Farm here in Kentucky is keeping me occupied. I have not been keeping up with the blog because I simply get distracted. Which brings me to a recent decision in my own life.

 Facebook. Love it, hate it, it has become such a staple of our everyday life and conversation that few people can escape it. It's a useful tool that has gotten far away from being a tool and has become a replacement for real conversation and social interaction. We are more bold and less polite on facebook than we would be in person as we espouse our political and social beliefs, never stopping to consider the consequence.

 I have long had a love hate relationship with facebook. I found myself loathing it and making it known to anyone who would listen that I hated it. But then I would find myself being sucked in to the mindless drivel, aimlessly scrolling through political rants, memes and social upheaval. At the end of it I wouldn't feel good. I felt run down and out of touch with reality.

 I decided to delete facebook from my phone, only being able to access it from my desktop. At this moment facebook still allows me to do some useful things. I'm involved with many reenacting groups through facebook "group pages" (honestly my favorite feature of facebook), and I am able to use messenger to communicate with friends and such. But for how long? I don't know.

 I am trying to figure out how to balance technology with my ever increasing desire to live out of time. To live in a world without facebook and social media. Even this blog may become something I reject at some point. I can't say. I just desire something more real and more tangible.

 I may have some romantic notions about the past, but I can't help but feel we were somehow better off back then. When people and communities were connected by roads instead of touch screens. When a letter was mailed instead of emailed. When dances and music were a common community activity in small towns all across America. When farmers shared tools and implements and traded work. When every town had a baseball team, or two. This is America. Real, living, breathing.

- Jake Book

Friday, May 1, 2015

Chicken Feeding

 Even though we are not settled for sure on the place we want to end up, we have decided to go ahead and start the Living History Farming process where we are. This first step includes chickens! I have recently been reading a book, that I will highlight more in a future post, by Jacob Biggle. Jacob Biggle wrote several farming books in the 1890s, one of which was called "The Biggle Poultry Book : A concise and Practical Treatise on the Management of Farm Poultry".

 I was recently reading about feeding the chickens. Here is what Mr. Biggle has to say :

  "On every egg farm there should be a large boiler or steam cooker for cooking vegetables and making compounds of meat, ground grain and vegetables. A good morning ration may be made of equal parts of corn meal, fine middlings, bran, ground oats and ground meat. This should be stirred into a pot of cooked vegetables while boiling hot until the mass is as stiff as can be manipulated by a pair of strong arms. Seasoned with salt and cayenne pepper. Potatoes, beets, carrots, turnips, onions or any vegetable clean and free from decay will be acceptable. Cut clover hay may be substituted for vegetables for an occasional meal. The above contains a variety of food elements such as compose the egg, bone and muscle of the hen, the fat-forming elements not being prominent. For the noon meal, wheat is the best single grain. It may be mixed with good oats and scattered in chaff or leaves on the feeding floor. The night feed should be a light one, consisting of whole corn." 

 According to Biggle the most successful persons in the business raise a considerable portion of the food that the hens eat, also adding that if cows are kept on the farm, skim milk is given to the hens. 

I'm really enjoying his insight into 1890s chicken keeping.


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Material Culture : A Farmers Clothes circa 1860s

 In recreating farming of the past, there is an important question one must ask along with all the farming knowledge. What did people wear? 

 Today, we will examine roughly the 1850s-60s with a wonderful painting of farmer and scythe. 

 This painting show's a farmer sharpening a scythe with coat and bottle in the bottom right hand corner. I love that he is wearing two shirts, with the over shirt rolled up, a practice I had often been told was what we in the reenacting call a "reenactorism" but have found several examples of it in painting and photographs of the period and in practical application I find it to be a very useful when working. Your arms feel less constricted and baggy and just looks really cool. He's also wearing a straw hat of some kind, suspenders or braces, high waisted 1850s style trousers and leather boots.
  I will be posting a series of these paintings and photographs detailing clothing of farmers and rural people covering the periods of the 18th Century all the way up to 1920. Please stay tuned for those. 



Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Chicken Experience

So, last year I was given an English Game Cock. My purpose for wanting one is that I am very keen on their place in the old world as a sporting bird and was intending to take the bird to reenactments to give talks on cockfighting in the 18th century. I pick up the bird at a reenactment in Ohio brought to me by my good friend Tony Gerrad (John Baptiste). I was very excited and looking forward to having my little companion at events and at home.

 After some time having the bird, I recently purchased some game hens to accompany my Rooster. I was completely unprepared for how wild and crazy these birds would be. Once they were around my rooster became more aggressive. The chicken enclosure I build for them was immediately escaped they set about roosting in the nearest cedar tree. 

 Eventually the rooster met an end when he attacked our small dog and was killed in the process of trying to shoo him away. One hen is no where to be found and the other hen is in a small enclosure where we can collect her eggs.

 It was one of those lessons learned. Game hens are not a good hen to keep around for collecting eggs unless you have the right facility, which I was completely unprepared for.

 Recently we have decided to get a nicer more tame variety of chickens called "French Maran". Although I am planning to have another game cock for the same purpose I had the first one.

We will post updates on our chicken adventures so stay tuned. 


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Some Light Reading : Ten Acres Enough by Edmund Morris

 The first book I ever purchased about farming was recommend to me by Matthew Fennewald (who from here on out I will simply refer to as Matthew). Even though it is not a thick book I am still reading it, taking it slow and absorbing what I can from it. What struck me about the book was not so much the in depth knowledge of 1860s era farming that Mr. Morris gives as someone who lived in the time, but the enjoyment and fulfillment that he conveys through his writing.

 I was also struck by the way he speaks of his wife. In this day and age when people scream for equality and speak of the hardships of women of the past, Mr. Morris paints a very different picture of how a farm wife was treated in the 19th century speaking of her as a partner in the farm business and how often he would ask of her advice and how he valued her happiness above all things. In fact I find this sentiment to be common so far in the reading I have done of 19th century farming texts. History is never black and white.

 Moving on, I feel his knowledge of farming is very valuable to us going forward with our Living History Farm mindset. The idea at the beginning of getting away from the city life, living simple...sounds perfect.

 I would highly recommend picking up a copy of the book. A must have for any farmer.

 Purchase a copy here.
 For a cool old archive copy in PDF format copy click here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Starting Point

 So where are we so far? Well as I write this I am living in Northern Kentucky, while my good friend and (fingers crossed) future partner in farming, Matthew Fennewald, lives at the foothills of the Ozark's in Central Missouri. Most likely this will the be the location of our future farming operation as well as a number of small cottage industry jobs we hope to create for ourselves.

 What are we currently doing now? Well I am working on an organic farm here in Kentucky while continuing to play music whenever and wherever I can. If you want to check out my music click here.

 Matthew is out in Missouri working the odd job and continuing to craft some of the finest early American powder horns and shooting bags while also brain tanning deer hides.

 At this point we are still talking, reading, planning and dreaming of the future.


Well, here we go!

 If you had told me even 2 years ago that I would want to have a farm of my own I would have told you, that's crazy. But as time has gone on and I've been reading and studying on it, I want a farm. Not for any real profits or any real benefit to the population at large, but really for my own fulfillment and the happiness of my family. But, I'm not content just to farm. I want to farm the old way. Horse powered and free from plastic and modern farming tools. As a living historian I've always viewed the world through that lens. So with that in mind the future goals of our farm include farming pre-1920 with the main everyday focus being 1890-1920 with special days where we go out and do a farming project circa 1850 or 1780 or even 1590! Constantly learning from the past as we go.

 Hope we can keep up with this blog and let you know what's going on. Thanks.