As forecasted, Howell Farm was able to harvest ice off of Belle Mountain Pond. The pond was measured last week at four inches of clear ice. However, the recent snowfall blanketed the snow and the above freezing temperatures began to soften the ice although the thickness remained the same. Howell Farm’s staff, newest intern Annie Hasz, and several young volunteers joined in for the first Howell Farm ice harvest this winter.
A section of the ice was cleared of snow, scored with an ice plow, and then sawed into even rectangles with circa 1900 ice saws. Other staff and several young volunteers grabbed pikes to slide the cut ice to the banks where it was loaded up on a wagon via a ramp and ice tongs.
A total of three ton of ice was hauled off the pond and unloaded into Howell Farm’s ice house. This early harvest will supplement the harvest scheduled for January 29, when Howell Farm welcomes visitors to join them in reliving the essential winter harvest of the turn-of-the-last-century.
Howell Farm carpenter Ian Ferry began touching up the ox barn on Wednesday, December 29. Corner boards were removed and edges were resealed. The two oxen Jake and Chris will appreciate a more water tight dwelling that will keep the precious store of loose hay in the loft dry and safe.
Howell Farm has high hopes for a good harvest of ice this season. The prolonged freezing temperatures are the most obvious factor for their confidence. However, on the farm’s nearest pond, within the Round Pasture, the water is less responsive to the cold. A gentle but ever flowing current from the feeder springs leaves a path of clear water which has been further disturbed by geese activity. Belle Mountain Pond along Valley Road looks much more promising, with several inches of clear thick ice. Farm manager Gary Houghton hopes to harvest ice within the next few weeks off of Belle. A scheduled ice harvest on January 29 will be open to the public as Howell Farm’s first Saturday event of the year 2011.
During the winter months, grass and forage is at a premium. Howell Farm’s grazing animals are let out every day to fatten up for winter wherever grass is available. Daisy, Howell Farm’s milking cow, has been placed in the Stony Field tethered to a stake and moved to different locations each day while her rambunctious foster calf Red roams nearby. The senior horses–Blaze, Barney, and Mac–have been let to free range on the north crop fields where the sheep have been given pasture as well. At night, the animals are bedded down with a thick layer of straw and Red the calf is brought into his cozy box stall. A farmer receives attention from Red the calf.Since Red is not restrained during the day, he often causes some difficulty for the farmers who try to lead him into the barn in the evening. He runs around playfully and stubbornly refuses to go into the barn. After a while, he trots into his stall, plops down in the straw and soon is fast asleep.
Blaze and Martin Flory leave West Wing
Howell Farm’s senior horse moved up in the horse world. A retired horse for five years, Blaze remains a Howell Farm icon. On Friday, August 27 Rob Flory and his son Martin led 32 year old Blaze out of his stall from the West Wing of the barn where Blaze has been an occupant since he arrived at the farm around 25 years ago. The West Wing is awaiting restoration and has been showing its age, just like Blaze.
Blaze enters East WingMartin led Blaze out of one end of the barn and into the other side to a brand new box stall that farmer and carpenter Ian Ferry has been working on since the beginning of this year.
Blaze showed his approval and pleasure with the spacious new box stall and will continue to spend his days at Howell Farm in the luxurious box suite next to Daisy the cow’s stall.
Howell Farm visitors and volunteers in potato field.On Saturday, August 21 visitors, volunteers, and farmers harvested 3,600 lbs. of potatoes grown at Howell Farm. Over 2,100 pounds of these potatoes will be donated to Trenton hunger projects.
At Howell Farm, potatoes are unearthed with a potato plow pulled by horses then gathered up by hand (see photo below).
Other Crop Notes:
Farmers Rob Flory and Pete Watson drive the potato plow with horses Jack & Chester.The recent rain has improved conditions for what little crops are left on the farm. The sweet corn matured too early to be served at Howell Farm’s “Fiddle Contest” event on Saturday, August 28, so farmer Rob Flory and his son Martin Flory have been chopping the corn stalks and feeding it to Howell Farm’s cow Daisy since green grass has been lacking.
Howell Farm entered medium brown eggs, grade B maple syrup, and honey at the Middletown Grange Fair. Brown eggs received a 2nd place ribbon and Howell Farm’s prize winning maple syrup attained another blue ribbon. Honey was not awarded a ribbon.
Four little piglets came home to Howell Farm on Wednesday, August 25, 2010. Farmer Jim McDonough, who specializes in pig care at Howell Farm, picked up the piglets Wednesday morning and arrived at Howell Farm at 10:00 a.m. The pigs are friendly and curious but very shy. Already this morning they have been viewed by many visitors and are quickly adjusting to the lime light.
The piglets are a cross between a landracer and a duroc. As weaned piglets they are not nursing from their mother and will be fed by Howell Farm’s farmers with bread and milk until they can handle corn feed and vegetable/fruit scraps.
Howell Farm took advantage of the low pond waters to dredge its spring fed pond. Several inches of muck and scum were scraped from the bottom in order to create healthier and deeper water. This will allow pond life a friendlier habitat and hopefully improve the ice formation during the winter so that Howell Farm can harvest the ice.
Great Blue Herons are among the many wildlife that make Howell Farm’s pond their home. Fish, frogs, ducks, turtles, and of course Howell Farm’s Toulouse geese also enjoy the pond.
Howell Farm has fared relatively well during this summer drought. Where as some nearby farmer’s corn has shriveled and turned pale green, Howell Farm’s sweet corn, popcorn, dent corn, and Indian corn has only slightly wilted. The leaves remain green and ears of corn are slowly maturing. This is attested to the fact that it was planted in the bottom land and fine soil of Hunter’s field and the Market Garden.
Pumpkins have also done very well compared to previous years at Howell Farm. Farm manager Gary Houghton says that the dryness has kept mildew away that ruined last year’s pumpkin crop.
However, the drought has taken its toll in the South Crop Fields (see crop map) where the soil contains more shale. Crops like Timothy hay that is expected to regrow after the first hay cutting withered out, “but some of the deeply-rooted weeds like Canada thistle have [not]” says farmer Rob Flory. A turn-of-the-century solution: on Saturday, August 7 farmer Ian Ferry drove horses Jack & Chester as they pulled a 1918 McCormick #6 sickle bar mower and cut the thistles. Thistles and weeds are not easily stopped and will require much of the farmers’ time to keep them from taking over the crop fields.