Friday, April 30, 2010

Seeds, Seeds, Seeds!

By: Gwen Miner, Supervisor of Domestic Arts
Heirloom Seeds have been occupying some part of all my work days for the last twelve weeks, from ordering them to packaging them to now actually planting them in the hot frames.

For those of you who read my previous post in February, you will wonder if I found a seed variety that I was looking for. The answer is yes: thanks to the internet and our seed supplier, I was able to purchase the elusive Boston Marrow Squash seed. It was pricey, but it will be worth it when we harvest and finally get to cook some. Boston Marrow is a winter squash that matures in 90-100 days, weighing between 10 to 20 pounds and if kept cool and dry it will last until the following spring. The squash has been prized historically for its rich deep orange flesh with a fine texture. The Boston Marrow Squash has two hundred years of documented history. The following are two of the common stories regarding the origin of the squash. The first one is that the seed was probably brought from South America by an American sea captain in the early 19th century. The other is that it originated in upstate New York and was seed that the Native Americans gave to the European Settlers. Either way, it was introduced in 1831 to the public from Salem, Massachusetts as the Boston or “Autumnal” Marrow Squash.

For the past 6 weeks we have been packing seeds to sell in Todd’s General Store here at the museum and for the 4-H Heirloom Seed Project that we have sponsored for the past twenty plus years. We buy the seed in bulk and then pack them in envelopes that are printed in the Middlefield Printing Office using a design that is found on early hand-folded Shaker seed packets.
We offer for sale 36 different Heirloom Vegetable varieties, 8 different Herbs and 14 different Heirloom Flowers. If you are interested in purchasing seeds, stop in the store or email Josh at j.harley[at]
In addition to packing we just finished setting up two hot frames. At the Lippitt Farmhouse my co-worker Patrick MacGregor and I set up the frame last week and I planted it with our tomatoes, cabbage and melons on Tuesday, April 13.
In addition to that hot frame, Patrick built a new and improved one that we installed in the work yard at Bump Tavern to start five different varieties of Heirloom Tomatoes in peat pots for our annual Heritage Plant Sale on Memorial Day weekend.
We are beginning to plow up the field garden and beginning to work up the kitchen garden to ready them for planting. We will be planting some potatoes in the next couple of weeks, but will be waiting until the middle to last of May to plant seeds of most of the varieties of heirloom vegetable varieties that we grow. Hopefully, we will have a good growing season this year.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Calf on the Farm!

By: Kajsa Sabatke, Manager of Public Programs
Meet our latest addition to the Lippitt Farmstead!

If you’ve milked a cow at the farm, you’ve met Buttercup or her daughter Daisy Mae. We borrow them from a farm in Marathon, New York, and now we have purchased Daisy Mae’s calf. She was born on April 13. This new calf is a milking shorthorn, one of the oldest breeds in the world and one known in particular for its quiet temperament. Eventually, we hope that she will be able to become our milking cow.
I haven’t shared our new calf’s name – because she still needs one and we want your help in naming her! Please email your name suggestions to us at by May 15. We’ll look at all your ideas and if we choose your name, you’ll win a photo of yourself with the calf.

Stop in and meet our new calf down on the farm, and try your hand at milking Daisy Mae any day at 3:30pm.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Another 15 minutes of fame for the Cardiff Giant

By: Erin Crissman, Curator
Last week, the Cardiff Giant received yet another opportunity for fame and stardom. A production crew from Optomem Productions came to film the Giant and to stage a reenactment of his burial and unearthing. They are producing a show for the Travel Channel called Mysteries of the Museum.  Ok, so the Giant isn't really a mystery any more, but he still makes a great story!

It was quite a full day. The crew arrived at about 9am. We undressed the Giant (well, not really since he is already undressed) by removing all of his exhibition props, labels, fencing bunting, banner and exhibition labels.  Then, we wheeled him out into the center of the entry area for some overhead shots.   

The crew spent the morning filming the Giant from a variety of angles and in a variety of dramatic lighting environments.

During the entire morning, it was quite pleasant outside.  Thankfully, it started raining for the afternoon's planned outside filming. (Don't things always work out that way?)

The guys made a mock-up of the Giant and some of our interpretive staff pretended to bury him. 
Ted Shuart, Patrick McGreggor and Rick Aborn were valiant and brave as they prepared to perpetrate one of the greatest hoaxes in American history.

Well, they stood in the rain for a few hours awaiting direction, but they did risk colds.

We're all excited to see the final show. The series will begin airing on the Travel Channel either late this year, or early in 2011. We will keep you posted.

Curious to find out who else will be featured?  Here's a great story about the crew filming at the Lizzy Borden House in Fall River, MA.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Glamour shots for our venerable old lady

By: Erin Crissman, Curator
Last week, I was happy to organize professional photography for our oldest object, a 1750s Dutch plow.  Only three of these plows are known to exist in the United States. One is at the Smithsonian, one at the Daniel Parrish Whitter Agricultural Museum in Syracuse, NY and one here at The Farmers' Museum.  We don't know much about the origins of our plow, but the example at the Smithsonian is marked with a 1769 date and came from the Mohawk Valley area.

Even though we have very little information about the plow's original owner, it most certainly came from the Mohawk River valley between Albany and Amsterdam.  Since the Mohawk River has a wide floodplain, the Dutch settlers (New York State was originally a Dutch colony) probably found this land very similar to their native soil in the Netherlands - mostly silt, free of rocks and incredibly flat.  It is amazing what cultural history can tell us when there is no written documentation about the provenance of an object!

This wheeled plow was likely a great solution for the very flat land of the Netherlands. The larger wheel sat in the just-plowed furrow while the smaller wheel sat on the un-tilled land.  Plowing with this type of plow was typically accomplished in a continuous circle around the field. 

However, outside of the river valley, these Dutch natives likely found their traditional plows ill-suited for the rocky and hilly terrain of Upstate New York. The circular plowing method, used for flat land, was ineffective for hilly terrain, so the side-hill plow was developed. This type of plow has an adjustable moldboard (the curved wood piece behind the share that forces the soil to fall in a specific direction). It could be flipped from one side of the plow to another. This allowed farmers to plow across the breadth of the hill, rather than up and down in a circle pattern.

Despite the very hard labor that this plow performed during its lifetime (and it shows A LOT of wear and tear from years and years of use), today it is incredibly fragile.  It took four guys to safely move it onto the background paper for photography.  

Stay tuned for another perspective on this plow from Steve Kellogg, our blacksmith.

Above: Plow, ca.1750-1770, The Farmers' Museum Collection, F0031.1975 (Photo by Richard Walker)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


Steve Kellogg, our blacksmith, has an excellent post this week. Marieanne Coursen, one of the Museum's farmers has chronicled a spring morning on the farm.  Head over to Steve's blog - Rural Blacksmith for an inside view of farm chores.  You (and even your entire family) can help out Marieanne, Wayne and Rick before the museum opens as part of our farm chores workshop.  Hope to see you there!
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