Tuesday, March 20, 2018

An old iron spring...

... spring tooth harrow that is, covered by a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow. While this one can be found on the east side of Route 153 just south of the Conway Public Library, old agricultural iron like this can be found throughout the Mount Washington Valley re-purposed as lawn sculpture.

With all the snow and cold temperatures recently, it is hard to believe that today is the official beginning of Spring.  Historically, with the vernal equinox thoughts naturally turned to spring green and the start of the growing season with its longer days. 

While its function is probably a mystery to most who drive by it, this snow covered item was a key piece of equipment for Spring tilling of the soil ... April showers bring May flowers. You could also read it as May flour. In the past, if you did not properly prepare the soil, you may not have been able to produce all the crops you needed to survive the next winter. We don't think about that much any more.

April come she will
When streams are ripe and swelled with rain

April is National Poetry Month and we will feature New Hampshire poets, especially those such as Robert Frost and the Eaton Poet who celebrate our farming heritage. 

The harrow actually follows the plow and you can find a good example of one just north of the Conway Public Library on Route 16 adorning the parking lot of Banners Restaurant. 

A plow, I hear men say, to plow the snow.
They cannot mean to plant it, though --
Unless in bitterness to mock
At having cultivated rock.

Plowmen by Robert Frost 1920

A careful examination of the plow reveals it is a model 23 made by Oliver Chilled Plow Works.

Prior to 1929 the Oliver Chilled Plow Works had developed a series of plows that could be pulled by either horses or tractors. This model 23 was a two-way sulky plow that was ideal for small and irregular shaped fields. The unique design permitted plowing from one side of the field to the other, with no need of back furrows or dead furrows. A mechanical lift was provided for each plow base.

The combination of gears and gizmos and simple machines used in these farm tools are a wonder to behold and a great introduction to the ideas of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons.

 Here is an example of an early advertisement for the Oliver model 23.

 Here is an example of a similar one in the original color scheme.

The company founder, James Oliver, in fact has become a "lawn sculpture" himself at the old factory, now museum in South Bend Indiana. This adds an A in STEM to create STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) to the lesson plans.

To learn more about historical farms and farming visit the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room archives or ask about our outreach programs provided free of charge.

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