Field Crops – Preparation

Togaidh an obair an fhianuis | The work will bear witness.

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Gaels in Nova Scotia grew large quantities of hay, oats, potatoes and spring wheat as well as smaller amounts of buckwheat, barley and turnip. Occasionally they would grow field peas, beans and rye. They grew very little winter wheat and corn because these crops were difficult to grow in the local climate.

Farm implements varied considerably from farm to farm depending on location and budget. Large, prosperous farms, located along a river valley for example, might have been able to afford a wider range of equipment and more than one horse, or more farm help. A backland farm that was rockier, had poorer soil and was less established may only plant potatoes and some hay and would therefore require fewer pieces of equipment or more tasks were done by hand.

If a crop was to be planted in a field, the soil needed to be prepared, often beginning with a plow. There are two types of plow on site: the American plow, and the Scotch plow. The American plow is made of steel and has shorter handles and is lighter than Scotch plow designs. The American plow has a coulter knife in front which cuts the soil off from the furrow-slice. This plow also has a land wheel which helps to regulate the depth of the furrow slice. Scotch plows, which were popular, have longer handles and are made of iron. This scotch plow has wooden handles.

Plows are used to turn over nutrients, break new ground and to reduce weed growth in the soil. They can also be used for planting. Plows would have been pulled either by horse, oxen, mules or in some cases, people. Later on, some plows were adapted to be pulled behind tractors.

The next step was to harrow the ground. The harrow was used as another form of tillage to prepare the soil for planting. It levels the ground and breaks up the soil to have a better seed bed. There are also two types of harrow on site: the spiring tooth harrow and the spike tooth harrow. They would have been pulled similarly to the plow. The spiring tooth harrow is more suited to loosening the soil before planting while the spike tooth harrow was used to aerate hay fields, mix in manure and break up clods of earth.

Cultivators can also be used to prepare the soil for planting and to aerate the soil. They are most commonly used to keep weeds clear by disturbing the soil without hurting the crop, such as clearing between potato rows, for example.

All plants require nitrogen and the best source of fertilizer for the settlers was manure. The manure spreader at our site is from the 1940s and would have been pulled around the field by horses to distribute the manure. Many farmers would have spread manure with shovels from a dump cart. Other supplements added to the soil may have included lime, gypsum, wood ash, compost and maple. Seaweed and waste fish were also used extensively.



Biadh is Baile | Highland Fare


Join us on Saturday, June 4th for Biadh is Baile | Highland Fare Day as we celebrate Highland Fare! Tour throughout the site as we prepare traditional meals and you can even help us as we prepare to plant our gardens! Sarah Nettleton will be on hand to demonstrate sheep shearing while members of the Cash family (of Cash’s Carding Mill) will be around to speak with you while the Mill is running – processing raw wool.

Throughout the day you will be invited to taste traditionally prepared food such as bonnach, sgadan `s buntata (Herring & potatoes), biscuits, and more! Demonstrations of gardening, rug hooking, Gaelic songs and stories, iron working sheep shearing, carding, spinning weaving weacing and sewing will be happening all day! You might even be able to join in and give us a hand preparing our Highland Fare! See you Saturday!