The Old Time Farm Magazines: Barrel Chairs, Orchard Care and Livestock Care in May

Read articles from old farm magazines published in May in the 1880s and 1890s that give advice on how to make barrel chairs, orchard care, and caring for livestock.

| May/June 1973

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    Want to know how to plant in May or make your very own barrel chair?  These old farm magazines give such advice and more.
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    Figure 1:  A barrel is cut as the starting point for an easy chair.
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    Figure 2: The after product of an upholstered barrel easy chair.

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Here are two more pages of old-timey information taken from issues of THE NEW YORK HOMESTEAD and THE AMERICAN AGRICULTURIST dated 1882, 1883 and 1893. 

Corn Planting Over a large part of the country, this is the month for planting our leading grain crop. Many make the mistake of putting the corn into the ground before it is ready. Corn is a semitropical plant, and its grain should not be planted until the soil is warm and mellow. "Corn-planting time" is when settled weather has come. There is no better guide than that used by the Indians, who put in their maize when the leaves of the oak are beginning to unfold. Some farmers watch the apple orchard, and plant when the blossoms appear. If the kernels are put into a cold soil, they either remain dormant or rot, and nothing is gained, while, should the germinating grain be overtaken by a cold spell, the field has to be replanted. The corn plant has only a short season for its growth, and requires the best provisions for reaching maturity before the frosts of autumn come. The corn ground should be well supplied with manure in an available form for the rapidly-growing plant. This manure needs to be near the surface, and thoroughly mixed through the soil, that the many fine roots may find it readily. Those who have practised putting a quantity of some quick-acting compost or fertilizer in each hill, know the importance of having food for the corn plant close at hand. Much depends upon the quality of the seed, and therefore only the best kernels of the superior varieties should be used. It will pay to get seed that has been grown especially for that purpose, even though it cost much more than the common grain taken from the crib. To keep crows from pulling the young corn, the grain may be rolled in tar, and afterwards in plaster. The tar can be most easily applied by mixing it with hot water, and stirring in the corn. Among the best of scare-crows are those which make some sort of motion and produce a noise. A small windmill, with "clapper," and pieces of bright tin suspended by strings, constitutes a good "scare." It is not best to use a gun unless fired without shot or ball. Crows do not deserve death, as they are the friends of the farmer for most of the year. They live largely upon cut-worms and other insects, and many times, when pulling a young corn plant, they are seeking the marauder that lies hidden at its base.

Meadows and Pastures  — The frosts of winter heave the soil and it is well to pass a roller over the meadows and pastures, to firm the surface and make it smooth for the mowing machine. All stones loosened by the frosts should be removed; large ones, if not needed for building purposes, may be sunk out of reach of the plow. Meadows may be much injured by live stock running over them in early spring, when the ground is wet. Any grazing done at this time is at the expense of the hay crop. It is far better to keep the farm animals in the stables and yards until the pasture is able to furnish a full ration, or nearly so.

Livestock Care

Horses — With hard work, the farm horses should have the best of care. There is danger of overfeeding, especially with corn, thus producing irritation of the skin and restlessness. Good cut hay, wet with bran or meal mixed, is a fine ration twice a day. The brush should be freely used, that the sweat and dirt collected one day may not remain on during the next. An occasional sponge bath is helpful in keeping the horses in good trim. Look well to the feet, that no disease may come to these much exposed parts. Flies will soon come, and some protection from these pests should be made. A thin sheet, fitting the back, with strings to go under the neck and tail, is inexpensive and effective.

Cattle  — The change from dry fodder to succulent pasture food is a critical one, and all animals need more than ordinary care at this time. Young stock are especially subject to disease from over-feeding on green grass, causing black leg, black quarter, and other dangerous troubles. It is best to make the change gradual, by turning the calves out to grass for only a part of each day. In-coming cows need to have their feed reduced before calving, to prevent garget. They should be kept from exposure to cold rains, and in a quiet place. A brush, well used, will go far towards giving the cattle smooth skins and a healthful condition.

Sheep — There is money in early lambs, if they are pushed forward rapidly for the market. A small flock in fine flesh, sold early, often brings more profit than a large one of late and poorly-fed lambs. Ewes, from which lambs have been taken, sometimes need the milk removed from their udders. Dry ewes, if not to be kept, may be fattened rapidly and marketed. All sheep should be carefully tagged before being turned out to grass. Much disease in the lambs is caused by filth from the mother's wool; therefore clip the wool from about the udder. From now until warm weather of early summer is a specially trying period for sheep. Parturition, the care of ewes and lambs, tagging, washing, shearing, etc., etc., require and should receive the owner's attention and watchfulness. Do not turn out to pasture too early. Permit the grass to secure a sufficient growth to become nutritious. The temptation to dispose of surplus hay and grain about this time is great. It, however, is poor economy to deprive sheep of dry food when they can get but a bare sustenance from the pasture. Let the change be gradual, turning them out an hour or two at a time, until there is no danger of too great a looseness of the bowels. A little flax-seed or oil-meal may be advantageously fed at this time. Do not be tempted to too early wasting and shearing of sheep. Wait until the weather is warm and settled, and after the washing takes place, torn the sheep either upon a dry, clean pasture, or into a straw-littered yard. The change from a thick fleece to none at all should not be made while cold spring winds are blowing, and rain-storms are frequent. If, after shearing, there comes a cool, wet day, shelter the shorn sheep at once. After May has passed, sheep will require but little care.

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