Past Forward

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Posts Tagged by ryan spencer

Goodbye winter, hello spring!

As spring officially begins today, Michiganders breathe a collective sigh of relief. For those who have experienced it, the winter of 2014 has been memorable; this is especially true for the Firestone and William Ford Barn staff who braved polar vortexes and many feet of snow to ensure our animals had the shelter, food, water, vet care, and stimulation they needed.


Horses at Greenfield VillageThroughout the winter months, we still had vet appointments, our farrier still changed horseshoes, we still taught horses new skills (when conditions were safe for humans and horses alike), and we still moved tons of hay and grain. Carrying several 50-pound hay bales is quite a task; doing the same through drifting snow and arctic winds is heroic! The folks who do this day-in and day-out do not see themselves as heroes, however. They have a deep dedication to the animals that make Greenfield Village home. This is inspiration enough to do whatever is required—and more!

As the days get longer, the sun stronger, and birdsong louder, we think about spring and our spirits are lifted. On the farm, spring means new life: blossoms, pasture grasses, oats, wheat… and lambs! As we prepare for our new arrivals (which should begin around the same time Greenfield Village opens for our guests), staff are busy preparing lambing jugs—small, private pens wherein lambs and mothers can bond, shearing pregnant ewes so that they are more comfortable and hygienic for birthing, and undergoing yearly special training that prepares everyone for the challenges and excitement that comes with lambing.

Despite the threat of more snow and cold temperatures, we know both spring and lambs are on the way… and we are eager to share both with our guests when Greenfield Village opens on April 15th! See you then.

Ryan Spencer is former Senior Manager of Venue Interpretation and Firestone Farm at The Henry Ford. He encourages all to think spring!

agriculture, farms and farming, by Ryan Spencer, farm animals, Greenfield Village

The Firestone Farm corn field is making some terrific progress, even though a flooded field in May forced us to replant. (The weather is something farmers struggle with, regardless of the year— whether it's 1885 or 2011!) In fact, it looks like most of our corn plants will still be "knee-high by the Fourth of July," despite all of our spring flooding - huzzah!

Last week, we cultivated our corn for the second time this year. Cultivating is when we loosen the soil and remove the weeds around each corn plant.

Because the Firestones did not use herbicides to kill weeds in their fields, they planted their corn three feet apart in each direction so that they had room to cultivate.  And like the Firestones, we use a horse-drawn cultivator remove weeds in our cornfield.

Horse-drawn cultivator

We take our cultivator down each row from north to south, east to west, and then diagonally. This takes a great amount of patience and skill on the part of horse, driver and operator.

Cultivating the corn field at Firestone Farm

We used one of our newest horses, Henry, to cultivate. Although he is very young and new to this job, he handled the tight turns well and only stepped on a few corn plants. It looks like Henry and his partner Tom are turning out to be great additions to Greenfield Village!

Henry the Horse

Ryan Spencer is manager of Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village. Working at The Henry Ford was a childhood dream of his – although he did not realize then that it would involve so much manure.

farming equipment, horse drawn transport, Greenfield Village, farms and farming, farm animals, by Ryan Spencer, agriculture

It's finally time - Greenfield Village re-opens this Friday, April 15! All this week, we'll focus on some of the special springtime activities that you'll see around Greenfield Village as you take that first stroll of the season. See you soon!

There are signs of spring all over Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village: the weather is finally warming, our winter wheat is turning our field a nice shade of green, and our sheep are ready for us to shear their wool in time for warmer months ahead.

During your April or May visit to Greenfield Village, you just might catch our farmers shearing our special wrinkly Merino sheep with the same technology used by shearers on Firestone Farm in 1885.  Want a preview? Watch our video of the sheep-shearing here (which is time-lapsed - it takes quite a bit of time!) and learn more about this process, then come visit in person and find out about the Firestone family and how their resourcefulness helped them make a profit from the wool off of their sheep.

And do those sheep look comfortable or what? It's actually a natural response to when their feet come off the ground - it puts them in a relaxed state, which makes the shearer's job that much easier!

Plus, our on-site and online stores are now offering a special shearing discount for high-quality yarn made right from our own sheep - two skeins for $35! Pick up a few, then get busy making your own piece of history!

Ryan Spencer is manager of Firestone Farm in Greenfield Village. Working at The Henry Ford was a childhood dream of his – although he did not realize then that it would involve so much manure.

by Ryan Spencer, agriculture, Greenfield Village, farms and farming, farm animals

Each year, Greenfield Village closes for the winter season - but that doesn't mean it lies dormant! This is the time for freshening up the homes, grounds and vehicles in preparation for the busy year ahead. Take a peek into what happens during winter in Greenfield Village - then join us in April to enjoy the results!

In 1800s Ohio, the harsh winters provided little opportunity for families like future tire magnate Harvey Firestone's to enjoy fresh foods. In order to keep the family fed until spring, the Firestones worked hard to preserve and enjoy the crops and animals they raised all year long on the farm, which included their hogs.

Very little of the pig went to waste, as the men of the family carefully cut pork chops, roasts, bacon and more from the animal. From there, the women rendered the fat for lard, soap and other uses.

Today, we continue this tradition, but with trained professionals slaughtering the hogs; our Firestone Farm presenters then butcher and preserve the meat in the farmhouse's root cellar.

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farm animals, winter, home life, Greenfield Village buildings, Greenfield Village, food, farms and farming, by Ryan Spencer