It’s spring! That means the days are warmer and all the snow is gone. Farmers around the museum are very busy. There are baby animals to look after. The 1850 Pioneer Farm has lambs bouncing around in the pasture. There are now three new calves living at the 1900 Farm. Young chicks are in the 1900 Farm chicken house. There are gardens and fields to plant. Potatoes are planted at both farms, already. This spring at the museum, we have enjoyed getting out into the fields with our old tractors, plowing and planting. There are so many farm chores to do! Spring brings lots of work every year.
Spring also means one more thing for farmers. That thing is MUD! When dirt and soil get wet, they turn into mud. Soft, sticky, even soupy mud. Iowa has about 34 inches of rain scattered throughout the year and a lot of that rain comes in April and May. Farmers have a lot of dirt to care for and that means when it rains, they have a lot of mud to work around. The rain helps warm up the soil and gives new seeds a boost to grow—if it comes at the right time. Farmers need some dry days in spring to get into the fields and get the seeds planted. After planting, rain makes the seeds grow. But this year, snow came late and rain is coming early. The fields were very muddy in April. Our museum farmers had to hope for a few dry days and it was hard work to get tractors, or horses, or oxen into the fields. Muddy fields make tractor tires sink in the dirt. Horses and oxen can’t pull machines very well either; the mud makes them slip and slide. Our farmers stuck it out though! They have already planted oats that will feed our horses in the winter. They have also planted wheat that will be harvested by hand at the 1850 Pioneer Farm. Later this month, the farmers will work with both oxen and horses to pull old machines to plant smaller field of corn. The farmers are hoping some of this mud will dry off by then.
The animals at the farm have mixed opinions of the mud. The cows and horses are like the farmers, hoping for some dry weather. When the pens around the barn at the 1900 Farm get muddy, the cows and horses get grumpy; they don’t enjoy standing in the mud every day. In the evening, our museum horses are let out into a bigger, dryer pasture. That makes them less grumpy. Many of our cows and the oxen are also in bigger pastures right now as well and that keeps them out of mud all the time.
The pigs are the one animal around the farms that are happy about the mud! Pigs like to roll and dig in mud. This is called wallowing. Pigs cannot sweat the way that people do. Rolling in mud helps keep them cooler. Even on cool days, wallowing makes pigs happy! At least someone around here is enjoying it.
How about you? Do you like to jump in mud puddles or play in the rain? Living History Farms is open even when it rains and many kids like to come out and jump in the puddles along the trail. Come join us! But you might want to wear your rubber boots!