Soil Preparation at Barrington Plantation State Historic Site (Texas, USA)

Focusing on mid 19th century Texas (USA), Barrington Plantation is a living history farm complete with period costumed interpreters using 19th century farming practices for planting, cultivating, harvesting, and working with livestock.

Areal view of Barrington Plantation

Washington County, where Barrington is situated, historically hasn´t been a prime wheat growing area. According to the 1850 census, the whole county produced only 57 bushels of wheat in total, versus 161,743 bushels of corn. For the historic owner of the plantation, Dr. Anson Jones, there is some evidence of him growing wheat, but there are also records of him purchasing wheat flour.

The wheat plot prior to cultivation

The plot chosen for the wheat cultivation was dormant for at least the last seven years, just cut native grass. Prior use was with garden varieties (legumes, brassicas). The soil can be characterized as sandy/silty clay. The local weather conditions are hot and humid with an overall average temperature of 19,5° Celsius (67.1°F) and a total amount of rain per year of 41.7 inches (1050,9mm).

A yoke of oxen turned the 1/10 acre plot on Oct 8th. An early 20th century original wood beam, 10” steel mouldboard “two horse” plow, with an adjustable depth gauge wheel was used for plowing (though the production date is 20th century, the design and appearance match mid-19th century.).

the wheat plot during plowing

20th century mouldboard plow used for the wheat plot

The draft oxen used at Barrington are Shorthorns (Durham) and aged 13 and 9 years. The

`off´ ox outweighs the other ox with 550lbs (ca. 250kg). In order to even them out, the staff on site constructed a custom yoke with the staple and ring shifted over closer to William (the heavier ox), so that Polo (the weaker ox) has more leverage and thus helps keep him in line with William.

Marco and Polo, the draft oxen at Barrington Plantation

After plowing, the plot was harrowed on Oct 10th using an A-frame harrow with wooden tines (again, using oxen). The design goes in line with Mid 19th century harrows. A chain and log beam was attached to the back of the harrow to pull the harrow down and to grade the soil behind.

wheat plot during the harrowing process

Detail of the A-Frame harrow and log ued for the harrowing process

Historic 19th century harrow models