Saturday, January 19, 2008

How To Find Old Dumps #3

Of the six different types of dumps mentioned in How To Find Old Dumps #1, the most common example is the farm dump, and that’s because every farm had one (and sometimes two).

Farm dumps are not good digging. Like the miserable poverty of the first settlers, these dumps are filled with hard work and offer very poor returns. Most farm dumps are small - they were used infrequently, sometimes seasonally, by just one or two families over long periods of time.

The average farm dump is born from the land owner’s natural instinct to protect his fields from soil erosion... and he had to dump his broken junk and rubbish somewhere.

In many cases, right after the original settler cleared the land, the homesteaders noticed wide areas of soil erosion at the sides of their new fields. Where tree roots had once held firm the forest floor, now small creeks made large gullys in the loose top soil of inclined planes - esp after the snow melt in the spring. To minimize the loss of precious top soil throughout the year, the farmer damed the gulch with whatever was most handy.

Unfortunately for us modern Dumpdiggers, rocks, dead animals and tree stumps were a lot handier than household garbage. And let’s remember that early farms didn’t make a lot of garbage - much of the family's rubbish was light industrial material. For example the oldest son of the farmer would almost always drive his father’s obsolete farm equipment to the site and abandon the implements where he thought they could do the most good in the generations old battle to stem the creeks.

Farm Dumps are often full of old equipment which can present a serious challenge to diggers working with shovels alone. It’s recommended that diggers carry a length of chain, and have a vehicle ready to drag out any old plows and logs that might otherwise impede productive digging.

That being said, Dumpdiggers will sometimes find a pocket of absolute joy in a farm dump. One hundred and fifty years ago, the logic was simple – the farmer waited until he had a wagon load of rubbish like tobacco tins, empty grease cans, horse liniment bottles, and maybe some worn out leather harnesses and broken tools. This junk had been taking up space in his barn. When a calf got sick (and needed to be separated from the herd), or when the farm family got a new tractor, or when the son took over from his father, there was a binge cleaning – a wagon load of not so easily burned trash was dumped somewhere on the farm.

The goody veins found in farm dumps have been known to contain assorted ointments and cream tins, grease cans, horse liniment bottles and other assorted medicines, milks, sodas, beer and whiskey bottles, and broken tools – unfortunately these treasures are often protected by heavy iron farm implements, metal spools, all manner of wire, old cars, rocks, and more rocks.

How To Find The Farm Dump?
When probing for a farm dump, search the most obvious inclines near the back of the barn first. If there's a water course at the base of an inclined field, but out of sight from the road, then there is probably a dump in the vicinity. Most often the best dump is the closest, most convenient , and somewhere along 'a wagon friendly route' where a small ravine threatens the crops.

Freshly plowed fields – the secret of using aerial photos to detail historic farms sites.

Finding the farm dump is harder when the farm itself has entirely disappeared, but freshly plowed fields will still show the fence rows and the wagon trails along with the foundations of the house and barn.


James mcneil said...

was looking for old tin cans and any debree have some old bottles
James Mcneil.

676 2638

Anonymous said...

We just purchased 5 acres of land ( part of an old farm ..that is no longer there..I have found the dumping ground..and it is HUGE..I have already found 4 bike frames...several pair of old leather shoes..medicine bottles and I can not wait to start digging more.. Found an old cast iron fence hinge ( beauty) and so much OLD grease can but it was so worn that it was collapsed and all that is left is a smigen of a word..still could make a nice home decor item out of it I recon..and maybe I shall..