Work The Good Earth
The sounds of clinking chains, hoofbeats and the plow-blade slicing the earth greeted visitors to the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace, Sunday afternoon.
The event was part of the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Foundation's Historical Family Garden Tour and Ice Cream Social at the ancestral home and birthplace of the Nobel and Pulitzer-prize winning author.
The beasts of burden were the chestnut brown Suffolk draft horses of Hillsboro-area farmer Sam Arbogast. Arbogast and his team gave a small crowd ademonstration plowing up a patch of ground in the southwest corner of the property.
Arbogast said he vastly prefers his hay-fueled horsepower to the petroleum-fueled alternative. With their willingness to work and gentle disposition, it was easy to understand why the farmer seems to always have a smile on his face when working his team.
As proof of the easy-going nature of the nearly one-ton animals, several people took Arbogast up on his offer to take the reins and plow a furrow or two under his guidance.
Following the plowing demonstration, the gathering turned their attention from the incredibly large horses, to the barely visible flea beetles doing damage to small plants in the Birthplace's Good Earth Garden. Droop Mountain resident Rebecca Clayton led a discussion in the garden about "Good Bugs, Bad Bugs," and shared advice for controlling the latter.
Among the more surprising tips was Clayton's recommendation of generic window cleaner as an effective and immediate remedy for the squash beetles that have recently been the bane of many Pocahontas County gardens.
In the tall grass that occupied one corner of the garden, Karline Jensen, of Jacox, and Eddie Fletcher, of Trout, demonstrated the use of the scythe—the original weed whacker. While some who watched recalled memories of hard toil with the tool as youngsters and expressed gratitude for gas-powered trimmers, Fletcher, who grew up using a scythe said he still prefers the simple, old tool to its loud, modern counterpart.
These debates and admiration of the garden's progress were shared over peach and vanilla ice cream, provided by Rene White, of Minnehaha Springs, at the conclusion of the afternoon's garden tour.
Such casual, yet informative, afternoons are becoming more frequent at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace.
"We want people to see that the Birthplace is more than just tours of a house and looking at old furniture," said birthplace foundation board member Ruth Taylor.
In recent months, the Birthplace has hosted and presented a variety of events, including a Civil War history lecture, the Pearl S. Buck Writer's Workshop with guest author Jim Minick, a blueberry growing workshop, and an annual croquet tournament. In the spring, the foundation presented the play "Welcome Home" at the Pocahontas County Opera House, portraying Buck's work as an adoption advocate.
In June 2013, the grounds of the birthplace will be a center of activity. With Hillsboro Elementary School slated for the construction of a new cafeteria, the grounds of the birthplace will be prepared to host the annual Little Levels Heritage Fair, which will include a variety of new demonstrators and living historians as part of the area's Civil War Sesquicentennial events.