The late 1940- early 1950's homesteaders were the first to break land for agricultural purposes in this part of Alaska. Some acreage was done entirely by hand which was a formidable task. Ideally, the standing spruce, birch, cottonwood, and alder would be removed in early winter before snows were deep or in the spring when days were long and the snow depth was diminishing. Then the homesteader, usually using a double headed axe, felled the tree leaving as little of the stump as possible. The limbs were removed and the trunk might be used as a building log or cut to stove length and used for heating or cooking. The roots were pulled by hand which was a horrific task since they were incredibly intertwined. All debris was piled and burned. Burning had to be carefully watched since the brush piles were usually huge. They continually needed to be pushed toward the center of the pile to keep them burning and contained. Weather also needed to be considered. Sparks from these fires, combined with wind and atmospheric conditions could play havoc on the surrounding forests. Morris Coursen in Sterling and Pappy Walker in Kenai had some earthmoving equipment and could service some requests. The top soil in the area was thin, and it took a good operator to salvage every inch. Berm piles resulted in the overburden being pushed to the center or to the side. The soil was classified as Kenai sandy loam. After the equipment was used came payment, and often land was exchanged for work. A tractor with a plow and harrow was a necessity. This photo shows a big blue tractor with tracks attached over the rear wheels pulling a stone boat, and it was available from the local soil and water conservation unit. Lancashires eventually opened up nearly twenty acres at this location. This field was used for potatoes and turning the first farrow was a rewarding sight for the aspiring farmer. Root puling was ongoing for some years.
Mile 2 Kenai Spur Highway, Ridgeway, Soldotna, Alaska
3.5 x 2 cm
KPC Anthropology Lab
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