Ace of Spades Digs a Farm Dump

Dumpdiggers profile: Jason Hayter
The Ace of Spades

Ex military, tattooed, father of two, Jason Hayter lives in Owen Sound Ontario, a few hours north of Toronto. When Jay isn’t looking after his kids, or working on his house, he’s digging bottles. He digs for six to eight hours a day, twice a week. Obsessed with finding old glass bottles and early Canadian pottery, Jason sometimes spends whole days at the archives learning about the history of his town and the surrounding villages for the sole purpose of finding town dumps that could yield more bottles and early pottery.

His passion helps him succeed. When Tim Braithwaite first met Ace he was not totally impressed, but Tim is pretty hard to get excited. Timbits has seen every bottle twice and labels 98% of everything on display in Ace’s photo galleries as junk – that’s Tim’s favourite word. For two years Tim has been telling Ace that everything he finds is junk. I have no doubt that Ace finds it frustrating trying to impress Tim with his run-the-mill ordinary treasures.

But all that could change real soon… If the Ace of Spades was a mining company his stock price would be climbing; last week Ace told the world about his new farm dump, and he posted some very interesting photos on a brand new discussion forum associated with this website. His proclamation includes images of a terrific farm dump that he’s digging with an equally enthusiastic chum.

In addition to this exciting turn of events, Jason informs me that he has evolved a new farm dump location strategy and is now consumed with hiking and probing old farms all over the countryside around his home – with the landowner’s permission of course.

It works like this: Jason uses Google map technology in combination with old county maps that he copies from local 1870s and 1880 alases found in the municipal archives. Ace uses the old maps to mark the buildings, and then uses Google Earth to scrutinize the terrain from the air and look for forgotten lane ways, road allowances and even footpaths away from the last garage or drive shed at the very opposite end of the property from the driveway. Jay sometimes makes his own composite maps at home and prints them out for his hikes. The maps pinpoint ‘areas of interest’ wherein he and his friend will dig test pits looking for ash or bits of pottery that might signal more buried rubbish. They are looking for really old trash, and that’s always down at least six or eight feet – but surface indicators exist to ‘mark the spot’.

This wisdom is indexed behind the Fundamentals of Finding Farm Dumps as recorded here in How to Find Old Dumps #3, farm dumps. This post explains how the early farmers dumped debris on the land out of necessity, but always close to the barn and out of sight and preferably where it could do the most good to stop soil erosion.

Although still a youngster, the Ace of Spades is fast maturing into an extremely competent Dumpdigger!

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.