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Farm museum secures new stars: oxen team

Meet Jack and Jim, a pair of 3-year-old Devon oxen that will be making their debut at the Carroll County Farm Museum in Westminster this weekend.

The two oxen were donated by the museum's Hoff Barn Committee and will help demonstrate what farm life was like in the era of the museum's 1790s Hoff Memorial Barn, according to Joanne Weant, the Carroll County Farm Museum manager.

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"Having the oxen team at the museum during our busy season is a great benefit to our visitors," Weant said. "Oxen teams are relatively rare in this part of the country, so we feel very lucky to own a working team."

Although the oxen will be on site until October — they will be taken to a Carroll farm for the winter before returning in the spring — this weekend is the only scheduled demonstration so far.

Bob Jones, chairman of the museum's Hoff Barn Committee, said a good share of farm work in Carroll was done with oxen in the 1790s.

"When the original barn was built, a farmer likely used an ax, a saw and a team of oxen to haul the logs," Jones said.

Jack and Jim have been trained as a working team by a 4-H student in Falmouth, Maine, since they were 2 months old.

Jack is the nigh ox and Jim is the off ox. In an oxen team, the nigh or near ox is always on the left and walks closest to the driver when the pair is yoked together, while the off ox walks farthest from the driver on the right side of the yoke.

Bob Shirley, education chairman of the Hoff Barn Committee, said the oxen will be driven by a long stick with a pointed end, called a goad.

Trained drivers Karen Butler and Don Hoff will drive the oxen several times a week, starting with light loads, Shirley said.

"We hope to have the oxen plow and pull logs in the future," he said. "Our dream would be to get an ox cart. They'll be here enjoying people and people will be enjoying them. We're being cautious because they don't have a lot of experience."

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If you go

What: Oxen demonstration

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Where: Carroll County Farm Museum, 500 S. Center St., Westminster

When: Open Saturday, April 18, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with oxen demonstrations at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Open Sunday, April 19, from noon to 4 p.m. with an oxen demonstration at 2 p.m.

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