Bosco Family Farming

Summary of conversation with Tony Bosco, Jr.
Friday, 12/10/10, Brattleboro, VT

Anthony (Sr.) and Maria Bosco raised turkeys in the Mt. Carmel section of Hamden on a 3 acre property and needed a larger farm to expand. They purchased the Parmelee Farm in 1956. Tony (Jr.), then 21, had recently graduated from the University of Connecticut with a degree in agriculture and was the first to move to the farm. The turkey business was his parents’ and although it was a substantial operation, it was never able to fully support two generations of Boscos.

At its peak the operation produced 7,500 free range (bronze) turkeys and 6,000 capon chickens each year. The birds were raised in two batches. The turkeys were started out in the English/red barn, and chickens were raised in the pole barn. Later on white turkeys were raised. When young, the turkey’s beaks were seared (blunted), to minimize injury from pecking one another, and a right wing joint tendon was cut to prevent them from flying, although they could still get up into trees at night for safety.

Tom turkeys for the restaurant trade weighed as much as 50 pounds, but many of the hens weighed 12 to 16 pounds. At one time the Boscos also had a small breeding operation and kept between 200 and 250 breeding hens to supply fertilized bronze turkey eggs to Gozzi’s Turkey Farm in Guilford. The turkey farm was in operation from 1957 to about 1980, when “western birds” from Ohio and other states could be purchased for 29 cents a pound. Bosco turkeys had sold for 59 to 69 cents a pound.

The Boscos built the 40’ x 140’ pole barn to raise chickens and had a feed silo on a concrete pad on the west end of the building to store pelleted feed. The capons were processed at 6 months of age. Tony had a full-time job but worked as many as 40 hours on weekends when they were processing birds. About 8 people were involved catching birds and processing them. After the birds throats were slit, they were put in an automatic dunking machine which would take 2 toms and 3 hens. A cyclone device removed 99% of the feathers. Tony’s mother Maria Bosco removed the remaining pin feathers. They had an ice machine which would quickly cool the birds. Birds were packed in sealed plastic bags which were shrunk in a heated water bath. They were then frozen and packed in cardboard boxes.

Processing was a major undertaking on weekends and took place initially in a shed attached to the English/red barn, then later in the stone barn and later still in the cinder block addition to the stone barn. Initially, packaged birds were moved to rented freezer space in Wallingford every week; later a freezer was built into the north end of the stone barn. A smaller section of the freezer was a room at the northeast corner of the building which was used for initial chilling.

Water from washing the birds drained into the small pond to the southwest of the stone barn. All solid waste material (feathers and innards), were picked up every Monday by a rendering company which produced animal feed.

Tony owned a milk cow and his mother sold raw milk. He maintained “a subsistence operation” and in addition to the milk cow had sheep, pigs, goats and two beef animals which were butchered on alternating years. The animals were kept in the English/red barn which the family called the animal barn.

English/red barn:
[The main part of the red barn, razed in 2010, was in the form of a classic English barn with a central aisle with two double doors in the center of both sides of the barn.] Tony said the mix of materials in the foundation was the work of masons hired to replace the flat stones under the barn which had shifted around. He said the masons dug out a short section of the foundation and rebuilt it, then dug out and rebuilt another section. He said the barn was never moved or jacked up. The foundation and poured floor were added to it where it was standing.

The English barn was the barn in which it is said a team of Percheron horses could be harnessed and driven out with a wagon. The double doors in the north and south sides of the barn are clear in the old photographs. The Boscos built a second floor, covered with plywood, and added the large addition on the east end for turkeys. The large double doors were no longer used after the second floor was built.

Stone barn:
The stone barn superstructure (wood above the stone), had deteriorated before the Boscos purchased the property and was completely rebuilt by them in the late 1950s or early 1960s. There were originally three animal stalls or stanchions in the north end of the building. Later, they dug out the floor and installed the poured concrete floor, then the freezer. The shed on the west side of the barn, above the concrete slab, was a compressor shed.

Old barn:
The old barn which stood on the east side of the highway north of the stone barn was in such bad shape when the Boscos purchased the property that it was never used by them. It was destroyed by Hurricane Gloria in 1985. There was a huge summer beam which was about one foot square which was too heavy to move, so it was cut up. Any material which might have been saved from this building would have been stored or used in the English barn.

Pole barn:
The pole barn was built in the early 1960s. [The poles supporting the pole barn are pressure treated, four feet deep, on cement pads.] When the pole barn was no longer used for raising chickens, it was rented to a local building restorer who stored beams, woodwork and other materials in the barn. In the end, the restorer failed to pay the rent and some of the material was left behind. Most of the material in the barn in 2010 came from other sites.

The Lodges:
The McGraths, who owned the property from 1948 to 1956, told Tony “the lodges”, the building to the immediate northeast of the farmhouse, was originally a carriage house. The McGraths said they converted it into four rooms with porcelain sinks and toilets to provide rentable lodging for workers who were employed in the construction of Route 95 – The Connecticut Turnpike. Three rooms opened to the dooryard behind the house and one room opened towards Route 81. When Route 95 was completed the McGraths created a resort for vacationers called “Farm in the Dell” to provide continued rental income.

Tony has no recollection of a shed or small barn at the end of the driveway, however, after seeing the 1899 photograph of the farmhouse he suggested that the building at the end of the driveway might have been “the lodges”, which might have been moved to the location northeast of the house by the McGraths. The buildings he remembers are the farmhouse, the lodges, garage, the old barn which blew down in the hurricane, the English barn, pole barn and stone barn. He said there were lean-to sheds on the south side of the old barn and English barn. He built a small greenhouse on the south side of the English barn, and a small pen was built on the east side of the stone barn (off the cinder block addition), for turkeys

The farm pond is 10 feet deep, and was excavated when Tony and Betty built their house at 459 Route 81 in 1962 – 1963. Their house was built on ledge, and material was needed to cover the ledge. There was a federal program to help farmers build farm ponds at that time, so the pond was designed and built with federal assistance. It was designed and contracted to be 10 feet deep, and Tony is certain it is no deeper since they encountered a 2 inch spring or water seam when they were digging and pumps had to be brought in so the digging could continue. The pond was never used as a water supply because the well at the house supplied all the water they needed. The pond was stocked with trout, which did not thrive, and later with bass by neighbor Andy Kuczma. The pile of dirt to the north of the pond came from the pond.

The pond along the old highway south of the stone barn was there when the Boscos purchased the property. Tony does not know about the pile of dirt and stones south of the stone barn along the old highway.

Tony said there were two matching maples in front of the house, which Tony called husband and wife trees. He said the husband (north) tree had died. When asked why that one was the husband (and not the wife) tree, he said the husband usually died first… He has no recollection of the house having been painted any color other than red.

Tony rebuilt the kitchen and made all the cabinets by hand. He built out the walls in the upstairs to add insulation. He also built out the walls in the downstairs bathroom and kitchen and insulated those walls, and replaced all the windows upstairs and in his mother’s room and bathroom downstairs. The paneling in the living room was there when the Boscos purchased the property. The second floor door in the back of the house opened onto the small deck on the small back entry which was removed in 2009. Tony thinks it is possible that there might have been outside stairs at one time but does not know.

Tony said the cellar often had water in it and they had a sump pump running a lot of the time. He said there is an old drain, which could be original to the house, which runs from the cellar to the old highway to the northeast. He remembers his mother having to clear it out fairly often. [A similar drain exists in the Broach house northwest of the farmhouse – at 476 Route 81 – also an old Parmelee house.]

Underground utilities/etc.:
There is a black plastic pipe from the house to the pole barn, with a “T” approximately where the old barn (blown down in a hurricane), was located. The “T” took water to the English barn and stone barn. The well in front of the kitchen provided all of the water for the entire farm, and operated with only a ¾ horsepower pump. Tony described this as a “fantastic well” – probably a pounded well. He said the pipe to the barns developed a leak near where the old barn was located. There are turn-off valves underground at the bottom of vertical black plastic pipes at each of the barns [the valves for the English and pole barns have been identified on the west end of both barns].

The two inverted “U” shaped black plastic pipes on the east and north sides of the stone barn are vents for the rock layer below the concrete floor of the stone barn.

The vertical pipe which comes out of the ground on the south side of the stone barn was not there to Tony’s recollection. [This may have been a test pipe for monitoring and may have been installed during the environmental review when the Town purchased the property.]

Tony does not know of any septic tanks or leach fields anywhere on the property other than the system north of the house [which is documented in the Town building records]. The drain from the stone barn is through a black plastic “sewer” pipe to the small pond to the west of the old highway.

The vault to the northeast of the swimming pool was for the pool “mechanicals” (pump, filter, etc.). The Boscos had painted the pool once and intended to fill it but it took too long so they abandoned the idea. Tony said they didn’t have any free time to go swimming anyway.

Tony knows of no underground electrical service or wires.

When asked about possible hazards in the ground or on the property, he pointed out the well on the east side of the old highway on school property [which Greg has identified]. Tony is unaware of the possible foundation site southwest of the well.

The dump site northeast of the farmhouse (on the east side of the old highway) is the only old dump Tony is aware of. He said he’d been asked to let someone dig there for bottles.

A former neighbor to the north stole a lot of stone from the walls along the old highway, as well as the boundary stone wall on the north side of the old road which runs towards Chester. This means that this old road once had walls on both sides [indicating it was probably more than a simple farm or wood road]. Tony said after removing the old boundary wall the former neighbor had his property surveyed and tried to claim ownership of land to the remaining wall on the south side of the road. He said he had the First Selectman come out to talk to the neighbor.

Tony said the woods were selectively timbered in 1957 and again 30 years later by the Rossi Corporation, which manufactures wood pallets. He said the McGraths were going to timber the property before selling it to the Boscos but his father told them that if they did timber the land he wouldn’t buy it – then the Boscos timbered it themselves after buying the property. He said he didn’t spend a lot of time in the woods, but remembers an old mound of charcoal, several feet high and about 8 feet in diameter, which he believed was to the east of the wood road on the Pavelka Trail. [Gary Mala, Superintendent of Schools, said there were two piles of charcoal on the adjacent Pavelka property purchased for the H-K Middles School which were identified by an environmental review and removed during the building of the school.]

[Brackets = observations of the writer.]


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