Boris undergoing repairs. The trebuchet at Our Farm needed to have its throwing arm replaced after it cracked. Courtesy Our Farm.
By Jason Emerson
Boris the trebuchet got a “heart transplant” recently at the Golub family’s Our Farm on Peth Road in Cazenovia/Manlius — and now the 10-year-old pumpkin launching machine is ready to keep on chucking fruit for a long time to come.
A trebuchet is a medieval device that was used to launch projectiles great distances to reduce walls to rubble — similar to a catapult and the precursor to later cannons.
A trebuchet consists of a frame, a main beam or throwing arm, on one end of which is a counterweight and the other end is a sling to hold a projectile, and a guide shute. When the throwing arm is winched down into launch position, the trigger is pulled, gravity sends the counterweight down to earth causing the arm to rotationally accelerate. The sling rotates upward until a point is reached where gravity no longer holds the payload — in this case a pumpkin — in the sling, and the projectile shoots into the sky.
At Golub’s Our Farm, the throwing arm is 22 feet long, the counterweight weighs 1,500 pounds and a 20-pound pumpkin gets launched 250 feet up in the air with a typical hang-time of about eight seconds.
“It’s our claim to fame; people know us for this,” said owner Jimmy Golub. “It was the best thing we ever did for our business.”
After a decade of use, Boris — so named because he is “powerful but he has a personality” and Golub has made a habit of naming animals on the farm after cartoon characters, such as Boris (Badinoff) — has thrown probably 1,000 pumpkins, Golub said. Recently, however, the throwing arm cracked from age, so Golub needed to replace it. But that’s not as easy as it sounds, since it took a backhoe to take it apart.
“What we had to do was like a heart transplant,” Golub said. “It’s the heart of the whole deal.”
Golub purchased a 22-foot beam from Chittenango Lumber to use as the replacement, but it was too wide for the frame so Ian Cornue from D.R Cornue Woodworks in Nelson shaved the sides down. Then, Golub had his friend Steve Burdin, of Don’s Auto Barn in New Woodstock, come to the farm with a backhoe and remove the original throwing arm.
Once the new arm was fitted with the necessary cables and fasteners, it was lifted back to the top of the trebuchet and ready to go.
Golub said he had to have it finished by July 23 for a wedding they were hosting at the farm (to throw watermelons), and he especially needed it ready for the July 30 Madison County Open Farm Day, in which Our Farm is participating.
“Half the experience is watching [the pumpkins] smash. It’s so cool — you’ve got to see it,” he said.
Our Farm started in 1985 by selling strawberries, then moved into corn and pumpkins — “and it just kind of grew,” said owner Jeanine Golub, Jimmy’s wife. Now, Our Farm is an award-winning family farm that offers fresh produce at a roadside stand, and fall activities such as U-pick pumpkins and a hayride, a corn maze, the pumpkin launching trebuchet, a petting zoo and horse rides.
Our Farm also hosts numerous school educational events and occasional weddings.
The farm is open to the public every weekend from Sept 25 through Nov. 1. For more information, call 655-8453 or visit our-farm.squarespace.com.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.