MONDAY

May 20, 2024

Hayin’ Season

Mmmmm, that smell! That sweet, dry grass smell! Whenever I catch a whiff of it… I need to breathe it deeply – into me. They’re haying at the Gallagher Ranch as I drive by. I open the car window wide and smile. My mind drifts off to childhood memories and I’m back on our farm on Martha’s Vineyard, in haying season.

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TUESDAY

May 21, 2024

The Amish Community in Daviess County, Indiana – Book Review

“It is likely we English probably cannot understand the depth of bonds that are formed when children not only work side by side with their parents but live side by side after they grow up and get married. In addition it is routine to volunteer to work in other’s fields to share the heavy workload. Once when I was with a threshing crew, I followed the wagons to pick up the bundles of spelt… I couldn’t help but notice the boys who were working were having a wonderful time. They worked there all day and enjoyed the whole experience… The social fabric of the community is as strong as the work ethic fabric.”

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WEDNESDAY

May 22, 2024

How and Why I Finally Settled on Using Horses
from

How and Why I Finally Settled on Using Horses

I can’t say specifically when the bug bit me, but it did. I had an opportunity to work for someone who offered to pay me in draft horses. Like, two draft Percheron mares to be specific. I thought about it, and took the deal. After my work was completed, my wife and I were the proud owners of two draft animals. And then all of a sudden all the horse articles became so important and pertinent! It was like a light turning on!

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THURSDAY

May 16, 2024

Backyard or Small Flock Poultry Keeping

The backyard flock serves an important economic function. It is a means of producing at comparatively low cost one of the most healthful and appetizing groups of food – eggs and poultry meat. The small flock can be utilized to convert much of the table waste such as meat, fresh vegetable waste such as kale and cabbage leaves, boiled potatoes, and bread into a valuable product. In addition, keeping a small flock of chickens has definite recreational advantages, for it is interesting and educational to care for baby chicks, growing chickens and laying hens. The manure and litter produced is a valuable fertilizer for lawns, gardens, and many shrubs.

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FRIDAY

May 17, 2024

Building a Roadside Market

Although roadside marketing offers an excellent sales outlet, advance planning is necessary for a successful operation. Such factors as the number of potential customers passing by the stand, available display and parking space, and nearness to water and electricity should be considered before building a roadside market. If these items are available or nearby, a roadside market is an excellent way to sell homegrown produce.

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Summer Lizzard Days Sale!


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Explore Small Farmer's Journal: Crops & Soil

Hickory Nut

Hickory-Nut

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Notwithstanding the high esteem in which the nuts of several species of Hickory have been held since the settlement of America, but little progress has been made in their domestication and improvement. Out of the 9 or 10 species recognized by botanists, not more than 3 or 4 have been found sufficiently promising from an economic standpoint to justify conspicuous effort at amelioration. Of these the Pecan stands easily first, followed in order of apparent value by the Shagbark, the Shellbark and the Pignut.

Cultivating Questions Managing Clay Soils

Cultivating Questions: Managing Clay Soils

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The structural management of a clay soil is not such a simple problem as that of sandy one. In clays and similar soils of temperate regions the potential plasticity and cohesion are always high because of the presence of large amounts of colloidal clay. When such a soil is tilled when wet, its pore space becomes much reduced, it becomes practically impervious to air and water, and it is said to be puddled. When a soil in this condition dries, it usually becomes hard and dense. The tillage of clay soils must be carefully timed. If plowed too wet, the structural aggregates are broken down, and an unfavorable structure results. On the other hand, if plowed too dry, great clods are turned up which are difficult to work into a good seedbed.

Saving Seed for a Seed Company

Saving Seed for a Seed Company

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Ever wonder where all that seed comes from when you place your midwinter seed orders? Many seed companies (as in retail seed catalogs) buy at least some of the seed they offer from commercial seed growers who have a highly mechanized operation. This allows us to have inexpensive seed that is widely available. A lot of these catalogs also contract small farm growers to provide those hard-to-find specialty seeds we all love. There are also seed companies who do all their own grow-outs for the seed they offer. All these companies will also run seed trials to test the qualities of new varieties they want to offer.

How Do You Know Its Spring Maple Syrup

How Do You Know It’s Spring? Maple Syrup!

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Once upon a time, I asked my country cousin, Murray Clapp, “Why do you make maple syrup?” He shrugged and said positively, “How would you know it’s spring if you didn’t make maple syrup?” Growing up in Western Massachusetts I always new it was spring when my parents took my sisters and me to the Hilltowns to breathe the maple scented air, watch the sugaring process and taste the unique, sweet syrup.

How to Grow Harvest and Store Sweet Potatoes

How to Grow, Harvest and Store Sweet Potatoes

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Dig sweet potatoes carefully as their skin is thin and they will bruise easily. It is best to wear gloves when handling them. Do not leave the roots exposed to direct sunlight with temperatures above 90 degrees F. for over 30 minutes as they will sun-scald and be more susceptible to storage rots.

The Soil A Gift from Nature

The Soil: A Gift from Nature

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Some 2000 years ago a handful of Roman writers, themselves skillful farmers, championed the soil as the foundation of a farm’s success. This insight remains true today and has guided my own approach to the soil. From the outset I have followed the Roman precepts of working with nature, not against it. This insight cannot be more urgent than today, when all of us are struggling with finite resources.

Onion Culture

Onion Culture

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The onion is one of the important market-garden and truck crops in the United States and is very generally grown in home gardens. It thrives best on alluvial and drained muck soils under a temperate climate, but may be grown under a very wide range of soil and climate conditions. Onions are grown to perfection on the alluvial soils of the Nile River Valley in Egypt, under the sea breezes of the South Sea Islands, on the delta lands along the sea coast, on sandy uplands, in the arid regions under irrigation, and on reclaimed swamp lands. There is perhaps no extensive area in the United States or its possessions where the onion, in one or more of its forms cannot be successfully grown, at least for home and local use.

Color as an Indication of the Picking Maturity of Fruits and Vegetables

Color as an Indication of Picking Maturity

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Fruit color is a factor intimately associated with fruit maturity. The small child uninstructed in the arts is not attracted to the cherry tree until the fruits are colored, and he soon learns from experience to choose the fruits that are sweetest by his sense of color values associated with the perception of taste.

Cultivating Questions Rotation Cover Cropping for the Small Fruit Orchard

Cultivating Questions: Rotational Cover Cropping in the Small Fruit Orchard

Cane fruit are among the most moisture demanding crops in the market garden. So, if irrigation is not available, it is essential that the cover crops grown between the rows do not compete with the berries for moisture. For example, a cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas planted right after the harvest of summer bearing raspberries would not compete with the cane fruit during the main growth and fruiting period.

Whered the Idea come from for Graftage

Where’d the Idea come from for Graftage?

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Grafting is one of the oldest of the arts of plant-craft. It is probable that the real art of grafting was held more or less as a professional or class secret in the ancient world, for the writers seem to have only the vaguest notion of its possibilities and limitations.

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Cultivating Questions: Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

Promising New Fruits

Promising New Fruits

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One hundred and ten years ago serious research and plant development were the norm, with great rewards possible from successful new planting varieties. The USDA yearbooks published a series of articles showcasing what they called “Promising New Fruits.” If any of these survive today they likely might be seen as heirloom varieties. – SFJ

Weeds and their Control

Weeds and their Control

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The solution to the weed problem is intimately connected with the adoption of a better system of farming. A knowledge of the life habits of your worst weeds, plus careful planning and neighborhood cooperation, then, are the important factors in weed control. Planting only clean seed, summer-fallowing where practicable and doing it thoroughly, adopting a cropping system that will discourage the growth of perennials, and the persistent use of the proper types of cultivating machinery — all will help you in the task of eradication.

Cultivating Questions Farm Tour Follow-Up

Cultivating Questions: Farm Tour Follow-Up

In this column we finish cultivating a selection of questions from the 2012 farm tours. We also respond to a question from a group of forty extension agents who toured the bio-extensive market garden in 2010. We thought their concern about managing horse manure in the vegetable fields was timely to address given the recent release of the FDA’s proposed Produce Safety Rule.

From Horse Manure to Cash

From Horse Manure to Cash

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Of all things folks might do without when they’re short of cash, mushrooms might top my list. Yet Dad chose to grow mushrooms during The Great Depression. He adapted three limestone caves for mushroom farming and presided over mushrooms with the agility and savvy of a ringmaster in a three-ring circus. He cleaned and aired one cave and harvested and marketed from another while prepping the third for a new crop.

Make Your Own Maple Syrup

Make Your Own Maple Syrup

When you reach for a bottle or jug of maple syrup there’s nothing quite like the price tag attached to it to make you think twice. It is worth it, no doubt, in more than one way. But if you have maples in your neck of the woods there is no reason why you can’t make it yourself. It is always best to start small with a process that is easy for you to handle and increase each year as you gain experience and confidence. There are also lots of great books out there with guidelines, facts and information of all kinds. Just don’t let yourself become overwhelmed with it. Sometimes more information isn’t more, it’s too much.

Alfalfa and Alfalfa Seed Production on the Small Farm

Alfalfa and Alfalfa Seed Production on the Small Farm

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The need for alfalfa (or other legume hay) becomes obvious to any farmer who is intent on lowering his input costs while maintaining maximum production from his land and livestock. Yet often overlooked is the opportunity to produce a valuable seed crop as an alternative cash crop. Production of alfalfa for forage and for seed go hand in hand and is easily accomplished on the small farm.

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

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If you were visiting Earth from some other planet and had to describe its inhabitants upon your return, you might say that the average person eats rice, and grows it as well, usually on a small scale. You’d be accurately describing the habits of over a quarter of the world’s population. Rice has a special story with an exciting chapter now unfolding in the northeast USA among a small but growing group of farmers and growers.

Peach

Peach

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The Peach is a showy tree when in bloom. There are double-flowered varieties, which are as handsome as the dwarf flowering almond, and they are more showy because of the greater size of the tree. The flowers of the Peach are naturally variable in both size and color. Peach-growers are aware that there are small-flowered and large-flowered varieties. The character of the flower is as characteristic of the variety as size or color of fruit is.

Some Common Orchard Questions

Some Common Orchard Questions

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Fruit trees should always be planted in a sunny location. Full sun encourages vigorous growth, while discouraging fungal disease. A minimum of six hours of sun is requisite. Avoid planting near the edge of a woods, which may seem sunny, but allows little direct light. Also, choose a site that has good, but not excessive, air flow. Upland slopes that run perpendicular to prevailing winds are the ideal. Valleys often have troublesome frost pockets; hilltops expose trees to temperature extremes and drying winds.

Oregon Truffle Industry is Beginning to Bear Fruit

Oregon Truffle Industry is Beginning to Bear Fruit

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It’s been more than 30 years since the dean of American cooking blessed the Oregon truffle. Yet, still it gets no respect. In 1977, James Beard was part of a symposium called “Mushrooms and Man” in his native Oregon. In front of scientists and mycology (mushroom) experts from across the country, the culinary icon declared Oregon truffles to be the equal of their expensive, exquisite European cousins – the ones that can sell for up to $2,000 a pound. State fungus cognoscenti mark Beard’s statement as the beginning of Oregon’s commercial truffle industry. In the succeeding decades, however, it’s had trouble taking root.

As Lovely as a Tree

As Lovely as a Tree

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The choice of what trees to plant, as well as how many and where, will depend on what your objectives and interests are. Broadly speaking, tree plantings may be divided into five categories: forests, orchards, windbreaks, wildlife habitat, and shade. While each type of planting may be different from the rest, there is often a great deal of overlap between them, so one planting may serve several purposes.

Cultivating Questions No-till No-herbicide Planting of Spring Vegetables Using Low Residue Winter-killed Cover Crops

Cultivating Questions: No-till, No-herbicide Planting of Spring Vegetables Using Low Residue Winter-killed Cover Crops

Ray Weil and Natalie Lounsbury’s pioneering work with forage radishes at the University of Maryland could provide a solution to the vegetable grower’s winter cover crop dilemma. When planted in August, forage radishes suppress winter weeds and scavenge left-over nitrogen keeping nutrients out of groundwater. Succulent radish tissue melts away quickly when the ground thaws leaving dark soil to absorb spring warmth and little residue to interfere with planting equipment. Quickly decomposing radishes might also release nitrogen when early vegetables need it.

No-Till Vegetable System at Tobacco Road Farm

Cultivating Questions: No-Till Vegetable System at Tobacco Road Farm

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Over the last twenty plus years of intensive vegetable growing at Tobacco Road Farm in Lebanon, CT, we have constantly sought ways to improve the health and vitality of our crops and soils. Much of the land grows vegetable crops year round so the intensity of production demands very careful soil care. Over the last several years a system was developed on the farm which has proven to be quite successful. The various methods are still being fine tuned; but with a high level of success and it seems appropriate to share what has been done.

Mower Modifications for Cover Crop Cocktails

Mower Modifications for Cover Crop Cocktails

We have a double standard for planting density in the bio-extensive market garden. We plant all the vegetables in widely spaced rows to insure plenty of moisture, fertility and air circulation for each plant. For the cover crops in the fallow lands, we take just the opposite approach, seeding at a high density to quickly provide ground cover, weed suppression, and biomass. One reason we have been slow to adopt cover crop cocktails is the very low recommended seeding rate — sometimes as little as 30 lbs per acre — in order to give all of the different species in these diverse mixes lots of room to grow. The mental shift to planting cover crops at a density comparable to our widely spaced vegetables has not come easily.

Reconstruction by Way of the Soil Part 4

Reconstruction by Way of the Soil Part 4

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The word primitive is defined by Annandale’s Concise Dictionary as ‘characterized by the simplicity of the old times.’ The lexicographer, with this definition, hits off with happy ease an exact description of the primitive peoples of this chapter and of the two that follow it. ‘The simplicity of old times’ just fits, for the lexicographer informs us under the word ‘simple’ that it derives ‘from a root meaning one or unity.’ We can now paraphrase our heading of Primitive Farmers, as Farmers characterized by unity. We must do this quickly before going on to read other definitions of ‘simple,’ for we shall find that one of them is ‘easily intelligible,’ and farmers characterized by unity are not a bit easily understood by modern peoples. It is because they have so rarely been understood that so many troubles have come to them from the moderns.

Gilliflower, Quackenbush and Egg

Gilliflower, Quackenbush & Egg

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Shakespearean Law Firm or 70s Progressive Rock Band? Neither, these are apples and plums! The plates on these pages are from a gift to the Journal archives by good friend William Reynolds.

The Love-Apple Days

The Love-Apple Days

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When Clovis Gold passed away not quite two years ago at the age of 93, he was perhaps the last of a vanished ilk: the tomato growers of Union City and Hurley, Missouri. For half a century this industry was a mainstay of these communities in addition to many other towns. Although some Ozark settlers in antebellum times believed that tomatoes were poison, this notion was about gone by 1870. Perhaps the privations of the war, and the lawless days of Reconstruction, made people desperate enough to eat those “ornamental” fruits… and find them delicious!

Crops for those Unfarmable Spaces

Crops for Those “Unfarmable” Spaces

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Whether located in a suburban setting, or a rural one with limited available acreage, small farmers are always facing a perennial problem – not enough room. However, right under a small farmer’s nose, on almost every city lot or nook and cranny of an oddly shaped rural parcel, there’s a home for some fruit or vegetable. Maybe that sliver of ground is only a few square feet, has limited sun, is in a ditch or against a wall or fence, but some certain garden plant or animal would love to call it home.

Syrup From Oregons Big-Leaf Maple

Syrup From Oregon’s Big Leaf Maple

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There is a great potential in establishment of a seasonal “sugarbush” industry for small farmers of the northwestern states, particularly western Oregon and Washington. Five syrup producing species of maples are found mainly east of the Rocky Mountains. The Box Elder and the Big-leaf Maple are the only syrup producing maples of the Pacific Northwest. Properly made syrup from these two western maples is indistinguishable from the syrup of maples of the midwestern and northeastern states.

The Farm Windbreak

The Farm Windbreak

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Some windbreaks have failed because of the wrong selection of trees or because of the very location of the break. The full benefits of other windbreaks have been delayed many years, although a moderate amount of cultivation and fertilization would have made them serviceable much earlier. There is more to windbreak planting than just manual labor, and that is a carefully made plan which must precede the setting out of the trees.

The Harvest of Grain

The Harvest of Grain

When you watch a field of wheat turn from green to golden and wave lightly in the wind, see the shocks lined up in rows as you pass by on the road, watch a load of grain auger into the grain wagon, and then see the cycle begin again. It is beautiful and worth it all.

Making Sorghum Molasses

Making Sorghum Molasses

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Growing sorghum doesn’t take much work, according to Buhrman. You plant it in the spring, work it a couple of times and that’s about all that’s required until late in the growing season. That is when the work begins. Before it is cut, all the stalks have to be “bladed” – the leaves removed from the stalks. It’s then cut, then the tassles are cut off, and the stalks are fed through a crusher. The crusher forces the juices out of the plant. The sorghum juice is then boiled in a vat for four to five hours until nothing is left but the syrup.

Unfermented Grape Juice

Unfermented Grape Juice

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Two general methods are employed in preparing pasteurized grape juice; these are known as the hot-press method, which is the older, and the cold-press method, which is simpler and more generally applicable. The essential difference between the two methods is indicated by the terms employed to designate them. In the hot-press method the crushed fruit is heated and the juice removed by pressing the fruit while hot; in the cold-press method no heat is employed when extracting the juice. By the cold-press method clear, brilliant juices are obtained, while the use of the hot-press method secures a somewhat larger yield of dark, more or less viscid juice.

Frost

Frost

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How many times has the gardener, even the most seasoned of gardeners, been coaxed and tempted by the warm spring sun and breezes to chance the frosts and plant too early? Slightly crazed by cabin fever and beautiful seed catalogs, these Sirens have waylaid many a gardener who knows better into a garden of frosted tomato and pepper plants.

Fruits Of My Labor

Fruits Of My Labor

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After talking to other Christmas tree farmers, who were encouraging, and reading up on planting the trees, I began a plan for a small Christmas tree farm. In February of last year, Jim and I and our work horse, Snip, ploughed up and disked an area to the east of our house. My “field of dreams” became my “field of screams” as rocks and boulders boiled up out of the earth. Only slightly daunted, I tackled the rocks. I raked, scooped, picked and dumped them for days. When the little plot was relatively clear, the fun began. I untied the strings and opened the brown paper bundles that contained my Douglas and Noble tree seedlings, and inhaled pure Christmas, pure magic!

Strawberries

Strawberries

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The Strawberry is an herbaceous perennial. It naturally propagates itself by means of runners that form chiefly after the blooming season. These runner plants, either transplanted or allowed to remain where they form, will bear the following year. Usually the plants will continue to bear for five or six years, but the first and second crops are generally the best. It is therefore the custom to plow up Strawberry beds after they have borne from one to three crops. The better the land and the more intensive the cultivation, the shorter the rotation. In market-gardening areas and in some of the very best Strawberry regions, the plants are allowed to fruit but once. The plants therefore occupy the land only one year and the crop works into schemes of short rotation cropping.

The Little Pruning Book

The Little Pruning Book

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The gardener’s work, in almost every thing he does, is to co-operate with Nature. To the extent he learns how to do this, his efforts will be rewarded by success. His problem really is to discover the things he can do that will actually be working with nature, and not counter to her way of doing things. The “improving on nature” which one hears much about is in reality merely lending her a helping hand, by following the tips she herself gives. When we interpret these tips correctly and are guided accordingly, it means successful gardening.

Organic No-Till Garlic

Organic No-Till Garlic

Reflected by decades of Anne and Eric’s rich brocade of inquiry into the orchestration of a top soil’s happy growth to astounding balance and fertility; in this short, deliberate, carefully crafted film of their legendary garden and gardening, the Nordell’s of Pennsylvania offer up to anyone anywhere on this sacred, fragile, and hungry planet an illuminating action view of one small example of how farming might be holistically and practically accomplished to the benefit of the entirety of biological life.

Mowing Triticale on Singing Horse Ranch

Mowing Triticale on Singing Horse Ranch

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This summer, Kristi Gilman-Miller took half a hundred photos of partner Ed Joseph and I using McCormick-Deering #9 mowers to cut down Triticale grass mix hay. The crop would have been much better if we hadn’t been visited night-time by as many as 300 Elk looking for water and green feed. We planted in seven acre lands a quarter of a mile wide as we were recording variables in plantings for our research into the best future crop rotations. We were very impressed by the Triticale, a cross between Rye and Wheat, which makes a grain hay the cattle and horses love.

Picking Beans

Picking Beans

Beans are picked by hand. Payment is usually at a given rate per pound or basket. A worker’s earnings depend on the quantity of beans picked. In a given field, the quantity of beans a worker picks depends mostly on two things: How you do the work, and, how steadily you work. Skill in doing the work is acquired through practice of good methods. The things that a skilled picker does to make every move count are the following:

Gardening 101

Gardening 101 – or – Surviving the Debt Crisis Collapse

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My gardening career extends from the late 40s to the present. I am not a certified master gardener who has achieved acclaim and fame. Vegetable production has been fairly substantial with a scope of hundreds of jars canned, quarts frozen, and bushels dried almost every year. Eighty-five percent of the food we eat is produced on our farm and in our gardens. As we have worked in the agrarian life style, we have learned many lessons which have come in the form of failure – missed expectation. Perhaps some of our experiences will help you.

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

Cultivating Questions the Well-Being of Small Farmers

Cultivating Questions: the Well-Being of Small Farmers

The Gregson’s question about sustaining the health and well-being of farmers kind of hit home as I had to learn how to contend with a chronic digestive disorder when we first started farming here. While this minor handicap definitely limited our farming efforts, it also helped us to plan some slack into our operation right from the beginning. It forced us to focus our energy where it would be most effective and encouraged us to rely more on observation and management than muscle to get the job done – lessons we might not have otherwise learned until later in life. As a result, we may have been slower than most in bringing the market garden into full production, but our limitations, in a round about way, may have encouraged us to bring some biological efficiencies into play which have made the work easier and more rewarding in the long run.

Charcoal

Charcoal

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Care should be taken that the charcoal be well pulverized, for it has been ascertained that during the process of burning the wood to get it, the openings of the pores become closed by a vitreous matter – probably caused by the fire melting the silicate of potash – and thus deprive it of the power of absorbing gases. By crushing it other openings are made, which unless the charcoal is again subjected to fire, will not become closed.

The Functions and Value of Soil Bacteria

The Functions and Value of Soil Bacteria

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By proper methods of tillage, crop rotation, or green manuring, and even by the application of fertilizers, the interaction between prevailing soil conditions and biological phenomena may be modified so as to promote the activity of desirable micro-organisms and retard the development of the undesirable ones.

Carrots and Beets The Roots of Our Garden

Carrots & Beets – The Roots of Our Garden

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Carrots and beets are some of the vegetables that are easy to kill with kindness. They’re little gluttons for space and nutrients, and must be handled with an iron fist to make them grow straight and strong. Give the buggers no slack at all! Your motto should be – “If in doubt, yank it out!” I pinch out a finger full (maybe 3/4” wide) and skip a finger width. Pinch and skip, pinch and skip, working with existing gaps and rooting out particularly thick clumps.

Sugaring the Old Time Way

Sugaring the Old Time Way

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In the Spring of 1997 we got a notion to do a little syrup making. We had done a little sugaring with our neighbor back in 1992 or 1993, can’t remember. But anyway, we used a cast-iron kettle over a fire. Needless to say it was slow. So when 1997 came on the scene, we figured it was about time to have some more of that tasty homemade stuff, so we made us a little nicer setup.