June 7, 2021
Whether picking flowers from a tulip tree in Kentucky or swimming in a muddy Texas pond, children can always find something to do in the country. It is January. This time of year with fair weather and sunny days in Texas (no snow in the south!), my brother disked the garden area for planting. Yesterday the younger children set out half a crate of onions, which grow well here. Joshua and Bethanie laid out the rows and Josiah pitchforked manure into the galvanized tub in the small wagon. The little ones helped. Hillarie and Gideon planting while Samuel filled the tub with water and poured manure-tea on the newly set onions. I helped Samuel to speed the job along. He did a very good job even if he is a little fellow.
June 8, 2021
June 9, 2021
Figs have been grown on the Pacific coast for much more than a century. Trees were probably at Loreto Mission, Lower California, before 1710, and reached the Alta California Missions soon after their establishment. Vancouver found Fig trees at Santa Clara in 1792. At the present time the Fig is cultivated in almost all parts of the state of California. The tree stands a range of temperature of from 18 degrees to 120 degrees Fahr., and the only portions of California really unsuited to its growth are certain cold or foggy districts. In the drier parts of the state it needs irrigation, as do other fruit trees. Some of the old Fig trees in California are of immense size. It is not uncommon to see trees with trunks of more than 2 feet in diameter. One tree in Stanislaus county is 60 feet in height, covers a circle 70 feet across, and has a trunk that girths 9 feet.
June 10, 2021
When a team is properly hitched to a tongue and positioned so there is a little tension on the traces, the holdback system (pole strap, quarter straps, and breeching) will contact the horse throughout their length, but not be snug. If this system is adjusted too loosely, which is quite common, the quarter straps will hang down away from the belly. Before considering other factors be sure the breeching is not adjusted too low – very common. It’s difficult to get the quarter straps up against the flank and belly if the breeching is not up where it belongs. Slack quarter straps can be raised by hooking the trace chains shorter at the single trees. However, be certain that doing so leaves enough distance between the horses hind legs and the single trees so that the legs don’t hit the single trees under any circumstances.
June 11, 2021
Jim’s sculpture is preserving a nearly bygone era of family farming. When he looks at an old, worn, pitted piece of metal he thinks of its history: the ox yoke ring, a plow blade, hay rake, buggy spring. He feels emotion for them and it shows in his work. He uses lots of shovels. He says, “Years ago, if the handle broke on a shovel, the farmer made a new handle. Nowadays, most folks toss the shovel and buy all new. A cheap one for 7 or 8 dollars. Once every farmer had to be able to fix whatever broke down, especially during the Depression. They would use whatever was handy like bale hay wire. My favorite place to get metal is from a farmer who lived through the Depression. They didn’t throw anything away. It’s a treasure trove of stuff. Even if it’s broken. I love to hear the history of the piece and the animals.
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November 31st: Beautiful out. Horses are going now. Just for the record, I pulled some logs in for firewood yesterday and that calmed them down a bit. Today, early, I built a stone boat and they pulled it, no problem. So we went up to the shamrock meadow and got an 800 pound bale of hay, which we pulled onto the stone boat with the horses, then came home. Real fun, feeding with the horses. So now we’re in gear to do it. Just about! Not feeding with the sleigh yet.
We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.
Eating invasive vegetation that compete for the scant water supply and inhibit the growth of grass, goats are a biblical-age solution to a modern-day scourge. To restore the land, 1,300 goats mimic the buffalo herds that once grazed the region – breaking the soil’s crust, stomping decadent grasses, knocking over dead trees, fertilizing with their droppings and embedding seeds. And, all the while, the goats voraciously defoliate and ultimately kill the water-guzzling Tamarisk.
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.
The students learned to skid in an open field to gain confidence in handling the horses. No one had handled draft horses previously. To start with, when a horse turned his head, the students would jump back. The students learned to drive first, then skid a log in the open. Stakes were set up in different patterns for them to skid a log through. Then they were taken into the bush to learn skidding. One student said, “You don’t expect us to skid a log in there do you?” Ole asked him where he thought he would be skidding logs from. This student became one of the best skidders.
The accumulation of unsalable wool from the production of lamb for meat increases overall storage needs and overhead costs. The reason many wool growers store this kempy wool is simple; there is no existing market for kempy wool, as it has no textile value, and thus is considered an agricultural waste. During the 2010 growing season the price of kempy wool was seven cents per pound. At Turner Farm, Bonnie Mitsui and Melinda O’Briant, Garden Manager, resolved to address the wool storage problem by using the wool as a mulch in vegetable production.
When Andy Neufarth came to work for us twenty-five years ago, we knew we were getting a good man, but we didn’t know we were getting the moon, too. From that day until he retired, almost everything here on the farm from planting to repairing roofs was done according to the phases of the moon and the signs of the zodiac. Andy offered no sympathy when jobs we’d hurried him into doing at the wrong time – like the fence posts that the frost heaved out of the ground – didn’t work out. “Done it in the wrong sign,” he’d say. “Set ‘em right and they’d’ve stayed down.”
This old information is all about using larger teams and saving on the human labor factor. These ideas kept on growing and by the 1940’s Wayne Dinsmore and the original Horse and Mule Association of America produced detailed pamphlets and lots of propaganda trying to sell the idea of big hitches of from 6 to 30 head for large scale field work. The basic premise of larger units to save labor jumped the creek after WWII and was used to justify getting rid of those same draft animals and replacing them with tractors.
A couple of years back I spent a couple of days logging with Donnie Middaugh. Since the log job was closer to my house than his, we used my horses to skid the job. Roy and Libby was the team. This team had skidded more timber than most Timberjack 230’s will ever hook onto, but at this point in their lives, they hadn’t skidded logs in a couple of years. I was pulling the team at horse pulls and kept them hard with occasional farm work, but mostly pulling an exercise sled to keep in shape for the pulls.
Let’s assume the beginning ‘farmer’ has absolutely nothing. Nothing but a will to farm and a reasonably normal body. The very first thing you must do is search out a farmer, preferably a farmer who farms close to the way that you want to farm. You must watch him, ask questions, do as you are told and learn everything you can. Very shortly you will be on your own and you will find that the more you learn now, the better you will be when you have only yourself to rely on.
At the same time that U.S. commercial beekeeping is circling down in a death spiral, hobby beekeeping is booming and almost every beekeeping club in the country has at least twice as many members as it did twenty years ago. What this means is that if you are fortunate enough to live in a place with relatively clean and varied sources of pollen and nectar, the potential for a successful family-sized commercial apiary is better now than it has been for many decades.
Haying season started in early June and just seemed to last all summer in the 1940s and 1950s on the Scheckel farm outside Seneca in the heart of Crawford County. In between first crop and second crop, we cut and shocked oats. After the second crop of hay, threshing was done. After threshing, we often put up a third crop of hay. There was no hay baler on the Scheckel farm. Hay was cut with a No. 9 McCormick-Deering Enclosed Steel Gear Mower with a five-foot sickle and pulled by two horses. Let it cure for a few days, then bring in the siderake to windrow the hay, then the hay loader pulled behind a hay wagon. It was hard, dirty, back breaking work, often in hot and humid weather.
Why horses? We are knee deep in threshing oats and rye when I find after lunch that the tractor won’t start. Press the ignition switch — nothing; not even a click. I cancel the day’s threshing and drive thirty miles to the tractor store and pick up a genuine-after-market IH part. Come home, put in the new ignition switch and still nothing. When we need the horses they start right up, without complaint — every time.
Naturally there is great variation in manure according to the animals it is made by, the feeding and bedding material, and the manner in which it is kept. Different analyses naturally shows different results and the tables here given serve only as a guide or index to the various kinds. The manure heap, by the way, is no place for old tin cans, bottles, glass, and other similar waste material.
Many sustainable growers subscribe to the philosophy of “feed the soil, not the plant.” Our whole farm approach to weed management follows the same line of thinking – we call it, “weed the soil, not the crop.” Instead of relying on the cultivator or the hoe to save the crop from the weeds, we use cultural practices, including cover cropping, bare fallow periods, rotation and shallow tillage, to reduce the overall weed pressure in the soil. One result of this proactive strategy is we no longer depend on the cultivator or the hoe to grow certified organic produce. “Weeding the soil” has also enabled us to use reduced tillage and living mulches without compromising weed management.
Chevre is a lovely thing. It’s delicious, can be fluffy, spreadable, buttery, a little tangy and a perfect companion to a dollop of honey and a hunk of crusty bread. It’s also what people think of as goat cheese. Every time I do a tasting, I realize how many folks aren’t really acquainted yet with the beauty of aged and bloomy-rind goat cheeses. So of course I like to add in a lovely Crottin or Valencay inspired cheese to the mix. These goat cheeses are generally aged about 2-3 weeks and showcase a natural mold rind that is edible. These are my favorite of goat cheeses. They are also the least familiar.
The pigeon industry has two branches; the breeding of squabs for market, and the raising of breeding stock for sale. The first brings the surest and quickest returns, squabs being safely turned into cash at 4 weeks of age. The second requires more room for raising the young, also more care, more feed, more cleaning of the houses, more advertising, and often involves more losses; but it offers freedom from the unpleasant weekly task of killing and dressing, and better prices for stock sold, if of good quality.
The woods are full of horses. A team of Suffolks pulls up to the landing with a load of logs, as a team of Percherons leaves with an empty scoot. Soft bells announce the arrival of a single Belgian, twitching out another log to be bucked into 8-foot lengths and forwarded to the pulp yard. In moments when the chainsaws fall silent, leaving only the sound of bells and hooves and the calls of the teamsters, this could be a forest scene from a hundred years ago.
They say to preserve them properly, seeds should be kept in a cool, dark place in a sealed, dry container. Yet the circumstances under which seeds in a natural environment store themselves (so to speak) seem so far from ideal, that it’s a wonder plants manage to reproduce at all. But any gardener knows that plants not only manage to reproduce, they excel at it. Who hasn’t thrown a giant squash into the compost heap in the fall only to see some mystery squash growing there the next summer?
Icelandic sheep belong to the group of sheep known as the Northern European Short-tails, a group of relatively primitive sheep that have in common, as you’d expect, their short tails that never need to be docked, and their origin in countries and regions of northern Europe, including Iceland, the Baltic states, the Faroe Islands, Finland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, Shetland and south through Scotland. The sheep of Iceland were brought to the island by the Vikings in the 8th – 9th century. There they make up a substantial percentage of the agricultural output of the country, and are a commercial production breed.
It’s fascinating to learn how the technology of sugaring is always adapting and reforming the methods and practices from over 200 years ago. However, given all the technological advancements and re-workings, the process is pretty much the same regardless of the industry’s technology. You cut into a sugar maple, put some sort of collection vessel beneath it, and when the warm days and cool nights in late February and early March arrive, the sap flows. You collect, you extract water and this incredible natural ingredient, preserved by its own sugar content, is ready for you to eat.
I have no doubt that when the time comes we are going to need to know how to make hay this way, whether it be this Proctor Tripod method, or the French rack method illustrated in André Voisin’s great book “Grass Productivity” or the Scandinavian “Swedish Rider” method of tightly strung wire “fences” for hay to dry on. Each method has its pros and cons, and it’s my belief that the “Swedish Riders” is the easiest to learn and the Proctor Method may be the most difficult.
“Isn’t it nice?” I offer to my supper companions, “to see our beautiful horses right while we’re eating? I feel like I’m on a Kentucky horse farm, with rolling bluegrass vistas.” I sweep my arm dramatically towards the view, the rigged up electric fence, the lawn straggling down to the pond, the three horses, one of whom is relieving herself at the moment. “Oh, huh,” he answers. “I was thinking it was more like a cheesy bed and breakfast.”
Cornfields in the 1880s were laid out much differently than those seen today. To recreate a cornfield during the time period it is laid out in check rows. The field is prepared and then marked using a marking sled. Afterwards, the farmer moves across the field perpendicular to his markings with an original corn planter. A knotted wire is stretched across the field which when tripped causes a kernel of corn to fall into place in the dirt. Rather than being planted in long straight rows, the field is actually laid out more like a checkerboard. The idea behind this is that the field could then be cultivated in all directions, including diagonally.
Years ago all sap was gathered from the buckets on the trees and poured into wooden tanks on sleds pulled by oxen or horses. Nowadays many farms use tractors; however, there are still quite a few places where animals are preferred. To honor that tradition the Meachams have invited members of the Western Mass. 4-H Ox Teamsters Association to be on hand for the day. Those who could come are here with their steers and carts giving rides around the farm. As we sink into the hay cushion in our cart we get the feeling of warmth even though we see not only our breath in the breeze but also the breath of each yoked animal.
Now, after a one lifetime span of almost free energy and resultant copious food, the entire world faces the imminent decline (and eventual demise) of finite, fossil-fuel capital. Without fossil fuels, food can no longer be produced in one area and shipped thousands of miles to market. To suggest that the world will be able to feed the UN projected population of nine billion by 2050 is totally incomprehensible in the face of declining oil.
After years of keeping an ear open for an occupation that would have many wonderful facets, including being enjoyable, environmentally oriented and horse related, my husband, Jim, and I decided to embark on starting a horse drawn carriage company of our own in October, 1994. We had heard quite a bit of positive information regarding such an endeavor and felt that we were in a position, at this point in time, to take this on ourselves. The romance of it all lured us on this wonderfully positive, happy and yet bumpy road!
In Thailand, the role of the elephant as a work animal has diminished in recent years. In 1976 there were about 12,000 working elephants in Thailand. Current estimates put the number at about 5,000. In an increasingly modern world the number of Thai elephants continue to decrease, both in captivity and in the wild. However, they are far from being a sentimental fixture of the past. Elephants are still used extensively, particularly in more remote areas of the country. Whether performing in touristy elephant shows or working in tribal villages, the elephant is still being worked throughout Asia.
In 2012 a comparative yield trial involving 38 cultivated varieties of sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) was conducted by Edmund O. Brown II and Pamela Jean Brown at two locations on their farm, known as New Hope Farms in eastern Jasper County, Missouri. The following is a description of the trial, and of which clonal varieties were found by Mr. and Mrs. Brown to yield better and worse.
Chagfood Community Market Garden is a CSA supplying 80 shares a week from five acres, on the edge of a small town called Chagford on the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park, in Devonshire, England. Chagfood has been running since 2010 when it was set up by Ed Hamer and his wife Yssy. Having been born and brought up in the National Park, Ed was aware that many of the traditional farming skills and knowledge of the area have been lost as farming has become more intensive. As a result he was keen to use working horses on the market garden from the very beginning, in an effort to keep the skills of working horsemanship alive for the next generation.
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.
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.
After 70 plus years of industrial logging, the world’s forests are as degraded and diminished as its farmlands, or by some estimates even more so. And this is a big problem for all of us, because the forests of the world do much more than supply lumber, Brazil nuts, and maple syrup. Farmlands produce food, a basic need to be sure, but forests are responsible for protecting and purifying the air, water and soil which are even more basic.
An old saying states, “Patience is a virtue.” In a society where “instant-everything” is the order of the day, this saying is not practiced by many. Some of those who must still practice patience are owners of pregnant broodmares. With a gestation length of 335-340 days, they just have to wait until the appointed time. You may ask, “Is there anything that can be done to reduce the length of a mare’s pregnancy?”
Mayfield Farm is a small family owned and operated mixed farm situated at 1150 m above sea level on the eastern edge of the Great Dividing Range in northern New South Wales, Australia. Siblings, Sandra and Ian Bannerman, purchased the 350 acre property in October, 2013, and have converted it from a conventionally operated farm to one that is run on organic principles. Additional workers on the farm include Janette, Ian’s wife, and Jessica, Ian’s daughter.
When we bought this little farm I soon realized I needed a wheel hoe. The size of the horse and tractor dictated space wasting wide rows in crop production and, to some degree, so does my two wheeled tractor.
But to all who really want to farm – to accomplish something in developing a high agriculture along sane and wholesome lines – I would say, “Do not have too large a territory.” Not that I advise a really small one, but simply one within reasonable bounds. For beyond a certain limit it is not the size that counts. Not far from where I am now writing, for instance, is a farm of eight hundred and fifty acres, of which certainly seven hundred are arable land; and at about the same distance in another direction is one of only seventy acres that produces more than the big one.
I am certainly not the most able of dairymen, nor the most skilled among vegetable growers, and by no means am I to be counted amongst the ranks of the master teamsters of draft horses. If there is anything remarkable about my story it is that someone could know so little about farming as I did when I started out and still manage to make a good life of it.
We recently had to move the Miller archive of old books and magazines, and we had to do it in a relative hurry. Fifty years worth of accumulated reference materials, with many, many boxes of items long thought lost. Four of us packing, loading and unpacking – our urgency challenged by the discovery of hundreds of forgotten goodies. Two such items were large format, catalog-type magazines covering a certain region’s ox heritage. These were sent to us decades ago by Philippe Berte-Langereau of France. When we learned we would be able to print Rob Collin’s excellent MODA report in this SFJ, I immediately thought it would be a grand opportunity to share just a little bit from Philippe’s magnificent work.
A big focus of tillage for our dryland market garden is improving rainfall infiltration and moisture retention. Beginning with skim plowing in the early 80’s, we have added a half dozen shallow tillage practices to maintain moisture conserving residues in the top of the soil. Recently, we were introduced to an objective method for measuring and comparing these moisture preserving practices, thanks to joining the Soil Health Benchmark Study conducted by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture. One of the benchmarks for this research project, which includes over 60 vegetable, grain and dairy farms, is tillage intensity. This numerical index is based on the Soil Tillage Intensity Ratings developed by the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The whole secret of the growth of these products before the regular season is in the cropping and the soil. Every inch of soil bears at least three crops a year, each of them anticipating the season and therefore producing fancy prices. The soil is regarded by the gardeners as of so much value that, as explained, there is a special clause in the lease that they are at liberty to cart it away to a depth of eighteen inches if they give up the farm at the termination of the agreement. The ground is so precious that no space is allowed for a wheelbarrow path. The loads are all carried in baskets and not a square inch is allowed to go to waste in this rich garden.
It took several incarnations to come up with a satisfactory design for the bottom heated greenhouse bench. In the final version we used two 55 gallon drums welded end-to-end for the firebox and a salvaged piece of 12” stainless steel chimney for the horizontal flue. We learned the hard way that a large firebox and flue are necessary to dissipate the intense heat into the surrounding air chamber and to minimize heat stress on these components.
In the winter of 2011, Daniel mentioned a fourteen-year-old student of his who had spent a whole month eating only foods gathered from the wild. “Could we go for two days on the hand-harvested food we have here?’ he asked. “Let’s give it a try!” I responded with my usual enthusiasm. We assembled the ingredients on the table. Everything on that table had passed through our hands. We knew all the costs and calories associated with it. No hidden injustice, no questionable pesticides. We felt joy at living in such an edible world.
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.
Rostrevor is where ‘The Mountains of Mourne Sweep Down to the Sea’ and we here on the shores of Carlingford Lough had an abundance of wrack. Storms wash huge banks of seaweed up on the shore. In the past this was a valuable source of fertilizer for the land and when the wrack ‘was in’ entire townlands transported it up the valley with horses and carts. We used wrack in the alleys of drills when planting potatoes and we spread it on lea fields to give a flush of spring grass. It was noted that grazing cattle preferred the seaweed–treated sections to those heartened with farmyard manure. Perhaps it was the trace of salt that attracted the stock.
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