Small Farmer's Journal

or Subscribe


October 24, 2016

Oxen Experiences

Oxen Experiences

Some things I have learned about working with oxen as with any other living thing is to treat them with some respect. Especially hump-backed cattle which I prefer. Be firm and gentle, but consistent, realizing you could be seriously injured if they chose. Be patient while teaching them what you want them to do, and then insisting every time that they do what you want them to do every time.



October 18, 2016

Parker Soil Pulverizer

Bring Back To Life the John P. Parker Pulverizer

Meanwhile, my senior year was approaching fast, and all of us students began to contemplate what our final project would be with a bit of urgency. Our capstone project tasks us with identifying a need for a product or solution, bringing that product through the design phase, then building that product and displaying at the Technical Exposition. So I had the harebrained idea to embark on recreating not only a scale model of Parker’s Pulverizer, but to also recreate the real thing in full-scale, complete with fresh new wheel castings.



October 19, 2016

Winter Production of Fresh Vegetables

Winter Production of Fresh Vegetables

Any claim about winter production of fresh vegetables, with minimal or no heating or heat storage systems, seems highly improbable. The weather is too cold and the days are too short. Low winter temperatures, however, are not an insurmountable barrier. Nor is winter day-length the barrier it may appear to be. In fact most of the continental US has far more winter sunshine than parts of the world where, due to milder temperatures, fresh winter vegetable production has a long tradition.



October 20, 2016

Happs Plowing A Chance to Share

Happ’s Plowing: A Chance to Share

Dinnertime rolled around before we could get people and horses off the field so that results of judging could be announced. I learned a lot that day, one thing being that people were there to share; not many took the competition side of the competition very seriously. Don Anderson of Toledo, WA was our judge — with a tough job handed to him. Everyone was helping each other so he had to really stay on his toes to know who had done what on the various plots.



October 21, 2016

The Milk and Human Kindness Stanchion Floor

The Milk and Human Kindness: Plans for an Old Style Wooden Stanchion Floor

The basic needs that we are addressing here are as follows: To create a sunny, airy (not drafty), dry, convenient, accessible place to bring in our cow or cows, with or without calves, to be comfortably and easily secured for milking and other purposes such as vet checks, AI breeding, etc. where both you and your cow feel secure and content. A place that is functional, clean, warm and inviting in every way.


On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 3: Fat & Salt

On the Anatomy of Thrift: Fat & Salt

WARNING: contains animal slaughter. It is very humane and not very graphic, but may affect sensitive souls. – SFJ

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals.

Fat & Salt is the third and final video in the series. It is the conceptual conclusion to the illustrated, narrated story that weaves throughout the entire series, and deals instructionally in the matters of preserving pork.

A Farmrun Production by Andrew Plotsky

News & Weather

  • October 24, 2016

    OTA Calls for Federal Policies to Ensure “Organic” Always Means “Organic”

    WASHINGTON, D.C. (Oct. 19, 2016) – The rigorous and proven regulatory system of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Organic Program has established a deep trust in USDA certified organic food products by American consumers. Now, consumers need to ...

  • October 20, 2016

    Agriculture: Critical to our Communities, our Economy, and our Landscape

    Agriculture is critical to our communities, our economy, our landscape, and our way of life here in Vermont. As Vermonters, we have grown accustomed to a vital and robust agricultural lifestyle. But when I leave our state, in my travels ...

  • October 17, 2016

    Soil: More Than Meets the Eye

    Are you unaware of what is underfoot? Soil is all around us and easy to ignore. However, locked inside is a dynamic ecosystem of amazing complexity. The Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) October 1st Soils Matter blog post explains ...


  • Cheval de Merens Revisited

    In the Fall ’97 issue of SFJ you printed an article on the Cheval de Merens, the all black horse of the French Pyrenees. I was immediately obsessed by their beautiful stature, a very strong draft-type-looking horse with powerful legs ...

  • Black Walnuts All ‘Round

    Dear Lynn, In the Summer 2014 SFJ there is an article by Glenn Dahlem about the black walnut (p. 62). If I may, there are a few additions I would like to make regarding using black walnuts. First, the harvesting. From ...

  • Keep ‘Em Coming

    Super magazine, Lynn and Kristi!! I love the content, and I can’t wait for the next issue in my mailbox. My best to you. Bob Langness Broomfield, CO

  • A Large Part

    Mr Miller – My name is George Bristol. I served for 38 years on active duty in the United States Marine Corps. I retired in August 2013 as a Colonel and am still working in special operations overseas. I am writing ...

Upcoming Events

6th National Farm-Based Network Gathering @ Concord-Carlisle High School, Concord, MA
Nov 4 – Nov 6 all-day

The Gathering invites educators, farmers, nonprofit organization staff, parents, nutrition practitioners, policy makers, students, and more to come together to share skills and resources, build relationships, and celebrate the vibrant field of farm-based education.

The Gathering will also welcome many members of our host community, from teachers and food service professionals, to parents, students and local food advocates who seek engagement with the transformative work of farm-based education. Organizers expect 300-500 to travel from several states and internationally to attend components of the Gathering, with heavy representation from Massachusetts and New England.

Green Festival Expo @ Pier 35
Nov 11 – Nov 13 all-day
Tilth Annual Conference @ Wenatchee Conference Center, Wenatchee, WA
Nov 11 – Nov 13 all-day
Change Beyond the Plate 2016 @ Château Élan Winery & Resort, Braselton, GA
Dec 6 – Dec 8 all-day

School Food FOCUS is a national collaborative of large school districts across the country. Together we are transforming school food by increasing access to more healthful, regionally sourced and sustainably produced food for our nation’s school children. Through the power of procurement we leverage market demand to drive positive and impactful food system change.

Change Beyond the Plate convenes over 250 school food professionals, institutional purchasers, government allies, industry changemakers and food system thought leaders.

Now in its 6th year, our National Gathering is a unique space for attendees to share innovative procurement strategies, connect with supply chain leaders and strengthen the school food movement. Join us!

Green Festival Expo @ Oregon Convention Center
Dec 9 – Dec 11 all-day

Weights & Measures

U.S. Government Land Measure

A township: 36 sections – each one mile square.

A section: 640 acres.

A quarter section: 1/2 mile square – 160 acres.

An eighth section: 1/2 mile long, north and south and 1/4 mile wide – 80 acres.

A sixteenth section: 1/4 mile square – 40 acres.

My Small Kitchen with Kristi Gilman-Miller

Cucumbers in Dilled Sour Cream

  • 3 or 4 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
  • 1 part vinegar and 1 part water, enough to cover cucumbers
  • A little salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 green onions finely chopped

Marinate the sliced cucumbers in the vinegar, water, salt and sugar for at least 1 or 2 hours. Drain thoroughly.

Mix remaining ingredients together, then stir in the drained cucumbers and chill until ready to serve.

Spotlight On: Livestock

ODHBA 2016 Plowing Match

ODHBA 2016 Plowing Match

The Oregon Draft Horse Breeders Association hosted their 50th Anniversary Plowing Match at the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center in McMinnville, Oregon on April 9, 2016. Small Farmer’s Journal was lucky enough to attend and capture some of the action to share.


MULES Part One


Hand Plucking Poultry

Hand Plucking Poultry

from issue:

I confess that I am cold-hearted and cheap. Though I love raising poultry, I hate spending time and money anywhere but on my little farm. So I process at home. If you are only raising a few birds for yourself, say 25 or 30 at a time, I recommend having a party and doing it all by hand.

Interpreting Your Horse's Body Language

Interpreting Your Horse’s Body Language

from issue:

The person who works closely with horses usually develops an intuitive feel for their well-being, and is able to sense when one of them is sick, by picking up the subtle clues from the horse’s body language. A good rider can tell when his mount is having an off day, just by small differences in how the horse travels or carries himself, or responds to things happening around him. And when at rest, in stall or pasture, the horse can also give you clues as to his mental and physical state.

Ask A Teamster Tongue Length

Ask A Teamster: Tongue Length

My forecart pole is set up for draft horses. My husband thinks we should cut the pole off to permanently make it fit better to these smaller horses. What would be your opinion? Like your husband, my preference would be a shorter tongue for a small team like your Fjords. The dynamics and efficiency of draft are better if we have our horse(s) close to the load. A shorter tongue will also reduce the overall length of your outfit, thereby giving you better maneuverability and turning dynamics.

Black Pigs and Speckled Beans

Black Pigs & Speckled Beans

from issue:

As country pigs go the Large Blacks are superb. They are true grazing pigs, thriving on grass and respectful of fences. Protected from sunburn by their dark skin and hair they are tolerant of heat and cold and do well even in rugged conditions. Having retained valuable instincts, the sows are naturally careful, dedicated, and able mothers. The boars I’ve seen are friendly and docile.

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

from issue:

The cows have fresh pasture after every milking — twice daily. They are also sometimes moved during the day — if I have miscalculated grazing needs. The goal should be to always have well fed cows. Cows coming in hungry, wolfing down their grain, are a sign of poor grazing management.

Fjordworks Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster Part 3

Fjordworks: Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster Part 3

By waking up so fully to the tasks at hand we are empowered to be more present, more available, and thus able to offer a compassionate and skillful response to the needs of our horses even as we ask them to accomplish heavy work on the farm. It is not up to the horses to trust us; it is up to us to prove ourselves worthy of their trust. What the horses can offer to us are new avenues to freedom and resilience, sustainability and hope.

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Cheese

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Cheese

from issue:

Yogurt making is the perfect introduction into the world of cultured dairy products and cheese-making. You are handling milk properly, becoming proficient at sanitizing pots and utensils, and learning the principles of culturing milk. Doing these things regularly, perfecting your methods, sets you up for cheese-making very well. Cheese-making involves the addition of a few more steps beyond the culturing.

The Cutting Edge

The Cutting Edge

from issue:

In the morning we awoke to a three quarters of a mile long swath of old growth mixed conifer and aspen trees, uprooted and strewn everywhere we looked. We hadn’t moved here to become loggers, but it looked like God had other plans! We had chosen to become caretakers of this beautiful place because of the peace and quiet, the clean air, the myriad of birds and wildlife! Thus, we were presented with a challenge: how to clean up this blowdown in a clean, sustainable way.

Haying With Horses

Haying With Horses

If the reader is considering the construction of a barn we encourage you to give more than passing thought to allowing the structure of the gable to be open enough to accommodate the hanging of a trolley track. It is difficult or impossible to retrofit a truss-built barn, which may have many supports crisscrossing the inside gable, to receive hay jags. At least allowing for the option in a new construction design will leave the option for loose hay systems in the future.

Portable Poultry

Portable Poultry

An important feature of the range shelter described in this circular is that it is portable. Two men by inserting 2x4s through the holes located just below the roost supports and next to the center uprights can easily pick up and move it from one location to another. Frequent moving of the shelter prevents excessive accumulation of droppings in its vicinity which are a menace to the health of the birds. Better use will be made by the birds of the natural green feed produced on the range if the houses are moved often.

Plans for Hog Houses

Plans for Hog Houses

by: ,
from issue:

Missouri Sunlit Hog House: This is an east and west type of house lighted by windows in the south roof. A single stack ventilation system with distributed inlets provides ventilation. Pen partitions may be of wood or metal. This plan takes the place of the original Missouri sunlit house since many farmers had difficulty in building it.

Fjordworks: Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster

Fjordworks: Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster

The first step to a successful training session is to decide ahead of time what it is you wish to accomplish with your horse. In the wild the horses in a band require the strength of a lead horse. Your horse needs you to be that strong leader, but she can’t follow you if you don’t know where you want to go.

Ask A Teamster Perfect Hitching Tension

Ask A Teamster: Perfect Hitching Tension

In my experience, determining how tight, or loose, to hook the traces when hitching a team can be a bit challenging for beginners. This is because a number of interdependent dynamics and variables between the pulling system and the holdback system must be considered, and because it’s ultimately a judgment call rather than a simple measurement or clear cut rule.

My First Team of Workhorses

My First Team of Workhorses

from issue:

It was probably natural that, having acquired some experience with one horse, I should want to see what it was like to use two. Perhaps it is more exciting to see a good team pull together, and there is the added challenge to the teamster of making certain that the horses pull smoothly rather than seesaw.


German Version of Horse Progress Days: Pferdestarke – Part One

There is a rather neat phrase in German – ‘wenn schon, denn schon’ – which literally translates as ‘enough already, then already;’ but what it actually means is ‘if a something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. That would be a fitting description of Pferdestark, the German version of Horse Progress Days.

Work Horse Handbook

Grooming Work Horses

The serviceability of the work horse may be increased or decreased according to the care which is bestowed upon him. If he is groomed in a perfunctory fashion his efficiency as an animal motor is lessened. On the other hand, if he is well groomed he is snappier and fresher in appearance and is constantly up on the bit.

Journal Guide