February 6, 2023
Chewning loves to save seeds — he has revived nearly extinct corns, beans, heirloom radishes, watermelons and field peas. He rescued Jimmy Red as well, growing it and saving kernels each year, increasing the seed stock. Little did he know that soon it would burst on the restaurant scene as a prized heirloom cultivar that makes unforgettable red-flecked grits and a rich, smooth whiskey with honey-nut undertones.
February 7, 2023
The presence of springs on a horse-drawn carriage seems to be of little importance when judged by purely essential criteria. They are not needed to start or stop the vehicle. The horse provides motive power and brakes will stop the carriage when necessary. A carriage without springs could still function, as springs do not serve any absolutely necessary task. They do not light the way at night like lanterns do, or keep occupants dry in a rainstorm like a top. But riding in a carriage minus springs would be most uncomfortable, especially over cobblestone streets or on a country lane, or on a long journey.
February 8, 2023
In 2004, a small group of direct-market farmers began collaborating with the co-owners of the local, independently-owned supermarket in Fairbury – Dave’s Supermarket – to initiate an “indoor farmers’ market” inside the grocery store. The farmers wanted to provide Fairbury residents with food grown locally and without pesticides, while finding viable markets for their farm products in their own community. The supermarket sees the sales of local produce from local farmers as a public relations tool to continue to draw in customers and help support their local farmers. The business arrangement between the store and farmers is simple: the farmers stock the shelves with their local products, and the store advertises and provides codes for the products to scan through the checkout lines.
February 2, 2023
Cattle with lineback color patterns have occurred throughout the world in many breeds. In some cases this is a matter of random selection. In others, the markings are a distinct characteristic of the breed; while in some it is one of a number of patterns common to a local type. Considering that livestock of all classes have been imported to the United States, it is not surprising that we have our own Lineback breed.
February 3, 2023
Market horses may be divided into two main classes: Those for draft purposes, such as heavy draft, bus, express, etc., and harness and saddle horses, which include drivers, coachers, and saddlers. The heavy draft horse must have weight and strength. It is not so much a question of height as weight. A strictly first-class draft horse must weight 1,600 pounds or more. The greater the weight the greater the value.
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Scottish Blackface are ideally suited to grass-based farming. The breed has been developed over centuries to utilize rough and coarse grazing ground and to produce grass fed market lambs of the highest gourmet quality. They are extremely hardy and thrifty and thrive in areas where other breeds struggle to survive. Breeders benefit from easy keeping, productive ewes that produce premium market lambs on grass and with a lamb crop of 150% or better.
Three different parcels of land were committed for a series of tests to directly compare the impact of tractors and horses on the land. One side of each parcel was worked only with horses and the other only with tractors. There were measurable differences between each side of the worked areas; the land’s capacity to hold water and greater aeration were up to 45cm higher in areas worked by horses as opposed to tractors.
After the log skid everyone broke for lunch and a rest from the heat. It was a beautiful sunny day with the bluest of skies with big fluffy white clouds. They couldn’t have asked for a better day! Pete and I ate lunch at the Cornplanter Pavilion and watched as the pulling horses entered the arena for the pulling contest that afternoon. We recognized several names from our area that had made the trip to compete. We then wandered through the rabbit and poultry barns and several other animal barns. We checked out the Domestic and Agriculture buildings, too. It’s nice to go to a fair that puts more emphasis on agriculture than carnival! Getting back to the “Bull Pen” (the ox barn) we found everyone getting ready for the ox pull.
Surely it was a banner Challenge. The eager SRO crowd was treated to some bovine beauties guided carefully with voice commands. All the teamsters used the traditional twisted Hickory stick made by a respected teamster of yore, Art Hine, and given to the Challenge by Art’s son Nathan. Ten teamsters took home their share of the rosette ribbons and generous premiums provided by the fair officials. It was a long afternoon filled with patience, surprises and good humor.
One July day, a 70 year old man visited Howard’s farm and explained that he had heard that he had bought a pair of Devon oxen. Howard yoked the cattle to show the gentleman what they could do. The man then asked Howard if he could drive them. Howard was a bit uncertain if he could handle them knowing that there were not many experienced teamsters in the area. The man proceeded to drive the cattle quite comfortably. To Howard’s surprise, the man slipped the yoke off the cattle and continued to drive them with no apparent trouble. The man, named Johnny Lamb, then went on to tell Howard that he had trained the team.
First aid treatment for a serious burn should include ice packs or cold packs, or even cold water from a garden hose – as soon as possible if the burn was caused by excessive heat, to try to reduce the depth of the burn and minimize the tissue damage. Painkillers should be given, and antibiotics will be needed to help prevent infection in the damaged tissues, and head off pneumonia.
The culture of the ox was rich across New England. On my road alone there were several good ox men for me to learn from, and many more in the surrounding area. Even the men who were too old to still be working cattle, would give of their time telling us stories of when working cattle was economically practical.
“Farm to Fork” food programs are a revival of the past. Big Horse Ranch & Little Cattle Company is now involved in developing “Old School” free raised Irish Dexter rose veal. We are trying to replicate ranching as it was 100 years ago. This is not a fast paced business venture; it does allow us to best use our ranch to provide old style food for those who are seeking food that has a history of quality.
This was my 2000 & 2001 project rebuilding 3 stockton gang plows, butt chain harness, and Gene Hilty’s 21 head Schandoney Hitch. Also helping George Cabral to train 8 mules for a cadre to hook what mules we could find to pull it. All the old pictures I could find showed 8 or 10 head on one or two plows. To center the 21 Schandoney I needed 3 plows, 13 bottoms with 143″ cut. Everyone said 21 mules couldn’t pull it. Our 21 walked away with the plows set deep as they would go.
In parallel with making hay on the ground, nearly every year I have also made some hay on tripods. The attraction of this method is that it only needs one day of good weather to dry the grass sufficiently before it is put on the tripods, and then the hay takes very little harm no matter what the weather, usually coming out green, dry and smelling of hay two weeks later when it can be baled or stacked.
It is difficult to accurately measure a horse’s neck without fitting. In other words, there are so many variables involved in the shape and size of a horse’s neck that the only accurate and easy way to size the neck is to use several collars and put them on one at a time until fitting is found.
Most calves are born head first, front feet extended. But a few are positioned backward and may not survive the birth process unless you are there to help. The number of backward calves in a herd during a calving season can vary from year to year, and all the factors influencing this presentation are not yet fully understood. While the fetus is growing in the uterus it is quite active and can change positions, especially while still relatively small. The position of a fetus when a cow is pregnancy-checked is not necessarily the position it will be in at the end of gestation when the birth process begins.
Forging is that defect of the horse’s gait by reason of which, at a trot, he strikes the ends of the branches or the under surface of the front shoe with the toe of the hind shoe or hoof of the same side. Forging is unpleasant to hear and dangerous to the horse. It is liable to wound the heels of the forefeet, damages the toes or the coronet of the hind hoofs, and often pulls off the front shoes.
I would imagine that at least for those with draft horses, many may have some intention of working those animals in some capacity on their property. These goals will vary from those who would like to do all the draft work on their place with a horse or team, to those who never plan to do more than wagon or sled rides or perhaps a little hauling of materials around the farm or homestead. My main interest is in thinking through some issues I believe those who really mean to use their draft animals, for farm work or logging or for regular hauling projects, may encounter as obstacles to really achieving those goals.
There is a simple standard feeding schedule for raising good quality pork and ham without excessive fat. And the first thing to note is that it does NOT include corn! I learned to raise pigs in Canada where the Canadian government pays a premium on top of the market price for each pig that grades out at a quality suitable for export as Canadian bacon. The standards are very rigid to get this extra bonus. It is a simple fact that corn fed hogs would never get that bonus. The bacon in our American stores is a disgrace. The fat content is indicative of a striving for weight and not for quality. If that is the quality of bacon and pork that you want, then read no further – just feed corn and enjoy the fat that you raise.
In New York State one does not explore the world of draft horses long before the name of Ed Button is invariably and most respectfully mentioned. Ed’s name can be heard in the conversations of nearly everyone concerned with heavy horses from the most experienced teamsters to the most novice horse hobbyists. His career with Belgians includes a vast catalog of activities: showing, pulling, training, farming, breeding, and driving, which Ed says, “I’ve been doing since I was old enough to hold the lines.”
When hitching to the mower, first make sure it’s on level ground and out of gear. The cutter bar should be fastened up in the vertical or carrier position. This is for safety of all people in attendance during hitching.
As I drove south in a rental car from Champaign to Arcola, and began to transition into the landscape stewarded by local Amish communities, subtle shifts began to appear in the land use patterns. Of course, the first noticeable change was that the farms had horses – and lots of them – big drafts for work in the fields, saddle horses, trotters for the buggies, and minis and ponies to haul the kids around in carts and to give first lessons in the joys and responsibilities of horsemanship.
I know what it’s like to be trying to find one’s way learning skills without a much needed teacher or experienced advisor. I made a lot of cheese for the pigs and chickens in the beginning and shed many a tear. I want you to know that the skills you will need are within your reach, and that I will spell it all out for you as best I can. I hope it’s the next best thing to welcoming you personally at my kitchen door and actually getting to work together.
The real trick in shearing isn’t learning the pattern of the shearing strokes, which lessens the time involved in removing the wool, but in immobilizing sheep by the various holds that give them no leverage to struggle. A helpless sheep is a quiet sheep. Rendering sheep helpless cannot be done by force alone, for forcible holding makes them struggle more. Try to stay relaxed while you work.
Just inside the barn door hangs a coil of blue and white rope, and a big scary lesson. The rope is one of those things that doesn’t have a specific job, yet does about everything. It has been used to drag logs, pull cars out of mud, guide a falling tree in the right direction, or be threaded through the come-along on butchering day. It was the first thing I grabbed when Jacinth, our filly, went through the ice.
Another consideration for the Trimburs was health and ease of care. Heidi says, “Finnsheep, as a breed, won this one without contest! They are smaller, super-friendly, have no horns to worry about and no tails to dock. They are hardy, thrive on good nutrition and grow a gorgeous fleece. I love to walk out in the pastures with them. They all come running over to say hello and some of our rams love to jump on our golf cart and “go for a ride” – it is hilarious!
I help to teach a class for aspiring farmers in the Sierra foothills. Invariably, we begin talking about when a new producer should purchase his or her first tractor. This seems to be a “guy” thing – the male of our species can’t conceive of a commercial farming enterprise without a tractor! For most start-up crop farms, however, a tractor shouldn’t be the first capital expenditure. Things like deer fencing, irrigation systems and hand tools are far more critical to a small-scale vegetable grower – buying a tractor to cultivate an acre of crops just doesn’t make economic sense.
Over the last few years of making hay, the mowing, turning and making tripods has settled into a fairly comfortable pattern, but the process of getting it all together for the winter is still developing. In the beginning I did what everyone else around here does and got it baled, but one year I decided to try one small stack. The success of this first stack encouraged me to do more, and now most of my hay is stacked loose.
John and Heather Erskine of Monroe, Washington, have been synonymous with the best of Shire horses since before I can remember. They have helped wagon loads of people with their horses and horse adventures. Up at last year’s Sandpoint, Idaho, show John shared a photo album with me that set me right down and I twisted his arm to let me share some of his outstanding pictures with you.
Truth be told, we were all anxious to milk our new cow for the first time and thought we’d give it a try. We brought out our pail and a bucket of feed and shooed our cow confidently into the barn. Unfortunately, we’d forgotten two very important auxiliaries: a stout rope and a stick! With the aid of these tools, and lots of patience, we managed to coax a pint of milk into the pail.
Children are famous for asking questions and many of them can’t be answered simply or some not at all. As we grow older, we still have questions, only we have the tools to find the answer to most. Still, there are questions that never come up. Some questions are foolish, some are nonsense, and some just never are thought of until the answer is sitting right in front of you.
Besides good, tough iron for the shoe, we need an anvil with a round horn and a small hole at one end, a round-headed turning-hammer, a round sledge, a stamping hammer, a pritchel of good steel, and, if a fullered shoe is to be made, a round fuller. Bodily activity and, above all else, a good eye for measurement are not only desirable, but necessary. A shoe should be made thoughtfully, but yet quickly enough to make the most of the heat.
Animals of suitable age, size, and conformation will ordinarily give little trouble and with systematic training and kind treatment will soon develop into excellent pack animals. Horses are usually preferable for use as pack animals which are led in accompanying commands mounted on horses, as they lead more freely than mules and their gaits conform better to those of the horses of the command. When not led and when worked in large numbers mules are usually preferable as they are more easily managed than horses under these conditions and superior as weight carriers.
Most permanent pasture plants are small-seeded and rather slow in becoming established. Use of these pastures during the year of seeding should be delayed until the plants are firmly rooted and growing vigorously. Turning birds into a perennial pasture too soon after seeding may result in poor stands as many plants will be killed by trampling and others will be pulled out by the grazing birds. Late fall grazing of new seedings should be avoided. It usually is necessary to mow new perennial pastures once or twice during the first year to control weeds. This mowing should be done when the weeds are flowering or before seeds develop. The cutter-bar of the mower should be set three or four inches above the ground to cut the weeds with a minimum of injury to the young forage plants.
One of the things that has been bred out of today’s chicken is the ability to go “broody” and hatch out a clutch of chicks. Chickens nowadays will go broody, but will abandon the eggs after a few days – the brooding instinct has been bred out of them. It takes 21 days of continuously setting on the eggs by a nice warm hen for the chicks to hatch out. None of the common domestic breeds available will sit the eggs long enough to hatch them out.
When first you become familiar with North American working harness you might come to the erroneous conclusion that, except for minor style variations, all harnesses are much the same. While quality and material issues are accounting for substantive differences in the modern harness, there were also interesting and important variations back in the early twentieth century which many of us today either have forgotten or never knew about. Perhaps the most significant example is the Walsh No Buckle Harness.
The focus of this paper is to outline the issues surrounding the endangerment and possible extinction of a number of equine breeds, primarily the Newfoundland Pony. When comparing the current population numbers of the Newfoundland Pony to other endangered wild animals, the Giant Panda, Grizzly Bear, Mountain Gorilla and Siberian Tiger all outnumber this equine breed, as such the Newfoundland Pony is listed as critically endangered and will be used throughout as a reference to current issues impacting the sustainability of many other equine breeds.
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.
I had only been to Horse Progress Days once before, at Mount Hope, Ohio in 2008. It had been an eye-opener, showing how strong and in touch with sustainable farming values the Amish are, and how innovative and sensible their efforts could be. So at the 23rd annual event in Howe, Indiana, I was there partly looking for signs of continuity, and partly for signs of change. Right off I spotted an Amish man with a Blue Tooth in his ear, talking as he walked along.
Oxen are all from the Bovine species which includes Cattle, Buffalo and Kudus. On hand for the 19th Ox Teamster’s Challenge last August were eight different Bovine breeds of cattle: Brown Swiss, Belgium Blue, Chianina, Devon, Holstein, Milking Shorthorn, Normande, and Randall. This turned out to be our best show so far, with enjoyable and not-so-enjoyable surprises.
The horn capsule or hoof is nothing more than a very thick epidermis that protects the horse’s foot, just as a well fitting shoe protects the human foot. The hoof of a sound foot is so firmly united with the underlying pododerm that only an extraordinary force can separate them. The hoof is divided into three principal parts, which are solidly united in the healthy foot – namely, the wall, the sole, and the frog.
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.
So you want to raise some critters that taste just like chicken? There’s no better critter than the chicken itself. Chicken has become the most sought after meat in the marketplace. Raising your own birds can save you a few bucks at the grocery store. Even more satisfying is the great sense of accomplishment that comes with raising your own food from egg to dinner table and providing this healthy meal to your family.
After moving the drop ring on the other side down we went out to the round pen for a test drive. The difference in how she ground drove and turned was amazing – not perfect, but real sweet. With the lines at that level a right turn cue on the line obviously meant go right to her, and a left turn cue meant left. After we drove around for a while with me smiling I couldn’t resist moving the drop rings back up to the line rings – Bam, back to the old confusion.
I, like many before me, had just entered that gray foggy area where those more timid, or could it be more experienced, fear to tread. I had a thoroughly terrified horse who had no interest in harness or cart, and many knowledgeable horse people told me I had ruined her forever. To find my way out I would have to reach deep inside both myself and my mare, and in the process discover that no matter what people said, it could be done.
Every beginning horse farmer at some point will find himself in need of procuring that first team. After land, this is certainly one of the most critical purchasing decisions you will make in the development of the farm. The animals you choose can make your farming glow and hum with moments of blissful certainty, or contribute to frustration, bewilderment, loss of resolve, and God forbid, horses and people hurt and machines wrecked.
En route to a remote pasture where the Belgian draft horses, Prince and Tom, are grazing, we survey the vast green landscape, a fine mist hovering in distant low lying areas. We are enveloped in a profusion of sweet, earthy balance. Interns and other workers start their chores; one pauses to check his smart phone. Scattered about are many animal-powered rustic implements. This rich and agriculturally diverse, peaceful place is steeped in contrasts: modern and ancient.
Horses readily adapt to winter weather. Cold temperature in itself is not a problem for a horse if he’s had a chance to prepare gradually by growing a winter coat as fall temperatures drop. Wind and wet weather are the factors that can chill a horse. In windy regions, horses need some type of shelter to protect against the wind chill that can whip away body heat.
Dad was always a firm believer that the best way to train an animal was real work. As a kid, I always liked to take them out and take them for a walk down the road, and if dad would let me get away with that, that’s what I did. I still tend to do that, but he’s absolutely right: the best thing for training is real work and probably the best real work for them, that I can find, is picking rocks. We’ve got plenty of them around here. You know, you take a stone boat out. We generally kept a horn tie on them if nothing else but an insurance policy, but dad whipped on us very hard to manage the rope correctly.
On a sunny early September day I met Doug Flack at his biodynamic and organic farm, just South of Enosburg Falls. Doug is an American Milking Devon breeder with some of the best uddered and well behaved animals I have seen in the breed. The animals are beautifully integrated into his small and diversified farm. His system of management seems to bring out the best in the animals and his enthusiasm for Devon cattle is contagious.
There is no more useful or willing animal than the Mule. And perhaps there is no other animal so much abused, or so little cared for. Popular opinion of his nature has not been favorable; and he has had to plod and work through life against the prejudices of the ignorant. Still, he has been the great friend of man, in war and in peace serving him well and faithfully. If he could tell man what he most needed it would be kind treatment.
We started hand-milking one cow. Now there are three. We are still milking by hand, and love the relationship with our cows, but will have to begin using the milking machine this spring as we add one more cow to the operation. We plan to milk a maximum of six cows. We purchased a 1940s Surge milking machine and assembled the entire unit from new and used parts we acquired from retired dairies in the area. The equipment we needed for the milk cooling room and the cheese room took an entire year to assemble because many of the things needed were just not readily available. With the help of some small dairy equipment dealers and by finding items on eBay, we managed to put it all together, under close scrutiny of the inspectors.
Little Chipmunk’s Thanksgiving Party • Sweetest Pet of All