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 9, 2023
I did not take the temporary editorship of an agriculture paper without misgivings. Neither would a landsman take command of a ship without misgivings. But I was in circumstances that made the salary an object. The regular editor of the paper was going off for a holiday, and I accepted the terms he offered, and took his place.
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.
Small Farmer's Journal Winter Book Sale
All books from
Lynn R. Miller’s Workhorse Library
get FREE SHIPPING through March 20!
Explore Small Farmer's Journal: Farming Systems & Approaches
An interesting angle to the peppergrass-flavored butter of 1935 was related by Mr. P.C. Betts of the Dairy and Poultry Cooperatives, Inc., Chicago. A few buyers who used this peppergrass butter at greatly reduced prices became accustomed to its high flavor and still called for it after all such butter had been sold from storage. They were willing to pay just as much for it as for high-grade butter. Old cream and fruity-flavored butter sometimes sells at unjustifiable prices when it goes to certain retail outlets.
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.
Arriving at the woodlot, he parks the cart in the sun so its on-board panel above can soak up even more energy than is already stored in its 10 KW hour battery pack which supplies a 2,500 watt, 120 volt inverter. He easily lifts his six-pound electric chainsaw and connects it to a 150 foot extension cord plugged in to the cart. The cord trails behind him as he walks into the woods and up a rise. He pushes a switch with his thumb and the chainsaw roars, or more accurately, purrs to life. Within a minute the tree gives way, falling neatly.
After three or four years we could see that the nature of our farming practices would continue to have detrimental effects on our soils. We were looking for a new approach, a routine that would be sustainable, rather than a rescue treatment for an ongoing problem. We decided to convert our fields to permanent planting beds with grassy strips in between where all tractor, foot and irrigation pipe traffic would be concentrated.
Every year my family has to alternate between two methods for how we get our Christmas tree. My husband, having grown up acquiring trees from regular Christmas tree farms, loves the perfectly pruned and bushy variety. I love tromping around the forest to find the perfect Charlie Brown version to take home. The farm owned and operated by Emmet Van Driesche in western Massachusetts might have the best of both worlds. It is a wild place, yet cultivated. His Christmas tree farm is unusual – as stated in the title – because it is a coppiced Christmas tree farm. Coppicing is a traditional method of woodland management where the trees are periodically cut down to their stumps in order to entice them to put out new shoots that form into trees in their own right, given proper care and time and space.
My apple orchard has only recently begun to bear fruit, but I have learned many things by the “school of hard knocks” which I wish I had known before. Perhaps these remarks may save some time and trouble for others thinking of setting out apple trees in a cold and demanding climate. Northwestern Maine, where I live, appears on the climate map as Zone 3, and area frost pockets even get down to -45 degrees F.
From time to time, someone will ask me what method I use for skidding logs. My answer is: “Whatever fits the situation”. To me it is not about skidding logs, it’s about working horses in the woods. To that end, I have spent fifteen years logging, and learning how to employ different types of equipment that augment the efficiency of working animals. I have two logging carts, a bobsled, a set of bob-wheels, a scoot, and I have twitched many logs with a single horse, as well as with a team of horses, or oxen.
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.
Our farmstead is nestled at 1500 feet in the hills of Northeast Vermont. Vermont hill farms have a history of hard scrabble living, away from the fertile soils of the valley farms. Ours was no exception. Since the 1790’s our farm has seen 15 families come and go, each unable to keep the land due mainly to a declining fertility in the soils. Clear-cutting, overgrazing and a sandy soil base that leaches out in heavy rains left no cushion against the extremes of the Vermont farming year. When our house foundation was dug 20 years ago the excavator operator asked if we wanted to change our plans and open a gravel quarry instead of building a house.
In the Summer 2008 SFJ we reported on our initial experiment using the fallow field cover crops to generate enough mulch materials for a 380’ row of un-irrigated winter squash. Encouraged by the excellent crop growth and yield despite the dry, hot conditions of 2007, we repeated the experiment the following years, trying to determine the optimum ratio of land in straw producing cover crops to cash crop area. In 2009, we finally got it right: we seeded a 36’ wide strip of rye and medium red clover in September of 2008, then, in April, 2009, we skim plowed a 12’ wide area in the middle of the overwintering cover crops for planting the winter squash.
Most sugar cane is processed in refineries to give us molasses, brown sugar, and various kinds of white sugar. However, some South Georgia farms that raise sugar cane still process it the old way to produce the special tasting sweetener for their own food. One such farm is the Rocking R Ranch in Kibbee, Georgia. It is owned by Charles and Patricia Roberts and their sons. The process they use has not changed in the past 100 years. This is how it is done.
Although we were excited about being involved in this comprehensive research project, we must admit we had mixed feelings about doing the NEON enterprise budgets right from the start. Our reluctance was not due to going public with the numbers, but because economics has never been a driving force behind the goal setting and decision making we use on our farm. Right livelihood has always been a higher priority than profit. Consequently, most of our management practices have been based on what seems right for the land, for the animals, for our customer, ourselves, and the larger society – realizing all along that, being human, we will never get it absolutely right.
One place to start is to look at how you relate to your community. If you stay on your homestead and don’t connect with your larger community or neighborhood, you deprive yourself of opportunities for many kinds of mutual support. On the other hand, if you freely help and/or fairly barter with your neighbors and local businesses, your chances of long term success will be greater, and you’ll have a community that actively cares about your well-being.
This kind of low-impact management has yielded visible results for Rose who can display flourishing pasture grasses, healthy cattle, and firm banks in his riverside pasture. “I am just a detail oriented person and one of those farm boys who always likes to have a project,” Rose said. “I am trying to get the most out of my land and efforts and I really enjoy seeing the positive outcomes of a finished project.”
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.
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.
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.
This morning, I awoke to another depressingly beautiful January day – clear skies and an expected high temperature here in Auburn of close to 70 degrees. I say depressing, because we should be in the midst of our rainy season here – but since December 1, we’ve measured less than one inch of precipitation. And there doesn’t look to be much moisture in our future, either. Even the television “meteorologists” have quit using words like “beautiful” to describe our weather pattern – which must mean this drought is getting serious.
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.
Place the dirty and soiled eggs in a wire basket and lower the basket into water usually containing a detergent sanitizer. The temperature of the water should be maintained between 100 degrees and 130 degrees F. Either the basket is revolved or the water is circulated by compressed air. It takes from 3 to 5 minutes to clean a basket of eggs. When the eggs are clean, remove the basket from the machine and dry as rapidly as possible.
We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.
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.
On all but one day I got more milk from 3 quarters with Ivan’s help than Ruby allowed me from 4 before his help. At this point in her lactation she has a ‘hold back’ capacity of about 6.5 lbs. on 3 quarters. So, it seems that if I milk her out solo and leave all the let down for Ivan, he is going to get about a gallon of very creamy milk held back special for him. Ruby changed my mind – no need to leave milk for the calf in the early weeks of separation. Mama has it handled – she makes sure that he is going to get his share!
After living in Ohio for twelve years and being very home-sick, I was ready to get home, spend time with my family and friends, and get back to the farm. The question arose, can one really come back home? When I lived in Ohio and asked myself that question the answer was adamantly, yes! Now that I was here… I wasn’t so sure.
A friend had recently purchased 11 acres of ground and wanted to know if I thought that was enough ground to set up a viable farm to support his family. We have a fairly large farm of 24 acres in our area, probably considered nothing more than a garden to large-scale farmers. Yet from this farm we have been able to support our family entirely from our vegetable and fruit production. It was from this background that my friend asked for my input to assess his chances of becoming a farmer. To answer his question I sat down and wrote a letter outlining some points that I considered important for him to succeed in his quest. Following is that letter that I mailed off to him:
It is more difficult to keep some horses in a respectable condition than others. The slab-sided, upstanding type of draft horse requires more grooming than the more compact, chunky individual. The latter is usually an easy keeper in other ways than grooming. It is not considered good practice to groom too heavily during shedding time, for the new coat is generally a trifle coarse if the old hair is removed too quickly. All grooming should be done when the horse is dry, especially thorough cleaning and grooming to remove dirt, sweat, and falling hair, otherwise sore shoulders will follow.
Ask anyone who has more than one child, and they are sure to tell you that each of their children is unique. You may hear something like, “we raised ’em the same; certainly didn’t treat one any different than the other. So why are they each so different?” So it is also with horses. I have two 2-year-olds born within a week of each other, Frankie and Luna, both sprung from the loins of Donald, yet they couldn’t be more different. I started the two youngsters on the same winter’s morning in the same round corral with the same routine. As of this writing I am working Frankie single, daily feeding cows, hauling hay to the loafing sheds and other odd chores. On the other hand, Luna has yet to calmly pull a single tree dragging a log chain without serious jitters.
The point is that the Knepp Estate is pioneering, they are trying it, and something is obviously working, although perhaps not everything as you might wish. But that is also the point, because we don’t know how to rewild, we don’t really know what a wild Britain was like, or could be like, even in small pockets. We don’t even know what conditions various species prefer because the baseline data was already skewed by people’s activity when the textbooks were written. So it is one big experiment, but fortunately it has generated enough interest and excitement that the changes are being studied in detail.
To my great delight a sizable portion of the general eating public has over the past few years decided to begin to care a great deal about where their food comes from. This is good for small farmers. It bodes well for the future of the planet and leaves me hopeful. People seem to be taking Wendell Berry’s words to heart that “eating is an agricultural act;” that with every forkful we are participating in the act of farming.
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.
This last week has been hot with clear skies and bright sunshine, definitely straw-hat weather. I am a keen and consistent wearer of hats, a cloth cap in winter and a straw hat in summer. In between, there are a few weeks when I’m not sure what to wear, but I do need some head covering as I have got to that stage in life when, if the growth on the top of my head was a cover crop, you’d be thinking about ploughing it up and starting again!
Flax is a native species of the Pacific Northwest and was widely used by Native Americans for basket weaving, rope making, and clothing. With the coming of Europeans the flax industry began to flourish around 1868 when numerous flax mills were established in the fertile Willamette Valley. These mills produced high quality linen, linseed oil used for paints and finishes, oil cake for cattle feed, as well as twine and rope, among countless other products.
I was at day one, standing outside an old burnt-out Belgian plantation house, donated to us by the progressive young chief of the village of Luvungi. My Congolese friend and I had told him that we would need to hire some workers to help clear the land around the compound, and to put a new roof on the building. I thought we should be able to attract at least 20 workers. Then, I looked out to see a crowd of about 800 eager villagers, each one with their own hoe.
The high institutional and population density of urban areas promotes labor-intensive production methods, community regeneration through cooperative management, and transport efficiency for agricultural inputs and products. The ability to have more farmers/acre permits the kind of management-intensive system that maximizes productivity achieved by close monitoring and good timing throughout the growing season. It allows a division of labor to manage diversified production integrated into one system.
Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.
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.
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.
The artisanal maple producer is passionate and thrills his associates by producing very tasty excellent quality syrup. He never stops innovating in the transformation of maple products and in the use of maple syrup in the kitchen to embellish various dishes. How many maple producers still today collect maple sap in a bucket or with horses or by gravity? Very few you say… well, think again, there are hundreds and hundreds.
This information appeared in L.H. Bailey’s Cyclopedia of American Agriculture from 1900. It was one approach to field design at a time when rotation was king. Though the menu of crop succession is important and useful, we find the sterile approach to field reshaping, in the name of “efficiency,” to be harsh and somewhat suspect. With the return of our small farms and good farming comes a renewed interest in the powerful tool of crop rotation. It preserves soil, builds soil, activates the calendar year in helpful ways and spreads the farmer’s risk.
Driving tepee truck is a humble job, beneath the dignity of a lamber, but it suits me fine. The ten-mile drive through the hills to Sunrise Camp is beautiful in the early morning. This is the season between snow and flowers, when the first soft green of grass and moss spreads over the hills with a promise. The long hard winter is over. Next month the ranch will be literally carpeted with wild flowers — bird’s-bills, dog tooth violets, crocuses, wild irises, evening primroses and forget-me-nots — a tangled, riotous fulfillment in colors no artist could paint. Beautiful, yes, but I like this season better. For everywhere I look I can see the stir of new life — in the tender, pale green of the hills, rolling on and on to meet the horizon; in the deepening green of slender, silver-trunked quaking aspen; in the sweet, sharp-scented fragrance of pine and spruce and fir, as the sap runs through their branches.
Over three inches of rain fell. There was mud everywhere. Horses and wagons tromped through deep gullies as did tractors and people. As the day wore on, it only got muddier. Still they came, young and old… to husk. This was my third year of attending the Indiana State Corn Husking Contest. I went the first year because I was curious. I remember hand-husking corn as a kid to “open up” the fields so Dad could get his corn picker in the fields without knocking any corn down. I wanted to try it that first year because of the memories. I met a lot of nice people, it was fun and I was helping to preserve a bit of history. Did I also mention that it feeds the competitive side of me? So, I came back last year and again this year. Yep, I am hooked.
Holistic Management was developed by Allan Savory who was a wildlife and ranch biologist in Africa who was concerned that the advice he could give farmers didn’t work in the real environment and even when the advice was good it wouldn’t get implemented. He developed a program which helps farms create a clear Holistic Goal and then use the farms resources to move toward the goal while being ecologically sustainable.
Increasing numbers of family farms are unlocking sustainable income through Agri-tourism. These events bring visitors to tour working farms. Not only do your guests enjoy a day in the outdoors, but they go home with a new understanding of life and work on a small farm. At the end of the day Ag-tourists go home with bags, boxes and buckets of delicious home-grown delights, perhaps picked with their own hands. Agri-tourism events are in high demand all around the country. This growing industry provides good reasons for you to consider an agri-tourism project for your small farm.
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.
Mr. Davis said he doesn’t make any claims to environmentalism, although his business methods might look like it. He uses glass bottles and horse power because they are economically sound. He farms organically, although he is not interested in buying into ‘organics’ or its politics. He doesn’t tout ‘natural’ on the label. “My customers see the farm, they see the milk, they taste the milk, they come back. It’s that simple. I don’t promise them that it will cure cancer or prevent it. I don’t promise them that it is going to put the ozone back,” he said. “And, I don’t promise them that it’s going to make them feel any better tomorrow than they feel today. I just put good, healthy milk on the market at a reasonable price, and I farm in a conservative method that is not polluting.”
Winter Poem • Find the Snow Elves