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January 17, 2022

Our Journey from Poor Hill Farm to Abundant Farmstead

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.



January 18, 2022

Oregon Truffle Industry is Beginning to Bear Fruit

Oregon Truffle Industry is Beginning to Bear Fruit

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



January 12, 2022

Geezer Wisdom

Geezer Wisdom

As I enter my “geezer phase,” it is time to reflect on some of the knowledge I learned from some of the very special geezer’s in my life. Please excuse my limited language skills. It is all common sense, cause and effect analysis, and understanding the horse’s communications. REMEMBER YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE HAVING FUN.



January 13, 2022

LittleField Notes Spring 2014

LittleField Notes: Spring 2014

I’m thinking of Mr. Morton’s words as I continue the daily work of training our young Suffolk stallion Donald. In my travels to farms I have yet to see a working stud horse. It always struck me as a bit sad to see a magnificent Suffolk Punch stallion, bred for a life of work in the fields, standing in a pen alone, hooves splayed out, his tremendous muscles lacking the tone that only a life of work can provide. How much more fitting to see him put to the plow, or at work in the woods displaying the very characteristics we wish to see passed on in his progeny: a gentle disposition and a willing work ethic. And if we are breeding for work, what can we know of a horse who has never stood a day in the furrow?



January 14, 2022

Clutcher’s Light

The world had changed so much in the name of progress but how much better was it now? “Get big or get out” summarized how farming had changed during his life. People hardly went outside anymore and became fat sitting in their homes avoiding the weather. Children stayed inside, constantly watching TV or playing video games. When he went to the store, strangers would hurry by without even looking at him or each other. And families were disconnected and broken. Young adults couldn’t wait to leave their parents and their parents couldn’t wait for them to go. Instead of walking to neighbors houses to visit, like Sam had, people only connected online.



Explore Small Farmer's Journal: Book Reviews

Build Your Own Earth Oven

An Introduction To Cob

Mixed with sand, water, and straw, a clayey-subsoil will dry into a very hard and durable material; indeed, it was the first, natural “concrete”. In the Americas, we call it “adobe”, which is originally from the Arabic “al-toba”, meaning “the brick.” Invading Moors brought the word to Spain from North Africa, where an ancient mud building tradition continues today.

"Work Horse Handbook, 2nd Edition" by Lynn Miller

Draft Collars and How To Size Them

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.

Heartland Review

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth

In this era when everyone seems focused on the growth of our cities we know that our readership is still heartily invested in our rural landscape. The people Smarsh writes about are our neighbors, and maybe even ourselves. Heartland is touted as a memoir but it is a life study, an ethnography if you will, of farm-based families that struggle to get by.

A Ben Green Cowboy Ride-Along

A Ben Green Cowboy Ride-Along

from issue:

The key to most of Ben Green’s stories is meeting a stranger on the way to or from somewhere new and strange. Is this a friend, an adversary, a rival in an elaborate charade? A farmer down on his luck, or a fellow trader addicted to the thrills and rewards of sharp practice? Green has the knack of traveling incognito, of gaining valuable information by sharing meals and swapping favors.

Sneak Preview Brown Dwarf

Sneak Peek 2: Brown Dwarf

Read another preview of Lynn R. Miller’s new novel, Brown Dwarf.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 3

What goes with the sale? What does not? Do not assume the irrigation pipe and portable hen houses are selling. Find out if they go with the deal, and in writing.

Dont Eat the Seed Corn

Don’t Eat the Seed Corn: Strategies & Prospects for Human Survival

from issue:

Gary Paul Nabhan’s book “WHERE OUR FOOD COMES FROM: Retracing Nikolay Vavilov’s Quest to End Famine” (Island Press, 2009) is a weighty tome, freighted with implications. But as befits its subject it is also portable and travels well, a deft exploration of two trips around the world, that of the author following in the footsteps of a long-gone mentor he never met, the Russian pioneer botanist and geneticist Nikolay Vavilov (1887-1943).

One Seed to Another - an excerpt

One Seed to Another – an excerpt

from issue:

Coming to more recent times, we might visit a pair of small farmers to whom we owe much. Luther Burbank (1849-1926) and George Washington Carver (1864-1943), were both known for their practical plant and crop innovations. Both have been viewed with skepticism by agricultural academics, dismissed as scientific amateurs since neither kept meticulous notes or conducted formal experiments. Both were too busy garnering practical results. Perhaps their backgrounds will suggest why.

McCormick Deering/International No 7 vs no 9

McCormick Deering/International: No. 7 versus No. 9

McCormick Deering/International’s first enclosed gear model was the No. 7, an extremely successful and highly popular mower of excellent design.

Book Review Storeys Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds

Book Review: Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds

from issue:

I absolutely love chickens and ducks and geese! There, I stand exposed. And this book I am reviewing, I love it, too!! It is both a wondrous and wonderful book, especially if you are a poultry fancier who needs to know the what (duck, goose, chicken etc.), why (as in why would you want to raise this breed) and whose-its (as in crazy tidbit info i.e. coloration nomenclature) of individual species – or maybe you just want to be able to see how they are different. As you may note by the copyright date, this is not a new book but it deserves careful attention as a reference volume. It will have a long shelf life. It features well over one hundred excellent color photos and is expertly organized for easy use.

Stories of Ranch Life

Stories of Ranch Life

Throughout Thomas’ stories the reader will feel the importance of the human relationship to the land and animals, but also the value of family. “Lynn and I chose ranching because we wanted to raise cattle and horses, but soon discovered that a ranch is also the best place to raise children. Some of our kid’s first memories are of feeding cows. They went along with us as babies because mama had to drive the jeep.”

Fibershed a book review

Fibershed: a book review

from issue:

As I began Burgess’ book, I started off with a few doubts. Despite the fact that I am an avid knitter and sewist with a penchant for natural fibers, I was still a little apprehensive about the book’s ideologies mostly because of cost. How could it be possible for the average person to truly curate a wardrobe of practical clothing essentials sourced from American and local farms without breaking the bank? How does fashion factor into my work as a farmer? I suppose the same concern came about when the local and organic food movement took off – yet here we are, with an increased demand and interest in supporting small-scale neighbor farmers growing produce in rural parts of the country with more affordable options offered through reduced cost CSA shares and agricultural non-profit programs. In my little sliver of the world (the hilltowns of western Massachusetts) it’s actually possible to source most of your food from area farms. I grow food, my neighbors grow food and I buy food grown by a farm less than 10 miles a way. I can’t say the same thing about clothing, however.

Wheel Hoe

The Wheel Hoe: A Tool For Shallow Tillage

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.

How To Prune

From Dusty Shelves: Pruning Guide from 1917

A Quiet Stand

A Quiet Stand

Burnout is common to idealists who invest deeply in their dreams. It is easy to overreach, and promise more than you have to give. Then too there is that tempered hidden anchor called hope, the mountain climber’s friend driven into cracks to belay and secure him as he goes, which still may fail first or last. So following the story that underlies these essays it is not hard to see how, as Kingsnorth says, finding himself increasingly mired in endless meetings with corporate spokesmen paid to resist him, enough futile effort might lead to despair.

Fedco Trees and Plants for Spring Planting

Fedco Trees & Plants for Spring Planting

from issue:

Deep in the cultural trenches and personal histories within small farming is the oft shared love of seed catalog mining during fall and winter. We might say it is all about the enthusiasms that come with planning another year’s growing but I know it is also about a tangible immersion in the practical literature of planting choices. As many of you know already, with Fedco Seeds of Maine we have catalogs which are educational, testimonial, encouraging and genuinely bracing. And equally important we have all of that in a form that can and should be trusted and preserved. This is ‘our’ sort of seed company. Let’s go further ‘out on a proverbial limb’ and say their catalogs are our sort of reading material.

One Seed To Another: The New Small Farming

One Seed to Another

One Seed to Another is staggering and bracing in its truths and relevance. This is straight talk from a man whose every breath is poetry and whose heartbeat is directly plugged into farming as right livelihood.

The Horsedrawn Mower Book

Removing the Wheels from a McCormick Deering No. 9 Mower

How to remove the wheels of a No. 9 McCormick Deering Mower, an excerpt from The Horsedrawn Mower Book.

Book Reviews

Book Reviews

from issue:

Lynn briefly reviews several books, including Joe De Yong, A Life in the West by William Reynolds; Storey’s Guide to Raising Beef Cattle 4th Edition by Heather Smith Thomas; and the Farm Collector Show Directory.

The Best Way to Grow Trees

The Best Way to Grow Trees

from issue:

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.

The Harness for Draught Horses a Review

The Harness for Draught Horses: a Review

from issue:

Readers of this publication will recognize the names of Albano Moscardo and Paul Schmit as authors of an important, multi-year series of scientific articles pertaining to animal-powered agriculture. It was, perhaps, only logical that their important work would find its way to formal publication beyond periodicals and website. We are pleased to announce that the first book of their multiple volume effort, Guidebook 1: The Harness for Draught Horses, has been published and is available to the public. The dramatic and appropriate clarity of this presentation, superbly enhanced by the illustrations of Albano, makes of it a most useful work of scholarship and applicability.

Haying With Horses

Hitching Horses To A Mower

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.

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

Book Excerpt: The enclosed gear, late model John Deere, Case, Oliver, David Bradley, and McCormick Deering International mowers I (we) are so fond of had a zenith of popular manufacture and use that lasted just short of 25 years. Millions of farmers with millions of mowers, built to have a serviceable life of 100 plus years, all pushed into the fence rows. I say, it was far too short of a period.

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

There are four general plans, or methods of plowing fields. These are: (1) to plow from one side of a field to the other; (2) to plow around the field; (3) to plow a field in lands; and (4) to start the plowing in the center of the field.

A Species to Look Up To

A Species to Look Up To

from issue:

The interwoven human stories in the book hold many surprises, with unlikely heroes and distressingly ordinary villains. I will try not to spill the beans, but the most memorable story for me is a newly met couple who join some environmental activists, and are talked into climbing up into the canopy of an old-growth tree, to halt the clear-cutting of an ancient forest. Expecting to only be up there for four or five days, they are both alarmed and slowly charmed to be marooned 220 feet above the forest floor for a stay that stretches a year, when the beleaguered activists can’t find anyone to replace them.

Horsedrawn Plows and Plowing

Setting Up A Walking Plow

Here is a peek into the pages of Horsedrawn Plows and Plowing, written by SFJ editor and publisher Lynn R. Miller.

Retrofitting a Fireplace with a Woodstove

How to Retrofit a Fireplace with a Woodstove

Because the venting requirements for a wood stove are different than for a fireplace you need to retrofit a stainless steel chimney liner. A liner provides the draft necessary to ensure that the stove will operate safely and efficiently.

Apples of North America

Freedom has been called the ugly duckling of disease-resistant apple varieties. But that shouldn’t detract from its many merits. These include the freedom from apple-scab infection for which it was named, a high rate of productivity, and an ability to serve as a good pollinator for its more attractive sibling, Liberty.

Old Man Farming

Old Man Farming

Long after his physical capacities have dwindled to pain and stiffening, what drives the solitary old man to continue bringing in the handful of Guernsey cows to milk?

Old Man Farming

Spinning Ladders

You die off by passing away. You live on by passing on. I want to pass the culture of my life on slowly, over the ripening time of my best years.

Late Migrations

Late Migrations

from issue:

Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss is a very new and vibrantly important book by Margaret Renkl, a weekly contributor to the New York Times from her home in Nashville, Tennessee. Looking for a book that will realign your soul and refresh your observational senses? Here ‘tis. 219 pages of tiny, sweet, sad and illuminating stories, each spinning in place and pointing within and without to natural universe and universality. These stories, some a paragraph long, some a page, a few at two pages, are air-filled word pastries that effortlessly combine surgical sadness, giddy memory, and astounding poetry of observation.

Plowing with the Single Horse

Plowing with the Single Horse

All other aspects being equal, the primary difference in plowing, comfortably, with a single horse is that the animal walks on unplowed ground immediately adjacent to the previous furrow, rather than in the furrow. This will cause the point of draft at the shoulder to be somewhat higher and will dictate hitching longer and/or higher than with the animal walking down 5 to 8 inches lower in the furrow.

Beekeeping and Honey Hunting on Six Continents

Beekeeping and Honey Hunting on Six Continents

from issue:

In Honey from the Earth we see the diversity of hives, bees and methods played out to its absolute extreme. There are plenty of the familiar wooden, frame hives here, close to the ground; easy to manipulate and move. But the sky is, quite literally, the limit. Beehives are made of any and every available material that can be fashioned into homes that bees will accept and occupy — lumber, hollow logs, live trees, straw, reeds, bark, mud and plastic are all used according to the unique local situations in which bees and their keepers find themselves.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 4

Assuming that you’ve found a farm you want to buy, next you’ll need to determine if you can buy it. If you have sold your property, and/or saved your money, and have the means to buy the farm you are sitting pretty. If you do not have the full price of a considered farm, in cash or any other form, you will likely have to look for financing.

Why Farm

Farming For Art’s Sake: Farming As An Artform

Farming as a vocation is more of a way of living than of making a living. Farming at its best is an Art, at its worst it is an industry. Farming can be an Art because it allows at every juncture for the farmer to create form from his or her vision.

Butchering Chickens Book Review

Butchering Chickens

Some years back I had the pleasure of reviewing Adam Danforth’s outstanding and astounding volumes on butchering meats. Those titles won him the James Beard Award among others. His newest title, Butchering Chickens, follows in the very same astute footsteps. This attractive, well organized handy 175 page book, subtitled A Guide to Human Small-Scale Processing, is published by Storey.

Barbed Wire History and Varieties

Book Excerpt: The invention of barb wire was the most important event in the solution of the fence problem. The question of providing fencing material had become serious, even in the timbered portions of the country, while the great prairie region was almost wholly without resource, save the slow and expensive process of hedging. At this juncture came barb wire, which was at once seen to make a cheap, effective, and durable fence, rapidly built and easily moved.

Honoring Our Teachers

Honoring Our Teachers

from issue:

I believe that there exist many great practicing teachers, some of who deliberately set out to become one and others who may have never graduated from college but are none-the-less excellent and capable teachers. I would hazard a guess that many readers of Small Farmer’s Journal know more than one teacher who falls within this latter category. My grandfather, and artist and author Eric Sloane, were two such teachers.

Basic Welding for Farm and Ranch

Basic Welding for Farm and Ranch

from issue:

Hands-on human-scale farming will frequently put you in need of a way to repair implements and equipment, including gates, hinges, hangers and such. Success with your operation may well hinge on your willingness and ability to do most of these jobs yourself. Fifty+ years ago, when I got started farming, I was immediately intimidated by the cautions and precautions implicit with welding, either oxy or stick (arc). My first sense was that this process was not for the beginner or novice. I got over my trepidations. That was a long time ago. Since then innovations in welding technologies have come a very long way, adding to the hazards, and complexity, tenfold.

McCormick-Deering No 7 Mower Manual in English & French

McCormick-Deering No. 7 Mower Manual in English & French

Instructions for Setting Up and Operating the McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 VERTICAL LIFT TWO-HORSE MOWERS — Instructions pour le Montage et le Fonctionnement des FAUCHEUSES A DEUX CHEVAUX McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 À RELEVAGE VERTICAL

Riding the Humboldt Current

by: ,
from issue:

Somewhere amid the ebbs and eddies of a curious childhood I wondered who Alexander von Humboldt might be. I had noticed all the places named for him, sprinkled on maps of the world, and assumed he was some kind of explorer. It was not till I took up sailing in my late twenties that I learned of the Humboldt Current, a cold nutrient-rich Pacific current known to fishermen from time immemorial, that runs up the coast of South America from Chile to Peru, Ecuador and Columbia.

Work Horse Handbook

The Work Horse Handbook

The decision to depend on horses or mules in harness for farm work, logging, or highway work is an important one and should not be taken lightly. Aside from romantic notions of involvement in a picturesque scene, most of the considerations are serious.


Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

Book Review Butchering

Two New Butchering Volumes

Danforth’s BUTCHERING is an unqualified MASTERPIECE! One which actually gives me hope for the furtherance of human kind and the ripening of good farming everywhere because, in no small part, of this young author’s sensitive comprehension of the modern disconnect with food, feeding ourselves, and farming.

Chicken Guano: Top-Notch Fertilizer

Whoever thought I’d be singing the praises of chicken poop? I am, and I’m not the only one. Chickens are walking nitrogen-rich manure bins.

Training Workhorses Training Teamsters First Time Hitching

First Time Hitching

More from Lynn R. Miller’s highly anticipated Second Edition of “Training Workhorses / Training Teamsters.” Today’s excerpt, “First Time Hitching,” is from Chapter 12, “Follow Through to Finish.”

Making Buttermilk

The Small-Scale Dairy

What kind of milk animal would best suit your needs? For barnyard matchmaking to be a success, you need to address several concerns.

Storey's Guide to Keeping Honey Bees

Storey’s Guide To Keeping Honey Bees

It is well known that the value of pollination and its resultant seed set and fruit formation outweigh any provided by honey bee products like honey and beeswax.


Driving Fence Posts By Hand

Where the soil is soft, loose, and free from stone, posts may be driven more easily and firmly than if set in holes dug for the purpose.

Home & Shop Companion Newsletter

The “Small Farmer’s Journal Home & Shop Companion” is an email newsletter featuring handy hints & tips, projects and other distractions. Click Here to see the archive of previous newsletters.

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Just for Kids – Spring 2009 – Young Farmer’s Writing Contest part 2

Just for Kids - Young Farmers Writing Contest

The Dream • Seasons • My Pet Pig • My Youth Farm Stand Experience • Mika • A Child’s Logic • One Little Seed

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