December 4, 2023
Mr. Schadel rumbled up with the grain wagon, sacks flung over the box edge and flapping. His two boys balanced their pitchforks against the sway of the wagon. After that Mr. Dunkel came, slow with his oxen; with him Mr. Marchen with Snoose and the two older brothers, Jack and Bill, in a wide-tired wagon. Behind them drove Mr. Nussbaum and his boys, proud of their sorrels, and sometimes a hired hand – a small circle of neighbors then who gathered to set the machine and stake down the power. Uncle Herm giddapped the team and pulled the separator between the stacks.
November 28, 2023
For nigh on 20 years Rob Collins has been an ox teamster. He has also been a high school social studies teacher and a farming instructor at Tillers International. In his capacities with the Midwest Ox Drovers Association he began recording conversations with Ox Teamsters. He then bravely and intelligently compiled these, verbatim, into an album of tremendous effectiveness and value. I say album because, though in printed book form, it has not been ‘academized nor homogenized’ for market. It’s kind of like grandma’s scrapbook of recipes. It is a string of transcriptions which makes it all the more valuable – as it offers a superbly authentic and useful ‘jump start’ to any who might be inclined.
November 29, 2023
Chicken feet. Sure, I know it is done, either in other parts of the world, or in commercial production where in the pursuit of monetary profit, nothing is wasted but the squawk. But, Deanna? I didn’t know that I might have preconceived ideas of what a person who cooks chicken feet looked like. Maybe a person who comes in from the yard with dirt under her fingernails and a pencil stuck through her hair for a hairpin, like me. I somehow didn’t picture someone as put-together and beautiful as Deanna canning chicken foot broth. Yet, there she was and there I wasn’t.
November 30, 2023
One day, a couple winters ago, Khoke was in a hurry at feeding time and tried his hand at the hay knife again. Soon reminded of his previous dissatisfaction, he reached for his limbing ax that he happened to have with him. Still shiny from a sharpening, this ax benefited from the density of the round bale and worked well to open it up. It has become Khoke’s standard bale opening method.
December 1, 2023
This summer Eric Grutzmacher and Kema Clark from the Journal office, went to Brooks Antique Powerland for the annual Great Oregon Steam-Up. They visited the many displays and Eric took lots of pictures. On these three pages are views of three of the operating steamers. The Case, the Altman Taylor, and the Russell were models prevalent in the PNW.
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Explore Small Farmer's Journal: People/Events
The big horse in the furrow shifted his feet and dropped over on his right hip. The creak of the harness and the soft jingle of the trace chains brought Paul out of his reverie. Almost as if he were waking from sleep he looked around him at the bright world of this field he had been plowing in for two days now. The field lay in a long curve along the hillside, steepening as it approached old man Finch’s woodlot, which covered, completely, the top of the hill, and fell away into the river valley on the other side.
In a town where one is just as likely to see kids walking their 4-H lambs in the warm evening air as their dogs, the Threshing Bee came to life 32 years ago during a conversation between two local men. Back in 1969 and 1970, the Everett Metzentine family from nearby Wamic, along with their friends and neighbors, harvested grain from their fields using horses and horse-drawn equipment. While discussing the enjoyment and curiosity the harvest had generated, Metzentine and Dufur’s Bob DePriest decided a public threshing bee would be met with enthusiasm. Dufur, smack in the middle of dryland wheat country, seemed the perfect place to host the event.
I quickly discovered animals don’t need to be raised inside in atrocious conditions in order to provide meat for my family. The farmers that I spoke to were actually more akin to my mind’s eye image of Old Mac Donald’s farmer. These folks, my neighbors, enjoyed working with their animals. They gave the animals names, ensured the animals had comfortable places to sleep, and allowed the livestock to go outside on grass. Pigs were rolling in the dirt and chickens were sunning themselves, soaking up vitamin D. These were the type of farmers that I wanted to support with my family’s food dollars and this was the kind of meat that I could feel good about feeding my family.
(On a recent) Sunday, a large field day was held for the second time in the surroundings of the Lauresham Open-Air Lab. The main purpose of the event was on one hand to strengthen the public awareness of animal traction systems, but on the other hand also to create a forum for professional exchange on various issues of harnessing, equipment, cultivation methods and animal welfare. In addition, there were information stands and sales booths with products that are characterized by the inclusion of animal traction in the production process.
In 1976, after reading the memoirs of a much-lauded veterinarian/author from Yorkshire England, I got it into my head that I would make a good DVM myself. It was a rather bold aspiration inasmuch as I was a thirty-three year old high school dropout with few credentials and no visible means of support. It was a shot in dark: I hadn’t been in a classroom for fifteen years, but I made my way back to Guelph, Ontario, where the only veterinarian school in Canada was located.
I was seventeen years old when I got my first copy of Magner’s Standard Horse and Stock Book. I found it hidden at the bottom of a box of old books at a farm auction and as I dusted it off and started leafing through the pages I realized that I had struck gold. Every other page seemed to be adorned with beautiful woodcut prints of horses and other livestock: over two thousand illustrations in all. More importantly I could see at a glance that the text was addressing many of the problems that horsemen and farmers encountered when handling and raising various classes of livestock.
The past two summers I loaded my three Kiger mustang mares into the stock trailer and drove from my home in Beavercreek, Oregon down to Dorena, Oregon where I spent the summer at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Oasis, owned and operated by Walt Bernard and Kris Woolhouse. Walt and Kris employed me to do work for the market crops. They grow mainly vegetables in twelve hoop houses and in the fields. I did everything from sowing seed in the propagation house to tying up tomatoes to weeding to digging potatoes, to harvesting. They also hired me to do some field work with my horses. When I wasn’t being paid to do the farm work, I trained my horses or canned some tomatoes and fruit.
Farms and families who have worked them for generations are the essence of Armstrong County. Most of our farmers turn to modern technology to lighten the workload a bit, but some, such as Bob Schall, choose to farm using the methods of their ancestors. Schall lives and works on the 70-acre farm in Plumcreek Township that his father, Roy, purchased in 1959. And even though he still has the tractor his father bought, also in the 50’s, Schall prefers to work the fields of his farm with his Belgian draft horses.
In his greatest works — Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi and Huckleberry Finn — Twain offered a contrast and tension between town and countryside, between the web of deals and cons and bustle of activity that the modern world would call decidedly urban, and the hard-scrabble but quiet and ultimately nourishing living on farms. There were four farms that touched Sam Clemens, rural locales that sustained and helped mold him, that reached from his beginnings through the decades of his greatest creative efforts.
Parents. The very word is enough to evoke memories that can strike terror, nostalgia, tears and smiles. Being a plural noun, it is assumed that more than one person is responsible for these memories. Yes, it takes two people to be parents, and in my case, no two finer people are to be had. Oh, we had the regular spats and disagreements, but in these two people I have found the definition of devotion, the meaning of work, the absolute and complete knowledge that life is about responsibility and commitment. In short, from my parents I found out why farming is a way of life, not just another job.
Funny, I had just read Lynn Miller’s description of dealing with runaways in the Training Workhorses text and had discussed it with Jim in passing. That knowledge was nowhere to be found as we accelerated to a gallop. I had tension on one line as Nelson’s bridle fell around his neck. The faster the wagon went, the faster the horses galloped to get out of the way. Was this really happening? How could confidence and a nice easy sunny morning turn so suddenly into a completely uncontrolled, raging race down the hill and what was sure to be a humongous crash and ensuing mess.
Sylvester Manor is an educational farm on Shelter Island, whose mission is to cultivate, preserve, and share these lands, buildings, and stories — inviting new thought about the importance of food, culture and place in our daily lives.
These days, you realize you’re starting to live the life of a herdswoman. You walk out into a field, tall grasses, the fawn-like ears peeking up amidst the weeds – little noises letting you know it’s time to stop for a quick bite or snack before journeying forward. It’s the height of summer, and the old orchard’s apple trees are starting to show fruit. The doelings discovered apple leaves for the first time yesterday, and now they beg for you to lower a bough so they can munch the tree’s sweet leaves.
There are many working definitions of art, and doubtless there will be new ones in the future. The definition that encourages me to see the clear relationship between farming and, say painting, is the one which places looking and manifesting what is seen, felt and encouraged into imagery. Photo realism as a genre has a rich tradition stretching back to Hans Holbein the Younger and Johannes Vermeer, a tradition which has challenged individual artists to discover and instill the tricky visual elements which embue the images with a living vitality. Alexandra Klimas has discovered her access to the living image.
The first balers were so large and clumsy, no one ever thought you could pull them with horses. So the church never put a ban on balers. Then the small pick-up balers came in and the farmers pulled them with their horses. The Amish have adopted just about everything that will pull with horses. It’s hard to say why one settlement made certain restrictions and others didn’t, why some have worked and others haven’t. I guess you’d just have to say it’s the will of the people.
“Thank you for taking the time to visit our farm.” This is one of the responses that I give to the many visitors as they prepare to leave Carriage Hill Farm, an historical farm which is part of a much larger system of 24 parks within the Five Rivers Metroparks system. The main emphasis of our farm is education and interpretation of an 1880’s family farm with all the equipment and animals from the 1880’s time period.
With the average age of an American farmer being 57, much of the nation’s farmland will change hands in the next two decades. To help address this issue, many states and regions are creating land links: programs that help connect farmers, especially beginning farmers, to farmland for rent or sale. Land links are usually online databases that display listings from landholders and landseekers describing what the participant is looking for in a match and what they can offer. The land link program puts this posting online (minus any personal or contact information) and facilitates communication between participants.
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.
On a recent cold, early-March weekend, a small but enthusiastic group of people gathered at Tillers International in southwestern Michigan for a class on “Draft Animal Logging” taught by one of southern Michigan’s great teamsters, Fred Herr. Now 78, Fred has been working horses all his life – on the farm, in the woods, and as a legend in regional pulling contests. In addition, Fred has been teaching classes at Tillers for the last 20 years or so – plowing, fieldwork, logging, training draft horses, etc.
When a pair of calves is carefully chosen to become an Ox Team they should be housed together, fed and watered together, yolked together, and exercised together from the get-go. There are as many training methods as there are teamsters. Like children, love and patience produce the best results. A willing team is a joy to work with for many years.
My fingers are purple tonight. We just came back from picking blackberries at the base of the Blue Mountains. It was a great Sunday afternoon and I enjoyed spending it with my family. We have four children between the ages of 5 and 11 who have gotten much better at helping us fill the containers! We do this every August, just before the local county fair. “Our place” is on private property that my uncle rents for summer pasture. I have spent many days in that pasture, chasing cows down the long ridges and out of the brush in the bottoms during fall round up on my saddle horse, Peaches. Mostly I enjoyed these times, but I haven’t gone the past year or so. We all get so busy with our own plans and life fills in the gaps…
There are many emotional issues surrounding the care and consumption of animals. Because they move, and breathe, and make noise, we can relate to all animals on a most basic level. Whether cat, or deer, chipmunk, draft horse, or milk-cow, we can empathize with their life experience. It is enjoyable to husband farm animals because we can create relationships with them which enhance our own emotional lives. The recognition of the value of these relationships to my life is what compelled me to start raising a diversity of animals on my small farm.
In all probability the “Morgan type” existed before Justin Morgan came to Vermont, in the results of crossing an Arab strain on basic New England stock. What Justin Morgan brought – the one element that fused all the rest and crystallized the type into a lasting great family – was personality. Some call it “spirit” and believe it to be akin to the factor that makes human beings dominant among other beings. Anyway, the Morgan still stands as a symbol of vigorous horse personality, the true blood always declaring itself – usually through the look in the eyes, an intelligent appreciation of people who understand.
Forty-four years ago I was employed as a mule packer for the US Forest Service. At this time the Forest Service maintained pack mules for packing supplies and food to fire lookout towers, trail maintenance crews, bridge and trail construction and packing supplies for fire fighting crews. I was stationed at the Fish Lake Remount Station on the Clear Lake cutoff road of the Santiam Highway west of Sisters, Oregon.
We had all the time in the world, the day was cool and lovely, and there was no reason not to just keep at it. During a short break, Charlie gave me some pointers, but he added that it was mostly a matter of “getting the feel of it.” He said he couldn’t really explain how to hold a plow; the knowledge would have to come to me as I held it. When we started up again, an old memory welled up: that first exultant glide after my father’s steadying hand had lifted from the back of my bicycle seat. All at once I relaxed and felt connected not to a lump of contrary metal, but to the living force that a plow becomes behind a team of horses. And a long cusp of earth curled over like an unbidden line of poetry, all but making music.
Sure, the hands thought they knew all about broke horses, and green-broke horses, and those that had never felt a rope or bit. Being broke was mostly a deal the horse made with you, some easier than others. If you quit riding them, they got harder to ride till eventually you were back where you started, having to catch and subdue an animal who was far from curious, intent on just running away. Nobody could blame them, and there were only a few tricks — what else but patience to calm their fears, touches and treats to reward their curiosity, and for their ears a nonsense lullaby.
Because their farm was selling, the horses needed to be moved out, but we weren’t quite ready yet. Our friends who had told us about them generously offered to keep the horses at their farm, with their Icelandics, for a few weeks while we finished fencing and stalls. When we arrived to help move them we were warned “Now this might take a while, because we can’t push Sokkull too hard if he doesn’t want to load, he could go down from the stress.” We were all a bit worried. However, when loading time came, he walked happily into the trailer, almost eagerly. “Oh boy, a trailer ride! Wonder where we’re going?” Prinsessa also loaded without any problems.
In that valley with the ocean beaches to the west and the crest of the Olympic Mountains to the North is nestled Crestview Farm, home of the legendary Doctor Donald Mustard, D.V.M. Doc is well known in the area as the big horse veterinarian, and his reputation is excellent and well deserved. An “old-fashioned” vet, he answers his own phone and is generous and sensible with his advice. He has saved countless pets and livestock from prolonged illness, and saved their owners countless dollars with good over-the-phone advice and do-it-yourself animal care wisdom.
Each episode of Around the Farm Table ends with a meal, made from the products from the farms featured in that show. With the volunteer firefighters, many of whom are also dairy farmers, we had a meal of Wagyu burgers, green bean salad and homemade pickles spiced with horseradish, as we discussed, in detail, the vagaries of putting up hay, and how fires can get ignited in barns. Little did I know that they would soon be coming to my aid.
Imagine – a beautiful fall day in the Northeast. The air is crisp, the foliage shining red and yellow and orange under a clear sky. Now imagine yourself surrounded by a phantasmagoria of color and texture, a dizzying array of handmade things combining beauty and utility in remarkably unique ways. Add some delicious food to this picture, and throw in a diverse crowd of enthusiastic folks. Mix all of this together, and you have set the scene for the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival.
Having animals to tend again, chores to do, is a kind of rebirth for me; a second childhood, a return to yesteryear. Like a new blade of grass, or a fresh sprout poking up through the brown, winter-soaked leaves at the edge of a field, I am coming alive once more, feeling a sense of déjà vu, a usefulness and sense of value and accomplishment that was sorely lacking during all those years working at the prison. Living things are depending on me again for sustenance, understanding and compassion, patience, maintenance and punctuality.
SFJ subscriber, Ron Decker of Corvallis, OR, inherited these photos from his uncle, W.P. Decker. They are of early days in the Lamont, WA area. The italic captions were taken from notes on the backs of the photos. Thanks to Ron for sharing.
From April to October, RIF participants join Brooklyn Grange staff and interns once a week in raking beds, seeding, weeding, transplanting, composting, and harvesting, as well as guiding visitors and CSA members around the two farms. In this way, they contribute directly to the health and ecological resiliency of their adopted community. An entire program curriculum has been developed around environmental stewardship, nutrition, sustainability, small business management, and an overview of New York’s booming “green” economy, with the aim of preparing participants to enter the job market. To that end, the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard Employment Center assists in offering free resume-writing and job interview workshops; many participants go on to find full-time work at the close of the season.
Working the land was one thing, but this arrangement was something else entirely. Trusting his nephew to care for this land and keep it in the family as it had been for a century — and grounding his faith in Daddy’s hard work and affection for this place — Uncle William set a transition in motion. It wouldn’t be a gift. Daddy would have to buy the farm, and he and Mama would need to take out a serious loan to do it. But they’d work out these details later. Another matter needed to be settled first.
If they had their druthers, most hands on the place would sit a tall horse and work cows. But there were always those who could farm if they had to, though they might grumble over the plowing and planting and weeding, coaxing things out of the ground, bucking bales. But as Len says, where else will winter hay and oats and feed corn come from — it don’t grow on trees, and whatever you buy, you surrender the profit.
It is NOT a small world, it is a BIG world, as wide and various as you can possibly imagine. We are not alone. When we feel ourselves shut down, crowded by worry and a sense of failure, it would serve us well to remember Bulldog’s admonition, “Boss, never give up, no matter what, never give up.” Anyway, how could we? Who would put up the hay? Who would unharness the team? Who would milk the cows? Who would wax the cheese? Who would feed those woolly pigs? It’s got to be us, after all it is who we are.
Mac was a friend and example to every member of his large family and to many hundreds of people with whom he shared life’s adventures and hardships. And he was a living legend and folk hero in his time. Across the mountain west he loved, he was the homespun humble circuit riding ‘preacher’ of choice to devout Christians as well as those without church membership, those who just naturally sought comfort and understanding. He was also that quiet sort of horseman, without splash, who some might think got lucky to have had so many willing, comfortable, calm, grateful equine working partners. It wasn’t luck, he made them that way so artfully that you were hard-pressed to see how he did it. Often the only evidence of intent was a twinkle in his eye.
“Free goats?” my husband Henry said, trying to control himself. “You said you’d take on these goats?” He stared at me with the look that made me know I better have thought this out. “You are going where to get these free goats without even seeing them?” He knew that when it came to building a goat herd, there were some things I just did not do because they were far too risky. He also knew that I was about to do one of those things. “This will give me some really important DNA in my herd,” I said, looking at him with eyes full of as much conviction as I could muster. He knew that I always try to have a well thought out breeding plan for my herds of Spanish and Savanna goats.
Day two of the match: You make your crown or head land, plow 6 rounds total then you wait for the man next to you to get his 6 rounds made, then you go to his last furrow. You have 2 rounds to straighten up his, if need be, but they were always straight. Then plow around till the last 2 rounds, turn to crown or head land side. I came in 2nd place this day. I swear middle mule has GPS. Watch the line.
At the centre of the quiet village of Wendlinghausen in north western Germany is the early 17th century castle, Schloss Wendlinghausen. In August last year it again provided the setting for Pferdestark, the biennial exposition of draught horses and modern machinery. If you know Horse Progress Days, but shrink it to a tenth of the size, and swap most of the straw hats and baseball caps for a range of traditional European headgear, then you’ll get an approximate impression of Pferdestark. Though the scale of the two events is very different, what they share is a great atmosphere, lots of good horses and interesting machinery.
Meanwhile my beans, the length of whose rows, added together, was seven miles already planted, were impatient to be hoed, for the earliest had grown considerably before the latest were in the ground; indeed, they were not easily to be put off. What was the meaning of this so steady and self-respecting, this small Herculean labour, I knew not. I came to love my rows, my beans, though so many more than I wanted. They attached me to the earth, and so I got strength like Antaeus. But why should I raise them? Only Heaven knows. This was my curious labour all summer, — to make this portion of the earth’s surface, which had yielded only cinquefoil, blackberries, johnswort, and the like, before, sweet wild fruits and pleasant flowers, produce instead this pulse. What shall I learn of beans or beans of me? I cherish them, I hoe them, early and late I have an eye to them; and this is my day’s work.
We lived close enough to the Sweetgrass Hills in Montana for my Dad to use them to predict the weather. They also provided a huge expanse for a fertile imagination to grow wild and free. Every coulee in our area of the prairies was a mystery for me to enjoy. Every living creature scraping a living through the dust, the mud, the blizzards and the blue skied “I can see for miles” warm spring days instilled my respect. I loved the prairies and still do. The few miles from our place in Canada across the border to the States held for me lands filled with outlaws, buffalo and ancient peoples all filling my childhood imagination with the magic that only wide open spaces can.
All the good implements were on hand with a few new surprises. There was a bale accumulator, all gravity – which gathered 10 bales to one spot. And I & J showed a cover crop roller especially designed to flatten and crush thick cereal rye before no-till corn planting. This tool had resulted from research done at the Rodale Institute. Pioneer, White Horse Machine, Shipse Farm Supply, Gateway, Hogback produce and all the other manufacturers put on an excellent field display.
It wouldn’t take my brothers long to make the rounds. I needed to be ready, so I cautiously approached the tree and stepped under the shade of its branches. Then I leaped backward, causing my braids to wave forward like swinging doors. There were possums in the branches — possums hanging from their tails! After the first reaction of surprise and fear, I was overcome with amusement. They were so funny!
The barn was built around a century ago. A pair of double doors on the front flapped when the wind blew, and a short service door was on the side. It wasn’t a big barn, about 30 feet wide by 40 feet long with a small hay mow above. It had a couple of windows for light, and of course a window in the peak. There was a hitching rail outside that gave it a certain welcoming charm. A charm that seemed to say, “tie up to the rail, and c’mon in.”
As a little girl living in the suburbs of St. Louis I wanted to live on a farm. It was my all-consuming passion. My favorite books were about children who lived on farms, who were lucky enough to be able to spend their summers jumping into fragrant haystacks, riding dusty work horses to the fields, scattering the yellow corn for the busy chickens, hunting for warm, just-laid eggs. I longed for the taste of warm milk just out of a cow I’d milked myself, leaning up against her warm body, listening to the hiss of the foaming whiteness squirting into the metal pail. I wanted to find newborn kittens in the hayloft, to feel the sloppy sucking of a calf’s tongue on my fingers, to watch lambs jumping and twisting in the pasture.
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.
That period of winter solitude in the Salmon River canyon is treasured by the handful of year around residents as well as a needed reprieve for the local outfitters and guest ranches in Idaho’s back country. After a full year of guiding, guesting, gardening & going, we cram all the weekends we missed throughout the year into a lump of liquid days… and call it ‘January.’ Greg and I celebrate that gift of time to pamper ourselves in pleasurable pursuits and creature comforts. In between reading great books, journaling and crafts, Greg and I can be found working on the next years’ firewood supply, repairing and oiling the tack, and cracking walnuts that river friends supply us with. The rhythm of these placid weeks are savored, giving further reason to be grateful for the opportunity to live where the wind is your only neighbor.
I’ve got two teams of Belgians that power all the things on the farm. I don’t have a tractor, I don’t have a truck or anything like that. Everything must be done by them. I have two buggy horses that I use for transportation. I have a one-seater buggy for when I’m going into work or into town by myself and then I have a two-seater one for when I’m with the kids.
One time, Grandpa told me that when the Creator made the Navajo, he gave them corn for food and pollen for prayer. For this reason, many of the Navajo collect the corn pollen and keep it with them in a small deerskin bag. When they pray, they also sprinkle the pollen. I looked closely at a corn stalk near me, already I could see the ear of corn forming on the stalk. The corn was young but it was already preparing to bear fruit. Our corn seed came from Grandpa, who got it from his grandmother and so on. It is generations old. Dad says this is the way it is supposed to be.
Snowy Days • The Fir-Tree • The Three Sisters • Kid’s Drawing: Bird’s Eye View of your Farm