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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PST

A Bad Day in Harmony

A Bad Day in Harmony

by Garry Leeson of Kingston, NS

When you keep livestock you’re bound to have dead stock — it’s an inescapable consequence. The most that any caring and responsible owner can do is to make sure that, while his animals are alive, they are well cared for, and when their time comes to move up to that big pasture in the sky, their departure is as painless as possible. If, like most people, you don’t have the stomach to accept this reality, read no further. The following story, although true in all respects, is not for the faint of heart.

I had a horse that lived up to every expectation that I could have possibly had for her. I called her Lady; she was a chestnut mare with a white blaze and stockings, well built with a beautiful head and a strong body that was suited to both riding and working. Originally she had been used as a workhorse and the only regret that I had when I purchased her was that her previous owner had followed the tradition of tail docking. She was so wonderful in every other respect that I forgot that one imperfection.

As a part time horse trader scads of animals passed through my hands in the many years that I owned Lady, but I was never tempted to part with her. We shared many adventures in the course of our time together and I thought more of her than I did of most human beings of my acquaintance. The years with her went quickly and one day I had to admit that she had become an old horse and that the series of painful afflictions that often accompany old age in horses had caught up with her and were making her life a living hell. I knew what I had to do and I steeled myself to make the arrangements.

I made the phone call to my neighbour Gary Parker – he owns a backhoe and had helped me with several equine internments in the past. I told him my family was away on vacation and that I would like to get the unpleasant business done before they returned home. I expected Gary to schedule me for a week or so later so when he said he would be over within the hour it really took me by surprise. However, the time was right so I hung up the phone and went to dig out my old pistol. I loaded the gun, tucked it in my belt and with a bucket loaded to the brim with Lady’s favorite treats, I went to join her where she was standing in the pasture. It was her favourite spot and where I planned to bury her.

After saying goodbye to her and rubbing her under the eyes the way she liked I ended her life as quickly as possible while she had her muzzle buried deep in the pail of molasses soaked oats. I had a good cry while I knelt beside her with my hand on her chest feeling her heartbeat slowly peter away until it was still. When my eyes finally cleared up enough to see, I made my way to the barn. I needed to get a chain to move Lady when Gary arrived with his backhoe. Trudging along grief stricken, I turned the corner to the front of the barn and almost tripped over an old pinto mare that was lying on her side struggling to get to her feet. This mare was not the oldest horse I had ever known but she was close to it, well over thirty years. She was just one of the many older animals that, over the years, had been foisted on us by owners who claimed they couldn’t keep them anymore. We hadn’t set out to be an old age home for horses, we were just suckers for a sob story.

The problem with taking on these older animals was that they weren’t going to be around very long and it became our responsibility to see that their passing would be as painless as possible. Horses aren’t subjected to the rigermorole that humans endure when their quality of life reaches its lowest ebb. No tubes and ventilators for them – just a veterinarian’s lethal injection or a well placed bullet from a caring owner. It was a bit inconsiderate of the old pinto mare, after what I had just been through with Lady, to choose that day to pack it in but I could tell by the almost pleading look in her eyes that it was definitely a case for assisted suicide.

As I always did, I mentally drew a line from her left ear to her right eye and from right ear to her left eye and where the two lines intersected sent the twentytwo bullet that ended her suffering. After I finished with my second termination of the day I continued my journey to the barn. My eyes were still misty as I made my way into the darkened entrance so I was taken completely by surprise when two white roosters flew banshee-like out of the gloom and into my face. These two rogue roosters were a pair that had been terrorizing the kids before they left on holidays so I had no qualms about drawing my gun again and sending the pair of miserable little buggers to their maker. By the time I finished with my feathered friends I could hear the backhoe putting away in the distance as it made its way up the mountain so I decided to go to the house, put the gun away, freshen up and wash away any traces of the unmanly tears I’d been shedding. I slid open the patio door and was assailed by a strong smell of ammonia. An old flea-bitten tomcat that Andrea had dragged home recently was staring at me with a wistful look on his face while urinating on our new sofa. I like cats but I am confidant that even the most ardent animal lover would not put up with the tricks that old orange tabby had been up to since he had been “rescued” by my wife. He was the type of despicable feline who prowled the alleys and imposed himself on helpless females for the pleasure of later eating their kittens. He had picked the wrong day to try my patience — I still had one bullet left.

Gary Parker maneuvered his backhoe over to where Lady was lying and I hurried over to join him. Gary was good at his job and it wasn’t long before he had a good size hole scooped out. He throttled back the big machine and looked in my direction for approval. When I indicated with hand signals that he should continue digging he seemed a little confused but reluctantly complied. When he had the hole twice its original size he checked with me once more and was really peeved when I indicated that I required him to take out a few more scoops. Finally satisfied with the size and depth of the hole, I hooked the chain around one of Lady’s legs, attached it to the bucket at the end of the digging arm and Gary gently slid the old horse into her final resting place. I retrieved my chain and Gary was about to start filling the hole in when I stopped him, slung the chain over my shoulder, indicated that I wanted him to follow me and then headed over to where the old pinto was waiting.

Gary was starting to look a little concerned but he complied and we weren’t long getting the second horse over to the hole. He made another attempt to start filling it but once again I stopped him while I went to the barn, retrieved the two roosters and, with an evil grin on my face, deposited them one by one into what was turning out to be a mass grave.

Gary, hoping that that was the lot, revved up the big yellow machine in eager anticipation but once again I called a halt and disappeared in the direction of the house. When I reappeared at the graveside holding a dead cat by the tail Gary shut the machine down completely, remained totally silent for what seemed like a long time, and then leaned out of the cab and with a look of mock concern on his face said in his dry manner, “Where did you say the wife and kids are?”

Spotlight On: People

Students on the Lines

Students on the Lines & McD Grain Indicator Plate

from issue:

We conclude our online presentation of Volume 41 Issue 2 with beautiful photos from Walt Bernard’s Workhorse Workshops (www.workhorseworkshops.com) and some hard-to-find info on the McCormick-Deering Plain Fluted Feed “R” Grain Drill Grain Indicator Plate.

Field Weeds and Street Boys

Field Weeds and Street Boys

by:
from issue:

So, our farming system to feed hungry street boys is to have them farm “weeds”. As we have all experienced, weeds are perfectly adapted to their climate, are robust and need no fertilizer nor any of the insecticides to enhance a good crop. Because we are aiming for long term diversified permaculture (this is a Shea native tree area), we needed some very quick marketable crops while we wait for the trees to mature. These field weeds intentionally farmed have a ready market in the big city 5 km north.

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley A Farmrun Production by Andrew Plotsky

Elsa

Elsa

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from issue:

I headed out with a gut feeling not that something was wrong, but that in these conditions there soon enough would be if I did not try. I made my way more or less by instinct across the open field and through the frozen swamp. In amongst saplings, rocks, and old rusty metal and wire there is a large, red haired calf half steaming where mom is aggressively licking her and the other half is iced over where her hooves and legs appear frozen to the ground.

In Memoriam Gene Logsdon

In Memoriam: Gene Logsdon

by:
from issue:

Gene didn’t see life (or much of anything else) through conventional eyes. I remember his comment about a course he took in psychology when he was trying to argue that animals did in fact have personalities (as any farmer or rancher will tell you is absolutely true), and the teacher basically told him to sit down and shut up because he didn’t know what he was taking about. Gene said: “I was so angry I left the course and then left the whole stupid school.”

Almost a Veterinarian

Almost a Veterinarian

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from issue:

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.

Farm To School Programs Take Root

All aim to re-connect school kids with healthy local food.

Central Oregon Locavore Online Fundraiser

CENTRAL OREGON LOCAVORE NEEDS YOUR HELP! We at SFJ can relate.  Central Oregon Locavore is running a GoFundMe campaign, similar to our Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.  Follow the links to learn more about Locavore and to show your support. www.centraloregonlocavore.org www.gofundme.com/locavore Central Oregon Locavore works for an ecologically stable and socially just food system […]

Carriage Hill Farm

Carriage Hill Farm: Crown Jewel of Parks

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from issue:

“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.

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

by:
from issue:

Watching Wayne’s sure hands it was easy for me to forget that this is a 91 year old man. There was strength, economy, elegance and thrift in his every stroke.

Farmrun George's Boots

George’s Boots

George Ziermann has been making custom measured, hand made shoes for 40 years. He’s looking to get out, but can’t find anyone to get in.

NYFC Bootstrap Videos The Golden Yoke

NYFC Bootstrap Videos: The Golden Yoke

I couldn’t have been happier to collaborate with The National Young Farmers Coaltion again when they called up about being involved in their Bootstrap Blog Series. In 2013, all of their bloggers were young and beginning lady dairy farmers, and they invited us on board to consult and collaborate in the production of videos of each farmer contributor to the blog series.

Another Barn Falls In

Another Barn Falls In

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from issue:

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.”

Hand-Harvested Food Challenge

The Hand-Harvested Food Challenge

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from issue:

In the winter of 2011, Daniel mentioned a fourteen-year-old student of his who had spent a whole month eating only foods gathered from the wild. “Could we go for two days on the hand-harvested food we have here?’ he asked. “Let’s give it a try!” I responded with my usual enthusiasm. We assembled the ingredients on the table. Everything on that table had passed through our hands. We knew all the costs and calories associated with it. No hidden injustice, no questionable pesticides. We felt joy at living in such an edible world.

Kombit: The Cooperative

Kombit: The Cooperative

We received word of a new environmental film, Kombit: The Cooperative, about deforestation in Haiti — and an international effort to combat it by supporting small farmers on the island.

Growing Farmers and the Food Movement for 50 Years

Growing Farmers and the Food Movement for 50 Years

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from issue:

It all began 50 years ago when faculty and students appealed to UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Dean McHenry, proposing a garden project that would serve as a central gathering spot on the remote, forested campus. As legend has it, Alan Chadwick, a charismatic, somewhat cantankerous master gardener from England, chose a steep, rocky, sun-scorched slope covered with poison oak to prove a point: If students could create a garden there, they could create one anywhere. And create they did.

The Value of What You Grow

The Value of What You Grow

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from issue:

There is a lot of value in the produce you sell that contrasts it from what someone can buy at the grocery store. First, you probably sell varieties that are different from what the grocery store sells. As you’ve probably tried dozens of different varieties, you can let the customer know why yours are different. Be brief and talk about things like taste and texture that are easy to get across.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT