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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 PDT

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: How-To & Plans

Basic Blacksmithing Techniques

Illustrated guide to basic blacksmithing techniques, an excerpt from Blacksmithing: Basics For The Homestead.

The Craft of the Wheelwright

The Craft of the Wheelwright

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In these days of standardization and the extensive use of metal wheels you might think there is little call for the centuries old craft of wheelwrighting, but the many demands on the skills of Gus Kitson in Suffolk, England, show this to be very far from the truth. Despite many years experience of renovating all types of wagons and wheels even Gus can still be surprised by the types of items for which new or restored wooden wheels are required.

"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.

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Cheese

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Cheese

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Yogurt making is the perfect introduction into the world of cultured dairy products and cheese-making. You are handling milk properly, becoming proficient at sanitizing pots and utensils, and learning the principles of culturing milk. Doing these things regularly, perfecting your methods, sets you up for cheese-making very well. Cheese-making involves the addition of a few more steps beyond the culturing.

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

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The scoop has two steel sides about 5 feet apart sitting on steel runners made out of heavy 2 X 2 angle iron, there is a blade that is lowered and raised by use of a foot release which allows the weight of the blade to lower it and then lock in the down position and the forward motion of the horses to raise it and lock it in the up position. This is accomplished by a clever pivoting action where the tongue attaches to the snow scoop.

Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide

How to Store Vegetables

Potatoes may be safely stored in bits on a well drained spot. Spread a layer of straw for the floor. Pile the potatoes in a long, rather than a round pile. Cover the pile with straw or hay a foot deep.

Building a Community, Building a Barn

Building a Community, Building a Barn

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One of the most striking aspects of this development is the strength and confidence that comes from this communal way of living. While it is impressive to build a barn in a day it seems even more impressive to imagine building four barns or six, and all the rest of the needs of a community. For these young Amish families the vision of a shared agricultural community is strong, and clear.

Horseshoeing Part 2C

Horseshoeing Part 2C

The wear of the shoe is caused much less by the weight of the animal’s body than by the rubbing which takes place between the shoe and the earth whenever the foot is placed to the ground and lifted. The wear of the shoe which occurs when the foot is placed on the ground is termed “grounding wear,” and that which occurs while the foot is being lifted from the ground is termed “swinging-off wear.” When a horse travels normally, both kinds of wear are nearly alike, but are very distinct when the paces are abnormal, especially when there is faulty direction of the limbs.

Hand Plucking Poultry

Hand Plucking Poultry

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I confess that I am cold-hearted and cheap. Though I love raising poultry, I hate spending time and money anywhere but on my little farm. So I process at home. If you are only raising a few birds for yourself, say 25 or 30 at a time, I recommend having a party and doing it all by hand. My journey backward from machines to hands started with a chance encounter with a Kenyan chicken grower visiting the United States. He finishes 15,000 broilers each year.

Horse Powered Snow Fencing and Sleigh Fencing

Horse Powered Snow Fencing and Sleigh Fencing

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We were planning on having our cattle out in a sheltered field for the winter but a busy fall and early snows meant our usual fencing tool was going to be ineffective. Through the grazing season we use a reel barrow which allows us to carry posts and pay out or take in wire with a wheel barrow like device which works really well. But not on snow. This was the motivation for turning our sleigh into a “snow fencer” or a “sleigh barrow”.

Laying Out Fields For Plowing

Laying Out Fields For Plowing

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Before starting to plow a field much time can be saved if the field is first staked out in uniform width lands. Methods that leave dead furrows running down the slope should be avoided, as water may collect in them and cause serious erosion. The method of starting at the sides and plowing around and around to finish in the center of the field will, if practiced year after year, create low areas at the dead furrows.

Lightning Protection for the Farm

Lightning Protection for the Farm

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Lightning-protection systems for buildings give lightning ready-made lines of low resistance. They do this by providing unbroken bodies of material that have lower resistance than any other in the immediate neighborhood. A protection system routes lightning along a known, controlled course between the air and the moist earth. Well-installed and maintained, a lightning-protection system will route lightning with over 90-percent effectiveness.

Moving Bees

Moving Bees

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Moving beehives from one location to another is often a necessary step in apiary management. Commercial beekeepers routinely move large numbers of hives often during a season, to pollinate crops, avoid pesticide applications or to utilize specific honey flows. Beekeeping hobbyists may also move bees to distant honey flows or pollination sites, or to bring home a newly purchased hive.

The Milk and Human Kindness Making Swaledale

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Swaledale

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Swaledale is one of the lost British cheeses, nearly extinct, along with other more obscure farmstead cheeses which were dropped because they were not suited for mechanical cutting – too crumbly. Too much loss. I dug the basic method out of Patrick Rance’s wonderful book of British cheeses and I’ve made it for years. I love it, everybody loves it, it’s a perfect cheese for rich Jersey milk, it takes very little time and trouble to make, it’s easy to age, delicious at one month, or a year.

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.

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

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As we start, consider a few things when building a pto cart. Are big drive tires necessary? Is a lot of weight needed? Imagine the cart in use. Try to see it working where you normally go and where you almost never go. Will it be safe and easy to mount or dismount? Can you access the controls of the implement conveniently? Is it easy to hook and unhook? Where is the balance point? I’m sure you will think of other details as you daydream about it.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

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Making a pair of tongs was a milestone for a lot of blacksmiths. In times gone past a Journeyman Smith meant just that, a smith that went upon a journey to learn more skills before taking a masters test. When the smith appeared at the door of a prospective employer, he/she would be required to demonstrate their skills. A yard stick for this was to make a pair of tongs.

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