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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: Farming Systems & Approaches

Back to the Land

Back to the Land

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Tired of living in a crowded urban environment with its deafening noise and bumper-to-bumper traffic and eager to escape what they saw as an economy bent on destroying the planet, Matt and Tasha left their home in the Washington, DC metropolitan area in March 2014. In doing so, they became modern-day pioneers, part of a wave of Americans who have chosen to go back to the land over the past decade, seeking to reclaim and rebuild their lives and to forge a deeper connection to the earth, the animals that inhabit it, and to each other.

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

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The amount of manure produced must be considered in planning a cropping system for a farm. If one wishes to manure one-fifth of the land every year with 10 tons per acre, there would have to be provided two tons per year for each acre of the farm. This would require about one cow or horse, or equivalent, for each six acres of land.

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 2

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 2

It is always fascinating and at times a little disconcerting to watch how seamlessly the macro-economics of trying to make a living as a farmer in such an out-of-balance society can morph us into shapes we never would have dreamed of when we were getting started. This year we will be putting in a refrigerated walk-in cooler which will allow us to put up more storage-share vegetables.

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

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If you were visiting Earth from some other planet and had to describe its inhabitants upon your return, you might say that the average person eats rice, and grows it as well, usually on a small scale. You’d be accurately describing the habits of over a quarter of the world’s population. Rice has a special story with an exciting chapter now unfolding in the northeast USA among a small but growing group of farmers and growers.

LittleField Notes Fall 2011

LittleField Notes: Fall 2011

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There is a certain set of skills and knowledge that tend to fall through the cracks of your average farm how-to book. Books of a more specialized nature are also abundant but often seem to take a fairly simple subject and make it seem daunting in scope and detail. What follows are a few tidbits of knowledge that I have found useful over the years – the little things that will inevitably need to be learned at some point in the farmer education process.

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

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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.

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.

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Beating the Beetles – War & Peace in a Houston Garden

Blooming that is, unless the cucumber beetles arrive first.
And arrive they have … “At first I thought they looked like big, yellow lady bugs.” Paul said, “Then I looked…

The Way To The Farm

Lise Hubbe stops mid-furrow at plowing demonstration for Evergreen State College students. She explains that the plow was going too deep…

Cayuse Vineyards

Small Farm, USA: Cayuse Vineyards

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How did the grape find itself here on the outskirts of Milton? If you ask one man, Christophe Baron, the answer is simple. “It’s the cobblestone. (The ground) reminds me of home”. For Christophe, home refers to France and the stone littered earth from which many famous French wines grow. Hailing from a family of vigneron champenois, Mr. Baron came upon this corner of the state by chance, saw its signature geology, and decided to establish his domaine right here in northeast Oregon.

Swallow

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.

The Woodfired Bottom-heated Greenhouse Bench

Cultivating Questions: The Woodfired Bottom-heated Greenhouse Bench

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.

Cultivating Questions A Diversity of Cropping Systems

Cultivating Questions: A Diversity of Cropping Systems

As a matter of convenience, we plant all of our field vegetables in widely spaced single rows so we can cultivate the crops with one setup on the riding cultivator. Row cropping makes sense for us because we are more limited by labor than land and we don’t use irrigation for the field vegetables. As for the economics of planting produce in work horse friendly single rows, revenue is comparable to many multiple row tractor systems.

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading at FreeSong Farm by Greg Jeffers prosperoushomesteading.blogspot.com

The Shallow Insistence

…a life of melody, poetry and farming?

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Forestry

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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.

The Forcing of Plants

The Forcing of Plants

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It is always advisable to place coldframes and hotbeds in a protected place, and particularly to protect them from cold north winds. Buildings afford excellent protection, but the sun is sometimes too hot on the south side of large and light-colored buildings. One of the best means of protection is to plant a hedge of evergreens. It is always desirable, also, to place all the coldframes and hotbeds close together, for the purpose of economizing time and labor.

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