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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.

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.

Homemade Cheese Press

Homemade Cheese Press

by:
from issue:

On the Gies farmstead we occasionally wallow in goat milk. From it we make our own butter, yogurt and cheese as well as drink some. This has prompted me to build a little cheese press to help with the extra milk. The press is made from inexpensive 1/2 inch thick plastic cutting boards used for the top and bottom plates and pressure disks, white pvc pipe, and a plastic floor drain cap.

Posts

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.

Shed and Barn Plans

Below is a short piece from Starting Your Farm, by SFJ editor and publisher Lynn R. Miller. Click the links below to see Chapter One of Starting Your Farm and to view the book in our online bookstore. “You may have purchased a farm with a fantastic set of old barns and sheds. You, on […]

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

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

Forging Rings in the Farm Blacksmith Shop

Forging Rings in the Farm Blacksmith Shop

by:
from issue:

Fabricating steel rings is a common task in my small farm blacksmith shop. They are often used on tie-rings for my customer’s barns, chain latches on gates, neck yoke rings, etc. It’s simple enough to create a ring over the horn of the anvil or with the use of a bending fork, however, if you want to create multiple rings of the same diameter it’s worthwhile to build a hardy bending jig.

Horseshoeing Part 3B

Horseshoeing Part 3B

Besides good, tough iron for the shoe, we need an anvil with a round horn and a small hole at one end, a round-headed turning-hammer, a round sledge, a stamping hammer, a pritchel of good steel, and, if a fullered shoe is to be made, a round fuller. Bodily activity and, above all else, a good eye for measurement are not only desirable, but necessary. A shoe should be made thoughtfully, but yet quickly enough to make the most of the heat.

Horseshoeing Part 6A

Horseshoeing Part 6A

The boundary between health and disease of the hoof is difficult to determine, especially when we have to deal with minor defects of structure or shape of the hoof. Ordinarily, we first consider a hoof diseased when it causes lameness. However, we know that diseases of the hoof may exist without lameness. Therefore, a hoof should be regarded as diseased or defective when it deviates from what we consider as normal or healthy, whether the service of the animal is influenced by it or not.

Horse Powered Snow Fencing and Sleigh Fencing

Horse Powered Snow Fencing and Sleigh Fencing

by:
from issue:

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”.

Horseshoeing Part 2A

Horseshoeing Part 2A

As there are well-formed and badly formed bodies, so there are well-formed and badly formed limbs and hoofs. The form of the hoof depends upon the position of the limb. A straight limb of normal direction possesses, as a rule, a regular hoof, while an oblique or crooked limb is accompanied by an irregular or oblique hoof. Hence, it is necessary, before discussing the various forms of the hoof, to consider briefly the various positions that may be assumed by the limbs.

English Sheaf Knots

English Sheaf Knots

Long ago when grain was handled mostly by hand, the crop was cut slightly green so seed did not shatter or shake loose too easily. That crop was then gathered into ‘bundles’ or ‘sheafs’ and tied sometimes using a handful of the same grain for the cording. These sheafs were then gathered together, heads up, and leaned upon one another to form drying shocks inviting warm breezes to pass through. In old England, the field workers took great pride in their work and distinctive sheaf knots were designed and employed.

Building a Community, Building a Barn

Building a Community, Building a Barn

by:
from issue:

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.

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.

The Use and Construction of Home Made Implements

The Use and Construction of Home Made Implements

by: ,
from issue:

It is now possible to purchase a make of machine to suit almost any condition if the money is available. There is no doubt that eventually they will be quite generally used. However, the dry farmers are at present hard pressed financially and in many instances the purchase of very much machinery is out of the question. For the man of small means or limited acreage, a homemade implement may be utilized at least temporarily.

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.

Build Your Own Butter Churn

Build Your Own Butter Churn

by:
from issue:

Fresh butter melting on hot homemade bread… Isn’t that the homesteader’s dream? A cheap two-gallon stock pot from the local chain store got me started in churn building. It was thin stainless steel and cost less than ten bucks. I carted it home wondering what I might find in my junk pile to run the thing. I found an old squirrel cage fan and pulled the little motor to test it. I figure that if it could turn a six-inch fan, it could turn a two-inch impeller.

Horseshoeing Part 4A

Horseshoeing Part 4A

According to the size of the horse and his hoofs the nails should be driven from five-eighths to an inch and five-eighths high, and as even as possible. As soon as a nail is driven its point should be immediately bent down towards the shoe in order to prevent injuries. The heads of all the nails should then be gone over with a hammer and driven down solidly into the nail-holes, the hoof being meanwhile supported in the left hand.

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