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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 Hidden Treasure
A Hidden Treasure

Replacement of the left hand side boards.

A Hidden Treasure

by Daphne Turner of Ovingdean, UK
photographs by David Baker of Ovindean, UK

I don’t know how it is in other countries but in England where most heavy draught horses are kept for leisure pursuits, getting that first horse is just the initial step on a long journey of acquiring a multitude of accessories. After getting the horse comes the harness and then some object to pull. Usually this is some agricultural item, and a pair of harrows is often the first acquisition, followed by some piece of machinery such as a cultivator or roller. But it is not very long before that must-have item at the top of the equine shopping list is a traditional wagon. And so it was with David Baker and his Suffolk mare.

But this is not as easy as one might think.

Because of the great variety of terrain in the UK, wagons varied greatly in size and design and once other forms of transport came into use and trailers became more standardized, the traditional cart fell into disuse, often being left to rot away in some out of the way corner. When the heavy horse began to make a comeback, the better specimens of wagons were bought up for the show ring so that today it is very difficult to find a cart, even one needing major restoration, whilst the cost in both materials and labour of building a new cart is too prohibitive to contemplate. But here luck was with David.

A Hidden Treasure

The new bottom rail in position.

Through a good friend, Gus Kitson, who lives in Suffolk and both owns a Suffolk horse and is a wheelwright, David learnt about a small tip-cart for sale. The owner was an elderly gentleman, Mr. Hemmett, who lives in Ringsfield, Suffolk and at 90 years old has had a lifetime’s association with agriculture. He even lives in a house which is a converted blacksmith’s shop. However, when David and Gus visited Mr. Hemmett they had an unexpected find. Not only was there the small tip-cart but other full sized farm wagons. The first that David looked at was a double shafted Lincolnshire wagon designed for the flat lands of that county and too big and heavy for his Suffolk mare of 16.2 hands. But tucked at the back under a tarpaulin was the ideal vehicle – a Norfolk wagon that could take either a single or double shaft and was suitable for the smaller draught horse. Mr. Hemmett had found it in a lean-to shed in Norfolk and believed it had last been used in the 50’s. It had been there so long a tree of some 30 years’ maturity had grown up in front of it and had to be removed by digger before the wagon could be moved to Mr. Hemmett’s premises.

A Hidden Treasure

The new side boards, raves and front rail in position.

Gus has many years’ experience of rebuilding traditional carts and recently restored the Barron tree transplanter for the world famous Botanical Gardens at Kew in London (see Small Farmer’s Journal, Winter 2002, Issue 101). So with Gus’s professional assessment of the required renovations to guide him, David decided to buy the wagon and made arrangements to collect it.

Once back at Gus’s workshop, it was six months before he could slot the work into his busy schedule, and make a full assessment of necessary renova- tions. Apart from the need for new side raves (the curved top boards whose purpose is to hold in the back when the tail gate is lowered for heavy loads), fellies or felloes in the back wheels and rot in the left hand side boards, Gus found the cart needed a new top rail over the front, a new bottom rail plus a new floor. There are a number of different woods used in wagon making and replacement parts must be made from the correct timbers. Axles and spokes are oak, the frame and fellies ash, the hubs normally elm, the side boards pitch pine and the floor larch. As the bolts were very rusty, it was extremely difficult to dismantle the wagon and it took one whole day just to remove the side and a second day to cut and shape the bottom rail. During this dismantling, Gus found the date 1917 stamped on the back axle, obviously the original date of manufacture.

A Hidden Treasure

The exterior view of the reconstruction.

The rebuilding of the wagon was a painstaking affair. First the new bottom rail and side had to be bolted back on, followed by the new top rail across the front and then the new curved raves down each side. It was then time to repaint the body in the traditional red and blue colours used in East Anglia – three to four undercoats and two top coats. Then a completely new floor of larch pretreated with wood preservative was put in. This wood came from David’s family farm in Sussex and had been cut down more than 20 years earlier.

Once the wagon body was finished, Gus turned his attention to the back wheels to which he fitted new fellies and retired them. All four wheels were then painted in traditional red with hand applied black coach lines.

Using the old shafts as a pattern, new shafts were made from ash and again painted in traditional red with hand applied black coach lines. Here the Cartwright must not just copy blindly but must consider the larger build and length of the modern horse. The shafts are secured to the front of the wagon by a metal rod and can be used either together or singly depending on the horse power required to pull the 15 cwt. (1680 lbs.) wagon plus a load.

A Hidden Treasure

An exterior view during repainting with the detached lower turntable.

A removable footplate for the driver was made for the front of the wagon along with new ladders which are placed front and back to hold in loads of hay, both finished in red. It then remained only to attach the oval plaque giving the owner’s name and address, in this case “D. M. Baker, Ovingdean,” a legal requirement even in the days before car registration plates.

As agricultural wagons, unlike town drays, have no intrinsic pedal-operated braking systems an iron drag shoe or slod was dropped in front of the back wheel which caused it to slide when going downhill, and a wooden roller was towed behind the back wheel when going uphill in case the vehicle began to run backwards. Fortunately the cart came complete with the drag shoe and it was a simple matter to make a new roller.

A Hidden Treasure

The completely restored wagon with double shafts in position. Gus Kitson is sitting in the wagon and his assistant and signwriter John Barber standing by the front corner.

And the total time required to transform this Norfolk wagon from a deteriorating hulk hidden under a tarpaulin behind a living tree to its full working glory? Well Gus worked on it week by week on a stop/start basis as his other work commitments permitted but, had he dedicated his time to the restoration, he believes it would have taken a complete month. But it has been time well spent. David has driven the wagon, with Gus as groom, at various venues in England and France. It was awarded second place at the Kent County Agricultural Show and in 2001 also appeared at the World Percheron Congress at the Haras due Pin in France before being taken on to be displayed in the final Grand Parade of the Biennial Fish Run at the Vincennes Racecourse, Paris. Its latest outing was at the annual Heavy Horse Day held in June 2004 at the Singleton Open Air Museum in Southern England when David drove it with two horses in shafts and two horses in trace harness in front, each horse carrying on its hames a belfry of journey bells that teams used to wear when traveling down narrow country lanes to warn other road users to clear the way.

A Hidden Treasure

A rear view showing the full accessories of wagon ropes, feed bags and wooden bucket.

It is a privilege and a pleasure to preserve and display part of our agricultural heritage and David and Gus look forward to future opportunities to show an increasingly urban population its heritage.

Spotlight On: Livestock

Hand Plucking Poultry

Hand Plucking Poultry

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from issue:

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.

Boer Goats

Boer Goats

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from issue:

The introduction of the Boer Goat has stirred up a lot of interest in all sectors of agriculture. The demand for goat meat exceeds the supply; goat meat is the most consumed meat in the world. One of the main points about South African Boer Goats is that out of all meat goat breeds the Boer is the top meat producer whereas in the cattle business you have over 100 breeds of beef cattle that all compete for the beef dollar.

Training Workhorses Training Teamsters Driving Junipers Training

Driving: Juniper’s Training

A final sneak peak at the Second Edition of Lynn R. Miller’s “Training Workhorses / Training Teamsters.” Today’s excerpt, “Driving: Juniper’s Training,” is from Chapter 11, “Starting and Training Older Horses.”

Work Horse Handbook

Grooming Work Horses

The serviceability of the work horse may be increased or decreased according to the care which is bestowed upon him. If he is groomed in a perfunctory fashion his efficiency as an animal motor is lessened. On the other hand, if he is well groomed he is snappier and fresher in appearance and is constantly up on the bit.

Walsh No Buckle Harness

from issue:

When first you become familiar with North American working harness you might come to the erroneous conclusion that, except for minor style variations, all harnesses are much the same. While quality and material issues are accounting for substantive differences in the modern harness, there were also interesting and important variations back in the early twentieth century which many of us today either have forgotten or never knew about. Perhaps the most significant example is the Walsh No Buckle Harness.

Cattle Handling Part 1 Basic Cattle Handling

Cattle Handling Part 1: Basic Cattle Handling

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If they understand what you want them to do, and you give them time to figure it out, cattle are very easy to herd. Pressuring and release of pressure at the proper times will encourage them to move (or halt) and to go the direction and speed you desire. The herd will also stay together, moving as a group if you herd them calmly and don’t get them upset and excited. Best results are had when you move them at a walk, controlling the speed and direction of the leaders.

Livestock and Predators No Easy Answers

Livestock and Predators: No Easy Answers

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Since we’ve raised sheep commercially, we’ve been committed to trying to live with the predators in our environment. Over the years, we’ve lost just a handful of sheep — several to coyotes, at least one each to mountain lions and rattlesnakes, and four in one night to a neighbor’s dog. Mostly, though, our commitment to nonlethal predator protection tools has worked. A combination of electric fencing, livestock guardian dogs, sheep selection and grazing management has allowed us to co-exist with the predators in our environment.

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.

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

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On a sunny early September day I met Doug Flack at his biodynamic and organic farm, just South of Enosburg Falls. Doug is an American Milking Devon breeder with some of the best uddered and well behaved animals I have seen in the breed. The animals are beautifully integrated into his small and diversified farm. His system of management seems to bring out the best in the animals and his enthusiasm for Devon cattle is contagious.

Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative

Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative

The Ayrshire Ambassadors Cooperative was founded in 2016 by a group of dairymen who want to be outspoken advocates of the Ayrshire breed. Ayrshires are one of the most cost-effective breeds for dairy farmers, as the breed is known for efficiently producing large quantities of high-quality milk, primarily on a forage diet. These vigorous and hardy cows can be found grazing in the sun, rain, and cold while other breeds often seek shelter.

Ask A Teamster Halters Off

Ask A Teamster: Halters Off!

When my friend and mentor, the late Addie Funk, first started helping me with my horses, he suggested that we get rid of my halter ropes with snaps and braid lead ropes on to all the halters permanently. Actually as I think about it, it was more than a suggestion. Knowing him, he probably just braided the new ropes on, confident that anyone with any sense would be pleased with the improvement. In any case, when the task was completed I clearly remember him saying to me, “Now nobody will turn a horse loose around here with a halter on.”

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 2

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 2

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From reading the Small Farmers Journal, I knew that some people are equally happy with either model, but because McCormick Deering had gone to the trouble of developing the No. 9, it suggests they could see that there were improvements to be made on the No. 7. Even if the improvement was small, with a single horse any improvement was likely to increase my chance of success.

Plowing with the Single Horse

Plowing with the Single Horse

All other aspects being equal, the primary difference in plowing, comfortably, with a single horse is that the animal walks on unplowed ground immediately adjacent to the previous furrow, rather than in the furrow. This will cause the point of draft at the shoulder to be somewhat higher and will dictate hitching longer and/or higher than with the animal walking down 5 to 8 inches lower in the furrow.

Rabbits

Rabbits

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The domestic rabbit has the potential to become one of the world’s major sources of meat protein. As human populations continue to put pressure on the resources of the food providers, the farmers, the rabbit is likely to begin to interest, not only the farmer, but the family interested in providing food for it’s table. They convert forage more efficiently than do ruminants, such as cattle and sheep. In fact, rabbits can produce five times the amount of meat from a given amount of alfalfa as do beef cattle.

Harnessing the Future

Harnessing the Future

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En route to a remote pasture where the Belgian draft horses, Prince and Tom, are grazing, we survey the vast green landscape, a fine mist hovering in distant low lying areas. We are enveloped in a profusion of sweet, earthy balance. Interns and other workers start their chores; one pauses to check his smart phone. Scattered about are many animal-powered rustic implements. This rich and agriculturally diverse, peaceful place is steeped in contrasts: modern and ancient.

Black Pigs and Speckled Beans

Black Pigs & Speckled Beans

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As country pigs go the Large Blacks are superb. They are true grazing pigs, thriving on grass and respectful of fences. Protected from sunburn by their dark skin and hair they are tolerant of heat and cold and do well even in rugged conditions. Having retained valuable instincts, the sows are naturally careful, dedicated, and able mothers. The boars I’ve seen are friendly and docile.

"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.

Feeding Elk Winter Work for the Belgians

Feeding Elk: Winter Work for the Belgians

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Doug Strike of rural Sublette County is spending his second winter feeding wild elk in nearby Bondurant, Wyoming. Strike is supplementing his logging income as well as helping his team of Belgian draft horses to keep in shape for the coming season. From May to the end of November he uses his horses to skid logs out of the mountains of western Wyoming. I found the use of Doug’s beautiful Belgian team an exciting example of appropriate technology.

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