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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: Farming Systems & Approaches

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 1

Our mild climate makes it too easy to overwinter cover crops. Then the typically wet springs (and, on our farm, wet soils) let the cover put on loads of topgrowth before getting on the soil. Buckwheat is the only crop that I can be certain will winterkill. Field peas, oats, annual rye and crimson clover have all overwintered here. Any suggestions?

Personal Food Production

Personal Food Production

by:
from issue:

We can argue about when, but someday within several decades, oil and the plentiful super-market food we take for granted will be in short supply and/or very expensive. We must all start immediately to grow as much of our own food as possible. This is the fun part and is the subject of a vast popular movement highlighted by innumerable books, magazines, and web sites. Square-foot gardening, raised beds, and permaculture are the new rage. We don’t need thirty-million acres of lawns. Flowers aren’t very filling either.

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

The Farmer and the Horse

The Farmer & The Horse

In New Jersey — land of The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, and the Turnpike — farmland is more expensive than anywhere else. It’s not an easy place to try to start a career as a farmer. But for a new generation of farmers inspired by sustainability, everything seems possible. Even a farm powered by draft horses.

Food Energy The Fragile Link Between Resources and Population

Food-Energy: the Fragile Link Between Resources & Population

by:
from issue:

Now, after a one lifetime span of almost free energy and resultant copious food, the entire world faces the imminent decline (and eventual demise) of finite, fossil-fuel capital. Without fossil fuels, food can no longer be produced in one area and shipped thousands of miles to market. To suggest that the world will be able to feed the UN projected population of nine billion by 2050 is totally incomprehensible in the face of declining oil.

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

by:
from issue:

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.

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…

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

by:
from issue:

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.

Starting Seeds

From Dusty Shelves: A WWII era article from Farming For Security

TMAHK Tripod Haymaking

The Milk and Human Kindness: What I’ve Learned of Tri-Pod Haymaking

by:
from issue:

I have no doubt that when the time comes we are going to need to know how to make hay this way, whether it be this Proctor Tripod method, or the French rack method illustrated in André Voisin’s great book “Grass Productivity” or the Scandinavian “Swedish Rider” method of tightly strung wire “fences” for hay to dry on. Each method has its pros and cons, and it’s my belief that the “Swedish Riders” is the easiest to learn and the Proctor Method may be the most difficult.

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

by: ,
from issue:

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.

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 Best Kept Secret, Revisited

The Best Kept Secret, Revisited

by:
from issue:

At the same time that U.S. commercial beekeeping is circling down in a death spiral, hobby beekeeping is booming and almost every beekeeping club in the country has at least twice as many members as it did twenty years ago. What this means is that if you are fortunate enough to live in a place with relatively clean and varied sources of pollen and nectar, the potential for a successful family-sized commercial apiary is better now than it has been for many decades.

No Starving Children!

You’d never be able to harvest the broccoli or the hay or milk the cows or make the cheese if it were subject to government process. Not only are our industrial farms too big…

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading

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

Horse Farming and Holistic Management

Horse Farming and Holistic Management

by:
from issue:

Holistic Management was developed by Allan Savory who was a wildlife and ranch biologist in Africa who was concerned that the advice he could give farmers didn’t work in the real environment and even when the advice was good it wouldn’t get implemented. He developed a program which helps farms create a clear Holistic Goal and then use the farms resources to move toward the goal while being ecologically sustainable.

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

by:
from issue:

Most sugar cane is processed in refineries to give us molasses, brown sugar, and various kinds of white sugar. However, some South Georgia farms that raise sugar cane still process it the old way to produce the special tasting sweetener for their own food. One such farm is the Rocking R Ranch in Kibbee, Georgia. It is owned by Charles and Patricia Roberts and their sons. The process they use has not changed in the past 100 years. This is how it is done.

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