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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 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

Changing of Seasons

LittleField Notes: Changing of Seasons

by:
from issue:

We are blessed who are active participants in the life of soil and weather, crops and critters, living a life grounded in seasonal change. This talk of human connection to land and season is not just the rambling romantic musing of an agrarian ideologue. It is rather the result of participating in the deeply vital vocation that is farming and knowing its fruits first hand.

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.

Horseshoeing Part 4B

Horseshoeing Part 4B

Forging is that defect of the horse’s gait by reason of which, at a trot, he strikes the ends of the branches or the under surface of the front shoe with the toe of the hind shoe or hoof of the same side. Forging is unpleasant to hear and dangerous to the horse. It is liable to wound the heels of the forefeet, damages the toes or the coronet of the hind hoofs, and often pulls off the front shoes.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 3

by:
from issue:

In parallel with making hay on the ground, nearly every year I have also made some hay on tripods. The attraction of this method is that it only needs one day of good weather to dry the grass sufficiently before it is put on the tripods, and then the hay takes very little harm no matter what the weather, usually coming out green, dry and smelling of hay two weeks later when it can be baled or stacked.

A Year of Contract Grazing

A Year of Contract Grazing

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from issue:

Contract grazing involves the use of livestock to control specific undesirable plants, primarily for ecological restoration and wildfire prevention purposes. The landowners we worked for saw grazing as an ecologically friendly alternative to mowing, mechanical brush removal, and herbicide application.

Work Horse Handbook

The Work Horse Handbook

The decision to depend on horses or mules in harness for farm work, logging, or highway work is an important one and should not be taken lightly. Aside from romantic notions of involvement in a picturesque scene, most of the considerations are serious.

Methods of Feeding Turkeys

Methods of Feeding Turkeys

In a survey made before starting this experimental work, it was found that there was considerable confusion in the minds of many poultrymen as to the relative efficiency between the mash and pellet methods of feeding. A review of the literature on turkey nutrition and methods of feeding failed to disclose any studies which would be of assistance in answering this question. As a result, an experimental program was outlined to investigate several methods of feeding growing turkeys.

The Broodmare in Fall

The Broodmare in Fall

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from issue:

Mares are not the major emphasis in the fall since they have performed their task of foaling, lactating and being re-bred. After foals are weaned, most breeders tend to focus on weanlings and yearlings that are being prepared for shows, sales and/or performance in the case of long yearlings. Fall management of broodmares is far more critical than some breeders realize and can directly impact foaling and re-breeding successes next year.

Ask A Teamster The Bit

Ask A Teamster: The Bit

I work at a farm that uses their team of Percherons to farm, give hayrides, spread manure, etc. One of the horses gets his tongue over the bit. I’ve been told he’s always done this since they had him. I have always thought: #1. You have very little control, and #2. It would hurt! The horse is very well behaved, does his work with his tongue waving in the air, and sometimes gets his tongue back in place, but at that point it’s too late. They use a snaffle bit. Any suggestions?

The Anatomy of Thrift: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 2: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals. Harvest Day is the second in the series, which explores the ‘cheer’ that is prepared on the day of slaughter, and dives deep into the philosophy and psychology of our relationship to animals.

The Mule Part 1

The Mule – Part 1

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from issue:

There is no more useful or willing animal than the Mule. And perhaps there is no other animal so much abused, or so little cared for. Popular opinion of his nature has not been favorable; and he has had to plod and work through life against the prejudices of the ignorant. Still, he has been the great friend of man, in war and in peace serving him well and faithfully. If he could tell man what he most needed it would be kind treatment.

Camel Power in Georgia

Camel Power in Georgia

by:
from issue:

Last spring we got the bright idea to plow some corn with one of the camels, so we went to the shed and drug out the “Planet Jr. one camel cultivating plow”. My 86 year old Grandfather said “Son, don’t worry about thinning that corn, those camels are going to do a fine job of it, for you!” We plowed corn and I have some video to prove it, and as soon as I quit running over the corn and learned how to “drive the plow” we didn’t lose any more corn!

Calves that Don't Breathe at Birth

Calves that Don’t Breathe at Birth

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Heart rate is one way to tell if the calf is in respiratory distress, since it drops as the body is deprived of oxygen. Normal heart rate in a newborn calf is 100 to 120 beats per minute. Place your hand over the lower left side of the ribcage, just behind and above the elbow of his front leg. If heart rate has dropped as low as 40, the calf ’s condition is critical; he needs to start breathing immediately.

Happs Plowing A Chance to Share

Happ’s Plowing: A Chance to Share

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Dinnertime rolled around before we could get people and horses off the field so that results of judging could be announced. I learned a lot that day, one thing being that people were there to share; not many took the competition side of the competition very seriously. Don Anderson of Toledo, WA was our judge — with a tough job handed to him. Everyone was helping each other so he had to really stay on his toes to know who had done what on the various plots.

Work Horse Handbook

Work Horse Handbook

Horses are honest creatures. And, what I mean by honest is that a horse is almost always true to his motivations, his needs, his perceptions: if he wants to eat, if he needs water, if he perceives danger. He is incapable of temporarily setting aside or subverting his motivations to get to some distant goal. This is often mistaken as evidence for a lack of intelligence, a conclusion which says more of human nature than equine smarts. What it means for the horse is that he is almost never lazy, sneaky or deceptive. It is simply not in his nature.

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.”

Ask A Teamster Horse Don't Won't Can't Turn

Ask A Teamster: Horse Don’t, Won’t, Can’t Turn

After moving the drop ring on the other side down we went out to the round pen for a test drive. The difference in how she ground drove and turned was amazing – not perfect, but real sweet. With the lines at that level a right turn cue on the line obviously meant go right to her, and a left turn cue meant left. After we drove around for a while with me smiling I couldn’t resist moving the drop rings back up to the line rings – Bam, back to the old confusion.

Fjordworks: Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster

Fjordworks: Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster Part 1

The first step to a successful training session is to decide ahead of time what it is you wish to accomplish with your horse. In the wild the horses in a band require the strength of a lead horse. Your horse needs you to be that strong leader, but she can’t follow you if you don’t know where you want to go. On the other hand, we need to retain some space within ourselves for spontaneity to respond to the actual physical and mental state of our young horse on any given day.

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