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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

Chicken

The Best Chicken Pie Ever

by:
from issue:

She has one more gift to give: Chicken Pie.

Plans for Hog Houses

Plans for Hog Houses

by: ,
from issue:

Missouri Sunlit Hog House: This is an east and west type of house lighted by windows in the south roof. A single stack ventilation system with distributed inlets provides ventilation. Pen partitions may be of wood or metal. This plan takes the place of the original Missouri sunlit house since many farmers had difficulty in building it.

The Milk and Human Kindness Caring For The Pregnant Cow

The Milk and Human Kindness: Caring for the Pregnant Cow

by:
from issue:

Good cheese comes from happy milk and happy milk comes from contented cows. So for goodness sake, for the sake of goodness in our farming ways we need to keep contentment, happiness and harmony as primary principles of animal husbandry. The practical manifestations of our love and appreciation are what make a small farm. Above and beyond the significant requirements of housing, feed and water is the care of your cow’s emotional life, provide for her own fulfillment. Let her raise her calf!

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.

Shoeing Stocks

An article from the out-of-print Winter 1982 Issue of SFJ.

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.

The Milk and Human Kindness Stanchion Floor

The Milk and Human Kindness: Making Friends with Your Wild Heifer

by:
from issue:

So let’s just say this is your first experience with cows, you’ve gone to your local dairy farm, purchased a beautiful bred heifer who is very skittish, has never had a rope on her, or been handled or led, and you’re making arrangements to bring her home. It ought to be dawning on you at this point that you need to safely and securely convey this heifer to your farm and then you need to keep her confined until she begins to calm down enough that she knows she’s home, and she knows where she gets fed.

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.

A Year of Contract Grazing

A Year of Contract Grazing

by:
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.

Feeding Elk Winter Work for the Belgians

Feeding Elk: Winter Work for the Belgians

by:
from issue:

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.

Words for the Novice Teamster

Words for the Novice Teamster

by:
from issue:

Many people who are new to the world of draft horses are intimidated by what seems to them to be a foreign language. This “workhorse language” can be frustrating for novices who would like to use draft horses, or who would just like to understand what people who do use them are talking about. The knowledge of some basic draft horse terminology can end most of the beginner’s confusion about the special jargon used in this trade.

Happs Plowing A Chance to Share

Happ’s Plowing: A Chance to Share

by:
from issue:

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.

The Brabants Farm

The Brabants’ Farm

by:
from issue:

The Brabants’ Farm is a multi purpose farming operation whose main goal is to promote “horsefarming.” Our philosophy is to support the transformation of regional conventional agriculture and forestry into a sustainable, socially responsible, and less petroleum dependent based agriculture, by utilizing animal drawn technology (“horsefarming”), and by meeting key challenges in 21st century small scale agriculture and forestry in Colombia and throughout South America.

The Milk and Human Kindness Part 1

The Milk and Human Kindness

by:
from issue:

I know what it’s like to be trying to find one’s way learning skills without a much needed teacher or experienced advisor. I made a lot of cheese for the pigs and chickens in the beginning and shed many a tear. I want you to know that the skills you will need are within your reach, and that I will spell it all out for you as best I can. I hope it’s the next best thing to welcoming you personally at my kitchen door and actually getting to work together.

The Mule Part 1

The Mule – Part 1

by:
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.

Portable Poultry

Portable Poultry

An important feature of the range shelter described in this circular is that it is portable. Two men by inserting 2x4s through the holes located just below the roost supports and next to the center uprights can easily pick up and move it from one location to another. Frequent moving of the shelter prevents excessive accumulation of droppings in its vicinity which are a menace to the health of the birds. Better use will be made by the birds of the natural green feed produced on the range if the houses are moved often.

Hand Plucking Poultry

Hand Plucking Poultry

by:
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.

Chicken Guano: Top-Notch Fertilizer

Whoever thought I’d be singing the praises of chicken poop? I am, and I’m not the only one. Chickens are walking nitrogen-rich manure bins.

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