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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 Pony-Powered Garden Cart

Necessity & Invention: A Pony-Powered Garden Cart

by Jenifer Morrissey of Aguilar, CO

As a kid I spent a lot of time on the business end of a garden cart. (At least it seemed like a lot of time!) In the lushness of the Willamette Valley of Oregon where we lived, there was always brush to haul or sawdust to spread or weeds to add to the compost pile. To make it fun I often imagined myself a horse pushing into the load, swinging my pony tail when the going got tough. While we had a metal V-shaped cart with small wheels, the really effective tool was a wooden cart with large spoked wheels and pneumatic tires. My catalogs today call this style of cart a Vermont Garden Cart.

My experience as a child undoubtedly helped me solve a dilemma I faced late last winter. Our compost bins no longer had room for all the pony manure my equine friends were generating. For a few days I used a wheelbarrow to move the day’s haul out to the pastures for spreading, but the chore quickly got old, especially when there was snow on the ground. I knew the manure needed to go out to the land. The question was how to move it and keep the task enjoyable enough that I’d do it as regularly as it needed to be done.

My first solution was to use the old stone boat with my pony Mya. For a few weeks, this solution worked well. However, our warm, dry winter here in Southern Colorado caused the ground to thaw early, and it soon became clear to me that the stone boat was too hard on the land. I needed a different solution.

One of the challenges I constantly face using draft ponies is finding appropriately sized equipment. Mya is a Shetland-Welsh cross, standing at 11.2 hands. Most manure spreaders are big and heavy and require a team of horses. Even pony-sized manure spreaders are often sized for teams. With only one pony currently harness-ready, I needed something small and light and preferably wheeled to minimize impact to the land. We soon proved the wisdom of the old adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” My husband and I looked around our budding small farm for something light, wheeled, cheap, and available, and we quickly noticed our Vermont-style garden cart.

A Pony-Powered Garden Cart

Tom easily saw how he could build shafts, yet keep the garden cart human- usable. I paged through my workhorse books to figure out the harness connections. Soon we had an approach we thought would work. The shaft assembly is built of 2×4 lumber, with cross-pieces that pull the cart from behind, lift the cart handle, and serve as a singletree. It’s designed to be quickly and easily removed to return the cart to its normal function. Using Lynn Miller’s Work Horse Handbook and Midwest Leather’s catalog, I learned how to modify the team harness I had for Mya, adding a cushion and large loops fashioned from hame straps to her back pad. I also added line keepers.

To our knowledge, Mya had never been in shafts before, so before we hitched her to the cart with shafts, we used the shaft assembly as a travois. I’ve been told that ponies are natural pullers (pushers is actually more accurate), and Mya’s willingness to try anything makes it possible to experiment. It only took Mya a few minutes to be comfortable with the travois, so we put the shafts on the cart and hitched her up. As it turned out, she seemed more confident with the cart than the travois and we were soon off driving about the farm and even moved a little manure that first day. I was ecstatic. Previously Mya’s and my work had been limited to skidding and pulling the stone boat. Now a whole range of possibilities was open to us as a team using a wheeled vehicle.

After a few simple trips just hauling manure, we were soon back-hauling loads. Out would go a load of manure and back would come a load of firewood or a hay bale. Because of the drought this summer, we’re also hauling water, and we’ve even hauled railroad ties, tee-posts, and other fencing supplies. The nature of the cart means I walk as much as Mya does, but some days at the end of our work session, I’ve been known to squat in the cart and get a ride back to the barnyard. A friend loaned us a training cart, and Mya took to it as easily as she did the garden cart, and after work trips I sometimes take her out for a joy ride. It’s been a marvelous journey of discovery. It isn’t too much of a stretch to say that the garden cart has transformed Mya’s and my relationship. She seems to like the regular work, and I love the help and companionship doing chores.

A Pony-Powered Garden Cart

Because a few friends have ponies and garden carts about, we’ve taken several pictures of the cart assembly. As I get my other larger ponies going in harness, I look forward to maybe someday having a manure spreader and a forecart so I don’t have to do so much walking. Until then, though, Mya helps me keep the manure from piling up and lets me do other hauling that specialized equipment wouldn’t allow.

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

Congo Farm Project

Congo Farm Project

by:
from issue:

I was at day one, standing outside an old burnt-out Belgian plantation house, donated to us by the progressive young chief of the village of Luvungi. My Congolese friend and I had told him that we would need to hire some workers to help clear the land around the compound, and to put a new roof on the building. I thought we should be able to attract at least 20 workers. Then, I looked out to see a crowd of about 800 eager villagers, each one with their own hoe.

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading

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

Such a One Horse Outfit

Such a One Horse Outfit

by:
from issue:

One day my stepfather brought over a magazine he had recently subscribed to. It was called Small Farmer’s Journal published by a guy named Lynn Miller. That issue had a short story about an old man that used a single small mule to garden and skid firewood with. I was totally fascinated with the prospect of having a horse and him earning his keep. It sorta seemed like having your cake and eating it too.

Horse Labor Instead of Tractors

Horse Labor Instead of Tractors

by:
from issue:

Three different parcels of land were committed for a series of tests to directly compare the impact of tractors and horses on the land. One side of each parcel was worked only with horses and the other only with tractors. There were measurable differences between each side of the worked areas; the land’s capacity to hold water and greater aeration were up to 45cm higher in areas worked by horses as opposed to tractors.

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

by:
from issue:

The agricultural system of the Old Believers has long been one of hand labor. Their homesteads (hozyastvas) were not intended for tractors or horses, with the possible exception of their larger potato fields. Traditionally the small peasant hozyastva has its roots in hand labor, and this has helped maintain the health of the land. Understanding the natural systems is easier when one’s hands are in the soil every day as opposed to seeing the land from the seat of a tractor.

The Forcing of Plants

The Forcing of Plants

by:
from issue:

It is always advisable to place coldframes and hotbeds in a protected place, and particularly to protect them from cold north winds. Buildings afford excellent protection, but the sun is sometimes too hot on the south side of large and light-colored buildings. One of the best means of protection is to plant a hedge of evergreens. It is always desirable, also, to place all the coldframes and hotbeds close together, for the purpose of economizing time and labor.

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…

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 3

What goes with the sale? What does not? Do not assume the irrigation pipe and portable hen houses are selling. Find out if they go with the deal, and in writing.

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 2

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 2

It is always fascinating and at times a little disconcerting to watch how seamlessly the macro-economics of trying to make a living as a farmer in such an out-of-balance society can morph us into shapes we never would have dreamed of when we were getting started. This year we will be putting in a refrigerated walk-in cooler which will allow us to put up more storage-share vegetables.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 5

You might think that your new farm is fenced all wrong, or that a certain tree is in the wrong place, or that a wet area would be better drained, or that this gully would make a good pond site, or that a depression in the road should be filled, or that the old sheds should all come down right away. Well maybe you’re right on all counts. But maybe, you’re wrong.

Birth of a Farm

Birth of a Farm

by:
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“Isn’t it nice?” I offer to my supper companions, “to see our beautiful horses right while we’re eating? I feel like I’m on a Kentucky horse farm, with rolling bluegrass vistas.” I sweep my arm dramatically towards the view, the rigged up electric fence, the lawn straggling down to the pond, the three horses, one of whom is relieving herself at the moment. “Oh, huh,” he answers. “I was thinking it was more like a cheesy bed and breakfast.”

Cuban Agriculture

Cuban Agriculture

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In December of 1979, Mary Jo and I spent two weeks traveling in Cuba on a “Farmer’s Tour of Cuba”. The tour was a first of its kind. It was organized in the U.S. by farmers, was made up of U.S. farmers and agriculturally oriented folks, and was sponsored in Cuba by A.N.A.P., the National Association of Independent Farmers. As we learned about farming we also learned how the individuals, farms, and communities we visited fit into the greater social and economic structure of Cuba.

LittleField Notes Prodigal Sun & Food Ethics

LittleField Notes: Prodigal Sun & Food Ethics

by:
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To my great delight a sizable portion of the general eating public has over the past few years decided to begin to care a great deal about where their food comes from. This is good for small farmers. It bodes well for the future of the planet and leaves me hopeful. People seem to be taking Wendell Berry’s words to heart that “eating is an agricultural act;” that with every forkful we are participating in the act of farming.

The Way To The Farm

Lise Hubbe stops mid-furrow at plowing demonstration for Evergreen State College students. She explains that the plow was going too deep…

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?

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 2

How do you learn the true status of that farm with the “for sale” sign? Here are some important pieces of information for you to learn about a given selling farm. The answers will most probably tell you how serious the seller is.

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 3

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 3

Working with horses can and should be safe and fun and profitable. The road to getting there need not be so fraught with danger and catastrophe as ours has been. I hope the telling of our story, in both its disasters and successes will not dissuade but rather inspire would-be teamsters to join the horse-powered ranks and avoid the pitfalls of the un-mentored greenhorn.

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