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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 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: People

It Is Who We Are

It Is Who We Are

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It is NOT a small world, it is a BIG world, as wide and various as you can possibly imagine. We are not alone. When we feel ourselves shut down, crowded by worry and a sense of failure, it would serve us well to remember Bulldog’s admonition, “Boss, never give up, no matter what, never give up.” Anyway, how could we? Who would put up the hay? Who would unharness the team? Who would milk the cows? Who would wax the cheese? Who would feed those woolly pigs? It’s got to be us, after all it is who we are.

Another Barn Falls In

Another Barn Falls In

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The barn was built around a century ago. A pair of double doors on the front flapped when the wind blew, and a short service door was on the side. It wasn’t a big barn, about 30 feet wide by 40 feet long with a small hay mow above. It had a couple of windows for light, and of course a window in the peak. There was a hitching rail outside that gave it a certain welcoming charm. A charm that seemed to say, “tie up to the rail, and c’mon in.”

The Shallow Insistence

…a life of melody, poetry and farming?

Birth of a Farm

Birth of a Farm

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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.”

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley A Farmrun Production by Andrew Plotsky

Rainshadow Organics Saralee and the Interns

Rainshadow Organics: Saralee & the Interns

Rainshadow Organics in Central Oregon is a really big small farm. As part of their mission to produce and promote good food, they participate in the Rogue Farm Corps internship program. This season they have 7 interns who made time during their lunch break to speak to us about the program.

Today I Prepare

Today I Prepare by Lynn Miller Summering towards seated moments found without splinter found with or without care. No audience save the critical unbecoming self. Were it a long race to now, surprised to be amongst the last running with a chance to go to the target beyond end, tanks full with cupped felt. So […]

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.

In Memoriam Gene Logsdon

In Memoriam: Gene Logsdon

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Gene didn’t see life (or much of anything else) through conventional eyes. I remember his comment about a course he took in psychology when he was trying to argue that animals did in fact have personalities (as any farmer or rancher will tell you is absolutely true), and the teacher basically told him to sit down and shut up because he didn’t know what he was taking about. Gene said: “I was so angry I left the course and then left the whole stupid school.”

A Bad Day in Harmony

A Bad Day in Harmony

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Gary, hoping that that was the lot, revved up the big yellow machine in eager anticipation but once again I called a halt and disappeared in the direction of the house. When I reappeared at the graveside holding a dead cat by the tail Gary shut the machine down completely, remained totally silent for what seemed like a long time, and then leaned out of the cab and with a look of mock concern on his face said in his dry manner, “Where did you say the wife and kids are?”

Hand-Harvested Food Challenge

The Hand-Harvested Food Challenge

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In the winter of 2011, Daniel mentioned a fourteen-year-old student of his who had spent a whole month eating only foods gathered from the wild. “Could we go for two days on the hand-harvested food we have here?’ he asked. “Let’s give it a try!” I responded with my usual enthusiasm. We assembled the ingredients on the table. Everything on that table had passed through our hands. We knew all the costs and calories associated with it. No hidden injustice, no questionable pesticides. We felt joy at living in such an edible world.

Growing Farmers and the Food Movement for 50 Years

Growing Farmers and the Food Movement for 50 Years

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It all began 50 years ago when faculty and students appealed to UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Dean McHenry, proposing a garden project that would serve as a central gathering spot on the remote, forested campus. As legend has it, Alan Chadwick, a charismatic, somewhat cantankerous master gardener from England, chose a steep, rocky, sun-scorched slope covered with poison oak to prove a point: If students could create a garden there, they could create one anywhere. And create they did.

The Persimmon Tree

The Persimmon Tree

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It wouldn’t take my brothers long to make the rounds. I needed to be ready, so I cautiously approached the tree and stepped under the shade of its branches. Then I leaped backward, causing my braids to wave forward like swinging doors. There were possums in the branches — possums hanging from their tails! After the first reaction of surprise and fear, I was overcome with amusement. They were so funny!

Livery and Feed

Livery & Feed

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A livery stable, for the benefit of those who never heard of one, was an establishment which catered to horses. It boarded them, doctored them, and bred them, whenever any of these services were required. It also furnished “rigs” — a horse and buggy or perhaps a team, for anyone who wished to ride, rather than walk, about the town or countryside. It was a popular service for traveling men who came into town on the railway train and wanted to call on customers in cross-road communities.

Jacko

Jacko

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By the time he was 3 years old, Jacko had grown into a big size jack, 13 hands tall and 900 pounds, and was still growing. That summer he ran the singlerow corn planter and raked the hay, proved himself handier with a single row cultivator than a single ox, getting closer to the plants without stepping on them. Gradually he had paced himself to his three educated gaits to fill whatever job Lafe required of him: fast walk for the planter and rake, slow walk for the cultivator and plant-setter, and brisk trot for the buggy.

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.

NYFC Bootstrap Videos The Golden Yoke

NYFC Bootstrap Videos: The Golden Yoke

I couldn’t have been happier to collaborate with The National Young Farmers Coaltion again when they called up about being involved in their Bootstrap Blog Series. In 2013, all of their bloggers were young and beginning lady dairy farmers, and they invited us on board to consult and collaborate in the production of videos of each farmer contributor to the blog series.

Farmrun John Erskine

John Erskine

John Erskine farms with horses in Sequim, WA.

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