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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: People

Typical Range Ride

Typical Range Ride

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I head up the steep trail through the rocks and sagebrush behind our house. The smell of dewy sage fills my nostrils as my horse brushes the shrubs along the trail, and a horned lark flits up from her nest on the ground as we go by. A mother grouse bursts into the air and does her broken-wing act (her strategy to lead a predator away from her babies, who are scattering out through the grass).

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.

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.

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…

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.”

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…

Richard Douglass, Self-sufficient Farmer

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I’ve got two teams of Belgians that power all the things on the farm. I don’t have a tractor, I don’t have a truck or anything like that. Everything must be done by them. I have two buggy horses that I use for transportation. I have a one-seater buggy for when I’m going into work or into town by myself and then I have a two-seater one for when I’m with the kids.

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.

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

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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.

Congo Farm Project

Congo Farm Project

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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.

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.”

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.

Almost a Veterinarian

Almost a Veterinarian

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In 1976, after reading the memoirs of a much-lauded veterinarian/author from Yorkshire England, I got it into my head that I would make a good DVM myself. It was a rather bold aspiration inasmuch as I was a thirty-three year old high school dropout with few credentials and no visible means of support. It was a shot in dark: I hadn’t been in a classroom for fifteen years, but I made my way back to Guelph, Ontario, where the only veterinarian school in Canada was located.

Rainshadow Organics

Rainshadow Organics

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Saralee Lawrence and Ashanti Samuels are Rainshadow Organics, a burgeoning, certified organic operation which fully embraces the tenets of mixed crop and livestock farming. At its core is a full-force market garden. The entire farm comprises one hundred and eighty acres situated in the magnificent, high desert region of central Oregon and subject to a painfully short growing season (some years just slightly over 2 months).

Fields Farm

Fields Farm

Located within the city limits of Bend, Oregon, Fields Farm is an organic ten acre market garden operation combining CSA and Farmer’s Market sales.

Cindys Curds & Whey

Cindy’s Curds & Whey

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The Burgess dairy farm and cheese factory are sustainable operations, meaning that nearly every by-product is re-used or recycled. For example, the usually-discarded whey goes to feed their own pigs, producing an exceptionally tasty, lean pork. Whey is the liquid portion of milk that develops after the milk protein has coagulated, and contains water, milk sugar, albuminous proteins, and minerals.

Farmrun George's Boots

George’s Boots

George Ziermann has been making custom measured, hand made shoes for 40 years. He’s looking to get out, but can’t find anyone to get in.

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.

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