When I lived in Tennessee, I traveled to a lot of events selling the baskets that I made. This gave me the opportunity to meet lots of interesting people. At one event I met the band director of a local school, his students were performing at the street event. The conversation turned to neither baskets nor music but rather gardening. He said he grew some of his own grain in his backyard garden. It grew across one end of the garden and he harvested it by hand. I had never heard of anyone doing such a thing. In this century at least. I was fascinated.
When you watch a field of wheat turn from green to golden and wave lightly in the wind, see the shocks lined up in rows as you pass by on the road, watch a load of grain auger into the grain wagon, and then see the cycle begin again. It is beautiful and worth it all.
Layering is the process by which a part of a plant stem is made to produce roots while still attached to and nourished by the parent plant, so that it may be able to maintain an independent growth. The tendency, under favorable conditions, to produce roots from the cambium zone of some part of the stem is manifested by many plants, especially in the tropics. With most such plants, rooting by detached parts is easily accomplished, and this being more convenient, layering is generally practiced only with those plants which do not root readily from cuttings.
Until now, I cannot remember any instance when I found a deep-seeded scientific tome on a tight and narrow subject to be anything but a chore to read. For me, Dr. Vanselow’s Species-rich grassland is a wandering wondering thrill to read, to hold and to peruse, not so much for traditional definitions, narrative and accessibility to information, but because it spills out in a thousand directions with its connections to so many aspects of biological health and human existence in a natural world.
This old-time neck yoke is a simple carved wooden piece with strings and hooks that is placed on a person’s shoulders for carrying buckets. I use my yoke for hauling water for our sheep, bringing collected maple sap back to storage containers, and supplying fresh cold well water to our home. When buckets need to be carried over any distance, this yoke does a wonderful job transferring the buckets weight from your hands and arms to the top of your shoulders. My grandfather made the pattern and showed me how to make one. This style of neck yoke has been used in my family and among friends for three generations. It is considered a valuable tool in our homesteading lifestyle.
And then it dawned on me – this ewe for all her mothering instincts and supply of milk couldn’t cope. She simply couldn’t contend with two lambs. Well not at first! Because in a very short space of time, three or four in-and-out sessions and one overnight restraint, she was delighted with both lambs and went from the wee garden at the house to further pasture with the rest of the flock. Yes, I know! In a life time of working with sheep, of holding and wrestling and doing ‘the Divil and all’ when I couldn’t, in the end, get the ewe to take up with the lamb – but this time it worked; so Harrah!
I first met Dan 10 years ago or more when I needed a radiator for my old John Deere A. Sure ‘nuff he had everything I needed and a whole lot more. With lots in common we became good friends. But as with so many things of such like, I completely put out of my mind my responsibilities as editor of this Journal until just the other day. Because it’s so close, and because I take it for granted, is no reason it wouldn’t help others to know about this ‘yard.’
It was late April, the snow had only just melted, and I was putting the finishing touches on a wood framed greenhouse when a friend stopped by. We fell to talking about gardening and farming and I spoke of my interest in someday trying my hand at doing some actual field work with a team (I already had a number of years experience driving horses on dude outfits, but nothing in the way of farming). My friend Don said, “well you know there’s a guy, a writer from Tennessee who farms with horses and writes books about it. You should check him out.” Turns out you were from Kentucky, not Tennessee, as I was soon to learn after rounding up a copy of The Gift of Good Land, which I greedily read in just a couple of days. My life was changed forever.
As someone who has struggled to find the time and presence for both spirituality and farming in the past few tumultuous years, reading Gary Paul Nabhan’s book was a grounding force to me in a number of ways. His work is endlessly readable and relatable but also a deeply and carefully complex love letter to the poor and marginalized agricultural worker. In it, I felt my own call back to my roots in farming, but also the call that the ancient farmers and fishers must have felt. I held in my heart the suffering and the grief of centuries of marginalized agricultural workers striving to keep food on their own tables while also feeding the masses. No wonder Jesus, so dedicated to helping all humanity at the sacrifice of his own life, spoke in parables of sowing seeds and planting wheat.
“Free goats?” my husband Henry said, trying to control himself. “You said you’d take on these goats?” He stared at me with the look that made me know I better have thought this out. “You are going where to get these free goats without even seeing them?” He knew that when it came to building a goat herd, there were some things I just did not do because they were far too risky. He also knew that I was about to do one of those things. “This will give me some really important DNA in my herd,” I said, looking at him with eyes full of as much conviction as I could muster. He knew that I always try to have a well thought out breeding plan for my herds of Spanish and Savanna goats.
A delicate butterfly wing, creamy-white coloured. A yellowing vole skull. A tin dish full of dried scraps of lichen. These rest below a string of dried flowers – pansies, calendula, chamomile, strawflower, pearly everlasting. And below that, on an old, rubbed-smooth shelf, sit crystals and rocks – dull pumice and lava rock, shiny quartz, ethereal satin spar and fluorite. Other curiosities – fragile bird’s nests, aquatic exoskeletons, elegant pheasant feathers – fill the gaps, each one labelled with a date, an observation and a note or two, and two names – common and scientific. This is The Fernskull Conservatory, a museum of naturally-found curiosities.
For this is a farmed landscape, shaped by generations who ploughed the valley bottoms before it became cheaper to buy their flour and feed for the horses, and who ran sheep on the fellsides since, well, who knows when? And the answer is, at least since Viking times, when those hardy Scandinavians colonised the north, leaving their influence in the place names and in the language which I share, the fells, the becks, the forces and the dales; which in southern English are mountains, streams, waterfalls and valleys, or for comparison in Norwegian, fjell, bekk, foss and dale.
Maybe we need to hear such things from each other but, No. NO, we are not share-holders. We are husbands, wives, partners, parents, care givers. Shareholders by modern definition come to the games with a whole lot to say but without liability. Their investment is the relative insignificance of money. They come to demand their ‘share’ and the opportunity to influence that which they hold a share in. They do it for profit. It’s about the money, honey. Period.
Versatile in ability, usually small and compact in stature and black in color, with an intelligent head and a willing temperament, the Canadian Horse is a breed that originated in Canada. As of April, 2002, it is Canada’s National Horse. Although its numbers were dangerously low for a time in Canada, it is making a comeback as a pleasure horse.
We realize that there are also other important factors such as Total Digestible Nutrition and Relative Feed Value to consider, but the most influential for us has been crude protein. We have found that over the years, if we can, as cheaply as possible, bump the protein level of the grain portion of our ration to 16% for the lambs and 12-14% for the ewes, the ewes winter quite well on whatever hay we have managed to grow. The lambs also manage to gain weight and go to market. We are also very careful to feed them free choice cobalt iodized loose salt and a mineral that has been formulated for our region if we find that our hay is of poorer quality.
At first only such plants were grown as would serve for human food; natural meadows and pastures provided for domestic animals. Even now there are large areas where no special efforts are made to secure food for stock. With increasing population, however, more ground must be devoted to cereals for human food, and the value of land rises. Natural pastures largely disappear and the farmer must grow other crops as food for stock during different seasons. The cultivation of fodder and pasture plants has reached its greatest perfection in temperate regions, where the animals cannot graze during the winter.
On account of their size, lambs lend themselves for use on the farm more readily than do other farm animals. They can be consumed in a short period of time and for this reason are not generally cured. Also because of the fact that mutton is a drier meat and does not contain much soft fat, it does not lend itself to curing as well as do other meats.
This kind of low-impact management has yielded visible results for Rose who can display flourishing pasture grasses, healthy cattle, and firm banks in his riverside pasture. “I am just a detail oriented person and one of those farm boys who always likes to have a project,” Rose said. “I am trying to get the most out of my land and efforts and I really enjoy seeing the positive outcomes of a finished project.”
As we start, consider a few things when building a pto cart. Are big drive tires necessary? Is a lot of weight needed? Imagine the cart in use. Try to see it working where you normally go and where you almost never go. Will it be safe and easy to mount or dismount? Can you access the controls of the implement conveniently? Is it easy to hook and unhook? Where is the balance point? I’m sure you will think of other details as you daydream about it.
I used an ’84 Chevrolet S-10 rear end to build my forecart, turn it over to get right rotation, used master cylinder off buggy and 2” Reese hitch, extend hitch out to use P.T.O. The cart is especially useful for tedding hay. However, its uses are virtually unlimited. We use it for hauling firewood on a trailer, for pulling a disc and peg tooth harrow, for hauling baled hay on an 8’ x 16’ hay wagon, and just for a jaunt about the farm and community.
The first year we plowed up four acres of the old hayfields (corresponding to fields 1-8 on the map) and planted oats for the work horses. We also put out about a quarter-acre of medicinal herbs and vegetables to see what would grow well in our area. Digging quackgrass out of these trial crops on our hands and knees convinced us that we needed to use the summer fallow to deal with this perennial weed before committing to a larger acreage of produce.
The value of the guinea fowl as a substitute for game birds such as grouse, partridge, and pheasant is becoming more and more recognized by those who are fond of this class of meat and the demand for these fowls is increasing steadily. Many hotels and restaurants in the large cities serve prime young guineas at banquets and club dinners as a special delicacy. When well cooked, guineas are attractive in appearance, although darker than common fowls, and the flesh of young birds is tender and of especially fine flavor, resembling that of wild game.
Dear Miriam, it sounds like you have a nice team and are doing well with them. I’m thankful you contacted me rather than assume that your team, with a history of only carriages and wagons, would be able to handle an abrupt and sudden change to farm equipment. The reality is that they might accept the unfamiliar noise, vibration, and other differences just fine. On the other hand, they are equines, and being so are prone to becoming concerned, stressed out, and overwhelmed by things unfamiliar – especially things that move and make noise. The very nature of equines as a timid fright/flight animal causes them to be predictably suspicious and fearful. It is always best and safest to introduce anything new or different to them very carefully and gradually.
A good deal of the success with hotbeds is due to the careful selection of the manure. Cold manure, like that of cows and pigs, should never be used because it will not heat. Horse manure is best, but in this case at least one-third of the bulk should be straw. If pure manure is used, it will pack too tightly when firmed, so that it will not heat. If possible, the manure from grain-fed, straw-bedded horses should be used.
The time for mowing and harvesting will be here before we know it. It is then that many game birds and mammals are sacrificed to the cruel knives of farm implements. This annual slaughter of our valuable wildlife can be stopped to great degree if the farmers can be induced to use a flushing device which has been so effective in recent years.
The honey bee is arguably the weakest link in the U.S. food supply chain and on this tenuous link is born the heaviest burden. Fully 40% of what we eat, to one degree or other pivots on the work of bees. Along with honey, most of our fruit, fruit juices and wines, as well as our nuts, berries and vegetables depend of bees. While not the primary pollinator of alfalfa, honey bees do contribute to its pollination. To a lesser degree the livestock that eat alfalfa; our milk, beef, sheep, goats and even chickens all depend on the honey bee. Imagine dinner time without honey bees; our diet would be so uninspiring that it would take the joy out of a pleasant meal at the end of the day.
In the 2010 book Radical Homemakers, author Shannon Hayes devotes several chapters to the “consumerization” of American life. While many books have been written about this subject, few go as deep as Hayes does, to question the assumptions that are often made about just what constitutes economic well-being. In short, she shows that “more” isn’t always “better,” and that sometimes what seems “cheap” is actually very expensive if it comes with costs to your time, energy, health, relationships, environment, or conscience.
As most of us know, bees swarm — that is, leave the hive en mass — for several reasons. The most common reason is a lack of room to grow, when there are plenty of blooming plants in the vicinity. When bees swarm, they hatch out a new queen and follow her to find a place to build a new hive. By contrast, in Colony Collapse Disorder the bees slip away as individuals, leave their posts and duties, signalling some kind of failure. Perhaps they only leave in a last desperate urge to avoid fouling the nest with their corpses.
It had been freezing cold for weeks so when the temperature hovered around 34 degrees that January morning it felt almost spring-like. I crossed the fence and walked with axe to the pond edge to chop open a drinking hole for the 30 some head of horses and cattle. Been doing this each morning. That day the early morning sunlight set the frost layer on the pond surface to tiny sparkling crystals. The sharp axe chipped into the ice with the first stroke and I ‘felt’ a deep-throated rumble almost as though the air mumbled. Looking around for some evidence of the cause, perhaps a Rock Chuck clearing its throat or the garbled growl of a Badger or even antlers rubbing against a hollow dead juniper trunk, I saw nothing obvious and swung the axe again.
We were first introduced to livestock guardian dogs (LGD’s) by our friends the Dillon’s. Will and Debbie milk goats in the coastal mountains of South Tillamook County, and we were visiting them to pick out our first Nubian doe in the late 1990’s. We were greeted by Pete, a Great Pyrenees pup, and an older female Pyrenees. Our first impression was astonishment both at the size of the dogs and at the fact that they were so calmly living in the midst of goat herd pandemonium! We have over the years been treated to many stories of Pete and his companion LGD’s and their escapades.
Their farm was small by most standards, but it was large enough for them. And, just as important, it was large enough for us, all of us. Instead of an ever dwindling and weakening landscape of a few thousand monolithic corporate farms, we are better served by millions of small, diverse, independent fertile family farms. And the more farms we have, the greater the opportunity of success for each. The landscape would heal, the countryside would welcome the return of vibrant small farm communities, the economy would strengthen, our capacity to feed people would increase in quantity and health, the immune systems of an ever growing number of people would improve, the governments would move offshore, the moral base would once again rise up from the truths of actual working, and the ranks of the hungry would shrink day by day.
Increasing numbers of family farms are unlocking sustainable income through Agri-tourism. These events bring visitors to tour working farms. Not only do your guests enjoy a day in the outdoors, but they go home with a new understanding of life and work on a small farm. At the end of the day Ag-tourists go home with bags, boxes and buckets of delicious home-grown delights, perhaps picked with their own hands. Agri-tourism events are in high demand all around the country. This growing industry provides good reasons for you to consider an agri-tourism project for your small farm.
It was important to us that the homemade senior horse feed tasted more like dessert than medicine because one of the purposes of their small grain ration is to serve as a reward for the horses coming in from pasture on their own. Ninety percent of the time they are waiting at the stable doors, or within calling distance of the barn, when it is time to stable them. Without the sprout incentive, our daily labor for stabling the horses would be a lot more than 20 minutes. It takes almost that long just to make the round trip on foot to bring in the horses from the back end of the farthest paddocks.
A couple of questions at this year’s small group tour made us realize that we had not thoroughly cultivated the topic of work horse costs in this column. Tom Padua, recently hired to manage a CSA in New Jersey and convert it to the bio-extensive system, wanted to know how much hay, grain and minerals we feed our work horses. Miriam Gieske, a research intern at the Rodale Institute, took Tom’s questions to the next level. After browsing through the SFJ handouts at the end of the day, she wanted to know which costs more, farming with horses or tractors?
Funny, I had just read Lynn Miller’s description of dealing with runaways in the Training Workhorses text and had discussed it with Jim in passing. That knowledge was nowhere to be found as we accelerated to a gallop. I had tension on one line as Nelson’s bridle fell around his neck. The faster the wagon went, the faster the horses galloped to get out of the way. Was this really happening? How could confidence and a nice easy sunny morning turn so suddenly into a completely uncontrolled, raging race down the hill and what was sure to be a humongous crash and ensuing mess.
Though many of us live in cities, we can still garden and grow our own food. But we associate this with summer, with ripening strawberries in the early season, perhaps red tomatoes later on. And when they are gone, they are gone until next year. What most people don’t realize is that canning their own food is still possible in their own kitchens. Indeed, many supermarkets stock not only flats of glass jars, as well as lids, but also the hot-water baths needed to process the jarred goods, and those crucial tools like tongs to fish hot jars out with.
One of our goals when we first started farming here was to develop the farm as a self-contained nutrient system. Unlike the almost complete recycling of nutrients which can take place on a livestock operation, we are always amazed – even a little disturbed – to see how many tons of fertility and organic matter leave the market garden each year with so little returned to the good earth.
Heretofore potato production in this country has been conducted along extensive rather than intensive lines. In other words, we have been satisfied to plant twice as many acres as should have been necessary to produce a sufficient quantity of potatoes for our food requirements. Present economic conditions compel the grower to consider more seriously the desirability of reducing the cost of production by increasing the yield per acre.
An interesting angle to the peppergrass-flavored butter of 1935 was related by Mr. P.C. Betts of the Dairy and Poultry Cooperatives, Inc., Chicago. A few buyers who used this peppergrass butter at greatly reduced prices became accustomed to its high flavor and still called for it after all such butter had been sold from storage. They were willing to pay just as much for it as for high-grade butter. Old cream and fruity-flavored butter sometimes sells at unjustifiable prices when it goes to certain retail outlets.
First of all and maybe most importantly, I cannot take credit for this contraption as the idea came to me from my friend and mentor Wes Ferguson. I bought the original spike from him, then improved on it somewhat. To my knowledge, there are only two like this in existence, and I had a hand in building both of them. Anyone with a welder and some basic metalworking skills can make one of these. The trick is to make sure it is balanced properly to handle large bales.
It must have taken Nell 6 months to a year before it dawned on her that this farm was her home and that from now on she would be treated well. About a year and a half later, when Dr. McGrew came around for another small matter, she was 3 inches taller, a lot fatter, with a beautiful heifer calf by her side. “That’s not the little rescue cow is it?” Not only was she as fit as a fat fiddle, she was HAPPY, and she never stopped expressing her enjoyment of and gratitude for all the good that came her way. Good hay! Apples and pumpkins! Rearing her own calf! Wonderful brushings! Fields and woods! Plus she had the cutest Jersey face and everyone loved her.
It was with surprise and humbled excitement that I agreed to Lynn Miller’s suggestion that I write a column for this, our treasured Small Farmer’s Journal; this agrarian guidebook that so many of us have come to rely on and savor over the years. I have always said that if I had to choose between buying food or renewing my SFJ subscription I would go hungry. This magazine truly has had a profound impact on my life over the years. It has always been amply endowed with matters of practical know-how joined with a philosophical wisdom that has never been afraid of romance and poetry. It really is a place to come for reassurance, for consolation, for hope.
The Common Ground Fair and Lynn Miller have left me to ponder a few things. They both represent so much that I believe in and want to achieve in my life. I’ve begun to question what the future holds for High View Farm. I wonder where and how I’ll fit into that future and I know it’s getting closer and closer! The pull to get back on the farm is almost overwhelming. When I’m there visiting I don’t have to try so hard to hold onto who and what I am. I just am!
In the Old World two insects, called asparagus beetles, have been known as enemies of the asparagus since early times. In the year 1862 the common asparagus beetle was the occasion of considerable alarm on asparagus farms in Queens County, N.Y., where it threatened to destroy this, one of the most valuable crops grown on Long Island. Subsequent inquiry developed the fact that the species had begun its destructive work at Astoria, near New York City, in 1860, and it is now conceded that it was introduced in this locality about 1856.
As a farming family we’re really not that different. We worked in town and farmed as an avocation for seven years after we bought the farm and then left the town job and shifted our focus, full time, to the farm. We began direct marketing, developed a base of return customers who looked for our label in the grocery stores and even had many who came directly to the farm. We were modestly diversified, not certified organic, but in looking back, we were oriented toward deep sustainable agriculture and earnestly tried to develop the natural systems on the farm to work cooperatively. We had never read anything by Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson or Gene Logsdon, we simply farmed from our heart the best way we knew how.
I’ve come to the north of Scotland this October almost by accident. And I find myself standing on the windy, rocky point of land that is northernmost on the isle of Great Britain. The sea lies before me: the flooding tide from the Atlantic pours in on my left where it collides with the North Sea pouring in from the right, the opposing currents whipping up a frenzy of white capped, tidal confusion: for sailors past and present, treacherous waters indeed. Straight ahead, across the seething waters of Pentland Firth lie the Orkney Islands, my ultimate destination.
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?
This is my small beet grinder I built about 6 years ago. It has done nearly daily duty for that time. The beet fodder is added to my goat and rabbit rations which are largely homemade. Adding the pulp to the grain rations has aided me in having goat milk throughout the winter months. My beets are the Colossal Red Mangels. Many grow up to 2 feet long. I cut off enough for a day’s feed and grind it up each morning. Beets oxidize like cut apples. Fresh is best!
I once had a magical chance encounter with an Asian Bearcat, also known as a Binturong. So long as he was convinced I was his undemanding companion all was peaceful and exotic, but when I played with the thick hair of his tail I soon discovered a dangerous emotional landscape. Friends and fellows who are recent entries into the world of agribusiness and status-quo industrial farming are wondering at the ferocity they are met with by public and private protective farm institutions and agencies. Big agriculture is feeling threatened, they don’t like us playing with their tail hairs.
One day when I had him in the ring performing, I unknowingly gave him a signal that initiated his best previously undisclosed trick. I was standing directly in front of him and for some reason I raised both of my arms at the same time, sort of “Moses parting the waters” style. Tricksy, as we now called him, reared up on his hind legs and shuffled stiff legged towards me. I was a little shocked and took a couple of steps backwards but when I did he followed, still walking on his hind legs. He seemed to expect me to stay still so that’s what I did. He moved in on me until my nose was touching his breastbone and his legs were draped over my shoulders. One of the kids shouted, “He looks like he wants to dance!” and as it turned out that’s exactly what he had in mind. As he hung almost weightless over my shoulders he let me spin him around in a weird waltz.
ZÈA (an old Greek name for some common cereal, probably spelt). The genus is founded upon the single polymorphous cultivated species Zea Mays, Maize or Indian Corn, whose origin is unknown but is suspected by some to be Teosinte. Most of the evidence points to Mexico as the region in which it originated and from which it spread. Under the head of Corn are given the botanical characters of the genus, a classification of subspecies of Zea Mays, and a discussion of Sweet Corn and Pop Corn.
Storing is a quick, cheap, and easy means of preserving fruits and vegetables. A supply of fruits and vegetables in a home storage enables a family to use these products during the winter when they are often omitted from the family diet. Many rural families produce most of their fruits and vegetables, while others purchase many of them. If the needed winter supply can be purchased during the harvest period and placed into the home storage, an appreciable saving may be made. An adequate home fruit and vegetable storage is a practical and economical investment for each farm home.
This event is about showcasing new innovations in animal power but it is also a place to show-case ingenuity, inventiveness, plus tools, parts and pieces. From my many visits to this stellar annual event I have long known that folks travel here specifically to shop for equipment. So I thought to gather some pictures and info from that perspective. If I had the money and were shopping, what items would I want to put on my shopping list? I found some I needed, some I wanted, some I felt drawn to and a few without justification.
If you look at most old photos of horses ploughing, certainly from the British Isles, most of them feature a pair of horses. If photographs had been invented before the 1860s there would have been a greater variety of hitches, with three abreast, three in line walking down the furrow, three yoked bodkin fashion, and fours hitched in line or in two pairs. In the middle of the 19th century there was a big movement to improve the function and decrease the draught of ploughs, so that on farms where four horse hitches were used, they might then manage with three or a pair. By the time photographs came more common in the early twentieth century, on all but the heaviest land two horses could pull the plough and this became the most common hitch. By comparison, images of a single horse pulling a plough are relatively rare; perhaps those who could only afford one horse could not afford to have their photograph taken either, but the big plough manufacturers in Britain all produced light ploughs for the single horse, or even for a pony, and there were many small holdings which only supported a single horse.
The demands of summer on the farm often stretch us to our limits. Haying, gardening, preserving, machinery breakdowns, visitors – at times there seems to be no end to the ocean of work and unexpected obstacles. And if this farming life is new to you, and you are having to be responsible for tasks you are still mastering, it can be overwhelming. While it’s not possible to avert very long and tiring days with a variety of things going awry, it is possible and advisable to develop a system of order and preparedness which will carry you through even the most challenging of days.
I would imagine that at least for those with draft horses, many may have some intention of working those animals in some capacity on their property. These goals will vary from those who would like to do all the draft work on their place with a horse or team, to those who never plan to do more than wagon or sled rides or perhaps a little hauling of materials around the farm or homestead. My main interest is in thinking through some issues I believe those who really mean to use their draft animals, for farm work or logging or for regular hauling projects, may encounter as obstacles to really achieving those goals.
Once upon a time there were no gas (or steam) powered motors. Necessity begets innovation and every discovery simply lays the foundation for the next. Mechanization arose, yet for a long time the only power sources were a person’s two hands or the four legs of a draft animal. An under appreciated amount of hand and draft powered machinery came to be. Among these were horsepower units. A set of gears set in motion by a draft animal walking a circular track pulling a tongue.
There is so darn much good info in this charming book. Perhaps the most dramatic examples come with ideas for protecting fig trees in really cold climates, from growing in containers, to swaddling, to the idea of laying down the tree in a trench and covering it during winter. It’s tricky but definitely worth the consideration and effort, and you’ll need this good book to show you how.
I consider farms to be one of those interesting things I was talking about. Isn’t it just so lovely that a small, tilled plot of land can hold so much life? Food for humans, food for animals, bulk and produce, cover crops, an environment for domesticated and wild animals alike. If you were to pause time, think of all the things that would be happening! In the stalky field, a bleary-eyed fawn twitches tired ears. In the hawthorn hedge, a magpie pulls at a thorny twig, artfully constructing a masterpiece of a nest. In the barn, the scurrying of an evasive mouse catches the attention of the draft horses, slowly chewing their breakfast.
Homesteaders drawn to new land were often soon down to guesswork, and learning the hard way. In the early years there had been crop failures and experiments tried that never worked for a minute. The growing season here was short, and the grass wasn’t lush enough even at best for more than a cow to every twenty-five acres. Too many cows on the land might mean the new owner could sell fat cows after a good summer that first year, but then they might starve the next year, on land that had been eaten down to the roots and couldn’t bounce back. Orchards got planted that froze out or were eaten to nothing by deer and elk before they ever bore fruit, by animals that gobbled that tender fruitwood bark like candy.
I, a very young man and hungry to have a farm of my own, was managing a small goat dairy for an absentee owner. The farm paper was on the table at the neighbor’s house. I read the ad over five or six times and felt a terrible magnetic itch. I didn’t have any money to spare, a few bucks waiting to swell to enough to pay for a new coat and some groceries. I didn’t know anything about auctions except what I garnered from little snatches – of how a guy could get caught scratching his nose and end up buying something, slices of the singsong banter of the auctioneer pulling in people’s attention, the air filled with an urgency like a race underway, a woman walking around in front of a gathering of folks with a lamp held up high for viewing.
This cultivator has many features which farmers everywhere know to be desirable. Its extremely simple construction is combined with unusual strength and durability. Light in draft and easily operated it makes cultivation work easy for man and team.
After long experience a person can develop an almost innate understanding of the fundamental nature of the horse. This is what I think of as horse sense, a term that seems to have fallen out of use in recent decades. But I like very much what the development of horse sense entails: that of a lifelong inquiry into the mind of the horse, his habits, behavior and natural tendencies. It is almost impossible to teach horse sense, or to learn it from a book. It is rather something learned from many years of daily interactions between horse and man. Horse sense is being able to read the body language of a horse, to anticipate what he will do before he does it, or at least to anticipate what he’s most likely to do.
In the last century, the increased number of larger farms and ranches, coupled with much of the textile industry moving overseas, has resulted in few wool mills that serve small flocks. However, Valley Oak Wool & Fiber Mill is one rare such business. Located in Northern California, this mill takes raw, unwashed fleeces, and processes them into batting, roving, and yarn. Importantly, wool mills such as Valley Oak Wool & Fiber Mill serve to bridge the gap between farmer and sheep, and crafter, textile, and wearer.
A marked characteristic of this group is that certain individual trees have a long blossoming period and a correspondingly long season in which the fruit matures. It is this that gives special value to the “Everbearing,” a variety which originated about 1885 in the garden of a Mrs. Page, at Cuthbert, Ga. Blossoming, as it does, through a period of several weeks, it rarely fails to set a fair crop of fruit, while the fruit in turn ripens through a period of from six to twelve weeks on the same tree.
Scottish Blackface are ideally suited to grass-based farming. The breed has been developed over centuries to utilize rough and coarse grazing ground and to produce grass fed market lambs of the highest gourmet quality. They are extremely hardy and thrifty and thrive in areas where other breeds struggle to survive. Breeders benefit from easy keeping, productive ewes that produce premium market lambs on grass and with a lamb crop of 150% or better.
Planting, raising and harvesting food has had a long and vigorous literature with two complementary aims – practical knowledge, and what the Captain in the chain-gang movie “Cool-Hand Luke” calls “Getting your mind right.” In that regard a farmer I know says, “If nothing is nibbling your garden, that just means it’s not part of the ecosystem.” Fine classical samples of farming’s philosophical and emotional mindset are to be found in M.D. Usher’s new work of selection and translation: How To Be A Farmer: An Ancient Guide to Life on the Land, A Work of Many Hands.
The beets that prompted this story grabbed my attention because they had been bred with flavor in mind. Specifically, these beets had been selected to be either very high or very low in geosmin, the simple twelve-carbon molecule that gives soil its distinctive earthy aroma. It’s long been known that beets have an earthy character; some people call them “dirt candy” while others say they just taste like dirt. Of the flavor components identified in beets, earthiness is the one that people most often dislike, so my doctoral advisor, Dr. Irwin Goldman, had wondered: If we bred a beet with less geosmin, would more people like it?
I say it is a good book, much of it superb writing, with paradoxical messaging that bites itself on the ankle several times. The text comes entirely from a shepherd-writer at once torn by his journey while still living this story’s outcome right now. The book IS for the most part hot on target, stirring, elegant and vital. BUT, it too often slips and becomes side-swiping, a ‘realist’s harangue’ against those who are the better and best examples because their courageous farming comes from passion and a perpetual husbandry-alignment with nature.
It shouldn’t have been there, but there it was, a nineteenth-century gravestone partly exposed at the edge of a rubbish pile back in the woods. He assumed some farmer had finally had his fill of always having to skirt an abandoned plot of graves that no one had tended for years. Perhaps he had struck a half-buried slab with his cultivator and broken a tine and, perhaps, after cursing and counting costs, he had hauled away every stone on the site and plowed it all under.
How many times has the gardener, even the most seasoned of gardeners, been coaxed and tempted by the warm spring sun and breezes to chance the frosts and plant too early? Slightly crazed by cabin fever and beautiful seed catalogs, these Sirens have waylaid many a gardener who knows better into a garden of frosted tomato and pepper plants.
We lived close enough to the Sweetgrass Hills in Montana for my Dad to use them to predict the weather. They also provided a huge expanse for a fertile imagination to grow wild and free. Every coulee in our area of the prairies was a mystery for me to enjoy. Every living creature scraping a living through the dust, the mud, the blizzards and the blue skied “I can see for miles” warm spring days instilled my respect. I loved the prairies and still do. The few miles from our place in Canada across the border to the States held for me lands filled with outlaws, buffalo and ancient peoples all filling my childhood imagination with the magic that only wide open spaces can.
I purchased my first team of Belgian mares 15 years ago. Well broke, they taught me a lot. I read and re-read your books, and Small Farmer’s Journals. As time passed, I have hooked up singles, team, 3 and 4 abreast, for many projects. Plus, events like parades, weddings, family gatherings and funerals. Almost 20 years later we have a dozen mares and our own stallion, with babies coming in the Spring of 2022. And I am always learning new things as I read.
I particularly enjoyed your “Setting Up A Binder” article in the last Small Farmer’s Journal. I noticed that the Champion binder has an IHC auto-steer tongue truck. I’m wondering if you know when that Champion binder was manufactured. There are many clever designs in the old horse machinery, but I have long admired how that tongue truck turns shorter than the tongue so a team can sidestep around a corner to line up for the next swath. We had one of these tongue trucks installed on a #9 mower back when Dad was still alive and farming. I still have a couple stashed in my windbreak.
I can tell you for sure because it is still there on the bookshelf, that the first adult book I ever bought, and I don’t mean the racy type, was John Seymour’s ‘Self Sufficiency.’ I bought it when I was about fourteen, probably with a book token given as a present, a good use for it because back then I wasn’t a great reader; I much preferred being outside, making stuff, various woodwork projects mostly, and my model railway, though by then that re-creation of an idealised tiny world was losing its appeal.
On Saturday, March 30, 2013 in Orange, Virginia, members of the Virginia Draft Horse and Mule Association (VDHMA), Old Dominion Draft Horse and Mule Association and Virginia Percheron Association trailered in to support Bob Brennan’s annual Farm Day. Other teamsters traveled from various parts of Virginia as well as North Carolina, West Virginia, Massachusetts and New York to demonstrate their skills in tilling a large field supplied by one of Bob’s neighbors for this public event.
In this column we finish cultivating a selection of questions from the 2012 farm tours. We also respond to a question from a group of forty extension agents who toured the bio-extensive market garden in 2010. We thought their concern about managing horse manure in the vegetable fields was timely to address given the recent release of the FDA’s proposed Produce Safety Rule.
The Oliver No. 23-B reversible sulky plow is a horse-drawn riding plow that can be set to turn the soil to either side, thus allowing the use of highly-efficient plowing “patterns.” The machine was manufactured by the Oliver Chilled Plow Works of South Bend, Indiana, over the period from about 1917 through 1934. It has a very ingenious mechanism, the crafty geometry of which obscures its principles of operation. In this article I describe the Oliver 23-B and explain its mechanism and the way it supports the many special features of the machine. Some background is first given on the concepts of plowing.
With the average age of an American farmer being 57, much of the nation’s farmland will change hands in the next two decades. To help address this issue, many states and regions are creating land links: programs that help connect farmers, especially beginning farmers, to farmland for rent or sale. Land links are usually online databases that display listings from landholders and landseekers describing what the participant is looking for in a match and what they can offer. The land link program puts this posting online (minus any personal or contact information) and facilitates communication between participants.
In A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses, a greenhorn (myself) tried a single work horse named Lady for farm and woods work. It was probably natural that, having acquired some experience with one horse, I should want to see what it was like to use two. Perhaps it is more exciting to see a good team pull together, and there is the added challenge to the teamster of making certain that the horses pull smoothly rather than seesaw.
We have tried a workhorse, and for our needs he has proven quite satisfactory as well as satisfying to use. Thus we feel it is possible for someone with little or no experience to learn to care for and use a horse or a team for farm and woods work, although, obviously, this is not a process to be undertaken lightly. One of the basic aims of the farm operation for us is self-sufficiency, and we thought that the horse would be more efficient than a tractor in achieving this aim.
The John Deere Side Delivery Rake is set up as illustrated in the following pages. The darkened portions in the progressive illustrations show clearly the parts to be assembled and attached in proper order. Where the instructions or the connecting points are numbered follow closely the order in which they are numbered. Arrows are also used to point out important adjustments or parts that need special attention in setting up.
South Sudan, a new equatorial nation in east-central Africa, is a paradox wrapped in opportunity. It is a poor country and it is a rich country. It is a country threatened almost daily by tribal unrest. It is a vigorous nation which needs help. An answer to their need might contain an opportunity for it to contribute widely to the stability of the region and by example to peace in the world. South Sudan does not now feed itself, it is dependent on less than stable imports from neighboring countries. People there are hungry. A few in positions of leadership in that struggling democracy believe that the best ways to solve this problem also offer up excellent patterns for a rich scale-specific economic development
As I drove south in a rental car from Champaign to Arcola, and began to transition into the landscape stewarded by local Amish communities, subtle shifts began to appear in the land use patterns. Of course, the first noticeable change was that the farms had horses – and lots of them – big drafts for work in the fields, saddle horses, trotters for the buggies, and minis and ponies to haul the kids around in carts and to give first lessons in the joys and responsibilities of horsemanship.
One morning in early June, I helped four Peruvian herders load 780 +/- goats into a semi-trailer and a gooseneck stock trailer. We started at 5:30 a.m. and finished just before 7:30. In addition to loading the goats, we packed up the herders’ camps, disassembled the corrals and loading chute, and took down electric fences – a busy and productive morning, to say the least!
Two farmers. Two paradigms. One questions everything. The other values tradition. Robert Frost wrote “Mending Wall,” the poem that captures the interchange between two very different, but neighboring farmers, in 1914. He could easily have written it in 2014. The fact is two types of farmers and farming still struggle to coexist.
Although corn pollen is comparatively heavy, the wind can carry it several hundred yards. That is, pollen from corn in one farm can easily pollinate corn in a nearby field. When the pollen comes from Roundup Ready corn, Bt corn or another GE variety it can contaminate a traditional variety. The organic farmer cannot market his or her corn as organic if GE corn has pollinated it. In the guise of intellectual property rights, Monsanto, which holds the patent to many GE varieties, has sued farmers whose corn has been contaminated on the principle that they did not buy the contaminating variety and so had no right to its pollen, even though the farmers did not want this contamination…
Adjust the hitch down until the heel of the landside rests flat on the bottom of the furrow. The hitch should always be set as high as possible so that the plow will take the ground quickly, but care should be taken to see that the heel of landside runs flat in bottom of furrow. In case the plow has a tendency to run on its nose, the hitch should be lowered slightly until the heel of the landside runs flat in the bottom of the furrow. The position of the draft bars in a sidewise direction should be maintained by moving the hitch adjusting bar out as the bar is tilted downward.
With his team of horses in hand, Spencer first started cutting firewood off Forest Service land and selling it to the public. In 1985, after four years of cutting firewood by horse logging, the Forest Service, seeing what he was capable of doing, put up a small timber sale in a campground. Today, the Forest Service and land owners see horse logging as a nice tool in managing the land.
Elisabeth Jonsson, a previous guest at the ranch, was struck by the similarities between cattle ranching in the American West, and raising reindeer in the far north of her native Sweden. Reindeer, like cattle, are highly gregarious and usually travel in herds. The American rancher relies on his cattle herd to sustain a way of life that has been ongoing for nearly 150 years. Laplanders, the inhabitants of the northern-most regions of Norway, Finland and Sweden, have been herding reindeer for centuries, and are almost completely dependent on them for their livelihood.
Combining late winter/early spring grazing with pasture renovation seems to work best when we let these sacrifice areas rest for the remainder of the grazing season. If time permits, one or two mowings helps to set back the less desirable grasses and weeds while the sun-loving clover gets established. Applying minerals, such as rock phosphate and lime, along with a mulch of strawy horse manure, also increases the chances for the new seedlings to take off and thrive in these long neglected and infertile patches of the thirty-year-old pasture.
The binder attachment is adjusted when it leaves the factory, and will operate under average conditions without adjusting. Make no adjustments until all paint is worn off and important working parts are smooth. Successful operation depends largely on proper adjustment of all chains and the manipulation of levers for height of cut, position of butt pan, and tilting. These adjustments are provided to meet varying or extreme conditions. If knotter or twine tension adjustments are made and do not correct trouble, be sure to change back to original position, before making further adjustments.
Why plant pawpaws, gooseberries, shipovas, and other uncommon fruits on the small farm? These fruits are easy to grow. They’re generally pest-free so don’t need spraying, and even their pruning needs are minimal. Because sprays are not needed (not the case for apples and many other common fruits over much of the country), they can be grown organically and sold as such to command premium prices. These uncommon fruits also have unique, delectable flavors. Consumers are now, more than ever, interested in “new” flavors, making these fruits very appealing and, again, allowing them to command top dollar in markets.
The book depicts the rural material culture of his era through the use of lush, detailed illustrations. The pages are dominated by beautiful watercolors reminiscent of Carl Larson. Each scene centers on one aspect of rural life. Details about the scene are related with uncluttered pen and inks. These are all tied together with Artley’s narrative that is neither sugar coated nor sour. While the author describes his childhood as happy and stable – and clearly enjoyed his early years – there were tasks that he found distasteful. It is a story told through the eyes of a boy growing-up; refreshingly honest and personal. The result is a balanced description portraying life before rural electrification as both trying and rewarding, hard and pleasant.
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 asparagus culture in Holland is for the majority white asparagus, grown in ridges. This piece of land used to be the headland of the field. The soil was therefore compact, and a big tractor came with a spader, loosening the soil. After that I used the horse for the lighter harrowing and scuffle work to prevent soil compaction. This land lies high for Dutch standards and has a low ground water level, that is why asparagus can grow there, which can root 3 foot deep over the years.
Humans have been raising cattle for thousands of years. The early ancestors of present-day cattle were tall, dark-haired bovines called Aurochs, roaming over what is now Europe. Early people hunted cattle for meat like we hunt deer and elk today; wild cattle were the main diet of Stone Age man. Eventually some of our ancestors captured cattle and tamed them, about 10,000 years ago. The tame cattle provided a handy supply of meat and hides, without having to hunt them. Then man discovered he could also hitch cattle to a cart, plow or wagon; oxen were used for transportation long before horses were. Cattle and sheep were domesticated before horses, probably because they were easier to catch.
In comparing two compact vehicles, the stud cart and the Geo Metro, there were interesting differences in speed, fuel efficiency and maintenance. In the horse world of compact vehicles, the stud cart could best be compared to the small two-seater passenger car. The stud cart was originally used to transport a stud from farm to farm to service mares. The lightweight structure of the cart didn’t burden the single horse and allowed the farmer to clip along at a nice pace.
It all started with an experiment at our kitchen table six years ago. We had read that 100% grass fed beef was better for our health than grain-finished beef, that there were “good” fats and “bad” fats, and that the ratios of these fats to each other was also important. The old saying: “You are what you eat” should apply to cattle as well as us, right? So, we tried a simple experiment that would end up changing our lives forever.
Doc and Jim were a named team when we purchased them at auction in 1993, and they worked in tandem for the next seven years in support of our small dairy operation, answering to those very same names. Why would we change them? The two Belgians, already up in years, didn’t shoulder the full burden of what we needed in terms of horsepower. We used our tractors to harvest hay from all but the smallest of the fields we mowed, raked and baled each summer. Still, we regularly harnessed the team to mow that 5-acre field just west of the farmhouse, and to haul manure from the barn, firewood to the house and storm-felled trees up from the steep slopes of forested ravines.
Market gardening is becoming more and more popular as an enterprise for the small farm these days as the demand for fresh locally grown food continues to grow. Here at our farm we’ve dabbled in it as our search for the perfect homestead livelihood continues and it always seems to create conflicting interest and values for us. In days gone by, the small commercial farm was also a subsistence homestead, but in our cash based society of today, doing both is becoming more and more difficult. As the pressure to produce money grows, the time, energy, and resources for the small projects necessary on a subsistence homestead fall by the wayside, not to mention the deeper values that are likely what attracted you to farming in the first place.
I grew up in a German village of some six hundred inhabitants. Several farms and smallholdings had been our family farm in the first part of this century. Besides a large dairy herd, pigs, poultry, and sheep, it also had several teams of horses and one or two teams of oxen. It was often an impressive sight, on the way to or from school, to see these teams going out to work in the morning and returning back at noon. Such experiences meant a great deal to us as children. My experiences also included observing some eighty to one hundred children suffering from developmental disability who lived right next to us, in a home that was one of the first places for Curative Education and Social Therapy based on the insights provided by Rudolf Steiner. This home was under the guidance of some of the founders of the Curative Educational movement, including Dr. Karl Koenig, the founder of what is now the worldwide Camphill Movement.
My grandfather, Will Coolidge, was a thrifty, practical, native Adirondacker who, among his other occupations, was also a producer of maple syrup. At one time or another during his life (all 78 years of which was spent on the land he loved – the farm where he was born, in Jay, NY), he was a taxi driver, dairy farmer, potato grower, mailman and trapper. But the thing I remember him for the most is making maple syrup. And while he went about this demanding and honorable business, he was also passing down little pearls of wisdom to me, his eldest grandson.
Used to be that farm cooking meant an eggs-and-bacon breakfast cooked by the wife before dawn, followed up with a meat-and-potatoes lunch and a hefty slice of pie. The archetypal farm wife was an accomplished cook who did simple, stick-to-your-ribs home cooking, fuel for the men who toiled 15-hour days in the fields. Today, everyone cooks and eats differently from a generation ago, including farmers. So we went back to the farm to take a peek in the kitchen.
In 1989 Cuba had the most highly industrialized agriculture in all of Latin America, with tractors, chemical fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides – the works. In 1990 the Soviet Union fell, and suddenly Cuba’s access to cheap petroleum was cut off. So how did Cuba feed itself? Did it turn to tractors powered by nuclear power, solar power, wind power or hydrogen cells? No, it didn’t have time or money for solutions like that. Cuba’s solution was to train 500,000 oxen to take the place of petroleum powered engines. It trained its farmers to work the oxen, and to learn the techniques of organic agriculture, so it didn’t have to rely on fossil-fuel dependent inputs.
We are farmers. We care for the land and for our livestock. It is our chosen work. And it defines us in glorious ways, but only to ourselves and with others of our persuasion. Not to the wider public, not to the masses of men and women. Not today. Today we are quaint anachronisms as disconnected from their view of the landscape and their forkful of food as the disconnect they feel with self-reliance. For the longest time we have enjoyed the assurance that has come from our own working intimacy with the practical and achievable notions of self-sufficiency.
Although organic food is becoming common, organic wool is a product in its’ infancy. Markets are small, there are few processing facilities, and regulations haven’t been agreed on. What wool is being produced is coming from meat flocks, not wool breeds. Without regulations, when products are marketed as “Organic Wool” the label means far less than the consumer might assume.
Our cover crops have to provide the benefits of smothering weeds, improving soil structure, and replenishing organic matter. They also have to produce some income. For these purposes, we use turnips, mustard and lettuce within our plant successions. I broadcast these seeds thickly on areas where cover crops are necessary and let them do their work.
Before starting to plow a field much time can be saved if the field is first staked out in uniform width lands. Methods that leave dead furrows running down the slope should be avoided, as water may collect in them and cause serious erosion. The method of starting at the sides and plowing around and around to finish in the center of the field will, if practiced year after year, create low areas at the dead furrows.
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).
Since the conditions encountered in the field are so varied that definite instructions would be of little value, the aim is to explain the effect of certain adjustments and leave it to the one making the adjustments to determine when they should be made. Determining the cause before attempting a remedy will simplify the task. Study the problem carefully before making any changes. There are four principal units in the Harvester-Thresher: The Heading, Threshing, Separating and Cleaning Units. Each should be considered individually to determine where loss of efficiency may be present.
We have relied exclusively on rye for the grow-your-own mulch experiment because it is such a perfect match for many of our spring and summer vegetables. Established in early-to-mid September at our northern Pennsylvania location, rye produces a prodigious amount of biomass by the end of the following May. Mowing the rye at this time eliminates the possibility of volunteer grain. And raking the conveniently grown straw next to the adjacent vegetables a week or two later coincides nicely with the soil temperature and moisture requirements of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, leeks and winter squash. This year we branched out a little, trialing different cover crops for other growing windows.
The 1938 SILVER KING is more than a NAME. It’s constructed right – only the best materials are used throughout, and the workmanship is of the highest quality. From end to end – the 1938 Silver King gives you more desired features than any other tractor. Accessible – easy to drive – the Silver King makes work a pleasure.
The wild turkeys of North America can be considered a truly miraculous group of birds. Their populations numbered in the untold millions prior to the arrival of the European settlers in the 1500’s. The next three hundred plus years saw them nearly exterminated due to rapid habitat loss and totally unregulated hunting pressure. They actually became extinct in over fifteen states where they had previously been abundant and their decline continued well into the twentieth century. Luckily, with the passage of the Pittman Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act in 1937, along with the foundations of the Wildlife Society and the National Wild Turkey Federation there has been a steady reestablishment of our nearly national bird, which it would have been had it been left up to Benjamin Franklin. Relocations and the careful management and stewardship by both wildlife experts and sportsmen along with farmers, ranchers, and landowners have been largely responsible for the advancements in the numbers of their populations and the locations of the wild turkeys.
For several reasons the number of turkeys in the United States is decreasing. According to the census of 1900 there were in the United States at that time 6,594,695 turkeys, while by 1910 the number had decreased to 3,688,708. Poultry dealers throughout the country state that the decrease has continued ever since the last census. The principal cause of the decrease is that as the population of the country increases farming becomes more intensive, and every year the area of range suitable for turkey raising is reduced. Many turkey raisers have given up the business principally because their turkeys range through the grain fields of adjacent farms and thus cause the ill will of the owners thereof.
Through the use of carefully planned cover crop/vegetable rotations, homemade compost and intention, we focus on minimal tillage and maintaining high organic matter in our soils to retain as much of that soil moisture as possible. Recently we have realized that our plants may have come up against it in this quest – up against a hard pan, that is. Our old soils have been worked since this farm was homesteaded in 1720; over those years it’s seen lots of farming through the generations. In the market gardens we tested for subsoil compaction with a penetrometer, and at 8-12 inches deep this was stopped by the hard pan. With a hefty push, it would punch through and penetrate freely again below this compacted layer. Well to really drought proof the gardens, we wanted to allow the roots of our vegetable plants to be able to penetrate deep into the subsoil moisture reserves in dry spells.
I was seven years old, but I knew times were hard in 1937. Momma told me not to expect a visit from Santa that year. Like us, he didn’t have any money either. But we would be going to Great Grandma’s house Christmas dinner. On that cold grey December day, my tall thin Great Grandma held the door open wide, waiting, while we piled out of our Model-A Ford after a long ride from town. She kissed us a cheery hello, smelling as usual of dipped snuff. I remember how she leaned down to hug me in her long dark skirt and long-sleeved shirtwaist with her high black leather buttoned shoes peaking out from underneath.
What could be more delicious than a fresh scone topped with jam and clotted cream of your own making with a steaming cup of tea, especially after working out in the cold and wet all afternoon? Coming up with the skills to make good tea and gorgeous scones and jam surely requires attention and practice, and learning to make clotted cream does as well.
Many amateur fruit growers are concerned at times because their trees do not begin to bear as soon after being planted as they had expected or do not bear as abundantly as they wish. In some cases after bearing for a period of years the trees cease to produce, or bear irregularly. While sometimes, the reason for a fruit tree not bearing may be obscure and not explainable on any known basis, in the majority of cases such failure is due to some one of several well recognized factors. The more common of these are here briefly discussed.
I quickly discovered animals don’t need to be raised inside in atrocious conditions in order to provide meat for my family. The farmers that I spoke to were actually more akin to my mind’s eye image of Old Mac Donald’s farmer. These folks, my neighbors, enjoyed working with their animals. They gave the animals names, ensured the animals had comfortable places to sleep, and allowed the livestock to go outside on grass. Pigs were rolling in the dirt and chickens were sunning themselves, soaking up vitamin D. These were the type of farmers that I wanted to support with my family’s food dollars and this was the kind of meat that I could feel good about feeding my family.
Waking to a white world: three inches or more on the ground with more coming down. Early hay feeding, as generally, before dawn, fat snowflakes on my cheek. Horses frisky. Cows restful on their bed, chewing their cud. Not rising for breakfast, happy for the hay tossed on their pillows. Awhile later Dick and Annie, catching sight of me with halters in hand, go fooling all around the pasture this way and that, up and down. Dick bucking, throwing his head, galloping and farting. Annie playing in her own modest, inward way: trotting fast, a hint of a canter, a glimpse of a neck toss, a smile. I stand in the middle of the field enjoying the show, laughing and waiting. Time after time they roar by, until at last they’re ready to come.
The dark stillness of the night rushes out to greet me as I step outside. It is midnight as I make my way to the goat barn for yet another routine check of the pregnant does. I peek my head inside, flashlight in hand. I notice a doe off by herself and the slight rustle of straw as she paces. As I walk to her, I see the visible signs of birth on the way. I stroke her gently and murmur to her quietly. My breath quickens as the reality of it catches up to me. I bustle her into the pen already set up for kidding. Once she is settled, I turn from her and quickly grab my kidding bag from the garage; this bag is my lifesaver. Birth is never clean. Then the waiting begins. I go to and from the house, leaving her for a while, only to come check on her a few moments later. My heart beats fast, but I am outwardly collected. I mostly just sit with her, and occasionally talk to her reassuringly. This helps to calm us both down.
One tangible way time exists for me is that I see it in the aggregate mulch or ground cover of my life, a blanket of experiences that keeps getting added to. That mulch shades the basic inescapables, the nasty and mortal shape of me. That mulch, that blanket is something I can measure. That mulch conserves my spiritual moisture and helps me to continue growing. Now this year’s experience with bees goes into that measure. I can say these sorts of silly things because I am old. When I was younger I couldn’t get away with it.
Well-known for his long association with draft horses and his driving abilities in multiple hitches, Harry Campbell took on a new and rather unorthodox endeavor a couple of weeks ago. Invited over to Victoria on Vancouver Island to assist Doris Ganton to hitch and drive her ‘four,’ he was rather taken aback to discover that her four consisted of “Major,” a 2400 pound Belgian, “Shan,” a purebred Arabian, and a matched pair of Hackney mares! His initial reaction, “Weeell, they don’t exactly match, do they?”
Two horses or mules working side by side are generally referred to as a team. The customary procedure for ‘driving’ them is to employ team lines which, fastened to the outsides of each of two bits, provides that the teamster may apply varying pressure. With experience, training and maturity, the teamster might learn to softly send messages to each equine, through light pressure at the corners of their mouths, as to preferred direction, speed, and halt.
The Whiplash Teamsters are a Connecticut based loose collection of people who work with oxen. Their name comes from the 4-H club that they sponsor. The kids seem to age out, but their parents and friends stay active. We keep looking for more kids to join and promote our craft. The Fort Hill Farm owners want to expand plow day into a 2 day event in 2022.
The Small Farmer’s Journal Archives owns the two volume set of The Apples of New York which features many glorious color plates of apple varieties, some of them quite rare. Let us know if there is a variety you want information on. We might have it.
The fact that electric or hybrid passenger cars, and even electric powered agricultural implements like GPS-guided precision seeders and planters, are promoted by the media and politics now, could tempt us to jump on this bandwagon and further develop other hybrid technologies for animal traction. However, taking into consideration the current discussions about the sustainability of battery production, their life cycle and recycling, as well as the environmental impact of electricity generation in general, we would partly give up some of the main arguments for the use of work horses, which are their 100% renewability on a local level, and their eco-friendliness, compared to any other source of motive power currently available in our high-tech world.
Every bit of length, taper, angle, weight and sharpness contributes to how and for what the axe is used. The temper (hardness) of the metal must be hard enough to hold an edge and soft enough to file and not be brittle. A blunter maul with an abrupt taper blows the wood apart, or bounces off if it cannot penetrate. A sharp bit with a longer taper will cut in and penetrate easier before splitting the wood apart. If it doesn’t fully succeed one must pump the handle to loosen the head and hit it again.
When I was a child, my father cut all our wood by hand. A neighbor, standing by watching him one day asked, “Why don’t you get a chainsaw? Just think how much more wood you could cut in a day, the extra time you would have to spend with your family, and you could even read your Bible more.” The day did come when my father got a chainsaw, and he did cut many times more wood than before. As he reflected on the conversation he’d had with the neighbor of his youth, he noted that for all the wood he was able to cut with relative ease, he somehow spent less time than ever with his family and certainly didn’t find occasion to read his Bible more.
I am the smith, and I have come a long way since I nearly shattered my first knife. Through thorough application of being thrifty, not overworking myself, and pushing through hard times, I have become a blacksmith for the better. Blacksmithing is an incredible art of ancient origin. In these modern times, it has become almost lost, carried on by a select few. These select few can be strengthened by those who consider pursuing a noble interest and can carry on blacksmithing lore for another generation.
These photos were taken over two days this fall, ahead of the threshing on the McIntosh Lazy M Ranch in Terrebonne, Oregon. Their standby binder for several years has been a meticulously maintained John Deere. Recently Mike McIntosh acquired a second binder from the Rumgay estate; this one, a New Champion, is in excellent original condition but has not seen use in many years. A day ahead of the threshing Mike, Jacob and Jamesy allowed me to join them in assembling and assessing the unit for a test flight.
And we danced. How we danced! Light on our seventy and eighty year old feet, we leapt lightly over the heads of the multitude of those green capped tiny folk. Violins, small but vibrant, played under the Clapps’ Favorite and Sweet 16’s. The Jonathan, William’s Pride, and Jennifer sounded a high pitched chorus on the western breeze. The trees themselves seemed to shake and shimmy under the stars swaying in the gentle starlit southwest wind.
The forge in Rostrevor was in a very old street known as “The Back Lane.” There to the side of its entrance was a circular flat granite stone with a hole in its centre for shoeing cart wheels. And to the side of that a mountain of broken ploughs and other horse implements infringing on the road. As a child I was told very solemnly that somewhere in the heart of it was a broken chariot belonging to Brian Boru. An archway between houses led to a small yard and then the forge itself – a truly medieval barn. A high space with slates that could do with being pointed and a floor paved with thick wooden sleepers and flagged stone.
As I walk to the pasture, I pass Arnost, one of my guardian dogs, dozing in the morning sun. He moans a bit in his sleep, a sound that always makes me smile. Behind him, the does graze while their kids mostly sleep. They all look fine. But I still don’t see the kid I’m looking for, so I walk through the pasture gate and check one pile of napping baby goats after another. Behind me, a savage growl interrupts the quiet morning. The hairs on my arms stand up. I swing around. Arnost is fully awake and looking skyward. In one graceful movement he leaps up and runs hellbent past me into the field. His growl grows into a warning howl as he follows something in the sky. I shade my eyes so I can see what has made Arnost so upset. Eagles circle above us. “NO!” I yell.
Despite its rough framing and minuscule size, I have tried to make my garden shed office homey and comfortable. I installed a light fixture, cast off from the house, that gives a nice light, plugged in a small electric heater, stocked some reference books, notebooks, seed catalogs and such. Liz found me a comfortable canvas director’s chair so I can sit up at the workbench (desk). I also have a few meaningful pictures and cards hanging on the walls. One of these is a photocopy of an old black and white photo of George Hjort standing in front of the most impressive corn crop you are ever likely to see. George was of Dutch origin and moved to this farm with his family in 1918.
It is revealing, and curious, that we farming humans live through this long winding string of days on our individual places, so close to the everyday work, that we are oblivious to patterns that have unfolded right in front of us. The slow grind of change blinds us to compromises and bad choices that may have been made. And it also conceals those victories we missed in the moment. So often for us on our ranch we have made decisions and plans for projects and actions that we were unable to do. And the result of not doing it somehow turned into a triumph or a tragedy averted. All that time we were being whispered to by that time. If we missed what time told us in the moment, perhaps the result was a fortune left behind, unclaimed.
I am reminded that I began my life’s work in farming and art wishing I looked, sounded and moved differently. I wanted to have the character of a character. I had this secret wish to be one of those old sidekick types, like Smiley Burnette, or Raymond Hatton, or Gabby Hayes… only I wanted to be my own sidekick – not second fiddle to someone else who was in charge. There was this notion that I might dress up my own life with humor and harmonica-ed tap dancing. And when things got serious the attention would just naturally slide sideways to the grownups in the room.
During the 1940’s, McCormick-Deering retrofitted its basic horsedrawn mower design to be pulled by tractors and added infrastructure so that two could be pulled, one just behind and offset from the other. Some of our Amish friends prize these “Trail” mowers for horsedrawn use recognizing that they are built a tad bit heavier. What follows is the actual Instruction manual, including set up notes, for that model. There are some mechanical tid-bits hidden in here that will assist the more avid shade-tree tinkerers.
How a Chick is Born • Riding a Horse • My Favorite Animal • Fire at the School! • Pop Eye Red • A Year on Topsy Turvy Goat Farm
Oxen are all from the Bovine species which includes Cattle, Buffalo and Kudus. On hand for the 19th Ox Teamster’s Challenge last August were eight different Bovine breeds of cattle: Brown Swiss, Belgium Blue, Chianina, Devon, Holstein, Milking Shorthorn, Normande, and Randall. This turned out to be our best show so far, with enjoyable and not-so-enjoyable surprises.
It’s been more than 30 years since the dean of American cooking blessed the Oregon truffle. Yet, still it gets no respect. In 1977, James Beard was part of a symposium called “Mushrooms and Man” in his native Oregon. In front of scientists and mycology (mushroom) experts from across the country, the culinary icon declared Oregon truffles to be the equal of their expensive, exquisite European cousins – the ones that can sell for up to $2,000 a pound. State fungus cognoscenti mark Beard’s statement as the beginning of Oregon’s commercial truffle industry. In the succeeding decades, however, it’s had trouble taking root.
Our farmstead is nestled at 1500 feet in the hills of Northeast Vermont. Vermont hill farms have a history of hard scrabble living, away from the fertile soils of the valley farms. Ours was no exception. Since the 1790’s our farm has seen 15 families come and go, each unable to keep the land due mainly to a declining fertility in the soils. Clear-cutting, overgrazing and a sandy soil base that leaches out in heavy rains left no cushion against the extremes of the Vermont farming year. When our house foundation was dug 20 years ago the excavator operator asked if we wanted to change our plans and open a gravel quarry instead of building a house.
The world had changed so much in the name of progress but how much better was it now? “Get big or get out” summarized how farming had changed during his life. People hardly went outside anymore and became fat sitting in their homes avoiding the weather. Children stayed inside, constantly watching TV or playing video games. When he went to the store, strangers would hurry by without even looking at him or each other. And families were disconnected and broken. Young adults couldn’t wait to leave their parents and their parents couldn’t wait for them to go. Instead of walking to neighbors houses to visit, like Sam had, people only connected online.
I’m thinking of Mr. Morton’s words as I continue the daily work of training our young Suffolk stallion Donald. In my travels to farms I have yet to see a working stud horse. It always struck me as a bit sad to see a magnificent Suffolk Punch stallion, bred for a life of work in the fields, standing in a pen alone, hooves splayed out, his tremendous muscles lacking the tone that only a life of work can provide. How much more fitting to see him put to the plow, or at work in the woods displaying the very characteristics we wish to see passed on in his progeny: a gentle disposition and a willing work ethic. And if we are breeding for work, what can we know of a horse who has never stood a day in the furrow?
The Dream • Seasons • My Pet Pig • My Youth Farm Stand Experience • Mika • A Child’s Logic • One Little Seed
As I enter my “geezer phase,” it is time to reflect on some of the knowledge I learned from some of the very special geezer’s in my life. Please excuse my limited language skills. It is all common sense, cause and effect analysis, and understanding the horse’s communications. REMEMBER YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE HAVING FUN.
The economics of commercial beekeeping on a small scale is changing rapidly as well. All the problems honeybees are facing, here and worldwide, have sent the value of bees and bee products trending sharply up. Weather problems, and a huge global expansion of the corn and soybean monster has killed the world’s surplus of honey. In the U.S., commercial beekeepers are focused like zombies on pollinating the California almond crop, and so have further reduced their ability to produce surplus honey and bees for sale. At the same time that U.S. commercial beekeeping is circling down in a death spiral, hobby beekeeping is booming and almost every beekeeping club in the country has at least twice as many members as it did twenty years ago. What this means is that if you are fortunate enough to live in a place with relatively clean and varied sources of pollen and nectar, the potential for a successful family-sized commercial apiary is better now than it has been for many decades.
At the same time that U.S. commercial beekeeping is circling down in a death spiral, hobby beekeeping is booming and almost every beekeeping club in the country has at least twice as many members as it did twenty years ago. What this means is that if you are fortunate enough to live in a place with relatively clean and varied sources of pollen and nectar, the potential for a successful family-sized commercial apiary is better now than it has been for many decades.
Success in getting a satisfactory planting of a field crop will depend on two factors: achievement of a loose, smooth seedbed, and the care with which you set up and gauge the planting machinery. I will discuss both of these factors in this article. The only exception to this rule is if you are a “no till” farmer and control weeds completely with herbicides. This point may be academic however, because I don’t know of any horse farmers who are “no till” farmers!
I hail from Vermont, the land of New England stirred curd cheddar, which has long been the source of pride for cheesemaking here for as long as cows have roamed these fields. Vermont cheddar commands respect and it can be very good. But to me there is no comparison between the best of Vermont cheddar and the original, authentic English cheddar. Oh Blasphemy!
Feeding the Chickens • Ella NOT So Enchanted • My Favorite Girls • The Perfect Morning • Hoping • Two Peaks • The Corn Field • The Barn Cat • Riding a Horse • Cat Tails • A Few of Apple-A-Day-Food’s Dairy Stories • Western Romance • Behind the Plow
Recently I saw a book called “40 Centuries.” It was a history of rice farming in the Far East. It showed that due to the nitrogen fixing effects of a certain kind of algae that some rice paddies had actually increased in productivity after 4,000 years of more-or-less continuous cultivation. So, here’s my question. Do you think any form of tillage agriculture, even shallow tillage, is capable of sustainable use over that sort of time frame and without any trucked in inputs?
Unlike humans that have a simple stomach and only chew their food once, cattle have 4 stomachs. Like other ruminants (sheep, goats, elk, deer, etc.) cattle can eat their food hurriedly, then burp it up and rechew it more thoroughly later. The largest stomach, the rumen, acts as a fermentation vat to break down fibrous parts of forages that a simple stomach cannot digest.
I heard or read the old phrase, “If you want to change the world, plant a garden” when I was much younger. It didn’t make any sense to me at the time, as I strongly disliked being forced to work in our large garden when I had much better things to do with my free time! After I grew up, left the Navy and the big cities and made the conscious choice to move back to a small town, those words began to make more sense. The world-changing part wasn’t the garden or the food that it grew, not even the world that it was supposed to change. Obviously, one small garden can’t change or feed the world by itself. What one small garden can do is share.
About twenty years ago I used to help out on a small farm which was rented by a young couple who were just starting out farming. The eighty acre holding belonged to the County Council, who had bought farms in the 1930s when farmers were going bankrupt and farms were cheap, specifically to give young people a start in farming. Graeme and Vivienne were lucky to get the tenancy of this farm, because although the idea behind these farms was that the tenants should move on to a larger holding after a few years, with the changes in farm economics many farmers continued to live on these starter farms all their working lives, so an opportunity like this was rare. But it wasn’t just luck that secured them the tenancy; Graeme and Vivienne had already laid the groundwork of their future success, both of them having learnt their trade at agricultural college and by working on a number of different farms.
Amy Andrews and Ethan Van Kooten had no money. How could they build a house? The Central College students, both environmental studies majors, wanted to build a small, sustainable home for their senior project. They proposed a $3,350 budget — but when no grant money was available, they became scavengers to complete the project as cheaply as possible. With truckloads of reclaimed materials and 10 weeks to build, the students created a house for $489. “Everything we used was on its way to the landfill,” Andrews said.
It is more difficult to keep some horses in a respectable condition than others. The slab-sided, upstanding type of draft horse requires more grooming than the more compact, chunky individual. The latter is usually an easy keeper in other ways than grooming. It is not considered good practice to groom too heavily during shedding time, for the new coat is generally a trifle coarse if the old hair is removed too quickly. All grooming should be done when the horse is dry, especially thorough cleaning and grooming to remove dirt, sweat, and falling hair, otherwise sore shoulders will follow.
To sharpen plowshares without aid, the tool to use is a heavy hand hammer with a rounding face. With such a tool it is possible to draw the share out to a thin edge by pounding on the upper side, at the same time keeping the bottom straight by holding it level on the face of the anvil. Drawing the edge out thin has a tendency to crowd the point around too much “to land.” This tendency should be corrected from time to time as the drawing out process progresses, by holding the edge against a hardwood block and driving the point back to its proper position. Of course it would dull the edge to hold it against the anvil while doing this straightening.
Although liquids move more readily through the dense summer wood and paint oils are found to penetrate more deeply there, paint coatings do not seem to secure so firm an anchorage on summer wood as they do on spring wood; as a result, coatings exposed to normal conditions of weathering fail by flaking from the summer wood, leaving it bare while the spring wood remains apparently well covered. All native softwoods contain both summer wood and spring wood, but the proportions vary in different woods and in different boards of the same wood. There is, in fact a greater variation in painting characteristics between the spring wood and summer wood in a single board than there is between average boards of different woods.
There is not much to be gained by feeding a cow unless you are determined to get all the milk and butterfat the feed makes. You cannot get all the milk and butterfat the feed makes unless you milk the cow right. A large percentage of cows are not milked right, so a large loss of milk and a large loss of butterfat result. It is as important that cows be well milked as it is that they be well fed.
To dig with a slip scoop the dirt must be fairly loose. If it isn’t they used a hook shaped ripper to loosen it first. Your lines must be around your back under one arm only, not around your waist, because if that scoop trips unexpectedly (and it will) you want to be able to get out of its way. Ideally your lines should be just long enough that when starting out between handles you can stop horses by leaning back and to control speed. You don’t want to be leaning too far forward, it’s like a walking plow, you must be comfortable, it’s hard enough work without making it harder.
Life on the 120 acre sheep farm was a long and quiet grind. Its rewards weren’t monetary, or material. It had been a decade since the days of buying a new European sports car, and a new four wheel drive pickup in the same year. The Saab has been dead, and parked behind the barn for a few years now. The once shiny red pickup is rusted, dented, and will soon be beyond repair. The big purchase in the late 80s was now a Pioneer sulky plow for $500. The hippies might call this going back to the land. The big man, now a married family man again, was too busy being in charge of his family and farm to have a poetic name for the life he was winning.
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.
For proper operation the outer end of the cutter bar should lead the inner end when the machine is not in operation. After long use the cutter bar may lag back and if this happens it can be corrected by making adjustments on the cutter bar eccentric bushing as follows: First making sure that the pin and bolt in the hinge casting “A” Fig. 5 are tight and in good condition.
When considering the potential utility of draft animal power on the modern 21st century farm, I like to begin from the perspective of examining those farm models where all the work was done by hand. That hand work was done with a lot of care and precision and with great attention to detail towards the soil and the crops (these methods persist in our times in small scale community gardens and among some subsistence farmers). I have heard about, read about, and also have first-hand experience practicing these cultural gardening techniques involving hand labor and find it useful and inspiring to use these methods as a springboard from which to examine where draft animal power can be most useful and where the hand work can readily be improved upon. My conclusion is that there are many areas where a horse can do a better job in replacing the hand work, and that live horse power will usually not be ”over-kill,” as could be the case by introducing a tractor into a relatively small-scale operation.
I hear time and time again at the outset of each workshop, “I don’t know anything about working oxen.” And I say, “There is no more fun than being a beginner.” Myself and the staff get great pleasure in sharing our knowledge of working steers and oxen. For as long as there are those interested in working cattle, the men I mentioned early in this article will not be forgotten. I believe there will always be cattle worked on small farms and in the woods.
Meanwhile, my senior year was approaching fast, and all of us students began to contemplate what our final project would be with a bit of urgency. Our capstone project tasks us with identifying a need for a product or solution, bringing that product through the design phase, then building that product and displaying at the Technical Exposition. So I had the harebrained idea to embark on recreating not only a scale model of Parker’s Pulverizer, but to also recreate the real thing in full-scale, complete with fresh new wheel castings.
After you’ve built a small farm blacksmith shop, one of the first decisions that you’ll need to make is which type of fuel you’ll be using. Most people choose either gas (propane) or coal, however, wood fired forges are also an option. All three fuel types have pros and cons. The final decision will likely be based on the type of forging that you plan to do and the local availability of the fuel.
The knotter has only two working parts. It is so simple and the adjustments are not delicate that almost anyone can keep it in working condition. The reason that no delicate adjustments are necessary is that the surface cord holder is unusually large. The surface holds the twine, yet it does not grip it too tightly to prevent the knotter from working properly. In tying a knot the cord holder feeds the twine toward the bill hook. This obviates the danger of breaking the twine.
Paul’s attention was suddenly arrested by the conversation across the table from him, and he turned and looked at the young man who was sitting there in earnest discussion with Betty. Paul marveled again at the resemblance between the two. Same thick blond hair, same blue eyes the same firm set of chin, and in the young man, broad shoulders, tapering to a slim waist, very capable hands, which had matched Paul’s own, in the easy way in which they had wielded a pitchfork as they cleaned the last of the lambing pens the day before.
Betty stirred, and bumping Paul’s shoulder, she came partially awake, opened her eyes against the darkness, sighed, and settling carefully against Paul’s side, she drifted back into the darkness of her sleep. The next time she woke there was a rooster crowing in the henhouse east of the house, and a faint light showed in the window, only visible against the darker wall. Coming fully awake, she reached over to Paul’s side of the bed, and though there was a faint warmth there, Paul was gone. She listened to hear whether he was still in the house, and hearing nothing for a couple of minutes she knew he must be at the barn, probably watering the horses in the tie stalls. She knew his routine by now, and also knew that unless there was some sort of emergency in one of the livestock pens or paddocks, he would follow that routine each morning according to the seasons.
The big horse in the furrow shifted his feet and dropped over on his right hip. The creak of the harness and the soft jingle of the trace chains brought Paul out of his reverie. Almost as if he were waking from sleep he looked around him at the bright world of this field he had been plowing in for two days now. The field lay in a long curve along the hillside, steepening as it approached old man Finch’s woodlot, which covered, completely, the top of the hill, and fell away into the river valley on the other side.
When we ask a horse to follow us in the round pen we can help him succeed by varying things a bit – changing direction and speed frequently, stopping periodically to reward him with a rub (“a rub” or two, not 100), picking up a foot, playing with his tail/ears/mouth, etc. In other words, working at desensitizing or sensitizing him by simulating things he will experience in the future (trimming and shoeing, crupper, bridle over the ears, bit, etc.).
Purple Vetch was brought into the United States by the Office of Foreign Seed and Plant Introduction in 1899 from Naples, Italy. All introductions since that time have been of the same variety. The crop has been tested most extensively in the Pacific Coast States, where it has given very favorable results. In California in experimental work it has proved one of the best crops, if not the best crop, for use as a green manure, and in commercial plantings it has been thought well of by the orchardists who have used it. In western Oregon and western Washington, experimental work has demonstrated that purple vetch can be grown successfully as a seed crop, and at the present time it is being grown commercially in western Oregon and northwestern California. Purple vetch has not been sufficiently tested in the Southern States to determine definitely its value in localities where common vetch can be grown. However, as it requires conditions similar to common vetch, it seems probable that it may serve an excellent purpose in this region as well as in the western United States.
The field bean is one of the great food crops of the world. Very few other edible seed crops produce more nutrition to the acre. Beans represent one of the world’s most concentrated food products, and consequently are in great demand in places where it is difficult to transport food. As a food stuff in mines, lumber camps, construction camps, on the frontier, and in the army and navy, beans are always popular because of their immense food value in comparison with their bulk, and normal cost. A bushel of beans has a food value equivalent to 108 pounds of round steak.
The mission of Central Oregon Veterans Ranch is “A working ranch that restores purpose and spirit to veterans of all ages.” The vision is to provide learning and volunteer opportunities in sustainable agriculture to veterans of all ages and eras from the broader community, and supportive housing on the property for up to five veterans who are terminally ill or at end of life. The ranch will be a hub; a physical place that will foster community, camaraderie, and healing among various generations of veterans.
So this farmer I know, we’ll call him Bertrand, figured out that it’s all in the name. Nobody cared about Arugula any more, out of fashion. So he changed the name to Swiney’s Jelly Lettuce and added a disclaimer to the labeling at the farmer’s market. “There is absolutely no proof that Swiney’s Jelly Lettuce retards balding.” The stuff sold immediately and everyone swore by its flavor and properties. Bertrand gives it a ‘naming life’ of two seasons, then he’ll have to find a new one. The future my fine-feathered friend is in colorizing the exterior of “deniability”. Restaurants could learn a whole lot from politicians.
Due to my surprising, and for the moment ongoing status as amateur agricultural columnist and full time horse farmer, I am short of time and so find myself scribbling these notes from the seat of the forecart as I rest the horses while harrowing the waterfall pasture. To be here, dragging this field at this time of early, and perhaps false spring, seems to me an undeserved bit of grace. In this singular moment I am almost hyper aware of my own good fortune. I have the rare privilege to enjoy a beautiful and perfectly perfect way of spending ones life: stewarding a lovely piece of countryside with horses.
Taking us to the dawn of agriculture, where the domestication of animals predated domesticated plants in the middle east by hundreds, even thousands of years, Essig argues that, unlike all other domesticated species with the possible exception of the dog, the pig domesticated itself. As he says, “We might think of the pig as a judicious risk taker, open to the new but capable of assessing potential threats. In that quality, pigs are much like people.” He also points out how pigs “like to watch TV and drink beer, and, given the chance, they tend to grow fat and sedentary.” But how can we even tell the pigs in the village of Hallan Cemi 11,000 years ago were domesticated? Because nearly half of the pig bones found were from animals killed at less than a year old, nearly all of them young males, superfluous for breeding. Animals hunted to feed the village would have been of all ages.
“Don’t let them out in the rain, they’ll stare up into it and drown…” Our experience with turkeys has been completely the opposite. While most poultry species aren’t exactly bright, we find that turkeys are lovely, personable, and most important for the self sufficient homesteader — extremely efficient converters of grain and forage into delicious meat. In 5 months, a turkey can grow from a few ounces to 20-30+ lbs.
Most anywhere we turn we can find spokesmen for extreme views of the world today. One side has it that we are in a golden information era with high-tech delivering us the true democratization of thought. Everyone’s an expert. All information is free and easily accessible. But is it? Another side says the high-tech world is destroying the human spirit and paving the continued way for the corporate destruction of society and the planet. Is that so? Yet another thought stream would nod to those two extremes and observe that in spite of, and perhaps because of, those things we are seeing new young generations of free-thinking, caring, creative folk hard at the necessary work of saving the planet and building a better society. May we believe this? Follow this stream right down to the silliest little sore points and I’m sure you can add all sorts of ‘positions’ and beliefs to the story of what’s right or wrong with the world today.
The family milk cow has followed the small farmer through the ages and lives on yet today. She comes in many colors, sizes and dispositions. As with any animal, she comes with the dignity of her own personality and characteristics. Every cow I have ever had or milked has been unique in her own way. Some I have loved and some, well, not so much.
I absolutely love chickens and ducks and geese! There, I stand exposed. And this book I am reviewing, I love it, too!! It is both a wondrous and wonderful book, especially if you are a poultry fancier who needs to know the what (duck, goose, chicken etc.), why (as in why would you want to raise this breed) and whose-its (as in crazy tidbit info i.e. coloration nomenclature) of individual species – or maybe you just want to be able to see how they are different. As you may note by the copyright date, this is not a new book but it deserves careful attention as a reference volume. It will have a long shelf life. It features well over one hundred excellent color photos and is expertly organized for easy use.
Plant breeding is, as Irwin Goldman observes, the slowest of the performing arts and this is particularly true for biennials like cabbage, who have evolved to set seed in their second growing season. In the autumn of 2016, as we embarked on crossing a purple cone-headed cabbage with a green one, we dug the roots and be-headed the stalks of about 100 cabbages. After overwintering in our root cellar, we re-planted each stalk in spring and if you’ve never seen cabbage go to seed, it’s quite astonishing. Each darling cabbage down at your feet sprouts a dozen or so spires rising five feet or higher, bursting into hundreds of blooms, canary yellow and cabbage-y sweet. Pollinators flock to the ruckus with long, green pods emerging from each pollinated flower. The sea of green pods turn to gold as the seed matures and we harvest them just as the first pods begin to shatter.
The McIntosh Threshing Bee of 2021 was, for the sake of the times, scaled down to a much smaller, safer group of participants. As for implements, they employed their Case threshing machine, an old Oliver tractor for belt drive and a John Deere grain binder. All of the equipment has been well maintained and is fully operational. Two days before the scheduled threshing, the Case separator was taken from barn storage along with the required hand tools; these included pitchforks and old wrenches, but also a shop vacuum cleaner, a grease gun, grease, oil and a compressor. All round the Case thresher there are many handy inspection ports and access doors. Jacob and Jamesy McIntosh use both compressed air and vacuum to disturb and remove any nests, dirt and settled chaff and seed. They work methodically walking around the big machine and cleaning through inspection holes then turning the corresponding pulleys a little to clean some more. They spend pretty much all of a half day with this process.
I live in Wendland, a small area between Hamburg and Berlin, and I work with horses. I’m a full time horse logger and I cooperate with a CSA garden. My mares, Polka and Mairun, work there all the year and I work in the forest with my stallion, Peer, and my gelding, Konrad. Here in Germany horse-logging is not very common, there are only 20 full-time horse loggers in the whole country. On the other hand, it seems that in agriculture horses are getting more and more popular, mainly in CSA projects.
The recent article on gooseberries in SFJ (44-3) prompted me to write a bit about our own experience picking wild gooseberries on our farm in the Missouri Ozarks. When we moved here in 2012, we, as I imagine nearly everyone does who acquires a small farm, set about learning as much as we could about it. A large part of this learning was becoming acquainted with the flora of the place, learning the names of the trees and bushes and grasses and all else, where they grow and why they grow there, and what their uses are. One of our happiest findings was the abundance of small green striped fruits growing on innumerable bushes across our 25 acres, which we shortly learned were gooseberries. We had heard of gooseberries but otherwise knew absolutely nothing about them, a deficit that was righted by referring to a couple of books on wild edibles. So we quickly learned we could eat them, though how wonderful they were was a joy that was withheld from us until that first pie (which, as it happened, was based on a recipe found in the My Small Kitchen section of an older SFJ).
We raised our first batch of guinea fowl in 2015 as part of a Poultry CSA we initiated that year. Truth be told, the guineas were a large part of the reason we decided to offer the Poultry CSA in the first place. We had read positive things about the guinea as a table bird and wanted to raise some ourselves, but being unsure how they would be received by customers at the farmers market we figured we could essentially ‘hide’ them in a CSA share and thus more easily get them into people’s hands; that is, our hope was that we could get people to try guineas simply by joining our CSA, without requiring them to make a conscious decision to directly buy something they had likely never eaten before. Whether or not that ploy made a difference – I now suspect they would have sold just fine by themselves – that year did convince us of the superlative nature of guineas as table fowl.
The backing and braking structure for the western basket brichen team harness. Though it is secondary in the overall function and purpose of the harness, it is potentially the more complex and variable portion of the system. It is useful to keep in mind that these combined straps are specific and vital to its named operation along with the related essentials of keeping a rolling vehicle or implement from running up on the heels of the animal or team and holding the front end of the tongue or pole up off the ground.
No sooner had we arrived in Great Falls, and Nick put forth a wonderful idea – Grant-Kohrs needs a horse drawn dump wagon. Betty knows where a couple of them are, and we could restore one for the Ranch’s use. Grant-Kohrs will pay for any materials needed and we would donate the labor. Nick had brought his flatbed trailer and we could leave in the morning for Brady, MT, to meet Harvey & Marcia Hollandsworth. Out across the wheat lands of Montana we did go. Betty and Marcia had worked together for years with the 4-H clubs and Harvey, like Nick and me, is short on only one thing – TIME! We are never bored and we have way too many projects to complete in a normal lifetime. A good condition to have! One of the wagons was made by the Russell Co. and the other was made by the Western Wheeled Scraper Works located in Aurora, IL.
Hardly a soul on my mail route knew I was even a horseman till they saw Ketchum’s tracks that morning breasting thirty-some inches of snow. I hadn’t even known what I was going to do about that much snow when the sun rose on a cloudless dazzling sky, where the valley lay stiff and still. The postal jeep had about sixteen inches of road clearance, and even heading downhill in four-wheel drive had been stopped in a couple car-lengths by its undercarriage packed tight with the white stuff. I’d had to shovel out the worst of it, then saddle and bridle Ketchum anyhow, get a loop on the rear bumper and tow the jeep back into my barn where the town let me park it. The town didn’t own a real shed but the one behind Town Hall where they parked the school bus and snowplow. I’d given Ketchum a couple flakes of hay and broke the ice on his trough then called Hank Overton to find out there’d be no snowplow this morning.
How is a farmer’s promise unique from a doctor’s or a politician’s or a realtor’s or a salesman’s or a mom’s or a dad’s or a child’s? Family heritage and environment notwithstanding, the child’s promise is, on most counts, wrapped in that young person’s formative potential, in his or her trajectory, in their blend of hope, faith and innocent optimism. A farmer’s promise is similar to a child’s except for the fact that the requisite optimism cannot always be called innocent. Most other categories – lawyering, doctoring, parenting, sales, politicking – by definition, have very little potential affected as they are by an inverted optimism with the resulting twisted and compromised sense of acceptable outcome.
The Peach is a showy tree when in bloom. There are double-flowered varieties, which are as handsome as the dwarf flowering almond, and they are more showy because of the greater size of the tree. The flowers of the Peach are naturally variable in both size and color. Peach-growers are aware that there are small-flowered and large-flowered varieties. The character of the flower is as characteristic of the variety as size or color of fruit is.
The introduction of the Boer Goat has stirred up a lot of interest in all sectors of agriculture. The demand for goat meat exceeds the supply; goat meat is the most consumed meat in the world. One of the main points about South African Boer Goats is that out of all meat goat breeds the Boer is the top meat producer whereas in the cattle business you have over 100 breeds of beef cattle that all compete for the beef dollar.
One of the hardest problems in successful poultry keeping is to maintain the vigor and health of the flock. Housing has particular bearing on this problem. If the laying-house is poorly lighted, has insufficient ventilation, or is overcrowded, the health of the fowls will be affected. The purpose of housing is to increase productiveness. In order to accomplish this the fowls must be comfortable.
Since we’ve raised sheep commercially, we’ve been committed to trying to live with the predators in our environment. Over the years, we’ve lost just a handful of sheep — several to coyotes, at least one each to mountain lions and rattlesnakes, and four in one night to a neighbor’s dog. Mostly, though, our commitment to nonlethal predator protection tools has worked. A combination of electric fencing, livestock guardian dogs, sheep selection and grazing management has allowed us to co-exist with the predators in our environment.
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).
Last Fall (1985) at Jonas Raber’s auction in Millersburg, OH, we met the folks from Iskcon Implements. They had a display of their horsedrawn equipment and I was impressed. I was most impressed in the riding disc-harrows and the sprayers. We offer you some photos and schematic drawing here for you to take a look yourself. They are very well built and the prices are reasonable. Nice folks, honest folks.
The first rule of requesting veterinary assistance is to call while there is still time. Animals caught in the early stages of a problem will often respond rather quickly and with simple treatment. Calls early in a health problem and early in the day will save time, dollars, and a good relationship with the vet. The fear of a costly course of treatment often holds many back from calling a vet, but if the call is delayed too long the treatment may be even more costly or the animal lost.
Sudangrass is a tall annual grass. It probably originated in Egypt or Africa. It is believed to be the wild original form of the cultivated sorghums. The two cross readily when planted near each other. Sudangrass is used for feed for stock in a variety of ways and as a late Summer crop. The root system is very good for breaking up the soil and keeping it loose. Sorghum, as we shall see, is used for a variety of purposes.
Roads and productive forests make horse logging efficient and economical. Horse logging is not at all uncommon in Northern Idaho. The University of Idaho in Moscow is therefore a logical place to conduct a Horse Logging Short Course. The University of Idaho also has a 7,000-acre experimental forest dedicated to experimentation and trial of new and innovative approaches to forestry. It is managed as a working forest producing about 2 million board feet of timber each year. Harold Osborne is the manager of the experimental forest and organizer of a two-day horse logging short course held in Moscow on October 11-12, 1985.
The animal standing at my feet was a sheep, but there was something very different about it. Instead of the usual thick coat of wool, this sheep had a sleek deer-like coat of hair. The temperature was climbing from a low of twenty below the night before to around zero the December morning we visited Piel Farm in Abbott, Maine. Two hundred and fifty or so head of sheep housed in south facing open sheds were contentedly lying on the dry manure pack or walking about chewing their cuds. The only indication they showed of the cold was their white breath in the crisp, dry air.
Having a diversified farm enterprise is the modern day equivalent of the old adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” The advantage of being diversified is obvious. If one market is depressed, another may not be. By being able to address two, or more, markets you are in effect reducing the risks in one of the most risky professions in the world. Sheep are the original diversified livestock. While that ewe is raising her pair of lambs destined for the slaughter house, she is also growing a fleece that will be sold to a totally unrelated market: the woolen mills.
Tall fescue is the most widely grown forage in the southeastern United States. Fescue toxicosis is the result of an endophytic fungus on tall fescue. A toxin produced by this endophytic relationship is absorbed into the digestive system of livestock that forage on the fescue. Unfortunately, the toxin remains active in cured hay as well. Research data from Experiment Stations in the southeast show serious production losses occurring in cattle. It is now also known that fescue toxicosis is causing critical reproductive problems in pregnant mares. Mares receiving most of their daily nutritional needs from fungus infected fescue tend to be agalactic, producing little if any milk. Although their foals are usually born live, they are often weak. Most do not survive long, due to lack of food intake or absence of the immune protection normally provided by the mare’s colostrum.
In the span of his seventy years, Bob Anderson has pretty much done it all, and I daresay done it all pretty well. Over the years he has trained innumerable horses, during the past decade he has started judging draft horse shows, and he remains a showman himself. Overall, Bob has the credentials of a teamster, trainer, judge, and it certainly seems, a gentleman. Here in central NYS, if you hear someone who has a problem with horses, the advice that is usually meted out is, “Go talk to Bob Anderson.” I’d like to share the opportunities I had to talk with Bob at various times one summer.
Our compost piles will age for at least a year before being added to the garden. We have learned that the slow aging is more beneficial to the decomposition process as well as not losing nearly as much nitrogen to off-gassing as happens with the hot and fast methods. Another benefit is the decomposition is much more thorough, destroying weed seeds, pathogens and any unwanted chemicals much better in a slower composting setup.
One of the fun things about horse farming is the simplicity of many of the machines. This opens the door for tinkerers like me to express themselves. Sometimes it is just plain nice to take a proven design and build one of your own. Last spring I did just that. I built my own buckrake. I’m proud of the fact that it worked as it should and that my rudimentary carpentry skills produced it.
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?”
The domestic rabbit has the potential to become one of the world’s major sources of meat protein. As human populations continue to put pressure on the resources of the food providers, the farmers, the rabbit is likely to begin to interest, not only the farmer, but the family interested in providing food for it’s table. They convert forage more efficiently than do ruminants, such as cattle and sheep. In fact, rabbits can produce five times the amount of meat from a given amount of alfalfa as do beef cattle.
During October, 1910, The Pennsylvania State College and Experiment Station purchased a group of ten grade Belgian and Percheron colts and one pure bred Percheron for use in live stock judging classes. An accurate record of the initial cost, feeds consumed and changes in form has been kept in order that some definite information as to the cost of developing draft colts from weaning to maturity might be available for farmers, investigators and students.
Simon and his elder sons Simon, Keith, and Ian, with their Belgian Ardennes horses, work good timber in bad places. The felling and extraction operation at the Lake District beauty spot of Tarn Hows was done in often appalling weather, and in the full glare of publicity. It must rank as one of the most spectacular pieces of horse logging, or indeed of commercial horse work done in these islands in recent years.
Scythes were used extensively in Europe and North America until the early 20th century, after which they went out of favor as farm mechanization took off. However, the scythe is gaining new interest among small farmers in the West who want to mow grass on an acre or two, and could be a useful tool for farmers in the Tropics who do not have the resources to buy expensive mowing equipment.
The first step was to decide on an appropriate chassis, or “running gear.” Eventually I chose to go with the real deal, a wooden-wheeled gear with leaf springs rather than pneumatic tires. Wooden wheels last forever with care and are functional and look the part. I bought an antique delivery wagon that had been left outdoors as an ornament. I was able to reuse some of the wheels and wooden parts of the running gear.
The first mini I bought was a three year old gelding named Casper. He taught me a lot about what a 38 inch mini could do just by driving me around the neighborhood. He didn’t cover the miles fast, but he did get me there! It wasn’t long before several more 38 inch tall minis found their way home. I presently have four minis that are relatively quiet, responsive to the bit, and can work without a lot of drama.
This information on Planet Jr. two horse equipment is from an old booklet which had been shared with us by Dave McCoy, a horse-logger from our parts: “Think of the saving made in cultivating perfectly two rows of potatoes, beans, corn or any crop planted in rows not over 44 inches apart, at a single passage. This means double work at a single cost, for the arrangement of the fourteen teeth is such that all the ground is well tilled and no open furrows are left next to the row, while one man attends easily to the work, with one team.”
Most sugar cane is processed in refineries to give us molasses, brown sugar, and various kinds of white sugar. However, some South Georgia farms that raise sugar cane still process it the old way to produce the special tasting sweetener for their own food. One such farm is the Rocking R Ranch in Kibbee, Georgia. It is owned by Charles and Patricia Roberts and their sons. The process they use has not changed in the past 100 years. This is how it is done.
One of the main advantages of having a forge in the farm shop is to be able to redress and make and temper tools like cold chisels, punches, screw drivers, picks, and wrecking bars. Tool steel for making cold chisels and punches and similar tools may be bought from a blacksmith or ordered through a hardware store; or it may be secured from parts of old machines, such as hay-rake teeth, pitchfork tines, and axles and drive shafts from old automobiles.
Whether a farmer can afford a forge and anvil will depend upon the distance to a blacksmith shop, the amount of forging and other smithing work he needs to have done, and his ability as a mechanic. Although not every farmer can profitably own blacksmithing equipment, many farmers can. If a farmer cannot, he should remember that a great variety of repairs can be made with the use of only a few simple cold-metal working tools.
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.
When bolting the sections of elevator together be sure the upper trough ends overlap the upper trough ahead, and each lower trough is underneath the trough ahead, so the chains will slide smoothly. Bolt the short tie plates to the underside of troughs at the embossed holes in the middle of trough. When bolting on the head section, have the end of scroll sheet underneath the upper trough section. The lower cross plate in the head section must bolt on top of the return trough.
Farming never fails to dish up one lesson in humility after another. Despite having all the weather knowledge the information-age has to offer, farmers will still lose hay to the rain, apple blossoms to frost, winter wheat to drought… If we are slow to learn humility in Nature’s presence we can be sure that another lesson is never far off.
Holistic Management was developed by Allan Savory who was a wildlife and ranch biologist in Africa who was concerned that the advice he could give farmers didn’t work in the real environment and even when the advice was good it wouldn’t get implemented. He developed a program which helps farms create a clear Holistic Goal and then use the farms resources to move toward the goal while being ecologically sustainable.
The scoop has two steel sides about 5 feet apart sitting on steel runners made out of heavy 2 X 2 angle iron, there is a blade that is lowered and raised by use of a foot release which allows the weight of the blade to lower it and then lock in the down position and the forward motion of the horses to raise it and lock it in the up position. This is accomplished by a clever pivoting action where the tongue attaches to the snow scoop.
We had experimented with unrolling the bales the year before and had decided to make a device that would let us move them with the horses and then unroll them. I used square tubing to make a simple frame with two arms attached to a cross piece which connected to a tongue. Small diagonal braces made the arrangement rigid and the arms had a right angle piece of square tubing on their ends which allowed a pin to be driven into the middle of the round bale from each side.
We were planning on having our cattle out in a sheltered field for the winter but a busy fall and early snows meant our usual fencing tool was going to be ineffective. Through the grazing season we use a reel barrow which allows us to carry posts and pay out or take in wire with a wheel barrow like device which works really well. But not on snow. This was the motivation for turning our sleigh into a “snow fencer” or a “sleigh barrow”.
The illustrations on these pages come from an old J.I. Case catalog loaned to us by Judson Schrick of Decorah, Iowa. We reprint them here for you because, as in the past, there have been those of us who have been able to make good use of this information when we go to repair or restore one of these plows or whatever. For many of us, there is no other place to go for this kind of information but right here in the good old SFJ. Some of you already have this stuff in your shop library. Some of you don’t like this stuff and will never need it. Hope both of you will tolerate the rest of us as we go on preserving some great relic technologies. Remember, tractors may come and tractors may go but good horses are born, every day
The Anatomy of a Buggy • Auto Seat Buggy • Auto Seat Cutunder Buggy • Twin Reach Auto Seat Buggy • Concord Auto Seat Buggy • Light Concord Buggy • Auto Seat Cutunder Surrey • Auto Seat Surrey • Side Spring Surrey • Driving Wagon • Cutunder Driving Wagon • Concord Driving Wagon • Road Wagon • Half Platform Spring Wagon • Four-Spring Mountain Wagon • Three-Seated Spring Wagon • Spring Wagon • Skeleton Wagon, Shuler Springs • Long Body Road Wagon • Cutunder Delivery Wagon • Heavy Oil Wagon • Village Wagon • Runabout Slat Wagon • Heavy Oil Wagon • Farm Wagon
Farm & Ranch Freedom Alliance Tell USDA not to make it even harder to use custom slaughterhouses! USDA’s Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) has an advisory committee – the National Advisory Committee on Meat and Poultry Inspection (NACMPI) – that is heavily tilted towards Big Meat. Concerningly, FSIS has asked the committee to provide […]
The tugs, from their attachment to the hames usually traveling back along the animal, best perform at an angle of 80 to 100 degrees to the line of the hames. If the angle is significantly less than 80 degrees the tugs may pull up and back on the collar, but only if the belly band is not adjusted properly. When it is, this will ‘interrupt’ an aggravated angle preventing the horse from being choked by a forward rocking collar. If the belly band is too loose it won’t hold the forward portion of the tug in line. As each and every horse’s angle of shoulder is different, and as the head-set of a pulling horse may be more or less down or up, these factors will affect the angle of the shoulder at work.
The illustrations in this Catalog will clearly demonstrate the many desirable features of the “Eddy No. 6” Corn Planter – features that are exclusive and of vital importance to the corn grower who desires to plant his corn so that it is easily worked and will yield the greatest number of bushels per acre. The “Eddy No. 6” Corn Planter combines the Edge Selection as well as the Flat Selection. That is, the purchaser gets an Edge Drop as well as a Flat Drop equipment with every “Eddy No. 6” Corn Planter at no additional cost.
A shrewder Dutchman than Coonrod Sprengel was not to be found throughout the length and breadth of Cherry Valley. In business he was as alert as a chipmunk, being seldom surprised far from his hole. He had been a successful farmer, and since his retirement to New Berlin and his election to the honorable office of justice of the peace he had continued to make money in loans, insurance and real estate.
We are so thankful that Tom Paduano and Sarah Rider of Flying Plow Farm were willing to share their 2018 Financial Benchmark Report with us and the SFJ community because their farm is much more representative of today’s reality than our Beech Grove Farm started in 1983. For instance, they established their business on rented land. In order to purchase their 56 acre farm outside of Rising Sun, MD, they took on a $575,000 mortgage and about $100,000 additional debt for equipment and infrastructure improvement. They are also raising three young children. By contrast, our farm in north-central Pennsylvania cost $64,000, we do not have children, and, in our mid-60s, our financial needs are minimal.
Jacob sheep serve a vital role on our farm. They provide wool, meat, sheep skins and farm income. Lambs go to market, quality breeding stock is sold to other Jacob breeders, and wool is taken to a fiber mill. To add to the value they bring in and the products they provide, our Jacobs also bring grace and beauty to our farm. I have cared for our flock for seven years now, and have come to know their seasons. The original purpose of Jacob sheep on our farm was to provide high quality natural color wool. And indeed, today, care is taken in the selection of new rams to slowly improve the flocks fleece quality. Jacobs have soft, open, low lanolin wool that is well suited to process at home. My wife, friends and neighbors are quick to pick up certain ewe’s fleece that they particularly like to take home.
After Khoke and I married, the life we wove with farming and gardening kept us as busy as one could imagine. The summer and fall harvest would leave our small house feeling quite small indeed. As winter wore on, our potatoes and apples would shrivel in the dry air and some of my canned goods would pop their seals from being stored at temperatures much too warm. So began the conversation about building a root cellar.
Regular readers of this journal will be well familiar with the amazing work of Paul Schmit and Albano Moscardo of Schaff mat Päerd in Europe. Their in-depth articles on new continental innovations in animal-drawn technologies have set a very high bar for future inquiries into the discipline. This handsome and eminently practical addition to their Guidebook series covers hitches and hitching of both European and North American types. In addition to the directly practical nature of the information, there is here a subtle and intelligent comparison of two different cultural approaches to the working of horses.
As I began Burgess’ book, I started off with a few doubts. Despite the fact that I am an avid knitter and sewist with a penchant for natural fibers, I was still a little apprehensive about the book’s ideologies mostly because of cost. How could it be possible for the average person to truly curate a wardrobe of practical clothing essentials sourced from American and local farms without breaking the bank? How does fashion factor into my work as a farmer? I suppose the same concern came about when the local and organic food movement took off – yet here we are, with an increased demand and interest in supporting small-scale neighbor farmers growing produce in rural parts of the country with more affordable options offered through reduced cost CSA shares and agricultural non-profit programs. In my little sliver of the world (the hilltowns of western Massachusetts) it’s actually possible to source most of your food from area farms. I grow food, my neighbors grow food and I buy food grown by a farm less than 10 miles a way. I can’t say the same thing about clothing, however.
Farmers in our day tend to be an isolated bunch and we don’t ever seem to get enough good old fashioned farm-talk. So it is that when I travel to another farm to buy or sell, the visit often extends for significantly longer than the required time to make a transaction. I have spent countless enjoyable hours perched atop fence rails or with feet dangling off the lowered tailgate of a pick up engaged in pleasant conversation. Indeed, throw two farmers together in a muddy barnyard somewhere and the conversation seems to flow almost automatically from one topic to the next: animal genetics, breed characteristics, the rise and fall of livestock markets, pasture management, land prices, troubles with neighbors, debt and tractors, brand inspectors, regulations and the raw milk gestapo, and everything in between.
While we visited the allotment, we all pitched in with a hoe or a trowel to remove some of the weeds, but we also took a little tour around the two-acre allotment site, sandwiched between a railway line and a sports field. I have always liked allotments; some people might see them as messy and untidy, with old pallets, wonky and fading sheds, plastic cups and food containers, wooden boxes, old CDs and other junk pressed into service to hold up netting, to shelter plants, collect water or scare the birds. But I like the variety and the fruitfulness, the ingenuity and attention, the money saving and the commitment, and I love the atmosphere of quiet and companionship as every allotment holder shapes their plot in the way they think fit.
The old farmer was sitting on the bench in front of his farmhouse, waiting for customers while enjoying the sunshine. He was thinking of the past, all the people in the village he had been with as a kid and as fellow farmers later on. Until recently he had had close contact with most of them, but lately many had shut off (kind of); they were not interested in what was going on in the world anymore, in politics, culture, sports, etc. Not even farming and all the new inventions still interested them. Some had died, most of serious illnesses, but others just of old age, as it was said. The farmer himself was convinced they died of boredom, no purpose in life, nothing to do anymore. He himself was a bit tired most days but still felt very much alive.
This numbered, all original U.S. Army Escort Wagon is in exceptional condition, formerly displayed at the Lewis Army Museum on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Note the sarven hubs and the California style box. The lower front box was suitable for carrying cannon balls. The Army wagon, also referred to as an Escort wagon, was traditionally pulled by 4-6 mules and was capable of carrying 3000 pounds. At the height of its utility during the Spanish-American War, the Army-Escort Wagon transported military troops, rations and gear. Parade and museum worthy.
High summer temperatures can present special problems for horses, especially if they are exerting. Temperatures above 80 degrees F can greatly increase the chance for trouble if relative humidity gets above 50%, with no breeze, making horses more susceptible to heat stroke. Under these conditions, a horse has difficulty cooling himself, since sweat does not evaporate when air is humid. Extremely hot weather can cause problems, even in a horse that is not exerting. One advantage in a dry climate is that humidity is generally low. Horses can usually cool themselves adequately by sweating, unless they become dehydrated by having to sweat too much, too long.
In nature, when fruit goes way past mature, all the way to announced disappointments of mold and rot – shouldn’t we refer to that as decline? Don’t we? As I mature to over-ripe (read decline) I find myself going through periodic fogs of aggravated irrelevance. Old farmeritis is a real thing. I got it. It translates to me constantly mumbling “get out of the way, I’ve got work to do.” And that is sometimes met by side-bobbing young heads on limber necks giving the disregard sashay. I am beginning to realize that one of the first things you lose with seniority is your public right to decide what’s essentially important – for yourself, let alone anyone else. These days I don’t have the energy or interest to contest what seems to be the general assessment that I am now a slow moving, cranky whale in dangerously shallow waters, pretty much completely out of touch with the world at large. It may be true but I don’t have to agree with that. And all that really is not important to talk about except to set the stage for changes in editorial tone.
Our hillside cellar was dug in the late 1880’s and is still in good shape today. An entry-way with double doors creates some dead air space between the cellar and the outside environment, making excellent insulation. It’s a big cellar, and several of our neighbors have used it for storing apples, potatoes, onions, etc. But one year some adventuresome wild bees decided to make their nest between the double doors, creating a major obstacle for anyone trying to go in or out.
“Sooner or later the American people will have to start eating more food that’s grown closer to home,” asserts Maurice Norman, pick-your-own fruit grower from Hendersonville, Tennessee. His belief is shared by thousands of small farmers across the country who are changing the face of agriculture by growing and selling fruit and vegetables on a small scale.
Under scattered clouds and surrounded by dazzling fall foliage, small and part-time farmers and gardeners from at least four of the New England states gathered at Highmore Farm in Monmoth, Maine, for the second Small Farm Field Day on Oct. 12, 1985. Sponsored by the Maine Cooperative Extension Service, Maine Organic Farmer and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), Maine Small Farm Association (MSFA) and hosted by John Harker, manager of the Fruit Research Experiment Station at Highmore Farm, this one-day event is an intensive learning experience in practical small farming.
We calve in January and February, and some years it can be very cold – and we calve the cows in a barn. Most of the older cows go into the barn readily because they’ve been there before. But the first-calf heifers are a different story. Many of them are hard to get into the barn. We solve this problem with a Judas cow – a gentle, older cow who leads the heifers into the barn. Even the wildest or most timid heifer will usually follow another cow. The old cow serves as security for the timid young heifer, and into the barn they go.
It is light tan or blond in color; light and flaky in texture; mild in both scent and flavor; all in all quite palatable. In action it has by long tradition been credited with a variety of cures and preventions. And although its popularity as an equine health panacea may be slightly on the wane, many still consider it to be virtually a “cure-all” dietary health aide for humans, according to some nutritionists who advise adding it to all meals. What is this fascinating, all-purpose, apparently healthy substance? Bran – or, the hull covering a cereal grain. It can be milled from corn, rice or whatever, but among horsepeople wheat bran is considered to be the highest in protein and quality.
Late one evening as I sat, sleepless, wondering how on earth I’d be able to pull it off and manage to hold on to this chance at my own farm, a little door opened in the back of my brain and an idea crept in … “work horses … THAT’S IT! I’ll do it with the horses … Just for this year, or as long as it takes to get started. Sure it’ll be hard work, maybe longer hours, but this is the chance I’ve been waiting for. I can do it! I’ll make it somehow. Horses, yeh that’s it, horses!” Until that time I had been playing with my team of Belgian mares – plowing contests, parades, wagon rides – they were an important hobby for me. I had a few odd pieces of horsedrawn farm equipment. So I made a decision, out of necessity, I was going to farm that first year using horses in harness rather than a tractor.
Blister beetles occasionally cause localized areas of damage within soybean and alfalfa fields. However, the significance of damage to these crops is questionable. This is because the gregarious nature of the more commonly occurring blister beetles limits the area attacked and because soybean and alfalfa plants can compensate for substantial foliar losses. It is in this area that blister beetles may become a major concern. The bodies of blister beetles contain a substance called cantharadin. This chemical is an irritant capable of causing the formation of blisters upon those body tissues exposed to the chemical. Livestock may come into contact with blister beetles via the consumption of alfalfa hay containing dead beetles.
The need for alfalfa (or other legume hay) becomes obvious to any farmer who is intent on lowering his input costs while maintaining maximum production from his land and livestock. Yet often overlooked is the opportunity to produce a valuable seed crop as an alternative cash crop. Production of alfalfa for forage and for seed go hand in hand and is easily accomplished on the small farm.
Artificial insemination is not new. It’s been around in one form or another since the late 1700’s. Whatever ideas or prejudices you may have come from over two hundred years of practice. AI is a tool. Nothing more, nothing less. You can use it to improve your herd, or misuse and damage it. You may not need it at all. The purpose of this article is to provide the information you need to decide whether AI has a place in your livestock operation.
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.
As a little girl living in the suburbs of St. Louis I wanted to live on a farm. It was my all-consuming passion. My favorite books were about children who lived on farms, who were lucky enough to be able to spend their summers jumping into fragrant haystacks, riding dusty work horses to the fields, scattering the yellow corn for the busy chickens, hunting for warm, just-laid eggs. I longed for the taste of warm milk just out of a cow I’d milked myself, leaning up against her warm body, listening to the hiss of the foaming whiteness squirting into the metal pail. I wanted to find newborn kittens in the hayloft, to feel the sloppy sucking of a calf’s tongue on my fingers, to watch lambs jumping and twisting in the pasture.
I happened to be pouring over some material in the back of an old Atlas. Any Atlas gives the names of states; this one had a list of nicknames as well – an ‘old’ list. I’m a Beaver now, I guess, being from Oregon – the Beaver State. I was born a Badger, have been variously a Jayhawk, a Pelican, a Volunteer, a Hoosier, a Tarheel and a resident of the Golden State (did that make me a nugget?). All of those handles as listed, showed up that way in the old Atlas, except that they called Kansas the Sunflower State, which I guess is the official nickname, although we Kansans preferred Jayhawks. To the followers of the college football scene, Nebraska is surely the ‘Cornhusker’ State, however according to my list that large land mass in mid America is officially the ‘Tree Planter’s State.’ That sent me wheeling down one of those mental back roads I mentioned.
I was asked to speak at the Eco-Farm Conference in California this winter. The topic was “criteria for evaluating farm success.” This editorial basically covers my impromptu remarks at that conference. I had a couple months to think about the subject of my speech and I took all of that time. As I probed the question of measuring success in farming I came to realize just how important a subject this was. The understanding of what we consider to be success in our farming goes to the core of everything we see as a problem and, perhaps, offers direction.
A considerable quantity of malic and tannic acids are present in all apples. It is these that give the apples and juice the tart taste. It might be thought that the sweeter varieties are sweet on account of a greater amount of sugar, but this is not the case. Apples are sweet or sour depending on the amount of acids present. The color of the cider depends upon tannic acid. If the pulp be exposed to the air from twelve to twenty-four hours before pressing a darker color of the cider results. The action of the tannic acid together with the air causes darkening. Also, part of the cloudiness of cider is due to albuminous matter; tannic acid assists in precipitating this out and making it settle. Hence a juice high in this acid will be of a darker color and is more likely to be clear.
Here at Providence Farm, we produce what is referred to as “rosé veal,” though we aim to make clear that not all rosé veal is the same. Some rosé veal producers rear their calves in batches, housing them in open sheds on deep straw bedding, away from their mamas, and feeding them on milk or milk replacer, hay, and sometimes grain. We, however, use a more extensive method. Our calves are unconfined, and are born and raised on pasture. They spend their days as part of the cowherd, nursing from their mamas, cavorting with their fellow calves, and grazing on lush grasses and clovers at their leisure. They are never fed grains, nor do they receive growth hormones or antibiotics. It is for these reasons that we call this “Milk & Meadow Rosé Veal.”
The onion is one of the important market-garden and truck crops in the United States and is very generally grown in home gardens. It thrives best on alluvial and drained muck soils under a temperate climate, but may be grown under a very wide range of soil and climate conditions. Onions are grown to perfection on the alluvial soils of the Nile River Valley in Egypt, under the sea breezes of the South Sea Islands, on the delta lands along the sea coast, on sandy uplands, in the arid regions under irrigation, and on reclaimed swamp lands. There is perhaps no extensive area in the United States or its possessions where the onion, in one or more of its forms cannot be successfully grown, at least for home and local use.
When you first start out trying to plow on the walking plow, if at all possible, start out with someone you trust on the lines and you working the plow handles. That way one person can school the horses to get them to understand what is being asked while you can focus entirely on learning how to steer the plow. Once the two of you and the team have got all that working reasonably well it won’t be such a big step to handle the horses and the plow by yourself.
When I was 10 my parents acquired a small acreage in a canyon up a creek near Salmon, Idaho, and 2 years later started buying the neighboring ranch. This was a dream come true, because now our family had cattle and horses. During my teen years I worked on the ranch – irrigating our hayfields with water ditched from the creek, building fence, riding range to look after the cattle – to earn some cows of my own. The annual calf crop from my small herd helped pay my way through college.
No sooner was first crop hay “put up” and it was time to “shock grain”. We could see it coming, a sea of green oats slowly turning to a duller, lighter green, then toward a yellow hue. The oats were ripening. It was a beautiful sight to witness the undulating fields turning golden yellow. Dad would walk out into the oat fields of the 238 acre farm out on Oak Grove Ridge in the heart of Crawford County, near Seneca in southwestern Wisconsin. He would reach down and pull a few grains from the stalks. Then he would shuck the grains in his hand and open up the husks, inspect the fullness of the pods, and shake a handful of oats for heft. Dad would announce at the supper table, “Tomorrow, we get the grain binder out.”
If you were visiting Earth from some other planet and had to describe its inhabitants upon your return, you might say that the average person eats rice, and grows it as well, usually on a small scale. You’d be accurately describing the habits of over a quarter of the world’s population. Rice has a special story with an exciting chapter now unfolding in the northeast USA among a small but growing group of farmers and growers.
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.
I always chain or otherwise secure slip-on type neckyokes to the tongue so they don’t come off and cause an accident. Neckyokes unexpectedly coming off the tongue have caused countless problems, the likes of which have caused injuries, psychological damage, and even death to horses, and to people as well. Making sure the neckyoke is chained or otherwise secured to the tongue every time you hitch a team is a quick and easy way of eliminating a number of dangerous situations.
When the milk has been poured into the supply can, and machine has attained its speed, the faucet should be fully opened. The milk will then flow through the regulating cover, down the feed tube and into the bowl, where separation of cream from the milk takes place. The skim milk passes from bowl to skim-milk cover and out into receiver; the cream enters cream cover, thence to receiver.
One of the most striking aspects of this development is the strength and confidence that comes from this communal way of living. While it is impressive to build a barn in a day it seems even more impressive to imagine building four barns or six, and all the rest of the needs of a community. For these young Amish families the vision of a shared agricultural community is strong, and clear.
As country pigs go the Large Blacks are superb. They are true grazing pigs, thriving on grass and respectful of fences. Protected from sunburn by their dark skin and hair they are tolerant of heat and cold and do well even in rugged conditions. Having retained valuable instincts, the sows are naturally careful, dedicated, and able mothers. The boars I’ve seen are friendly and docile.
Last spring I put a handle on a curious gardening tool I picked up at the FALCI company in Italy. Ashley, our 17-year-old (a seasoned gardener and enthusiastic digging fork user), was first to try it. She came back excitedly in a rather short time with a request: “Call to Italy right away and have them send us more of these.” “These” are the Magna Grecia hoes, popular in the Calabria region of South Italy but, interestingly, known in very few other places.
Market gardening became so much more relaxing for us and the horses after developing a Horsedrawn Guidance System. Instead of constantly steering the horses while trying to lay out straight rows or cultivate the vegetables, we could put the team on autopilot and focus our whole attention on these precision tasks. The guidance system has been so effective that we have trusted visiting chefs to cultivate the lettuce we planned on harvesting for them a few weeks later.
While the low down delivery wagon is an improvement, the objectionable features are increased. But with all those objections the low down wagons increase every year. Their convenience outweighs all other objections. They are handy for country delivery and are fitted up inside to suit either grocers, bakers, butchers or milk delivery, or a combination of the four.
Nature, and humanity’s better interactions with her; that combination does hold the best and I think only answers for a good and fertile society. As for the planet and its future health, it is pretty darned obvious she doesn’t need us anymore than she needed the dinosaurs. Wouldn’t it be magical and even divine if the societies of man could attain a plain of conduct and stewardship which would have us all be an invigorant and bejewelment for our Earth? A future essential?
As long back as most of us can remember, the plain people were using buggies for transportation. Buggy frames were mounted atop wood wheels that turned on large solid steel axles. Today, more new technology is available for buggies. Torsion axles, fiberglass and steel wheels, hydraulic disc brakes, LED lights, and sealed batteries — the list could continue.
IMPORTANT TO McCORMICK DEERING OWNERS: This pamphlet has been prepared and is furnished for the purpose of giving the user as much information as possible pertaining to the care and operation of this machine. The owner is urged to read and study this instruction pamphlet and if ordinary care is exercised, he will be assured of satisfactory service.
I have been questioned (even criticized) about my slow, gentle, repetitious approach “taking too much time” and all the little steps being unnecessary when one can simply “hitch ‘em tied back to a well-broke horse they can’t drag around, and just let ‘em figure it out on their own.” I try to give horses the same consideration I would like if someone was teaching me how to do something new and strange.
Hogs used to walk to barns and markets rather than ride in double-decker trailers and snooze in air-conditioned barns. Modern confinement systems, 18-wheelers, and hydraulic carts have relegated hog driving to a lost art, and swine drives are only farrowing-house conversation topics. However, a couple generations ago, farmers moved hogs the old-fashioned way. They drove them. Hog drovers have gotten little attention from historians, novelists, and TV producers in painting romantic pictures of frontier agriculture. They’ve concentrated on rope-smart cowboys trailing herds of white-faced cattle. Hog drovers didn’t get much glamour. They wore bib overalls and walked, but some of their roundups were colorful and impressive.
Yesterday afternoon I found an ad on Craigslist (a computer classified ad service on the internet) and immediately emailed the ad’s poster (a ‘poster’ is the person who did the listing). Large Black Hog piglets for sale, they were 8 weeks old and located not too far away (well, about an hour and a half, but you gotta do what you gotta do to get piglets). I was so elated when the guy emailed back last night – you have to act fast on Craigslist – he said he had 13 available. I told him I’d come in the morning, cash in hand.
The age-old model of mentorship in exchange for a place to stay and food from the farm was about to be upended. The first sign of trouble arrived in 2009 when a farmer in the Willamette Valley found herself subject to a wage claim violation by a disgruntled former intern. In 2010, one of Rogue Farm Corps host farms was sued in court for wage violations. There were reports of farms in California where labor officials were interviewing work crews in the fields to determine their employment status. This confluence of events sent shock waves throughout the farming community. Rogue Farm Corps found itself in the uncomfortable position of facilitating illegal farm internships and putting host farmers at great risk. Despite the wide spread practice of farmers offering housing, food and experience in exchange for some help on the farm, the reality of labor law meant that these informal arrangements were in great jeopardy.
Animals of suitable age, size, and conformation will ordinarily give little trouble and with systematic training and kind treatment will soon develop into excellent pack animals. Horses are usually preferable for use as pack animals which are led in accompanying commands mounted on horses, as they lead more freely than mules and their gaits conform better to those of the horses of the command. When not led and when worked in large numbers mules are usually preferable as they are more easily managed than horses under these conditions and superior as weight carriers.
But what is most notable in this new book is a kind of coming of age saturated deep into its fabric. With age comes outspoken courage, saying your mind, speaking your piece. Former hopes and fears, ambitions and delusions fall away. As the great Irish poet Yeats says, “We wither toward the truth,” and here is truth aplenty. Lynn Miller has always taken his role as editor and spokesman personally, but here are hard subjects coupled with a wide and easy range of expression. Jokes like “She ran like a young widow after a pie thief, with determination and pluck,” jostle in the mind alongside his declaration that he feels “the corrosive constant crawl of evaporating time,” a ferocious and unapologetic mixed metaphor that slides in and sticks. And there is more here of what I can’t help but call courage, as contrasted with something said for its shock value, or as veiled education. Or, Heaven help us, to make a buck.
When I opened the kitchen door early this morning I was met by warm humid air and the sound of torrential rain. A monsoon, I thought. It’s what North-westerners call a “Pineapple Express,” a warm atmospheric river that follows the jet stream straight from Hawaii. The moisture laden clouds stack up against the Olympic and Cascade Mountains and the sky lets loose. It’s not uncommon for mountain areas to receive 5-10 inches of rain in a 24-hour period. Littlefield Farm sits in the foothills of the North Cascades and is a mighty wet little corner of the world. With 60 or more inches of rain at the farm annually, we are in the midst of only a handful of temperate rain forest regions of the world.
The waking dream of my single digit years was of a doe-eyed Guernsey cow chewing her cud at a rail fence near the barn while, across the lane – inside a poultry-netting fence – a mixed flock of hens pecked at grains as a mottled white- gold- red and black rooster stood tall at guard. In a wheelbarrow between cow and chickens was a bag of grain – or was it seed? The dream had muted sounds and sharp competing manure odors. I loved that dream, still do. It always brought me comfort as it offered to me the simple, infinitely useful push as question… ‘okay, what are you going to do next?’
For a claustrophobic animal like the horse, being confined to a small box while speeding down the highway at 60 miles per hour is a mighty unnatural experience. Luckily, equines are adaptable animals and are likely to arrive in good condition – if – you make preparations beforehand and take some precautions. Here are some tips to help your horse stay healthy, safe, and comfortable while traveling.
It came from out of nowhere, bounced across the centerline and hit the side of the car with the force of a feather. “Look out!” cried the woman in the passenger seat, as the driver swerved to miss a small herd of the pesky devils. Some of them were huge – three or four feet high and five feet in diameter. What kind of crazies would dart out in front of traffic like that? Ghost riders from the sky? Emus on the loose? Nope. Just a frisky gang of tumbleweeds rolling across the high desert on a windy day in October.
Tom Delehanty is a sixth generation organic farmer, and has been raising meat chicken for over 15 years. He moved to Socorro from Wisconsin in 1994 to start Pollo Real and lives there now with his wife and their two kids. Although they are only ages four and seven, Delehanty described them as the seventh generation of farmers, as they are beginning to help with the chores. Throughout his career, Delehanty has learned about different types of poultry farms in order to help him develop his own pastured poultry method in which he keeps two ideas in mind: the health of the chicken and keeping a natural environment.
Indigo is mostly the product of I. tinctoria, of Asia, but it is also made from the West Indian species, I. Anil. Other species, even of other genera, also yield Indigo. These species were early introduced into the southern states for Indigo-making, and the product was once manufactured to a considerable extent. The plant was introduced into South Carolina in 1742 from the West Indies. When it was found that commercial Indigo could be made, the British Government offered a bounty. In 1775, the production was more than one million pounds of Indigo. The Indigo is not contained in the plant, but the dye is a product of manufacture from a glucoside indican which is contained in the herbage, and which is obtained as an extract.
I soon found out that Whitey knew more about dragging pulpwood than I did. So, I quit driving him in the woods. I would drive him on the first drag and from then on I could turn him loose and he would take every drag to the first one. I would be cutting and limbing while he was on the way to the landing with his drag. If he got hung up on the way, he didn’t panic. I’ve watched him get hung on a stump. As soon as he realized he was hung, he’d swing right, if that didn’t work he’d try left. All this without being guided and me not even close. Working with an animal that smart it doesn’t take long to drag out a truckload of wood.
This was my 2000 & 2001 project rebuilding 3 stockton gang plows, butt chain harness, and Gene Hilty’s 21 head Schandoney Hitch. Also helping George Cabral to train 8 mules for a cadre to hook what mules we could find to pull it. All the old pictures I could find showed 8 or 10 head on one or two plows. To center the 21 Schandoney I needed 3 plows, 13 bottoms with 143″ cut. Everyone said 21 mules couldn’t pull it. Our 21 walked away with the plows set deep as they would go.
This plow has all original paint. It sat under a tarp. The dark red spots had punched through the tarp. The share points show no wear at all. It has one regular bottom and the left is an Alfalfa bottom. It was no doubt a show room display or demonstration model. Notice the 1/4 bolts threw the rim that held rubber knobs which deteriorated. Original plows were all red but these wheels have never been anything but green. Original evener combination for 2 or 3 horses also was green.
Horses that are used to being in a herd have a few things in common: they do not like being separated, they are jealous when one leaves, and they almost always are at the gate to welcome the leaver home. Knowing this, I should have seen the red flags flying all over that steep, rocky hill. Instead, I merrily plunked my saddle in the back of my car, turned the mare out, locked the gate, and headed down the hill. It was then that I saw what was to turn this day completely upside down: two horses were jauntily trotting down the old railroad bed, straight for busy Highway 8 and Main Street, Troy.
That period of winter solitude in the Salmon River canyon is treasured by the handful of year around residents as well as a needed reprieve for the local outfitters and guest ranches in Idaho’s back country. After a full year of guiding, guesting, gardening & going, we cram all the weekends we missed throughout the year into a lump of liquid days… and call it ‘January.’ Greg and I celebrate that gift of time to pamper ourselves in pleasurable pursuits and creature comforts. In between reading great books, journaling and crafts, Greg and I can be found working on the next years’ firewood supply, repairing and oiling the tack, and cracking walnuts that river friends supply us with. The rhythm of these placid weeks are savored, giving further reason to be grateful for the opportunity to live where the wind is your only neighbor.
There are exceptional books written by the British agriculture historian George Ewart Evans among which are “Horse In The Furrow” and “Horsepower and Magic”. In these he recounts stories from the British Isles of the extent to which the teamster’s craft was magic and mystery to be protected. He talked about the fact that when somebody in the British Isles had the obvious and complete mastery of the craft of working those big horses, the tricks of his trades, the little secrets, he had to keep to himself, because when he gave up those tricks and those secrets, he gave up his power. He gave his position in the community. If everybody could do this then he would no longer be special. This became a community dynamic so that there were literally secret societies of teamsters, and they were forever playing tricks on each other and on outsiders, but especially on the novice.
The ranch consists of several thousands of acres; the horse are used to farm 555 acres. Last Fall 25 acres were plowed. So far this Spring they had worked up 200 acres with horses. The main part of the farming is done with horses. A tractor is used to clean corrals and bale hay. The hay is cut with a swather. All hay hauling is done with horses. 16 head of horses are used every day. 24 horses are available to work. Pete uses an 8 horse hitch. With green horses, he rotates them in half days at a time in 3 to 6 day intervals. There are 47 head of registered Belgian horses, 2 pair of geldings and some grade horses. Add in the saddle horses and the total equine count comes to 105.
Jim’s sculpture is preserving a nearly bygone era of family farming. When he looks at an old, worn, pitted piece of metal he thinks of its history: the ox yoke ring, a plow blade, hay rake, buggy spring. He feels emotion for them and it shows in his work. He uses lots of shovels. He says, “Years ago, if the handle broke on a shovel, the farmer made a new handle. Nowadays, most folks toss the shovel and buy all new. A cheap one for 7 or 8 dollars. Once every farmer had to be able to fix whatever broke down, especially during the Depression. They would use whatever was handy like bale hay wire. My favorite place to get metal is from a farmer who lived through the Depression. They didn’t throw anything away. It’s a treasure trove of stuff. Even if it’s broken. I love to hear the history of the piece and the animals.
When a team is properly hitched to a tongue and positioned so there is a little tension on the traces, the holdback system (pole strap, quarter straps, and breeching) will contact the horse throughout their length, but not be snug. If this system is adjusted too loosely, which is quite common, the quarter straps will hang down away from the belly. Before considering other factors be sure the breeching is not adjusted too low – very common. It’s difficult to get the quarter straps up against the flank and belly if the breeching is not up where it belongs. Slack quarter straps can be raised by hooking the trace chains shorter at the single trees. However, be certain that doing so leaves enough distance between the horses hind legs and the single trees so that the legs don’t hit the single trees under any circumstances.
Figs have been grown on the Pacific coast for much more than a century. Trees were probably at Loreto Mission, Lower California, before 1710, and reached the Alta California Missions soon after their establishment. Vancouver found Fig trees at Santa Clara in 1792. At the present time the Fig is cultivated in almost all parts of the state of California. The tree stands a range of temperature of from 18 degrees to 120 degrees Fahr., and the only portions of California really unsuited to its growth are certain cold or foggy districts. In the drier parts of the state it needs irrigation, as do other fruit trees. Some of the old Fig trees in California are of immense size. It is not uncommon to see trees with trunks of more than 2 feet in diameter. One tree in Stanislaus county is 60 feet in height, covers a circle 70 feet across, and has a trunk that girths 9 feet.
Whether picking flowers from a tulip tree in Kentucky or swimming in a muddy Texas pond, children can always find something to do in the country. It is January. This time of year with fair weather and sunny days in Texas (no snow in the south!), my brother disked the garden area for planting. Yesterday the younger children set out half a crate of onions, which grow well here. Joshua and Bethanie laid out the rows and Josiah pitchforked manure into the galvanized tub in the small wagon. The little ones helped. Hillarie and Gideon planting while Samuel filled the tub with water and poured manure-tea on the newly set onions. I helped Samuel to speed the job along. He did a very good job even if he is a little fellow.
Because their farm was selling, the horses needed to be moved out, but we weren’t quite ready yet. Our friends who had told us about them generously offered to keep the horses at their farm, with their Icelandics, for a few weeks while we finished fencing and stalls. When we arrived to help move them we were warned “Now this might take a while, because we can’t push Sokkull too hard if he doesn’t want to load, he could go down from the stress.” We were all a bit worried. However, when loading time came, he walked happily into the trailer, almost eagerly. “Oh boy, a trailer ride! Wonder where we’re going?” Prinsessa also loaded without any problems.
When I first looked intently at harnessed mules and horses and longed to understand how the system worked, it was the harness that confused me even more than the anatomy and movements of the animals, even more than the overall system. I saw a tangled basket of straps, chains, ropes, all seeming to have purpose. Yes, there were some diagrams in dusty libraries and old books and these did offer basic explanation of the structural design of some harness varieties. But those didn’t help me to understand in a truly useful way. It would be a few years before I would have my own first team and a pile of old harness to figure out. The little bit of book learning and diagram scanning I did failed to educate me. I have told the story before of how my innocence and arrogance got me into big trouble the first time I harnessed and tried to drive a team. Some of that tragedy came from the harness being put on all wrong, making it unable to function properly. That does not need to be the case with newcomers today.
The history and development of the new Pioneer Cultivator started in 2009 through a Horse Progress Days connection with two young men, Jelmer Albada and Ties Ruigrok from Netherlands. Both young men spent a few months working on local Amish farms to learn about animal husbandry and soil fertility. Jelmer returned to Horse Progress Days in 2012 with a presentation on shallow tillage practices that are gaining popularity in Europe and South America. Shallow Tillage originated in Europe where environmental regulations are much stricter than in America – thrusting them in the forefront of organic weed control. “But how is that possible?” was the question asked by many when they saw the pictures of Jelmer cultivating numerous rows of vegetables with a single horse.
Tomatoes should be started in hotbeds. To make the beds, select a sheltered place on the south side of a bank or erect some shelter on the north side from where the hotbed is to be made. Dig a hole about a foot deep, 8 feet wide and as long as needed; 18 feet long will give room enough to grow plants for twelve acres of Tomatoes. Use fresh stable manure; cart it out in a pile and let it lay three or four days, then work it over until it gets good and hot, then put it into the hole prepared for it, 8×18 feet, about 18 inches thick. Then place the frame, 6 x 16 feet, on the manure; that will leave one foot of manure outside of the frame; by this means the heat will be just as great at the edge of the bed as it is in the middle. Then place 4 or 5 inches of dirt on the manure and let it lie for a couple of days to allow the dirt to get warm. The sash is put on as soon as the dirt is placed. When the dirt is warm, rake it over to get it nice and fine, then sow the seed in drills which are made about 2 inches apart by a marker.
It is my opinion that mowing hay, on the horse drawn farm, is one of the more pleasant jobs to be done there! You wait for a period of fair weather and when it comes there is often bright blue sky, high moving clouds and a small breeze stirring the tall grasses as you enter the field! The mowing, when using ground driven equipment, is a relatively quiet affair. There is the subdued noise of harness and chain, the deep breathing of the animals at work, the snick snick of the cutter bar in the hay, the murmur of gears and cogs meshing in the gearbox and the flow of the cut hay across the cutter bar as the mower advances. For me there is the pleasure of watching the play of muscles across a broad rump and the rise and fall of hocks and hooves on a strong pulling horse! I like the feel of the leather in my hands and the ebb and flow of contact with the horse’s mouth as we move across the field.
The new MINNESOTA Binder embodies every feature that is necessary to meet the demand for a binder that can be depended upon — not only to harvest this year’s crop, but each successive year’s under opposite and varied conditions. It is adverse conditions that test the mettle of a binder and if built to stand this strain without battle scars, then you know you have the kind of binder you need. The MINNESOTA binder is designed as a general-condition binder. It is heavier in weight because it is re-inforced to stand cutting on rough and hilly land. A MINNESOTA binder does not get out of alignment. It is easy running because it is equipped throughout with roller bearings. It is long lasting because the material of which it is made is in accordance with time tested specifications. Cheap material has no place in a MINNESOTA binder for its reputation is held higher than a profit.
Over three inches of rain fell. There was mud everywhere. Horses and wagons tromped through deep gullies as did tractors and people. As the day wore on, it only got muddier. Still they came, young and old… to husk. This was my third year of attending the Indiana State Corn Husking Contest. I went the first year because I was curious. I remember hand-husking corn as a kid to “open up” the fields so Dad could get his corn picker in the fields without knocking any corn down. I wanted to try it that first year because of the memories. I met a lot of nice people, it was fun and I was helping to preserve a bit of history. Did I also mention that it feeds the competitive side of me? So, I came back last year and again this year. Yep, I am hooked.
These images came as patent documents in a group of other wagon related inventions from the 19th century. They were sent to us by Journal reader and friend Gail C. Millard. We give hearty thanks. LRM
Ever wonder where all that seed comes from when you place your midwinter seed orders? Many seed companies (as in retail seed catalogs) buy at least some of the seed they offer from commercial seed growers who have a highly mechanized operation. This allows us to have inexpensive seed that is widely available. A lot of these catalogs also contract small farm growers to provide those hard-to-find specialty seeds we all love. There are also seed companies who do all their own grow-outs for the seed they offer. All these companies will also run seed trials to test the qualities of new varieties they want to offer.
This past year a phenomenon occurred I had not heard of before that brought me mixed feelings. In the face of the nationwide quarantines and shelter in place mandates, people everywhere put out gardens. People who had not gardened before, those who had not in many years, and the regular gardeners did even more. This resulted in seed companies everywhere running out of seed relatively early in the year. Many of these companies had surplus stock that was completely wiped out. And then it happened again this year. As I said this brought me mixed feelings. The first was “Wow! This is great, more people are gardening than ever!” The next thought was a little more somber and perhaps selfish, “I may not be able to count on getting the seed I want when I want it.”
This past year like most shut-ins I’ve had time to read, write and sit quiet, but little met my need to face some ugly truths and quiet our political and social demons, until I came across this 2007 novel set in the Civil War, a ruggedly chiseled but beautifully rendered piece called COAL BLACK HORSE, by Robert Olmstead. The main character is a 14 year-old backcountry boy whose mother has a premonition, sends the boy to find his father and bring him home. They live in the Appalachian mountains, farming a high remote ridge in what is now West Virginia. The boy’s father has enlisted in the Union Army, and neither Robey Childs nor his mother Hettie knows where he is. But Hettie has heard that Stonewall Jackson has been killed, and her troubled visions and dreams lead her to send her boy out on this vague lifesaving quest.
Looking back at the garden after seven months of the growing season, the time seems to have whizzed by, the hopes and expectations of March and April have been made, worked upon and revised, and now they have either been achieved or disappointed. Most years I keep a gardening/farming diary, usually the bare bones of sowing and planting dates, haying notes and veterinary treatments, and it is always a useful reference for the future, but whenever I have written more I never regret the extra detail. Last year however, I was too busy and preoccupied to write anything down and had to rely instead on the empty seed packets as a guide to what I grew, but this year of course I have these letters as reference, so next year it can’t fail to be great! Can it?
The frail kid has a strong heartbeat – and he’s sucking on my sweater. Good sign. I wrap him in a towel and nestle him in the hay. Then I tie his mother to the stall wall and milk her. The whole time a voice in my head says, ‘you never bottle-feed babies.’ If the doe can’t feed her kid, the kid dies and the doe is a cull. But here I am making a bottle of colostrum for this kid. If he doesn’t get this in him, he will die. Despite my “hands off” rule of farming, it just seems wrong in this case – especially after all his work to get to this point. When I have enough milk, I hold him close in my lap. With some struggle, he gets the hang of the bottle, downs it, and finally perks up a bit. His head stops bobbing and he looks right at me, his eyes trying to find my face. He’s tired and frail, but his belly is full.
It’s hard to believe I’ve been scratching out this column now for something close to 11 years. You, dear readers, have been kind, indulgently suffering my random agrarian musings and generally not tossing too many rotten tomatoes. When I cast about for ideas for an upcoming column, I am often struck by a sense of panic – I have nothing left to say! Alas, I fear that my witicisms (so few) are used up, my best stories told, my romantic, sappy sentiments worn out, (these, I imagine, grow especially thin for those of you who want more about how to troubleshoot knotter problems on a 24T converted ground drive John Deere baler, and less about how I profited by watching a covey of ducks fly at 60 miles an hour up the river on a sultry early August afternoon while pausing from my work on said baler).
I could catch glimpses of this story as I walked through my dusty little farm; when I went past coulees full of dark moist places scattered with poplars and willow, chokecherries and sagebrush, causing my heart to ache… I wanted to explore that coulee forever. Sorting out the smells while flushing out prairie chickens and partridge. Listening to the wind blow through the fox and coyote smells as a horse snorts scents from his nostrils; I wanted to drink the water from the ever-flowing story well and discover all the moist, fertile grounds hidden in the dry prairie where I lived. So, first we follow the wind…
Farming, at its essence, has offered, and still does, a set of opportunities for man to work in communion with nature. Farming is always best as a calling, as a soul’s livelihood, as a grandparent’s handoff, as a hand on a planting stick with heart to the magic. Farming is that everyman’s punch card to self-sufficiency and holy order. All of these reasons and more are why I say farming is a sacred trust; one of the sublime possible marriages of man to nature, nature to man, wherein sustenance is the outcome because nature – worshipped, sweet-talked, coaxed, listened to, courted, fed, groomed, honored and stewarded in minuscule ways and at minuscule stations – allows it so.
I have a thought for another circle letter discussion. I would like to hear what folks feel it takes to work successfully with horses. How folks deal with their horses in all their moods and in all the different situations presented to them. When I started driving I found the hardest thing for me was working with my horses when things were just not quite right. Many of my attempts seemed to make things worse, though we would always seem to get through the day. I found my ideas on what it takes to drive horses successfully to be changing almost daily as I feel I am slowly stumbling onto an approach that works.
Gain always points to increase reflecting back on fertility. The word ‘gain’ in the manner to which I prefer its use and application NEVER, by definition, depletes. Whether you accept my terminology or not, it should be clear that I and many like me refuse to accept as our goal the maintenance of the status quo. We chose to work to increase fertility, increase health, increase biodiversity, increase market community, increase income, increase positive reputation. We choose GAIN, not sustainability. And that is good news.
The rising sun had not yet drunk the dew from the grass in the dooryard of the line cabin when the man mounted the forward hub of the prairie-schooner and bent a final glance into the dusky interior to make sure that nothing had been forgotten. He inventories the contents with his eye: a mattress for his wife, baby boy, and little Nellie to sleep on: blankets and comforters – somewhat faded and ragged – for himself and Roy to make a bunk of, on the ground; a box of extra clothing, cooking utensils, a lantern, rope, shotgun, family Bible – badly tattered – and a hen-coop, containing seven pullets, lashed to the end-gate. A wooden bucket hung from the rear axle-tree, to which was also chained a black and white setter. The only superfluous article seemed to be a little mahogany bureau, battered and warped, but still retaining an air of distinction which set it apart from the other tawdry furnishings, and marked it as a family treasure.
The true ‘Jackson Fork’ is arguably the single most iconic product invented by Byron Jackson, of early 1900’s San Francisco – but it was by no means the only important innovation/product Jackson engineered. As these old cuts testify, he designed many devices and systems for forage handling. Some, like the Threshing Outfits, were geared for handling large volumes of grain crop.
The Model “B” is ideal general-purpose power for farms of medium size. Available with either all-fuel or more powerful gasoline engine. Standard equipment includes self-starter, front and rear lights, power shaft, belt pulley, and power lift. Powr-Trol, Roll-O-matic front wheels, and a wide variety of integral equipment also available. The Model “A” matches the power requirements on larger row-crop farms. It has an abundance of power to handle big-capacity plows, bedders, and disk harrows, four row cultivators and the larger harvesting and belt-driven machines.
For best results, the draft angles (front frame) on the front harrow should be approximately level when the harrow is hitched to the tractor. If necessary, adjust tractor draw bar to obtain this result. In practically all field work the gangs should run level and cut at an even depth. Adjust the front harrow gangs to suit by raising or lowering the pressure plate at center of front harrow frame. The rear gangs may be leveled by raising or lowering the outer draw bar pressure plates. If the harrow ridges the soil between the rear gangs, the soil may be leveled by raising the inner end of the gangs, or by giving them less angle by moving the rear harrow frame forward at the three holes in the inner draw bars.
The Persian, often called English walnut, had been brought to Europe during Medieval times by traders from south central Asia. Its value as a nut and furniture wood crop was well known throughout the Old World by colonial times. Early Americans soon realized that the native American black walnut was just a bit different from its Eurasian relative. First of all, the New World tree grew bigger than its cousin. Secondly, its nut meat, while equally edible and nutritious, was stronger tasting. Thirdly, unlike the relatively easy to crack shell of the Persian walnut, the American’s shell was extremely hard, difficult to smash.
From April to October, RIF participants join Brooklyn Grange staff and interns once a week in raking beds, seeding, weeding, transplanting, composting, and harvesting, as well as guiding visitors and CSA members around the two farms. In this way, they contribute directly to the health and ecological resiliency of their adopted community. An entire program curriculum has been developed around environmental stewardship, nutrition, sustainability, small business management, and an overview of New York’s booming “green” economy, with the aim of preparing participants to enter the job market. To that end, the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard Employment Center assists in offering free resume-writing and job interview workshops; many participants go on to find full-time work at the close of the season.
The Brassicas have received too little attention from botanists. The inevitable outcome of such neglect or of any superficial study is a reduction of species, and in this direction Brassica has suffered greatly. The most perplexing species in our manuals are those which contain the greatest number of old types or synonymous names. It is true that this is supposed to be primarily due to the variation of the species or groups, but it is often to be charged to superficial study or insufficient material. Our manuals contain too few rather than too many species of Brassica; at all events, the miscellaneous dumping of rutabagas, turnips, rape and other plants into Brassica campestris is unnatural, and, therefore, unfortunate.
Cultivated tree Cherries have probably sprung from two European species, Prunus Avium and Prunus Cerasus. The domesticated forms of Prunus Avium are characterized by a tall, erect growth; reddish brown glossy bark, which separates in rings; flowers generally in clusters on lateral spurs, appearing with the limp, gradually taper-pointed leaves; fruit red, yellow, or black, generally sweet, spherical, heart-shaped, or pointed; flesh soft or firm. Sour Cherries are low-headed and spreading; flowers in clusters from lateral buds, appearing before the hard, stiff, rather abruptly pointed light or grayish green leaves.
While the ‘view’ of old-tyme threshing is most always photogenic, and the beneficial social aspects of a threshing bee – where neighbors come together to share the work and have a good time – are wonderful to experience, we were interested this time around in the mechanical ‘interiors’ of the process. The paths and tension of the drive belts, the adjustments of everything, the mid-work servicings are all things which might escape most eyes. But for any of us who appreciate this decidedly appropriate technology for a handmade farming, such views can be helpful and even critically important.
Over the Independence Day weekend Marvin and Pam Brisk, of Oak Tree Ranch, Halfway, Oregon, hosted a gathering of animal traction professionals and enthusiasts to explore the process of putting up loose hay. While putting up loose hay may be viewed as somewhat anachronistic, even by draft animal enthusiasts, we came seeking knowledge of how haying this way could fit into our lives. And of course, to have fun! Mowing, raking, use of a hay loader, and loading hay into the barn with a trolley system were all demonstrated and many tried out the various facets of the process. With the use of Marvin and Pam’s well maintained machinery and seasoned horses, this little ranch in Halfway served as an inspiration to all who cared to marvel at the elegant simplicity of a job well done using appropriate technology and a bit of help from their friends.
Most permanent pasture plants are small-seeded and rather slow in becoming established. Use of these pastures during the year of seeding should be delayed until the plants are firmly rooted and growing vigorously. Turning birds into a perennial pasture too soon after seeding may result in poor stands as many plants will be killed by trampling and others will be pulled out by the grazing birds. Late fall grazing of new seedings should be avoided. It usually is necessary to mow new perennial pastures once or twice during the first year to control weeds. This mowing should be done when the weeds are flowering or before seeds develop. The cutter-bar of the mower should be set three or four inches above the ground to cut the weeds with a minimum of injury to the young forage plants.
Cultivating Questions: No-till, No-herbicide Planting of Spring Vegetables Using Low Residue Winter-killed Cover Crops
from issue: 38-3
Ray Weil and Natalie Lounsbury’s pioneering work with forage radishes at the University of Maryland could provide a solution to the vegetable grower’s winter cover crop dilemma. When planted in August, forage radishes suppress winter weeds and scavenge left-over nitrogen keeping nutrients out of groundwater. Succulent radish tissue melts away quickly when the ground thaws leaving dark soil to absorb spring warmth and little residue to interfere with planting equipment. Quickly decomposing radishes might also release nitrogen when early vegetables need it.
A couple of years ago I broke the harness horseman’s first rule of common sense. It was incredibly stupid and impetuous of me but I did it anyway. I hooked two young half broke fillies together before they were really ready. As a result I almost got my wife Andrea and me killed, destroyed a wagon and ended up with two spoiled runaway horses. If I’d addressed the problem immediately, as I would have in the old days, I’m sure I could have corrected and reassured the horses fairly quickly but I didn’t. I let considerable time go by; I had lost my nerve; post-traumatic stress syndrome had me in its clutches. A little while after the disastrous event, knowing what needed to be done, I hooked each of the fillies, independently, beside the old Clydesdale mare I had started them with again, but on both occasions I simply left them tied to the hitching rail. I couldn’t find the courage to pick up the reins and put myself in harm’s way again. I was an emotional wreck.
When my husband Lynn and I were first married, in 1966, we had a dairy. Several of our Holsteins had twins that year and we had fun naming them. I particularly remember Vim and Vigor – fraternal twins, a bull calf and a heifer calf. The next year we moved to our present ranch to raise beef cattle, and even though we had a lot more cows, none of the beef cows ever had twins – until 1977, the spring that our kids (Michael and Andrea) turned 9 and 7.
It was a pasty, mustard-yellow, half-ton ’80 Chevrolet pickup truck, the entire body of which was riddled by small dents. I bought it at auction years ago. It belonged to an old rancher whose family fondly referred to as Mr. Magoo. In his later years he could not see well. He only drove at home on the ranch, and he drove this truck. He’d drive slow until he bumped into something, then he’d back up a little and turn one way or the other and try again. In this fashion he ‘felt’ his way around the ranch. And in this fashion he dented up old yeller. The surface of the vehicle was like a reverse brail, a record of ‘felt’, as if Mr. Magoo used ‘old yeller’ like a big motorized blind man’s walking stick, feeling out around him as he moved through his farming world.
The exciting thing about going to new places and seeing different things is that you never know beforehand what you will get out of it. One such instance was my visit to the first British Festival of the Working Horse, where the weather was dreadful, the range of equipment a little disappointing, but the unexpected highlight was Henry Finzi-Constantine’s presentation to the mini conference, in which he talked about the introduction of a working horse into his Italian biodynamic vineyard. His wholehearted enthusiasm for the wine, the vineyard and the horse was both infectious and delightful, but for me at least, also slightly embarrassing, because in describing what the horse brings to his operation, there were no caveats, no ifs or buts.
One of the primary goals of natural horsemanship is to get our horses to trust us 100 percent. Great horsemen and horsewomen throughout history have known that in order to become truly and completely accepted as a friend, companion, boss, leader, and/or trainer to any equine we must first gain the animal’s trust. In his book, Colt Training, Jesse Beery, the famous 19th century horse gentler/trainer, author, and founder of the Jesse Beery School of Horsemanship states, “The first lesson we give a colt is simply to teach it to have confidence in us and that we are its best friend and don’t intend to hurt it.”
For horses being part of a group and interacting with others in the group is very important for comfort and safety. It is natural and important for horses to both rely on a leader and to have trusted companionship. We can be a friend and companion to our horses, but only if we earn and keep their trust. One of the primary principles and goals of Natural Horsemanship is 100% trust (others are 100% respect and 0% fear). It’s relatively easy to gain a horse’s trust if we use their language and logic and play by horse rules rather than trying to communicate and behave in ways that are natural and seem logical to us as humans.
When farrowing time comes the last of February or the first of March in the northern sections of the country, the sows and the young pigs will be better off in a good weather-tight house, such as the one shown above. This is the sort of farrowing house that keeps the young pigs warm and free from cold draughts that quickly end their lives. Besides, it has a system of ventilation that admits fresh air without drafts and prevents condensation that quickly coats the walls with water and frost.
The steady, rainy drizzle on Friday afternoon, September 26th, did not dampen spirits nor participation, as Animal-Power devotees from across the Northeast came to the 2008 Northeast Animal-Power Field Days in Tunbridge, Vermont, to gather around teams, to ask questions, and to watch and learn. Although it did not rain on Saturday and Sunday at the Tunbridge Fairgrounds, Hurricane Kyle and flood warnings throughout the Northeast created significant challenges for folks thinking about making the trip. This may have dampened the attendance levels, but certainly not the spirits of those who did come out. The workshops covered a huge variety of topics and were led by people with expertise in sustainable farming practices, renewable energy, working with draft animals, and issues around food policy.
This is the season of the year when many of the farm machines and implements are put away until next spring. All of the machines and implements should be given a thorough cleaning and stored under cover where they will be protected from the rain and snow, which do much to shorten the life and increase the cost of farm machinery. An implement shed and farm shop that will pay big dividends during the life of the farm machinery is shown in the illustration. Here is space for open storage of wagons and other farm equipment, a garage for the car or tractor and a shop where the repairs that the machinery will need before being put in use next spring may be made.
Arriving at the woodlot, he parks the cart in the sun so its on-board panel above can soak up even more energy than is already stored in its 10 KW hour battery pack which supplies a 2,500 watt, 120 volt inverter. He easily lifts his six-pound electric chainsaw and connects it to a 150 foot extension cord plugged in to the cart. The cord trails behind him as he walks into the woods and up a rise. He pushes a switch with his thumb and the chainsaw roars, or more accurately, purrs to life. Within a minute the tree gives way, falling neatly.
Children are famous for asking questions and many of them can’t be answered simply or some not at all. As we grow older, we still have questions, only we have the tools to find the answer to most. Still, there are questions that never come up. Some questions are foolish, some are nonsense, and some just never are thought of until the answer is sitting right in front of you.
Evan came to Les with many lessons already learned. His father, Ronald Ames, had taught him a great deal about working with horses and how to work in the woods. Sixteen-year-old Evan is smart, polite and enthusiastic, and hopes to become a large animal vet. He values highly the lessons that 80-year-old Les is teaching him about how the old masters of different trades performed their tasks: harnessing horses, building logging scoots, designing eveners and neck yokes. Horse logging, haying and dignifying the horse are other skills Evan is learning.
After the field has been thoroughly prepared in the way of plowing and fertilizing, which should have been done at least two weeks before the plants were set out, the rows should be laid off from 3 to 4 feet apart. The plants may be set from 2 to 4 feet apart in the row, varying with the varieties to be used and the soil. Tillage should be continued, and varied according to the conditions of the weather.
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.
Situated a few blocks from the French Quarter, the Mid-City Carriage Company stables 28 mules and 12 head of horses along with a wide variety of carriages, the staple of which is the Vis-a-vis. They hold seven hack permits for the Quarter which is the cornerstone of the service. Along with this they do weddings, funerals, and special events. There are twenty drivers and ten support people including office help, checkers, a full-time farrier and a wheelwright. This is a busy and successful enterprise which was built slowly and deliberately.
For about the last two years I have been pursuing something I call “no pressure driving.” It is not a new idea, and I know Steve Bowers, as well as others, talked about the same principles. I would like to lay out what it means to me, how I go about it, and what I think the benefits are. Simply put: there is no pressure on the lines that is not intended to be a signal to the working horses or mules. Many of us have been taught (myself included) that a certain amount of constant pressure is needed to successfully drive workhorses. Over the years we sought ways to teach our animals to work with a ‘light’ mouth. It was easier on the arms, it seemed nicer for the horses, and it made driving more accessible to folks who may have been told they weren’t strong enough to drive work horses.
A few yesterdays ago we were set in a vulgar gaseous economy of absurd excess and biological disconnect, but it was OUR pattern. Want it or not, each of us owned some aspect. Maybe it was far distant and three times removed but it was there nonetheless. Now, as so many pieces, large and small, of our soured society and economy shrink and slough off, we are perhaps to be excused our apprehension and fear. We have been dependent on a vast, irresponsible ‘supply’ system and the presumption of unending growth. Now, where will we get this or that mechanical part? Or a gallon of milk? Or our heating oil? Or our prescriptions filled? Think I’m going too far with this? Think the system is “fundamentally” sound? Think that it will never breakdown that far? It already has.
Gangs can be leveled for large or small horses and also when it is desirable for the front shovels to dig deeper or shallower than the rear, by means of the tilting lever on tongue. Depth levers are arranged so individual gangs can be adjusted to any depth. Also, they allow the gang to be raised out of the ground to clear any obstruction. Depth levers should be set so as to cultivate the desired depth, then the master lever should be used for raising and lowering at the end and beginning of rows. The master lever allows both gangs to be raised and lowered and the cultivator to balance automatically with the one operation. If the master lever is operated at the end of the row while the horses are still going forward, it will be found more convenient. This also applies when beginning a row.
I had Emily for 16 years, and in 40 years of raising cattle, she was my favorite animal. I am not one to be sentimental about cattle, as I have bought and sold many animals, without regret. In fact, as an Agriculture and Animal Science professor at the University of New Hampshire, I tell my students, many of whom want to be veterinarians or veterinary technicians, that I am a food animal professor. My life has been spent working with animals you raise for money, sale or meat. This is often a shock to students who have only had pets, and believe everyone would spend whatever it takes to treat an animal that is sick or dying. I have had plenty of dogs and cats, which are pets, but even with them, their value I often equate to a farm animal, which irritates my family to no end.
In 2014 the Cummington Challenge celebrated 20 years of entertaining spellbound spectators while, at the same time, educating everyone about the beauty and intelligence of oxen. In these 20 years upwards of 150 different teamsters have participated in this ever-changing obstacle course with their well-trained teams of various bovine breeds. They were judged and timed and their efforts were always applauded. The SRO audiences were treated to interesting, often comical, stories about each teamster and his/her team. Several bovine beauties were celebrities in documentaries. In all these years there have been only six different winners as some have won as many as six times!
Hitching to the rake. Rake is designed to work with pole thirty-one inches or shafts forty-two inches from the ground, measuring underneath at front end. Only at this height are best results obtained. Oftentimes a rake does not do satisfactory work because the neckyoke holds the pole too high or too low, usually too low. If pole or shafts sag in the middle, remove, turn pole over and rebolt to rake. Keep pole bolts tight.
Cheviot ram • Shropshire ewe • Shropshire ram • Dorset-Horn ewe • Suffolk Down ram • Oxford Down ram • Oxford Down ewe • “Woolless” sheep • Dorset-Horn ram • Hamshire ewe • Rambouillet ram • American Merino ewe • Hardwick ram • Lincoln ram • Ryeland ram • Southdown ram • Rambouillet ewe • Cotswold • Leicester ram • Wensleydale ram • Hampshire ram • Delaine Merino ram
This summer, Kristi Gilman-Miller took half a hundred photos of partner Ed Joseph and I using McCormick-Deering #9 mowers to cut down Triticale grass mix hay. The crop would have been much better if we hadn’t been visited night-time by as many as 300 Elk looking for water and green feed. We planted in seven acre lands a quarter of a mile wide as we were recording variables in plantings for our research into the best future crop rotations. We were very impressed by the Triticale, a cross between Rye and Wheat, which makes a grain hay the cattle and horses love.
Maple sirup and sugar are produced during a period of from four to six weeks in the early spring and interfere but little with the other farm crops. The sugar season usually forms a welcome break between the comparative idleness of winter and the early spring plowing. It comes at a time when little else can be done. But after considering the long hours of tending the evaporator and the work of gathering the sap, many a man has asked himself if the results are worth the effort. Most of the producers of maple sirup and sugar tap less than 500 trees. Considered from the point of view of the bookkeeper who figures overhead, depreciation, labor costs, and interest, very few of these small groves can show a profit. But is there anything that can be done to better advantage at that season of the year? Faced with such a question, nearly every farmer who owns a maple grove will decide that sugar and sirup making is worth while.
I was still a bit groggy and adjusting my hat, when a shrill ethereal whine hit my ears. It was like a baby with a cough, long, hoarse, high-pitched screams of pain. A Piglet. It crawled towards me, its hind legs bearing no strength, streaked with mud and even some blood, whining at me, blaming me for all my sins, and ready to eat me for sure. The dead had come to exact their revenge. I dropped my milking bucket and ran away. I think that was a very sensible thing to do. Inside my mom and my sister were talking, my brother was slowly ambling out of bed, all blissfully unaware that the dead had risen because of my laziness.
The next morning we thought about taking her out to the barn to live with the milk cows’ calves, but the weather was still very cold. We were soft-hearted and decided to leave her in the house a little longer. Baby Michael was glad; he was fascinated by the calf and delightedly petted her like a big dog. As the day progressed, however, Bandit Eyes became livelier, bucking around and crashing into everything. Anyone going into the bathroom for any reason was immediately attacked by a bunting, slobbering calf.
From time immemorial farmers in our region attended the 4th of July festivities and began cutting hay the next day. And it is truly amazing how our weather pattern does noticeably shift right around the first week of July: out with June gloom, in with actual summer. This year was different. June started off hot and dry with none of the usually persistent marine cloud layer in sight. I wondered if I should start cutting hay early. I hesitated, not trusting the sun. Finally my cautious reluctance melted away and I had to join my neighbors and begin dropping some hay. Once I started I didn’t stop until the whole crop was tucked away in the barn. I finished this year before I would have usually even started.
Chagfood Community Market Garden is a CSA supplying 80 shares a week from five acres, on the edge of a small town called Chagford on the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park, in Devonshire, England. Chagfood has been running since 2010 when it was set up by Ed Hamer and his wife Yssy. Having been born and brought up in the National Park, Ed was aware that many of the traditional farming skills and knowledge of the area have been lost as farming has become more intensive. As a result he was keen to use working horses on the market garden from the very beginning, in an effort to keep the skills of working horsemanship alive for the next generation.
The planet earth is a living entity. All of its elements including its geology, hydrology, and biology constitute an interconnected web of myriad factors and forces which have for millions of years balanced themselves in vitality and existence. To our collective knowledge no entity or force has been able to throw the planet off its balance except for modern man. There are those of us who work the land and feel the humbling effects of nature’s force who know that this grand and wonderful planet will take the demise of the human race as a small challenge. For me to continue to say that we small farmers can save the world is arrogant shorthand for the truth. What I should be saying is that the ways of we small farmers, as with the ways of honey bees, butterflies, elephants, dolphins and snails, might reasonably allow the continuation of nature’s harmonic balance.
Its been a long time ago now, from 50 to 55 years or so, back when I felt myself drawn to each and every image I ever came across of horses or mules working in harness. Didn’t know why. I was a city kid with no immediate background in the stuff. But the attraction was very strong and central to an overarching dream of someday having my own old-fashioned, general farm. Back in the fifties and early sixties, in urban centers, the conventional wisdom had it that agriculture had grown up for good and all. The industrialization of farming with its concomitant chemistry and heavy metal disease (big machinery) was, back then, already fashioning a base for today’s genetic engineering and cyber nonsense. Way back then anyone who expressed an interest, let alone a preference, for the old farm was branded as “backwards” and “sentimental.”
Hard red spring wheat is grown principally in the north-central part of the United States, where the winters are too severe for the production of winter wheat. The States of North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota lead in its production. About 14 million acres of this class of wheat are grown annually in the United States, comprising about one-fourth of the total wheat acreage in the last 10 years.
This long-term cropping systems project is a collaborative effort between researchers, extension and farmers. Funded by the USDA Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative, it explores the essential premise of organic farming, namely, the connection between healthy soil and healthy crops. Specifically, the Organic Cropping Systems (OCS) program, which includes long-term organic grain and vegetable experiments, tries to evaluate how varying intensities of cropping, cover cropping, tillage and compost affects soil quality, nutrient levels, insects, weeds, disease, yields and profitability.
Quackgrass or witchgrass is a creeping perennial grass, related to common wheat, and one of the most widely distributed and destructive weeds in the North Temperate Zone. It is often confused with other grasses having similar names and habits, but can be distinguished by the seed heads, the leaves, and the long, running rootstocks.
Successful dependence on draft animals as a power source takes three parts good mechanicals and one part guided intuition. It also takes positive expectations and less thinking. It most certainly includes determination and patience. That’s lots of parts; in fact that’s way too many parts. So many, in fact, that we are prone to get in the way of our success. The best teamsters just are. And they are because they spend a lot of time doing it. They DEPEND on their animals in harness. The work HAS TO BE done. For them it’s not a parade, it’s not a joy ride, it’s not a play day exercise, it’s not a ‘foo foo’ moment.
Many years ago, when I spent time in the far north, I worked in a tannery that produced smoked moose hides. We used lime to dehair the hides and glutaraldehyde as a tanning agent. I really learned how to flesh and dehair hides there! It was smelly, heavy, wet work. But even though the chemicals were safe, I still wanted something simpler. Several years ago I regained the itch to tan hides. I experimented with battery acid, which is inexpensive, but somewhat dangerous to use. Another downside is that bugs will eat the acid tanned hides but ignore the brain tanned hide sitting on top of them.
Usually the keeping of hogs in any large number on the farm is not profitable. Like many other things, it is confined to sections of the country where it is made a special business. Still, it is well on most farms at least to have a few to eat up the garbage, or the offal from the dairy, and I will endeavor to state what I believe is the best method of raising them, and the kinds best suited for the purposes of the average farm.
The more popular makes we know or have heard of, JD, McD, Case, Oliver etc., but it would be a mistake to assume that their’s were the only serviceable makes of planters from a hundred years ago. Fact is, most innovation and engineering daring came from the smaller companies which were swallowed whole or just disappeared. (Think of Studebaker, Tucker or Hudson?) LRM
For many years there has been a strong tendency in the American fruit trade to urge that fruit growers reduce the number of varieties in their commercial plantations. When commercial fruit growing was developing out of the old-time family orchard, with its succession of varieties ripening throughout the season, such advice was undoubtedly good for the average individual planter, but there appears good ground for the belief that a point has been reached in several of our orchard fruits where a wider range of season and quality would result in a steadier net income from the fruit crop, and therefore in a sounder business condition in the fruit industry in many sections.
A few years ago we switched from tapping our maple trees with metal taps to wooden taps we make. There comes with it a feeling of independence and self-provision. Most of the elderberry canes we cut come from a thicket in the very woods we tap the maples. There are more canes every year, availing themselves in case we need replacements for taps that broke. Be sure to only select canes with live wood. Don’t worry about the plants, elderberries are very tenacious and will grow more canes to replace the ones you cut.
When you reach for a bottle or jug of maple syrup there’s nothing quite like the price tag attached to it to make you think twice. It is worth it, no doubt, in more than one way. But if you have maples in your neck of the woods there is no reason why you can’t make it yourself. It is always best to start small with a process that is easy for you to handle and increase each year as you gain experience and confidence. There are also lots of great books out there with guidelines, facts and information of all kinds. Just don’t let yourself become overwhelmed with it. Sometimes more information isn’t more, it’s too much.
Girdling of fruit trees may be caused by rodents, sun-scald, winter injury, disease, or mechanical injuries such as those resulting from cultivating. If girdling is not repaired, the damaged trees die. Girdling is the result of destruction of the bark and living tissue that connect the roots of a tree with the part that is above the injury. Repair consists of reestablishing the connection. Girdled trees often can be saved by bridge grafting or by inarching. To be successful, either type of repair must be made soon after injury. If girdling injury is entirely above ground or if it has not seriously damaged the main roots, it can be repaired by bridge grafting. If the roots are damaged so badly that pieces cannot be grafted on them, the trees must be repaired by inarching.
In England the fruit of many of the large, fine-flavored varieties is used uncooked. In America the fruit of the Gooseberry is thought of only in connection with pie (tart) or jam, and when transformed into these food products, flavor, while of some importance, is but a minor consideration. The claim that English Gooseberries are less palatable than the natives is quite true, when passed upon from this standpoint. The best cooking apples are not usually prized in the raw state on the table, and vice versa. The point is this — and it is worth making — that there are dessert Gooseberries and also culinary Gooseberries.
Laundry is one of those jobs that has been around since the dawn of time. The dawn of clothes at least. Electricity has taken a relatively labor intensive job and made it quite easy. All we need now is an automatic clothes folder. But when the power goes out and you are out of socks or you do something like me, crusade into off grid living, you need some alternatives.
The work harness prevalent in North America over the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries evolved slowly to its unique design. Stemming in the beginning from European engineering, which may have their origins reaching back to Greco-Roman and even Egyptian and Phoenecian ages, the primary influence has been the demands of function. Rather than get into arguments about what harness type or design is best, the purpose of this work is to build an introduction worthy of harness makers and arm-chair historians.
The old cat died two days before Christmas. The man reckoned that she was at least 20 years old, which is a lot of days to pad coyly along the hay stack while watching him flake alfalfa into the feed rack in the morning; to rub the rough cuffs of his Levi’s when he returned a few hours later to rake in the leavings that the calves had nudged out of reach. It was a lot of days to stretch out on a hay bale, paws curled under and tail twitching, and watch as the man fed the calves a second time in the growing shadows of late afternoon. A lot of days to stride next to him in the dark, tangling between his feet, as he raked the hay in again, a flashlight strapped to his head, light piercing the night’s obscurity.
Whenever I opened the door to the hen house, he’d come at me like a wild beast straight out of Jurassic Park. I hated that rooster. Every morning he and I would go at it. After waking up to his ear-piercing cock-a-doodle-doos, I’d head to the hen house to liberate him and the hens so they could free-range, rake dust baths and lounge in the sun. I think he waited for me by the door since he was always there as soon as I opened it. He’d flap his wings and fly at me trying to make contact with his dagger-like spurs. My only defense was a broom, which I carried with me whenever I was near the henhouse. I’d swat him with it when he attacked me, which was several times a day. I didn’t want to hurt him, but I didn’t want him to hurt me either, so I never went near him or the hens without my trusty broom.
The first thing I want to point out is that cattle have a flight response: if you’re unfamiliar with cattle, that’s going to be the point where you walk into a pasture and the cattle turn and walk away from you. That’s kind of that area around them where they are going to move away from you. It’s often called the “flight zone.” With our oxen, our goal is to make that flight zone skintight; we want to be able to do anything to them. We want to be able to work around them and have them be calm, to be very comfortable with our presence. So what we do often to accomplish that is to spend time grooming, rubbing, brushing them. Those are all things you can do to make that flight zone smaller, to make them comfortable with us.
Wouldn’t you know it, right in the middle of all that fixing and building on my new place, somehow tryin’ to make a go of it, make a ranch, out of the blue I met someone, and all the puzzle pieces that hadn’t made sense started to drop into place with not much more than a love-tap. I think that’s how you tell if you’re on the right track, when all at once the hard things start gettin’ easy, and the easy things just kinda sort themselves out. You can get awful tired of protecting and defending yourself, tired of treating folks around you like the strangers they’d rather not be, while you shut yourself off, thinking your own silly thoughts. When you feel yourself open like a plant to the sun after a long hard winter, it’s worth takin’ a look around to see what shined on you, that maybe shook you awake.
On one recent rainy morning, after spending far too much time wallowing in the news of the day, I did just that. Letting my thoughts stray into the misty past, I considered my life in the context of history, not just the history of my lifetime, or that of my parents, or even my grand parents, but that of many centuries of lifetimes. Human history is indeed fraught with hard times, times that make the one in which we are currently living seem like a walk in the park. Consider a snapshot of one such time.
What is that mysterious magnet that keeps me happily stoking the stove and researching what farm critters will eat ticks? What type of chicken will do well against pine martins, weasels, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, occasional wolves, peregrine falcons, great horned owls, huge seagulls, snakes, cold and probably other creatures that I haven’t yet seen? I have lived on farms most of my life and as of today, January 1 of a brand new year, I have no inkling as to what lure keeps me here.
I was mowing a thistly, gnarly patch of pasture last August on a rubber tired number 9 mower that, despite a new seal was leaking oil like tears from a widow’s eyes. The Waterfall field is irregular in shape with one corner that comes to a point, necessitating at each pass a hard swing gee in order to come around on the other tack. At this juncture, on one particular pass, the cutter bar pinched in a slight depression in the ground. The mower began to fold up at the inner shoe as we came around. The bar was solidly wedged and was not responding to my pressure on the foot lever. Meanwhile the horses were doing exactly what they knew to do — swing gee and go. Everything hung in the balance for a bit less than a nanosecond, but something had to give, and suddenly, give it did — crack! the tongue burst in two.
In this part of the world, sorghum is roughly divided into the rainy season kind and the dry season kind. The rainy season kind is the typical red sorghum seen also in the US and called milo. There are many sub species in each category. The varieties allow farmers to harvest twice a year if they have the correct soil. The dry season sorghum requires a flat piece of mostly clay soil. During the rainy season, these flat fields are ploughed in a checkerboard fashion to make squarish ponds so the rainfall will soak into the soil and not drain away.
In 1974, looking down 800 feet of waving, sometimes parallel, pairs of emerging corn plant rows all I could do was choke back the tears, so bad it was painfully funny. Ray said, “At least you don’t have to try to cultivate that mess with a tractor. You’ll have to make some choices, some of the rows spread out so far apart you may have to pick which side to save, but Bud and Dick will watch those plants real close and do everything they can to avoid stepping on them, unless they’re laughing so hard they get dizzy and step wide.” Charley added, trying hard not to laugh, “You know what they say Lynn, you can get more corn in a crooked row.”
There is a simple standard feeding schedule for raising good quality pork and ham without excessive fat. And the first thing to note is that it does NOT include corn! I learned to raise pigs in Canada where the Canadian government pays a premium on top of the market price for each pig that grades out at a quality suitable for export as Canadian bacon. The standards are very rigid to get this extra bonus. It is a simple fact that corn fed hogs would never get that bonus. The bacon in our American stores is a disgrace. The fat content is indicative of a striving for weight and not for quality. If that is the quality of bacon and pork that you want, then read no further – just feed corn and enjoy the fat that you raise.