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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PST

Dear Lynn,

In the Summer 2014 SFJ there is an article by Glenn Dahlem about the black walnut (p. 62). If I may, there are a few additions I would like to make regarding using black walnuts. First, the harvesting. From what I read it’s best to gather the fallen nuts and hull them while the hulls are still green if you’d like to eat them, as apparently the resultant ‘dye’ from the hulls turning black bleeds into the nutmeat and imparts an unpalatable bitter flavor. I’ve not bothered trying to verify this, but that’s what I’ve read.

Second, regarding removing the hulls. An old-fashioned corn sheller is one option. I have an antique Blackhawk model that I picked up at a farm auction a couple years ago. It’s a fairly simple cast-iron hand-cranked affair and it has a tensioning spring adjusted by a thumbscrew on one side. It came mounted on a nice wooden box in such a way that, when shelling corn, the kernels fall in and the cobs are either ejected clear of the box or deposited into a nice pile in one corner. Unfortunately, hulling black walnuts isn’t quite so convenient. I have to manually dig through the contents of the box to pick out the nuts (in their shells) from the hulls. This is not a clean job, and not for those who dislike brown fingertips. I suspect the free-standing flywheel-operated corn shellers might work considerably better for hulling walnuts, but I have no firsthand experience there. (Those things go for an even higher price at auction, undoubtedly to be used as adornment for some city-dweller’s living room.)

A simpler way, if you’re not a stickler for tidiness, is to simply pile the walnuts up where they’ll be driven over frequently. This fall I piled them up at the edge of our driveway where I park my little truck so that I’d run over them fairly frequently. This won’t remove all the hulls, but it’s a lot less time consuming for the hulls it does remove.

If you’re planning on eating the nuts, the next step is to clean the in-shell nuts by putting them in a bucket and filling it with water. Jostle them around a bit, and discard the ones that float to the surface. (They float because the nut inside never fully developed, leaving a hollow space.) Because hulling is not a clean process, they’ll probably require a good bit of washing. Then leave them to dry on a wire rack. Supposedly leaving them until they have dried to the point that you can hear the nutmeat rattle inside the shell when shaken makes for the easiest nutmeat extraction.

I, however, feed my black walnuts to the chickens. I first heard this idea from a plain-living acquaintance who, I believe, roasts the nuts first. Why, I don’t know. Then I read an account in J. Russell Smith’s book “Tree Crops” about farmers in the Ozarks overwintering their laying hens on nothing but black walnuts and whatever the hens could forage. I have a wall-mounted black walnut cracker (this isn’t your average run-of-the-mill nutcracker; these are heavy-duty things, owing to the strength of the walnut shells), also picked up at auction, which I use occasionally, though I find it much easier to just lay the nuts on a hard surface such as a tree stump or a concrete block and crack them with a wooden mallet. You do have to watch out for hungry, inquisitive chicken heads, though. A metal hammer or mini-sledge works too, though they seem to smash the nutmeats too much. The chickens pick the nutmeats out, providing food and satisfying their need to peck. Last winter, I noticed a dramatic increase in the strength of the eggshells once I started feeding walnuts. My wife tells me that pregnant women consuming plenty of protein have strong amniotic sacs as well. Evidently there’s a correlation there.

I was going to be clever and write about how much more economical it is to feed walnuts to chickens than to sell them to the walnut buyers, but turns out that’s not the case. Prices at the buying stations were high this year, in the ballpark of $14 per cwt, de-hulled. With the nutmeat constituting around 14 % of the de-hulled nuts (based on an entirely unscientific study of mine), this comes out to a payment of $1.00/lb. for the nutmeats. By comparison, current non- GMO chicken feed at the local mill is in the ballpark of $0.30/lb. So this year I could have sold, say, 42 lb. of edible nutmeats (300 lb. of de-hulled nuts) for $42.00 (3 cwt at $14/cwt) and then purchased 140 lb. of chicken feed with that money. By keeping the walnuts on farm and feeding them, however, I do save a trip to the buying station, as well as a trip to the feed store. I also retain the economic value of the hulls and shells (as described in the above-mentioned article, or simply as fertilizer) and I get a fresher feed product to boot. What’s the price of more self-sufficiency and better feed? And, hey, if I really wanted to maximize the price received on black walnuts, I could always try my hand at direct marketing, since there is obviously a market for them.

I said I feed the walnuts to my chickens, and that’s mostly true, but I apparently feed them to a couple of squirrels at the same time. I have unintentionally fattened at least two red squirrels, who seem to spend their days running across shed roofs, climbing down to the walnut pile, them scampering back up the maple trees in the yard to feast. They’re easy targets should I want to ‘harvest’ them, but I can’t quite bring myself to. It’s too easy and seems perhaps a bit unsporting.

On a different note, please continue printing “The Farming Ladder” in SFJ. I don’t know if you’re taking yes or no votes, but if so tally another on the yes side. Apparently I’m an Anglophile at heart, because I find I always enjoy reading English farming books and articles, so the more the merrier in my opinion. I also want to simply thank you for all that SFJ is. My Fall 2014 copy came in the mail on Christmas Eve, and I promptly told my wife that she was on her own for the rest of the holiday preparations because I had a Small Farmers Journal to read. (That wasn’t the case, though we both stole bits of reading here and there over the next couple of days.) While the other farm publications I read are purely of the practical sort, SFJ manages to touch the intangible beauty of farming, and I always come away inspired and refreshed.

While I’m writing, I’d also like to make a request of your readers. I’d love to see more articles about specific farms and farmers. Who are they, and where do they farm? What do they produce, and how and why do they produce it? Where do they sell, and how do they market their products? What production and marketing challenges do they face? What is the seasonality of their farm work? Photos are great. If they’re not keen on writing about themselves, they can write about other farms and farmers they know. Practical, how-to information is always useful, but is of necessity a broad-net approach and the particulars will necessarily vary from farm to farm and from farmer to farmer. That, I think, is the benefit of stories about particular farms and farmers over general how-to articles. I, at least, find that there is much greater value in what real farmers are doing on real farms than in what a “typical” farmer is theoretically doing on a “typical” farm, as I feel like I can more readily adapt the real-life scenarios to my own situation. So, fellow readers, please give consideration to telling the rest of us about your farm, or about a particular aspect of your farm that you think others might find useful.

Thanks again, Lynn, for a great publication.
Wes Hunter
Providence Farm
Seymour, MO

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

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Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Forestry

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After 70 plus years of industrial logging, the world’s forests are as degraded and diminished as its farmlands, or by some estimates even more so. And this is a big problem for all of us, because the forests of the world do much more than supply lumber, Brazil nuts, and maple syrup. Farmlands produce food, a basic need to be sure, but forests are responsible for protecting and purifying the air, water and soil which are even more basic.

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

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The amount of manure produced must be considered in planning a cropping system for a farm. If one wishes to manure one-fifth of the land every year with 10 tons per acre, there would have to be provided two tons per year for each acre of the farm. This would require about one cow or horse, or equivalent, for each six acres of land.

Hand-Harvested Food Challenge

The Hand-Harvested Food Challenge

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

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley A Farmrun Production by Andrew Plotsky

No Starving Children!

You’d never be able to harvest the broccoli or the hay or milk the cows or make the cheese if it were subject to government process. Not only are our industrial farms too big…

Wild Potatoes and Calcium

Wild potatoes bring increased calcium for better tubers.Have you ever cut into a potato to find a dark spot or hollow part? Early research shows that these defects are likely the result of calcium deficiencies in the potato — and that tuber calcium is genetically linked to tuber quality.

Birth of a Farm

Birth of a Farm

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

Farm To School Programs Take Root

All aim to re-connect school kids with healthy local food.

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

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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.

Cultivating Questions A Horsedrawn Guidance System

Cultivating Questions: A Horsedrawn Guidance System

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.

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading

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

Farm Manure

Farm Manure

Naturally there is great variation in manure according to the animals it is made by, the feeding and bedding material, and the manner in which it is kept. Different analyses naturally shows different results and the tables here given serve only as a guide or index to the various kinds. The manure heap, by the way, is no place for old tin cans, bottles, glass, and other similar waste material.

Low Tillage Radish Onions

Low Tillage Radish Onions

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The radishes came up quick, filling the garden canopy completely that fall, and the following spring we found the plot was clean of weeds and rows of open holes were left where the radish roots had been growing. Well, we had a few extra onion plants that spring and decided to plant them in these holes, since we already had very clear lines laid out for us and a clean seedbed. What we got were the best looking onions that have ever come out of our gardens.

A Tour of Various Draft Farms

A Tour of Various Draft Farms

Amidst all of the possibility that is out there, all of the options and uncertainties, it helps to remember that there is also a strong community in the draft-farming world. There are a great many like-minded yet still diverse people working with draft horses and ready to share their experiences. What will serve us well within this great variety of farms and farmers is to keep in touch, to learn from one another’s good ideas and mistakes and to keep on farming with draft power.

LittleField Notes Farm Log

LittleField Notes: Farm Log

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My starting every column with a discussion of the weather set me to thinking about that old clichéd idea of talking about the weather; how it is all old men talk about downtown at the local coffee shop; how they sit for hours telling endless lies about how the snow was deeper, the nights colder and the hills steeper when they were young. However, clichés have basis in truth, and it is true that weather is a wonderful conversation opener.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT