Small Farmer's Journal

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

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: Livestock

The Big Hitch

The Big Hitch

In 1925 Slim Moorehouse drove a hitch of 36 Percheron Horses pulling 10 grain wagons loaded with 1477 bushesl of wheat through the Calgary Stampede Parade. It is out intention to honor a man who was a great horseman and a world record holder. The hitch, horses and wagons, was 350 feet in length and he was the only driver.

Cheval de Merens Revisited

Cheval de Merens Revisited

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In the Fall ’97 issue of SFJ you printed an article on the Cheval de Merens, the all black horse of the French Pyrenees. I was immediately obsessed by their beautiful stature, a very strong draft-type-looking horse with powerful legs and long flowing manes and tails. The article sent me running for maps to locate France and the Ariege Valley, the central location for the Merens. After making contact with the writer of the article and being told of the major Merens horse show in August, plane reservations were made.

Haying With Horses

Haying With Horses

If the reader is considering the construction of a barn we encourage you to give more than passing thought to allowing the structure of the gable to be open enough to accommodate the hanging of a trolley track. It is difficult or impossible to retrofit a truss-built barn, which may have many supports crisscrossing the inside gable, to receive hay jags. At least allowing for the option in a new construction design will leave the option for loose hay systems in the future.

Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic Sheep

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I came to sheep farming from a background in the arts – with a passion for spinning and weaving. When we were able to leave our house in town to buy our small farm, a former dairy operation, I had no idea that the desire to have a couple of fiber animals would turn into full time shepherding. I had discovered Icelandic sheep, and was completely enamored of their beauty, their hardiness and their intelligence.

Working Steers and Oxen on the Small Farm

Working Steers and Oxen on the Small Farm

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For centuries, the skills of training steers for work and the craft of building yokes and related equipment was passed down from generation to generation. It was common for a young boy or girl to be responsible for the care and training of a team from calves to the age of working capability. Many farms trained a team each year, either for sale or for future replacement in their own draft program.

Fjordworks Horse Powered Potatoes Part 2

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes Part Two

These types of team implements for digging potatoes were the first big innovation in horse powered potato harvesting in the mid-19th century. Prior to the horse drawn digger the limitation on how many potatoes a farmer could plant was how many the farm crew could dig by hand. The basic design of these early diggers works so well that new models of this type of digger are once again being manufactured by contemporary horse drawn equipment suppliers.

Happs Plowing A Chance to Share

Happ’s Plowing: A Chance to Share

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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.

Work Horse Handbook

Work Horse Handbook

Horses are honest creatures. And, what I mean by honest is that a horse is almost always true to his motivations, his needs, his perceptions: if he wants to eat, if he needs water, if he perceives danger. He is incapable of temporarily setting aside or subverting his motivations to get to some distant goal. This is often mistaken as evidence for a lack of intelligence, a conclusion which says more of human nature than equine smarts. What it means for the horse is that he is almost never lazy, sneaky or deceptive. It is simply not in his nature.

Shoeing Stocks

An article from the out-of-print Winter 1982 Issue of SFJ.

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

How To Dry Up A Doe Goat

You are probably thinking why would I want to dry up a doe? If the plan is to rebreed the doe, then she will need time to rebuild her stamina. Milk production takes energy. Kid production takes energy, too. If the plan is to have a fresh goat in March, then toward the end of October start to dry her up. The first thing to do is cut back on her grain. Grain fuels milk production.

Horse Labor Instead of Tractors

Horse Labor Instead of Tractors

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

Livestock and Predators No Easy Answers

Livestock and Predators: No Easy Answers

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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.

Finnsheep Sheep for all Economic Seasons

Finnsheep: Sheep for all Economic Seasons

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Another consideration for the Trimburs was health and ease of care. Heidi says, “Finnsheep, as a breed, won this one without contest! They are smaller, super-friendly, have no horns to worry about and no tails to dock. They are hardy, thrive on good nutrition and grow a gorgeous fleece. I love to walk out in the pastures with them. They all come running over to say hello and some of our rams love to jump on our golf cart and “go for a ride” – it is hilarious!

Raising Free Range Turkeys is a Joy!

Raising Free Range Turkeys is a Joy!

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“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.

A Year of Contract Grazing

A Year of Contract Grazing

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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.

Farmrun On the Anatomy of Thrift

On the Anatomy of Thrift: Side Butchery

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals.

Praise for Small Oxen

Praise for Small Oxen

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Every day in the winter, and a fair number of days in the summer, I choose to work with a team of Dexter oxen, just about the smallest breed of cattle in North America. Harv and Mr. Whistling Sweets are three years old, were named on a half-forgotten whim by my young children, and stand 38” tall at the shoulder. Sometimes, perched on top of a load of hay, moving feed for my herd of thirty cows, I look and feel comical — a drover of Dachshunds.

"Work Horse Handbook, 2nd Edition" by Lynn Miller

Draft Collars and How To Size Them

It is difficult to accurately measure a horse’s neck without fitting. In other words, there are so many variables involved in the shape and size of a horse’s neck that the only accurate and easy way to size the neck is to use several collars and put them on one at a time until fitting is found.

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