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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

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

by Marjorie Dobbin of Vidalia, GA

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.

Cane Grinding

Mom, Dad, and I have driven to Uncle Charley’s farm. It is the Saturday before Thanksgiving, their traditional cane grinding day. Early in the morning, family and friends gather for a hot breakfast under the trees near the operation. Mr. Charley grills sausages. Miss Pat sees that there are hot coffee, biscuits, grits, and scrambled eggs. Guests bring foods also, such as banana pudding, pecan brittle, and barbequed venison. I decide to wait until later for my breakfast. I want to help with the grinding.

Cane Grinding

The cane has been growing in the field since spring. Uncle Charley and his sons have cut it and brought the stalks to the grinder machine. Here, men stack the long stalks of light greenish-tan cane on a rack near the grinder. I ask if I can help. They show me how to feed the stalks into a slot between two revolving wheels.

Cane Grinding

I shove the ends of cane stalks in, just like this little girl is doing. But my eyes are on a four-wheeled vehicle that is being driven around and around us. It is pulling one end of a long pole. The pole turns the gears in the grinder, causing two cylinders to turn toward each other. When the cane stalks are fed through the cylinders, they come out flattened on the other side. Last year Uncle Charley said that maybe I could drive the four-wheeler. For the next fifteen minutes, I am very busy, following the circle and keeping the proper speed. It was fun.

Cane Grinding

While Uncle Charley’s son shows some children how to feed cane, some of my buddies try their strength at pushing the pole around. Before gas-driven vehicles were used, the family mule or oxen pulled the pole. The farmer would start it walking, and it would keep on going until the farmer stopped it.

Cane Grinding

The juice squeezed from the cane is collected in a blue barrel. The juice looks like grayish water with bits of cane floating in it. When the barrel is almost full, one of the adults drains it into a large pail, carries it to the boiling shed, and dumps it.

Cane Grinding

With a plate heavy with scrambled eggs, cheese grits, and a sausage biscuit, I wander over to the boiling shed. Some boys are standing around the huge cauldron encased in a cement wall. Under the cauldron is a gas-fed fire. The juice boils, and the steam is fragrant and sweet. Long ago, farmers used to use a wood fire. One person would always be busy feeding the wood into the fire under the cauldron to keep a constant temperature.

Cane Grinding

I watch the men working in the shed. They scoop off the impurities and bits of cane that float to the surface, using skimmers – flat circular screens about eight inches in diameter fastened on long handles. The men dump the contents of the skimmer in a discard bucket. The syrup has to boil in the cauldron until it reaches the right consistency. One of the men told me that the best part of the whole process is when the syrup is drained off. Around the kettle would be cane candy to scrape off and eat.

Cane Grinding

In time, the syrup is packed in pint and quart jars. The Rockin’ R label is put on them, and they are offered for sale. Mr. Charley makes a special trip to deliver bottles to the people attending the Grinding.

When Mom, Dad, and I have the syrup on biscuits, pancakes, or waffles, it reminds me of the fun of feeding the cane, driving the four-wheeler, skimming the syrup, and eating breakfast with friends in the crisp fall air.

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

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from issue:

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.

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Carrots and Beets The Roots of Our Garden

Carrots & Beets – The Roots of Our Garden

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from issue:

Carrots and beets are some of the vegetables that are easy to kill with kindness. They’re little gluttons for space and nutrients, and must be handled with an iron fist to make them grow straight and strong. Give the buggers no slack at all! Your motto should be – “If in doubt, yank it out!” I pinch out a finger full (maybe 3/4” wide) and skip a finger width. Pinch and skip, pinch and skip, working with existing gaps and rooting out particularly thick clumps.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

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The old way of selecting seed from open-pollinated corn involved selecting the best ears from the poorest ground. I have tried to select perfect ears based on the open-pollinated seed corn standards of the past. I learned these standards from old agricultural texts. The chosen ears of Reid’s average from 9 to 10.5 inches long and have smooth, well-formed grains in straight rows. I try to select ears with grains that extend to the end of the cob.

Henpecked Compost and U-Mix Potting Soil

We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.

Mullein Indigenous Friend to All

Mullein: Indigenous Friend to All

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Mullein is a hardy native, soft and sturdy requiring no extra effort to thrive on your part. Whether you care to make your own medicines or not, consider mullein’s value to bees, bumblebees, butterflies, moths, dragonflies, who are needing nectar and nourishment that is toxin free and safe to consume. In this case, all you have to do is… nothing. What could be simpler?

Bamboo A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

Bamboo: A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

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The bamboos are gaining increased attention as an alternative crop with multiple uses and benefits: 1) domestic use around the farm (e.g., vegetable stakes, trellis poles, shade laths); 2) commercial production for use in construction, food, and the arts (e.g., concrete reinforcement, fishing poles, furniture, crafts, edible bamboo shoots, musical instruments); and 3) ornamental, landscape, and conservation uses (e.g., specimen plants, screens, hedges, riparian buffer zone).

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.

Prairie Grass A Jewel Among Kernels

Prairie Grass: A Jewel Among Kernels

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Years ago, my brother advised against plowing the patch of prairie on the back forty of our Hubbard, Iowa farm. “Some day,” he predicted, “that prairie will be as valuable as the rest of the 40 acres. We know how to grow corn; but that prairie was seeded by the last glacier.” Left untilled by generations of my family, the troublesome treasure has now become a jewel among a cluster of conventional crops on the farm.

Making Sorghum Molasses

Making Sorghum Molasses

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Growing sorghum doesn’t take much work, according to Buhrman. You plant it in the spring, work it a couple of times and that’s about all that’s required until late in the growing season. That is when the work begins. Before it is cut, all the stalks have to be “bladed” – the leaves removed from the stalks. It’s then cut, then the tassles are cut off, and the stalks are fed through a crusher. The crusher forces the juices out of the plant. The sorghum juice is then boiled in a vat for four to five hours until nothing is left but the syrup.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

by:
from issue:

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.

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

Beating the Beetles – War & Peace in a Houston Garden

Blooming that is, unless the cucumber beetles arrive first.
And arrive they have … “At first I thought they looked like big, yellow lady bugs.” Paul said, “Then I looked…

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 1

Our mild climate makes it too easy to overwinter cover crops. Then the typically wet springs (and, on our farm, wet soils) let the cover put on loads of topgrowth before getting on the soil. Buckwheat is the only crop that I can be certain will winterkill. Field peas, oats, annual rye and crimson clover have all overwintered here. Any suggestions?

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