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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

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

Peach

Peach

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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.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate Part 2

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 2

Finding just the right cover crop-tillage combination for crops planted the last half of June has always been a real challenge in our location. While surface-tilling mature rye and vetch in May works well for fall crops established in July and August, this cover crop-tillage combo does not allow enough time for decomposition and moisture accumulation for end-of-June plantings.

Raised Bed Gardening

Raised Bed Gardening

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Raised beds may not be right for everyone, and our way is not the only way. I have seen raised beds made from rows of 5’ diameter kiddy pools, and heard of a fellow who collected junk refrigerators from the dump and lined them up on their backs into a rainbow of colored enameled steel raised beds. Even rows of five-gallon pails filled with plants count as raised beds in my estimation. Do it any way you care to, but do it if it’s right for you.

What We've Learned From Compost

What We’ve Learned From Compost

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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.

Cabbage

Cabbage

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Cabbage is the most important vegetable commercially of the cole crops, which include cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, collard, broccoli, and many others. It also ranks as one of the most important of all vegetable crops and is universally cultivated as a garden, truck and general farm crop. The market for cabbage, like that for potatoes, is continuous throughout the year, and this tends to make it one of the staple vegetables.

Winter Production of Fresh Vegetables

Winter Production of Fresh Vegetables

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Any claim about winter production of fresh vegetables, with minimal or no heating or heat storage systems, seems highly improbable. The weather is too cold and the days are too short. Low winter temperatures, however, are not an insurmountable barrier. Nor is winter day-length the barrier it may appear to be. In fact most of the continental US has far more winter sunshine than parts of the world where, due to milder temperatures, fresh winter vegetable production has a long tradition.

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

Marketable Cover Crops

Marketable Cover Crops

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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.

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.

Onion Culture

Onion Culture

The essential requirements of a soil upon which to grow onions profitably are a high state of fertility, good mechanical condition, properties – that is, if it contains sufficient sand and humus to be easily worked, is retentive of moisture and fertilizers, and is capable of drainage – all other requirements can be met.

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.

Asparagus in Holland

Asparagus in Holland

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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.

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…

Syrup From Oregons Big-Leaf Maple

Syrup From Oregon’s Big Leaf Maple

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There is a great potential in establishment of a seasonal “sugarbush” industry for small farmers of the northwestern states, particularly western Oregon and Washington. Five syrup producing species of maples are found mainly east of the Rocky Mountains. The Box Elder and the Big-leaf Maple are the only syrup producing maples of the Pacific Northwest. Properly made syrup from these two western maples is indistinguishable from the syrup of maples of the midwestern and northeastern states.

Carrots and Beets The Roots of Our Garden

Carrots & Beets – The Roots of Our Garden

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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.

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.

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