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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

Carrots and Beets The Roots of Our Garden

Carrots & Beets – The Roots of Our Garden

by Irving H. Baxter of Potsdam, NY

We just finished the first harvesting of the root crops from our raised beds, which means carrots and beets for us. Potatoes are grown in the flat garden, in a totally conventional way. (Onions are also a favorite root crop, but for some reason I consider them in a separate category, although we have begun to harvest them as well.) Due to our strange weather year, they’re coming out a few weeks late but the quality is excellent and the quantity is gratifying. The fabulous production in our raised beds have been cause for comment and the basis for a lot of questions. Let’s see if I can come up with some answers.

Soil texture, composition and fertility are important for all veggies, but perhaps more so with the root crops. Not only is soil the media to provide water, nutrients and support to keep the wind from blowing them away, it also protects and nurtures the edible part directly. It is only common sense that for that part to grow and extend downward, the soil must be conducive to such efforts on the part of the plant. Our raised beds are filled with a motley assortment of soils, compost, manures, organic debris and sand with little uniformity between them. We do rotate the crops around the beds to try to confuse the pests and wee beasties that like to nibble our stuff before we get a chance to, in this case – root maggots. Since the root crops are the first to be seeded each spring, I have my choice of beds to plant them in.

My first criteria is soil texture. After they are amended and mixed, I judge this by slowly pushing my hand into the soil. With a minimum of wiggling, I expect to push it in past my wrist with little effort. If I can’t, that bed needs more sand or friable composts. Withdrawing the hand, I check for muddiness. As I start with a damp bed, I want to see my hand covered with fine grains of soil and sand, not with smeared streaks of clay or silt soil. If it’s just a bit off from my idea, I may amend it with more compost or peat moss, or just try a different bed. If it’s a lot different, I mark that bed for further remediation and try my luck elsewhere.

After the beds are selected, we plant. Most years, this will be around May 1st, but could be two weeks earlier or later depending on conditions of any given year. Time permitting, I like to mix the soil up again with the tiller or spading fork and scoop off the top inch or so and set it aside to sift over the seeds after planting. Like most rebels, I consider rules to be suggestions and disregard the spacing recommendations on the seed packets. For the extreme fertility of the raised beds; we have found a 6-inch row spacing to work just right. I have made a row marker that guides it along the side of the bed, making shallow furrows that distance apart, starting three inches from the side of the bed.

Carrots and Beets The Roots of Our Garden

Closing furrows over Carrot seeds.

Seeding those microscopic little buggers are well beyond my patience and steadiness of hand, so I rope Beth into doing it for me. She leaves a fairly uniform trickle of seeds, which is much easier to thin later on than my clumps and bare spots would be. If I have the time, we sift the removed soil over the seeds and pat firmly, and wait for them to sprout. Honestly – we rarely take the time to do it that way, so I just pinch the trench walls together over the seeds and pat level. Both ways work.

Then you wait and wait and wait. Time crawls while waiting for carrots to sprout! After an eternity or two, just about the time I decide we got bum seeds and I should replant, the first fine strands of green appear in neat rows. I celebrate with a cup of coffee and settle in for more waiting. (You may conclude that I’m not a patient gardener. You would not be wrong.) In not much more time than it takes for an ice age to pass, the green shoots have sprouted their first true leaves and it’s time for the first thinning. (I’m describing carrots in particular, but we grow cylindra beets, which are managed exactly the same way, for the same reason.)

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!” After the true leaves start forming, I kneel beside the bed and pinch out finger full of the thicker clumps, tossing them between the rows as mulch. (I once tried transplanting them into a new, empty bed. Bad idea! They were twisted and gnarled with umpteen dozen rootlets instead of one straight root. They looked like something grown by Dr. Frankenstein next to a nuclear waste dump. Beets, on the other hand, transplant just fine and I use the thinnings to fill in sparse spots, double crop another bed or fill in a partial bed of other veggies.) 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. In not much more time than it takes to type this, I have the full 64 feet of rows done in a 4 x 8 foot bed.

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Spotlight On: Livestock

Changing of Seasons

LittleField Notes: Changing of Seasons

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from issue:

We are blessed who are active participants in the life of soil and weather, crops and critters, living a life grounded in seasonal change. This talk of human connection to land and season is not just the rambling romantic musing of an agrarian ideologue. It is rather the result of participating in the deeply vital vocation that is farming and knowing its fruits first hand.

Fjordworks: Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster

Fjordworks: Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster

The first step to a successful training session is to decide ahead of time what it is you wish to accomplish with your horse. In the wild the horses in a band require the strength of a lead horse. Your horse needs you to be that strong leader, but she can’t follow you if you don’t know where you want to go. On the other hand, we need to retain some space within ourselves for spontaneity to respond to the actual physical and mental state of our young horse on any given day.

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.

Multiple Hitching with One Set of Lines

Multiple Hitching with One Set of Lines

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A great deal of interest has been shown the last several years in using multiple hitches in horse farming, especially in spring fieldwork. The question often asked is how to keep it simple and easy in driving and assembling the hitch as far as lines are concerned. We demonstrated our method at the Horse Progress Days at Mt. Hope, Ohio in 2003 and have been asked numerous times how we drove four, six and eight-horse hitches using only two lines.

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.

Horse Breeding

This is an excerpt from Horse Breeding by M.W. Harper, a Dept. of Agriculture Bulletin from January 1928. In breeding horses the perfection of the animals selected should be carefully considered. Occasionally stallions are selected on the basis of their pedigree. Such practice may prove disappointing, for many inferior individuals are recorded merely because such […]

On The Anatomy of Thrift Fat & Slat

On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 3: Fat & Salt

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. Fat & Salt is the third and final video in the series. It is the conceptual conclusion to the illustrated, narrated story that weaves throughout the entire series, and deals instructionally in the matters of preserving pork.

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 1

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The practical everyday working of horses and mules in harness has always been at the heart of what the Small Farmer’s Journal is about. And like the Journal, a good horse powered farm keeps the horses at the center: the working nucleus of the farm. All the tractive effort for the pulling of machines, hauling in of crops, hauling out of manures, harvesting and planting is done as much as is practicable with the horses.

Plant Poisoning in Horses & Cattle

Plant Poisoning in Horses & Cattle

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There are hundreds of plants that can be toxic to livestock. Some grow in specific regions while others are more widespread. Some are always a serious danger and others only under certain conditions. Poisoning of livestock depends on several factors, including palatability of the plant, stage of development, conditions in which they grew, moisture content of the plant and the part eaten.

The Broodmare in Fall

The Broodmare in Fall

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Mares are not the major emphasis in the fall since they have performed their task of foaling, lactating and being re-bred. After foals are weaned, most breeders tend to focus on weanlings and yearlings that are being prepared for shows, sales and/or performance in the case of long yearlings. Fall management of broodmares is far more critical than some breeders realize and can directly impact foaling and re-breeding successes next year.

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.

Littlefield Notes Making Your Horses Work For You Part 2

LittleField Notes: Making Your Horses Work For You Part 2

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Every beginning horse farmer at some point will find himself in need of procuring that first team. After land, this is certainly one of the most critical purchasing decisions you will make in the development of the farm. The animals you choose can make your farming glow and hum with moments of blissful certainty, or contribute to frustration, bewilderment, loss of resolve, and God forbid, horses and people hurt and machines wrecked.

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

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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.

Ask A Teamster Horse Don't Won't Can't Turn

Ask A Teamster: Horse Don’t, Won’t, Can’t Turn

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.

Livestock Guardians

Introducing Your Guard Dog To New Livestock And Other Dogs

When you introduce new animals to an established herd or flock, you should observe your dog’s reactions and behavior for a few days. Since he will be curious anyway, it is a good idea to introduce him to the new animals while he is leashed or to place the new animals in a nearby area.

Living With Horses

Living With Horses

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The French breed of Ardennes is closer to what the breed has been in the past. The Ardennes has always been a stockier type of horse, rude as its environment. Today the breed has dramatically changed into a real heavy horse. If the Ardennes had an average weight between 550 and 700kg in the first part of the last century, the balance shows today 1000kg and more. Thus the difference between the Ardennes and their “big” sisters, the Brabants in Belgium, or the Trait du Nord in France, has gone.

Cultivating Questions The Cost of Working Horses

Cultivating Questions: The Cost of Working Horses

Thanks to the many resources available in the new millennium, it is relatively easy for new and transitioning farmers to learn the business of small-scale organic vegetable production. Economic models of horse-powered market gardens, however, are still few and far between. To fill that information hole, I asked three experienced farmers to join me in tracking work horse hours, expenses and labor over a two-year period and to share the results in the Small Farmer’s Journal.

"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