There were two irrigated fields, adjacent to one another, and totally 25 to 30 acres. With only a couple of minor mechanical adjustments we mowed pretty much uninterrupted (except for water breaks and photo ops) and finished the job in under 3 hours. (For those of you who are interested in the applied math: These outfits can cover 9 to 10 acres each in one day. Using 9 as an average that means these 5 mowers can drop 135 acres of hay in three days.) Mike told me that when the hay was ready Nick would spend a six hour day with forecart and rake just ahead of the baler.
When my friend and mentor, the late Addie Funk, first started helping me with my horses, he suggested that we get rid of my halter ropes with snaps and braid lead ropes on to all the halters permanently. Actually as I think about it, it was more than a suggestion. Knowing him, he probably just braided the new ropes on, confident that anyone with any sense would be pleased with the improvement. In any case, when the task was completed I clearly remember him saying to me, “Now nobody will turn a horse loose around here with a halter on.”
Saturday night I had just come in from playing basketball, and I was sitting on the porch eating watermelon. I was covered in sweat and watermelon juice and was planning on taking a shower as soon as I finished. Joy came out on the porch to tell me that I had a phone call. I said hello and heard, “Hello, Dr. Tharakan here. Just you get ready for a long trip. There is one elephant out of control near Kotayam. So, you just get ready and be at your guest house gate.” Click.
Once upon a time, I asked my country cousin, Murray Clapp, “Why do you make maple syrup?” He shrugged and said positively, “How would you know it’s spring if you didn’t make maple syrup?” Growing up in Western Massachusetts I always new it was spring when my parents took my sisters and me to the Hilltowns to breathe the maple scented air, watch the sugaring process and taste the unique, sweet syrup.
When we first sheared our sheep, we were at a loss as to what to do with the wool. Unwilling to throw it away, we shoved it into a pillowcase under the bed until winter brought time for projects. We looked into buying a spinning wheel, but the prices were far outside of our range. I had read that the first “Saxony Wheel” was made in the 1500s by a woodcarver who undoubtedly had fewer resources than I do, even with my simple shop and few tools. Then, he had to invent the thing from the ground up, shooting in the dark, while I could look and copy from spinning wheels in the neighborhood. I am somewhat mechanically inclined, about average as a handyman, and I was able to come up with a design that is simple to build, simple and dependable to use, and takes up almost no space in the house.
Arriving at Higher Biddacott Farm, after driving through the quiet enclosed lanes which wind their way up and down the hills of North Devon, you could be forgiven for thinking that nothing much happens here. But Higher Biddacott is a hive of purposeful activity, with horses coming and going, dogs running about, and people arriving for Bed and Breakfast, or to enjoy the Devon landscape from the back of a horsedrawn wagon.
The woods are full of horses. A team of Suffolks pulls up to the landing with a load of logs, as a team of Percherons leaves with an empty scoot. Soft bells announce the arrival of a single Belgian, twitching out another log to be bucked into 8-foot lengths and forwarded to the pulp yard. In moments when the chainsaws fall silent, leaving only the sound of bells and hooves and the calls of the teamsters, this could be a forest scene from a hundred years ago.
Decaying vegetable matter, a uniform and rather low temperature, a uniform supply of moisture, – these are the general requisites for Mushroom-growing. The decaying matter is supplied by horse manure. The manure is allowed to heat and is turned several times before it is placed in the bed. The heating itself is probably of no advantage except as it contributes to the decay of the material: heat can be supplied by other means if necessary. The broken and decaying manure is placed a few inches or a foot deep in beds. When the temperature is reduced to 90 degrees or less the spawn is planted. As soon as the bed has cooled sufficiently, it is covered with earth or litter to regulate the temperature and moisture.
Some of the cattle we raise become such characters that we consider them part of the family. Norman was definitely in that category. She had a rough start in life but quickly became a sassy, independent critter that really didn’t consider herself a bovine.
“Caaaty, come get your feeed. Caty! Caaty!” I rattle the milk pail. At last I spy her on the far side of the field with a sigh of relief. At least she is still in the field this time. With only three strands of barb-less wire to keep her in, she doesn’t hesitate to take off on a jaunt through the woods when the electricity is not pulsating through it.
Coming to more recent times, we might visit a pair of small farmers to whom we owe much. Luther Burbank (1849-1926) and George Washington Carver (1864-1943), were both known for their practical plant and crop innovations. Both have been viewed with skepticism by agricultural academics, dismissed as scientific amateurs since neither kept meticulous notes or conducted formal experiments. Both were too busy garnering practical results. Perhaps their backgrounds will suggest why.
When a pair of calves is carefully chosen to become an Ox Team they should be housed together, fed and watered together, yolked together, and exercised together from the get-go. There are as many training methods as there are teamsters. Like children, love and patience produce the best results. A willing team is a joy to work with for many years.
The fourth annual Happ’s Horse Power Days proved to be a weekend of “dreams come true.” The event was expanded this year as we make steps toward building the event into something “bigger and better” for both the competitors and the spectators. We want to provide additional challenges for teamsters and their horses, as well as the opportunity to show what they can accomplish together. We hope to help the public learn about breeds of horses, types of plows and other horse-powered equipment, and bring generations who have drifted so far away from working the land a little closer to understanding what it means to those of us who still follow that way of life.
Working the land was one thing, but this arrangement was something else entirely. Trusting his nephew to care for this land and keep it in the family as it had been for a century — and grounding his faith in Daddy’s hard work and affection for this place — Uncle William set a transition in motion. It wouldn’t be a gift. Daddy would have to buy the farm, and he and Mama would need to take out a serious loan to do it. But they’d work out these details later. Another matter needed to be settled first.
We were most fortunate to be able to see and try the new White Horse Machine Leaf Spring Reset Plow at this year’s Auction. The Gap, Pennsylvania company has come up with a most important innovation permitting its riding plow to trip with an obstruction and then reset itself once the obstruction is passed. This is made possible with the ingenious flat spring that bows upwards to allow the jointed plow beam to swing back until the underground obstruction is passed.