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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

Field Weeds and Street Boys

Field Weeds and Street Boys

from Marian Hungerford, of North Cameroun, Africa

I was working alone, at the office, Memorial Day, when I received a call from our old friend, and hero, Marian Hungerford of North Cameroun. She came back to Oregon for successful health care and is returning to Africa in late July. We chatted away and she told me of her campaign to plant ‘field weeds’ to regain food self-sufficiency. She talked about Amaranth (what we call Pigweed) as the ancient gold standard of grains. The story was on phone time, which means we kept tripping over our own thoughts and observations, but I did get a chance to ask her to send me the larger story in an email. What follows is that message. Marian is proof that giants are made from tight focus and unselfish work in close. When it comes to beneficial human beings, she is the gold standard. LRM

Dear Lynn,

My interest in farming, public health, and history is to help modern Camerounians not fall into the same traps as the United States. In medical history, for example: the United States used to have huge problems with yellow fever, malaria, leprosy, cholera, typhoid … and these diseases were mostly helped, the mortality went waaaay down, with improved hygiene and nutrition. And THEN when the mortality was descending dramatically, antibiotics and the modern pharmaceutical industry was invented. In Cameroun, improving hygiene and nutrition is an individual family free choice that usually is less expensive than illness, transport, clinical consultation, pharmacy purchases, down time from work …

The ancient Sao kingdom — an empire of giants so it is said — occupied the east side of Lake Chad. Their genetics have influenced the height of various ethnic groups down the river tributary systems of Lake Chad. I am most familiar with the modern folks south of Lake Chad along the Chari and Logone rivers. In many of these ethnic groups, unlike the skinny, tall basketball players of eastern Africa, these are hefty, solid, over six feet tall people, men as well as women. In a not amusing incident, using my double cab pickup truck as an ambulance, one of these tall men needed to get to the hospital (80 miles north). He couldn’t lay down on the back seat, couldn’t lay down in the pickup bed, couldn’t lay down in the pick up bed diagonally, couldn’t lay down with the tail gate open. We finally had to put a piece of plywood under him to support his heels. At the hospital it took several benches to extend the hospital bed length so he could lie comfortably during treatment. One of the ethnic groups places a cultural value toward seeking and marrying women over 6 feet tall.

When I teach nutrition, one of the rhetorical questions I ask and that we answer is: What did the mama Sao feed her baby so that he/she grew to be 6 foot and more tall? What is good food then and now to feed strong big children? Turns out the foods of north Cameroun are some of the nutritionally best in the world, and those same foods are the cheapest on the market, and easiest to store from one crop season to another.

But we have a BIG problem. Some of these traditional foods are being made extinct by modern cotton poisons especially herbicide. GMO cotton and soybean plantations liberally spray fields (and all areas next to their own fields). Enterprising farmers then use the same herbicide and pesticide and fertilizer to farm any crop.

Field Weeds and Street Boys

Small-spotted Genet indigenous to Africa.

What happens? The traditional field weeds have disappeared. Example: Amaranth is the most widely used sauce leaf in the world, appearing in traditional historical recipes on all continents. Amaranth in the United States is called Pig Weed or Red Root. Harvesting and drying the young leaves yields a high nutrition, readily available additive or main ingredient for food preparation. The Aztecs of Mexico discovered that the seeds of Amaranth rivaled any cereal for taste and nutrition. When Amaranth seeds are ground (not into flour but into paste) they yield a super food that supported the growth and health of the Sao. And has done so, historically, on at least two continents in antiquity. Bob’s Red Mill sells Amaranth seed, which in a test last week yielded about 80% sprouting between damp paper towels in my kitchen. So lots of life in the seeds for planting. Mixing 1/3 amaranth butter and 2/3 peanut butter yields a wonderful trail food or school snack still valued in north Cameroun by those in the know. Eat it with a clean forefinger digging into the paste.

Amaranth is only one of the now rare field weeds, but I only know the other weeds using the local language equivalent, so it would be difficult to see if it is available. For instance, Tasba is not known under that name in America.

So, our farming system to feed hungry street boys is to have them farm “weeds”. As we have all experienced, weeds are perfectly adapted to their climate, are robust and need no fertilizer nor any of the insecticides to enhance a good crop. Because we are aiming for long term diversified permaculture (this is a Shea native tree area), we needed some very quick marketable crops while we wait for the trees to mature. These field weeds intentionally farmed have a ready market in the big city 5 km north.

So voila, an immediate money maker that is also immediately edible by farming weeds. Who would have thought it !? All the American gardening effort to combat Pig Weed, and we will be sowing the seed and weeding the weeds, and taking the bundles of stalks to the city market where homemakers are hunting for these traditional plants to cook.

We are planting lots of Moringa trees for the above reasons. Moringa is a native tree that grows wild from Senegal east to Pakistan along the drier Sahel area. I could deliver a long rant on United Nations policy that feeds soy to malnourished Camerounian children when Moringa is widely available and has 4 times the protein. The rhetorical question is, why would the UN feed soy when Moringa is cheaper, better, and widely available? Answering that question gets us deep into awful politics, the politics of changing free independent farmers into peasant serf agriculturalists.

On pilgrimage,
Marian Hungerford
(40 years farming in north Cameroun and southern Chad)

Spotlight On: Book Reviews

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

A Short History of the Horse-Drawn Mower

Book Excerpt: The enclosed gear, late model John Deere, Case, Oliver, David Bradley, and McCormick Deering International mowers I (we) are so fond of had a zenith of popular manufacture and use that lasted just short of 25 years. Millions of farmers with millions of mowers, built to have a serviceable life of 100 plus years, all pushed into the fence rows. I say, it was far too short of a period.

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.

How To Prune a Formal Hedge

How To Prune A Formal Hedge

This guide to hedge-trimming comes from The Pruning Answer Book by Lewis Hill and Penelope O’Sullivan. Q: What’s the correct way to shear a formal hedge? A: The amount of shearing depends upon the specific plant and whether the hedge is formal or informal. You’ll need to trim an informal hedge only once or twice a year, although more vigorous growers, such as privet and ninebark, may need additional clippings.

A Quiet Stand

A Quiet Stand

Burnout is common to idealists who invest deeply in their dreams. It is easy to overreach, and promise more than you have to give. Then too there is that tempered hidden anchor called hope, the mountain climber’s friend driven into cracks to belay and secure him as he goes, which still may fail first or last. So following the story that underlies these essays it is not hard to see how, as Kingsnorth says, finding himself increasingly mired in endless meetings with corporate spokesmen paid to resist him, enough futile effort might lead to despair.

"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.

Stories of Ranch Life

Stories of Ranch Life

Throughout Thomas’ stories the reader will feel the importance of the human relationship to the land and animals, but also the value of family. “Lynn and I chose ranching because we wanted to raise cattle and horses, but soon discovered that a ranch is also the best place to raise children. Some of our kid’s first memories are of feeding cows. They went along with us as babies because mama had to drive the jeep.”

Art of Working Horses Another Review

Art of Working Horses – Another Review

by:
from issue:

One could loosely say this is a “how-to” book but it is more of an “existential” how-to: how to get yourself into a way of thinking about the world of working horses. Maybe we need to explain what a working horse is. A working horse is one, in harness, given to a specific task. So, in that context, the book illustrates the many ways Miller has worked with his equine partners over the years – helping them understand what he wants them to do, as both work together to create relationships that help achieve desired goals.

McCormick Deering/International No 7 vs no 9

McCormick Deering/International: No. 7 versus No. 9

McCormick Deering/International’s first enclosed gear model was the No. 7, an extremely successful and highly popular mower of excellent design.

Art of Working Horses

Lynn Miller’s New Book: Art of Working Horses

Art of Working Horses, by Lynn R. Miller, follows on the heels of his other eight Work Horse Library titles. This book tells the inside story of how people today find success working horses and mules in harness, whether it be on farm fields, in the woods, or on the road. Over 500 photos and illustrations accompany an anecdote-rich text which makes a case for the future of true horsepower.

How To Prune

From Dusty Shelves: Pruning Guide from 1917

Posts

Driving Fence Posts By Hand

Where the soil is soft, loose, and free from stone, posts may be driven more easily and firmly than if set in holes dug for the purpose.

One Seed To Another: The New Small Farming

One Seed to Another

One Seed to Another is staggering and bracing in its truths and relevance. This is straight talk from a man whose every breath is poetry and whose heartbeat is directly plugged into farming as right livelihood.

Basic Blacksmithing Techniques

Illustrated guide to basic blacksmithing techniques, an excerpt from Blacksmithing: Basics For The Homestead.

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.

McCormick-Deering No 7 Mower Manual in English & French

McCormick-Deering No. 7 Mower Manual in English & French

Instructions for Setting Up and Operating the McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 VERTICAL LIFT TWO-HORSE MOWERS — Instructions pour le Montage et le Fonctionnement des FAUCHEUSES A DEUX CHEVAUX McCORMICK-DEERING No. 7 À RELEVAGE VERTICAL

Build Your Own Earth Oven

An Introduction To Cob

Mixed with sand, water, and straw, a clayey-subsoil will dry into a very hard and durable material; indeed, it was the first, natural “concrete”. In the Americas, we call it “adobe”, which is originally from the Arabic “al-toba”, meaning “the brick.” Invading Moors brought the word to Spain from North Africa, where an ancient mud building tradition continues today.

Woodstove Cookery at Home on the Range

An Illustrated Guide To The Wood Fired Cookstove

Illustrated guide to the wood stove and it’s accoutrements.

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

Laying Out Fields for Plowing

There are four general plans, or methods of plowing fields. These are: (1) to plow from one side of a field to the other; (2) to plow around the field; (3) to plow a field in lands; and (4) to start the plowing in the center of the field.

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