Fjordworks Primary Tillage at Cedar Mountain Farm Part 3
Fjordworks Primary Tillage at Cedar Mountain Farm Part 3

Fjordworks: Primary Tillage at Cedar Mountain Farm Part 3

by Stephen Leslie with technical assistance and generally sound advice from Kerry Gawalt — both of Cedar Mountain Farm at Cobb Hill co-housing in Hartland, VT



“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bands.” — Thomas Jefferson

When young Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence for the Thirteen Colonies he included a rather curious phrase, quite unlike any other in the annals of the heretofore printed “Rights of Man.” He declared that all persons had the inalienable right, under the auspices of a benevolent Creator, to the pursuit of happiness. From this we may then draw the conclusion that it is our civic duty to secure that the freedom of this pursuit be extended to all citizens. Within the text of this hallowed document, Jefferson did not see fit to qualify that “happiness,” he simply felt sure that some form of it was something we each should have the freedom to seek.

However, it is easy to infer that this bold humanistic Deist writing in the age of enlightenment brought an element of a transcendental moral ethic to his conception of happiness. Jefferson’s vision of happiness was fueled by the concept that there is an inherent moral order to the universe of which the farmer, because of his or her close contact to the land, is especially apprised. Based on the merit of his own example, we may assert that for Jefferson, a true happiness is sourced out of a clear and active conscience. For Jefferson, freedom of conscience was an absolute value — the basis for the nonsectarian guarantee of freedom of worship and the real “power” behind the right to vote.

I think most of us Westerners really resent it when we first encounter the Buddha’s first precept on the nature of the human condition, in which he states that to exist is to suffer. We resent it because it undercuts all vestiges of the romantic notions we have concerning the cultural fulfillment we expect to attain as civilized persons in the “developed world.” Raised as we are in a society of entitlement where much of the content of our schooling and all of the advertisement we are exposed to promise us that if we just have the right education so that we can get the good job and wear the correct clothing, then we can attain access to buy anything we want… even, or most especially — happiness.

But is this type of material-based obsession really what the author of the Declaration had in mind? This was a person whose vision of a new Eden included having the majority of free-persons actively engaged in the stewardship of the land as small farmers. His vision was of a nation comprised of small agrarian communities, decentralized and largely self-governing. Therefore, to insure the freedom to pursue happiness would be to provide access to arable land for every citizen. In Jefferson’s ideal the collective health of the soils and the real wealth of the nation would thereby be perennially safeguarded. Moreover, to create sustainable modes of working the land implies a stewardship that honors the balance of Mother Earth. This kind of stewardship recommends a happiness born of honest hard work and fair trading. Respect and gratitude toward all life is then foremost in the hearts and minds of the good steward.

Jefferson’s vision of happiness was predicated on the conceptual framework of a republic in which every participant was to be a freeholder of productive farmland. Clearly in his mind two essential components to our happiness were to be found by establishing a profound connection to land and to community. By his upholding of the ideal Democracy as one composed of communities of small farmers, Jefferson posits that our source of happiness is linked to our livelihood, and that right livelihood is found in the nexus of our relationship to each other and to the land. Connection to the land makes stability possible. Without stability we have a diminished capacity for committed relationships and less potential to truly love. Ultimately, it is the power of our love that sustains the land.

Fjordworks Primary Tillage at Cedar Mountain Farm Part 3


After plowing and then spreading the fields with compost, the next step in our method of primary tillage is to roll out the disc-harrows. The disc harrows have traditionally followed the plow because they do an excellent job of breaking up any clods and of further turning and incorporating any surface trash that might not have been fully turned by the moldboard. The weight of the disc also has a leveling effect on the soil in preparation for seeding. Disc-harrows began to be widely manufactured and distributed in the first decade of the twentieth century. Early advertisements for disc models extolled their ability to “pulverize” soils. This description might disturb the sensibilities of the present day adherents of sustainable agriculture, but the scale and the speed and the relative “pulverizing” capability of a single gang horse drawn harrow is actually quite mellow in comparison to the action of practically any tractor drawn tillage tool. At a fast walk the horses are traveling at 3 mph — that’s fast enough for me.

I got the disc-harrow we currently use about ten years ago from the monks of the Weston Priory in Weston, Vermont who had it stored in a Quonset hut. This disc is a horse drawn 6 ft single gang disc equipped with a seat for the driver. I don’t know the manufacturer, but the basic design is similar to many models from the first half of the last century. It is old enough that it has grease ports instead of grease points. It has a total of twelve discs, with each disc having a diameter of 16″. The discs are concave and outward facing and are evenly spaced on two axles set in a single line when in transport. It has spring-loaded foot pedals to engage blades which are set next to the back half of each disc. These blades will clear the discs of sticky clods or gummy soil while in transit. The seat is set at a balance point just behind the discs when they are closed in travel mode — and then is poised just above the rear of the “V” formation when the discs are opened to their most aggressive setting. There are two hand levers in front of the driver for setting the angle of the discs. The driver’s feet rest upon a 5 ft frame. Perpendicular and central to this frame is welded the channel iron which holds the tongue. Set above each disc axle is a weight pan to allow for deeper tilling as desired. The action of each disc is to slice and turn the soil as it passes.

This particular disc had been under cover since the last time it was used back in the early 1960’s. Back in those times the monks of Weston had managed a small dairy farm with the help of a team of chunk horses and some local men. Up until the time it was retired the disc was probably still being drawn by horses and had not been modified for tractor. There was no apparent means for hitching directly to a clevis or draw bar, only an extension of channel iron with three equally spaced holes, so I was reasonably certain that the hitch assembly was designed to take a tongue. I put a new tongue on it and tried it out. I had already used a similar disc with a mule team on the ranch in Idaho where Kerry and I worked for a year. Then, I had quickly decided to get off the seat and walk behind the thing before I got bounced off. Although we had done a measure of plowing with our antique single horse plow pulled by the mules, most of the working up of our garden site had been kindly done by a neighbor on his big green tractor. At the time I had concluded that the tractor was scaled too big for the horse drawn disc to follow. But I found that even when riding the disc to follow our own Pioneer plow in our Vermont market garden I had the same experience — too bumpy for me and I was also quite worried about the side-to-side shimmying of the tongue potentially whacking the horse’s legs. I tried walking behind the disc like I had done in Idaho but trotting behind fresh spring horses over newly turned ground soon wore me out.

Finally, I fashioned a draw bar out of some salvaged steel and towed the disc behind the forecart. This arrangement worked out just fine. I wondered if the original disc-harrow set-up included a tongue-truck of some sort. Many older catalogs picture discs with trucks — some towing directly behind the double-tree and others outfitted with a tongue. By towing the disc behind the fore cart most of the shimmying of the tongue was transferred and the jarring of the rider was minimal. The only drawback was that I had to climb down off the cart to access the lever handles to set the disc. I had extra long driving lines so I could still keep a hold of them while I was on the ground, but I was working with a team of young horses, so climbing down off the fore cart in the middle of the field for any reason was enough to give me the jitters.

A few years before I started taking the horses out on the disc I was working with a team of young mares. Kerry and I got into a very bad runaway and wreck with those mares during a training session on a stoneboat. A couple of years later, having all recovered from that incident, we were moving forward as a working unit. I had an old mechanical spreader and we were using it as a receptacle for rock picking in the spring. I got to the point where I felt I could trust the horses to stand while I got off the cart and scoured the garden for the latest crop of stone. Later on in the summer, I had the same team of young mares on the forecart pulling a section of spike-toothed harrow. I got off the cart, out of the reach of the lines, to set the teeth. I don’t know if a fly bit her or she just got a notion, but all of a sudden the younger mare took a step. I called out “whoa” but she took another step and then her teammate got drawn in and in the next moment they were running. I ran after them and, like some cowboy hero in the Saturday afternoon picture show I tried to jump onto the stagecoach, but half way onto the cart I slipped and was pitched forward and my head and neck and shoulder were run over by the rubber tire. Fortunately the ground was soft and I was pressed down into it. Even more fortunate was that the snap holding the chain holding the harrow to the cart had busted in all the jostling — so I didn’t get run over by the section of harrow.

By the time I picked myself up and removed the soil samples from my ears eyes, nose, and throat, the horses had run half way around the field and stopped, put their heads down, and commenced to eating the grass in the lane. Looking like Quasimodo’s poor cousin, I limped and dragged myself over to where they stood. I climbed aboard the cart and drove them back to the barn. Ever since that time, and even now with a seasoned and trusted team, I do not leave my horses standing unattended in the field.

When using a single gang of discs the resulting passes will tend to leave a hummock in the middle, which is alleviated in a double gang disc set up because the front and back gangs then turn the soil in opposing directions with a resultant swath of leveled soil behind. After a couple of seasons of using the single gang horse drawn disc, I discovered that if I followed a pattern of asking the off-horse (horse on the right) to walk in the left hand swath of the previous pass so that the forecart tongue aligns with the outer edge, we could thereby mitigate this hummock or ridging effect and leave a much more level surface behind. This method of patterning effectively means a double discing equivalent to a double disc gang is accomplished. It takes more time to disc a section this way but the improved results are certainly worth the trouble.

With all the tillage implements and the row cultivator we follow a basic pattern of taking a first pass down the middle of the section to be worked, turning right at the bottom and then turning right to come up the outside edge of the section. Next we turn right again onto the further side of the first middle pass — and the pattern is set. However, the next section we do, or the next time the horses come out, we’ll start by making left turns instead of all right ones. This serves to keep both horses sharp and avoids the risk of repetitive stress injury for the horse on the inside of the turn.

With the loose friable nature of our soil, the discing is usually sufficient to break up clods, bury trash, and level the soil prior to final seed bed preparation. There are times however, when we find it necessary to follow the disc with the spring-tine harrow. In the spring, once the horses are back in shape, we will disc as much as two acres in a session at the rate of about one hour/ acre. Discing freshly plowed soil seems to be about the hardest pull we ask of our horses in the market garden. They need to stand and blow every dozen passes or so and will work up a briney sweat. Even so, it is a steady and repetitive job tracing the same pattern of consecutive passes around the field — honest work for the work horse and they seem to enjoy it.

After the big push of preparing the garden at the outset, we employ the disc throughout the season to incorporate cover crops, cover the broadcast seed of new cover crops on rougher ground, prepare space for succession crops, and finally, at the end of the season, some sections will be manured and disced before the ground freezes.

The first year that we tried field stacking our compost in the garden the disc-harrows came into play as a useful tool for remediation of the soil after the pile was removed. When we first turned the pile over to the next section in the early spring, I was aghast at the mosh-pit of tractor tracks and compacted muck that was left behind. I resolutely skim-plowed the ground with the team on the riding plow, then broadcast a thick sowing of rye and we worked the seed in with a single pass over the whole with the disc harrows. The resultant rye stand was thick and shone a predictably bright green. Towards the end of June we plowed the rye down deep with the walking plow. Next we returned with the disc and followed it with the flex harrow which was dragged over the field several times over the next three weeks to break up clods, knock out weed blooms, and create a finished seed bed. Finally in mid-July, we transplanted out the fall cabbage, broccoli and cauliflower. The seed bed was deep and friable and felt completely repaired. It is said that the roots of a mature stand of rye can penetrate as much as 30 ft if the depth to parent-rock allows for it. It is 60’ down to shale in the middle of our garden site. In actuality, even in full season cover cropping we’ve never seen that quantity of root mass, but what we do get a considerable growth of roots ten to twelve inches long and tons of organic bio-mass at plow down.

After transplanting the brassica, the rain fell without cease (13 inches in the month of July). I had been concerned that we might have excessive nutrients in this section and that this might cause the plants to be all leaf and little flower. Perhaps the unusually heavy rains leached nutrients away. The rain continued until mid-August when the weather pattern finally broke and we got a “normal” late season dry spell. By harvest time, the broccoli and cauliflower heads were as wide as dinner plates and the cabbages were as big as bowling balls.

After discing, the next step in primary tillage is to work the ground with some kind of drag harrow to create a seed bed suitable for direct seeding or transplanting. Formerly we employed a couple of sections of spike-tooth harrow for this task, but then we switched to using a flex (pasture) harrow to do the job, finding that the flex harrow smoothed and pressed the soil a little more efficiently.

For marking out the rows in the garden we use homemade human-drawn row markers. We’ll set out the first row with stakes and a string and mark off from there with either a marker set at 32″ or 1’ depending on the crop. The row markers look like Stone Age rakes, with a cedar post for the cross piece and sections of rebar for the teeth. It is important to make the rows straight for horse drawn (or mechanical) cultivation.

We started out using the very basic and economical Earthway seeder for all our direct seeding needs. Later on we upgraded to the more expensive and well-built Planet Junior seeder. But in actuality we have found ourselves still drawn to using the humble little Earthway. It is simple, functional, and has very user-friendly system for changing out the seeding plates.

In summary, we accomplish the primary tillage in our three-and-a-half acre market garden by starting out with either the Pioneer walking plow purchased new for $350.00 or with the antique Syracuse two-way riding plow purchased for $450.00. We could get by with just one plow but enjoy the versatility of tillage depth we get from having the two. We follow the plow down with a vintage 40 bushel ground-driven spreader which we have on long term loan. We follow spreading with an antique single gang disc harrow which was donated to the farm. We create a final seed bed with two sections of flex harrow purchased used at a bargain for $140.00. On occasion, we do some supplemental tillage with an ancient section of spring-tine (also known as spring-tooth) harrow purchased for $50.00. We could probably improve our seed bed preparation with a culti-packer to level the ground and make better soil contact for seeds and transplants but currently we do without one.

Our primary tillage is done with a team of horses, a Pioneer forecart which was purchased new in 1998 for $600.00 and four implements. Add in a row marker, a seeder, a single horse cultivator, and assorted hand tools — and the horse powered market garden has its basic tool kit in place.

Fjordworks Primary Tillage at Cedar Mountain Farm Part 3


When we first arrived at the horse and mule ranch in northern Idaho in the autumn of 1995 to assume our duties as caretakers, there was a horse-logger working on the premises by name of Rick Wood. Rick was from Missouri farm stock but had gotten himself an education and become an osteopathic surgeon. He had worked among indigenous communities up in Alaska, but at thirty-six years of age he up and quit his practice to become a professional horse logger. At the time we met him he had two teams of working Belgians who traveled to job sites on a homemade trailer built upon the flatbed of a two-ton truck. Rick worked mostly for private landowners who were interested in having a low-impact selective harvest of their timber land. He also had an earnest interest in wildlife enhancement and always looked to spare trees that provided habitat, as well as taking the time to carefully construct all the tops of felled trees into cairns for housing small critters. His wife, Shannon, was a nurse, but when she wasn’t working at the hospital she would be out at the job sites. It was in watching this tough little woman, who weighed all of one-hundred and ten pounds, drive the Belgians down the skid trail with confidence and ease, that I realized that physical strength had very little to do with being an effective teamster once one was working with a truly trained team of horses.

The following summer I had the opportunity to work for a solid week with Rick up in the woods when he returned to the ranch to do another selective cutting of Ponderosa Pines. At that time, Rick lamented the accelerated rate at which the big trees were disappearing from the general market due to the rapacious over-cutting of the giant timber companies. Rick gave me an opportunity to refine my skills with a saw and more importantly, to take up the lines of his team. Rick would get the felled trees out to the skid trail and then let me drive the team down to the landing and unhook the logs and drive back up again, while he continued felling the selected trees. I was thrilled at the opportunity to drive a well-settled team and I learned a lot about what a person should be able to reasonably expect from a fully-employed horse. For me it was like a glimpse into the future, and a tonic of encouragement as I grasped a vision of the possible.

Like many young men, I was convinced that my body was indestructible and that I would live forever, so I did not have much in the way of protective gear for working with a chainsaw. Rick insisted that I wear a pair of Kevlar chaps, and as I didn’t own any, he gave me an old pair he had kicking around on the truck. Well, wouldn’t you know but I hadn’t been at it more than ten minutes limbing a big old tree that he’d felled, when I laid that saw blade right on top of my thigh and ripped right into that Kevlar until the saw choked on it. I might of bled out before I could have been driven to the hospital if not for those chaps — if not for Rick. Needless to say, I strap a pair of chaps on now any time I have occasion to be in the woods with a saw.

On the afternoon of the last day I was working with Rick I was down at the landing decking logs with a peavey. Rick had advised me to be careful because, “Those logs can really jump on you.” And sure enough, I was trying to leverage a log on top of the pile when one end suddenly dropped and the other popped up and took some bark off my forearm and busted my middle finger. In those days I pretty much would’ve had to about sawed my leg off before I’d go see a doctor. We slapped some tape on that broken finger and it healed crooked. But after all, what are such scars if not reminders to pay attention and the fodder of the “war stories” each one of us has to tell.

Rick was of the school of thought that advocates for no blinders on the workhorse. He held that it was important for his horse’s safety that they see everything that was going on around and behind them in the woods. He did concede that the case might be different for the agricultural horse working in the open field. In this light, I have been repeatedly struck by how diverse are the approaches of many accomplished teamsters, with some holding to practices that are diametrically opposed to those of others — a wide array of styles for harnessing, hitching, and handling — and yet all seem to be able to make these diverse approaches function well in their unique situation. There are some who only ever use geldings, some who swear by their very lives upon the superiority of mares. I suppose all this ultimately points to the adaptability of the equine species, always ready to make the best of whatever we humans throw at them.

Last time we saw Rick and Shannon was out at their ranch. Rick had purchased a perfectly preserved antique hay loader and was busy turning his logging horses into farm horses too. We still correspond occasionally, and they are still all about working their big Belgian drafts. Rick’s last words of advice to us on working with horses were as follows; “The more you work with them the better they get.”

Fjordworks Primary Tillage at Cedar Mountain Farm Part 3


We live in anxious and uncertain times and those of us who are living with our ears close to the ground are hungering for change and we grow impatient. But everything we need to know is right before our eyes and written upon the face of the land beneath our feet. This land can heal and awaken us and we in turn can heal and help to awaken the land, remembering that it has been hurt, too, remembering that it has longings and memories, too, remembering that the land, just like ourselves, has undreamed of and latent potentialities buried within it, a nascent and renewable fertility of possibilities and that we can become the midwives to the birthing of that new ground.

We might think that we “own” this land — but from the perspective of the land we are but fleeting visitors and, viewed through that lens, our tenure here, even all our works and our buildings, are quite temporary and all our fixed boundaries measured with GPS satellites are utterly meaningless. All we can do is seize our moment and live to the fullest our days within the ever shifting ever changing and virtually timeless geologic memory that the body of this earth contains. And the very best that we can do is to let ourselves BE OWNED BY THE LAND.

Some say the revolution is dead, but every sustainable small farmer, and every citizen that supports the local food movement with their hard-earned dollars, knows that the revolution is not over — it is just beginning. And this is not merely a revolution of ideas, this is a revolution of taking back our power — of taking back our land — of taking back our God-given right and responsibility to be good stewards of the soil.

Abundance is a natural state, but never a fixed one; the gift must remain in motion to remain a gift. Our incredible technological feats will not save us as long as they stand in opposition to an ethos of interdependence. The small local and sustainable agriculture that we envision is not in opposition to the best of human ingenuity, rather it aims for the highest mark of that ingenuity by seeking to wed traditional knowledge to truly appropriate and human-scaled technology. Local sustainable agriculture is a community based “YES!” to an enlightened healthy future for humanity and a resounding “NO!” to a continuation of handing over our lives, our power, and our children’s future to a government sponsored corporate takeover of the most important means of production we have; the land beneath our feet.

Rebuilding local sustainable food systems doesn’t only serve to help solve our social and environmental dilemmas; it also helps to restore the torn fabric of our relationship to the living earth. And this gets to the root of how we got into such a mess in the first place. To heal ourselves and to rebuild a livable world for our children we must come back to an experiential and spiritual cognition of our absolute connectedness to the life of the soil. The operative word here is beauty. If children do not have an experience of the innate and primordial beauty of living systems how shall they ever be inspired to try and recreate beauty in their lives?

Rebuilding a local sustainable food system is the first step in a creative process of de-industrialization. It is a first and foundational movement towards a bio-regionally based re-structuring of society in which local self reliance extends beyond the food system to create sustainable light-industries that will provide the necessities of a new net-work of land-based inter-dependent eco-communities. We hope that the example of our farming situation in the midst of a co-housing community, while by no means perfect, might prove inspirational and informative to young and/or new farmers seeking to make a start.

In order to derive our physical sustenance from the land to the fullest extent possible — that is, to actually make our living off this land — we have to accept that within the value system of the current economy we are not going to be as well compensated for our labor as we would were we to seek employment in almost any other sector. Kerry and I are both intelligent and resourceful people and we know we could be making a lot more money doing almost anything else (like working as sustainable Ag consultants). But how do you put a value on finding something that gives meaning to your human life?

I think that maybe sometimes having the farmers in their midst can make people feel uncomfortable because in their guts they intuit that what the farmers are already doing is the same work that very soon everyone of us is going to have to be doing to some extent simply to survive — that the farmers aren’t just doing that work because they enjoy it, but also because they are on to something — that the peak oil party is over and soon enough the question won’t be, “Should we buy local food?” but rather, “What are we gonna eat?” Is this the political polemic of fear? No, it is precisely the politics of “What are we gonna eat?” It is the politics of prying our heads out of the sand.

Less than 2% of the American workforce is employed in agriculture (not counting all the homesteaders caring for their land and feeding their families beneath the radar of the USDA). The median age of those farmers is 63 — and even less than that 2% figure are actually gaining their entire household income from the farm — many of them work full or part-time on the farm and are also employed as nurses, truck drivers, home builders, etc., or have a spouse working off the farm to keep things afloat (to support their partner’s farming addiction).

It can be quite a challenge to be a small farmer in this decidedly non-agricultural modern society. The farmer finds himself out of step with the majority of his or her neighbors in every season, for instance come spring planting one feels as if every one else has lost their wits because the obvious and only task to be at in the farmer’s mind is the readying of the fields. It may smack of hubris, but when you are in tune with your senses as you head out to work the fields with your team of horses and you feel strength and energy renewing in your own limbs and the far greater strength and energy of the horses ready and willing to hurl themselves into the collar and the soil is awakening and is ready for the seed and then you look around and see most of your neighbors speeding off in their cars to go work inside little boxes punching out digits into even smaller boxes, well, that all seems a little sad and out of balance and even downright crazy.

I am not trying to say that every single human on the planet needs to be a farmer, but I do ardently believe that if we are to survive into any kind of livable future, that every single person needs to be intimately connected to sustainable agriculture — if not as a producer than as a consumer — and then perhaps as a researcher, marketer, technical assistant, health worker, advocate, educator, etc. And I declare this not only out of the purely practical necessity of the restoration and conservation of our soils — but also out of the need to safeguard the spiritual dimension of the human proposition. After all, how did we get into this mess of a degraded environment in the first place? Our alienation from the land — from that which truly sustains us — is surely part of our alienation from the fundamental values that give meaning to human life — values that can lead us to walk again on paths that increase life and love and shared abundance — all the elements of real happiness.

What the earth requires of each one of us now is that we become prophets of the soil. In Biblical terms the prophet is not one who predicts the future, but rather that one who sees with penetrating eyes into what is happening in the present in a way that nobody else seems to get, or if they do get it, the truth is too painful, indicates a demand for too much change, and so they choose instead to live in denial — blocking out the truth with a mass media generated cocktail of addictions. Moreover, the prophet not only glimpses this new reality present among us, but she is already making those behavioral changes necessary to adapt to the new paradigm — she is showing the way.

The United Nations has predicted that we will have a population of eight and a half billion people on the planet by 2030. In order to feed that many people it will be necessary to increase grain production by 30% and total food production by 50%. All of this comes at a time when in actuality we are losing arable soil worldwide at an unprecedented rate — and the wild card of climate change makes our capacity for food production even more unstable. In the face of this we have a choice between possible futures — a choice we can actively participate in right now with the work of our hands, the buying power of our dollars, and the persuasion of our right to vote.

The industrial model of agriculture is doomed to fail, and it is already and even now wreaking a holocaust of destruction upon our soil, animal, and human communities. Whether promulgated by fascist collectivization or by government subsidized free market policy — the devastation and dissolution of the family farm over the last 75 years has been undermining individual freedoms and human and planetary health worldwide. Now is the time for the new pioneers to step out and seek the pathways to a sustainable future worthy of the dignity of our true humanity. Even as we witness the unraveling of industrial agriculture, the hopeful green shoots that will replace it are already emerging: these constitute a return to local, largely self-reliant, land-based communities that stem from the “bio-regional” model of human organization.

The question is this; do you foresee a world of gigantic industrial megafarms churning out genetically engineered crops grown in a chemically saturated sponge within massive depopulated and corporate-state-run “agrarian zones” — or can you envision thousands upon thousands of small and vital and diversified farms populated, not by satellite controlled robotic megamachines, but by free citizens whose farms are at the center of their communities — each one rooted in its own particular climate and soil and history and rejuvenated local culture and economy and where there is room enough for the coexistence of humans and birds and fish and reptiles and animals and where the spirits of the ancestors are alive and honored in every place? How do we foster a sense of community that at the same time fosters a deeper sense of kinship with all that lives? How do we create a truly Community Supported Agriculture?




During the growing season of 2006 we kept a record of hours logged with our work horses. At the end of each work session we made note on a calendar hanging in the barn of the type of job done and the amount of time it took. The first notation was a discing session on April 11th. The final notation was a plowing session on November 21st. These start and finish dates seem fairly average for our locale. Some years we have got going as early as the last week of March, other years the cold and wet kept us out of the field until the end of April. Some years we have been frozen out of the garden in the first week of November, and other times have found us plowing in mid-December.

The record represents actual time working in the field and does not include grooming, harnessing, hitching beforehand or their inverse afterwards. In 2006 the market garden covered 3-1/2 acres. The only function performed by the tractor in the garden that year was using the bush-hog to clip cover crops and to mow down certain crops like broccoli or corn after harvest was complete. What are also not recorded here are the hundreds of human-power hours that went into seeding, weeding, hoeing, harvesting, etc. When vegetables are grown for market at this scale, what the customer receives is truly a hand-crafted product.

Implement: Disc harrow
Total hours: 9-1/2 hrs
No. of sessions: 13
Average time: 3/4 hr

Implement: Manure spreader
Total hours: 35 hrs
No. of sessions: 17
Average time: 2-1/2 hrs

Implement: Walking plow
Total hours: 12-1/2 hrs
No. of sessions: 11
Average time: 1 hr

Implement: Flex harrow (two sections pulled by team)
Total hours: 5 hrs
No. of sessions: 8
Average time: 3/4 hr

Implement: Single horse cultivator
Total hours: 25-1/2 hrs
No. of sessions: 19
Average time: 1-1/2 hrs

Implement: Spring tooth harrow (single horse)
Total hours: 3 hrs
No. of sessions: 5
Average time: 3/4 hr

Implement: Flex harrow (one section pulled by single horse)
Total hours: 3-1/2 hrs
No. of sessions: 9
Average time: 1/2 hr

Implement: Single horse plow
Total hours: 1 hr
No. of sessions 1

Total acreage worked: 3-1/2 acres
Total hours team work: 62 hrs
Total hours single horse work: 33 hrs
Total hours of working horses for garden season 2006: 95 hrs