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Amber Baker Letter

Amber Baker Letter

Hello from Michigan!

Dear Lynn Miller and staff,

Hello from Michigan! We have only just started to read your journal, and have really enjoyed it. This is my first letter to the Journal, so please bear with me.

First off, thank you for your publication. It is always a special occasion when the journal arrives, my favorite part would have to be when the seasoned farmer imparts some knowledge. Seems like some of the so-called “Millenials” think that the farming techniques of yesterday have no use in the modern day, but there are those of us who are thirsty for knowledge of the way farming used to be. Sometimes I wonder if we lost so much more than we gained in the last 100 years, not only economically, but also morally. It’s so nice to see the references to the Good Lord in your journal as well.

Secondly, my dad is trying to figure out how to make a PTO forecart, but we are having difficulty finding information on people who have made their own, or what dimensions to make the cart out of and such. Also, if anyone has plans for a draft two wheel cart, plans for those seem to be as scarce as ground driven PTO cart plans!

Amber Baker Letter

A little about myself. I am 21 years old, and have lived on the same 20 acres my grandfather farmed, give or take a couple acres, (the dawdi haus had to be sold sadly). We have always had a few animals, including a nice, old team of Belgian Drafts. I help with gardening, and taking care of the livestock. I like to read, sew, bake, and am trying to convince the draft horses they should let me ride them. I’ve been working in my dad’s welding shop, as well as taking some classes for animal medicine. I am really interested in heritage breeds, especially silkie hens and Duroc hogs. Both of which do great in the mid-Michigan climate.

Thank you again for all the information and encouragement you guys print. May you guys continue to bless your readers for another 40 years.

Sincerely,
Amber Baker
Clarklake, MI

Hi Amber,

Thank you so much for the kind words. The country has definitely seen a resurgence of interest in small-scale, ecologically sound farming among young people such as yourself. Just yesterday, a young man named Devon stopped by our office in Sisters. He has been working on a biodynamic farm in California, and next week he is leaving for New York for another such position in a conscious effort to expand his knowledge on his path to owning his own farm. Young people like you and Devon give promise to the future.

Your question about forecarts inspired last Friday’s post featuring Basil Scarberry’s forecart plans.  Ken Gies has also contributed his version of the ground-driven PTO forecart to SFJ.

Basil Scarberry’s Ground-Drive Forecart

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart by Ken Gies

I’m sure you and your Dad will find the instruction and inspiration to build your own. I really like how Basil used a 4-wheel drive hub for PTO engagement, but the simplicity and effectiveness of Ken’s scissor jack and belts can’t be denied. Ken also gives very valuable information on calculating and setting up the PTO RPMs.

As for a 2-wheel cart, I searched the website and found The Tip Cart by William Castle. Though on a smaller scale, A Pony-Powered Garden Cart by Jenifer Morrissey might spark some ideas. Lynn Miller’s Work Horse Handbook has plans for a nice non-ground-drive forecart that provides great visibility. As I move forward adding SFJ articles to the website, I will see what I can find for other styles of carts and put them up.

Thank you for your letter, Amber, it was great to hear from you.

– EG

Amber Baker Letter

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

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.

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

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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.

Beautiful Grasses

What follow are a series of magnificent hundred-year old botanist’s watercolors depicting several useful grass varieties. Artworks such as this are found on the pages of Small Farmer’s Journal quite regularly and may be part of the reason that the small farm world considers this unusual magazine to be one of the world’s periodical gold standards.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Concerning the Bioextensive Market Garden

One of our goals when we first started farming here was to develop the farm as a self-contained nutrient system. Unlike the almost complete recycling of nutrients which can take place on a livestock operation, we are always amazed – even a little disturbed – to see how many tons of fertility and organic matter leave the market garden each year with so little returned to the good earth.

Of Peace and Quiet

LittleField Notes: Of Peace and Quiet

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Walk with me for a moment to the edge of the Waterfall Field. We can lean on the gate and let our gaze soak up the mid-summer scene: a perfect blue sky and not a breath of wind. Movement catches your eye, and in the distance you see a threesome hard at work in the hayfield. Two Suffolk horses, heads bobbing, making good time followed by a man comfortably seated on a mowing machine. The waist high grass and clover falls steadily in neat swaths behind the mower. What you can’t help but notice is the quiet.

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…

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.

Starting Seeds

From Dusty Shelves: A WWII era article from Farming For Security

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 1

Our mild climate makes it too easy to overwinter cover crops. Then the typically wet springs (and, on our farm, wet soils) let the cover put on loads of topgrowth before getting on the soil. Buckwheat is the only crop that I can be certain will winterkill. Field peas, oats, annual rye and crimson clover have all overwintered here. Any suggestions?

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

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.

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.

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

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After three or four years we could see that the nature of our farming practices would continue to have detrimental effects on our soils. We were looking for a new approach, a routine that would be sustainable, rather than a rescue treatment for an ongoing problem. We decided to convert our fields to permanent planting beds with grassy strips in between where all tractor, foot and irrigation pipe traffic would be concentrated.

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.

An Introduction Into Plant Polyculture

An excerpt from What’s Wrong With My Fruit Garden
Companion Planting for Beginners

Planting Calendar and Other Diagrams

From Dusty Shelves: A 1943 calendar for seeding your vegetable garden.

Journal Guide