Small Farmer's Journal
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Sisters, Oregon 97759
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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: Farming Systems & Approaches

Cultivating Questions Going Single

Cultivating Questions: Going Single

Going single did not occur to us until we began receiving questions from prospective teamsters who felt it would be more manageable and economical to get started with a single horse than a team. After 29 years of market gardening with two or more horses, our impetus to try out one-horse farming was not a question of management or economy, but due to the radically diverging horse temperaments on our farm.

Cultivating Questions A Diversity of Cropping Systems

Cultivating Questions: A Diversity of Cropping Systems

As a matter of convenience, we plant all of our field vegetables in widely spaced single rows so we can cultivate the crops with one setup on the riding cultivator. Row cropping makes sense for us because we are more limited by labor than land and we don’t use irrigation for the field vegetables. As for the economics of planting produce in work horse friendly single rows, revenue is comparable to many multiple row tractor systems.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

No Starving Children!

You’d never be able to harvest the broccoli or the hay or milk the cows or make the cheese if it were subject to government process. Not only are our industrial farms too big…

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

The Way To The Farm

Lise Hubbe stops mid-furrow at plowing demonstration for Evergreen State College students. She explains that the plow was going too deep…

The Shallow Insistence

…a life of melody, poetry and farming?

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

Rice as a New Staple Crop for Very Cold Climates

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from issue:

If you were visiting Earth from some other planet and had to describe its inhabitants upon your return, you might say that the average person eats rice, and grows it as well, usually on a small scale. You’d be accurately describing the habits of over a quarter of the world’s population. Rice has a special story with an exciting chapter now unfolding in the northeast USA among a small but growing group of farmers and growers.

Sustainable Forestry

Sustainable Forestry

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After 70 plus years of industrial logging, the world’s forests are as degraded and diminished as its farmlands, or by some estimates even more so. And this is a big problem for all of us, because the forests of the world do much more than supply lumber, Brazil nuts, and maple syrup. Farmlands produce food, a basic need to be sure, but forests are responsible for protecting and purifying the air, water and soil which are even more basic.

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.

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

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The agricultural system of the Old Believers has long been one of hand labor. Their homesteads (hozyastvas) were not intended for tractors or horses, with the possible exception of their larger potato fields. Traditionally the small peasant hozyastva has its roots in hand labor, and this has helped maintain the health of the land. Understanding the natural systems is easier when one’s hands are in the soil every day as opposed to seeing the land from the seat of a tractor.

The Forcing of Plants

The Forcing of Plants

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It is always advisable to place coldframes and hotbeds in a protected place, and particularly to protect them from cold north winds. Buildings afford excellent protection, but the sun is sometimes too hot on the south side of large and light-colored buildings. One of the best means of protection is to plant a hedge of evergreens. It is always desirable, also, to place all the coldframes and hotbeds close together, for the purpose of economizing time and labor.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 4

Assuming that you’ve found a farm you want to buy, next you’ll need to determine if you can buy it. If you have sold your property, and/or saved your money, and have the means to buy the farm you are sitting pretty. If you do not have the full price of a considered farm, in cash or any other form, you will likely have to look for financing.

TMAHK Tripod Haymaking

The Milk and Human Kindness: What I’ve Learned of Tri-Pod Haymaking

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I have no doubt that when the time comes we are going to need to know how to make hay this way, whether it be this Proctor Tripod method, or the French rack method illustrated in André Voisin’s great book “Grass Productivity” or the Scandinavian “Swedish Rider” method of tightly strung wire “fences” for hay to dry on. Each method has its pros and cons, and it’s my belief that the “Swedish Riders” is the easiest to learn and the Proctor Method may be the most difficult.

Hand-Harvested Food Challenge

The Hand-Harvested Food Challenge

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In the winter of 2011, Daniel mentioned a fourteen-year-old student of his who had spent a whole month eating only foods gathered from the wild. “Could we go for two days on the hand-harvested food we have here?’ he asked. “Let’s give it a try!” I responded with my usual enthusiasm. We assembled the ingredients on the table. Everything on that table had passed through our hands. We knew all the costs and calories associated with it. No hidden injustice, no questionable pesticides. We felt joy at living in such an edible world.

Such a One Horse Outfit

Such a One Horse Outfit

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One day my stepfather brought over a magazine he had recently subscribed to. It was called Small Farmer’s Journal published by a guy named Lynn Miller. That issue had a short story about an old man that used a single small mule to garden and skid firewood with. I was totally fascinated with the prospect of having a horse and him earning his keep. It sorta seemed like having your cake and eating it too.

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

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Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 2

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 2

It is always fascinating and at times a little disconcerting to watch how seamlessly the macro-economics of trying to make a living as a farmer in such an out-of-balance society can morph us into shapes we never would have dreamed of when we were getting started. This year we will be putting in a refrigerated walk-in cooler which will allow us to put up more storage-share vegetables.

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