Back Issue Vol: 21-1
Many consultants and agricultural experts are trying to impress upon ranchers and farmers that our work should be a business and not a way of life, that in order to survive we must have better plans and become more businesslike: “Agriculture must cease to be a lifestyle and begin to be a business.” But farming and ranching can never really be just a business, for the family unit, as it is for big corporations. Yet, if we were to rely only on the “big guys” for our food, America would starve. We need the family farms.
Why bother building a bat house? North American bats have, like bluebirds, suffered serious loss of habitat and are in desperate need of good homes. Bats comprise almost one-quarter of all mammal species, and they form an integral part of a healthy sustainable ecosystem. Bats disperse seeds, pollinate flowers, and are major predators of night flying insects. Rootworms, cutworms, stink bugs, and corn ear worms are among the many favorite meals of the common bat. A single bat can consume up to 500 mosquitoes in one hour! A simple and inexpensive step towards improving bat habitat is to provide bat roosting houses (approximately $15 per house) around your property.
The Gregson’s question about sustaining the health and well-being of farmers kind of hit home as I had to learn how to contend with a chronic digestive disorder when we first started farming here. While this minor handicap definitely limited our farming efforts, it also helped us to plan some slack into our operation right from the beginning. It forced us to focus our energy where it would be most effective and encouraged us to rely more on observation and management than muscle to get the job done – lessons we might not have otherwise learned until later in life. As a result, we may have been slower than most in bringing the market garden into full production, but our limitations, in a round about way, may have encouraged us to bring some biological efficiencies into play which have made the work easier and more rewarding in the long run.
John and Heather Erskine of Monroe, Washington, have been synonymous with the best of Shire horses since before I can remember. They have helped wagon loads of people with their horses and horse adventures. Up at last year’s Sandpoint, Idaho, show John shared a photo album with me that set me right down and I twisted his arm to let me share some of his outstanding pictures with you.
At Small Farmer’s Journal we are frequently asked what the original colors were for various and sundry makes of horse drawn farm equipment. Some folks who restore these implements are purists and wish to correctly duplicate the coloration. While the colors for something like McCormick-Deering mowers were constantly changing and quite complex, we for years felt comfortable in the certainty that John Deere was always their own unchanging yellow and green. We were surprised then to discover from original sales brochures that they frequently used a third color, red-orange, on their tools. Here are two examples which we hope reproduce sufficiently well for you to get good information.
The first and most important requirement is the frame of an old fashioned treadle type sewing machine with a sewing machine belt. You may have one stored away in the attic or basement. If you do not have the frame of a treadle sewing machine we recommend that you look for it at any junk shop. A belt may be purchased from the hardware store. The second essential part is the axle from the front wheel of a Model “A” Ford.
By the late 1970s, Davis Farm was sailing along serenely, but a seed of discontent had begun to grow in Jerome. His main dairy barn, aesthetically attractive as it was, was not especially efficient. There were too many, too short, rows of stalls, the stalls were a bit small for the contemporary, larger Holsteins, and some of the stalls were even still wood floored, a situation not favored by the milk inspectors. This also made it difficult to install gutter cleaners, pipeline milkers and other labor saving equipment. Chores were involving too much labor or too much time or both. In brief, Jerome was ready for the major investment in a new barn.
In 1945 McCormick-Deering International published their Blue Ribbon Service Training Course “Serviceman’s Guide” for Hay Machines. Included in this excellent booklet is a section entitled “Horse-Drawn Mowers.” The material in this chapter section is all on their Number 9 High Gear Mower and offers some exceptional information presentations which are somewhat different from the operators manual. We reprint here, unedited, the complete contents of this section. Hope you find this material as useful as we have.
Jack vividly remembers working with his uncle in what is now the Selway/Bitterroot Wilderness in the early 1940s, breaking green colts for local ranchers in the spring and summer, packing hunters into the rugged mountains and then trailing the string of mules and horses from Paradise, Idaho, to winter pastures in Hot Springs, Montana, a three-day trip in late November, along gravel roads where cars were the exception not the rule. In a modern world where men have walked on the moon and even children now crawl the World-Wide Web from desktop computers, Jack has remained true to his early love – working with horses and mules.
Some of central Ohio’s finest draft teams and teamsters gathered on the second weekend in October to participate in the Ohio State Hand Corn Husking Contest, held at the Wyandot County Fairgrounds in Upper Sandusky. The fairgrounds and the Koehler-Winter’s farm next to it were humming with activities related to the harvest season and otherwise. Folks made apple butter, soups, and crafts; held a farmer’s market; conducted buggy driving competition; displayed lots of antique equipment and vehicles; demonstrated tractor and horse plowing; and ate and ate and ate.
As the years continue to roll on, as busy as ever, I have had plenty of time for considering the pros and cons of farming. So many people have asked me why in the world I would even want to, let alone like, a farm lifestyle. It’s definitely not easy, but I guess my only answer would be that I just plain love it. No noisy things. Peace and quiet. Lots of hard work. Time with the family. Oh, and there’s stress, too! Like when everything is coming in at once and the days aren’t long enough. But there’s also a great satisfaction of making it on your own. I do understand that this lifestyle isn’t for everyone. Only people who are crazy like we are, who are for simplicity and hard work over convenience will enjoy it. I do!
After the log skid everyone broke for lunch and a rest from the heat. It was a beautiful sunny day with the bluest of skies with big fluffy white clouds. They couldn’t have asked for a better day! Pete and I ate lunch at the Cornplanter Pavilion and watched as the pulling horses entered the arena for the pulling contest that afternoon. We recognized several names from our area that had made the trip to compete. We then wandered through the rabbit and poultry barns and several other animal barns. We checked out the Domestic and Agriculture buildings, too. It’s nice to go to a fair that puts more emphasis on agriculture than carnival! Getting back to the “Bull Pen” (the ox barn) we found everyone getting ready for the ox pull.
Howell Living History Farm’s 13th Annual Plowing Match was held on Saturday, August 31, 1996. Howell Farm is a 130-acre working farm located in Hopewell Township, Mercer County, New Jersey. It was donated to Mercer County in 1975 by Inez Howell, widow of State Congressman Charles Howell, and it is in the ongoing process of restoration to a family farm circa 1900-1910, when horses were still the main power source. The Mercer County Park Commission opened the farm to the public in 1984 and their first plowing match was held that year. It has been a success ever since.
Having made the conscious choice to employ work horses in harness as motive power for my farming I recognized that I would have to gather up the information I lacked. How to fit a harness – How to recognize a usable piece of older farm equipment – How to hook horses to those implements – What to feed my horses and when – How to tell if the boxings in a disc were bad – How to get my plow to run right – How deep to plant Oat seed in dry soil – Why certain names for horses were a mistake??? on and on and on… I would have to gather up this information because my research indicated that there was no public temple for this information, no place where relic technologies and skills were chronicled and cataloged. That was odd? So much beauty, value, and frailty in all the old knowledge – shouldn’t it be preserved, saved, stored?
After years of keeping an ear open for an occupation that would have many wonderful facets, including being enjoyable, environmentally oriented and horse related, my husband, Jim, and I decided to embark on starting a horse drawn carriage company of our own in October, 1994. We had heard quite a bit of positive information regarding such an endeavor and felt that we were in a position, at this point in time, to take this on ourselves. The romance of it all lured us on this wonderfully positive, happy and yet bumpy road!
It’s the sweet smell of Spring that drew me to the Hedmark Farm in Fence, Wisconsin. An immense cloud of steam billows from the sugar shack. It’s sugarin’ time! Here Milan and Vita Hedmark, along with their whole family (three generations), work to drill holes for 1,100 taps. They tapped a week before the sap ran this year. Sugarin’ requires a combination of freezing nights and warm days to start the sap flowing.
The Haflinger horse is often mistaken for other breeds by people unfamiliar with them: it must be a “baby Belgian” or better yet “a freeze-dried Belgian – just add water.” Their size and build brings to mind the Norwegian Fjord, but their coloring differs considerably. We’ve been asked if the name meant that the Haflinger is “half a horse” or “where are the quarterlingers and the wholingers?” We enjoy the guessing game particularly because once someone has met a Haflinger, or better yet, has seen one work, they will never forget this powerful little horse.
The origin of this highly useful tool is, as one might expect, lost in the dim shadows of man’s early attempts to domesticate animals he deemed useful. No historians were present when one thoughtful shepherd picked up a long stick, and began poking his sheep to get them moving in a particular direction. Or when he found that a short, angled branch on the end of the stick could be used to hook his animals when it became necessary to catch them. Or when he found that by actually bending the wood itself to make a hook, the strength of the overall instrument was increased. But one might assume, following a logical progression of thought, that the creative process went something along those lines.
The earth’s green carpet is the sole source of the food consumed by livestock and mankind. It also furnishes many of the raw materials needed by our factories. The consequence of abusing one of our greatest possessions is disease. This is the punishment meted out by Mother Earth for adopting methods of agriculture which are not in accordance with Nature’s law of return. We can begin to reverse this adverse verdict and transform disease into health by the proper use of the green carpet – by the faithful return to the soil of all available vegetable, animal, and human wastes.
Little need be said about the first principles in poultry raising, but a few introductory remarks about comfortable quarters for the flock may pave the way for the description of the straw-loft poultry house illustrated in sketches shown. It goes without saying that the laying hen must have comfortable quarters if she is to be expected to produce her maximum yield. Warmth, dryness and protection from preying animals are the prerequisites to comfort. The poultry house sketched here is a practical starting unit embodying all of the protection features so essential in poultry raising.
Back in the Spring of 1995 we offered an insert in SFJ that was a set of plans for a Workboat Prototype. That was our name for an implement which sees multiple use on many farms and ranches. We had come up with a design, at Singing Horse Ranch, which we felt might have possibly contained the seed of something folks could expand on. Since then we have received many letters and photos from readers demonstrating that the plans did indeed offer a starting point of some value. We were heartened. As I said in that article we offered the design into the public domain claiming no property rights to the design and deeming that no one else should either. It was our small hope that along with the mechanic in the farm shop a small business might grab up the idea and make it available, at an affordable price, for those of us who are not able to build the sled at home.
In the eastern part of the country rolling hills and wide valleys form the landscape. In this area the farms are a lot bigger than the average Norwegian farm of 25 acres. Grains and potatoes are mainly grown in this region. In the west mountains, lakes and fjords dominate the landscape. The farms are small and often situated on steep hills. Milk production is dominant in this area, with milking goats where the land is too steep for cows to graze. Until the end of the 50s the majority of the farms were powered with horses. Fifteen years later tractors had almost completely replaced the workhorse. Today most of the workhorses can be found on smaller farms and in the mountains.
In Thailand, the role of the elephant as a work animal has diminished in recent years. In 1976 there were about 12,000 working elephants in Thailand. Current estimates put the number at about 5,000. In an increasingly modern world the number of Thai elephants continue to decrease, both in captivity and in the wild. However, they are far from being a sentimental fixture of the past. Elephants are still used extensively, particularly in more remote areas of the country. Whether performing in touristy elephant shows or working in tribal villages, the elephant is still being worked throughout Asia.