Back Issue Vol: 26-2
Horses that are used to being in a herd have a few things in common: they do not like being separated, they are jealous when one leaves, and they almost always are at the gate to welcome the leaver home. Knowing this, I should have seen the red flags flying all over that steep, rocky hill. Instead, I merrily plunked my saddle in the back of my car, turned the mare out, locked the gate, and headed down the hill. It was then that I saw what was to turn this day completely upside down: two horses were jauntily trotting down the old railroad bed, straight for busy Highway 8 and Main Street, Troy.
That period of winter solitude in the Salmon River canyon is treasured by the handful of year around residents as well as a needed reprieve for the local outfitters and guest ranches in Idaho’s back country. After a full year of guiding, guesting, gardening & going, we cram all the weekends we missed throughout the year into a lump of liquid days… and call it ‘January.’ Greg and I celebrate that gift of time to pamper ourselves in pleasurable pursuits and creature comforts. In between reading great books, journaling and crafts, Greg and I can be found working on the next years’ firewood supply, repairing and oiling the tack, and cracking walnuts that river friends supply us with. The rhythm of these placid weeks are savored, giving further reason to be grateful for the opportunity to live where the wind is your only neighbor.
I soon found out that Whitey knew more about dragging pulpwood than I did. So, I quit driving him in the woods. I would drive him on the first drag and from then on I could turn him loose and he would take every drag to the first one. I would be cutting and limbing while he was on the way to the landing with his drag. If he got hung up on the way, he didn’t panic. I’ve watched him get hung on a stump. As soon as he realized he was hung, he’d swing right, if that didn’t work he’d try left. All this without being guided and me not even close. Working with an animal that smart it doesn’t take long to drag out a truckload of wood.
When a team is properly hitched to a tongue and positioned so there is a little tension on the traces, the holdback system (pole strap, quarter straps, and breeching) will contact the horse throughout their length, but not be snug. If this system is adjusted too loosely, which is quite common, the quarter straps will hang down away from the belly. Before considering other factors be sure the breeching is not adjusted too low – very common. It’s difficult to get the quarter straps up against the flank and belly if the breeching is not up where it belongs. Slack quarter straps can be raised by hooking the trace chains shorter at the single trees. However, be certain that doing so leaves enough distance between the horses hind legs and the single trees so that the legs don’t hit the single trees under any circumstances.
Whether picking flowers from a tulip tree in Kentucky or swimming in a muddy Texas pond, children can always find something to do in the country. It is January. This time of year with fair weather and sunny days in Texas (no snow in the south!), my brother disked the garden area for planting. Yesterday the younger children set out half a crate of onions, which grow well here. Joshua and Bethanie laid out the rows and Josiah pitchforked manure into the galvanized tub in the small wagon. The little ones helped. Hillarie and Gideon planting while Samuel filled the tub with water and poured manure-tea on the newly set onions. I helped Samuel to speed the job along. He did a very good job even if he is a little fellow.
Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.
Where necessary and practical, run-off should be diverted from a gully head before control measures are attempted within the gully. This principle generally applies to gullies of all sizes except those having so small a drainage area that the run-off is negligible, as for example, a gully with a drainage area of less than an acre. In using either terraces or diversion ditches careful consideration should be given to the disposal of the diverted water. If safe disposal cannot be provided, the water should not be diverted. The disposal of concentrated run-off over unprotected areas may cause gullying.
Jim’s sculpture is preserving a nearly bygone era of family farming. When he looks at an old, worn, pitted piece of metal he thinks of its history: the ox yoke ring, a plow blade, hay rake, buggy spring. He feels emotion for them and it shows in his work. He uses lots of shovels. He says, “Years ago, if the handle broke on a shovel, the farmer made a new handle. Nowadays, most folks toss the shovel and buy all new. A cheap one for 7 or 8 dollars. Once every farmer had to be able to fix whatever broke down, especially during the Depression. They would use whatever was handy like bale hay wire. My favorite place to get metal is from a farmer who lived through the Depression. They didn’t throw anything away. It’s a treasure trove of stuff. Even if it’s broken. I love to hear the history of the piece and the animals.
Figs have been grown on the Pacific coast for much more than a century. Trees were probably at Loreto Mission, Lower California, before 1710, and reached the Alta California Missions soon after their establishment. Vancouver found Fig trees at Santa Clara in 1792. At the present time the Fig is cultivated in almost all parts of the state of California. The tree stands a range of temperature of from 18 degrees to 120 degrees Fahr., and the only portions of California really unsuited to its growth are certain cold or foggy districts. In the drier parts of the state it needs irrigation, as do other fruit trees. Some of the old Fig trees in California are of immense size. It is not uncommon to see trees with trunks of more than 2 feet in diameter. One tree in Stanislaus county is 60 feet in height, covers a circle 70 feet across, and has a trunk that girths 9 feet.
Gain always points to increase reflecting back on fertility. The word ‘gain’ in the manner to which I prefer its use and application NEVER, by definition, depletes. Whether you accept my terminology or not, it should be clear that I and many like me refuse to accept as our goal the maintenance of the status quo. We chose to work to increase fertility, increase health, increase biodiversity, increase market community, increase income, increase positive reputation. We choose GAIN, not sustainability. And that is good news.
It came from out of nowhere, bounced across the centerline and hit the side of the car with the force of a feather. “Look out!” cried the woman in the passenger seat, as the driver swerved to miss a small herd of the pesky devils. Some of them were huge – three or four feet high and five feet in diameter. What kind of crazies would dart out in front of traffic like that? Ghost riders from the sky? Emus on the loose? Nope. Just a frisky gang of tumbleweeds rolling across the high desert on a windy day in October.
Indigo is mostly the product of I. tinctoria, of Asia, but it is also made from the West Indian species, I. Anil. Other species, even of other genera, also yield Indigo. These species were early introduced into the southern states for Indigo-making, and the product was once manufactured to a considerable extent. The plant was introduced into South Carolina in 1742 from the West Indies. When it was found that commercial Indigo could be made, the British Government offered a bounty. In 1775, the production was more than one million pounds of Indigo. The Indigo is not contained in the plant, but the dye is a product of manufacture from a glucoside indican which is contained in the herbage, and which is obtained as an extract.
This was my 2000 & 2001 project rebuilding 3 stockton gang plows, butt chain harness, and Gene Hilty’s 21 head Schandoney Hitch. Also helping George Cabral to train 8 mules for a cadre to hook what mules we could find to pull it. All the old pictures I could find showed 8 or 10 head on one or two plows. To center the 21 Schandoney I needed 3 plows, 13 bottoms with 143″ cut. Everyone said 21 mules couldn’t pull it. Our 21 walked away with the plows set deep as they would go.
Tom Delehanty is a sixth generation organic farmer, and has been raising meat chicken for over 15 years. He moved to Socorro from Wisconsin in 1994 to start Pollo Real and lives there now with his wife and their two kids. Although they are only ages four and seven, Delehanty described them as the seventh generation of farmers, as they are beginning to help with the chores. Throughout his career, Delehanty has learned about different types of poultry farms in order to help him develop his own pastured poultry method in which he keeps two ideas in mind: the health of the chicken and keeping a natural environment.
There are exceptional books written by the British agriculture historian George Ewart Evans among which are “Horse In The Furrow” and “Horsepower and Magic”. In these he recounts stories from the British Isles of the extent to which the teamster’s craft was magic and mystery to be protected. He talked about the fact that when somebody in the British Isles had the obvious and complete mastery of the craft of working those big horses, the tricks of his trades, the little secrets, he had to keep to himself, because when he gave up those tricks and those secrets, he gave up his power. He gave his position in the community. If everybody could do this then he would no longer be special. This became a community dynamic so that there were literally secret societies of teamsters, and they were forever playing tricks on each other and on outsiders, but especially on the novice.
This plow has all original paint. It sat under a tarp. The dark red spots had punched through the tarp. The share points show no wear at all. It has one regular bottom and the left is an Alfalfa bottom. It was no doubt a show room display or demonstration model. Notice the 1/4 bolts threw the rim that held rubber knobs which deteriorated. Original plows were all red but these wheels have never been anything but green. Original evener combination for 2 or 3 horses also was green.
In the morning we awoke to a three quarters of a mile long swath of old growth mixed conifer and aspen trees, uprooted and strewn everywhere we looked. We hadn’t moved here to become loggers, but it looked like God had other plans! We had chosen to become caretakers of this beautiful place because of the peace and quiet, the clean air, the myriad of birds and wildlife! Thus, we were presented with a challenge: how to clean up this blowdown in a clean, sustainable way.
When first you become familiar with North American working harness you might come to the erroneous conclusion that, except for minor style variations, all harnesses are much the same. While quality and material issues are accounting for substantive differences in the modern harness, there were also interesting and important variations back in the early twentieth century which many of us today either have forgotten or never knew about. Perhaps the most significant example is the Walsh No Buckle Harness.
I have a thought for another circle letter discussion. I would like to hear what folks feel it takes to work successfully with horses. How folks deal with their horses in all their moods and in all the different situations presented to them. When I started driving I found the hardest thing for me was working with my horses when things were just not quite right. Many of my attempts seemed to make things worse, though we would always seem to get through the day. I found my ideas on what it takes to drive horses successfully to be changing almost daily as I feel I am slowly stumbling onto an approach that works.