Back Issue Vol: 26-3
I am a trouble maker, a mosquito, an ankle biter, an agitator, a sneak thief, a tear monger, a bone rattler, a fibber, a cowardly body guard, a farmer pirate. Always have been, all my life. Don’t know any other way, even now as a greyhaired grandfather. It’s not because I’ve the contrarian need for the last and conflictive word. It’s because of my consuming critical vantage point. Some people sluff their critical vantage point off as they age, certainly cultures seem to. Certain things never seem to leave my shelf of concerns. For example at my desk I have a little note which reminds me daily that every 3.6 seconds someone somewhere in the world dies of hunger.
And then there were the quilting bees. As long as old-time quilts are used to grace and beautify beds, just so long will the memory of these bees remain. It was a slow task to transform countless bits of calico into a quilt of varied patterns, a thing of beauty and taste, but it was a loved one, for therein lay almost the sole outlet for the artistic genius of the countryside. Many are the treasures of this art still in existence, and art it surely was.
When my friend and mentor, the late Addie Funk, first started helping me with my horses, he suggested that we get rid of my halter ropes with snaps and braid lead ropes on to all the halters permanently. Actually as I think about it, it was more than a suggestion. Knowing him, he probably just braided the new ropes on, confident that anyone with any sense would be pleased with the improvement. In any case, when the task was completed I clearly remember him saying to me, “Now nobody will turn a horse loose around here with a halter on.”
The tale started in 1980. For some time, I had had two good horses, but needed a third to make a three horse hitch. I never seemed to have any luck finding that third one without health or behavior problems. So it was that I decided to raise and train some young horses from the ground up. Opportunity presented itself when I found Bonnie, a 7-month Belgian weanling, and learned that her mother was carrying another foal. We brought Bonnie home in January 1980, and since I needed to borrow the mother to work, she came in mid-June 1980 with Mayday, Bonnie’s half sister, born, as the name suggests, on May 1. With these young ones, I could try my hand at training from an early age, and had some assurance that as half sisters they would match up pretty well.
Saturday morning at the breakfast table my husband, Keith, announced to our three children eating cereal, “today we are going to butcher the chickens!” Their spoons froze in the air; they stared at him with mouths opened. He quickly added in a much softer tone. “I mean dress out the chickens.”
Chuckwagons have become quite rare, although they can occasionally be found on large ranches, but most often in a parade or museum, such as the one owned by Vern Krinke of Auburn, Washington. Krinke, a ruggedly handsome man in his 70s, is a chuckwagon cook of extraordinary talent who prepares sumptuous dinners from his 80-130 year old Studebaker chuckwagon that he restored after finding it in a junk pile on a ranch southeast of Saratoga, Wyoming.
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.
Where temporary structures have been used to control gullies, it has been found that several low check dams are more desirable than one large dam of equivalent height. Low dams are less likely to fail, and after they silt up and rot away, the vegetation can protect low overfalls at these sites much easier than high ones. A temporary dam should seldom exceed 15 inches in overfall height, and an average effective height of about 10 to 12 inches will be better. By effective height is meant the vertical distance from the original gully bed to the spillway crest of the structure. It requires considerable field judgment to determine the most satisfactory location and spacing for temporary check dams.
I soon had both of them on a bed of fresh straw, with a roof over their heads, and I was able to watch the calf take her first tentative steps. I could finally enjoy the sense of accomplishment that we cowboys thrive on, knowing that, in spite of the laments of nature, we have triumphed in rescuing a new life which otherwise would have succumbed quickly to the now thwarted weather outside. It is a wonderfully satisfying experience. Then Evil Sue wobbled up to me and bit my kneecap.
Turkeys 6 to 10 weeks old are ready to go on the range, which should be clean and separate from range used for chickens. Adequate shelter is very important. A good practice is to place feeders on clean ground, away from the roost, and to move the feeder each week. The roost should be moved 3 or 4 times during the growing season, as sanitation is of the greatest importance.
Of all things folks might do without when they’re short of cash, mushrooms might top my list. Yet Dad chose to grow mushrooms during The Great Depression. He adapted three limestone caves for mushroom farming and presided over mushrooms with the agility and savvy of a ringmaster in a three-ring circus. He cleaned and aired one cave and harvested and marketed from another while prepping the third for a new crop.
When Larry and Judith Schad moved to their farm with a two-story log home, they bought goats for their three children to use for 4-H projects. What began as fun, three years later encouraged the family to buy a show herd of Alpine goats, and now that herd and its offspring consistently win awards at the Hoosier Classic and the American Dairy Goat Association national show.
Ethel, Washington once again saw the horses move in as teamsters arrived from Washington and Oregon to take part in the now annual Happ’s Plowing Competition. Percherons, Belgians, Shires, Norwegian Fjords, a Clydesdale and a pair of American miniatures all found their way to this small rural community to the ranch of Ken Olsen and Maureen Harkcom. Spectators followed and the day was “off and running.” Or, should we say plodding?
By breeding stock that meets the farmer’s needs, and by developing rations to maintain animals and produce energy at less cost, Experiment Stations have made farm power more economical and efficient. To a large extent, the ability of work stock to meet the challenge of mechanical power is a result of this research.
We were thrilled, this last April, when Mr. and Mrs. Mick Massey came all the way from England to join us for our annual auction and swap meet. They were a colorful addition to the festivities and Mick was an obvious lover of the horses and the equipment. So much so that he purchased a riding plow which we are shipping by boat to the island nation for him. Busy as we were we still found time to enjoy several quick visits with these wonderful folk and it was during one of those conflabs that I got to see a fistful of photos documenting a long and happy life working with Shire horses.
I am offering to you a plan for a simple yet effective milk house that can be cheaply built, and attached to an existing building, with little building experience. It has been a complete success for me for cooling and bottling milk, washing calf buckets, chicken fonts and egg cleaning. It keeps the mess for all this out of my wife’s kitchen. I am now her hero all over again!
As the teams perform there is quite naturally a lot of tension and the polite crowd is quiet. In between there is plenty of good humor, laughter and very good sportsmanship. With so many contestants the Challenge takes all afternoon as each team is allowed 10 minutes to load the miserable log onto a wood-shod sled and take it through the ornery obstacles.
In a town where one is just as likely to see kids walking their 4-H lambs in the warm evening air as their dogs, the Threshing Bee came to life 32 years ago during a conversation between two local men. Back in 1969 and 1970, the Everett Metzentine family from nearby Wamic, along with their friends and neighbors, harvested grain from their fields using horses and horse-drawn equipment. While discussing the enjoyment and curiosity the harvest had generated, Metzentine and Dufur’s Bob DePriest decided a public threshing bee would be met with enthusiasm. Dufur, smack in the middle of dryland wheat country, seemed the perfect place to host the event.
Well, I don’t put as much emphasis on age as far as my preference but I would much prefer to have a horse that hasn’t been touched as one that’s been spoiled. And it doesn’t have as much to do with who does the training because I’ve gotten horses that have been previously owned by people that do a very good job of training but they don’t do everything just the way I do, maybe they do a better job, but they do it a little different. I like to start out with a pure, unadulterated mind and the age doesn’t make as much difference to me as that.
Considering their common origin, there is a marked difference between the plows of England, the United States, and France. Southern Europe has plows still more primitive, resembling those shown on coins of the period of the Greek occupation of Sicily. It is not easy from the specimens shown at the French Exposition to determine what may be the ordinary plows of Denmark and Sweden, as the plows from those countries are all of iron and copies of the English.
Prior to last year, I had felt I knew the nuances of the land quite well and fancied myself as knowledgeable about the course of the natural world. Outdoors was where I felt the most comfortable. The fresh air and endless views of fields, hills and valleys renewed my spirit and refreshed my mind. I didn’t think there was much that could fluster me when it came to the land. Until I became an organic farmer.
The successful use of herbs in the treatment of disease and sickness in mankind is well documented. Herbs can be equally successful in treating the various ailments that affect livestock. These herbal treatments are economical, and will not leave the residue nor the harmful side effects as some chemical remedies do, thus leaving your farm products un-useful.
I walked bare-footed behind my dad, each step showing my high arches, and leaving little round toe prints in the freshly worked field. The planter, drawn by old Duke and Dolly, the venerable team of horses, dropped precious seeds of wheat into the furrow, then quickly covered them to just the right depth. The good earth, surrounding each kernel, cradled it lightly until it sprouted. Soon the small blades of wheat would turn the dark field into a sea of emerald green.
With the January thaw comes stuck vehicles. The V-plow packed the snow more than it moved it. Back to the shop, dragging Mark behind. A back issue of Small Farmers Journal clutched in my arm. I pull a pair of front runners from an extra bobsled out of the corner. Hand him the open page picturing the Snow Mower. The saw and drill run nonstop. I dig through the lumber pile in search of wood. Reluctantly, I give up my antique pump handle for the tailgate lever.
SFJ subscriber, Ron Decker of Corvallis, OR, inherited these photos from his uncle, W.P. Decker. They are of early days in the Lamont, WA area. The italic captions were taken from notes on the backs of the photos. Thanks to Ron for sharing.
After finishing one field, it was our custom to loosen the wires between two fields and staple them securely to the bottom of the posts, driving over the wire into the adjoining field. In my haste, I was careless in properly fastening the wires on the bottom of the posts and one of the horses struck the wires causing them to fly up and before I was finished, the pole of the rake, which had cost in the neighborhood of $2.50, had been broken squarely in two. I think I would just as soon have reported to the sheriff that I had robbed a local bank as to be faced with the responsibility of reporting this difficulty to my Uncle. His only remarks were: “Kid, it isn’t what you make that counts, it’s what you save.”