Back Issue Vol: 27-1
Señora Berta is a small farmer in the “ejido” or village of La Tapia near Santa Isabel. Berta and her husband Isaias cultivate about 15 acres of land with horses and run about 15 head of cattle on communal pastures. She also raises turkeys, chickens, pigs and a garden. “Don’t you just love animals?” she said to my wife. She seems to me to be an individual who is strong and hopeful, but discouraged.
Doug and I, lifelong friends, have both conducted workshops for decades. In 1979 Doug, Ray Drongeson and I did a work horse workshop together at our first Draft Horse Auction in Albany. Though we frequently share notes, we have not done a workshop together since 1980. It was past time, we felt, to see if a set of students could handle two old goat teachers with parallel philosophies and different tricks. And we wanted to add to that challenging confusion, so as additional instructors we brought together Tom Triplett, Doug’s step father, and Mike McIntosh from nearby Redmond to join Doug and I. (The last day Mike’s Dad Mac McIntosh also joined us.) Then, recognizing that horses are instructors as well, we brought together an interesting mix of animals from four different outfits.
Many poultry nutrition experts now report that feeding excessive amounts of calcium can lead to basically, “loving your birds to death,” giving them too much of a good thing. Excessive calcium can lead to their premature death from kidney failure. If a necropsy was performed, it would indicate that the bird perished from gout, which is an excessive build up in the kidneys, indicating either too much protein or calcium in their diet.
You have just a few situations where Onion, being the great teacher that all horses are, is providing you with some real challenges. In doing so she is merely fulfilling the preordained destiny of all horses. Yes! It’s as though all horses have a mutant gene that enables them to link up telepathically with our horsemanship skills cortex, whereupon they have instant and complete knowledge of the limitations and vulnerability of our personal equine skills. Then, having been born into this earthly existence for the sole purpose of forcing us to evolve into better horsemen and horsewomen, they begin challenging us well beyond our limits (usually after a strategic period of allowing us successes that falsely inflate our self-confidence and egos).
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?
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.
“La Route du Poisson”, or “The Fish Run,” is a 24 hour long relay which starts from Boulogne on the coast at 9 am on Saturday and runs through the night to the outskirts of Paris with relays of heavy horse pairs until 9 am Sunday with associated events on the way. The relay “baton” is an approved cross country competition vehicle carrying a set amount of fresh fish.
For me, farming is a blood knowledge. Diluted as it is, under my skin I carry a knowing; a pulse rippling through me sent from generations before. The pulse is partnered by images collected over my life from time spent in farm country of southwestern Ohio. I have witnessed soil filled cracks on wide, muscular hands, brilliant eyes set in deep creases and broad smiles despite fatigue. I’ve watched the frail, ninety-year old body of my great grandmother bent over tending her 20’ x 20’ garden. I’ve witnessed my father lose his 88 acre patch of family held soil, his dream piece of tradition. I’ve been warmly welcomed to huge mid-day feasts, an unexpected guest, and hugged close, smothered in the breasts of hard-edged, full-bodied women upon my arrival.
Until 1994 these horses had open reign on the Suffield military base in southeastern Alberta, moving freely across one of the largest block of native prairie in the world. The Government had expropriated the land in 1941 from the ranches who had established successful operations more than thirty years earlier. It was then used by the British military for training. Up to the mid-1960’s the horses on the British Block were loosely managed by local ranchers. During this time plenty of good old line Quarter horse, Thoroughbred and other breeds, as well as sound usable ranch horses were turned out. In about 1965 the military fenced the base, cutting off access to the herds for local ranchers. From then until the roundup on 1994, the horses survived unmanaged. They started out as high quality stock and natural selection did its thing, resulting in phenomenal horses.
Here in the Mühlviertel region, the big challenge is thanking the neighbors for their numerous favors. For we newcomers have purchased a farm with the goal of self-sufficiency and have gratefully learned that this mountain region has an old-fashioned, neighborly, small farmer soul. The Mu?hlviertel is the outback of Austria, the least populated spot, northwest of Vienna, northeast of Linz, on the Czech border. A region whose farm representatives actively promote organic farming and experimentation and take small seriously. We have neighbors whose family farms have existed continuously for over 400 years. The area has been farmed since the 14th century and for most of that time, self-sufficiency was the goal.
Tests on wheat and coarser grains have shown that a high speed gear, resulting in a faster revolving feed shaft, and with the fluted feed cylinder partially closed, will produce a more even and continuous flow of seed than a low speed gear setting with the cylinder opened sufficiently far to sow the same amount of seed. This is true unless the seeds are so dry or so large that a narrow opening of the fluted cylinder would cause them to crack.
I was truly shocked to read that the majority of the domestic ducks and geese that I was familiar with have severe population problems! There are six breeds of ducks and four breeds of geese that have numbers so low that they have been designated to be critically endangered. In addition to this disgusting revolution, there are ten more breeds that fall into the Rare and Watch categories.
Growing food for family-living purposes in connection with enough outside work to provide the family with the cash for the necessary farm and family expenses is a combination that many families now want to develop. Recent hard times and still more recent Governmental policies have renewed and intensified interest in this possible combination. This kind of farming has often been called subsistence farming and a farm of this kind a subsistence homestead.
The photos are of our farm, located in Dorena, Oregon. We have about 35 acres and grow certified organic vegetables, cut flowers, and plants, which we sell at the Eugene / Lane Co. Farmer’s Market and in our community supported agriculture program. In any one-year, we have about 2 – 3 acres in intensive production, the rest in cover crops, pasture, wild lands, etc. Although we have and use a tractor, we are doing most of the work with Ruby and Amber, our beautiful and willing mares who are both patient and forgiving with us.
Good grass hay will provide all the nutrient requirements (energy, protein, vitamins and minerals — and in proper balance) for the adult horse, and a mix of good grass and alfalfa hay will provide everything needed by the young growing horse or lactating broodmare, since the alfalfa has more protein, calcium and vitamin A than grass hay. Horses being fed high quality hay do not need expensive supplements and only a minimum of grain (most horses on good hay will not need any grain at all). But if hay is not good, its deficiencies must be made up with supplements and/or grain.
On April 7, we continued our travels, heading for the Pacific Coast in Oregon. First we drove through the Snake River Valley. Immense sagebrush areas, but also good irrigated farmland. Once in Oregon, we drove back into the mountains. We crossed the Blue Mountains in Malheur National Forest and the Ochoco Mountains. Down in the valleys there was some grassland and sometimes a grain field. The last part to Sisters was sagebrush and juniper country. That whole stretch was ranch and free-range area. This practice disturbs the natural vegetation and forest heavily.
WHOA (Working Horse & Oxen Association) is attempting to demonstrate, through the use of affordable, low-tech harvesting – in this instance the harvesting of hay – how draft animals can partner with small farmers in accomplishing many farm tasks using traditional techniques, low impact practices, and non-fossil fueled equipment. The goal of the Haystack Project is to research the techniques required, to collaborate in designing and building the infrastructure, to mow, rake and gather hay on the MOFGA fairgrounds, and to pile the hay in the traditional, efficient techniques of building a stack.
The sound came from somewhere out in the darkness. She walked on cautiously toward the sound. That’s when she saw the cow and her new baby. Sarah stood in the cold rain and watched. The mother cow tried to get the calf up. The baby didn’t seem to be trying. Sarah didn’t know what to do. She was afraid of the cow, but she had to do something. She slowly walked to the calf and tried to get it to stand up. It wouldn’t or couldn’t. Water was running all around the calf and it was shaking from the cold. Sarah had to do something.
After a hard day’s work, we all like a restful bed in a comfortable environment. What about your horses? Should or shouldn’t horses be stabled? If they are stabled, what issues are of major concern to horse owners? Are there risks to stabling a horse? Does the length of time a horse is stabled impact these risks? If so, how do we address and minimize these risks? There are a number of incorrect precepts regarding placing horses in stalls. This article will dispel these incorrect ideas and aid owners in managing stabled horses.
On the terrible Tuesday of October 15, Carl and I came home and noticed that Sky was stumbling and dragging his back feet and his chest was swelling. Knowing that pigeon fever was in the neighborhood, we called Georgette, our vet. On Wednesday, Georgette identified the symptoms as West Nile, and began the treatments. Sky weakened considerably through that day and began stumbling and falling even more. Carl and I went to bed that night fearful and sleepless.
Finally, here it is. The definitive, easy to use, book on Wheelwrighting. This 380 page text is sure to get several hundred North American wheelwrights and wannabe wheelwrights downright goosebumpy. 230 photos and 147 drawings pack this spiral bound puppy with a hefty information punch. It’s all here and written from the perspective of doing the work today. The photos do an excellent job of illustrating procedure and the drawings clearly show equipment. This book includes farm shop equipment and procedural innovations.
The choice to farm may carry with it difficulties of the sort which guarantee, when experienced, added riches on top of success. We value hard won gain more than gifts from chance. And when we value we appreciate. And when we appreciate we know the satisfaction of improving self-knowledge. The eyes-open choice to farm gives us an excellent opportunity for such happiness and more. There may be challenging expense and difficulty but it need not be crippling. Those challenges may well be enabling and strengthening.