Back Issue Vol: 30-1
It all started with an experiment at our kitchen table six years ago. We had read that 100% grass fed beef was better for our health than grain-finished beef, that there were “good” fats and “bad” fats, and that the ratios of these fats to each other was also important. The old saying: “You are what you eat” should apply to cattle as well as us, right? So, we tried a simple experiment that would end up changing our lives forever.
My forecart pole is set up for draft horses. My husband thinks we should cut the pole off to permanently make it fit better to these smaller horses. What would be your opinion? Like your husband, my preference would be a shorter tongue for a small team like your Fjords. The dynamics and efficiency of draft are better if we have our horse(s) close to the load. A shorter tongue will also reduce the overall length of your outfit, thereby giving you better maneuverability and turning dynamics.
The book depicts the rural material culture of his era through the use of lush, detailed illustrations. The pages are dominated by beautiful watercolors reminiscent of Carl Larson. Each scene centers on one aspect of rural life. Details about the scene are related with uncluttered pen and inks. These are all tied together with Artley’s narrative that is neither sugar coated nor sour. While the author describes his childhood as happy and stable – and clearly enjoyed his early years – there were tasks that he found distasteful. It is a story told through the eyes of a boy growing-up; refreshingly honest and personal. The result is a balanced description portraying life before rural electrification as both trying and rewarding, hard and pleasant.
“Thank you for taking the time to visit our farm.” This is one of the responses that I give to the many visitors as they prepare to leave Carriage Hill Farm, an historical farm which is part of a much larger system of 24 parks within the Five Rivers Metroparks system. The main emphasis of our farm is education and interpretation of an 1880’s family farm with all the equipment and animals from the 1880’s time period.
Adjust the hitch down until the heel of the landside rests flat on the bottom of the furrow. The hitch should always be set as high as possible so that the plow will take the ground quickly, but care should be taken to see that the heel of landside runs flat in bottom of furrow. In case the plow has a tendency to run on its nose, the hitch should be lowered slightly until the heel of the landside runs flat in the bottom of the furrow. The position of the draft bars in a sidewise direction should be maintained by moving the hitch adjusting bar out as the bar is tilted downward.
Combining late winter/early spring grazing with pasture renovation seems to work best when we let these sacrifice areas rest for the remainder of the grazing season. If time permits, one or two mowings helps to set back the less desirable grasses and weeds while the sun-loving clover gets established. Applying minerals, such as rock phosphate and lime, along with a mulch of strawy horse manure, also increases the chances for the new seedlings to take off and thrive in these long neglected and infertile patches of the thirty-year-old pasture.
Although organic food is becoming common, organic wool is a product in its’ infancy. Markets are small, there are few processing facilities, and regulations haven’t been agreed on. What wool is being produced is coming from meat flocks, not wool breeds. Without regulations, when products are marketed as “Organic Wool” the label means far less than the consumer might assume.
My grandfather, Will Coolidge, was a thrifty, practical, native Adirondacker who, among his other occupations, was also a producer of maple syrup. At one time or another during his life (all 78 years of which was spent on the land he loved – the farm where he was born, in Jay, NY), he was a taxi driver, dairy farmer, potato grower, mailman and trapper. But the thing I remember him for the most is making maple syrup. And while he went about this demanding and honorable business, he was also passing down little pearls of wisdom to me, his eldest grandson.
Humans have been raising cattle for thousands of years. The early ancestors of present-day cattle were tall, dark-haired bovines called Aurochs, roaming over what is now Europe. Early people hunted cattle for meat like we hunt deer and elk today; wild cattle were the main diet of Stone Age man. Eventually some of our ancestors captured cattle and tamed them, about 10,000 years ago. The tame cattle provided a handy supply of meat and hides, without having to hunt them. Then man discovered he could also hitch cattle to a cart, plow or wagon; oxen were used for transportation long before horses were. Cattle and sheep were domesticated before horses, probably because they were easier to catch.
The binder attachment is adjusted when it leaves the factory, and will operate under average conditions without adjusting. Make no adjustments until all paint is worn off and important working parts are smooth. Successful operation depends largely on proper adjustment of all chains and the manipulation of levers for height of cut, position of butt pan, and tilting. These adjustments are provided to meet varying or extreme conditions. If knotter or twine tension adjustments are made and do not correct trouble, be sure to change back to original position, before making further adjustments.
With his team of horses in hand, Spencer first started cutting firewood off Forest Service land and selling it to the public. In 1985, after four years of cutting firewood by horse logging, the Forest Service, seeing what he was capable of doing, put up a small timber sale in a campground. Today, the Forest Service and land owners see horse logging as a nice tool in managing the land.
Elisabeth Jonsson, a previous guest at the ranch, was struck by the similarities between cattle ranching in the American West, and raising reindeer in the far north of her native Sweden. Reindeer, like cattle, are highly gregarious and usually travel in herds. The American rancher relies on his cattle herd to sustain a way of life that has been ongoing for nearly 150 years. Laplanders, the inhabitants of the northern-most regions of Norway, Finland and Sweden, have been herding reindeer for centuries, and are almost completely dependent on them for their livelihood.
In comparing two compact vehicles, the stud cart and the Geo Metro, there were interesting differences in speed, fuel efficiency and maintenance. In the horse world of compact vehicles, the stud cart could best be compared to the small two-seater passenger car. The stud cart was originally used to transport a stud from farm to farm to service mares. The lightweight structure of the cart didn’t burden the single horse and allowed the farmer to clip along at a nice pace.
Used to be that farm cooking meant an eggs-and-bacon breakfast cooked by the wife before dawn, followed up with a meat-and-potatoes lunch and a hefty slice of pie. The archetypal farm wife was an accomplished cook who did simple, stick-to-your-ribs home cooking, fuel for the men who toiled 15-hour days in the fields. Today, everyone cooks and eats differently from a generation ago, including farmers. So we went back to the farm to take a peek in the kitchen.
In 1989 Cuba had the most highly industrialized agriculture in all of Latin America, with tractors, chemical fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides – the works. In 1990 the Soviet Union fell, and suddenly Cuba’s access to cheap petroleum was cut off. So how did Cuba feed itself? Did it turn to tractors powered by nuclear power, solar power, wind power or hydrogen cells? No, it didn’t have time or money for solutions like that. Cuba’s solution was to train 500,000 oxen to take the place of petroleum powered engines. It trained its farmers to work the oxen, and to learn the techniques of organic agriculture, so it didn’t have to rely on fossil-fuel dependent inputs.
Why plant pawpaws, gooseberries, shipovas, and other uncommon fruits on the small farm? These fruits are easy to grow. They’re generally pest-free so don’t need spraying, and even their pruning needs are minimal. Because sprays are not needed (not the case for apples and many other common fruits over much of the country), they can be grown organically and sold as such to command premium prices. These uncommon fruits also have unique, delectable flavors. Consumers are now, more than ever, interested in “new” flavors, making these fruits very appealing and, again, allowing them to command top dollar in markets.
We are farmers. We care for the land and for our livestock. It is our chosen work. And it defines us in glorious ways, but only to ourselves and with others of our persuasion. Not to the wider public, not to the masses of men and women. Not today. Today we are quaint anachronisms as disconnected from their view of the landscape and their forkful of food as the disconnect they feel with self-reliance. For the longest time we have enjoyed the assurance that has come from our own working intimacy with the practical and achievable notions of self-sufficiency.
I grew up in a German village of some six hundred inhabitants. Several farms and smallholdings had been our family farm in the first part of this century. Besides a large dairy herd, pigs, poultry, and sheep, it also had several teams of horses and one or two teams of oxen. It was often an impressive sight, on the way to or from school, to see these teams going out to work in the morning and returning back at noon. Such experiences meant a great deal to us as children. My experiences also included observing some eighty to one hundred children suffering from developmental disability who lived right next to us, in a home that was one of the first places for Curative Education and Social Therapy based on the insights provided by Rudolf Steiner. This home was under the guidance of some of the founders of the Curative Educational movement, including Dr. Karl Koenig, the founder of what is now the worldwide Camphill Movement.
Market gardening is becoming more and more popular as an enterprise for the small farm these days as the demand for fresh locally grown food continues to grow. Here at our farm we’ve dabbled in it as our search for the perfect homestead livelihood continues and it always seems to create conflicting interest and values for us. In days gone by, the small commercial farm was also a subsistence homestead, but in our cash based society of today, doing both is becoming more and more difficult. As the pressure to produce money grows, the time, energy, and resources for the small projects necessary on a subsistence homestead fall by the wayside, not to mention the deeper values that are likely what attracted you to farming in the first place.
Doc and Jim were a named team when we purchased them at auction in 1993, and they worked in tandem for the next seven years in support of our small dairy operation, answering to those very same names. Why would we change them? The two Belgians, already up in years, didn’t shoulder the full burden of what we needed in terms of horsepower. We used our tractors to harvest hay from all but the smallest of the fields we mowed, raked and baled each summer. Still, we regularly harnessed the team to mow that 5-acre field just west of the farmhouse, and to haul manure from the barn, firewood to the house and storm-felled trees up from the steep slopes of forested ravines.