Back Issue Vol: 32-3
Meanwhile, my senior year was approaching fast, and all of us students began to contemplate what our final project would be with a bit of urgency. Our capstone project tasks us with identifying a need for a product or solution, bringing that product through the design phase, then building that product and displaying at the Technical Exposition. So I had the harebrained idea to embark on recreating not only a scale model of Parker’s Pulverizer, but to also recreate the real thing in full-scale, complete with fresh new wheel castings.
For the past 25 growing seasons, we have used the dryland practices described in this article to direct seed and transplant vegetables all season long without irrigation. Of course, rainfall has been necessary to finish out some of our longer term crops, and yields have generally been better in wet weather. Nevertheless, we consistently get good stands of produce without precipitation or watering in the plants, and our income from dryland fruits and vegetables has increased every year without expanding acreage. Although not a substitute for irrigation, the following moisture preserving ideas may possibly be helpful to growers making do with limited access to water or simply desiring to reduce the size of their hydrological footprint.
Always fill the seed boxes alike – if they fail to feed down uniformly – look for trouble. Don’t run the seed supply too low in the boxes – examine it occasionally and dump any accumulation of butts, or oddly shaped seeds. Examine the box bottoms, seed pawls and plates for obstructions – bits of cobb, husk or twine. Replace the retainer rings correctly and latch the boxes down securely.
We started hand-milking one cow. Now there are three. We are still milking by hand, and love the relationship with our cows, but will have to begin using the milking machine this spring as we add one more cow to the operation. We plan to milk a maximum of six cows. We purchased a 1940s Surge milking machine and assembled the entire unit from new and used parts we acquired from retired dairies in the area. The equipment we needed for the milk cooling room and the cheese room took an entire year to assemble because many of the things needed were just not readily available. With the help of some small dairy equipment dealers and by finding items on eBay, we managed to put it all together, under close scrutiny of the inspectors.
Wood has certain advantages as a fuel, which many people nowadays have not considered. Wood is clean and free from disagreeable dust; it produces little smoke or soot when properly burned. A cord of hardwood leaves only 60 pounds of ashes, while a ton of hard coal will make 200 to 300 pounds. The wood ashes, moreover, have fertilizing value. Wood begins to burn at a comparatively low temperature, so that a wood fire is easy to start and can be maintained at a lower ebb than a coal fire, when only a small output of heat is needed. For cooking, a wood fire need not be kept burning so long as a coal fire and is less likely to overheat the kitchen in warm weather.
I’ve found sharing time with others is a good way to brighten their day, and yours. Kids, grandkids, and other family members deserve a regular slot in your busy schedule. Camping, fishing, and just hanging out are great ways to share time with young people. Spending time with kids can also be a great learning experience for adults. One of the best ways to unwind from any job is to spend time with people who are confined to their homes or care centers. They’re eager for news about mutual acquaintances and local happenings. Family life is also a fun subject to share with the rural elderly. They have a treasure chest of stories about traveling salesmen, horse trading, and family reunions.
Eating invasive vegetation that compete for the scant water supply and inhibit the growth of grass, goats are a biblical-age solution to a modern-day scourge. To restore the land, 1,300 goats mimic the buffalo herds that once grazed the region – breaking the soil’s crust, stomping decadent grasses, knocking over dead trees, fertilizing with their droppings and embedding seeds. And, all the while, the goats voraciously defoliate and ultimately kill the water-guzzling Tamarisk.
On many farms where butter is made for home use it is desirable to put away some of the surplus summer butter to use during the late fall and winter when production is sometimes not sufficient for the family needs. Many farmers, after using special care in making summer butter that they think will keep well, have put it away only to find a few months later that it has become strong and rancid. This experience is not confined to farm butter. The city dealer in creamery butter has had the same experience even when he stored it in a good cold-storage warehouse. Experimental work in the United States Department of Agriculture a number of years ago showed that the sourness of the cream greatly influenced the keeping quality of the butter and that butter of the best keeping quality was made from perfectly sweet Pasteurized cream.
The difference between safe, high quality hay and low quality questionable hay (containing molds and dust) is primarily in the harvesting. The plants in a certain field will make some difference, of course — whether it’s a good stand of alfalfa, palatable grasses or has gone mostly to weeds — but poor harvesting conditions/methods can reduce a good hay crop to poor or even unsafe feed for horses.
Because the animals push the load with their foreheads, there are several factors that affect draft. One of the most important is that the steers need to have short thick necks so that there is less tendency for the neck to curve or sway. This is why the preferred breeds for oxen in Nova Scotia are Hereford crosses, most often Hereford x Durham. The angle of draft is controlled by a pole, or wooden tug, that is attached to the yoke with two adjustable lengths of chain. The angle with which the tug meets the yoke can be adjusted so that when the steers push into the load, the draft neither forces their heads up too high nor down too low. Like all draft animals, they need a constant angle of draft that allows them to lift the load.
In North America, horn knobs have been fixed to cattle for over 150 years. It is likely in foreign countries that horn knobs adorned the horns of oxen for several hundred years. In some regions they are called horn buttons or horn balls. I have seen the knobs made of steel and aluminum, but most commonly are made of brass. The styles and shapes run from simple hex shaped like those used in New England to multi-layered shapes and quite ornate like those used in Nova Scotia, Europe, and South America.
The plough guy is close to my heart. I miss getting my bare feet in a furrow as the earth goes back to work. I wonder what my Amish neighbor would do if I pulled over my Jetta, took off my socks and shoes, rolled up my pant legs and fell in behind his plough. He might shake his head, but I think he would understand. He would probably stop his team and look behind him and recognize a 38 year-old farmer’s daughter and say, “Well, if you’re gonna walk in my furrow you might as well be helpful and pick up some rocks.” I’ll let you know how it works out.
In order to secure the ideal condition for seed germination and plant growth, a seed-bed for planting should not be too deep and mellow. The soil should be mellow and well pulverized only about as deep as the seed is to be planted. Below this the soil should be firm and well settled, making a good connection with the subsoil, so that the water stored therein may be drawn up into the surface soil. The firm soil below the seed supplies the needed moisture, while the mellow soil above it allows sufficient circulation of air to supply oxygen and favors the warming of the soil by gathering the heat of sunshine during the day and acting as a blanket to conserve the soil heat during the night.
I never collected rocks, but I knew plenty of children who did, and I wonder where those collections are now. I wonder if they lie arranged in cardboard boxes, tuck under beds, patiently waiting to be returned to the ground. Stones are confident in that way, in a way I am not; they know where they came from, and they know where they are headed. There is no end for them, just a slow, steady smoothing of rough edges, a mellowing by age and time.