Back Issue Vol: 34-1
Funny, I had just read Lynn Miller’s description of dealing with runaways in the Training Workhorses text and had discussed it with Jim in passing. That knowledge was nowhere to be found as we accelerated to a gallop. I had tension on one line as Nelson’s bridle fell around his neck. The faster the wagon went, the faster the horses galloped to get out of the way. Was this really happening? How could confidence and a nice easy sunny morning turn so suddenly into a completely uncontrolled, raging race down the hill and what was sure to be a humongous crash and ensuing mess.
Increasing numbers of family farms are unlocking sustainable income through Agri-tourism. These events bring visitors to tour working farms. Not only do your guests enjoy a day in the outdoors, but they go home with a new understanding of life and work on a small farm. At the end of the day Ag-tourists go home with bags, boxes and buckets of delicious home-grown delights, perhaps picked with their own hands. Agri-tourism events are in high demand all around the country. This growing industry provides good reasons for you to consider an agri-tourism project for your small farm.
After moving the drop ring on the other side down we went out to the round pen for a test drive. The difference in how she ground drove and turned was amazing – not perfect, but real sweet. With the lines at that level a right turn cue on the line obviously meant go right to her, and a left turn cue meant left. After we drove around for a while with me smiling I couldn’t resist moving the drop rings back up to the line rings – Bam, back to the old confusion.
Last spring we got the bright idea to plow some corn with one of the camels, so we went to the shed and drug out the “Planet Jr. one camel cultivating plow”. My 86 year old Grandfather said “Son, don’t worry about thinning that corn, those camels are going to do a fine job of it, for you!” We plowed corn and I have some video to prove it, and as soon as I quit running over the corn and learned how to “drive the plow” we didn’t lose any more corn!
I was at day one, standing outside an old burnt-out Belgian plantation house, donated to us by the progressive young chief of the village of Luvungi. My Congolese friend and I had told him that we would need to hire some workers to help clear the land around the compound, and to put a new roof on the building. I thought we should be able to attract at least 20 workers. Then, I looked out to see a crowd of about 800 eager villagers, each one with their own hoe.
It was important to us that the homemade senior horse feed tasted more like dessert than medicine because one of the purposes of their small grain ration is to serve as a reward for the horses coming in from pasture on their own. Ninety percent of the time they are waiting at the stable doors, or within calling distance of the barn, when it is time to stable them. Without the sprout incentive, our daily labor for stabling the horses would be a lot more than 20 minutes. It takes almost that long just to make the round trip on foot to bring in the horses from the back end of the farthest paddocks.
A couple of questions at this year’s small group tour made us realize that we had not thoroughly cultivated the topic of work horse costs in this column. Tom Padua, recently hired to manage a CSA in New Jersey and convert it to the bio-extensive system, wanted to know how much hay, grain and minerals we feed our work horses. Miriam Gieske, a research intern at the Rodale Institute, took Tom’s questions to the next level. After browsing through the SFJ handouts at the end of the day, she wanted to know which costs more, farming with horses or tractors?
An interesting angle to the peppergrass-flavored butter of 1935 was related by Mr. P.C. Betts of the Dairy and Poultry Cooperatives, Inc., Chicago. A few buyers who used this peppergrass butter at greatly reduced prices became accustomed to its high flavor and still called for it after all such butter had been sold from storage. They were willing to pay just as much for it as for high-grade butter. Old cream and fruity-flavored butter sometimes sells at unjustifiable prices when it goes to certain retail outlets.
As a farming family we’re really not that different. We worked in town and farmed as an avocation for seven years after we bought the farm and then left the town job and shifted our focus, full time, to the farm. We began direct marketing, developed a base of return customers who looked for our label in the grocery stores and even had many who came directly to the farm. We were modestly diversified, not certified organic, but in looking back, we were oriented toward deep sustainable agriculture and earnestly tried to develop the natural systems on the farm to work cooperatively. We had never read anything by Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson or Gene Logsdon, we simply farmed from our heart the best way we knew how.
Primary tillage is the first step in readying land for the reception of seeds or transplants. Just as the gardener breaks ground with a spade, and then breaks up clods with a hoe, and finally levels all with a rake, so does the farmer have a basic armory of tools to perform these functions on a larger scale in order to create a seed bed. Our primary tillage begins with the moldboard plow.
Though many of us live in cities, we can still garden and grow our own food. But we associate this with summer, with ripening strawberries in the early season, perhaps red tomatoes later on. And when they are gone, they are gone until next year. What most people don’t realize is that canning their own food is still possible in their own kitchens. Indeed, many supermarkets stock not only flats of glass jars, as well as lids, but also the hot-water baths needed to process the jarred goods, and those crucial tools like tongs to fish hot jars out with.
Your John Deere Tractor has a range of speeds. These various speeds not only give you the flexibility and adaptability you want, but also they enable you to balance the load and the speed for maximum economy. However, if you are handling a light load and want to travel at slow speed, it is far better to put your tractor into the gear which gives you the speed you want than to use a higher gear and throttle down.
It was with surprise and humbled excitement that I agreed to Lynn Miller’s suggestion that I write a column for this, our treasured Small Farmer’s Journal; this agrarian guidebook that so many of us have come to rely on and savor over the years. I have always said that if I had to choose between buying food or renewing my SFJ subscription I would go hungry. This magazine truly has had a profound impact on my life over the years. It has always been amply endowed with matters of practical know-how joined with a philosophical wisdom that has never been afraid of romance and poetry. It really is a place to come for reassurance, for consolation, for hope.
It must have taken Nell 6 months to a year before it dawned on her that this farm was her home and that from now on she would be treated well. About a year and a half later, when Dr. McGrew came around for another small matter, she was 3 inches taller, a lot fatter, with a beautiful heifer calf by her side. “That’s not the little rescue cow is it?” Not only was she as fit as a fat fiddle, she was HAPPY, and she never stopped expressing her enjoyment of and gratitude for all the good that came her way. Good hay! Apples and pumpkins! Rearing her own calf! Wonderful brushings! Fields and woods! Plus she had the cutest Jersey face and everyone loved her.
First of all and maybe most importantly, I cannot take credit for this contraption as the idea came to me from my friend and mentor Wes Ferguson. I bought the original spike from him, then improved on it somewhat. To my knowledge, there are only two like this in existence, and I had a hand in building both of them. Anyone with a welder and some basic metalworking skills can make one of these. The trick is to make sure it is balanced properly to handle large bales.
The Common Ground Fair and Lynn Miller have left me to ponder a few things. They both represent so much that I believe in and want to achieve in my life. I’ve begun to question what the future holds for High View Farm. I wonder where and how I’ll fit into that future and I know it’s getting closer and closer! The pull to get back on the farm is almost overwhelming. When I’m there visiting I don’t have to try so hard to hold onto who and what I am. I just am!
In the Old World two insects, called asparagus beetles, have been known as enemies of the asparagus since early times. In the year 1862 the common asparagus beetle was the occasion of considerable alarm on asparagus farms in Queens County, N.Y., where it threatened to destroy this, one of the most valuable crops grown on Long Island. Subsequent inquiry developed the fact that the species had begun its destructive work at Astoria, near New York City, in 1860, and it is now conceded that it was introduced in this locality about 1856.
I once had a magical chance encounter with an Asian Bearcat, also known as a Binturong. So long as he was convinced I was his undemanding companion all was peaceful and exotic, but when I played with the thick hair of his tail I soon discovered a dangerous emotional landscape. Friends and fellows who are recent entries into the world of agribusiness and status-quo industrial farming are wondering at the ferocity they are met with by public and private protective farm institutions and agencies. Big agriculture is feeling threatened, they don’t like us playing with their tail hairs.