Back Issue Vol: 34-4
First we had hunting and gathering. Then we had farming. Those two periods of human history lasted quite a long time. Then we had agriculture, morphing some would say by necessity into the highly extractive agribusiness model of soil mining – simplify by calling it industrial agriculture. In the wider scope of human history, industrial agriculture has been a blip.
The pen drawings represent my honey house as it stands today. I am not sending it to you because I think it is an ideal honey house by any means, but considering the surroundings it suits me very well. The surface of the ground around the house and bee-yard is perfectly flat and level, so there is no chance to build on two levels, or I would have built it that way. As it is I have tried to have things as handy as possible with everything on one level.
The most essential knowledge to the successful operation of a Harvester is to recognize the proper time to start harvesting. Most grain growers become anxious to start harvesting when the grain begins to show a golden hue. Grain should never be threshed until thoroughly ripe and the straw gets brittle.
There is an old saying among cowboys that; “A man who can’t shoe his own horse or shoot his own dog shouldn’t by rights have neither.” If I try to apply this standard to my own farming life, the kernel of truth I discover lies in the observable fact that any horse owner who trims her own horse’s feet will be that much more intimately attuned to the life force of that animal.
Money can’t buy local knowledge. Here I was trying desperately to get some of that good succulent young June grass made into hay and the weather just wouldn’t support it. The old timers knew this. They knew to wait, to be patient. The sun will eventually come out. Besides, there is plenty else to do in June.
Reviewing materials in our archive, I came across this pamphlet and was struck with the design features of this loader which suggest something a capable farm welder might be able to build. There are unique features here, including but not limited to the sled runner feet that allow for a buckrake-like functionality – a ‘float’ if you will. It has always been my view that appropriate technology points towards those designs we can get our minds and hands around.
It is my bees, however, which afford me the most pleasing and extensive themes; let me look at them when I will, their government, their industry, their quarrels, their passions, always present me with something new; for which reason, when weary with labour, my common place of rest is under my locust-trees, close by my bee-house.
So it might be well to recall national models such as John and Abigail Adams, who when it mattered, knew what to do and did it without fanfare, whether the moment called for defending British soldiers against charges of murder in the Boston Massacre, drafting a state constitution, melting down pewter spoons to cast musket balls—or getting in a hay crop before the rains came. Their values extended beyond expediency and profit to the greater social good.
One of the things that has been bred out of today’s chicken is the ability to go “broody” and hatch out a clutch of chicks. Chickens nowadays will go broody, but will abandon the eggs after a few days – the brooding instinct has been bred out of them. It takes 21 days of continuously setting on the eggs by a nice warm hen for the chicks to hatch out. None of the common domestic breeds available will sit the eggs long enough to hatch them out.
I had seen the truck running around locally with a sign on the side which said CUSTOM MEAT CUTTER and a phone number so I called. It was a small family-owned business thirty miles away. They told me straight away that their facility wasn’t federally inspected. I didn’t care. (In my rustic, hardscrabble, farm and ranch community, federal inspection was a joke – an extra fee you paid to get a stamp of approval with no one really inspecting anything.)
The historic problem has been the short window of time in which fields must be worked and planted and then later harvested. A large labor force was needed, but only seasonally. The persistent problem was then and still is that there is really no livelihood for the farm laborer, without migrating. An agriculture which allowed the general society to settle and build urban centers still required a farm labor force to migrate to sustain a livelihood.
In this series I will attempt a preliminary vision of a relocalization of food production designed to feed the population of Tompkins County, New York. A project of this scope implies a reorganization of food processing and distribution that, while not included in this first iteration, will need to be integrated in a later, expanded overview.
Wheat is a plant of vast economic importance, widely distributed over the civilized world and having a history coincident with that of the human race. The grain is used largely for human food, chiefly as food-stuffs made from its flour, and in the form of breakfast food. The by-products of its manufacture are used as stock-food. The grain, whole or ground, is also valuable for stock feeding.