Back Issue Vol: 35-4
When you have determined that your trace chains are long enough or have modified them to be so, you are ready to experiment with how much to shorten them up when pulling various loads on the ground. When your mules are ready to pull a load it’s best to hook the chains shorter for the pull. Properly shortening the trace chains to put the load closer to the animal(s) can maximize draft advantage and create upward lift on the front end of the log(s) – so they don’t dig into the ground as much and pull harder. The reason trace chains can be shorter when skidding a load than when simply dragging just a singletree or team rigging is because the resistance of a the load causes the singletrees/rigging to lift up off the ground allowing some clearance beneath for the rear feet.
Sugar season started a fortnight ago. The sap is flowing slowly, but steadily. Bright sunshine in the afternoons compliments nights well below freezing. With a few feet of snow still on the ground, it would seem that we are in for a long season. I have 112 taps in, with buckets hanging beneath each one. Our sugaring system makes use of strong arms instead of lines of tubing. Sap is stored in drums and buckets next to our simple sugar shack; inside the rickety door liquid gold is boiled down thanks to a rusty evaporator and four pans set atop the flames. Not the most efficient, but certainly effective.
Vermont has been a Farm to School pioneer, with a long history of engagement and partnership by farmers, school leaders, non-profit organizations, state agencies and local businesses. Farm to School in Vermont often advances a comprehensive agenda, working to integrate local food and farms into the cafeteria, classroom and community – or the “three C’s.” Around Vermont, various regional groups have emerged to work together around these goals and support the more than 200 schools with Farm to School efforts. Following is a series of three articles that describe farm to school efforts from different vantage points. All three authors live in Hartland, Vermont.
While some farmers curse and spit when the USDA is mentioned, there are others who offer thanks. I am neither of these. For myself I have had two significant, yet very polar experiences with direct participation with the USDA. The real question, at least for me, is why those experiences were so different; and what determines the outcome when farmers and the USDA come together?
Working with horses can and should be safe and fun and profitable. The road to getting there need not be so fraught with danger and catastrophe as ours has been. I hope the telling of our story, in both its disasters and successes will not dissuade but rather inspire would-be teamsters to join the horse-powered ranks and avoid the pitfalls of the un-mentored greenhorn.
Mike threads the platform draper, much like with the Binder, under the roller. It’s fed all the way across to the opposite side after which the opposing roller is reset in place – then the draper is folded over and drawn back to meet for buckling.
Although this journal goes to many parts of the world and features many interesting features on farming methods in other countries, it is nonetheless a very American publication, so it was with some trepidation that I, as an Englishman, offered to write a report on the foremost work horse event in the United States, the Horse Progress Days. For more than a decade this is the event that I have most wanted to visit, and as it has grown in size and stature, reading the reports, seeing the pictures, and watching the films only increased my desire to make the trip over the Atlantic. So it was with no little anticipation that I arrived in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in late June this year, and with great excitement descended the steep grassy slope from the car park above the Henry King farm.
From a practical standpoint, there are advantages to staying small. On a small farm, the farmer can pay close attention to details that might be lost on a larger operation – details like soil protection and pest detection. Wendell Berry writes that a farm is sized correctly if it can be cared for by the farm family and perhaps by a few seasonal employees. Obviously, this definition means that a right-sized farm will vary depending on the crops produced. For example, our family can properly care for 400 ewes with a minimum of outside help. On the other hand, five or ten acres of vegetables might be the correct size for another operation.
The Threshasaurus’s large size and curious nature may appear antagonistic, but they are mostly curious and largely non-threatening. Be careful when approaching, however, as they do have sharp teeth and many fast moving, exposed pulleys.
The No. 5 Power Mower can be attached to practically any make of tractor. Illustrations show hookup equipment for several of the more common tractors for which “cut-to-fit” hookup parts are furnished. This machine will continue to cut like a new mower, if properly oiled and kept in good repair. Cutting parts must be kept sharp; badly worn knife head guides, knife holders and wearing plates must be replaced and carefully set; guards must be kept in alignment; adjustments to restore alignment of knife and pitman and for registering knife sections in guards should be used whenever necessary; lifting spring should be properly adjusted and mower attached to tractor at correct height. Proper attention to these essentials insures clean cutting, light draft; continuous operation and low upkeep cost.
Farming never fails to dish up one lesson in humility after another. Despite having all the weather knowledge the information-age has to offer, farmers will still lose hay to the rain, apple blossoms to frost, winter wheat to drought… If we are slow to learn humility in Nature’s presence we can be sure that another lesson is never far off.
I’ve tried the D-ring harness but it doesn’t work for me. It’s nice because there’s no weight on the neck, but if a horse runs or even trots the end of the tongue whips violently in every direction. That should be mentioned in some of the articles about them. I know you say a work horse gets his work done at a walk. I don’t own any woods but have to travel quite a distance to get to some of the woods I cut in. It would take a long time to walk all the way. And going up hills I let them go at a full run. It’s much easier to get up the hill.
Many believe that plowing the land with horses and mules is one of the arts from former times that should be carefully preserved. In order to keep the memory of historic farming alive and to help farmers develop and maintain their skills of plowing with draft animals, several organizations have sprung up in various states. One of these is the North Carolina Work Horse and Mule Association, which sponsors several plow days and other related events each year.
At Terra Nova we have worked with a group of high school students to convert a one and a half acre ball field into a working farm with a fully functioning CSA. Over the course of three years 25 students have worked on the farm taking ownership over the program and driving the goals of the farm. We have expanded the CSA to 30 shares, currently grow produce for our school district, and have partnered with a local community college. The work on the farm is closely tied to the students’ education. It has given many youth the opportunity to pursue individual interests and passions pertaining to the farm all while earning credit towards their high school education.
Many vegetarians have chosen meat free diets as a way to avoid the environmental degradation and gross misallocation of resources, such as grain and water, associated with the CAFO’s. Not only do those problems fall away in grass based systems, but many become benefits. For instance, pollution from manure runoff in massive feedlots threatens water quality and ecological biodiversity. On pasture, however, manure serves to fertilize, creating a more resilient and diverse plant and soil ecosystem.
Now, the trick is to continue feeding that draper until the two ends, rigged with buckles, meet. This may take a trip or two around the machine to free up areas where slats may bind. On the right is an underside view showing the bottom side of the lower elevator draper dangling between the frame and bull wheel. This must be fed back forward, around the lower roller, so that the whole assembly can be buckled in place snuggly. After this the roller is tightened to remove any slop and slap.
You might observe that I should be speaking, perhaps, of communities rather than neighbors and here is where I would beg to differ. We, the wider western world, tossed the words around helter skelter these last decades and permitted ad agencies to make of them what they will but I wish to offer that ‘community’ by definition speaks to a group of like-minded, like-employed, or membership-bound people such as Carpenters, Orthodontists, Baptists or Shriners. Commonality is the guiding principle. Whereas ‘neighborhood’ speaks to proximity, shared environs, locality. Neighborhoods may contain a strong or absolute contingent of community, as in this is a black neighborhood or a Jewish neighborhood. But most neighborhoods are a mix of races, religions, sports preferences, fraternal memberships, income levels, etc.
The newly restored Dufur Threshing Bee binder was set up for a three abreast. Mike and Mac McIntosh wanted to pull this little five footer with two of their Belgians and needed to convert that hitch to a doubletree setup. The factory tongue truck was shifted to receive a doubletree dead center. The side draft bracketing was swung back closer to center. That strap on top would function like a hammer-strap.
When that hard working hen comes to the end of her egg production once and for all and you are reflecting on what she has given – so many delicious eggs! And the arrival of every one of them announced so enthusiastically – not to mention that valuable manure which has made a world of difference to the rhubarb patch, and her enduring example of perpetual industriousness, she has one more gift to give: chicken pie.
I know what it’s like to be trying to find one’s way learning skills without a much needed teacher or experienced advisor. I made a lot of cheese for the pigs and chickens in the beginning and shed many a tear. I want you to know that the skills you will need are within your reach, and that I will spell it all out for you as best I can. I hope it’s the next best thing to welcoming you personally at my kitchen door and actually getting to work together.
The high institutional and population density of urban areas promotes labor-intensive production methods, community regeneration through cooperative management, and transport efficiency for agricultural inputs and products. The ability to have more farmers/acre permits the kind of management-intensive system that maximizes productivity achieved by close monitoring and good timing throughout the growing season. It allows a division of labor to manage diversified production integrated into one system.