Back Issue Vol: 37-4
I was seven years old, but I knew times were hard in 1937. Momma told me not to expect a visit from Santa that year. Like us, he didn’t have any money either. But we would be going to Great Grandma’s house Christmas dinner. On that cold grey December day, my tall thin Great Grandma held the door open wide, waiting, while we piled out of our Model-A Ford after a long ride from town. She kissed us a cheery hello, smelling as usual of dipped snuff. I remember how she leaned down to hug me in her long dark skirt and long-sleeved shirtwaist with her high black leather buttoned shoes peaking out from underneath.
One tangible way time exists for me is that I see it in the aggregate mulch or ground cover of my life, a blanket of experiences that keeps getting added to. That mulch shades the basic inescapables, the nasty and mortal shape of me. That mulch, that blanket is something I can measure. That mulch conserves my spiritual moisture and helps me to continue growing. Now this year’s experience with bees goes into that measure. I can say these sorts of silly things because I am old. When I was younger I couldn’t get away with it.
The dark stillness of the night rushes out to greet me as I step outside. It is midnight as I make my way to the goat barn for yet another routine check of the pregnant does. I peek my head inside, flashlight in hand. I notice a doe off by herself and the slight rustle of straw as she paces. As I walk to her, I see the visible signs of birth on the way. I stroke her gently and murmur to her quietly. My breath quickens as the reality of it catches up to me. I bustle her into the pen already set up for kidding. Once she is settled, I turn from her and quickly grab my kidding bag from the garage; this bag is my lifesaver. Birth is never clean. Then the waiting begins. I go to and from the house, leaving her for a while, only to come check on her a few moments later. My heart beats fast, but I am outwardly collected. I mostly just sit with her, and occasionally talk to her reassuringly. This helps to calm us both down.
Cattle are very intelligent, and are just as “trainable” as horses. Like horses, they “reason” differently than humans. Understanding the way cattle think and why they react to you the way they do can enable you handle them in ways that will help rather than hinder your purposes. If you can “think like a cow” you can more readily predict what cattle will do in various situations and be able to handle them with fewer problems.
We have relied exclusively on rye for the grow-your-own mulch experiment because it is such a perfect match for many of our spring and summer vegetables. Established in early-to-mid September at our northern Pennsylvania location, rye produces a prodigious amount of biomass by the end of the following May. Mowing the rye at this time eliminates the possibility of volunteer grain. And raking the conveniently grown straw next to the adjacent vegetables a week or two later coincides nicely with the soil temperature and moisture requirements of tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, leeks and winter squash. This year we branched out a little, trialing different cover crops for other growing windows.
Waking to a white world: three inches or more on the ground with more coming down. Early hay feeding, as generally, before dawn, fat snowflakes on my cheek. Horses frisky. Cows restful on their bed, chewing their cud. Not rising for breakfast, happy for the hay tossed on their pillows. Awhile later Dick and Annie, catching sight of me with halters in hand, go fooling all around the pasture this way and that, up and down. Dick bucking, throwing his head, galloping and farting. Annie playing in her own modest, inward way: trotting fast, a hint of a canter, a glimpse of a neck toss, a smile. I stand in the middle of the field enjoying the show, laughing and waiting. Time after time they roar by, until at last they’re ready to come.
For more than ten years we cultivated our market garden with the walk-behind cultivator. This past season we made the transition to the riding cultivator. I really enjoyed using this amazing implement. Our current team of Fjords are now mature animals (14 & 18 years old) and have been working together for 11 years, so they were certainly ready to work quietly and walk slowly enough to be effective with this precision tool.
There is a rather neat phrase in German – ‘wenn schon, denn schon’ – which literally translates as ‘enough already, then already;’ but what it actually means is ‘if a something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. That would be a fitting description of Pferdestark, the German version of Horse Progress Days. For sheer variety of different breeds of draught horses, regional and national harness styles, or for that matter, languages or hats, it would be hard to beat Pferdestark.
I would fix it but it ain’t broke yet, or more to the point — it ain’t completely broke yet. But that is the way of most of our lives isn’t it? We so often have to make do with a two-legged stool. That is until one day the cow will suddenly shift her weight and in response you will shift yours and you will hear a crack and suddenly your two-legged stool will have become a one-legged stool. And no one, not even a stubborn “ain’t completely broke yet” farmer, can abide a one legged stool.
Through the use of carefully planned cover crop/vegetable rotations, homemade compost and intention, we focus on minimal tillage and maintaining high organic matter in our soils to retain as much of that soil moisture as possible. Recently we have realized that our plants may have come up against it in this quest – up against a hard pan, that is. Our old soils have been worked since this farm was homesteaded in 1720; over those years it’s seen lots of farming through the generations. In the market gardens we tested for subsoil compaction with a penetrometer, and at 8-12 inches deep this was stopped by the hard pan. With a hefty push, it would punch through and penetrate freely again below this compacted layer. Well to really drought proof the gardens, we wanted to allow the roots of our vegetable plants to be able to penetrate deep into the subsoil moisture reserves in dry spells.
Since the conditions encountered in the field are so varied that definite instructions would be of little value, the aim is to explain the effect of certain adjustments and leave it to the one making the adjustments to determine when they should be made. Determining the cause before attempting a remedy will simplify the task. Study the problem carefully before making any changes. There are four principal units in the Harvester-Thresher: The Heading, Threshing, Separating and Cleaning Units. Each should be considered individually to determine where loss of efficiency may be present.
I quickly discovered animals don’t need to be raised inside in atrocious conditions in order to provide meat for my family. The farmers that I spoke to were actually more akin to my mind’s eye image of Old Mac Donald’s farmer. These folks, my neighbors, enjoyed working with their animals. They gave the animals names, ensured the animals had comfortable places to sleep, and allowed the livestock to go outside on grass. Pigs were rolling in the dirt and chickens were sunning themselves, soaking up vitamin D. These were the type of farmers that I wanted to support with my family’s food dollars and this was the kind of meat that I could feel good about feeding my family.
She was everything we had dreamed of and more: a bit of light at the tip of a small mountaintop. She was old farmland, good farmland; the one lasting piece of cleared land on this one lane road surrounded by wood and state forest. The stone walls were mystifying, the pond perfectly sized, the blueberries just beginning to hold promise of fruit.
The 1938 SILVER KING is more than a NAME. It’s constructed right – only the best materials are used throughout, and the workmanship is of the highest quality. From end to end – the 1938 Silver King gives you more desired features than any other tractor. Accessible – easy to drive – the Silver King makes work a pleasure.
What could be more delicious than a fresh scone topped with jam and clotted cream of your own making with a steaming cup of tea, especially after working out in the cold and wet all afternoon? Coming up with the skills to make good tea and gorgeous scones and jam surely requires attention and practice, and learning to make clotted cream does as well.
For several reasons the number of turkeys in the United States is decreasing. According to the census of 1900 there were in the United States at that time 6,594,695 turkeys, while by 1910 the number had decreased to 3,688,708. Poultry dealers throughout the country state that the decrease has continued ever since the last census. The principal cause of the decrease is that as the population of the country increases farming becomes more intensive, and every year the area of range suitable for turkey raising is reduced. Many turkey raisers have given up the business principally because their turkeys range through the grain fields of adjacent farms and thus cause the ill will of the owners thereof.
Our compost piles will age for at least a year before being added to the garden. We have learned that the slow aging is more beneficial to the decomposition process as well as not losing nearly as much nitrogen to off-gassing as happens with the hot and fast methods. Another benefit is the decomposition is much more thorough, destroying weed seeds, pathogens and any unwanted chemicals much better in a slower composting setup.
Many amateur fruit growers are concerned at times because their trees do not begin to bear as soon after being planted as they had expected or do not bear as abundantly as they wish. In some cases after bearing for a period of years the trees cease to produce, or bear irregularly. While sometimes, the reason for a fruit tree not bearing may be obscure and not explainable on any known basis, in the majority of cases such failure is due to some one of several well recognized factors. The more common of these are here briefly discussed.
The wild turkeys of North America can be considered a truly miraculous group of birds. Their populations numbered in the untold millions prior to the arrival of the European settlers in the 1500’s. The next three hundred plus years saw them nearly exterminated due to rapid habitat loss and totally unregulated hunting pressure. They actually became extinct in over fifteen states where they had previously been abundant and their decline continued well into the twentieth century. Luckily, with the passage of the Pittman Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act in 1937, along with the foundations of the Wildlife Society and the National Wild Turkey Federation there has been a steady reestablishment of our nearly national bird, which it would have been had it been left up to Benjamin Franklin. Relocations and the careful management and stewardship by both wildlife experts and sportsmen along with farmers, ranchers, and landowners have been largely responsible for the advancements in the numbers of their populations and the locations of the wild turkeys.