Back Issue Vol: 38-1
People ask this question in many shifting forms; “What made you choose the life of an old-fashioned horse-farmer?” Sometimes I answer it, sometimes I don’t even make an effort. But now I’m intensely interested in understanding how we must crack the new armors of the young if we are to “get through to” candidate novices, those people who think they want to do what we do. And we must get through to them if we are to complete the hand-off, the passing of the proverbial baton. So that means we have to honor all these questions and make good attempt to honestly and completely answer them.
Two management directives led us to a bio-extensive design. First, because our staff is small, we required a system that would provide inherently good weed control. Bermuda grass was a particular concern. Our second directive demanded a reduced dependence on outside fertility inputs, particularly industrial poultry litter. Many, if not most, of the organic market farms in our region depend on broiler or layer litter for annual supplies of nitrogen and organic matter. We wanted an alternative that would be more independent and sustainable.
After living in Ohio for twelve years and being very home-sick, I was ready to get home, spend time with my family and friends, and get back to the farm. The question arose, can one really come back home? When I lived in Ohio and asked myself that question the answer was adamantly, yes! Now that I was here… I wasn’t so sure.
In a horse-powered market garden in the 1- to 10-acre range the moldboard plow can still serve us very well as one valuable component within a whole tool kit of tillage methods. In the market garden the plow is used principally to turn in crop residue or cover crops with the intention of preparing the ground to sow new seeds. In these instances, the plow is often the most effective tool the horse-powered farmer has on hand for beginning the process of creating a fine seed bed.
I was having an afternoon nap in our bedroom and enjoying a wonderful dream when I felt someone nibbling my ear and blowing warm moist air on my check. I rolled over, expecting to see Andrea, and almost had a heart attack when I opened my eyes to a little brown creature with a flat snout peering at me. My Daughter Zoe was draping a small pig by the hind legs over me and laughing. “Look what Jack gave me,” she said, as she scooped the piglet back up and cradled the little bundle in her arms. I couldn’t figure out what I had done to Jack to make him pull such a dirty trick on me.
Goats are one of the most incredible homestead animals. They are usually affectionate and sweet, with such funny and smart personalities. Goats give so much goodness for the amount of hay and grain they eat. One cow weighs 1,000 lbs. or more and gives 4-8 gallons of milk a day. One goat weighs around 130 lbs. and gives around a gallon — can you see the difference in feed conversion?
En route to a remote pasture where the Belgian draft horses, Prince and Tom, are grazing, we survey the vast green landscape, a fine mist hovering in distant low lying areas. We are enveloped in a profusion of sweet, earthy balance. Interns and other workers start their chores; one pauses to check his smart phone. Scattered about are many animal-powered rustic implements. This rich and agriculturally diverse, peaceful place is steeped in contrasts: modern and ancient.
When folks ask me how it turns out my wife and I are so fortunate to have a son who takes interest in draft horses and their use in farming, all I can say is that from the time Luke was an infant he encountered the horses on the farm that I had acquired in 1970. In fact, as he grew up, thirteen draft foals were born on the farm. At the time we were raising foals, we kept our own stallion, and over the years, we bought and nurtured three registered stallions. Once Luke’s interest grew, he helped decide that we should buy foals to raise rather than breed them.
Horse-radish, the well-known condiment used so much with roast beef and oysters, is a member of the natural family Crucifarae, to which belong cabbage, turnip, wallflower, stock, charlock, mustard, and many other vegetables, flowers and weeds. It comes to us from Great Britain, where it is thought to have been naturalized from some more eastern European country. It is often found growing wild in moist locations, such as the margins of streams, in cool woods and damp meadows, and, in some places, notably in the state of New York, is troublesome as a weed.
In the last 20 or so years we’ve experienced a “Go Green” doctrine throughout our society. Everyone is looking to reduce carbon footprints, recycle and make a better tomorrow. The Somerset County Jail in Madison, Maine is on board with this doctrine. Upon opening of the facility back in 2008-09 we started a three acre garden plot with two goals: provide work for community trustee inmates, and to augment the jails food budget with fresh salad vegetables and potatoes. A reserve corrections officer was hired who had extensive experience with farming in Maine. In 2009, the garden resulted in a small savings to the jails food service budget of $400. This has increased steadily to around $2500 in salad vegetables and $3000 of potatoes from a five acre garden.
In the Fall 2013 issue Journal reader W.D. Cooper of Fayetteville, Pennsylvania respectfully took me to task for plowing with the lines tied behind my back while using the walking plow. Mr. Cooper put it this way, “Any one whose ever plowed knows that you never put the check lines around your waist. I don’t care how quiet your team is. If they plow up a nest of yellow jackets they’re fixin’ to blow up and run. Needless to say, trapped.” That got me to thinking about all the different aspects of safety while farming with horses.
Mangrove is a name applied to species of Rhizophora. The common Mangrove is one of the commonest plants in the swampy shores of tropical and subtropical seas. It is not in cultivation, but its strange methods of propagation make it one of the most interesting of plants.
One time, Grandpa told me that when the Creator made the Navajo, he gave them corn for food and pollen for prayer. For this reason, many of the Navajo collect the corn pollen and keep it with them in a small deerskin bag. When they pray, they also sprinkle the pollen. I looked closely at a corn stalk near me, already I could see the ear of corn forming on the stalk. The corn was young but it was already preparing to bear fruit. Our corn seed came from Grandpa, who got it from his grandmother and so on. It is generations old. Dad says this is the way it is supposed to be.
Liz Gollen is what could be termed a rural Renaissance woman: She’s a beekeeper; a flower-farmer; a writer, artist and occasional film-maker; a chicken-raiser (for eggs); and, last but certainly not least, a full-time elementary school teacher. She and Archie, her husband of many years, inhabit a beautiful and sturdy hand-built log home on a wooded plot of family land in Sagle, Idaho.
“Let me tell you about where I grew up, not so far from here…” and she did. She started weaving images through our brains like the artwork on her walls. She told us of the farm we were on, and how she used to sell her art at the stand, how her husband had worked for years pruning and picking without a single farming bone in his body. ‘Just for the love of apples.’ She told us of the pies she had baked, the farm stand they had built and grown in. She went round and round – a traveler in time sitting right before us. “And now there’s no one to take care of this old place.” She looked down at her hands. “Of course you can pick the apples – go pick them to your heart’s content.”
We have in our archives this interesting and informative booklet on a manure spreader from circa 1900. We have reproduced the whole pages for you to give a complete picture of how good a job of selling these old companies did, especially when it came to the presentation of real engineering advancement. Hope you enjoy it.
Most accidents happen when people handling cattle don’t understand basic cow psychology, being in the wrong place at the wrong time or trying to force an animal to do something it doesn’t understand. Cattle can be dangerous when handled in a confined area if they panic and become defensive. Their reaction to a perceived threat to their safety is to flee or fight, and if they don’t have room to run away they will attack. Wild, nervous cattle are more dangerous in close quarters such as a small corral or barn stall because they panic quicker and need a lot more room (bigger flight zone). They may become defensive and charge at you, even if you are some distance away. Accidents at calving time may occur if a cow considers you a threat to her calf.
We are approaching this from a seed quality standpoint, not just a seed saving one. Saving seed is fairly simple to do, but the results from planting those seeds can be very mixed; without a basis of understanding of seed quality, people can be disappointed and confused as to why they got the results they did. Both the home gardener and the seed company must understand seed quality to be successful in their respective endeavors.
This morning, I awoke to another depressingly beautiful January day – clear skies and an expected high temperature here in Auburn of close to 70 degrees. I say depressing, because we should be in the midst of our rainy season here – but since December 1, we’ve measured less than one inch of precipitation. And there doesn’t look to be much moisture in our future, either. Even the television “meteorologists” have quit using words like “beautiful” to describe our weather pattern – which must mean this drought is getting serious.
There are 6 stanchions: first Juliette, named for the great grandma of all modern herbalists, Juliette de Bairacli Levy. Number Two cow is Masha, our best milker, best disposition, glorious teats and not an ungraceful line on her entire being. All the animals here were born on the farm with the exception of Nell, the next cow on the stanchion floor. She is Juliette’s mother. Hazel is in the other big stall across from the heifer stall. She’s dry now and 7 months pregnant, and I’m keeping her apart because she will eat too much if she is in with the milkers.