Back Issue Vol: 38-2

Black Pigs and Speckled Beans

Black Pigs & Speckled Beans

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As country pigs go the Large Blacks are superb. They are true grazing pigs, thriving on grass and respectful of fences. Protected from sunburn by their dark skin and hair they are tolerant of heat and cold and do well even in rugged conditions. Having retained valuable instincts, the sows are naturally careful, dedicated, and able mothers. The boars I’ve seen are friendly and docile.

Clutchers Light

Clutcher’s Light

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The world had changed so much in the name of progress but how much better was it now? “Get big or get out” summarized how farming had changed during his life. People hardly went outside anymore and became fat sitting in their homes avoiding the weather. Children stayed inside, constantly watching TV or playing video games. When he went to the store, strangers would hurry by without even looking at him or each other. And families were disconnected and broken. Young adults couldn’t wait to leave their parents and their parents couldn’t wait for them to go. Instead of walking to neighbors houses to visit, like Sam had, people only connected online.

Cultivating Questions Farmers of Forty Centuries

Cultivating Questions: Farmers of Forty Centuries

Recently I saw a book called “40 Centuries.” It was a history of rice farming in the Far East. It showed that due to the nitrogen fixing effects of a certain kind of algae that some rice paddies had actually increased in productivity after 4,000 years of more-or-less continuous cultivation. So, here’s my question. Do you think any form of tillage agriculture, even shallow tillage, is capable of sustainable use over that sort of time frame and without any trucked in inputs?

Eighteen Dollar Harrow

Eighteen Dollar Harrow

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This is the story of a harrow on a budget. I saw plans on the Tillers International website for building an adjustable spike tooth harrow. I modified the plans somewhat to suit the materials I had available and built a functional farm tool for eighteen dollars. The manufactured equivalent would have cost at least $300.

Fjordworks Plowing the Market Garden Part 2

Fjordworks: Plowing the Market Garden Part 2

Within the context of the market garden, the principal aim for utilizing the moldboard is to initiate the process of creating a friable zone for the root systems of direct-seeded or transplanted cash crops to establish themselves in, where they will have sufficient access to all the plant nutrients, air, and moisture they require to bear successful fruits. To this end, it is critical for good plant growth to render the soil into a fine-textured crumbly condition and to ensure there is no compaction within the root zone.

Geezer Wisdom

Geezer Wisdom

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As I enter my “geezer phase,” it is time to reflect on some of the knowledge I learned from some of the very special geezer’s in my life. Please excuse my limited language skills. It is all common sense, cause and effect analysis, and understanding the horse’s communications. REMEMBER YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE HAVING FUN.

Just for Kids - 382 - Spring 2014

Just for Kids – Spring 2014

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Collective Nouns for Animals

LittleField Notes Spring 2014

LittleField Notes: Spring 2014

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I’m thinking of Mr. Morton’s words as I continue the daily work of training our young Suffolk stallion Donald. In my travels to farms I have yet to see a working stud horse. It always struck me as a bit sad to see a magnificent Suffolk Punch stallion, bred for a life of work in the fields, standing in a pen alone, hooves splayed out, his tremendous muscles lacking the tone that only a life of work can provide. How much more fitting to see him put to the plow, or at work in the woods displaying the very characteristics we wish to see passed on in his progeny: a gentle disposition and a willing work ethic. And if we are breeding for work, what can we know of a horse who has never stood a day in the furrow?

McCormick-Deering Trailer Mower No 9

McCormick-Deering Trailer Mower No. 9

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During the 1940’s, McCormick-Deering retrofitted its basic horsedrawn mower design to be pulled by tractors and added infrastructure so that two could be pulled, one just behind and offset from the other. Some of our Amish friends prize these “Trail” mowers for horsedrawn use recognizing that they are built a tad bit heavier. What follows is the actual Instruction manual, including set up notes, for that model. There are some mechanical tid-bits hidden in here that will assist the more avid shade-tree tinkerers.

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

New York Organic Grazing Dairy

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Our farm, here in the center of New York State, consists of 101 acres, about 90 in grass, the rest some woods and swamp. It is inhabited by forty-six jersey cows, twelve breeding ace heifers, one bull, and because it is calving season — an increasing number of calves. Also, four Belgian mares and a couple of buggy horses. Last, and possibly least — the farmer, farmer’s wife, and five grown children.

Oregon Truffle Industry is Beginning to Bear Fruit

Oregon Truffle Industry is Beginning to Bear Fruit

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It’s been more than 30 years since the dean of American cooking blessed the Oregon truffle. Yet, still it gets no respect. In 1977, James Beard was part of a symposium called “Mushrooms and Man” in his native Oregon. In front of scientists and mycology (mushroom) experts from across the country, the culinary icon declared Oregon truffles to be the equal of their expensive, exquisite European cousins – the ones that can sell for up to $2,000 a pound. State fungus cognoscenti mark Beard’s statement as the beginning of Oregon’s commercial truffle industry. In the succeeding decades, however, it’s had trouble taking root.

Our Journey from Poor Hill Farm to Abundant Farmstead

Our Journey from Poor Hill Farm to Abundant Farmstead

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Our farmstead is nestled at 1500 feet in the hills of Northeast Vermont. Vermont hill farms have a history of hard scrabble living, away from the fertile soils of the valley farms. Ours was no exception. Since the 1790’s our farm has seen 15 families come and go, each unable to keep the land due mainly to a declining fertility in the soils. Clear-cutting, overgrazing and a sandy soil base that leaches out in heavy rains left no cushion against the extremes of the Vermont farming year. When our house foundation was dug 20 years ago the excavator operator asked if we wanted to change our plans and open a gravel quarry instead of building a house.

Ox Teamsters Challenge 19th Year

Ox Teamster’s Challenge 19th Year

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Oxen are all from the Bovine species which includes Cattle, Buffalo and Kudus. On hand for the 19th Ox Teamster’s Challenge last August were eight different Bovine breeds of cattle: Brown Swiss, Belgium Blue, Chianina, Devon, Holstein, Milking Shorthorn, Normande, and Randall. This turned out to be our best show so far, with enjoyable and not-so-enjoyable surprises.

Plowing with a Draft Horse Part 2 Harrowing and Seeding

Plowing with a Draft Horse Part 2: Harrowing and Seeding

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Success in getting a satisfactory planting of a field crop will depend on two factors: achievement of a loose, smooth seedbed, and the care with which you set up and gauge the planting machinery. I will discuss both of these factors in this article. The only exception to this rule is if you are a “no till” farmer and control weeds completely with herbicides. This point may be academic however, because I don’t know of any horse farmers who are “no till” farmers!

Raven Flight Part 3

Raven Flight Part 3: If You Build It They Will Come

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They arrived the week before Christmas. Coming in the late afternoon, bringing with them encouragement and faith in a project that was still barely begun. We sat around the kitchen table surrounding a freshly brewed pot of tea, and were refreshed by their presence there. Chris, myself, my sister Katie, her partner Than, and Caleb, our two year old son, gathered. And how good it felt to be simply in their company.

Resiliency and the Ripple Effect

Resiliency & the Ripple Effect

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I heard or read the old phrase, “If you want to change the world, plant a garden” when I was much younger. It didn’t make any sense to me at the time, as I strongly disliked being forced to work in our large garden when I had much better things to do with my free time! After I grew up, left the Navy and the big cities and made the conscious choice to move back to a small town, those words began to make more sense. The world-changing part wasn’t the garden or the food that it grew, not even the world that it was supposed to change. Obviously, one small garden can’t change or feed the world by itself. What one small garden can do is share.

Ruminant Physiology Facts

Ruminant Physiology Facts

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Unlike humans that have a simple stomach and only chew their food once, cattle have 4 stomachs. Like other ruminants (sheep, goats, elk, deer, etc.) cattle can eat their food hurriedly, then burp it up and rechew it more thoroughly later. The largest stomach, the rumen, acts as a fermentation vat to break down fibrous parts of forages that a simple stomach cannot digest.

Saving for What

Saving for What?

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I am reminded that I began my life’s work in farming and art wishing I looked, sounded and moved differently. I wanted to have the character of a character. I had this secret wish to be one of those old sidekick types, like Smiley Burnette, or Raymond Hatton, or Gabby Hayes… only I wanted to be my own sidekick – not second fiddle to someone else who was in charge. There was this notion that I might dress up my own life with humor and harmonica-ed tap dancing. And when things got serious the attention would just naturally slide sideways to the grownups in the room.

Straight Line Thinking and the Way of the Wiggly Worm

Straight Line Thinking & the Way of the Wiggly Worm

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About twenty years ago I used to help out on a small farm which was rented by a young couple who were just starting out farming. The eighty acre holding belonged to the County Council, who had bought farms in the 1930s when farmers were going bankrupt and farms were cheap, specifically to give young people a start in farming. Graeme and Vivienne were lucky to get the tenancy of this farm, because although the idea behind these farms was that the tenants should move on to a larger holding after a few years, with the changes in farm economics many farmers continued to live on these starter farms all their working lives, so an opportunity like this was rare. But it wasn’t just luck that secured them the tenancy; Graeme and Vivienne had already laid the groundwork of their future success, both of them having learnt their trade at agricultural college and by working on a number of different farms.

The Best Kept Secret, Revisited

The Best Kept Secret, Revisited

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At the same time that U.S. commercial beekeeping is circling down in a death spiral, hobby beekeeping is booming and almost every beekeeping club in the country has at least twice as many members as it did twenty years ago. What this means is that if you are fortunate enough to live in a place with relatively clean and varied sources of pollen and nectar, the potential for a successful family-sized commercial apiary is better now than it has been for many decades.

The Milk and Human Kindness King of Cheeses

The Milk & Human Kindness: King of Cheeses

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I hail from Vermont, the land of New England stirred curd cheddar, which has long been the source of pride for cheesemaking here for as long as cows have roamed these fields. Vermont cheddar commands respect and it can be very good. But to me there is no comparison between the best of Vermont cheddar and the original, authentic English cheddar. Oh Blasphemy!

Book Review Butchering

Two New Butchering Volumes

Danforth’s BUTCHERING is an unqualified MASTERPIECE! One which actually gives me hope for the furtherance of human kind and the ripening of good farming everywhere because, in no small part, of this young author’s sensitive comprehension of the modern disconnect with food, feeding ourselves, and farming.