Back Issue Vol: 38-3
The rising sun had not yet drunk the dew from the grass in the dooryard of the line cabin when the man mounted the forward hub of the prairie-schooner and bent a final glance into the dusky interior to make sure that nothing had been forgotten. He inventories the contents with his eye: a mattress for his wife, baby boy, and little Nellie to sleep on: blankets and comforters – somewhat faded and ragged – for himself and Roy to make a bunk of, on the ground; a box of extra clothing, cooking utensils, a lantern, rope, shotgun, family Bible – badly tattered – and a hen-coop, containing seven pullets, lashed to the end-gate. A wooden bucket hung from the rear axle-tree, to which was also chained a black and white setter. The only superfluous article seemed to be a little mahogany bureau, battered and warped, but still retaining an air of distinction which set it apart from the other tawdry furnishings, and marked it as a family treasure.
The Persian, often called English walnut, had been brought to Europe during Medieval times by traders from south central Asia. Its value as a nut and furniture wood crop was well known throughout the Old World by colonial times. Early Americans soon realized that the native American black walnut was just a bit different from its Eurasian relative. First of all, the New World tree grew bigger than its cousin. Secondly, its nut meat, while equally edible and nutritious, was stronger tasting. Thirdly, unlike the relatively easy to crack shell of the Persian walnut, the American’s shell was extremely hard, difficult to smash.
The Brassicas have received too little attention from botanists. The inevitable outcome of such neglect or of any superficial study is a reduction of species, and in this direction Brassica has suffered greatly. The most perplexing species in our manuals are those which contain the greatest number of old types or synonymous names. It is true that this is supposed to be primarily due to the variation of the species or groups, but it is often to be charged to superficial study or insufficient material. Our manuals contain too few rather than too many species of Brassica; at all events, the miscellaneous dumping of rutabagas, turnips, rape and other plants into Brassica campestris is unnatural, and, therefore, unfortunate.
Cultivated tree Cherries have probably sprung from two European species, Prunus Avium and Prunus Cerasus. The domesticated forms of Prunus Avium are characterized by a tall, erect growth; reddish brown glossy bark, which separates in rings; flowers generally in clusters on lateral spurs, appearing with the limp, gradually taper-pointed leaves; fruit red, yellow, or black, generally sweet, spherical, heart-shaped, or pointed; flesh soft or firm. Sour Cherries are low-headed and spreading; flowers in clusters from lateral buds, appearing before the hard, stiff, rather abruptly pointed light or grayish green leaves.
Cultivating Questions: No-till, No-herbicide Planting of Spring Vegetables Using Low Residue Winter-killed Cover Crops
from issue: 38-3
Ray Weil and Natalie Lounsbury’s pioneering work with forage radishes at the University of Maryland could provide a solution to the vegetable grower’s winter cover crop dilemma. When planted in August, forage radishes suppress winter weeds and scavenge left-over nitrogen keeping nutrients out of groundwater. Succulent radish tissue melts away quickly when the ground thaws leaving dark soil to absorb spring warmth and little residue to interfere with planting equipment. Quickly decomposing radishes might also release nitrogen when early vegetables need it.
from issue: 38-3
In this series of articles we are taking a look at how contemporary horse-powered farmers are making use of the moldboard plow, with an emphasis on the use of the moldboard as primary tillage in the market garden. In this installment we will hear “Reports from the Field” from two small farmers who favor the walking plow and a report from one farmer who farms tens of acres of forage crops and is decidedly in favor of the sulky. But first, we’ll dig into the SFJ archives to get a little perspective on the evolution of the manufacture of the walking plow from the late 19th century to the present.
Most permanent pasture plants are small-seeded and rather slow in becoming established. Use of these pastures during the year of seeding should be delayed until the plants are firmly rooted and growing vigorously. Turning birds into a perennial pasture too soon after seeding may result in poor stands as many plants will be killed by trampling and others will be pulled out by the grazing birds. Late fall grazing of new seedings should be avoided. It usually is necessary to mow new perennial pastures once or twice during the first year to control weeds. This mowing should be done when the weeds are flowering or before seeds develop. The cutter-bar of the mower should be set three or four inches above the ground to cut the weeds with a minimum of injury to the young forage plants.
We are blessed who are active participants in the life of soil and weather, crops and critters, living a life grounded in seasonal change. This talk of human connection to land and season is not just the rambling romantic musing of an agrarian ideologue. It is rather the result of participating in the deeply vital vocation that is farming and knowing its fruits first hand.
The radishes came up quick, filling the garden canopy completely that fall, and the following spring we found the plot was clean of weeds and rows of open holes were left where the radish roots had been growing. Well, we had a few extra onion plants that spring and decided to plant them in these holes, since we already had very clear lines laid out for us and a clean seedbed. What we got were the best looking onions that have ever come out of our gardens.
Over the Independence Day weekend Marvin and Pam Brisk, of Oak Tree Ranch, Halfway, Oregon, hosted a gathering of animal traction professionals and enthusiasts to explore the process of putting up loose hay. While putting up loose hay may be viewed as somewhat anachronistic, even by draft animal enthusiasts, we came seeking knowledge of how haying this way could fit into our lives. And of course, to have fun! Mowing, raking, use of a hay loader, and loading hay into the barn with a trolley system were all demonstrated and many tried out the various facets of the process. With the use of Marvin and Pam’s well maintained machinery and seasoned horses, this little ranch in Halfway served as an inspiration to all who cared to marvel at the elegant simplicity of a job well done using appropriate technology and a bit of help from their friends.
For best results, the draft angles (front frame) on the front harrow should be approximately level when the harrow is hitched to the tractor. If necessary, adjust tractor draw bar to obtain this result. In practically all field work the gangs should run level and cut at an even depth. Adjust the front harrow gangs to suit by raising or lowering the pressure plate at center of front harrow frame. The rear gangs may be leveled by raising or lowering the outer draw bar pressure plates. If the harrow ridges the soil between the rear gangs, the soil may be leveled by raising the inner end of the gangs, or by giving them less angle by moving the rear harrow frame forward at the three holes in the inner draw bars.
When my husband Lynn and I were first married, in 1966, we had a dairy. Several of our Holsteins had twins that year and we had fun naming them. I particularly remember Vim and Vigor – fraternal twins, a bull calf and a heifer calf. The next year we moved to our present ranch to raise beef cattle, and even though we had a lot more cows, none of the beef cows ever had twins – until 1977, the spring that our kids (Michael and Andrea) turned 9 and 7.
A couple of years ago I broke the harness horseman’s first rule of common sense. It was incredibly stupid and impetuous of me but I did it anyway. I hooked two young half broke fillies together before they were really ready. As a result I almost got my wife Andrea and me killed, destroyed a wagon and ended up with two spoiled runaway horses. If I’d addressed the problem immediately, as I would have in the old days, I’m sure I could have corrected and reassured the horses fairly quickly but I didn’t. I let considerable time go by; I had lost my nerve; post-traumatic stress syndrome had me in its clutches. A little while after the disastrous event, knowing what needed to be done, I hooked each of the fillies, independently, beside the old Clydesdale mare I had started them with again, but on both occasions I simply left them tied to the hitching rail. I couldn’t find the courage to pick up the reins and put myself in harm’s way again. I was an emotional wreck.
The Model “B” is ideal general-purpose power for farms of medium size. Available with either all-fuel or more powerful gasoline engine. Standard equipment includes self-starter, front and rear lights, power shaft, belt pulley, and power lift. Powr-Trol, Roll-O-matic front wheels, and a wide variety of integral equipment also available. The Model “A” matches the power requirements on larger row-crop farms. It has an abundance of power to handle big-capacity plows, bedders, and disk harrows, four row cultivators and the larger harvesting and belt-driven machines.
It was a pasty, mustard-yellow, half-ton ’80 Chevrolet pickup truck, the entire body of which was riddled by small dents. I bought it at auction years ago. It belonged to an old rancher whose family fondly referred to as Mr. Magoo. In his later years he could not see well. He only drove at home on the ranch, and he drove this truck. He’d drive slow until he bumped into something, then he’d back up a little and turn one way or the other and try again. In this fashion he ‘felt’ his way around the ranch. And in this fashion he dented up old yeller. The surface of the vehicle was like a reverse brail, a record of ‘felt’, as if Mr. Magoo used ‘old yeller’ like a big motorized blind man’s walking stick, feeling out around him as he moved through his farming world.
From April to October, RIF participants join Brooklyn Grange staff and interns once a week in raking beds, seeding, weeding, transplanting, composting, and harvesting, as well as guiding visitors and CSA members around the two farms. In this way, they contribute directly to the health and ecological resiliency of their adopted community. An entire program curriculum has been developed around environmental stewardship, nutrition, sustainability, small business management, and an overview of New York’s booming “green” economy, with the aim of preparing participants to enter the job market. To that end, the nearby Brooklyn Navy Yard Employment Center assists in offering free resume-writing and job interview workshops; many participants go on to find full-time work at the close of the season.
The economics of commercial beekeeping on a small scale is changing rapidly as well. All the problems honeybees are facing, here and worldwide, have sent the value of bees and bee products trending sharply up. Weather problems, and a huge global expansion of the corn and soybean monster has killed the world’s surplus of honey. In the U.S., commercial beekeepers are focused like zombies on pollinating the California almond crop, and so have further reduced their ability to produce surplus honey and bees for sale. 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 true ‘Jackson Fork’ is arguably the single most iconic product invented by Byron Jackson, of early 1900’s San Francisco – but it was by no means the only important innovation/product Jackson engineered. As these old cuts testify, he designed many devices and systems for forage handling. Some, like the Threshing Outfits, were geared for handling large volumes of grain crop.
The exciting thing about going to new places and seeing different things is that you never know beforehand what you will get out of it. One such instance was my visit to the first British Festival of the Working Horse, where the weather was dreadful, the range of equipment a little disappointing, but the unexpected highlight was Henry Finzi-Constantine’s presentation to the mini conference, in which he talked about the introduction of a working horse into his Italian biodynamic vineyard. His wholehearted enthusiasm for the wine, the vineyard and the horse was both infectious and delightful, but for me at least, also slightly embarrassing, because in describing what the horse brings to his operation, there were no caveats, no ifs or buts.
While the ‘view’ of old-tyme threshing is most always photogenic, and the beneficial social aspects of a threshing bee – where neighbors come together to share the work and have a good time – are wonderful to experience, we were interested this time around in the mechanical ‘interiors’ of the process. The paths and tension of the drive belts, the adjustments of everything, the mid-work servicings are all things which might escape most eyes. But for any of us who appreciate this decidedly appropriate technology for a handmade farming, such views can be helpful and even critically important.