Back Issue Vol: 38-4
I have grown potatoes in my garden for many years and agree with the French: the flowers are gorgeous. They may be white, pink, red, blue and purple. I favor Yukon Gold, which produces purple flowers with brilliant yellow anthers and stigmas. Perhaps I am biased, but I don’t think any other flower is so beautiful.
This year, I set out to make a new implement. Drawing from my experiences on a tractor-powered farm in California and some advice from Teague and Kosma, mule-powered farmers in Twisp, WA, and Jason Salvo, a tractor-powered farmer in Duvall, WA, I decided to build a horsepowered root digger, known to some as a bed lifter. I hoped that not only would it provide us with another job to use the horses in which we had been previously using hand tools, but it would make these digging jobs faster and more efficient.
It was early spring when an old friend of my Grandpa came by to visit on his day off and brought Grandpa a beautiful white Leghorn rooster as a gift. He was magnificent with his white feathers, bring red large comb and wattle and when Grandpa placed him in the chicken pen, he stretched his wings and began to prance around the yard obviously attempting to impress the hens. He made a strange calling sound as he paraded around and stuck his beak in and out. Grandpa swore the sound he made was, “buck, buck, buck,” and Grandpa declared that his name from now on was Bucky, because he seemed so proud of his sharp yellow beak. So, Bucky, it was.
How much compost to use for growing produce may be a more pressing question for many growers than the timing of application. Soil testing, crop recommendations, nutrient budgeting and field observations are some of the common methods for determining compost rates. Although we have used all of these tools over the years, our guiding principle has been kind of arbitrary: we use the manure produced by our work animals. With three to four horses for 3 ½ acres of vegetables, that comes to one horse per acre and a current application rate of 5-6 tons/acre.
No matter how well your team is matched to the size plow, they are going to have to put in some hard work to pull it through the ground. Plowing represents one of the heaviest exertions of draft power your horses will face in the course of working the market garden. Before you hitch your horses to the plow you will want to get them in shape with lighter tasks. Your horses will tell you if the draft of the plow is too much for them. Your experience of plowing will be immeasurably more satisfactory if your horses can pull the plow comfortably, without wanting to go too fast. If the team is walking too fast they are probably feeling the pull is too hard, as most horses will tend to turn up the throttle (before they balk) when they are feeling over-taxed by the load.
The world keeps getting smaller as solid working class folk rediscover every single day that family, friends, neighbors, the locale of local, the close-in economies, the character of all nearby things animate and inanimate give comfort, identity, and reasons to strive, to persist and to succeed. And within that is the discovery that living within our means, within our community, within our families, though perhaps rightly seen as the essence of thrift, does deliver us the truest lasting wealth and useful health.
The plowing competition consisted of seven teams broken into two-horse hitch, three-horse hitch and a seven-horse hitch using two-bottom plows. Most plows were Pioneer but spectators along with other teamsters got to see a White Horse plow and an Oliver plow as well. The horses, the plows and the teamsters worked well together turning over the ground throughout the day.
The past two summers I loaded my three Kiger mustang mares into the stock trailer and drove from my home in Beavercreek, Oregon down to Dorena, Oregon where I spent the summer at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Oasis, owned and operated by Walt Bernard and Kris Woolhouse. Walt and Kris employed me to do work for the market crops. They grow mainly vegetables in twelve hoop houses and in the fields. I did everything from sowing seed in the propagation house to tying up tomatoes to weeding to digging potatoes, to harvesting. They also hired me to do some field work with my horses. When I wasn’t being paid to do the farm work, I trained my horses or canned some tomatoes and fruit.
One pleasant afternoon a fortnight ago I sent my new part-time farm hand Chris out to open the gate so we could haul a load of loose hay from the barn out to the loafing shed. Ole stood harnessed and a generous pile of hay waited by the open barn door when I heard Chris shout, “What should I do with the bull?” Or so I thought he said. I was sure he had, like so many cattle neophytes before him, mistaken one of our dexter cows for a bull because of her horns. I answered, “There’s no bull in there!” “No, the foal!” he hollered definitively. I knew in an instant that I was about to get a taste of organic, sustainably harvested humble pie. Turns out Josie, the 21-year-old Fjord mare had a surprise foal sired by Donald the young Suffolk stallion.
An important feature of the range shelter described in this circular is that it is portable. Two men by inserting 2x4s through the holes located just below the roost supports and next to the center uprights can easily pick up and move it from one location to another. Frequent moving of the shelter prevents excessive accumulation of droppings in its vicinity which are a menace to the health of the birds. Better use will be made by the birds of the natural green feed produced on the range if the houses are moved often.
His name was Possum — perhaps he got that name because he was lazy and often pretended to be asleep. He was owned by a teenage girl who was buying a younger horse. Possum was a bay gelding with a white face and a blue eye where the white marking surrounded the eye. He was calm and gentle (some people would say lazy) and accustomed to being handled by children. He’d been retired from a riding stable in a larger town, purchased by a family with young children. He was resold when those children grew older, and resold again. It would be hard to guess how many children had learned to ride on him.
Our friend, Mark Schwarzburg came by the office with an old wooden box he inherited from his great great great grandfather, Henry Schwarzburg. In it is a lovely, very old working wooden model of the stationary baler Henry helped to invent. Also were found, on old oil-skin paper, beautiful original engineer’s drawings for patent registry; and a brochure for the actual resulting manufactured implement.
A bold and opinionated German, Klaus moved to the midwest over 25 years ago from Bavaria and is currently running the only tractor-less farm in Platte County, Missouri operated by draft horses. Karbaumer Farm tries to “live and grow in harmony with Nature and her seasons” and produces over 50 varieties of chemical-free, organic vegetables for the community, providing a CSA or the greater Kansas City area.