Back Issue Vol: 42-2
Cy and Don were born to big, rugged cows and were sired by the same bull. Their body type was what we refer to as old fashioned. They had long bodies, deep and wide chests, and thick, straight legs. They were straight along the top of their backs and wide across the forehead. The old ox men would say a team built like Cy and Don were, “square as a brick and smooth as a trout.”
After the field has been thoroughly prepared in the way of plowing and fertilizing, which should have been done at least two weeks before the plants were set out, the rows should be laid off from 3 to 4 feet apart. The plants may be set from 2 to 4 feet apart in the row, varying with the varieties to be used and the soil. Tillage should be continued, and varied according to the conditions of the weather.
The margins are where we overlap, where we test our absolutes. Where we touch. Whose land, whose barrier is this? And individual species’ invisible barriers may be stronger than those we erect and repair. I know a farmer who built perfect bluebird houses and screwed one atop every other post around his field. But the bluebirds couldn’t stand to live so close together — no more than three or four of the dozen boxes to a side were ever occupied.
A set of farrier’s tools is a must on almost any farm that employs horses and mules. If you do your own barefoot trims or set your own shoes, you probably keep your tools in a traditional farrier’s box set up for ready use. However, if you’re like me and you hire a farrier every six to ten weeks to work on your equine’s feet, you should still have a basic set of tools on hand to address the occasional emergency, such as a loose shoe or chipped foot. A farrier’s tool roll is a convenient way to store tools that aren’t used every day.
Feed-handling jobs which used to take hours of time and plenty of back bending are now done in a matter of minutes with little more than a lift of the hand, by means of chutes, augers, power lifts, portable elevators, movable hoppers, overhead catwalks, traveling feed boxes and other ideas similar to the examples shown on these pages. These are the days when feed handling had been powered-up to the point where 100 bushels of shelled corn can be loaded out of a bin into a truck in five minutes, and here’s how it’s done.
In this era when everyone seems focused on the growth of our cities we know that our readership is still heartily invested in our rural landscape. The people Smarsh writes about are our neighbors, and maybe even ourselves. Heartland is touted as a memoir but it is a life study, an ethnography if you will, of farm-based families that struggle to get by.
Dig sweet potatoes carefully as their skin is thin and they will bruise easily. It is best to wear gloves when handling them. Do not leave the roots exposed to direct sunlight with temperatures above 90 degrees F. for over 30 minutes as they will sun-scald and be more susceptible to storage rots.
Here on these twenty five acres a steady transformation is happening, a confluence of fortuitous events, opportunities, and passion that brings me to the righteous work of land stewardship. Dad’s father was the classic outdoorsman. He bought this land in the 1940s. It was mainly a sanctuary for wildlife, and for family too. It’s fair to say habitat conservation is the one thing he began that I have the sacred honor of continuing, albeit in a slightly different form: sustainable food production.
It was the end of an era. Our twenty-eight-year-old Belgian draft horse Miss Mac (Missy) died. Missy was a red mare with a large white blaze and a whitish/reddish mane and tail. She was hard in the mouth and wanted to be the first to feel the weight in her traces. She was a real work horse and the matriarch of High View Farm.
About 10 years ago, I began hearing about the German ESM “Busatis bidux” cutterbar sold by I & J Mfg. It seemed that everyone was impressed by the double acting sickle bar and I couldn’t help wondering if it would improve the mowing action of my ground drive mower in my soggy, fine-but-wiry summer grass.
I heard through the fiber-vine that the mill I used was shutting down because the owner was retiring. After much hemming and hawing, my husband and I decided to purchase the equipment. I created a business plan, secured an equipment loan, and moved everything to our small farming town of Halsey, Oregon. The retired miller, Janelle, has been an amazing mentor. After the last year and a half, I can safely say that I now understand my equipment and how to get it to process fiber at its best.
One of the most fondly remembered horses was “Old Dot.” She came to the ranch as a young mare and worked there until she was about 30 years old. Dot was probably the most versatile horse the Thomas family ever had. They used her for riding, packing, haying, pulling any kind of wagon or equipment, and for “snaking” logs and poles out of the woods when they were cutting firewood or corral posts and poles.
Corn picking started the first week in October if growing conditions were good. Farmers often harnessed their teams in the dark to be in the field early and bring in a 50-bushel load before dinner and another in the afternoon. Nobody picked on Sunday. Truman Nelson said even the horses knew it was Sunday. They would stand in the far corner of the pasture and stare if you had a bridle in your hand.
Twenty-five years ago, I chose the Shetland Sheep breed, literally by the book. Having long thought about getting sheep, my decision was made easier after reading an article about The Livestock Conservancy, where I learned that dozens of livestock breeds were in danger of being forever lost due to low numbers worldwide.
For one month in the spring of 2016, I had the opportunity to join Alexander Vido in demonstrating the use of the scythe to harvest wheat in India, where the tool has been practically unknown. That country perhaps stands to gain more from the use of scythes than any other, because of the hundreds of millions of its farm workers who still harvest wheat and rice with sickles.
The harnesses are like the old saying about having Grampa’s hammer, but you twice replaced the head and three times replaced the handle. Over the last twenty five years I’ve added tail cruppers, changed the check straps, broke both belly bands and replaced them with saddle girths, repaired or changed numerous lazy straps, changed from swivel to D-ring heel chains, changed breast straps, hame straps, changed out the farm hames for aluminum pulling hames, and I’m on the third set of lines.
A radio sits in the crux of two pipelines at the top of the parlor. It’s mostly tipped to its side and tentatively secured by a piece of baling twine. Dust clogs the speakers and the quality of the reception changes every time a cow walks past it on her way to the free-stalls. It adds to the breathing sounds of the parlor and has a calming effect on both the cattle and the farmer — but more than that, it has a tendency to get us singing, whether we meant to or not.
Her paintings aren’t the more traditional, romantic, panoramic vistas of life in the west but rather true portraits of people she knows, taken from moments in everyday life. Her main goal with her art is the preservation of the ranching lifestyle and culture and she contributes to that not just with her painting but her daily life as well. She can be found just as often riding out to help neighbors with branding and other tasks on their ranch as in front of a painting.
A hallmark of the Pioneer Equipment system has been their superb, field-tested engineering coupled with production-line planning which has resulted, repeatedly, in affordable, durable implements sold now ‘round the world. But I must hazard to offer that ahead of even that, has been vision. Wayne saw a need and a possibility when many, back then in the 70’s and 80’s, saw little or none.
All people who choose to farm begin, even today, with a sacred bargain that calls for work within nature. No one who chooses farming does so with the intent of destroying nature and natural balance. The villains have never been the individual farmers, no matter the scale or aspect of their enterprise. The villain has been an overarching industrial systems-management in place to control and profit at any cost.