Back Issue Vol: 44-3
The old cat died two days before Christmas. The man reckoned that she was at least 20 years old, which is a lot of days to pad coyly along the hay stack while watching him flake alfalfa into the feed rack in the morning; to rub the rough cuffs of his Levi’s when he returned a few hours later to rake in the leavings that the calves had nudged out of reach. It was a lot of days to stretch out on a hay bale, paws curled under and tail twitching, and watch as the man fed the calves a second time in the growing shadows of late afternoon. A lot of days to stride next to him in the dark, tangling between his feet, as he raked the hay in again, a flashlight strapped to his head, light piercing the night’s obscurity.
The more popular makes we know or have heard of, JD, McD, Case, Oliver etc., but it would be a mistake to assume that their’s were the only serviceable makes of planters from a hundred years ago. Fact is, most innovation and engineering daring came from the smaller companies which were swallowed whole or just disappeared. (Think of Studebaker, Tucker or Hudson?) LRM
Many years ago, when I spent time in the far north, I worked in a tannery that produced smoked moose hides. We used lime to dehair the hides and glutaraldehyde as a tanning agent. I really learned how to flesh and dehair hides there! It was smelly, heavy, wet work. But even though the chemicals were safe, I still wanted something simpler. Several years ago I regained the itch to tan hides. I experimented with battery acid, which is inexpensive, but somewhat dangerous to use. Another downside is that bugs will eat the acid tanned hides but ignore the brain tanned hide sitting on top of them.
Girdling of fruit trees may be caused by rodents, sun-scald, winter injury, disease, or mechanical injuries such as those resulting from cultivating. If girdling is not repaired, the damaged trees die. Girdling is the result of destruction of the bark and living tissue that connect the roots of a tree with the part that is above the injury. Repair consists of reestablishing the connection. Girdled trees often can be saved by bridge grafting or by inarching. To be successful, either type of repair must be made soon after injury. If girdling injury is entirely above ground or if it has not seriously damaged the main roots, it can be repaired by bridge grafting. If the roots are damaged so badly that pieces cannot be grafted on them, the trees must be repaired by inarching.
Laundry is one of those jobs that has been around since the dawn of time. The dawn of clothes at least. Electricity has taken a relatively labor intensive job and made it quite easy. All we need now is an automatic clothes folder. But when the power goes out and you are out of socks or you do something like me, crusade into off grid living, you need some alternatives.
For many years there has been a strong tendency in the American fruit trade to urge that fruit growers reduce the number of varieties in their commercial plantations. When commercial fruit growing was developing out of the old-time family orchard, with its succession of varieties ripening throughout the season, such advice was undoubtedly good for the average individual planter, but there appears good ground for the belief that a point has been reached in several of our orchard fruits where a wider range of season and quality would result in a steadier net income from the fruit crop, and therefore in a sounder business condition in the fruit industry in many sections.
In 1974, looking down 800 feet of waving, sometimes parallel, pairs of emerging corn plant rows all I could do was choke back the tears, so bad it was painfully funny. Ray said, “At least you don’t have to try to cultivate that mess with a tractor. You’ll have to make some choices, some of the rows spread out so far apart you may have to pick which side to save, but Bud and Dick will watch those plants real close and do everything they can to avoid stepping on them, unless they’re laughing so hard they get dizzy and step wide.” Charley added, trying hard not to laugh, “You know what they say Lynn, you can get more corn in a crooked row.”
Wouldn’t you know it, right in the middle of all that fixing and building on my new place, somehow tryin’ to make a go of it, make a ranch, out of the blue I met someone, and all the puzzle pieces that hadn’t made sense started to drop into place with not much more than a love-tap. I think that’s how you tell if you’re on the right track, when all at once the hard things start gettin’ easy, and the easy things just kinda sort themselves out. You can get awful tired of protecting and defending yourself, tired of treating folks around you like the strangers they’d rather not be, while you shut yourself off, thinking your own silly thoughts. When you feel yourself open like a plant to the sun after a long hard winter, it’s worth takin’ a look around to see what shined on you, that maybe shook you awake.
In England the fruit of many of the large, fine-flavored varieties is used uncooked. In America the fruit of the Gooseberry is thought of only in connection with pie (tart) or jam, and when transformed into these food products, flavor, while of some importance, is but a minor consideration. The claim that English Gooseberries are less palatable than the natives is quite true, when passed upon from this standpoint. The best cooking apples are not usually prized in the raw state on the table, and vice versa. The point is this — and it is worth making — that there are dessert Gooseberries and also culinary Gooseberries.
On one recent rainy morning, after spending far too much time wallowing in the news of the day, I did just that. Letting my thoughts stray into the misty past, I considered my life in the context of history, not just the history of my lifetime, or that of my parents, or even my grand parents, but that of many centuries of lifetimes. Human history is indeed fraught with hard times, times that make the one in which we are currently living seem like a walk in the park. Consider a snapshot of one such time.
Whenever I opened the door to the hen house, he’d come at me like a wild beast straight out of Jurassic Park. I hated that rooster. Every morning he and I would go at it. After waking up to his ear-piercing cock-a-doodle-doos, I’d head to the hen house to liberate him and the hens so they could free-range, rake dust baths and lounge in the sun. I think he waited for me by the door since he was always there as soon as I opened it. He’d flap his wings and fly at me trying to make contact with his dagger-like spurs. My only defense was a broom, which I carried with me whenever I was near the henhouse. I’d swat him with it when he attacked me, which was several times a day. I didn’t want to hurt him, but I didn’t want him to hurt me either, so I never went near him or the hens without my trusty broom.
I was mowing a thistly, gnarly patch of pasture last August on a rubber tired number 9 mower that, despite a new seal was leaking oil like tears from a widow’s eyes. The Waterfall field is irregular in shape with one corner that comes to a point, necessitating at each pass a hard swing gee in order to come around on the other tack. At this juncture, on one particular pass, the cutter bar pinched in a slight depression in the ground. The mower began to fold up at the inner shoe as we came around. The bar was solidly wedged and was not responding to my pressure on the foot lever. Meanwhile the horses were doing exactly what they knew to do — swing gee and go. Everything hung in the balance for a bit less than a nanosecond, but something had to give, and suddenly, give it did — crack! the tongue burst in two.
A few years ago we switched from tapping our maple trees with metal taps to wooden taps we make. There comes with it a feeling of independence and self-provision. Most of the elderberry canes we cut come from a thicket in the very woods we tap the maples. There are more canes every year, availing themselves in case we need replacements for taps that broke. Be sure to only select canes with live wood. Don’t worry about the plants, elderberries are very tenacious and will grow more canes to replace the ones you cut.
When you reach for a bottle or jug of maple syrup there’s nothing quite like the price tag attached to it to make you think twice. It is worth it, no doubt, in more than one way. But if you have maples in your neck of the woods there is no reason why you can’t make it yourself. It is always best to start small with a process that is easy for you to handle and increase each year as you gain experience and confidence. There are also lots of great books out there with guidelines, facts and information of all kinds. Just don’t let yourself become overwhelmed with it. Sometimes more information isn’t more, it’s too much.
What is that mysterious magnet that keeps me happily stoking the stove and researching what farm critters will eat ticks? What type of chicken will do well against pine martins, weasels, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, occasional wolves, peregrine falcons, great horned owls, huge seagulls, snakes, cold and probably other creatures that I haven’t yet seen? I have lived on farms most of my life and as of today, January 1 of a brand new year, I have no inkling as to what lure keeps me here.
Usually the keeping of hogs in any large number on the farm is not profitable. Like many other things, it is confined to sections of the country where it is made a special business. Still, it is well on most farms at least to have a few to eat up the garbage, or the offal from the dairy, and I will endeavor to state what I believe is the best method of raising them, and the kinds best suited for the purposes of the average farm.
In this part of the world, sorghum is roughly divided into the rainy season kind and the dry season kind. The rainy season kind is the typical red sorghum seen also in the US and called milo. There are many sub species in each category. The varieties allow farmers to harvest twice a year if they have the correct soil. The dry season sorghum requires a flat piece of mostly clay soil. During the rainy season, these flat fields are ploughed in a checkerboard fashion to make squarish ponds so the rainfall will soak into the soil and not drain away.
The first thing I want to point out is that cattle have a flight response: if you’re unfamiliar with cattle, that’s going to be the point where you walk into a pasture and the cattle turn and walk away from you. That’s kind of that area around them where they are going to move away from you. It’s often called the “flight zone.” With our oxen, our goal is to make that flight zone skintight; we want to be able to do anything to them. We want to be able to work around them and have them be calm, to be very comfortable with our presence. So what we do often to accomplish that is to spend time grooming, rubbing, brushing them. Those are all things you can do to make that flight zone smaller, to make them comfortable with us.
The work harness prevalent in North America over the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries evolved slowly to its unique design. Stemming in the beginning from European engineering, which may have their origins reaching back to Greco-Roman and even Egyptian and Phoenecian ages, the primary influence has been the demands of function. Rather than get into arguments about what harness type or design is best, the purpose of this work is to build an introduction worthy of harness makers and arm-chair historians.