Back Issue Vol: 45-1
After Khoke and I married, the life we wove with farming and gardening kept us as busy as one could imagine. The summer and fall harvest would leave our small house feeling quite small indeed. As winter wore on, our potatoes and apples would shrivel in the dry air and some of my canned goods would pop their seals from being stored at temperatures much too warm. So began the conversation about building a root cellar.
As I began Burgess’ book, I started off with a few doubts. Despite the fact that I am an avid knitter and sewist with a penchant for natural fibers, I was still a little apprehensive about the book’s ideologies mostly because of cost. How could it be possible for the average person to truly curate a wardrobe of practical clothing essentials sourced from American and local farms without breaking the bank? How does fashion factor into my work as a farmer? I suppose the same concern came about when the local and organic food movement took off – yet here we are, with an increased demand and interest in supporting small-scale neighbor farmers growing produce in rural parts of the country with more affordable options offered through reduced cost CSA shares and agricultural non-profit programs. In my little sliver of the world (the hilltowns of western Massachusetts) it’s actually possible to source most of your food from area farms. I grow food, my neighbors grow food and I buy food grown by a farm less than 10 miles a way. I can’t say the same thing about clothing, however.
We are so thankful that Tom Paduano and Sarah Rider of Flying Plow Farm were willing to share their 2018 Financial Benchmark Report with us and the SFJ community because their farm is much more representative of today’s reality than our Beech Grove Farm started in 1983. For instance, they established their business on rented land. In order to purchase their 56 acre farm outside of Rising Sun, MD, they took on a $575,000 mortgage and about $100,000 additional debt for equipment and infrastructure improvement. They are also raising three young children. By contrast, our farm in north-central Pennsylvania cost $64,000, we do not have children, and, in our mid-60s, our financial needs are minimal.
The old farmer was sitting on the bench in front of his farmhouse, waiting for customers while enjoying the sunshine. He was thinking of the past, all the people in the village he had been with as a kid and as fellow farmers later on. Until recently he had had close contact with most of them, but lately many had shut off (kind of); they were not interested in what was going on in the world anymore, in politics, culture, sports, etc. Not even farming and all the new inventions still interested them. Some had died, most of serious illnesses, but others just of old age, as it was said. The farmer himself was convinced they died of boredom, no purpose in life, nothing to do anymore. He himself was a bit tired most days but still felt very much alive.
Jacob sheep serve a vital role on our farm. They provide wool, meat, sheep skins and farm income. Lambs go to market, quality breeding stock is sold to other Jacob breeders, and wool is taken to a fiber mill. To add to the value they bring in and the products they provide, our Jacobs also bring grace and beauty to our farm. I have cared for our flock for seven years now, and have come to know their seasons. The original purpose of Jacob sheep on our farm was to provide high quality natural color wool. And indeed, today, care is taken in the selection of new rams to slowly improve the flocks fleece quality. Jacobs have soft, open, low lanolin wool that is well suited to process at home. My wife, friends and neighbors are quick to pick up certain ewe’s fleece that they particularly like to take home.
Farmers in our day tend to be an isolated bunch and we don’t ever seem to get enough good old fashioned farm-talk. So it is that when I travel to another farm to buy or sell, the visit often extends for significantly longer than the required time to make a transaction. I have spent countless enjoyable hours perched atop fence rails or with feet dangling off the lowered tailgate of a pick up engaged in pleasant conversation. Indeed, throw two farmers together in a muddy barnyard somewhere and the conversation seems to flow almost automatically from one topic to the next: animal genetics, breed characteristics, the rise and fall of livestock markets, pasture management, land prices, troubles with neighbors, debt and tractors, brand inspectors, regulations and the raw milk gestapo, and everything in between.
A shrewder Dutchman than Coonrod Sprengel was not to be found throughout the length and breadth of Cherry Valley. In business he was as alert as a chipmunk, being seldom surprised far from his hole. He had been a successful farmer, and since his retirement to New Berlin and his election to the honorable office of justice of the peace he had continued to make money in loans, insurance and real estate.
High summer temperatures can present special problems for horses, especially if they are exerting. Temperatures above 80 degrees F can greatly increase the chance for trouble if relative humidity gets above 50%, with no breeze, making horses more susceptible to heat stroke. Under these conditions, a horse has difficulty cooling himself, since sweat does not evaporate when air is humid. Extremely hot weather can cause problems, even in a horse that is not exerting. One advantage in a dry climate is that humidity is generally low. Horses can usually cool themselves adequately by sweating, unless they become dehydrated by having to sweat too much, too long.
In nature, when fruit goes way past mature, all the way to announced disappointments of mold and rot – shouldn’t we refer to that as decline? Don’t we? As I mature to over-ripe (read decline) I find myself going through periodic fogs of aggravated irrelevance. Old farmeritis is a real thing. I got it. It translates to me constantly mumbling “get out of the way, I’ve got work to do.” And that is sometimes met by side-bobbing young heads on limber necks giving the disregard sashay. I am beginning to realize that one of the first things you lose with seniority is your public right to decide what’s essentially important – for yourself, let alone anyone else. These days I don’t have the energy or interest to contest what seems to be the general assessment that I am now a slow moving, cranky whale in dangerously shallow waters, pretty much completely out of touch with the world at large. It may be true but I don’t have to agree with that. And all that really is not important to talk about except to set the stage for changes in editorial tone.
Regular readers of this journal will be well familiar with the amazing work of Paul Schmit and Albano Moscardo of Schaff mat Päerd in Europe. Their in-depth articles on new continental innovations in animal-drawn technologies have set a very high bar for future inquiries into the discipline. This handsome and eminently practical addition to their Guidebook series covers hitches and hitching of both European and North American types. In addition to the directly practical nature of the information, there is here a subtle and intelligent comparison of two different cultural approaches to the working of horses.
The illustrations in this Catalog will clearly demonstrate the many desirable features of the “Eddy No. 6” Corn Planter – features that are exclusive and of vital importance to the corn grower who desires to plant his corn so that it is easily worked and will yield the greatest number of bushels per acre. The “Eddy No. 6” Corn Planter combines the Edge Selection as well as the Flat Selection. That is, the purchaser gets an Edge Drop as well as a Flat Drop equipment with every “Eddy No. 6” Corn Planter at no additional cost.
This numbered, all original U.S. Army Escort Wagon is in exceptional condition, formerly displayed at the Lewis Army Museum on Joint Base Lewis-McChord. Note the sarven hubs and the California style box. The lower front box was suitable for carrying cannon balls. The Army wagon, also referred to as an Escort wagon, was traditionally pulled by 4-6 mules and was capable of carrying 3000 pounds. At the height of its utility during the Spanish-American War, the Army-Escort Wagon transported military troops, rations and gear. Parade and museum worthy.
While we visited the allotment, we all pitched in with a hoe or a trowel to remove some of the weeds, but we also took a little tour around the two-acre allotment site, sandwiched between a railway line and a sports field. I have always liked allotments; some people might see them as messy and untidy, with old pallets, wonky and fading sheds, plastic cups and food containers, wooden boxes, old CDs and other junk pressed into service to hold up netting, to shelter plants, collect water or scare the birds. But I like the variety and the fruitfulness, the ingenuity and attention, the money saving and the commitment, and I love the atmosphere of quiet and companionship as every allotment holder shapes their plot in the way they think fit.
The tugs, from their attachment to the hames usually traveling back along the animal, best perform at an angle of 80 to 100 degrees to the line of the hames. If the angle is significantly less than 80 degrees the tugs may pull up and back on the collar, but only if the belly band is not adjusted properly. When it is, this will ‘interrupt’ an aggravated angle preventing the horse from being choked by a forward rocking collar. If the belly band is too loose it won’t hold the forward portion of the tug in line. As each and every horse’s angle of shoulder is different, and as the head-set of a pulling horse may be more or less down or up, these factors will affect the angle of the shoulder at work.