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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Mini Horse Haying
Mini Horse Haying

Three abreast on the modified one horse mower.

Mini Horse Haying

by Ken Gies of Fort Plain, NY

If you have followed my articles over the years, you know that I am a compulsive minimalist. First, it was haying with one horse, then with Haflingers, and now, I have hayed my little farm with minis. My hope is that you will be inspired to find uses for your minis. I know they don’t eat much, but just think, what if you could turn that feed into work?

I have learned that the only way to really find out if something works is to eliminate alternatives. So, I sold my experienced Haflinger ponies and set out to see what I could do with the little horses. Having no other options forced me to find ways to make a workable system. I hope you find the inspiration you need to put your minis to work.

The first mini I bought was a three year old gelding named Casper. He taught me a lot about what a 38 inch mini could do just by driving me around the neighborhood. He didn’t cover the miles fast, but he did get me there! I found that 5 miles an hour was about as good as he could do with me on the cart. However, as he hardened up, he could trot up a half mile long hill that gained over 500 feet in elevation with me and the cart just fine.

It wasn’t long before several more 38 inch tall minis found their way home. Some were too jumpy for me, so I learned to be selective in my purchases. I presently have four minis that are relatively quiet, responsive to the bit, and can work without a lot of drama.

I also purchased strong harnesses and good collars. Mini harnesses are not cheap! They are almost as costly as full sized harness. However, I have found that animal comfort is well worth the price. I have had minimal irritation from my present collection of harnesses, collars and pads. The one place where there was rubbing was on the necks of the minis when they pulled my ground drive mower. It has a dolly wheel so that they only carry the weight of the tongue, but the effort needed to turn the mower at the corners eventually caused some minor rubs. I am presently designing a steerable tongue, so that the team swings the tongue and pulls the mower around, much like a wagon steers.

Mini Horse Haying

My mini-sized equipment lineup includes a two wheeled one horse cart, a three wheeled team cart (made from a lightweight trailer frame), a team forecart that I call my chariot, a modified one horse ground drive mower, a small hay rake that I found online (an estate rake – usually used to rake leaves), a cut down tedder and ground drive pto cart made from a lawn tractor transaxle, a scratch built 5’ by 8’ running gear and hayrack, a 7.5 cubic foot miniature manure spreader, a 6” walking plow, 4’ chain harrow, 3’ springtooth harrow, cut down 3’ single disk, a three section gang mower with its own homemade tongue for the lawns, and a homemade 4’ roller. I also have a collection of failures that I try to pretend never happened. I am working on a miniature hayloader but that will be a story for next winter, if it works!

I think that mowing is the most demanding part of haying with the minis. It takes quite a bit of power to pull the physical weight of the machine plus drive the cutterbar. I went through several steps getting an acceptable balance between cutter bar length and horsepower. My first attempts at mowing used the full 40 inch cutter bar but that was way too much for the little troopers. I cut the bar down in increments until it was only 18 inches long. That was ridiculous. I researched different cutter bar designs including the double acting types. The double acting systems are actually too heavy for the minis besides being too costly for me. I finally settled on the SCH style cutterbar, which bolted onto the existing bar with only a few modifications. The final length of the cutterbar is 32 inches.

Mini Horse Haying

The SCH guards are a different height than the original guards. I had to shim the ledger plates up in the outer and inner shoes to bring the knife into level from end to end. I also couldn’t use the existing wear plates and hold down clips. Instead I used the SCH roller backs to hold the knife forward in the guards. These are little wheels that allow the back of the knife to roll instead of rub as on traditional wear plates. I used sickle section bolts instead of rivets and found that I could use the countersunk ones too. I will probably never use a rivet again now that I have discovered how easy the bolts are to use. I added a carrier spring to the inner shoe to lighten the drag against the ground and put a small wheel on the outer shoe for the same reason. I figured every little bit had to help.

Mini Horse Haying

The shimmed-up ledger plate and counter-sunk bolts.

I had originally built the tongue and dolly wheel on the mower for my Haflingers. It was a simple job to move the draw point and tongue to fit the minis. As I said, I plan on building some sort of steerable wheel to aid the team in turning the mower. I have seen several versions of mower axles. I’ll see what I can come up with. The other option I have seriously considered is building a small motorized mower like many of my Amish neighbors use. Adding a motor is a last ditch effort. I tend to be stubborn that way.

My little rake works very well except when I try to double or triple up windrows of first cutting. The long hay wraps around the wheels too easily. I can always rake several windrows of second cutting hay together. It pulls very easily and the shipping weight was under 200 pounds. It was less than $1,000 dollars delivered and well worth it since it really licks up my normally short second and third cuttings.

Mini Horse Haying

Doubling a windrow with the ATV rake.

The tedder started out as a narrow four star Kuhn tedder. I removed the two outer wings and set my pto cart up to run the shaft backwards. This turns the two stars that remain so that they sweep from the outside edges into the middle as a regular two star tedder would do. The little garden transaxle has six gear settings. It was easy to find a setting that matched my ground speed to the right spinner speed.

Mini Horse Haying

A well-tramped load of second-cutting hay heads to the barn.

I shopped around for a running gear for several months. I wanted a small one and cheap. All the light weight running gears have press fit bearings and hubs. I wanted tapered bearings and bolt on rims in a standard size. I finally built my own running gear, including the steering axle and tongue. It is light and works well. I also built the deck from pressure treated lumber and used cattle panels cut in half to create sides for second cutting since it doesn’t hold together even when tramped tight on the wagon. The 6 acres of hay was all hand loaded. I really hope to fabricate a functional miniature hayloader by summer. I unload with my existing hayfork and trolley. A team of 2 minis can lift as much hay as the forks can hold. It is a real blast looking back and seeing a 6 foot wide jag of hay rise off the wagon as the team moves forward.

Mini Horse Haying

Harrowing one acre in one hour.

When it came to field work, I actually measured off an “official” acre of 209 feet by 209 feet and then used the minis to do the secondary tillage behind a tractor plowed field. (Hey, I hadn’t found a little plow yet!) A pair of minis can springtooth, harrow or roll an acre in one hour. I find that very acceptable! I suspect that someone could tend a large garden with a pair of minis if they tilted their heads and thought it through for a bit!

Mini Horse Haying

Green team, green plowman, dry hard clay, still fun.

Now for a few thoughts on plowing. Butch Miner from Palatine Bridge, NY used a pair of his pulling minis on a 10 inch plow in light soil. I have sticky clay. When I finally got my little plow, the ground was hard and dry. It took three minis on a 6 inch plow to do a poor job on old sod. I don’t blame anything. I had a new plowing team, a new plowing teamster and almost the worst plowing conditions. I hope to triumph at some point this year. I really want to plow with a pair on the walking plow without any assistance. The Amish boy helping me in the photo is the only one who didn’t smirk at me when I asked for help plowing. He actually started to grin when a few furrows turned out nice. I can’t wait to grin over a whole field.

My initial assessment of using minis is positive. The only job that takes significantly longer than what the Haflingers could do is the mowing. I doubt that I can improve that without a motorized sicklebar. However, since I only mow about six acres for three cuttings it is not a big deal. Tedding and raking are about the same as using bigger animals. Hand loading hay is always slow work, so I don’t even measure that. However, I really want that miniature hayloader to work so that picking up the hay can be speeded up. I do limited cultivation. That is mainly for entertainment. But, I have never fulfilled my longtime dream of learning to use a walking plow well, so I’ll keep trying.

I think that with a bit of ingenuity and time, more minis could be doing some sort of useful work on small acreages around the world. Lawn mowing is a good place to start. Then there are all kinds of ATV implements that could be adapted to minis. These days the opportunities are almost endless for the mini. So how about it? What can your minis do this year? Look what mine did!

Mini Horse Haying

A head-on view of the team.

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

How to Grow an Acre of Potatoes

by:
from issue:

Heretofore potato production in this country has been conducted along extensive rather than intensive lines. In other words, we have been satisfied to plant twice as many acres as should have been necessary to produce a sufficient quantity of potatoes for our food requirements. Present economic conditions compel the grower to consider more seriously the desirability of reducing the cost of production by increasing the yield per acre.

Fjordworks Horse Powered Potatoes Part 2

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes Part Two

These types of team implements for digging potatoes were the first big innovation in horse powered potato harvesting in the mid-19th century. Prior to the horse drawn digger the limitation on how many potatoes a farmer could plant was how many the farm crew could dig by hand. The basic design of these early diggers works so well that new models of this type of digger are once again being manufactured by contemporary horse drawn equipment suppliers.

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

Seed Quality from Two Perspectives

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from issue:

We are approaching this from a seed quality standpoint, not just a seed saving one. Saving seed is fairly simple to do, but the results from planting those seeds can be very mixed; without a basis of understanding of seed quality, people can be disappointed and confused as to why they got the results they did. Both the home gardener and the seed company must understand seed quality to be successful in their respective endeavors.

Walki Biodegradable Mulching Paper

New Biodegradable Mulching Paper

Views of any and all modern farming stir questions for me. The most common wonder for me has been ‘how come we haven’t come up with a something to replace plastic?’ It’s used for cold frames, hotbeds, greenhouses, silage and haylage bagging and it is used for mulch. That’s why when I read of this new Swedish innovation in specialized paper mulching I got the itch to scratch and learn more. What follows is what we know. We’d like to know more. LRM

Swallow

Rotation As A Means Of Blight Control

Every farmer knows that when a crop is grown on the same field year after year, it becomes inferior in quality and the yield steadily diminishes.

Cultivating Questions Ridge-Till Revisited

Cultivating Questions: Ridge-Till Revisited

Delay ridge building until early fall so that the cover crop on the ridge does not grow more than 12” tall before winter. The residues from a short cover crop will be much less challenging to cultivate than a tall stand of oats, especially if tangly field peas are mixed in. Waiting for the winterkilled cover crop residues to breakdown as long as possible before ridge-tilling in the spring will also make cultivation much easier until you gain familiarity with the system.

Onion Culture

Onion Culture

The essential requirements of a soil upon which to grow onions profitably are a high state of fertility, good mechanical condition, properties – that is, if it contains sufficient sand and humus to be easily worked, is retentive of moisture and fertilizers, and is capable of drainage – all other requirements can be met.

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

by:
from issue:

Most sugar cane is processed in refineries to give us molasses, brown sugar, and various kinds of white sugar. However, some South Georgia farms that raise sugar cane still process it the old way to produce the special tasting sweetener for their own food. One such farm is the Rocking R Ranch in Kibbee, Georgia. It is owned by Charles and Patricia Roberts and their sons. The process they use has not changed in the past 100 years. This is how it is done.

Asparagus in Holland

Asparagus in Holland

by:
from issue:

The asparagus culture in Holland is for the majority white asparagus, grown in ridges. This piece of land used to be the headland of the field. The soil was therefore compact, and a big tractor came with a spader, loosening the soil. After that I used the horse for the lighter harrowing and scuffle work to prevent soil compaction. This land lies high for Dutch standards and has a low ground water level, that is why asparagus can grow there, which can root 3 foot deep over the years.

Beautiful Grasses

What follow are a series of magnificent hundred-year old botanist’s watercolors depicting several useful grass varieties. Artworks such as this are found on the pages of Small Farmer’s Journal quite regularly and may be part of the reason that the small farm world considers this unusual magazine to be one of the world’s periodical gold standards.

Of Peace and Quiet

LittleField Notes: Of Peace and Quiet

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from issue:

Walk with me for a moment to the edge of the Waterfall Field. We can lean on the gate and let our gaze soak up the mid-summer scene: a perfect blue sky and not a breath of wind. Movement catches your eye, and in the distance you see a threesome hard at work in the hayfield. Two Suffolk horses, heads bobbing, making good time followed by a man comfortably seated on a mowing machine. The waist high grass and clover falls steadily in neat swaths behind the mower. What you can’t help but notice is the quiet.

Marketable Cover Crops

Marketable Cover Crops

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Our cover crops have to provide the benefits of smothering weeds, improving soil structure, and replenishing organic matter. They also have to produce some income. For these purposes, we use turnips, mustard and lettuce within our plant successions. I broadcast these seeds thickly on areas where cover crops are necessary and let them do their work.

Making Sorghum Molasses

Making Sorghum Molasses

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Growing sorghum doesn’t take much work, according to Buhrman. You plant it in the spring, work it a couple of times and that’s about all that’s required until late in the growing season. That is when the work begins. Before it is cut, all the stalks have to be “bladed” – the leaves removed from the stalks. It’s then cut, then the tassles are cut off, and the stalks are fed through a crusher. The crusher forces the juices out of the plant. The sorghum juice is then boiled in a vat for four to five hours until nothing is left but the syrup.

Ginseng Culture

Ginseng Culture

U.S. Department of Agriculture Farmer’s Bulletin No. 1184 Issued 1921, Revised 1941 — The evident preference of the Chinese for the wild root and the unsatisfactory state of the general market for cultivated ginseng have caused grave doubts as to the future prospects of the industry. These doubts will probably be realized unless growers should strive for quality of product and not for quantity of production, as has been the all too common practice in the past.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

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from issue:

The old way of selecting seed from open-pollinated corn involved selecting the best ears from the poorest ground. I have tried to select perfect ears based on the open-pollinated seed corn standards of the past. I learned these standards from old agricultural texts. The chosen ears of Reid’s average from 9 to 10.5 inches long and have smooth, well-formed grains in straight rows. I try to select ears with grains that extend to the end of the cob.

Prairie Grass A Jewel Among Kernels

Prairie Grass: A Jewel Among Kernels

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from issue:

Years ago, my brother advised against plowing the patch of prairie on the back forty of our Hubbard, Iowa farm. “Some day,” he predicted, “that prairie will be as valuable as the rest of the 40 acres. We know how to grow corn; but that prairie was seeded by the last glacier.” Left untilled by generations of my family, the troublesome treasure has now become a jewel among a cluster of conventional crops on the farm.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT