Small Farmer's Journal

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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 PST

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm
Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Luke planting 2011 crop with 999 JD Planter with plateless units.

By George Vastine of Millville, PA
Photos by: Rachel Morris of Millville, PA

After hearing stories about great uncle Wilson Vastine’s Lancaster Surecrop corn, I purchased my own Lancaster County Surecrop seed, then available from Schell Seed Company in Pennsylvania, in 1971. The company also marketed Boone County White and eight-row yellow seed. Unfortunately, the operation closed after the Susquehanna River flooded in 1972.

My Lancaster County Surecrop failed because of its poor standabililty; however, I didn’t lose my interest in open-pollinated corn.

Later in the 1970s, in reading the Draft Horse Journal, I noticed an advertisement, one posted by Steven Young of Ohio, which offered white cap yellow dent corn. I purchased a bushel and subsequently shared the seed with Edwin Johnson, Morris and David Cotner (father and son). Again, we all experienced problems with standability.

After growing hybrid corn in the 1980s, I purchased Reid’s yellow dent seed and Krug from Ned Place of Wapakoneta, Ohio. I still use the yellow dent from that original purchase. Standability still vexes me, but I cut the corn by hand and shock it with a shocking horse, when the crop is dented in early September. By cutting and shocking the corn, I can get it before it falls down. I then husk the shocks in the field and shock the fodder for feed and/ or bedding for winter.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Shocking Horse and Cutters – horse used to hold up shocks while shocking and hand cutters used.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Shocks.

About ten years ago, I also acquired red dented open-pollinated field corn. Initially, the corn developed a problem: soft cobs. With proper selection, this corn has improved.

The old way of selecting seed from open-pollinated corn involved selecting the best ears from the poorest ground. I do not grow that much corn, but I usually employ six draft horses to improve soil fertility. I rotate crops and grow corn on sod, as well. Noticeable poor spots in the corn field rarely emerge.

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.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Seed ear selection – shows the quality we look for and the average length of the ears.

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. Since I exhibit at the Bloomsburg Fair in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, during the last week of September, I begin my selection when I cut the corn. I cut the crop later than I used to at the beginning of September, so the ears are well dented and somewhat drier than formerly. The husks are usually brown, but the leaves are still green. At this point, the fodder makes excellent feed. I can start husking corn at the end of September or the beginning of October. I make my final selection of seed at the time of husking. Because of the effect freezing might have on the germs of the seed grains, I try not to let the seed ears freeze.

The standability improves somewhat through selection of ears that are not as high on stalks. Rotating the corn fields also helps eliminate corn borer which also weakens stalks.

In 2010, I purchased a 999 John Deere planter, one with plateless units, from Leon M. Brubaker of Port Trevorton, Pennsylvania. I planted corn thicker in rows than I normally do, but the crop did well. Our planter is set at 40 inch rows. It makes sense not to go under 36 inches with rows in growing open-pollinated corn. Generally, I try to cultivate twice, but this past year, I only cultivated once. The crop did well, planted on sod we had plowed in the fall and harrowed twice the day we planted. I orchestrated all the work with horses.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Husking Pegs – two different versions of the husking pegs we use.

I still believe in shelling the grains from an ear at the butt and tip; I only plant the flats from each ear. Although this process is unnecessary with a plateless planter. I hand shell the corn for seed but still may eliminate some undesirable seeds, via a pocketknife blade. Prior to having a plateless planter, we graded the corn with a hand held corn grader.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Seed grader.

This year, 2011, I am adding another open pollinated corn. Titus Martin Jr. of Watsontown, Pennsylvania is the vendor. The corn fairs well in our section of Pennsylvania. The corn ears grow 10-12 inches long and form lower on the stalks, thus seeming to improve standability. I researched the field corn right before husking. The corn is probably 100-105 day which contrasts to the Reid’s: about 90 day. The corn is a mixture of yellow and orange-red ears.

My family and I have found growing open pollinated field corn interesting. During autumn when we husk the corn, we frequently hear comments about the shocks and red/yellow corn ears in the piles, just waiting to be picked up by a horse-drawn wagon. Later, horses eat the extremely hard grain, which undoubtedly is suitable for their teeth. Occasionally, when we sell corn, we warn customers about needing to feed their feed grinders at a reduced speed.

We are usually the only people in our township who raise this crop and harvest it as described.

Tying Corn Fodder with Rye Straw

I would like to share an old method of tying corn fodder, one with rye straw that can be raised in a portion of a farm garden. Cut the rye, by hand, before it blossoms, in order to avoid the seed from spreading. Hand bundle and then shock the rye to dry it out. Then store the rye after drying it inside. Soak the rye straw in water, so it maintains its flexibility. Use several stalks of rye around a fodder sheaf and twist into a knot. Tying fodder this way minimizes rodent damage on sheaf bands and does not have to be removed when using for livestock feed or bedding.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Corn Tree with George (left) and Luke (right) Vastine.

Making a Corn Tree for Drying Seed Ears

  • Fit a smooth pole — six feet long and eight inches in diameter — with a base to hold it upright.
  • Drive rows of headless finishing nails (16 penny) into the post, 2.5 to 3 inches apart.
  • Thrust the corn on these nails, in order to have it stand apart for curing.

This corn tree holds sufficient corn to plant 15 acres on the check row system. The corn tree pictured is a scaled down version, one holding only 92 ears.

Open-Pollinated Corn at Spruce Run Farm

Spotlight On: Livestock

"Work Horse Handbook, 2nd Edition" by Lynn Miller

Draft Collars and How To Size Them

It is difficult to accurately measure a horse’s neck without fitting. In other words, there are so many variables involved in the shape and size of a horse’s neck that the only accurate and easy way to size the neck is to use several collars and put them on one at a time until fitting is found.

Horseshoeing Part 3A

Horseshoeing Part 3A

An examination should be made while the animal is at rest, and afterwards while in motion. The object of the examination is to gain accurate knowledge of the direction and movements of the limbs, of the form and character of the feet and hoofs, of the manner in which the foot reaches and leaves the ground, of the form, length, position, and wear of the shoe, and distribution of the nail-holes, in order that at the next and subsequent shoeings all ascertained peculiarities of hoof-form may be kept in mind and all discovered faults of shoeing corrected.

Farmrun On the Anatomy of Thrift

On the Anatomy of Thrift: Side Butchery

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals.

Plans for Hog Houses

Plans for Hog Houses

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from issue:

Missouri Sunlit Hog House: This is an east and west type of house lighted by windows in the south roof. A single stack ventilation system with distributed inlets provides ventilation. Pen partitions may be of wood or metal. This plan takes the place of the original Missouri sunlit house since many farmers had difficulty in building it.

Mule Powered Wrecker Service

Mule Drawn Wrecker Service

This will only add fuel to those late night discoursians about the relative merits of horses over mules or viciversy. Is the horse the smarter one for hitching a ride or is the mule the smarter one for recognizing the political opportunity which this all represents? In any event these boys know what they are doing, or should, so don’t try this at home without horse tranquilizers. Remember that politics is a luke warm bowl of thin soup.

Living With Dairy Goats

Living With Dairy Goats

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Dairy goats are different than other types of livestock, even Angora goats. They are independent, unimpressed by efforts to thwart their supremacy of the barnyard (or your garden), and like to survey the world from an elevated perch. Though creatures of habit, they will usually pull off some quite unexpected performance the minute you “expect” them to do their usual routine. For the herdsperson who can keep one step ahead of them, they are one of the most enjoyable species of livestock to raise and ideal to small farms.

Living With Horses

Living With Horses

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The French breed of Ardennes is closer to what the breed has been in the past. The Ardennes has always been a stockier type of horse, rude as its environment. Today the breed has dramatically changed into a real heavy horse. If the Ardennes had an average weight between 550 and 700kg in the first part of the last century, the balance shows today 1000kg and more. Thus the difference between the Ardennes and their “big” sisters, the Brabants in Belgium, or the Trait du Nord in France, has gone.

The Cutting Edge

The Cutting Edge

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In the morning we awoke to a three quarters of a mile long swath of old growth mixed conifer and aspen trees, uprooted and strewn everywhere we looked. We hadn’t moved here to become loggers, but it looked like God had other plans! We had chosen to become caretakers of this beautiful place because of the peace and quiet, the clean air, the myriad of birds and wildlife! Thus, we were presented with a challenge: how to clean up this blowdown in a clean, sustainable way.

Ask A Teamster Driving

Ask A Teamster: Driving

I have been questioned (even criticized) about my slow, gentle, repetitious approach “taking too much time” and all the little steps being unnecessary when one can simply “hitch ‘em tied back to a well-broke horse they can’t drag around, and just let ‘em figure it out on their own.” I try to give horses the same consideration I would like if someone was teaching me how to do something new and strange.

Livestock and Predators No Easy Answers

Livestock and Predators: No Easy Answers

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Since we’ve raised sheep commercially, we’ve been committed to trying to live with the predators in our environment. Over the years, we’ve lost just a handful of sheep — several to coyotes, at least one each to mountain lions and rattlesnakes, and four in one night to a neighbor’s dog. Mostly, though, our commitment to nonlethal predator protection tools has worked. A combination of electric fencing, livestock guardian dogs, sheep selection and grazing management has allowed us to co-exist with the predators in our environment.

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

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Simon and his elder sons Simon, Keith, and Ian, with their Belgian Ardennes horses, work good timber in bad places. The felling and extraction operation at the Lake District beauty spot of Tarn Hows was done in often appalling weather, and in the full glare of publicity. It must rank as one of the most spectacular pieces of horse logging, or indeed of commercial horse work done in these islands in recent years.

Feeding Elk Winter Work for the Belgians

Feeding Elk: Winter Work for the Belgians

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Doug Strike of rural Sublette County is spending his second winter feeding wild elk in nearby Bondurant, Wyoming. Strike is supplementing his logging income as well as helping his team of Belgian draft horses to keep in shape for the coming season. From May to the end of November he uses his horses to skid logs out of the mountains of western Wyoming. I found the use of Doug’s beautiful Belgian team an exciting example of appropriate technology.

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

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On a sunny early September day I met Doug Flack at his biodynamic and organic farm, just South of Enosburg Falls. Doug is an American Milking Devon breeder with some of the best uddered and well behaved animals I have seen in the breed. The animals are beautifully integrated into his small and diversified farm. His system of management seems to bring out the best in the animals and his enthusiasm for Devon cattle is contagious.

Expanding the Use of the Heavy Draught Horse in Europe

Expanding the Use of the Heavy Draught Horse in Europe

“La Route du Poisson”, or “The Fish Run,” is a 24 hour long relay which starts from Boulogne on the coast at 9 am on Saturday and runs through the night to the outskirts of Paris with relays of heavy horse pairs until 9 am Sunday with associated events on the way. The relay “baton” is an approved cross country competition vehicle carrying a set amount of fresh fish.

Horseshoeing Part 1A

Horseshoeing Part 1A

Horseshoeing, though apparently simple, involves many difficulties, owing to the fact that the hoof is not an unchanging body, but varies much with respect to form, growth, quality, and elasticity. Furthermore, there are such great differences in the character of ground-surfaces and in the nature of horses’ work that shoeing which is not performed with great ability and care induces disease and makes horses lame.

Happs Plowing A Chance to Share

Happ’s Plowing: A Chance to Share

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Dinnertime rolled around before we could get people and horses off the field so that results of judging could be announced. I learned a lot that day, one thing being that people were there to share; not many took the competition side of the competition very seriously. Don Anderson of Toledo, WA was our judge — with a tough job handed to him. Everyone was helping each other so he had to really stay on his toes to know who had done what on the various plots.

Ask A Teamster Ten Common Wrecks With Driving Horses

Ask A Teamster: Ten Common Wrecks with Driving Horses

One of the things I’ve learned over time is that the truly great teamsters rarely – if ever – have upset horses, close calls, mishaps or wrecks, while the less meticulous horsemen often do. Even though it may take a few minutes longer, the master teamsters constantly follow a series of seemingly minute, endlessly detailed, but always wise safety tips. Here are 10 of them:

Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic Sheep

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I came to sheep farming from a background in the arts – with a passion for spinning and weaving. When we were able to leave our house in town to buy our small farm, a former dairy operation, I had no idea that the desire to have a couple of fiber animals would turn into full time shepherding. I had discovered Icelandic sheep, and was completely enamored of their beauty, their hardiness and their intelligence.

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