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Step Ahead Horse Progress Days 2016

Step Ahead Horse Progress Days 2016

STEP AHEAD: 23rd Annual Horse Progress Days 2016

by Paul Hunter of Seattle, WA
photos by Paul Hunter & Jerry Hunter

“There is no barn without flies.” – Laura Hunter

I had only been to Horse Progress Days once before, at Mount Hope, Ohio in 2008. It had been an eye-opener, showing how strong and in touch with sustainable farming values the Amish are, and how innovative and sensible their efforts could be. So at the 23rd annual event in Howe, Indiana, I was there partly looking for signs of continuity, and partly for signs of change.

Step Ahead Horse Progress Days 2016

Right off I spotted an Amish man with a Blue Tooth in his ear, talking as he walked along. There was a new posse of young mounted riders directing traffic and parking cars. Among novelties was a special program of demonstrations aimed at market gardening and small-scale farming, with equipment designed for single horses and small teams. There were systems to prepare soil, lay dripline and black plastic weed and moisture barrier all in one pass. For applications large and small there seems to be considerable emphasis on reducing the number of passes down the field, to help the farmer make more effective use of his and his draft animals’ time and energy.

Step Ahead Horse Progress Days 2016

There was a strong set of demonstrations focused on logging and wood products, demonstrating tree pruning high in several old trees adjoining the fields, with chainsaw work, and portable wood mills. There was even an automated firewood processor that spat out an endless heap cut and split to size, that it did everything but stack, and a noisy machine from Montana that drilled holes and pounded fence posts in the ground on demand.

Step Ahead Horse Progress Days 2016

Notable among exhibits new this year was a demonstration of dogs to herd cattle, which alongside traditional sheep herding drew a large and appreciative crowd. Part mind-reading and part skillful maneuvering, the dogs were clearly appreciated and valued at their tasks.

There is a trend in miniature horses everywhere in evidence, as small hitches were used to pull both grownups and children all over the fair grounds in a variety of carts and wagons, along with the traditional larger and more comfortable people-movers.

Step Ahead Horse Progress Days 2016

Indoors a huge 3.4 acre facility sheltered upwards of a hundred booths, that offered an impressive range of the latest energy-saving and planet-saving technologies, as well as round-pen demonstrations and talks that drew large audiences. Exhibitors were not shy about making use of solar and wind power, and showed how many Amish farmers and manufacturers are now employing computers to manage their marketing, accounting and other needs.

Step Ahead Horse Progress Days 2016

Yet outdoors in the field the big horses are still the stars of the show, just as strong and well-mannered in large hitches as I recalled from eight years ago. There was more mechanization, more choices and refinements of sturdy ideas, like White Horse Manufacturing and Pioneer’s new plowing and cultivating systems, and Miller’s Machinery cultimulchers. The biggest no-till drill in 2008 had been pulled by six horses, and cost around $23,000. This year the biggest no-till drill was pulled by eight horses, and cost $32,000. The homemade ice cream was every bit as delicious as ever, churned by little “hit-or-miss” John Deere irrigation pump engines that had been lovingly restored.

Step Ahead Horse Progress Days 2016

Spotlight On: Equipment & Facilities

Center Cut Mower

Center Cut Mower

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The prospect of clipping pastures and cutting hay with the mower was satisfying, but I wondered how I might take advantage of a sickle mower in my primary crop of grapes. The problem is, my grape rows are about 9 feet apart, and the haymower is well over 10 feet wide. I decided to reexamine the past, as many of us do in our unconventional agricultural pursuits. I set off with the task of reversing the bar and guards to lay across the front path of the machine’s wheels.

Fjordworks Plowing the Market Garden Part 2

Fjordworks: Plowing the Market Garden Part 2

Within the context of the market garden, the principal aim for utilizing the moldboard is to initiate the process of creating a friable zone for the root systems of direct-seeded or transplanted cash crops to establish themselves in, where they will have sufficient access to all the plant nutrients, air, and moisture they require to bear successful fruits. To this end, it is critical for good plant growth to render the soil into a fine-textured crumbly condition and to ensure there is no compaction within the root zone.

Walsh No Buckle Harness

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When first you become familiar with North American working harness you might come to the erroneous conclusion that, except for minor style variations, all harnesses are much the same. While quality and material issues are accounting for substantive differences in the modern harness, there were also interesting and important variations back in the early twentieth century which many of us today either have forgotten or never knew about. Perhaps the most significant example is the Walsh No Buckle Harness.

Cultivating Questions Cultivator Setups and Deer Fencing

Cultivating Questions: Cultivator Set-ups and Deer Fencing

We know all too well the frustration of putting your heart and soul into a crop only to have the wildlife consume it before you can get it harvested let alone to market. Our farm sits next to several thousand acres of state game lands and is the only produce operation in the area. As you can imagine, deer pressure can be intense. Neighbors have counted herds of 20 or more in our pastures.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 4

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Over the last few years of making hay, the mowing, turning and making tripods has settled into a fairly comfortable pattern, but the process of getting it all together for the winter is still developing. In the beginning I did what everyone else around here does and got it baled, but one year I decided to try one small stack. The success of this first stack encouraged me to do more, and now most of my hay is stacked loose.

Fencing for Horses

Fencing for Horses

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The first wire we tried was a small gauge steel wire which was not terribly satisfactory with horses. Half the time they wouldn’t see it and would charge on through. And the other half of the time they would remember getting shocked by something they hadn’t seen there and would refuse to come through when we were standing there with gate wide open. We realized that visibility was an important consideration when working with horses.

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.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 1

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For the last ten years, I have made hay mostly with a single horse. This has not necessarily been out of choice, as at one time I had hoped to be farming on a larger scale with more horses. Anyway, it does little good to dwell on ‘what if ’. The reality is that I am able to make hay, and through making and modifying machinery, I probably have a better understanding of hay making and the mechanics of draught.

Barn Raising

Barn Raising

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Here it was like a beehive with too many fuzzy cheeked teen-agers who couldn’t possibly be experienced enough to be of much help. But work was being accomplished; bents, end walls and partitions were being assembled like magic and raised into place with well-coordinated, effortless ease and precision. No tempers were flaring, no egomaniacs were trying to steal the show, and there was not the usual ten percent doing ninety percent of the work.

LittleField Notes Spring 2013

LittleField Notes: Spring 2013

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If we agree that quality of plowing is subject to different criteria at different times and in different fields, then perhaps the most important thing to consider is control. How effectively can I plow to attain my desired field condition based on my choice of plow? The old time plow manufacturers understood this. At one time there were specific moldboards available for every imaginable soil type and condition.

Bobsled Building Plans

Bobsled Building Plans

Befitting Labor Day, here are two, old-style, heavy-duty, bobsled building plans featuring the sort of sleds you might have found in New England and the Maritime Provinces of Canada. (In fact you might get lucky and find them still.) These are designed to haul cord wood on the sled frame.

McCormick-Deering All Steel Corn Sheller

McCormick-Deering All-Steel Corn Sheller

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To obtain the best results in shelling, the machine should be run so that the crank makes about forty-five (45) revolutions per minute or the pulley shaft one hundred and seventy-five (175) revolutions per minute. When driving with belt be sure that this speed is maintained, as any speed in excess of this will have a tendency to cause the shelled corn to pass out with the cobs. The ears should be fed into the sheller point first.

Pferdestarke

German Version of Horse Progress Days: Pferdestark

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There is a rather neat phrase in German – ‘wenn schon, denn schon’ – which literally translates as ‘enough already, then already;’ but what it actually means is ‘if a something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. That would be a fitting description of Pferdestark, the German version of Horse Progress Days. For sheer variety of different breeds of draught horses, regional and national harness styles, or for that matter, languages or hats, it would be hard to beat Pferdestark.

Littlefield Notes: A Slower Pace

LittleField Notes: A Slower Pace

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I will probably never get a chance to sit at the throttle of a steam engine heading up some winding mountain grade and feel the romance of the rails as the lonesome sound of a steam whistle echoes off canyon walls. Nor will I sit and watch out over the bowsprit of a schooner rounding Cape Horn as the mighty wind and waves test men’s mettle and fill their spirits with the allure of the sea. It is within my reach however to draw a living from the earth using that third glorious form of transport – the horse.

Stationary Baler

Stationary Baler: Engineering and Evidence

Our friend, Mark Schwarzburg came by the office with an old wooden box he inherited from his great great great grandfather, Henry Schwarzburg. In it is a lovely, very old working wooden model of the stationary baler Henry helped to invent. Also were found, on old oil-skin paper, beautiful original engineer’s drawings for patent registry; and a brochure for the actual resulting manufactured implement.

A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter

A Step Back in Time with the Barron Tree Planter

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The 18th century saw a tremendous interest in landscaping private parkland on a grand scale with the movement of entire hills and mature trees, all by man and horse power, to fulfill the designs of celebrated gardeners such as Capability Brown. In the mid 1800s the movement of mature trees was revolutionised by the introduction of the Barron tree transplanter. The first planter was designed and built by Barron for the transplantation of maturing trees at Elvaston Castle in Derbyshire.

Champion No.4 Mower Reaper

The Champion No. 4 Combined Mower and Self-Raking Reaper

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The project for the winter of 2010 was a Champion No. 4 mower made sometime around 1878 by the Champion Machine Works of Springfield, Ohio. The machine was designed primarily as a mower yet for an additional charge a reaping attachment could be added. The mower was in remarkably good condition for its age. After cleaning dirt from gears and oiling, we put the machine on blocks and found that none of the parts were frozen and everything moved.

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