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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

The Way it Wasnt

The Way it Wasnt

The Way it Wasn’t

by Brandt Ainsworth of Franklinville, NY

It often seems to me that a good share of life is determined by our own perspectives. I’ve competed in pulls where the team came in last and I was completely content, if not downright thrilled. We made weight, we crossed a few loads, showed some potential, and didn’t have a hard time hooking, (or at least not a runaway). I’ve had other times when the team pulled all they could and behaved perfectly, and still disappointed me. It’s just my personal perspective on that particular day that led to my disappointment or pleasure. Let’s face it; a day at a pull, with the good people a pull attracts, and the bond shared with horses is a good day that we should cherish whether you finished first or last.

Ever since I was very young, I’ve struggled with bipolar disorder, (though I never heard of the term until well after I was an adult). Being bipolar makes one’s perspective all over the map. A sunset may be the most hopeful, beautiful sight you’ve ever experienced one day, but the next day the same sunset may be depressing, ominous, and lonely, another day yet may receive that same sunset with complete apathy – just something that happens every day. I’ve learned to live with my albatross with the help of my friends and family reminding me often that things are never as bad as they seem, and just as important, things are never as good as they seem.

The Way it Wasnt

While being bipolar affects only a small percentage of us, changes in perspective affects all of us and how we view each situation and each memory. Where I live, somewhat close to Buffalo, the local perspective is, we have a good season if the Bill’s win a few home games and don’t fire the coach mid season. Playoffs? C’mon… it’s Buffalo. My New England friends have the perspective of it being a poor year if the Patriots don’t win the Superbowl. Looking back and reflecting on one’s memories is a pitfall for skewed perspectives. That’s why it’s said, “the older a man gets the better he used to be,” and “the older the man; the farther he walked to school, and the deeper the snow.”

I was familiar with an item in my youth that could change perspectives in people as quickly as a politician changes his stance on an issue to a new one that gets more votes: a faded, red, half gallon water jug. The handle was broken. The outer shell was cracked from falling off the jig cart while dragging. It was perpetually as dirty as our hands. I think it came free with a pizza years earlier, but the logo had worn off a long time since. The white inside was stained a rusty brown from our very hard well water. When filled with our awful tasting water – pieces of mineral like sediment settled to the bottom until it was passed around and the particles were mixed throughout. On a good day we would fill the jug with the pure clear water from the spring if we walked past it on the way to the southern part of the farm. Even the good spring water didn’t help much inside of a vile vessel like that.

The old water jug was as constant in my youth as our old sheepdog. It rode on the guard over the power take off shaft of the Farmall H when we were haying. It hung under the seat of the Pioneer plow when plowing. It dangled from a wire gathering layers of dust on the back of the Ontario drill when planting. Shoved into the corner of the wagon by the staples and fence stretcher. Hanging under the seat of the sulky cultivator it hung low enough to touch the tops of the young corn plants. There was no place to hang it on many implements like the handle cultivator, (as opposed to riding cultivators) the corn binder, or the grain binder so it hung on the near horse’s hames. When it was back onto the wagon for hauling back to the thresher, or ensilage cutter the old red jug hung on the front standard where we tied the lines. As often as not the jug hung together with other farm essentials like a rifle, or a grease gun. Thus, the jug always seemed to have smudges of grease, even on the part where you put your mouth.

The Way it Wasnt

I may sound like I’m describing a nasty memory that I’d rather forget, but my perspective is quite the contrary. I remember the old jug as a refreshing oasis. A break from the hot and dusty work. I remember setting the lid on a lug of the tractor tire and enjoying every sip of the delicious water the way a wine connoisseur remembers a fine bottle of vintage wine from a good year.

We were lucky enough to often have help on the farm for many of these hot, dusty, and laborious jobs. Of course, the prissy people from town thought ill of my Dad and I for drinking from this unhealthy jug. Even rough and tumble farmers and rednecks turned their nose at it. I understood their perspective. How can these Ainsworth boys pass that nasty jug – I just saw a bug lit in it. Dad and I would pass it back and forth, with him always getting first dibs and I was second as our helpers tried not to look so they wouldn’t feel ungrateful when they declined our offer to share. Perspectives changed as the work got harder and the day got hotter. Often by the third load of hay someone else would tentatively try a sip. Then by late in the day an hour or so before evening milking time, the friends, no matter how civilized, would eagerly take part in our ritual of sharing one water jug of dirty water as my Dad unhooked the strap where it hung, blew the hay chaff off the lid, and took the lid off. It was an early lesson to me on the way people’s perspectives changed.

As I remember all the places that jug went on our farm, I remember the wonderful feeling of being a farmer who farmed mostly with horses. I can close my eyes and smell the first furrows of the year being cut, hear the stones scrape across the moldboard, see the perfectly straight furrows laying over, and feel the leather lines resting in my hands. Plowing was a favorite to so many of us that we always remember it fondly, even poetically.

The Way it Wasnt

Farming that way seems to stir all of the senses, and make us long for those days. Try to close your eyes and remember the way about mid-May when the pasture was green, a horse on pasture would have a distinct smell – not really sweet, but surely pleasing. A few weeks later it was the smell of cut hay. The first hay of the year had a smell that seemed welcome after it was first mowed. Corn for silage in the fall had a smell that reminds us of summer work and somehow makes us think of whiskey. After the grain binder went by it was time to shock oats, with the dry smell of oats and straw and fall in the air. Every job had it’s own feel too. The air during plowing had a mixture of the warmth of spring, with the cold of winter still in the ground coming up from each furrow. The sun on your skin makes you feel healthy in the hot of a July haying day. Threshing is hot, dusty, and itchy feeling, but you know in a month or so you’re fingers will be feeling the checkering on your favorite deer rifle. One could write a book on how good a set of lines feel in your hands with a team on the bits just right, or even how their favorite saddle feels under them.

Heel chains jingling, a good teamster commanding his team with quiet confidence, the steady hum of a sickle bar are all music to my ears that make me lose sight of the other perspective of farming. The one that happens in a not so perfect world.

This perspective has us itching under the chin from setting up shocks of oats, and our ears ringing from the loud threshing machine. I often forget how bad I am at cultivating, and that I seem to take out as much corn as weeds. It’s easy to forget how hot and dusty the straw mow is, and how often the thresher plugs, and its belts slip. I’ve had hard hands, and blisters all my life from fork handles, and every spring I get sunburned while picking rocks before planting. Damn the flies that chew on me and the team all summer long. My life would be fine if I never had to scour another rusty plow, or fix a knotter that won’t tie. Just when you make some progress mowing hay it rains for four days straight. They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a flat tire, and so does a trip to the hay field; then it’s an odd size tire the local garage doesn’t have on hand. As long as I’m griping, let’s talk about the fence that’s down and the animals that get out of the meadow and into the yard of the only neighbor around who cares about his yard. Then the frustration of chasing the stock back in. It makes you long for the dog you used to have instead of the one you have now.

The Way it Wasnt

While I’m not deeply philosophical, I do believe that you don’t truly know pleasure until you’ve felt real pain. That may be why we love farming so much, after all the hardship you endure – when it finally does go right we tend to relish in it.

It’s just a matter of keeping it all in a realistic, not idealistic, perspective. When teaching somebody new about farming, we would do well to recall the way it was on both the good and bad days. Few farmers, even on the rare time when they remember the bad days, would’ve traded the worst day on the farm for the best day without a farm.

As we flip over a five gallon pail, and sit down with the kind of friends who sit with you in the barn and remember the old days; try to keep in mind – if it was as bad or as good as we remember, we are probably remembering the way it wasn’t.

The Way it Wasnt

Spotlight On: Equipment & Facilities

Posts

Driving Fence Posts By Hand

Where the soil is soft, loose, and free from stone, posts may be driven more easily and firmly than if set in holes dug for the purpose.

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.

John Deere Model A Tractor

from issue:

Your John Deere Tractor has a range of speeds. These various speeds not only give you the flexibility and adaptability you want, but also they enable you to balance the load and the speed for maximum economy. However, if you are handling a light load and want to travel at slow speed, it is far better to put your tractor into the gear which gives you the speed you want than to use a higher gear and throttle down.

Barn Raising

Barn Raising

by:
from issue:

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.

John Deere No 12A Combine

John Deere No. 12-A Straight-Through Combine

from issue:

It is only natural for the owner of a new combine to want to try his machine as early as possible. This results in most new combines being started in the field before the crop is ready for combining. As soon as a binder is seen in the neighbor’s field, the urge to start becomes uncontrollable. When grain is ready for binding, it is not ready for straight combining.

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

Box Jaw Tongs & the Cow Poop Theory of Blacksmithing

by:
from issue:

Making a pair of tongs was a milestone for a lot of blacksmiths. In times gone past a Journeyman Smith meant just that, a smith that went upon a journey to learn more skills before taking a masters test. When the smith appeared at the door of a prospective employer, he/she would be required to demonstrate their skills. A yard stick for this was to make a pair of tongs.

Multi-Purpose Tool Carrier Equi Idea Multi-V

Multi-Purpose Tool Carrier: EQUI IDEA Multi-V

Building on the experiences with a tool carrier named Multi, consisting of a reversible plow interchangeable with a 5-tine cultivator, the Italian horse drawn equipment manufacturer EQUI IDEA launched in 2012 a new multi-purpose tool carrier named Multi-V. The “V” in its name refers to the first field of use, organic vineyards of Northern Italy. Later on, by designing more tools, other applications were successfully added, such as vegetable gardens and tree nurseries.

Shed and Barn Plans

Below is a short piece from Starting Your Farm, by SFJ editor and publisher Lynn R. Miller. Click the links below to see Chapter One of Starting Your Farm and to view the book in our online bookstore. “You may have purchased a farm with a fantastic set of old barns and sheds. You, on […]

Pferdestarke

German Version of Horse Progress Days: Pferdestark

by:
from issue:

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.

Farm Drum 25 Two-Way Plow

Farm Drum #25: Two-Way Plow

by:

Lynn Miller and Ed Joseph discuss the merits of the two-way plow, what to look for when considering purchase, and a little bit of the history of this unique IH / P&O model.

McCormick-Deering Potato Digger

McCormick-Deering Potato Digger

from issue:

McCormick Deering (eventually International Harvestor) made what many believe to be one of the outstanding potato digger models. This post features the text and illustrations from the original manufacturer’s setup and operation literature, handed to the new owners upon purchase. This implement, pulled by two horses or a small suitable tractor, dug up the taters and conveyed them up an inclined, rattling chain which shook off most of the dirt and laid the crop on top of the ground for collection

Building an Inexpensive Pole Barn

Building an Inexpensive Pole Barn

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from issue:

The inside of the barn can be partitioned into stalls of whatever size we need, using portable panels secured to the upright posts that support the roof. We have a lot of flexibility in use for this barn, making several large aisles or a number of smaller stalls. We can take the panels out or move them to the side for cleaning the barn with a tractor, or for using the barn the rest of the year for machinery.

Delivery Wagon Plans

Delivery Wagon Plans

from issue:

While the low down delivery wagon is an improvement, the objectionable features are increased. But with all those objections the low down wagons increase every year. Their convenience outweighs all other objections. They are handy for country delivery and are fitted up inside to suit either grocers, bakers, butchers or milk delivery, or a combination of the four.

Sleds

Sleds

by:
from issue:

The remainder of this section on Agricultural Implements is about homemade equipment for use with draft animals. These implements are all proven and serviceable. They are easily worked by a single animal weighing 1,000 pounds, and probably a good deal less. Sleds rate high on our homestead. They can be pulled over rough terrain. They do well traversing slopes. Being low to the ground, they are very easy to load up.

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

Homemade Ground-Drive PTO Forecart

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from issue:

As we start, consider a few things when building a pto cart. Are big drive tires necessary? Is a lot of weight needed? Imagine the cart in use. Try to see it working where you normally go and where you almost never go. Will it be safe and easy to mount or dismount? Can you access the controls of the implement conveniently? Is it easy to hook and unhook? Where is the balance point? I’m sure you will think of other details as you daydream about it.

Mowing with Scythes

Mowing with Scythes

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from issue:

Scythes were used extensively in Europe and North America until the early 20th century, after which they went out of favor as farm mechanization took off. However, the scythe is gaining new interest among small farmers in the West who want to mow grass on an acre or two, and could be a useful tool for farmers in the Tropics who do not have the resources to buy expensive mowing equipment.

Cultivating Questions The Cost of Working Horses

Cultivating Questions: The Cost of Working Horses

Thanks to the many resources available in the new millennium, it is relatively easy for new and transitioning farmers to learn the business of small-scale organic vegetable production. Economic models of horse-powered market gardens, however, are still few and far between. To fill that information hole, I asked three experienced farmers to join me in tracking work horse hours, expenses and labor over a two-year period and to share the results in the Small Farmer’s Journal.

Ask A Teamster Neckyokes

Ask A Teamster: Neckyokes

I always chain or otherwise secure slip-on type neckyokes to the tongue so they don’t come off and cause an accident. Neckyokes unexpectedly coming off the tongue have caused countless problems, the likes of which have caused injuries, psychological damage, and even death to horses, and to people as well. Making sure the neckyoke is chained or otherwise secured to the tongue every time you hitch a team is a quick and easy way of eliminating a number of dangerous situations.

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