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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

Work Horse Handbook

The latest revised edition of the Work Horse Handbook is here! Since it was first published in 1980, this 386 page authoritative text, with it’s nearly 1,000 illustrations, has assisted beginner and experienced teamsters worldwide. This book is the ultimate owner/operator manual for working draft horses and mules in fields, forests, and fancy carriage operations.  Here is a peek into its pages.

Work Horse Handbook

The Introduction:
The decision to depend on horses or mules in harness for farm work, logging, or highway work is an important one and should not be taken lightly. Aside from romantic notions of involvement in a picturesque scene, most of the considerations are serious. This is not to suggest that the romantic notion is frivolous or in any way detrimental as part of the entire commitment. Quite the contrary; the prevailing motivation behind a majority of good practicing horse farmers today seems to be just that notion. They are attracted to the romance of the system. Whatever the nature of the attraction is must be tempered by consideration of all the practical questions related to “Why use horses?” Without a careful and clear view of the practical aspects, a person new to the business could very well find himself of herself in either a dangerous, humiliating, confusing, or discouraging situation. (It’s likely to be a combination of all four.) Make the choice carefully.

Work Horse Handbook

On Shoulders and the Angle of Draft:

Natural Shoulder Angle:
The natural angle of the shoulder and pastern should be the same. When these corresponding angles form ninety degree measures, as illustrated, the ‘push-to-pull action in harness is most efficient and effective. Perhaps even more important is the apparent fact that, all other physiological aspects being equal, these angles translate to greatest comfort for the working horse. The only step we may take to affect these actions, positively or negatively, would be to drastically alter the pastern angle through the angle of the hoof. (see Anatomy chapter)

Collar on the Shoulder:
Illustrating how the padded-collar relates to the skeletal structure of the horse. The point of draft, that being exactly where the tug to hame connection rests on the line of the shoulder, is critical to the working comfort of the horse. If it is too low, a sore shoulder results. If it is too high, it is difficult for the horse to pull. Collars are designed to seat and pad the tug-to-hame connection at their widest part (or the ‘draft’ of the collar). The ‘tug-to-hame’ connection is more important than the actual position of the draft collar.

Work Horse Handbook

On Learning:
The single most important input with cost is working experience. In other words, BEFORE you can make working horses a comfortable reliable operating scheme for your farm, you must acquire the necessary skill level. It comes from watching, learning, experience, and curiosity. And acquiring the skill of a full-fledged farm teamster will cost- time, sweat, adversity, anxiety, and perhaps money. Remember, if you owned a team of young draft mares magically-tomorrow-you would not be able to realize their full value to you without first having the skill to use them properly. This is the single biggest reason we don’t have a flood of new horse farmers all across the countryside. It’s not because it’s impractical. It’s because it takes commitment and work to develop skill and craftsmanship. But once you have, it is yours for life.

Work Horse Handbook

This fantastic narrative guide to the art and science of working draft horses and mules was written by Small Farmer’s Journal editor and publisher Lynn R. Miller.

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

Laying Out Fields For Plowing

Laying Out Fields For Plowing

from issue:

Before starting to plow a field much time can be saved if the field is first staked out in uniform width lands. Methods that leave dead furrows running down the slope should be avoided, as water may collect in them and cause serious erosion. The method of starting at the sides and plowing around and around to finish in the center of the field will, if practiced year after year, create low areas at the dead furrows.

An Introduction To Farm Woodlands

The farm woodland is that portion of the farm which either never was cleared for tillage or pasture, or was later given back to woods growth. Thus it occupies land that never was considered suitable, or later proved unsuitable, for farm enterprises.

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

by:
from issue:

The agricultural system of the Old Believers has long been one of hand labor. Their homesteads (hozyastvas) were not intended for tractors or horses, with the possible exception of their larger potato fields. Traditionally the small peasant hozyastva has its roots in hand labor, and this has helped maintain the health of the land. Understanding the natural systems is easier when one’s hands are in the soil every day as opposed to seeing the land from the seat of a tractor.

LittleField Notes Seed Irony

LittleField Notes: Seed Irony

by:
from issue:

They say to preserve them properly, seeds should be kept in a cool, dark place in a sealed, dry container. Yet the circumstances under which seeds in a natural environment store themselves (so to speak) seem so far from ideal, that it’s a wonder plants manage to reproduce at all. But any gardener knows that plants not only manage to reproduce, they excel at it. Who hasn’t thrown a giant squash into the compost heap in the fall only to see some mystery squash growing there the next summer?

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading at FreeSong Farm by Greg Jeffers prosperoushomesteading.blogspot.com

The Farmer and the Horse

The Farmer & The Horse

In New Jersey — land of The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, and the Turnpike — farmland is more expensive than anywhere else. It’s not an easy place to try to start a career as a farmer. But for a new generation of farmers inspired by sustainability, everything seems possible. Even a farm powered by draft horses.

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 1

Our mild climate makes it too easy to overwinter cover crops. Then the typically wet springs (and, on our farm, wet soils) let the cover put on loads of topgrowth before getting on the soil. Buckwheat is the only crop that I can be certain will winterkill. Field peas, oats, annual rye and crimson clover have all overwintered here. Any suggestions?

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 4

Assuming that you’ve found a farm you want to buy, next you’ll need to determine if you can buy it. If you have sold your property, and/or saved your money, and have the means to buy the farm you are sitting pretty. If you do not have the full price of a considered farm, in cash or any other form, you will likely have to look for financing.

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

by:
from issue:

The amount of manure produced must be considered in planning a cropping system for a farm. If one wishes to manure one-fifth of the land every year with 10 tons per acre, there would have to be provided two tons per year for each acre of the farm. This would require about one cow or horse, or equivalent, for each six acres of land.

LittleField Notes Prodigal Sun & Food Ethics

LittleField Notes: Prodigal Sun & Food Ethics

by:
from issue:

To my great delight a sizable portion of the general eating public has over the past few years decided to begin to care a great deal about where their food comes from. This is good for small farmers. It bodes well for the future of the planet and leaves me hopeful. People seem to be taking Wendell Berry’s words to heart that “eating is an agricultural act;” that with every forkful we are participating in the act of farming.

The Forcing of Plants

The Forcing of Plants

by:
from issue:

It is always advisable to place coldframes and hotbeds in a protected place, and particularly to protect them from cold north winds. Buildings afford excellent protection, but the sun is sometimes too hot on the south side of large and light-colored buildings. One of the best means of protection is to plant a hedge of evergreens. It is always desirable, also, to place all the coldframes and hotbeds close together, for the purpose of economizing time and labor.

Soil, Vegetation, and Acidity

From Dusty Shelves: Audels Gardeners and Growers Guide teaches us about soil acidity.

Chicken Guano: Top-Notch Fertilizer

Whoever thought I’d be singing the praises of chicken poop? I am, and I’m not the only one. Chickens are walking nitrogen-rich manure bins.

Hand-Harvested Food Challenge

The Hand-Harvested Food Challenge

by:
from issue:

In the winter of 2011, Daniel mentioned a fourteen-year-old student of his who had spent a whole month eating only foods gathered from the wild. “Could we go for two days on the hand-harvested food we have here?’ he asked. “Let’s give it a try!” I responded with my usual enthusiasm. We assembled the ingredients on the table. Everything on that table had passed through our hands. We knew all the costs and calories associated with it. No hidden injustice, no questionable pesticides. We felt joy at living in such an edible world.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 2

How do you learn the true status of that farm with the “for sale” sign? Here are some important pieces of information for you to learn about a given selling farm. The answers will most probably tell you how serious the seller is.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 3

What goes with the sale? What does not? Do not assume the irrigation pipe and portable hen houses are selling. Find out if they go with the deal, and in writing.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

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