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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

What We Really Lose

What We Really Lose

by Brandt Ainsworth of Franklinville, NY

My Old Man has done some living. He was born just in time to grow up in the Great Depression, at home, on the Cryder Creek in January of 1928. The exact day is confusing because his birth certificate has it wrong. It seems after the 12 pound baby was born, and his Ma kicked the Doctor to the ground in the process, his Dad didn’t make it to town for a few weeks. When he did make it to town to register the new baby; he forgot his birthday; thus the birth certificate is wrong, (that slip also set the lifelong tone for the relationship between my Father and Grandfather). Whatever day he was born, he went on to live life to the fullest, as he accumulated stories far and wide from his vast and unique experiences.

A few minutes with my Old Man will bring you stories Hollywood could never write. Stories of driving the canned milk to town at age 12 in the family pickup, not having a car to drive, driving new Cadillacs, eating home raised meals, eating at the Four Seasons as Presidents walked out while he was walking in, farming with only horses, then new tractors, then big tractors, then not farming, then doing it again with 50 year old tractors, then once more with no tractors. My own favorites are of him hitting home runs, scoring more individual points on the basketball court than most teams, dating his school teachers while in high school (he graduated valedictorian at 16), dating lingerie models, and stories of his hunting dogs and logging characters of the old days. The Old Man (as my brothers and I call him, and as he calls himself ) has been shot by a gun, shot at by other guns, twice stabbed with a knife, and twice (same day) struck by lightning. Let me say that again, so you don’t think I made an error; he was shot with a gun, stabbed with a knife, and struck by lightning. If that has happened to anyone else, raise your hand. If he was a hip hop artist he would carry tons of street cred.

However wild and exciting the stories are, there is one that I hold closest. This simple story says so much about people, our rural culture, farming, changed times, friends, family, and community. No guns, no runaway teams, no lingerie models; just a story of two farmers doing what they do.

What We Really Lose

Paul Day was an old fashioned farmer. The world was full of them in the late forties. He was as old in those days as my Old Man was young. Paul had a farm in West Union, NY until the house burned. After the fire, Paul moved to the Wellsville Gully just outside of Whitesville, NY (even today West Union and Whitesville are very rural and remote communities in Western New York on the Pennsylvania border). Paul kept about 50 acres in West Union after the house burned, and hauled what he raised to the Wellsville Gully farm nearly 5 miles up and down hill. Since everyone in those days but my Old Man thought early cut hay was a waste, Paul would haul loads of loose hay all of late July, and August in the hot sun.

About half of a mile from the hay field and up a steep hill was my Old Man’s farm. By the time the mismatched horses hauled the load of loose hay to this point, they were ready for another good rest. “Helloooo,” my Old Man would holler out, drawing out the “oo” on purpose to stop the weary horses. My preschool age older brothers thought this subtle joke was a riot as they played in the yard across from the big three hip barn. Paul would stand on top of the load of hay with the lines in one hand, while the team rested, and roll a cigarette with the other as he visited about what farmers visit about, the weather, the crops, the price of milk, who had the best horses, and so on. All the while my Old Man stood in the road and looked up at Paul on the load of hay. Paul looked out into the yard, by the garden, where my older brothers played near the quiet road. He would get a reflective and serious look on his face and say; “Earl, enjoy them boys and watch out for them.” He would finish his smoke and throw it to the side, as he continued; “I lost my Ma, I lost my Dad, I lost my wife a few years back, it all hurt, but by damn nothing hurts like losing a boy.” With that said, he got new footing on top the loose hay, tightened up the lines and headed the team up the long road toward home. Those words would ring in my Old Man’s head as he crossed the road and did his evening chores in the barn.

A simple story, yet it intrigues me for many reasons. The message of love for family; a man who experienced that much loss earned wisdom. The unhurried sense of time; farmers just don’t take the time, or have the time to visit and know each other. The farming practices; who could haul loads of loose hay nearly five miles to- day? The boys playing; boys fought — not watched TV. Boys listened to the adults talk and learned; they played by the road because back then that road didn’t get much traffic. My Old Man’s point of view; he was young and had yet to feel such deep losses as Paul spoke of — he also thought he would live his life on that farm before he lived on four other farms and had several other careers after dairy farming (laying hens, bean farming, equipment sales, real estate, sheep farming, horse train- ing, and logging). Of course, most intriguing is the depth of character. They weren’t just two farmers from different generations, they were two reflective thinking men.

As I write this, that story is more than sixty years old. Paul Day’s hay field is grown up. My Old Man’s beautiful three hip barn was torn down, and the once proud house is now a hunting camp for flatlanders. The Whitesville area is still picturesque, but the dozens of small mostly horse-powered farms are now just a few modern beasts of farms. Paul Day has long since passed, but his story is still poetic every time I have my Old Man retell it.

Character. That’s what we lose as we say goodbye to so many from the greatest generation. We remember the feats, the landmarks, the jokes, even the photos. But, only those who lived through those times can really give us a glimpse of the character of the people who comprised our rural culture and built the foundation for what we often take for granted today.

We live in an information age. We have more knowledge at our fingertips than any other time before us. One can learn farming, oxen, logging, rural life from book pages, or a computer screen, but as always our most valuable source is oral tradition. A well told story can make you feel the leather lines in your hand. It gets you personal with the old hired man who knew just enough (like Robert Frost’s Silas). The best storytellers put you there to smell the furrow turn, and hear the gravel scrape across the moldboard of the old Syracuse 1442. Some even go back far enough to put you, as a child, on the lap of a civil war veteran, playing with his long, white beard.

There’s fewer to tell us tales of how far they walked to school, or teams of horses walking up onto the steps of the store in town for a treat, hired men are forgotten, the timber that was felled with axes, and everyone’s contribution to win the Great War fades. I’ve always made a study of our elders and the stories they tell. Some entertain, some inform, some exaggerate, some are sad, some are funny, but the best are revealing. They reveal both how they lived and the character of the people.

I find the real stories to have more of an edge than Rockwell paintings, or even JC Allen photos would have us believe. We were always human. Thieves, not so friendly fights, infidelity, swindlers, crime, and laziness were about as prevalent as it all is today. It gets hidden below the surface. The kind of thing you don’t hear about until your three or four stories into a session. To me, the bad with the good only strengthens the characters.

The real point is for all of us to embrace the stories our elders share, before there are none left that remember canned milk instead of bulk tanks, loose hay instead of bales, and civil war veterans. Not everyone has been shot with a gun, stabbed with a knife and struck by lightning, but each and everyone of the best storytellers make up who we are, and how we got here.

Spotlight On: People

Rainshadow Organics Saralee and the Interns

Rainshadow Organics: Saralee & the Interns

Rainshadow Organics in Central Oregon is a really big small farm. As part of their mission to produce and promote good food, they participate in the Rogue Farm Corps internship program. This season they have 7 interns who made time during their lunch break to speak to us about the program.

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.

Ham & Eggs

Ham & Eggs

Max Godfrey leads Ham & Eggs, at Plant & Sing 2012 at Sylvester Manor.

Rainshadow Organics

Rainshadow Organics

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Saralee Lawrence and Ashanti Samuels are Rainshadow Organics, a burgeoning, certified organic operation which fully embraces the tenets of mixed crop and livestock farming. At its core is a full-force market garden. The entire farm comprises one hundred and eighty acres situated in the magnificent, high desert region of central Oregon and subject to a painfully short growing season (some years just slightly over 2 months).

Harnessing the Future

Harnessing the Future

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En route to a remote pasture where the Belgian draft horses, Prince and Tom, are grazing, we survey the vast green landscape, a fine mist hovering in distant low lying areas. We are enveloped in a profusion of sweet, earthy balance. Interns and other workers start their chores; one pauses to check his smart phone. Scattered about are many animal-powered rustic implements. This rich and agriculturally diverse, peaceful place is steeped in contrasts: modern and ancient.

Bonjour de France

Bonjour de France

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A little sign of life from France. Everything is going rather well at the tiniest of farms. Besides the veggies I have been plowing in the vineyards of the Bordeaux area to add some extra income. The drafthorses are back over there, so they need horsemen.

Biodynamic Meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm

Biodynamic Meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm

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One weekend I attended a Biodynamic meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm in Dorena, Oregon, in the Row River Valley, just east of Cottage Grove. I always enjoy seeing other food growing operations, as this is such an infinitely broad subject, there is always much to learn from others’ experiences. At this farm, draft horses are used for much of the work.

Farm To School Programs Take Root

All aim to re-connect school kids with healthy local food.

Jacko

Jacko

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By the time he was 3 years old, Jacko had grown into a big size jack, 13 hands tall and 900 pounds, and was still growing. That summer he ran the singlerow corn planter and raked the hay, proved himself handier with a single row cultivator than a single ox, getting closer to the plants without stepping on them. Gradually he had paced himself to his three educated gaits to fill whatever job Lafe required of him: fast walk for the planter and rake, slow walk for the cultivator and plant-setter, and brisk trot for the buggy.

Another Barn Falls In

Another Barn Falls In

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The barn was built around a century ago. A pair of double doors on the front flapped when the wind blew, and a short service door was on the side. It wasn’t a big barn, about 30 feet wide by 40 feet long with a small hay mow above. It had a couple of windows for light, and of course a window in the peak. There was a hitching rail outside that gave it a certain welcoming charm. A charm that seemed to say, “tie up to the rail, and c’mon in.”

ODHBA 2016 Plowing Match

ODHBA 2016 Plowing Match

The Oregon Draft Horse Breeders Association hosted their 50th Anniversary Plowing Match at the Yamhill Valley Heritage Center in McMinnville, Oregon on April 9, 2016. Small Farmer’s Journal was lucky enough to attend and capture some of the action to share.

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.

The Craft of the Wheelwright

The Craft of the Wheelwright

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In these days of standardization and the extensive use of metal wheels you might think there is little call for the centuries old craft of wheelwrighting, but the many demands on the skills of Gus Kitson in Suffolk, England, show this to be very far from the truth. Despite many years experience of renovating all types of wagons and wheels even Gus can still be surprised by the types of items for which new or restored wooden wheels are required.

The Way To The Farm

Lise Hubbe stops mid-furrow at plowing demonstration for Evergreen State College students. She explains that the plow was going too deep…

Farmrun John Erskine

John Erskine

John Erskine farms with horses in Sequim, WA.

Cindys Curds & Whey

Cindy’s Curds & Whey

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The Burgess dairy farm and cheese factory are sustainable operations, meaning that nearly every by-product is re-used or recycled. For example, the usually-discarded whey goes to feed their own pigs, producing an exceptionally tasty, lean pork. Whey is the liquid portion of milk that develops after the milk protein has coagulated, and contains water, milk sugar, albuminous proteins, and minerals.

Ripening

Poetry Corner: What A Boy Lies Awake Wondering

This is a poem from Paul Hunter’s book Ripening.

In Memoriam Gene Logsdon

In Memoriam: Gene Logsdon

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Gene didn’t see life (or much of anything else) through conventional eyes. I remember his comment about a course he took in psychology when he was trying to argue that animals did in fact have personalities (as any farmer or rancher will tell you is absolutely true), and the teacher basically told him to sit down and shut up because he didn’t know what he was taking about. Gene said: “I was so angry I left the course and then left the whole stupid school.”

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