SFJ

Facebook  YouTube

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Words for the Novice Teamster

Words for the Novice Teamster

by Marles Oldroyd

My favorite childhood memories are of cold winter days spent on my grandpa’s sleigh, feeding cattle. The sound of jingle bells always brings a clear picture to my mind of a hay-laden sleigh being pulled through the pristine-white snowscape by giant workhorses. The jingling of bells and the sound of cattle bawling their hunger was accented by the whoosh of the sleigh’s runners and the steady beat of the horses’ huge hoofs pounding on hard packed snow. In my memory, the air was always crisp and cold, the sounds sharp and clear. My nose and fingers would turn bright red and my whole body felt tingly. I’m sure that the tingles were caused more by my feelings of excitement than by the cold, for I remember standing next to my grandpa hoping that he would let me drive the team!

As a small girl, driving grandpa’s team was always a thrill for me. Being a child, however, I didn’t realize that I had a acquired a vocabulary rich in words (which were essential to working with draft horses) that most people were, and still are, generally ignorant of. In spending time with my grandpa, I had unconsciously learned to distinguish most of the harness parts by name, and I had come to know the commands and terminology used when working with draft horses.

Many people who are new to the world of draft horses are intimidated by what seems to them to be a foreign language. This “workhorse language” can be frustrating for novices who would like to use draft horses, or who would just like to understand what people who do use them are talking about. The knowledge of some basic draft horse terminology can end most of the beginner’s confusion about the special jargon used in this trade.

The first thing that new teamsters should learn is what the major harness parts are and how they are used. Harnessing a horse begins with putting on the collar. A horse collar is made of leather and is stuffed with straw; it goes around the horse’s neck and rests upon the shoulders. The collar provides a place to fasten the rest of the harness and distributes the weight of the load which the horse will pull evenly against its shoulders. The hames, which are rib-like pieces of wood or steel tubing, are fitted into grooves on the sides of the collar and are secured at the top and bottom by leather straps. Traces (or tugs) are strong, pliable strips of heavy leather which attach to the hames at one end and to the load to be pulled at the other. The rest of the harness parts are used to hold the collar and the traces in the proper position and come in many styles — usually dependent upon what type of work is to be done with them. Most harnesses do, however, have a cruper strap which fastens around the horse’s tail to keep the harness from riding forward on the horse’s body. A breast strap and a pole strap are used together to function as a braking and backing system when a vehicle with a tongue or pole is used. The pole strap is attached to the back of the harness (in a number of different ways with different styles of harness) and passes under the horse’s belly to hook on the breast strap, usually with a bolt and roller-assembly snap. This snap is then hooked to a neck yoke which attaches to the front of the pole.

Once the beginner has mastered harnessing his horse, he is ready to try ground driving. Ground driving is an exercise in learning to drive a team in which no vehicle or load is pulled, and the driver walks behind the horses. Ground driving is best learned under the tutorage of an experienced teamster with a well-trained team of horses. Workhorses respond not only to the pressure of the lines (reins) when being driven but also to voice commands.

Some of the basic voice commands used with workhorses are: get up, gee, haw, steady, whoa, and back or whoa back. “Get up” tells the horses to start moving ahead. “Gee” asks the horses to turn right, and “haw” is for a left turn. “Steady” is used to ask the horses to continue on slowly or to help calm them when they are nervous. “Whoa” is used when the teamster wants his horses to stop, and “back” or “whoa back” tells the horses that they are expected to back up. Another useful term for the teamster is step over. This command is used to ask the horse to step sideways — either in the stall so the teamster can get past or to move into proper position to be hooked to a load.

When the novice has learned all about ground driving, and he is finally ready to hook his horses to a wagon, there are still more terms that he should be familiar with. Most wagons and some farm implements have a pole or tongue that the two horses of the teams are hooked to which steers the vehicle. When the horses are standing in position in front of the wagon with one horse on either side of the pole a neck yoke (a short pole with a small metal ring at each end which the pole strap of each horse’s harness is snapped to and a larger metal ring in the center which slips over the end of the pole and stops about six to eight inches back) is attached to the pole straps of the horses’ harness and to the pole. The horses are then hooked one at a time to their individual singletrees on an evener, or double tree as it is sometimes called, with chains which are attached to the ends of the harness traces. A evener is an equalizing bar which runs behind both horses and is attached to the end of the pole near the wagon with a pin so that it is free to swing back and forth. Two smaller bars, called single trees, are attached to the evener on either side of the pole. The single trees are attached to the evener in such a way that they will pivot back and forth, and they have hooks which the trace chains on the harness are hooked to. Once the horses are properly hooked to the wagon, both with the pole straps and neck yoke and the traces and eveners, the teamster and his horses are ready to go to work.

A good knowledge of basic “workhorse language” can aid the novice teamster in learning to work with draft horses, and in so doing, to learn to become part of the team. In the truest sense, a team is not just two horses working together, but a teamster working with his horses — communicating and cooperating with each other to get a job done.

Spotlight On: Crops & Soil

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

On-Farm Meat Processing

The demand for fresh, local meat products – with no taint of industrial process – is absolutely staggering.

Bamboo A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

Bamboo: A Multipurpose Agroforestry Crop

by:
from issue:

The bamboos are gaining increased attention as an alternative crop with multiple uses and benefits: 1) domestic use around the farm (e.g., vegetable stakes, trellis poles, shade laths); 2) commercial production for use in construction, food, and the arts (e.g., concrete reinforcement, fishing poles, furniture, crafts, edible bamboo shoots, musical instruments); and 3) ornamental, landscape, and conservation uses (e.g., specimen plants, screens, hedges, riparian buffer zone).

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

Evolution of a Permanent Bed System

by:
from issue:

After three or four years we could see that the nature of our farming practices would continue to have detrimental effects on our soils. We were looking for a new approach, a routine that would be sustainable, rather than a rescue treatment for an ongoing problem. We decided to convert our fields to permanent planting beds with grassy strips in between where all tractor, foot and irrigation pipe traffic would be concentrated.

Cultivating Questions: Alternative Tillage & Inter-Seeding Techniques

Our intention is not to advocate the oddball living mulches we use with this single row inter-seeding system, but just to show how it is possible to utilize the between-row areas to improve insect habitat, reduce erosion, conserve moisture, fix some nitrogen, and grow a good bit of extra organic matter. If nothing else, experimenting with these alternative practices continues to keep farming exciting as we begin our twentieth season of bio-extensive market gardening.

Fjordworks Horse Powered Potatoes Part 2

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes Part Two

These types of team implements for digging potatoes were the first big innovation in horse powered potato harvesting in the mid-19th century. Prior to the horse drawn digger the limitation on how many potatoes a farmer could plant was how many the farm crew could dig by hand. The basic design of these early diggers works so well that new models of this type of digger are once again being manufactured by contemporary horse drawn equipment suppliers.

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.

Asparagus in Holland

Asparagus in Holland

by:
from issue:

The asparagus culture in Holland is for the majority white asparagus, grown in ridges. This piece of land used to be the headland of the field. The soil was therefore compact, and a big tractor came with a spader, loosening the soil. After that I used the horse for the lighter harrowing and scuffle work to prevent soil compaction. This land lies high for Dutch standards and has a low ground water level, that is why asparagus can grow there, which can root 3 foot deep over the years.

Winter Production of Fresh Vegetables

Winter Production of Fresh Vegetables

by:
from issue:

Any claim about winter production of fresh vegetables, with minimal or no heating or heat storage systems, seems highly improbable. The weather is too cold and the days are too short. Low winter temperatures, however, are not an insurmountable barrier. Nor is winter day-length the barrier it may appear to be. In fact most of the continental US has far more winter sunshine than parts of the world where, due to milder temperatures, fresh winter vegetable production has a long tradition.

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

This is the account of how one farm put more horse power into the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of its potato crop. Ever since we began farming on our own in 1994 one of our principle aims has been the conversion of our farm operation to live horse power wherever feasible. This has meant replacing mechanized tools such as tractors and rototillers and figuring out how to reduce human labor as we expanded upon the labor capacity of our work horses.

Starting Seeds

From Dusty Shelves: A WWII era article from Farming For Security

Marketable Cover Crops

Marketable Cover Crops

by:
from issue:

Our cover crops have to provide the benefits of smothering weeds, improving soil structure, and replenishing organic matter. They also have to produce some income. For these purposes, we use turnips, mustard and lettuce within our plant successions. I broadcast these seeds thickly on areas where cover crops are necessary and let them do their work.

Prairie Grass A Jewel Among Kernels

Prairie Grass: A Jewel Among Kernels

by:
from issue:

Years ago, my brother advised against plowing the patch of prairie on the back forty of our Hubbard, Iowa farm. “Some day,” he predicted, “that prairie will be as valuable as the rest of the 40 acres. We know how to grow corn; but that prairie was seeded by the last glacier.” Left untilled by generations of my family, the troublesome treasure has now become a jewel among a cluster of conventional crops on the farm.

Henpecked Compost and U-Mix Potting Soil

We have hesitated to go public with our potting mix, not because the formula is top secret, but because our greenhouse experience is limited in years and scale. Nevertheless, we would like to offer what we have learned in hopes of showing that something as seemingly insignificant as putting together a potting mix can be integrated into a systems approach to farming.

Beautiful Grasses

What follow are a series of magnificent hundred-year old botanist’s watercolors depicting several useful grass varieties. Artworks such as this are found on the pages of Small Farmer’s Journal quite regularly and may be part of the reason that the small farm world considers this unusual magazine to be one of the world’s periodical gold standards.

Propagation by Means of Budding and Grafting

Propagation by Means of Budding and Grafting Part 2

by:
from issue:

Budding is the operation of applying a single bud, bearing little or no wood, to the surface of the living wood of the stock. The bud is applied directly to the cambium layer of the stock. It is commonly inserted under the bark of the stock, but in flute-budding a piece of bark is entirely removed, and the bud is used to cover the wound. There is every gradation between budding and grafting proper.

Cane Grinding

Cane Grinding: An Age-Old Georgia Tradition

by:
from issue:

Most sugar cane is processed in refineries to give us molasses, brown sugar, and various kinds of white sugar. However, some South Georgia farms that raise sugar cane still process it the old way to produce the special tasting sweetener for their own food. One such farm is the Rocking R Ranch in Kibbee, Georgia. It is owned by Charles and Patricia Roberts and their sons. The process they use has not changed in the past 100 years. This is how it is done.

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