One of things that drew me to farming with horses is the endless possibility for creating new equipment that is easy to understand and manufacture because of the simple mechanics. This year, I set out to make a new implement. Drawing from my experiences on a tractor-powered farm in California and some advice from Teague and Kosma, mule-powered farmers in Twisp, and Jason Salvo, a tractor-powered farmer in Duvall, I decided to build a horse-powered root digger, known to some as a bed lifter. I hoped that not only would it provide us with another job to use the horses in which we had been previously using hand tools, but it would make these digging jobs faster and more efficient.
Last December, a group of 20 or so farmers and horse-drawn enthusiasts gathered for another year of “Farmer to Farmer.” And wow, this year sure was a cold one! With the entire Northwest getting either pummeled with snow or blasted with freezing temperatures, many people understandably stayed home for the 2013 gathering, held in the Pine Valley of Northeast Oregon. Just outside of the town of Halfway, Marvin Brisk and his wife Pam run a diversified livestock operation using farm-raised Belgian, Brabant and Percheron draft horses. In the summer, they lease and cut hay on over 100 acres of grass and alfalfa, and grow barley, oats and other grains to help feed their laying flock and hogs.
During the weekend the group also gathered at the Mader’s farm across the small valley. At Horsepower Organics, the Maders raise alfalfa, cattle and train work horses–this is where our own Dandy & Avi came from over 6 years ago. David Mader demonstrated working horses in the round pen and the training program for their horses.
Among the topics covered this year were raising and selling market hogs, welding and metalwork in Marvin’s shop, harvesting hoophouse vegetables in the winter, and loose hay, which was demonstrated in the Brisks’ barn. Although it was an exceptionally chilly weekend, and much of the day was spent inside huddled by the woodstove discussing various farming topics, it was a successful gathering for sharing knowledge and fostering camaraderie amongst the Northwest draft-powered community, and I look forward to seeing all the friendly faces next year.
As autumn turned and the heat become cold, long dusty days turned into grey hoodie weather, we continued with the harvest. Salad, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, rutabagas, carrots, beets. We planted our garlic out in new 2-row beds so they could be cultivated in 2014 with the straddle row. We labored for hours before hard frosts hit, scurrying to get as many roots into the cellar before the first snow–December 3rd. We finished our last batch of pigs for a while, sowed a couple acres of cover crop, and put the farm to bed for winter. The horses got their winter vacation and we did too. While I have enjoyed the rest, I anxiously await the hustle and excitement of the new growing season.
Well I’ve fallen behind even further in updating but here’s another month of last summer’s photos. It is raining hard outside today and I’m getting over a cold, so I guess now is a good a time as any. September was also Joel’s last month on the farm, before he started the WWCC wine program. Before he left, he put together a few more garden carts and made a ball hitch for the forecart so we could pull a trailer full of squash. Below you can enjoy the video of him backing it into the barn–quite impressive. Here’s looking back fondly on last summer while this season gets ramped up.
My memory of August is similar to July. Hot, sweaty, and a bit of a blur. And eating a lot of amazing fruit. Amazing to see these photos now—especially photos of the brassica field—most of those plants are a slimy pile of foul goop after we hit 0F earlier this month with little snow to protect the plants. Continue Reading »
A hot, sweaty month… Continue Reading »
This year our good friends Nat & Matty built a new farmstand on the property, and it opened this summer, right when we started bursting with produce. It was built from rough cut black locust lumber from trees that Andy took down on various jobs this last year. We had a portable mill come early this year and prepare all the boards and studs. Then in the spring, our buddies dug a large hole along the driveway and built this structure halfway underground, covering the stand with top soil and native grasses and flowers. It helps keep the north-facing stand cool on the hot days, and serves as the on-farm CSA pickup and the flower arranging area on days the stand is closed, which helps free up the relatively cramped root cellar. It has been a welcome addition to our farm as a place to market more of our produce and flowers locally. We’ve had fairly steady customers, and hope it picks up more when the farmer’s market ends in a few weeks. Roots, tubers and garlic are some of our largest crops, and we are planting our hoophouses with winter salad, so we expect to offer food into December this year.
Open Wednesdays, Thursday, Fridays from 2-6pm. Cyclists get 10% off. Join the farmstand email list here.