Tag Archives: farming

Battle Royale Pt 2 – Sustainability

1935 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture; A different time with different solutions

I find it necessary to address the sustainability of each of the methods of growing that I will be comparing in my Battle Royale. Sustainability is very important to consider when undertaking any agricultural venture. When I say sustainability I mean it very literally, not just speaking from an environmental standpoint. Can this method be sustained indefinitely under the current or foreseeable future conditions?

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A Poem

The ice glistens,
The fire crackles,
The joints creak,
The tea steams,
The soup boils,
The mind turns inward.

The winter approaches.

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Progress or …?

One of my best sources of information in the agronomic field has been the USDA Yearbooks of Agriculture. Having access to studies from 130 years ago up until the end of publishing in 1992 has been a boon for my education. It is hard not to notice, however, the stark changes in the writing styles over those years, and the perceived shift in the target audience based on the tone of the writing. Here I will present a contrast of two randomly selected excerpts to illustrate my point.

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Subsoiler aka Chisel Plow (not a hand tool)

In my last post (Battle Royale (Agrarian Style)) I revealed that I have indeed used a tool on a tractor to accomplish an agrarian goal. I used a single shank subsoiler, aka chisel plow or ripper, to help prepare a hillside to become a productive orchard. There were definitely ways that I could have used hand tools only to suit this purpose, but it would have taken years worth of work and crop rotations. This solution allowed me to jump ahead with minimal investment of time and money, and with minimal negative consequences. Read on if you are interested in the reasons behind this exception to my rule (Hand Tools: The Simple Choice).

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Battle Royale (Agrarian Style)

Garden with a view

I am starting new gardens from scratch this year, and in the interest of learning new things in new places, I have set up an experiment to compare a few different methods of gardening. I will keep this as brief as possible, and expound upon each of these methods as I update you with progress reports over the following years. Each bed will be planted in the spring with potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and an assortment of vegetables, along with a row of sunflowers and buckwheat. I have no expectations or knowledge of how the results will look, this experiment is purely out of curiosity and I am excited to see how the different methods turn out. How will they yield, handle drought, soaking rains, etc?

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Science Seeks the Farmer

USDA Yearbook of Agriculture 1920

By L.C. Everard – Chief Editor, Division of Publications – an article from the 1920 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture, public property

Something is wanting to science until it has been humanized, said Emerson. That was long ago, before the development of the Department of Agriculture. Were he here today he would probably say something is wanting to agricultural science until it puts on its overalls and gets out between the plow handles. And the scientists of the department would agree with him; for though they may in their laboratories surround their work with a cloud of hard words and harder ideas like a smoke screen anround a battleship, they realize that their investigations and discoveries are made for the sake of mankind, and acquire their chief value when the veil of thechnicality is torn away. Cyclonic action means something to the farmer when translated into term of rain or snow or fair weather. And scientific study of the life history of Ascaris lumbricoides becomes a blessing to him when a way has been found to apply the knowledge so as to save his pigs.

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Compost!

Compost

Compost is the breakdown product of organic wastes, containing large proportions of humus which is a long-acting soil fertility booster. Any organic material (not talking about certified organic designation, just the carbon-based once-living kind of organic) can be composted, eventually becoming soil again as it once was before being integrated into an organism.

“Composts offer a practical means of maintaining the soil fertility which is the most important factor in the successful operation of a subsistence farm….There are available on practically all farms and gardens many materials which are useful for composts, although the farmer or gardener often fails to appreciate their value. Some of the common materials which are often wasted are leaves, straw, muck, vegetable tops, grass clippings, and garbage material which is inedible for chickens or pigs.”

~C.C. Fletcher, 1935 USDA Yearbook of Agriculture

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Tradition in Agrarianism

Today’s world moves fast. From one generation to the next the world is almost an entirely different affair. I can write an article and someone in Australia can read it the very next minute. I can buy an aeroplane ticket and be┬áin Australia the very next day. A neighbor of mine can plow his 200 acre farm in one day, harrow it the next, and have it planted the next. My grandparents could not have imagined such a world, and I’m sure I cannot imagine the world my grandchildren will live in. Continue reading

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Hand Tools: The Simple Choice

Sickle_and_scythe_labels

When explaining my decision to use only hand tools to accomplish all of my tasks, as an agrarian I could give the simple answer: they guarantee my commitment to hard work. Often times, I stop the explanation there. When approaching a project, I would rather choose the path that puts my body to work, giving my mind time to think while my body completes the task at hand, rather than only using my mind while letting my body languish. It is more satisfying and more healthful this way. I don’t use hand tools just because I enjoy it more, though. It is logic on many levels which led me to this decision. Continue reading

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