Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gardening Floyd: Everything Old Is New Again

I've been attending a Pocket Farming course sponsored by SustainFloyd and it never ceases to amuse me that the methods my grandparents used on their farm decades ago are being reassigned fancy new names, being repackaged, and "sold" as innovative new techniques to really squeaky new farmers.  Like "Biodynamic Farming".  Really?  The timing of my grandparents chores and farming events were often based on moon phases and celestial influences from starting seeds and breeding livestock to harvesting, butchering, and haircuts for my Mom and her six siblings.  It wasn't weird, most of the farm families around them did it too.  They had a connection with their farms that went beyond just a place to live and ground to make a living from.  Now it's got a fancy new name- Biodynamic.

Michael and I went out to Blue Valley Organic Farm, SustainFloyd's model farm, last Saturday mostly to see how to set up contours for plowing but also to watch another old technique made new again: plowing with horses.

I grew up in central Pennsylvania with farming contours as a part of the agricultural landscape.  There was also a large Amish farming community so seeing draft horses working the fields and sharing the road with horse-drawn buggies was a daily occurance. But for many of the people who showed up watching Jason Rutledge of the Healing Harvest Forest Foundation and his team break sod and set up a furrow was a novel experience.  What it did for me was remind me how much I still miss my horses.  I've often said to Michael that if it wasn't for the idiots driving Rte. 8 I'd have a pony and cart for doing my errands in town.  I'd probably modify that now to I'd have a draft pony, implements, and cart for running errands and working our bit of land.
Jason Rutledge works with Suffolk horses, a breed developed in England specifically for farming.  Suffolks are on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy's critical list and Jason is working hard to keep the breed alive with six mares due to foal this year.
Kate, pictured in the middle above, is one of his mares in foal.  Just like any fit mom Kate can continue in her duties to near foaling time.  These horses are bred for pulling, love doing it, and without regular workouts would probably develop bad habits out of boredom.  Just like people.

Here Jason hooks up and checks the harness on the sulky plow.

Off they go making the first cut through the sod.

It takes several passes to create the first furrow which the team will work off of to plow the entire contour strip.
Photo by Jeff Walker
By the end of the day BVO's contours were in place.
Photo by Jeff Walker

1 comment:

  1. Oh what fun. My great grandmother had a big work horse they used in the fields. I don't remember much about the farm except the outhouse, the water pump, the old sofa and wallpaper, the uneven floors. the barn, and the beautiful work horse. I was 5 when she passed away. I do wish I had been older and learned more from her.