When I'm home in the San Simon valley of southeastern Arizona, every Friday is harvest day. Today (Friday, November 26), I harvested green tomatoes, daikon radishes, regular radishes, baby turnips with their greens, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatillos, acorn and butternut squash, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes (reds and whites), green onions and leeks. I produce all this from a garden that's about 60 by 80 feet. Not using a rototiller allows me to make the entire garden a giant wide row. Tiller weeding compels a gardener to plant in straight rows separated by a three foot bare aisle for the tiller to travel down. I think it's a waste of garden space and money to use a tiller in a family-sized garden. There's also evidence that tilling adversely affects the hundred or so genera of microbial soil life on whom I depend to create fertility in the soil of my organic garden.
For me, gardening is all manual labor. I plant, weed, water, and harvest by hand. I do lots of stooping, kneeling, or sitting on the groundthen getting up again. I'm 66 years old and creaky in the joints, but I do it. Up/down. Up/down. Up/down. I do it, and I enjoy it. My doctor says he prefers to prescribe gardening: "If I tell them to exercise on a machine, they won't do it. If they love to garden, they'll do that and they'll stay healthy." I'm healthy.
My hand-grown garden looks bizarre to people who are accustomed to the machine-tilled, agri-business knock-off style of gardening. My plant species are gloriously jumbled. (Organic gardening research says they do better in a mix. That's how Nature gardens.) Whenever I see a weed, I dig it out. Wherever I dig out a weed, I plant a seedor a baby plant that needs to be transplanted to its own square foot of land in order to grow big and strong. I saw a book titled, "Tips for the Lazy Gardener." I have just one tip for that lazy gardener: LOSE THE LAZY! Use your muscles. Work. Manual labor is good. I bend down and scoop out a weed with my narrow, steel-bladed trowel. Next, I scrape a trench with that precious tool. Then I scatter seed the length of that V scraped from the dirt. I straighten up, take a step, bend over and do it again.
On a break from the garden, I may hang laundry on the clotheslines or wash dishes in the kitchen sink. Many folks now dry clothes in a dryer and wash dishes in a dishwasher. I make bread by hand, too; I love to knead! No bread machine for me. I prefer doing things the use-your-muscles way. In the past I ardently indulged in walking, biking, and roller blading. Cycling is more efficient than any other method of human-powered travel. If you get a bicycle equipped with side packs (L.L. Bean sells them) or a two-wheeled cart to pull using your bike, you can haul all kinds of stuff. My friend, Patrick David Barber, who homesteads in urban Oakland, CA, wrote me about his bike cart: "We have used bicycles for most of our transportation for years, but a Bikes At Work cargo trailer (great, hard-working, and family-owned) was what allowed us to finally and truly live without a car. The trailer weighs 35 pounds, and has a 300 lb capacity. It can haul a large load of groceries, or several bags of chicken feed, or gardening supplies, or even a small tree. Since it attaches at the rear axle, its effect on the bicycle's handling is minimal. I have also used the trailer to pick up friends at the train station: I haul a folding bike and a helmet to the station; the guest rides the folding bike home while I haul his or her baggage on the trailer. There are no other trailers (to my knowledge) that would let us do what we do. There are no other trailers (to my knowledge) that would let us do what we do."
Back in the 1800's, iron objects were shaped by the sweaty sinews of a blacksmith hammering hot metal on his forge. Buildings were constructed by muscle, directed by intelligence. Animal muscles transported goods and people and pulled farm machinery. Although the first oil well was drilled in 1859 in western Pennsylvania and the use of oil has increased from two to five percent each year from then until now, as of 1900 there were still 35,000,000 horses in England. That year, in America, 25 percent of our agricultural land was used to grow horse fodder. When I was a little girl, growing up on Brackett Creek near Clyde Park, Montana, I rode a beloved half-Shetland pony to school. Every child in my grade school (eight grades, eight children) rode a horse to school, except the girl who lived across the street. Our horses waited patiently inside a small shed back of the school while class was in session. Now Brackett Creek children are bussed miles away to a big, consolidated school.
There is an amazing amount of energy in a gallon of oil. It does the same amount of work as 200 well-fed men working an entire day. The average American now uses enough oil every day to have the energy equivalent of 80 slaves in constant service! Never have human beings had so little need to use their muscles. Since using muscles makes us good-looking and keeps us healthy, some people go to gyms and work out to fake what survival no longer requires. (You could build muscles and generate electricity in the process. A typical man can generate about one-sixth horsepower, 125 watts, by continuous pedaling. Hand cranking yields about 50 watts.) Others just give up and get that couch-potato shape.
Petroleum has affected animal muscle too. A hundred years later, only a token remnant of those great beasts remains. The most powerful are enormous draft horse breeds such as Percheron, Clydesdale, and Suffolk Punch.. The Fjord is a smaller draft horse breed. Draft horse breeds are "cold-blooded," meaning they are amazingly calm and good-natured, a necessity considering their power. The oxen folks and donkey and mule handlers are other communities of hobbyists who keep pre-petroleum technologies based on animal muscle alive. Steers trained to work as draft animals are called "oxen." The donkey is a draft species noted for its endurance. A mule is the offspring of a horse mated with a donkey. They are sterile, but excellent draft animals. There are many sizes of donkey ("burro"): miniature, regular, and mammoth. Mammoth donkeys are in demand to breed to big horses and get a big mule. Most other livestock have been trained to pull at one time or another. Dog sleds are famous in the frozen north. Lamas are beasts of burden in the Andes, elephants in southeast Asia. Goats can be trained to carry a pack or pull a cart, but oxen and equines dominate the animal muscle world.
I don't own a draft horse, but I love hanging out with people who do. I learned that a draft horse can outpull a little Ford tractor, especially in cold and deep snow when the tractor won't even move. A horse can pull 16-foot logs. A team can pull a ton for a short distance, but won't be able to keep it up. They can easily pull 300 lb all day long. The Amish finish an average 10 acres per day, doing horse-powered field work. The techniques of their training, equipment, and use are an ancient craft stubbornly kept alive and passed down by self-appointed stewards. When you go to buy a draft horse or a team, take someone with you who is experienced. Working horses are expensive, but not near as much as a tractor. You'll also need to buy harness. Make sure you know how to harness and hitch them up before you bring them home. Practice is important for the handler and for every draft animal. The state of your horses' feet is important. Bring in the horseshoer, "farrier," regularly. Horseshoes are vital if your animal will be walking on pavement or gravel a lot. Both are hard on hooves, which nature didn't design for such hard surfaces. Even if your horses work on dirt, their hooves can stand some trimming.
All working animal species are a precious genetic heritage. Each line of genetic succession is irreplaceable, so draft horse breeding is a good cause and potentially profitable. But keeping a draft horse stud is not all fun and games. They are so bigand any male is a potentially mean animal. We have neighbors that keep an Arabian stallion. They take beautiful care of their horses, but one day he bit a big chunk out of the lady's face. A draft horse stud could be twice the weight and even more dangerous. Near a mare in heat, he could be very hard to handle, no matter how nice his disposition. You can artificially inseminate horses, same as cows or goats. Four to six weeks before a draft mare foals (gives birth), let her quit working. A month after she foals, you can get her back into harness. Working again soon after foaling helps keep her in shape.
Most ox, horse, and mule handlers must earn a living in townin a hospital, bank, factory or.... They come home after work and hitch up the team, reminding themselves and the animals just how the harness goes on, how the carriage or plow is attached, and how the work gets done. They pass on those skills, teaching them to their children, grandchildren, and other interested persons. They are keeping alive these precious technologies for the day when the oil runs out and we must make full use of our symbiotic species againčor give up being civilized. It's fun being part of the draft animal community. It's work for both animals and their handlers, but both animals and people enjoy their outings. These folks display their teams in parades for outsiders to gawk at, but their favorite events are those attended by lots of other draft folks such as the annual get-together at Sisters, Oregon. "It's the biggest Amish auction in the country," explains my young friend, Jonathan, who works a team of big mules. I'll be there!
Carla Emery is a specialist in non-petroleum family food production technologies, a speaker, and an author, including of The Encyclopedia of Country Living; www.carlaemery.com; 520-845-2288, cell 520-678-2271; PO Box 133, San Simon, AZ 85632.
Access: Human-powered Vehicles
Interesting article about bicycle-powered machines: www.bikesnotbombs.org.
Bikes At Work sells a useful bike trailer with 300 lb capacity, plus pedicabs and custom trailers: www.bikesatwork.com
Burley trailers is a popular way to transport a child without a car. They also sell small cargo trailers. www.burley.com/products/trailers/default.aspx
International Human Powered Vehicle Association is a jolly bunch of athletes, mostly from Europe and the U.S., who pedal experimental bikes, planes, and boats: www.ihpva.org . Great website for human power and bicycle links.
Rhoades Car sells your choice of a 1, 2 or 4-seater bike that is easy to pedal, street legal and drives "like a car." Brochure: 615-822-2737; www.4wc.com.
Worksman Cycles sell tricycles for adults, not bicycles. They are good vehicles for older riders who have trouble balancing or stabilizing a standard bike, who travel slowly, or who have trouble managing a standard 2-wheel bike. They are equipped to carry groceries, etc.: www.worksman.com
Xtracycle is a good basic utility bikečor you can buy a kit to turn your existing bike into a utility one: www.xtracycle.com/html/home.php
Access: Draft Animal Periodicals
The Carriage Journal is published 5 times/year by the Carriage Association of America, a world organization of people interested in horse-drawn vehicles: Jill Ryder, Executive Director; 856-935-1616; fax 856-935-9362; 177 Pointers-Auburn Road, Salem, NJ 08079; email@example.com; www.caaonline.com.
Driving Digest deals with harnessed equines (miniature donkeys to draft horses): $24 for about 64 pages, 6 issues/yr: 419-929-6781; PO Box 110, New London, OH 44851. Draft Horse Journal is a quarterly magazine (250+ pages!) produced by Lynn Telleen, Editor, for 30+ years. It reports on shows and sales, does features on horse farmers and breeders, provides horse management tips and bloodlines, and info on horse machinery. It's $25/year ($30 foreign): 319-352-4046; PO Box 670, Waverly, IA 50677.
Feather and Fetlock is a quarterly magazine (80+ pages) covering the Canadian heavy horse scene, especially showing: U.S. $36/yr.; 403-337-2342; PO Box 9, Cremona, Alberta T0M 0R0, CANADA.
Heavy Horse World is the UK's draft horse magazine. It's $37 U.S. airmail (4/yr); $30 surface mail. Call/fax +44 01730 812419; Lindford Cottage, Church Lane, Cocking, Midwest, West Sussex U29 0HW U.K.; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.heavyhorseworld.co.uk.
Horselogger's International News is a quarterly costing $15/year. Back issues available: "Horse Loggers Manual," "Walking Bean Blueprints"; c/o Gregg Caudell, 1201 East Sanpoil Road, Keller, WA 99140; 509-634-4388; email@example.com; www.televar.com/~gcaudell.
Rural Heritage contains in each issue about 100 pages of articles on draft animals and other subjects useful to the small farmer. Gail Damerow, Editor, produces 6 issues/yr for $19/yr; $34 for 2 years. Plus The EVENER Work Horse, Mule & Oxen Directory and Guide for $6 and sales of animal books from their Rural Bookstore: 931-268-0655; 281 Dean Ridge Lane, Gainesboro, TN 38562.
Small Farmers Journal prints practical draft horse info in addition to general articles for small, independent family farmers. Cost is $30 for 128 large-size pages, 4 issues/yr: L.R. Miller, Editor; 541-549-2064; fax 541-549-4403; PO Box 1627, Sisters, OR 97759-5039.
Access: Draft Animal Event and Schools
2005 Draft Horse & Horsedrawn Equipment Auction & Swap Meet. April 22, 23, 24. Sisters Rodeo Grounds, Sisters, Oregon. For additional information and/or consignment forms, phone or write: Small Farmer's Journal Auction, P.O. Box 1627, Sisters, Oregon 97759, 541-549-2064, 1-800-876-2893.
Big Horse Ranch, St. Augustine, FL, www.BigHorseRanch.com, 904-819-0243.Olson Driving School: Bob & Julie Solson / Olson Ranch, 10855 Hodgen Road, Black Forest, CFO 80908; 719-495-4486, firstname.lastname@example.org; www.hoofnet.com/olson .
Fair Winds Farm, Jay & Janet Bailey Family; 802-254-9067; www.fairwindsfarm.org, 511 Upper Dummerston Road, Brattleboro, Vermont 05301.
Farmer Brown's Draft Horse Clinics: Logging and Farming with draft horses; 585-567-8158; www.farmerbrownsplowshop.com; James & Bob Brown, 10809 David Rd., Hunt, NY 14846; email@example.com .
Tillers International is a division of the University of Michigan which offers training in pre-petroleum technologies: blacksmithing, building trades, oxen, and draft horses for farming and logging. Classes are offered in several midwestern locations. 800-498-2700; www.wmich.edu/tillers; Tillers International, 10515 East OP Ave Scotts, MI 49088.
Carla Emery P.O. Box 133 San Simon, AZ 85632
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Copyright 2004 by Carla Emery. All rights reserved.