30 January 2012

Farmer's Plans


Haying in the Agrarian Nation
(click the picture to see enlarged view)
A live farmer, always awake to the spirit of improvement, will have his farm, at the end of ten years, in a vastly better condition in respect to attractiveness and real value than it was at the beginning, while another will plod on, work quite as hard, perhaps, and find his farm no better, and probably worse, than it was in the beginning. 

The difference will be found in the planning, the brain work, of the two men. One has an idea in his brain that he means to attain, and by degrees it is developed into actual results; the other merely plods on from day to day, always hesitating about undertaking anything out of the ordinary routine of farm labor, working hard enough with his hands, but little with his brain. If there is a waste place in his lot, an ugly eyesore, he is slow to begin its improvement. if there is a rock in the way of the scythe or the plough, it lies there year after year, though an hour’s work might remove it.

The true way to progress on the farm is to do something, be it more or less, every year. It may not amount to a radical change in any one year, but in the aggregate the improvement will be apparent, and the real money value of the farm enhanced.

If the profits of farming are less apparent than those of mercantile pursuits at certain times, it should be borne in mind that neither are the wear and tear of mind and body, nor the labor and risks so great. The chances of a happy and comfortable life are greater upon the farm than in any other calling, and if the spirit of improvement exists in the mind, the sources of real and permanent happiness are inexhaustible.

We hope to see the time when our young men will incline to the culture of the land, rather than to dissipate their intellect and their energies in our villages and cities. To hasten this time, we must increase their intelligence, their sense of the true dignity of agriculture, adopt new methods of farming, apply  more science and more knowledge to the details of this calling, make farming attractive, agreeable, and productive, and this is to be accomplished by the system, the forethought, and the plans of the human brain.
[Thomas’s Farmer's Almanac]

23 January 2012



A Lovely Old Silo

We have all heard, for the last year or two, a great deal about ensilage, or the packing of green fodder crops in silos, for preservation and use for the winter feeding of cattle. The word, therefore, has become familiar; but doubtless there are many who do not fully comprehend its meaning and its significance. A silo is a close pit, usually built in masonry, with brick or concrete walls, and calculated to exclude air. The most convenient form is thought to be rectangular, the width about one-third of the length, and the depth about two-fifths of the length. It is to be filled from the top, and hence will save labor if sunk wholly or mostly beneath the surface. The material to be used in filling is any green forage crop, rye, millet, sorghum, or green fodder-corn, taken in the blossom, and cut by a fodder-cutter into little pieces less than half an inch in length. This fine material is packed down as tightly as possible, the top covered with plank, and heavily weighted, to drive out and keep out the external air. In this way it is preserved in very much its original freshness and condition for months, to be fed out to stock as it is wanted from day to day. The fodder kept in this way is called ensilage.

Ensilage cutter & blower

This method of storing and preserving green feeding substances for stock has been known in France for many years, though nowhere generally adopted. It has been tried, to a limited extent, in this country, and with apparently great satisfaction and economy.

Every farmer knows that the amount of fodder-corn that can be grown on an acre of well-cultivated land is something enormous. Forty or fifty tons, as it comes from the field, is by no means unusual, and a far greater weight than that can easily be grown under favorable conditions, the plants being allowed to grow till they “tassel out,” or blossom, when the ears are just beginning to form. Taking it, therefore, for granted, that the amount of nutritive properties in forage plants is at its height at this stage of growth, the amount of nutritive feed in an acre of corn is something amazing; but the practical difficulty heretofore has been to cure and preserve it without a positive and large loss incident to drying and housing so bulky a product. The silo seems to solve the problem. It avoids the necessity of drying entirely, and keeps the material in very much its original condition. The ensilage, as it comes out of the silo, has undergone but a slight fermentation, but if allowed to lie on the barn-floor, or loose in a bin for a few hours, heating and fermentation set in, and a strong and very marked alcoholic smell is generate. Stock of all kinds are exceedingly fond of it, and will leave the best of hay to seize it with avidity. The process to which it has been subjected has rendered it more digestible, probably; and if so, the animal system will more completely utilize the actual nutrition which the plant contains when it its best condition. 

We all know that dry hay, and dry fodder of any kind, will pass the animal only partially digested, very much of it appearing in the form of woody fibre in the excrements. If we feed oats, or any unground grain, to horses, we know very well that considerable portions of such food pass undigested, and very much of the actual nutriment which it contains will be lost. It has done far less good, no doubt, than if it had been finely ground, or more completely masticated. It has served some good purpose in distending the stomach, and so keeping up the healthy condition of the animal economy, and preventing a sensation of hunger, but its real elements of nutrition are by no means all assimilated so as to become incorporated, as it were, in a form to build up the animal system. It is apparent that there is some loss, more or less considerable, in proportion to the completeness of the process of assimilation. The reason why cattle appear to thrive better on an abundant supply of green grass, succulent forage of any kind, is, probably, that it is more easily, and so more completely digested. It is the natural form of food of most of our domesticated animals; and all forms of dried forage for winter feeding are artificial, and designed to form the best substitute we can get for the natural summer food of stock.
Corn stalks being fed into the ensilage cutter & blown up into the top of the silo.

Now, if we can preserve the forage in its natural and succulent condition, without loss of its succulency, as the silo appears to do, it certainly seems to be a great gain. More extended, complete, and satisfactory experiments are needed to prove conclusively that this system will  effect this result, and it may prove to be good economy to supplement the feeding of ensilage by the addition of oil-meal to make a complete feeding substance; but so far as we can see now, the system bids fair to lead to the most important practical results.

[Thomas’s Farmer's Almanac]

The 1881 almanac explains what ensilage is to the readers of 1888. Here is part of what Wikipedia says of it 131 years later...
Using the same technique as the process for making sauerkraut, green fodder was preserved for animals in parts of Germany since the start of the 19th century. This gained the attention of a French agriculturist, Auguste Goffart of Sologne, near Orléans, who published a book in 1877 which described the experiences of preserving green crops in silos. Goffart's experience attracted considerable attention. The conditions of dairy farming in the United States suited the ensiling of green maize fodder, and was soon adopted by New England farmers.
Ensilage creates a nutritious food for livestock. It can be substituted for root crops; it is easily digestible; milk produced by animals eating silage maintains its quality and taste; it can be provided irrespective of the weather; it provides grass all year round; and a larger number of livestock can be supported on a given area by the use of ensilage than is possible by the use of green crops.
I have made sauerkraut, and I have been involved in the making of ensilage, and the same technique is not used for both. But it is similar in that a natural fermentation takes place.

If you have never read my silo story, Click Here.

Alas, but I have violated an unwritten rule of the Agrarian Nation blog with today's post. Can anyone tell what it is?

16 January 2012

Fatten Hogs Early


From a correspondent of the Ohio Farmer. He first “hogged down” (in western parlance,) forty acres of corn, between the 10th of September and the 23rd of October. By hogs being weighed when they were turned in and when they were taken out, it was found that they paid forty cents per bushel for the corn, estimating the pork at four cents a pound and corn at forty bushels to the acre.

His next course was to take one hundred hogs, averaging two hundred pounds each, which were placed in nine covered pens, and fed all they could eat of corn and cob ground together, steamed, and given in allowances five times a day. In a week they were again weighed, when reckoning 70 pounds of corn and cob as equal to a bushel of corn, and the pork as before, the hogs paid 80 cents a bushel for the corn. the weather was warm for the season.

The experiment was tried again the first week in November, when the corn brought 62 cents, the weather being colder. the third week in November the corn brought only 40 cents, and the 4th week only 26 cents, the weather continuing to grow colder. Another lot of hogs were fed through December, which only gave 26 cents a bushel for the corn. A part of the time the thermometer was at zero, and then the hogs only gained enough to pay five cents a bushel for the corn, and afterwards, when the mercury went down to ten degrees below zero, the hogs only held their own. 

The inference from these trials is, that in general it is not profitable to feed corn to hogs, after the middle of November. The difference gained is certainly surprising, and whether caused altogether by the difference in temperature or not, no person of observation can doubt that hogs gain much more in proportion to the feed consumed in mild than cold weather. 

It seems that the hogs gained much less by helping themselves to corn in the field, than when the corn was ground and cooked, and fed to the animals in pens under equal advantages of weather.
[Leavitt’s Framer's Almanac]

13 January 2012

Farming Business


The word agriculture is compounded of ager, a field, and culture, tilling. Agriculture is justly thought to be the most ancient art, and it is certainly the most useful. Even Adam in Paradise, practiced one branch of this art; he was put into the garden of Eden, to dress it. Though other employments are often more lucrative to individuals than husbandry, none is so advantageous to the world. If it be a slower way of gaining wealth than some others, it is perhaps the least hazardous of any. The farmer depends not on winds and waves, like the merchant and mariner, nor on the good will of his neighbors, like the mechanic, for employment and bread. Besides, the business of farming is adapted to promote the health of the body and the cheerfulness and contentment of the mind. In a philosophic view, says one, agriculture is great and extensive. In a political view it is important. As a possession, it strengthens the mind, without enervating the body. In morals, it tends to increase virtue, without introducing vice. In Religion it naturally inspires piety, devotion, and a dependence on Providence. It is a rational, agreeable amusement to the man of leisure, and a boundless source of wealth to the industrious.
[Leavitt’s Farmer's Almanac]

06 January 2012

Poultry For Market


In Europe, where fowls are systematically fattened for market, they are fed on barley and oat meal, rice, Indian meal cooked and wet with milk, and sometimes mixed while hot with beef or mutton tallow. Chopped carrots and parsley roots and leaves, cabbages, celery leaves, etc., are given to them now and then, and regular doses of pepper corns or cayenne pepper to stimulate the appetite. Special pains are taken, by a process of cramming, to hasten the fattening, and two or at most three weeks are sufficient for this.

Fattening fowls ought not to have a large run, but should have a chance to stand in the sunshine, to dust themselves, and to scratch in the ground. Pure water must always be furnished, and pulverized charcoal should be mixed with their soft feed every two or three days, enough to blacken it partially. This charcoal ought to be of all sizes, from that of a kernel of wheat to dust. It is good for the digestion, prevents disease, and indirectly promotes fattening. The difference between a lot of fowls furnished with this charcoal and one deprived of it will be very striking.

Indian meal scalded is one of the best kinds of soft feeding, and it is better with small potatoes boiled and mashed while hot and mixed with it, together with some bran or shorts. Some mutton tallow or other cheap fat will add greatly to its fattening quality. Pork-scrap cake, soaked and pounded up, may be fed with it, but not too freely, no more than a pound to a dozen fowls every two or three days. Green cabbage leaves, beets, etc., are greatly relished.

Fowls put up to feed for market ought to be ready in three or four weeks in the early fall. It will take longer after cold weather sets in. If they are deprived of a free run they must be furnished with gravel every few days. A little salt mixed with the food now and then will improve it. A small quantity of it mixed with the soft food will usually stop any inclination to pluck each other’s feathers.
[Thomas’s Farmer's Almanac]