May 9, 2010


I wanted to make a note about the Small Farmer's Journal auction I attended back in mid-April. Madras, Oregon was the setting, and a more eclectic gathering of folk you are not likely to find anywhere. Tractor farmers, horse farmers, gentlemen farmers, wannabe farmers, market gardeners, cowboys, hippies, yuppies, college kids, conservatives, liberals and everyone in between; all with a common interest in human scaled, animal powered farming.
People came to buy, sell, or trade most any small farm item imaginable; everything from horse drawn plows, mowers and discs, to horses, wagons and windmills. Some stuff looked as good as when it came fresh off the assembly line back in '25, and some looked like it was parked in the fencerow in '25 and someone just drug it out of the weeds.
My main interest was in finding a good, restored, field-ready, horse drawn mowing machine, particularly a McCormick/Deering #9 or John Deere Big 4. There were two excellent number nines up for bid. I got in on the action but bowed out when the bidding went up to the $4,000 mark- nearly twice what a mower of that quality would normally bring! Instead, I came home with a couple of mowers, a #9 and a Big 4, both very sound fundamentally, though not as pretty as the showroom model, and for less than half the price. Both require a bit of work to get up and running: a new tongue and pitman stick, some oil and grease, a good sharpening and we should be ready to cut hay.
While at the auction I also played a benefit concert for the Small Farms Conservancy (see link). I really enjoyed watching the older folks teach the younger, hipper crowd how to waltz. People of all ages enjoyed setting aside the bidding for a few hours to relax and socialize. This was an element of the auction that I felt was missing at past events. The bidding would end and everyone would quietly make their way back to hotels and campgrounds and go to bed. The auction becomes much richer and more important with the addition of this element of social camaraderie, where relationships are fostered, and connections made. We feel alone and isolated at times, working our little farms, while all around the world zips by. It is a comfort to know we are not alone in our endeavors.

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