Friday, September 23, 2005

Ninth Edition Addenda

Ninth Edition Addenda 7-11-05

Tractor versus horse?

A recent visit by my brother and his wife reminded me of the issue so often faced by a prospective farmer or more likely the farmer wannabe – whether it is better to have a tractor or horses to do all the farm work.

In my opinion, the ideal situation would be a combination of both. Tractors have their uses, and horses have theirs, they are not mutually exclusive. However to most people the idea of horses is ridiculous – why one must be either stupid or incredibly backward to use horses rather than tractors! Let us examine this question based on advantages and disadvantages.

Tractors are the choice of most modern farmers and ranchers – but not all. Amish and Mennonite farmers frequently use horses, even going to extremes to modify farm machinery so that their horses can pull it rather than go to tractors. If Amish farmers were then failures as farmers, unable to compete against the mechanized tractor farmers, the question would be moot – however they do compete. One Amish farmer told me “you may not earn as much, but you keep more of what you earn”. The tractor has a number of advantages:
  • They do not require daily care and feeding, waiting patiently in your machine shed for the next time they are needed.
  • They are fairly economical to run, accomplishing a great deal of work for the amount of fuel used.
  • Tractors never tire, even if the operator does!
  • Most tractors have power take off abilities and 3 point hitch to enable them to be used with many different attachments and tools.
  • Tractors last many years, much longer than a car.
  • Tractors can be purchased with tremendous horsepower, enabling them to pull immense weights or plows with seven bottoms or more.

Then there are the disadvantages of tractors:
  • Tractors have a knack for breaking down at the worst possible moment, or refusing to start on very cold mornings.
  • Tractors cause compaction of the soils, which results in poor crop yields and damage of the soil. Tractors also tear up the ground more than horses in skidding logs and other similar tasks.
  • Tractors require regular maintenance, requiring parts replacements that may include delays in receiving the needed parts.
  • Tractors run on fossil fuels, of which more than half is imported into this country – a non-renewable resource, with fuel costs rising sharply the economics of operating a tractor are less competitive; Worse, we are dependent on nations that hate us for providing this fossil fuel and we are putting money into their pockets with the purchase of every gallon. (In the light of new even more ridiculous fuel prices, this is an important point to consider.)
  • At some tasks, tractors are more dangerous than horses, such as pulling stumps or operating on steep hillsides.
  • Tractors can become outdated, which means that finding parts becomes difficult to impossible.
  • Tractors are not cheap; the cost of a new tractor can be staggering to those who have not purchased one before, often the price is higher than an expensive automobile. Even used tractors have increased in price over the years making them less competitive compared with draft animals.

Compare this to horses, first their disadvantages:
  • Horses require daily feeding and watering, as well as care for their feet and cleaning. For many people this is the largest objection, taking up valuable time which could be spent making money in some other way.
  • Horses are slower at some tasks than tractors, such as plowing. A good horse can plow an acre a day, a tractor can plow many acres in a day.
  • Horses get tired when working and require rest periods. Overwork can cause a horse to go lame, become surly, or worse
  • Horses can get sick requiring attention of a veterinarian, a costly experience.
  • Horses have a mind of their own, and can be panicked by a strange incident that frightens them, which can lead to a life-threatening situation
  • Horses grow old and die.

Then there are the advantages of horses:
  • Horses are easier on the ground, causing far less soil compaction than tractors.
  • Horses “run” on grain, hay and water – all renewable resources than can be grown on the farm if you have enough land, and even if gasoline and diesel fuel prices shoot up to $10 a gallon it will not matter to your horses.
  • Horses provide useful fertilizer in their manure; horse manure is one of the best organic fertilizers available, and can be used on virtually any crop or garden including truck gardens, building the organic content of soils besides providing essential nutrients of N, P, and K.
  • Horses can even reproduce themselves, if you have mares – no tractor ever gave birth to another tractor!
  • Horses have a mind of their own, and can learn to do tasks even without a human guiding them with practice; in fact we owned a Belgian gelding that would skid logs out by himself if you showed him the route he was to take each time – all you had to do was have a person to hook up the log in the forest and someone there to unhook them at the logpile. Back in the days when milk was delivered door to door and mailmen used horses, many of their working horses learned the route so well the driver did not have to ‘tell’ the horses where to go next and where the stops were.
  • Horses can live and work up to 30 years or more (Mules up to 40 years +) no tractor can be run that many years without a major engine overhaul, costing nearly as much as buying a replacement tractor.
  • Horses can be trained to come when you call them – no tractor will come running when its owner calls!
  • Horses have other uses such as horseback riding for pleasure when not working, pulling a carriage or a sleigh in the snow, or work as a pack horse to go on camping trips in wilderness areas where all motorized vehicles are prohibited.
  • Horses can frequently heal themselves if injured, (not a serious injury of course, at least not without help from a vet) and even can recover from many sicknesses – a tractor when broken down requires you to repair it or have it repaired.
  • Horses can keep grasses trimmed down in their pastures, freeing you from having to mow those areas.
  • Horses can work in tighter areas than tractors and do not require a wide roadway to get through, which is an advantage they have in logging as well; being able to “snake” logs out of areas that are too steep, rough or too thickly treed for tractors to get through.<>
  • <>Horses can work in wetter ground, steeper sidehills and rougher terrain than tractors.
  • Horses are much less expensive than tractors, even including the cost of harness.
  • Horse drawn equipment is often available very inexpensively, and was built better than modern machinery. Some horse drawn farm equipment over 100 years old is still in use.
  • Modern forecarts are available with power take off and even 3 point hitch, enabling you to make use of nearly all modern equipment.

So you can see that the question is not simply whether one is “better” than the other. If you like machines and working on machines, then a tractor is a better bet; if you like animals and caring for animals, then a horse or team of horses is a better bet. If you like both and can afford both – you will be best served with both!

Piecing it all together…7-18-2005

Sat through another episode of Unexplained Mysteries, a late night TV show on all sorts of paranormal phenomena. This particular episode was titled “Global UFO warning”. One incident reported on was a UFO that was chased by Iranian fighters, which caused all sorts of havoc with the planes and even ‘blanked out’ the power grid on the air base. The fighter planes reported that their instruments, which totally malfunctioned when approaching the UFO, were restored when they fled to a distance of ten miles. A side effect they noted was that the instruments picked up “beeping” coming apparently from the UFO, emitted electronically and detected by electronic instruments. The TV program ‘expert’ (an aerospace engineer) said that the beeping, if rhythmic, was almost certainly proof that it was being caused by some technology, not a natural event. Hmm, now where have I heard of the strange beeping?

The first UFO alien abduction case covered in the press was the Betty and Barney Hill case. The pair were on their way home, driving through the mountains when they encountered a UFO. The UFO crew stopped their car and performed some kind of examinations on both Betty and Barney, which was traumatic for them. They also both reported remembering they heard “beeping” coming from the radio or somewhere, when they came to in their car. Hmm again – so if the “beeping” (which Betty Hill reported as similar to the sound of a microwave timer), is reported by fighter pilots encountering a flying UFO, and an aerospace engineer says this is solid evidence of technology not some natural event – then the idea that UFOs are the product of human brains being affected by some natural event like pressure on quartz rocks (the piezo-electric effect) is totally incorrect. How does this fit in with my own theories as to UFOs? More on this later…

Speaking of unusual events – today while we were engaged in hooking up the trailer brake controller (for the horse trailer) and sanding-painting of the horse trailer, Beth went in to the house for something. The dogs were in there unattended, which usually is okay but once in a while the devil gets the better of them and they have to get into trouble. A moment or two later, Beth came out of the house and looked very strange. I asked her what is wrong, and she said she had just encountered someone in the house! Now not to ‘brag’ about the dogs, but if a stranger were in the house, they would almost certainly have discovered him/her and would be sounding off as loud as they could, and can act quite vicious. True, they have been growing sooo used to constant trains of visitors arriving that they sometimes don’t bark, but a total stranger they would not hesitate to sound off or worse, bite. Anyway I went in the house to see for my self, and no one was in the house. The three not-too-friendly dogs were all taking it easy with the heat, one was even asleep. Not finding anyone in the house, I decided to just let it be and went back to my chore. Paranormal anyone…?

The internet now has a flurry of articles on the finding of human tracks in volcanic ash in Mexico, that can be accurately dated (by the known age of the volcanic eruption) to some 38,000 years ago. This is quite in conflict with “accepted” history, that the “first” Americans came via the Asia land bridge some 11,000 years ago. Furthermore, the articles state that these earlier immigrants came not by any land bridge, but by boat! I am willing to bet actual cash money that these folks also were not coming from Asia. Perhaps if I live long enough, I will see our history books get a string of long-overdue corrections after all. In truth, I have been confident that more evidence will be found in time, to prove that the Americas were not some isolated ‘other planet’ (as in “New World”) unknown to the rest of the world and unvisited from the time of the Bering Straits colonization some 11,000 years ago until either the Norse arrived in 1000 AD or Columbus in 1492.

PS This and the ninth edition are old posts which I had not posted, so now am caught up. Many things in the mix currently, hope to fill that in too soon.

"We must find a way, or we will make one." --Hannibal Barca


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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10:20 PM  

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