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Lessons From The Amish

TopicsSelf RelianceAmish

I was reading “Dies the Fire” by S. M. Sterling, when it hit me. Farming without Oil is going to be living hell. If you happen to have a farm in the most ideal spot on earth the total number of days from planting to harvest is 260. If it takes a newbie like myself to use a horse and plow one full day to get a single acre ready for planting for the first time, the max size farm I should be looking for now is 30-60 acres of fertile land for planting. OUCH. That’s full time sweat, blood, and tears of work for two months, without a day off, and the only climate zone in Canada that would allow that, is right here in British Columbia, not counting the crappy soil that is available to buy. For the Amish, whose farming methods we might find ourselves stuck with, a 70 acre farm is the larger farm. I think I’ll go cry for a minute.

Sure, there are historic reasons why a quarter is 160 acres, but there are many forms that slavery takes other then oil, and I can’t see myself as some kind of land baron. This might explain why it is so hard to find land here that is used as a “hobby” farm that is also 160 acres, back east it’s easy, literally by comparison. But I live in the Great White North, that reduces the days for farming, and I am also not in the greatest health, while aging fast. That reduces the farming options. I keep trying to think outside the box I’m in, and the few ideas I come up with change for different reasons, for example, if I decide that a valuable option is hunting there are only so many places where that would be a half good idea, and none of those good places would also have the other assets.

This yoke is located at the Markham Museum and Historic Village not far from my parents house in Ontario

Think about the yoke for an oxen team. All it really is, is just a piece of shaped wood with a chain link. It also represents a lot of man hours in it’s creation. That brings to mind something which has plagued the Prepper community from the start, we need each other, we need people with carpentry skills, blacksmiths, and guys who know how to fix Ham Radios. Not to mention that the small family farm running without oil is going to need it’s good neighbors in order to survive, there is no way to avoid this.

“Probably the greatest difference between Amish and conventional agriculture is the community life or support we have.” – The Lessons of Amish Agriculture

Field Operation

Horses/Hitch

Mean Acres/Day

Mean Horse Hours/Acre

Operator Hours/Acre

Plow

5

3

10

2

Disc

5

9.5

3.1

0.6

Harrow

5

9.5

3.1

0.6

Corn Planter

2

9

1.3

0.7

Grain Drill

2

11

1.1

0.6

Fertilizing

2

30

0.40

0.2

Spraying

2

45

0.26

0.1

Cultivation

3

9

2

0.7

Corn Picking

2

0.50

24

12

Corn Silage Binding

3

2

9

3

Corn Silage Hauling

5 (2 teams)

2

15

12*

Small Grain Binding

3

7

2.6

0.9

Small Grain Hauling

6 (3 teams)

6

6

6*

Hay Mowing

2

9

1.3

0.7

Hay Tedding

2

15

0.8

0.4

Hay Raking

2

15

0.8

0.4

Hay Baling

3

14

1.3

0.4

Hay Hauling

2

12

1

1*

Manure Hauling

2

1

2 hr/day

1 hr/day

Fire Wood

2

3

2 hr/cord

2 hr/cord

* 2 people/team

Table Source: Horse and Human Labor Estimates for Amish Farms

I don’t think this table is all that accurate, my father-in-law would have been the first to tell you that two hours per cord of firewood is a fantasy, it takes a lot longer to do a full cord with just hand tools. But it does give oneself pause to think, we who live day to day with benefits of oil are in for a shocking reality check.

- Wolfe


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