This is my husband Henry refueling our tractor (a rubber-tracked ASV skid steer) with off-highway diesel. He’s using a hand-crank fuel transfer pump inherited from his grandpa that once served it’s purpose on the family’s island property in Minnesota (circa 1940).
Henry traded horseshoeing service for both the fuel tank and the actual diesel.
We bought the tractor brand new, and it has been such a versatile asset around here. With its various implements, it has hauled gravel, hay, firewood, manure, dead deer; it has pushed over trees, yarded out logs, and dug up stumps; it terraced crazy steep hillsides, ripped heavy clay soils, dug postholes, and chipped up tree limbs; it’s unstuck multiple trucks, squeezed into places where no pickup could ever fit, and served as a manlift (which is not something to be recommended). Knock on wood, no person or animal has ever been seriously injured in or by this machine.
Henry’s newest off-label use of the tractor is seed cleaning. It has a high-speed fan that blows air through the radiator to prevent a bunch of dust and debris from collecting in there. The fan is perfect for winnowing seed from the chaff.
It’s a pretty gritty operation.
He also does some hand threshing to separate small seeds from seed capsules.
Sometimes there’s a potato masher involved. It’s really high tech.
During the summer and fall of this year, Henry has collected seed off at least 60 native plant species from over 80 different sites. Some of the species have never been collected and made available for sale before, and many have never been collected in this eco region. The seed quantities of each species are small, a fraction of an ounce up to a half pound, but each one is meticulously dried, cleaned, and catalogued after harvest.
Henry has sold or traded most of what he’s collected to nurseries (Seven Oaks Native Nursery, Dancing Oaks Nursery, and Champoeg Nursery), the local Marys River Watershed Council, a seed grower, and the non-profit Xerces Society.
(I can barely read Henry’s handwriting when it’s straight English, but if he throws in Latin and abbreviations, I am completely at a loss.)
Henry is not really envisioning his seed business as a big money-making venture. He already has two “real” jobs that provide a decent family wage. After volunteering in various different organizations and on several projects over the last few years, he’s getting tired of going to meetings and hearing a lot of talk but not seeing much action or follow through. He figures that if he can break even and pay for any actual expenses involved in seed collection, cleaning, and storage, he’ll be happy to provide the public service of making rare and unusual seed available to serious growers and enthusiastic landowners. Willamette Valley ecosystems will reap the benefits of his service.