Exploring the Night Sky With Binoculars

Exploring the Night Sky With BinocularsIt’s getting to be that time of year again—time to admire the beauty of the stars and planets.

For a simple, inexpensive introduction consider Exploring the Night Sky With Binoculars by David Chandler. Binoculars are a great way to get started stargazing, as they are easy to find and extremely portable, and this little booklet will get you off to a good start using them.

Exploring the Night Sky With Binoculars begins at the beginning—choosing a good pair of binoculars and learning how to use them properly. After a brief discussion of cosmic geography (some parents may want to address the “billions of years” perspective) comes information on identifying and examining the varied objects of the night sky:

  • The moon.
  • Planets.
  • Asteroids.
  • Comets.
  • The Milky Way.
  • Nebulae.
  • Star clusters.
  • Galaxies.

Once you have seen some of the highlights of space, take one of the four seasonal tours to learn how to find your way around the stars. These brief tours will help you identify the major constellations, particularly with the use of pointer stars.

If you are expecting an exhaustive resource, you will probably be disappointed with this booklet. It was really intended for the absolute beginner who wants to see the sights of the night sky armed only with a pair of binoculars. However, because Exploring the Night Sky With Binoculars is clear, concise, and well illustrated (not to mention small enough to carry easily), we do not hesitate to recommend it to the novice stargazer. Hopefully it will whet your appetite for more thorough probing and more in-depth information.


PointerSometime after 1650, a new kind of dog came into being all across Europe. This dog was the result of mixing various breeds of foxhound, bloodhound, greyhound, and setting spaniel types. Its original purpose was to partner with greyhounds in chasing down hares. The new dog went ahead of the hunters to sniff out the quarry. On finding the game, it froze in a crouching position, attention riveted on the hare. Then the greyhounds were released to begin the chase.

This new type of dog became known as the Pointer due to its unique purpose. Within a few years, nearly every European county had its own version. But the concept of pointing dogs perhaps achieved its greatest height in Great Britain.

For the next two hundred years or so, the English Pointer was a work in progress, as the instinct and appearance of the breed was continually improved and as it was adapted to changing trends in hunting. The first major change came after about 1700, when the flintlock gained in popularity among the aristocracy and wealthy young men took up shooting birds on the wing as a pastime. Because loading a flintlock was a slow process, hunters needed a dog that would patiently remain pointing as long as necessary. A more visible upright stance was also preferred.

To achieve these goals, pointer-type dogs from Spain were imported. While the Spanish pointers did bring with them the desired pointing behavior, they also introduced some serious flaws, including a slow, ponderous working pace and a fierce resentment of discipline in all forms.

Fortunately, the mellow setter was able to correct these defects. Repeated crossbreeding with several different setter breeds, particularly throughout the 1800s, sped up the gait and softened the unstable personality of the Pointer. But the keen nose and dedicated hunting instinct remained. Effective and elegant, the Pointer quickly became a favorite breed among the landed gentry.

The second half of the 19th century saw the Pointer taking up residence in the United States. The breed always remained close to its working background, becoming a favorite choice for quail hunters in the South. However, about the time of the Pointer’s arrival on our shores, dog showing grew popular among the American elite. Pointers were early on a natural choice, due to their sleek appearance and innate charisma. In fact, Westminster Kennel Club was founded as a shooting club by a group of Pointer and setter enthusiasts. In 1876, the club members imported a Pointer named Sensation for breeding purposes, and the following year decided to start a dog show. Sensation is featured on the Westminster Kennel Club logo to this day.

But regular appearances in the show ring did not change the Pointer much. It still remained a hunting dog first and foremost, becoming more prevalent at field trials than setters in the early 1900s. It ranks only 117th in AKC registration statistics, partly because it has never been popular as a family pet. But where bird hunters can be found, the Pointer can also be found. It has a particularly loyal following in the South, where it is simply known as the “bird dog.”



There are three variations on the Pointer, each with a different purpose:

  • American field type: This is a high-octane dog built primarily for competitive field trialing. He has the drive and stamina to work for hours at a time, usually well ahead of the hunter.
  • AKC field type: This version is also bred for field trials, albeit the more laid-back AKC trials. The AKC field Pointer retains the instinct to hunt birds, but works at a slower pace and sticks closer to the hunter. This makes him a good choice for casual weekend shooting.
  • Show type: Pointers from show bloodlines are less active than their field counterparts (less active being relative). Besides strutting their stuff in the ring, show-bred Pointers can make good pets, watchdogs, and jogging companions for active families.



The Pointer lives with intensity. Although sweet and loyal, hunting instinct is what drives this dog throughout his day. He is a hot-blooded canine with boundless energy and alert senses. He loves nothing better than to run. Keep him fenced for his safety, and provide him with an outlet for his energy to keep him sane.

With his exercise needs provided for, the Pointer is an excellent family member, as he is loving, friendly to all, and innately clean in his habits. Puppies can be too rough in their play for small children or for seniors, but an adult Pointer who has been taught manners is affectionate and playful enough to be a very satisfying children’s companion. He is also amiable with other dogs. However, the Pointer is not trustworthy with cats, and under no circumstances should he be left unsupervised with other birds, whether pets or poultry.

Although always willing to put in an honest day’s work, the Pointer can be exasperatingly difficult to train because of his stubborn streak. He must first be convinced that you are a kind but strong-minded pack leader. Then he must be duly exercised to work off his excess energy. Provided that these conditions are met, the Pointer will learn with time, and he will never forget the lessons.

Note the differences between the various Pointer bloodlines. All are extremely energetic. However, the American field type is by far the most driven. The show type retains the breed’s competitive streak, but is content to channel that energy into posing and trotting. The AKC field type is intermediate in personality.

Working Pointers are born, not made. They may begin pointing as early as eight weeks of age. In the field, this dog will travel considerable distances in a short amount of time, pressing forward with one goal in mind—to find birds. He works with his head up, sniffing the breeze. On finding his quarry, he freezes into a point, head low. If the hunter needs a little extra assistance, the Pointer will be more than happy to track down dead or wounded birds. The one thing he will not readily do is retrieve.



The Pointer is everything a working dog should be—rugged and sturdy. Very few inherited problems exist within the breed, and these turn up only occasionally. Field injuries, particularly damage to the thin-skinned tail tip, are the most common difficulties that owners will run up against.

Otherwise, the most frequently observed health problems in the breed are:

  • Eye problems.
  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Skin allergies.
  • Hypothyroidism.



  • Suitability for families with children and other dogs, particularly when mature.
  • Tidy habits.
  • Minimal shedding.
  • Minimal grooming needs.
  • Heat tolerance.
  • Good health.
  • Desire to hunt.
  • Athleticism.
  • Endurance.
  • Fast working pace.



  • Untrustworthiness around cats and birds.
  • Difficulty of training.
  • Very high exercise requirements.
  • Cold intolerance.
  • Poor retrieving instinct.


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Dog BreedsDog Breeds


Why Cowboys Sang

Why Cowboys SangThe singing cowboy is by no means a Hollywood invention. History records the fact that cowboys always sang, starting back when cattle trails began.

At first, there were no true “cowboy songs.” Most cowboys just sang the good old folk songs that they had grown up with, ranging from mountain fiddle tunes like “Old Dan Tucker” to hymns and spirituals that are still familiar today. Over time, creative cowpokes composed their own folk music.

So why did cowboys sing? There were two main reasons:

  • To keep the cattle quiet. Cowboys who kept journals frequently commented on the wildness and spookiness of the feral longhorns that they were dealing with. They also noted that talking, humming, or singing to the herd was the best way to keep it calm and under control.
  • To stay in touch with a partner. If two cowboys were watching the herd at night, each would take a turn singing a verse of a song. As the song went back and forth, both cowboys would be reassured that everything was in good order.

Doubtless there were other advantages of singing while at work. It would help to pass the long hours of the night, and it would have been soothing to man as well as beast. It was also an entertaining way to preserve cowboy legends and tall tales, or just to express thoughts and feelings on the trail and life in general.

3 Ways to Stay Posted

3 Ways to Stay Posted

Update: You can no longer follow our site through WordPress. However, you can still receive our posts via email! Just subscribe to “Latest Posts” here.

Did you know that Homestead on the Range offers three different ways to keep up with the latest country living information?

  1. On the Range. Your weekly country living update! With a free subscription to On the Range newsletter, you will receive notice of our latest posts, plus additions to the bookshelf, new photos in the gallery, and important post revisions. In addition, you receive exclusive seasonal suggestions, the Scripture Passages of the Month, reading challenge hints, country living news headlines, and food for thought. While you’re at it, sign up for our periodical publishing newsletter for book releases, specials, and freebies.
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  3. RSS. And, of course, there’s always our feed, ready for use with your favorite reader.

We’re looking forward to making your country living adventure a success! Enjoy!

Old English Sheepdog

Old English SheepdogThe Old English Sheepdog, contrary to its name, is not terribly old. A 1771 portrait of the third Duke of Buccleuch by Gainsborough is commonly asserted to contain the first known likeness of the sheepdog. However, the dog in the portrait appears to be of a small breed, leaving us at a loss for a date of origin for the Old English Sheepdog.

This furry breed is thought to have originated from a cross between the landrace sheepdogs of Britain and some type of sheepdog from Continental Europe. The precise mix is unknown.

In any case, the Old English Sheepdog was more than just a sheepdog—it was an all-purpose drover entrusted with the duty of bringing livestock of all types, ranging from cattle to geese, to market. Furthermore, its hair was regularly used to make clothing and blankets. The bobbed tail was a mark of honor in those days, proving its status as a working dog and thus exempting it from taxes. Unlike the agile Border Collie, which needed its tail for balance and quick turns, the Old English Sheepdog worked at a slow, steady pace calculated to keep weight on livestock and had less need of its rudder.

But the Old English Sheepdog’s unique appearance destined it to become more than a drover. The breed first appeared in the show ring in Birmingham, England, in 1873. Three dogs were shown, all of such inferior merit that the judge refused to award first place to any of them. Nevertheless, the Old English Sheepdog on the whole was determined a resounding success. Soon it was sought by dog fanciers all over Great Britain.

The sheepdog was quickly imported to America in the 1880s, primarily as a show dog. It was first recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1888, and by the early 1900s was firmly established as the darling of the wealthy.

It was America that created the modern Old English Sheepdog. The Old English Sheepdog Club of America came into being in 1904 and adopted a standard that shaped the future course of the breed. The differences between the old type of sheepdog and the new type were subtle, but calculated for greater eye appeal. The Old English Sheepdog became slightly stockier and considerably fluffier.

The Old English Sheepdog was primarily a dog of the elite until the 1950s. For the next few decades, it became a popular media icon and a favorite in the film industry. This introduced it to the general public, and the general public proceeded to fall in love with the Old English Sheepdog. The result was resounding popularity.

Of course, shaggy coats require a great deal of care, and lively dogs require a great deal of exercise. The Old English Sheepdog proved to be too much for many families. In recent years, its popularity has declined to more reasonable levels, although it has never lost its familiarity and place in the hearts of dog lovers across the country. Today, the Old English Sheepdog ranks 75th in AKC registration statistics.


Old English SheepdogUses

The Old English Sheepdog is generally regarded as a pet and show dog today, and its looks and temperament certainly combine to suit it to both roles. But this breed has retained its herding instinct and can still work. While its fluffy coat probably precludes daily chores on a larger farm or ranch, the Old English Sheepdog can be a versatile assistant on a small hobby farm. Just some of the tasks this breed can take on include:

  • Herding.
  • Serving as a watchdog.
  • Pulling carts and sleds.
  • Providing fur to be spun into unique yarns.

On top of these farm-related roles, the Old English Sheepdog is also an excellent retriever.



The Old English Sheepdog wins many friends with his sweet, happy personality. He thrives on fun and family, and his stable temperament makes him thoroughly trustworthy with both children and other pets. He loves nothing better than to entertain humans in exchange for bear hugs.

Although he is an agreeable dog on the whole, the Old English Sheepdog is stubborn and requires a confident leader to earn his respect. As long as the commands are clear and consistent, he will readily learn manners. Meaningless, repetitive tasks do not interest him.

The Old English Sheepdog is a bundle of enthusiasm and can become downright rowdy if his exercise needs are not met. This will be true throughout his entire life, not just when he is a puppy. Once he has burned off some of his extra energy, however, he becomes a calm, cuddly pet.

But beware of sheepdogs from disreputable breeders. While these are not as common as in the recent past at the height of the breed’s popularity, they still exist. Some poorly bred Old English Sheepdogs have sharp tempers, while others are timid enough to pose a fear-biting risk. In either case, they can be unstable and unpredictable.

This breed makes an excellent watchdog. For one thing, he is extremely loyal and will tend his people and possessions diligently. For another thing, he is not a wanderer and can be trusted to stick within his boundaries as long as he is not anxious about the whereabouts of an absent family member. But although the Old English Sheepdog is a courageous watchdog, he is friendly to all and will not threaten guests. His preferred weapon is his famous bark, known as pot-cassé from the French term for “broken pot” (think deafening).

The Old English Sheepdog still loves to herd. He works close to the stock, but is nevertheless quite gentle with them. He generally does not nip, relying instead upon repeated bumps and nudges to convince the animals to move in the correct direction.


Old English SheepdogHealth

Historically, the working Old English Sheepdog received his care right along with the sheep, including tail docking, shearing, and dipping. These customs were beneficial to working dogs in the same way that it was beneficial to sheep, keeping the animals clean, cool, and free of parasites. Many Old English Sheepdogs today spend their lives with central air conditioning, making a full coat a possibility. The practice of tail docking in pets is continued primarily for cosmetic rather than sanitary reasons.

Note that Old English Sheepdog puppies are typically born black and white. The black hair sheds out with the puppy coat and is replaced with the hallmark silver hair.

The most common health problems in this breed are:

  • Eye problems ranging from cataracts to progressive retinal atrophy.
  • Ear infections.
  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Obesity.
  • Bloat, which can be prevented by feeding two or three small meals a day instead of one large meal.
  • Hereditary cerebellar abiotrophy, a non-painful progressive condition resulting in loss of coordination.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Cancer.
  • Multi-drug resistance, which can cause life-threatening reactions to some tranquilizers and heartworm medication.



  • Suitability for families with children and other pets.
  • Surprisingly little shedding unless clipped.
  • Cold tolerance.
  • Hardiness.
  • Agility.
  • Endurance.


Old English SheepdogCons

  • Disreputable breeders.
  • Hearty appetite.
  • Need for ample exercise.
  • Grooming requirements.
  • Tendency of coat to collect dirt, debris, and water, then deposit it all over the house.
  • Heat intolerance.


Complete Series

Dog BreedsDog Breeds


The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2Adjusting Livestock Production

In an effort to reduce hog numbers, payments were also distributed to farmers who would destroy their piglets and pregnant sows. About 6 million piglets were slaughtered under the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA).

A cattle-purchasing program was similarly implemented under the Drought Relief Service in areas where the Dust Bowl had hit the hardest. The federal government purchased approximately 7 million cattle, most of which had been in imminent danger of starvation.

At first, surplus livestock were typically shot and buried. However, a tremendous public outcry arose over the waste at a time when many people were starving. In October 1933, the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation was established to placate Americans and put the livestock to better use. From then on, most salvageable meat was purchased by the government and distributed through various relief programs. Because many slaughterhouses were not equipped to process the massive numbers of small pigs sent through their doors, however, they often took the easier route of processing young pigs for grease and fertilizer. Meanwhile, enough cattle hides entered the market that newspapers reported a price crisis among tanners.


The Economic Results

Many Great Plains farmers welcomed the subsidies. In some areas, as many as 90% of the local farmers came to rely on the AAA. By the end of 1935, the AAA had shelled out about $1.1 billion, about half of which went to farmers in the Great Plains. According to the USDA, farm income increased by 50% between 1932 and 1935, 25% of the increase coming from federal payments.

Commodity prices did indeed rise between 1932 and 1935. In fact, the prices for corn, wheat, and cotton doubled. However, prices remained well below 1929 levels and the parity goal set by the New Deal. Of course, higher prices only benefited farmers who had crops to harvest in spite of the drought.

The AAA payments were rarely enough to help small-scale farmers subsist. Families with small acreages generally failed, abandoned their farms, and left agriculture to the major players. An estimated 2.5 million people had evacuated the Great Plains by 1940. A large number of these former farmers moved to California to seek jobs picking seasonal produce for low wages.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 2
Former Oklahoma farm family in California to pick lettuce

The situation was particularly bad for tenant farmers. While tenant farmers were not as conspicuous in the Great Plains as in the South, they did exist, and they, too, suffered. Under the initial provisions of the AAA, the landowner was to share the money with any tenant farmers he had working for him. Unfortunately, this part of the contract was poorly enforced, and some landlords resorted to fraud to keep the money for themselves. More honest landlords often used their rightful share of the subsidy to purchase modern machinery to reduce their labor needs, setting their tenant farmers adrift. In Oklahoma alone, the number of tenant farmers was nearly cut in half between 1935 and 1945.

The end result was a decided trend toward the consolidation of agriculture. Farm numbers declined in droughty areas, while farm sizes increased. In southwestern Kansas, for instance, the average farm had more than doubled in acreage by 1950.


A New Act

In the 1936 case United States v. Butler, the Supreme Court declared the Agricultural Adjustment Act to be unconstitutional:

The act invades the reserved rights of the states. It is a statutory plan to regulate and control agricultural production, a matter beyond the powers delegated to the federal government.…

From the accepted doctrine that the United States is a government of delegated powers, it follows that those not expressly granted, or reasonably to be implied from such as are conferred, are reserved to the states, or to the people. To forestall any suggestion to the contrary, the Tenth Amendment was adopted. The same proposition, otherwise stated, is that powers not granted are prohibited. None to regulate agricultural production is given, and therefore legislation by Congress for that purpose is forbidden.…

The Congress cannot invade state jurisdiction to compel individual action; no more can it purchase such action.

However, the AAA was replaced by a new farm relief act. This act did not overtly pay farmers to reduce agricultural production, but instead set up a soil conservation program. Landowners were now paid to implement cover-cropping and similar practices. The money came out of the federal treasury, instead of the tax on food processing. The new program was popular while the drought continued, but most farmers resumed their former cropping practices as soon as the rainfall returned.

But the original AAA had left a lasting legacy. By 1940, 6 million farmers were receiving subsidies. Farm commodities have been subsidized ever since.

The Heart of a Leader

The Heart of a LeaderGood leaders serve.

If you need a bit of guidance or motivation in your dealings with others, you may enjoy reading The Heart of a Leader: Insights on the Art of Influence by Ken Blanchard. This little book is packed with pithy quotes to help you learn how to be a leader who serves.

Just to give you an example:

People with humility don’t think less of themselves, they just think of themselves less.

How about this one:

Good religion is like good football; it isn’t talk, it’s action.

The ideas are not particularly novel, but they are phrased well. Each quote is accompanied by an explanation of the principle, illustrating how to put the other person first in your interactions.

And, yes, we are all leaders, because we all influence others.

The Heart of a Leader could be a very quick read if you just sat down and worked from cover to cover. However, this is a book you really ought to savor to appreciate fully.

Great reminders for us all!

Labrador Retriever

Labrador RetrieverWater dogs have been important to Canadian fishermen since the 1600s. Dogs were used for everything from retrieving nets to towing boats. Short-haired dogs were preferred, as their coats did not collect ice, but few other specifications were viewed as important. Depending on where they were from, Canadian dogs were referred to as Newfoundlands, Labradors, or St. John’s Dogs.

Because the Canadian water dogs also had an aptitude for fetching ducks out of the water, English ships that visited North America often brought back a few dogs for hunting purposes. By the early 1800s, one man in particular had taken a fancy to the Canadian retrievers. This was the second Earl of Malmesbury. Finding them to be perfect hunting companions, he had several imported and became the first serious breeder.

It was fortunate for the water dogs that they found a patron at this time, as during the 1800s a heavy tax was placed on dogs in Canada, driving them nearly to extinction in that country. At roughly the same time, further importations became virtually impossible as strict quarantine laws were implemented in England. The Flat-Coated Retriever was the most popular hunting dog among most of the aristocracy, so breeding short-haired water dogs ended up being primarily a family project.

The third Earl of Malmesbury carried on his father’s work with the assistance of his friends, the Duke of Buccleuch and the Earl of Home. The Earl of Malmesbury set the stage for the modern breed in two ways:

  • Giving it a name (Labrador, for some unknown reason, even though his dogs primarily traced back to Newfoundland).
  • Producing the foundation animals of the breed, Avon and Ned, which the Duke of Buccleuch bred to other Canadian water dogs. Most modern Labrador Retrievers trace back to Avon, Ned, and the duke’s dogs.

By 1903, the Labrador Retriever was distinctive enough to be recognized by the Kennel Club in England. At first, nearly all of the Labs recognized were black, as that color was fashionable among the gentry. However, a dog named Ben of Hyde was born in 1899 and went on to become the first registered yellow Lab in history.

The AKC recognized the Labrador as early as 1917, despite the fact that the breed was barely established and hardly known on our shores at the time. However, the AKC gave the Lab sufficient press to spark an interest among hunters. From the late 1920s into the 1930s, numerous retrievers were imported, accompanied by Scottish retriever trainers. These early Labs were typically considered both show and working dogs. There was no dichotomy in the breed in those days.

The Labrador Retriever skyrocketed to popularity after World War II, probably because it was not just a good hunting dog but an outstanding pet. It reached the very top position in AKC registration statistics in 1991, and has remained there ever since. The population of Labradors in America is mind-boggling—the AKC alone registers over 100,000 every year, and we can only speculate on the number of Labs that aren’t registered.


Labrador RetrieverUses

There is little that a Lab can’t do. He can serve man by barking at intruders, guiding the blind, sniffing out bombs, rescuing drowning victims from the water, and searching for missing persons. He can become a partner in adventure, whether that is hiking, jogging, or sledding. He can perform with style in canine sports ranging from obedience to agility. Or he can just cuddle up on the couch and be a friend.

Note that, these days, there is a pronounced divide between show and working bloodlines. The show bloodlines (sometimes incorrectly called “English”) are less athletic than their field counterparts due to their stockier build. Dual-purpose Labradors are a thing of the past.



If you are looking for a big, mellow, laid-back dog full of fun, the Labrador Retriever may be the perfect choice for you. While he is steady and even-tempered, he is always ready to play. Two of his favorite things in life are children and water. Make his day complete by giving him something to retrieve. (In fact, unless properly trained, he may absent-mindedly take people’s hands in his mouth just for the sake of carrying something around.)

Don’t be fooled by his authoritative bark—the Labrador Retriever loves everyone. He is a watchdog that likes to have a key position on the welcoming committee. His sweet, outgoing nature makes him a good choice in homes with other pets, including cats and other dogs.

Note, however, that even the Lab needs something to do. He is energetic and athletic. Left to his own devices, he may chew furniture, go dumpster-diving, or even wander out of the yard in search of adventure. However, he loves human companionship and is eager to please. Meet his requirements for physical and social activity by including him in your daily life.

Some breeders feel that females are more independent than males, while all Lab owners agree that puppies can be a real handful. While they don’t mean any harm, a Lab under two or three years of age can accidentally injure the young and the old with their over-zealous greetings. They also need plenty of toys and games of fetch to satisfy their instinct to chew.

Personalities also vary with bloodline. The show dogs tend to be the easy-going couch potatoes, while the hunting dogs are the perpetual motion machines.

A working Labrador Retriever in the field is incredibly single-minded. He can work ahead of the hunter to flush upland game, or he can swim to retrieve fallen waterfowl. He’s not particular—any task that combines water and retrieving is his favorite thing to do.


Labrador RetrieverHealth

Overall, the Labrador Retriever is a healthy breed. Many of his difficulties can be avoided by paying attention to his weight. Most Labs have a genetic defect that causes an appetite disproportionate to their calorie needs. At the same time, this defect causes them to gain weight easily. The result is that many, many Labs are obese, which can lead to more severe conditions such as diabetes and joint problems. That appetite can also get Labs in trouble through eating inedible objects.

The most common health problems in Labs are:

  • Cataracts.
  • Retinal dysplasia.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy.
  • Hip dysplasia.
  • Elbow dysplasia.
  • Patellar luxation (slipped kneecaps).
  • Osteochondritis dissecans, a painful joint condition in which cartilage and bones die and crack.
  • Skin allergies.
  • Hypothyroidism.
  • Mast cell tumors.

Dogs that spend a considerable amount of time in the water need special care. Regularly clean your Lab’s ears after a swim to prevent ear infections. Also note that some Labs experience an unusual condition after swimming or roughhousing called “cold tail.” In this condition, the dog’s tail abruptly goes limp, hanging down straight or at an unusual angle. Although it may irritate the dog for a while, cold tail does not appear to be serious, probably being similar to a sprain. It will correct itself in a few days.


Labrador RetrieverPros

  • Availability.
  • Adaptability to most lifestyles.
  • Suitability for families with children and other pets.
  • Ability to get along with strangers.
  • Minimal barking.
  • Trainability.
  • Minimal grooming needs.
  • Cold tolerance.
  • Few health problems.
  • Keen nose.
  • Athleticism.
  • Strength.



  • Abundance of irresponsible breeders (beware of breeders touting rare colors, as these people are usually just taking advantage of a genetic mutation to make a fast dollar).
  • Ability as an escape artist.
  • Need for plenty of attention.
  • Exercise needs.
  • Seasonal shedding.
  • Susceptibility to obesity.


Complete Series

Dog BreedsDog Breeds


The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 1

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 1Between 1929 and 1932, the net income of the average farm operator fell 69%.

Prices for agricultural products were at their lowest since the 1890s. Wheat sold for only 25 cents per bushel.

Much of this drop in prices was due to an agricultural surplus. Harvests had been bountiful before the drought hit, and a considerable amount of grassland had been converted to cropland to meet the demands of World War I. No sooner had the war ended than the prices for crops had dropped sharply. To cope with their reduced incomes, farmers scrambled to plant more acres and sell more bushels, driving the prices down still further. By the time the Great Depression and the beginnings of drought hit the Great Plains, the farm economy was already in a state of crisis.

But Franklin D. Roosevelt took office in 1933, promising Americans from all walks of life a New Deal. Regulation and government support could bring stability to the economy, FDR claimed.

Agriculture promised an excellent way to test this fundamental principle of the New Deal.

The Goal

FDR’s stated purpose was to return prosperity to the farm by bringing the farmer better prices for his products. The theory was simple. When the supply of a commodity falls short of the demand, the prices rise as purchasers compete to obtain the scarce commodity. Thus, if consumers had to compete a little harder to obtain commodities, farmers would receive more income for those commodities.

How much of an improvement was sought? Nothing short of parity. In this case, parity meant that any given commodity would have the same purchasing power that it did prior to World War I.

Accordingly, the Agricultural Adjustment Act was passed in May 1933 during FDR’s first 100 days. This act created the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) with the responsibility of planning the farm economy. The ultimate plan, as stated by FDR’s secretary of agriculture, Henry Wallace, was the “ever-normal granary.”

The AAA established a system of “domestic allotments,” which in practice meant that the AAA set the amounts of commodities that the country would produce annually. Initially, seven commodities were targeted:

  • Corn.
  • Wheat.
  • Cotton.
  • Tobacco.
  • Rice.
  • Dairy products.
  • Hogs.

Additional commodities were added to the list in 1934 and 1935:

  • Grain sorghum.
  • Rye.
  • Barley.
  • Flax.
  • Peanuts.
  • Potatoes.
  • Sugar beets.
  • Sugar cane.
  • Cattle.

Beginning in the fall of 1934, the AAA also started buying up poor cropland. This acreage, ruined by the Dust Bowl, was to be converted into demonstration farms to illustrate how to conserve soil by planting drought-resistant grasses. After the damage to the land had been fully repaired, these areas would be leased as pasture.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act in the Great Plains: Part 1Adjusting Crop Production

To reduce agricultural production to the AAA-desired levels, a new tax was placed on food processing. The money obtained from this tax was used to pay subsidies to landowners who would leave farmland idle. Lawrence Svobida noted in his memoir Farming the Dust Bowl (read our full review) that he had to agree to remove 15% of his total average acreage from production. The total average acreage was determined by averaging the number of acres that he had planted the last three growing seasons. (Thus, farmers who had previously let land lie fallow received considerably less money than their continuous-cropping peers.) Payments were calculated based on the county average yield per acre.

Of course, there were abuses of this system. Some farmers attempted to cheat the AAA and overestimate their total average acreage to receive more subsidies. To prevent this scenario, the averages reported by farmers were published in local newspapers to give others an opportunity to report fraud. In the words of Svobida:

This provided a unique opportunity to the spiteful, the revengeful, the envious, and the righteous, and most of the culprits were exposed in their trickery, and were compelled to correct their figures.

Unfortunately, by the time the AAA came into being in May 1933, the growing season was well under way. Farmers receiving AAA money could not harvest their grain, so perfectly good crops were destroyed or left to rot. This included 10 million acres of cotton, some of it grown in Plains states such as Oklahoma. Over 87,000 farmers in that state alone plowed under their cotton in exchange for over $15 million.

Even in subsequent years there were difficulties. Svobida cited the story of a neighbor who was able to raise a good wheat crop in 1934, only to discover that he had made an error in his arithmetic and had planted 80 acres more than was allowed under the provisions of the AAA:

This farmer had been honest in his intentions, so he was embarrassed as well as amazed; but, now that the mistake had been made, he wanted to go ahead and harvest the excess eighty and turn the wheat crop over to the county commissioners, to be distributed to the needy.

You will be able to guess what happened, if you have had any experience of small men elevated to petty office. The local allotment committee was made up of men who found great satisfaction in administering their office, and they were the ruling power in such matters, from whose decision there was no appeal. They would not consider the farmer’s sane and philanthropic suggestion for the disposal of his surplus wheat. He was ordered to destroy it.

The effect of fallow land on the Dust Bowl is still debated by historians and climate experts. It is certain that a state of drought existed prior to the AAA. The first dust storms hit in 1932. However, the years 1935 to 1938 were among the worst in the history of the Dust Bowl. By this time, millions of acres were lying fallow due to the influence of the AAA.

Ironically, some Dust Bowl farmers did not use their AAA money as anticipated. According to agricultural and Western historian R. Douglas Hurt, some subsidy recipients left their poorer, dust-destroyed lands fallow and used the federal aid to buy or rent new cropland to plant. This way, if the drought ended, they would still be in a position to bring in a crop despite their participation in the AAA program.

Meanwhile, the cropland-purchasing program met with mixed results. AAA employees did manage to restore some poor land, either to native range or to drought-resistant plants such as sudan grass. The program could be rather exasperating to landowners trying to sell out, however, as they received low prices for their land and the checks were inevitably slow in coming. Nevertheless, some grasslands established under the AAA remain to this day, such as Cimarron National Grassland in southwestern Kansas.

Next week: Part 2

Helpful Resource

Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933
Full text of the original act.

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries

Atlas of Historical County BoundariesDid you know that the last time a Kansas county boundary changed was as recent as 1978?

Did you know that Kansas lost some land to Missouri when the Missouri River shifted in 1944?

Did you know that for about 10 years Kansas had a county named…Kansas?

If you’re a Kansas history buff, this online atlas is just the resource for you!

A variety of maps and chronologies make it easy to see at a glance how Kansas county boundaries have changed over the years. Or, if you prefer, you can pick an individual county and follow its progress through time.

And if you’re a really serious history buff, you’ll love the fact that this atlas is so well researched. A bibliography is included so that you can track the county boundary changes yourself.

Have fun!