Garden Diary - November 2016

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Logging with Horses at the Howell Living History Farm
Saturday, 19 November 2016

A sunny day with mild temperatures for mid-November. Much has been accomplished here at Howell Living History Farm. Hay is cut and in the mow, wheat's been threshed, corn is in the crib, potatoes dug. The harvests are in. Winter wheat planted. But work on the farm is far from over. Today it will be logging and making firewood.There's downed timber in the sugar bush. Firewood is always needed in the kitchen. And even more will be needed early next year when it is time to boil maple sap down to make maple syrup. A team of the farm's Belgian draft horses will be at work. And Scott Stephens is bringing a team of his Suffolk Punch mares to the farm to help with logging.

Suffolk Punch are an ancient breed developed for farming in Suffolk and Norfolk, in England. The firsd description dates back to the 16th century. While not as well known as other draft horse breeeds here in the United States, those that know and use commend their strength, willingness, and gentle temprament. Suffolk Punch are always some shade of chestnut (traditionally given the spelling of "chesnut" in the breed registry) with no or very little white, perhaps a snip or blaze, some white on their legs.

Working with horses is not the same as turning a key and starting a tractor. Scott and a young assistant are harnessing up his team of Suffolk Punch mares. Cleo and Mabel are 5 years old. Purebred, he thinks. His other team, May and June, are three-quarters bred. Harness, reins, horse collar. Horse collars are one of the greatest inventions of all time. Think about it - if the horse just has a strap around its neck then it is choking itself every time it pulls. The collar means that when the horse pulls the pressure is on their shoulders.

Scott is driving the team out to the sugar bush where they'll be working today. Really like his rubber tire chariot. Not just for fun, it is used for snaking logs out of the woods. You'll see. He has a sawmill in Pennsylvania and does logging.

At the logging site. Preliminary work has been done - slash as been cut away and piled up so logs are cleared of branches that would catch and tangle up as they are hauled out, dragging things to a halt.

Log fastened on, the mares step out to remove it from the woods.

A team of the Howell farm Belgians are also in the woods and ready to work.

Jack and Chester stand patiently while a chain is fastened to the log.

"Walk on." and they start to pull.

Out of the woods and on the move.

Having dropped off one log, Cleo and Mabel (and Scott)
are on their way back to the wood lot for the next one.

Today may be surprisingly warm and mild, but winter is coming. The farm will be ready when the cold weather does arrive, with firewood brought down from the sugar bush wood lot with real horse power.

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