April 28, 2010

Trimming on Monday

Monday, we had the farrier come out to pull shoes on the sale team and on Dolly (who is only about a month away from foaling). Matt had an apprentice with him, a young man named Christian.

Photos: Top: Prince in the stocks, having his feet trimmed. Bottom: Dolly

April 27, 2010

Food, Inc.

Words can not express how important this film is. Watch it through April 28th (midnight) on-line by clicking the title to this blog entry. Know where your food comes from! Know why we are riddled with cancer and other debilitating illness. Know why our borders are, in fact NOT properly patrolled. Know who is really governing our government and consequentially, us. So what are YOU going to do about it?

April 20, 2010

US Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler O. Griffin

With much gratitude to US Marine Lance Cpl. Tyler O. Griffin of Voluntown, CT. Killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan, April 1, 2010. Died a hero, saving the life of a fellow marine. Click on the link below to read the article in The New London Day Newspaper.
The Day - Honoring a Marine's memory | News from southeastern Connecticut

April 18, 2010

The New Cinderella Carriage

Our new Cinderella Carriage made its debut, in Springfield, MA, yesterday evening at a Quinceannera. In spite of the threat all week of nasty weather, not a drop of rain fell on us. Storm curtains were in place to protect the birthday girl and her escort, anyway. The route we were to take was a very long one, so we had Andrew Warren help us. (Some of you may remember his dance for joy when his new Percheron, Annie, was delivered to him!). Thank you for a job well done, Andrew!

Photos: Top: The new Cinderella Carriage, with Andrew and me on board.
Middle: Storm curtains in place, which also offers protection from the cold wind.
Bottom: Getting ready to re-load the Cinderella Carriage in the trailer. It is too tall for our smaller horse trailer, so it has to go in the tractor-trailer.

April 12, 2010

Paying It Forward

We all have to start somewhere. I can remember my first time up at Ron Gluck's April Fool's Plow Day, a good ten years ago already. Terry had a walking plow that we put Della, my Belgian mare, to. It was a raw, windy day, threatening rain. Tried to plow with that mare, but she had a separate notion from me as to what we should be doing.

I remember the struggle, walking behind that plow and pushing that moldboard through the dirt, not being smart enough to know that the horse was supposed to do the work. Della danced. My leg and arm muscles ached. By the time we got to the end of the first furrow, a good 200 feet or so, I wanted to fall down. I made a remark to the onlookers (Ron always has 100 to 200 spectators there), "Now I know why tractors were invented!" and I was quickly and curtly reprimanded by a gentleman whose countenance, but not words, is long forgotten. "The walking plow is arguably the single most important invention made by man. It changed the course of humanity." Oh Lord.

Now, so many years later, I marvel at the influence such words have had on me. When Terry and I first got into this business, my only concern was "carriages and turnout". The heart changes. Our life with these horses has given us a broader understanding of the world we live in, and the world we evolved from. They have given us the courage to respect our agricultural roots, as a tribe that has learned to raise animals and plan our crops. And yes, the invention of the walking plow put the word "plan" in the phrase "plan our crops". I see that now.

I would stand here and argue, however, that if the walking plow is such an important invention, then the sulky plow takes a very, very close second. It revolutionized the way we grow our food, dropping the time it takes to produce a crop acre by almost 70%. Wow. More time for blogging!

In all seriousness, we love to share these animals and skills we have cultivated through the years with those who have never had the chance to experience farming in this way. Up at Ron's, where there are three broad acres of land for tilling, people lose all inhibitions, and give plowing with horses a try. They walk away with a whole new perspective of Creation.

Photo: Top: Diane Rockwell, a very able teamster, tries our hydraulic sulky plow for the first time. (The sale team, Pat & Prince, are on the pole).
Middle: Megan Johnson, dairy farmer (also famous for training her cow to drive), drives horses for the first time.
Bottom: "Offering assistance to a neighbor in need" — the motto of every God-fearing farmer.

April 11, 2010

The Skills to Sustain Ourselves

I love this quote, from the famous Cleveland reporter, William Feather:

"If people really liked to work, we'd still be plowing the land with sticks and transporting goods on our backs".

How true this is. How many of us still plow the land, sow the seeds, and reap the "fruits of our labors" as our sole means of nourishment? How many of us are required, either through lack of knowledge or lack of resources, to for-go turning over the earth, only to shop at Wal-Mart for what sustains us? Yet, is there really so much shame in being a hunter/gatherer instead of a farmer?

A lot in my recent history has given me pause to really think about this. I am a person of great conflict. Creative and lofty in spirit, yet earth-bound at the same time, I grapple with what is "work". Is physical labor more like "work" than the promotion of a business? Does daily travel to an office make a person more viable than freelancing from home? Don't we deserve to earn more in a shorter time span than what we would make doing the same thing under some-one else's corporation?

The necessities of "keeping track" by computer have taken me further and further away from my paper journals, written and sketched. Those beautiful bound wonders, cracked and perfumed with graphite and ink, smeared with pastel dust and charcoal. They are like relics of another culture uncovered in a vast field by the moldboard of a plow. Pieces of my life in patchwork: calligraphic drawings of my immediate surroundings and night-dreams alike. The tools for my inventiveness — a photograph here, a color copy of the color wheel there, scribbles of alchemical formulas of color theory. Esoteric, secretive but nourishing, most of my counter-parts in the farming world have little understanding, or worse, little care, for this other form of nourishment—the spiritual. Is it a curse, or a blessing, to have your feet planted in the ground and your head in the clouds? Does having a dual purpose, one the strength for labor and two the gift of creativity, give you the edge to prosper when all around you is crumbling?

I once heard a farmer, visiting the US from Siberia, of all places, say to a group of us plowmen and women, "You have a skill that few others in today's world have. If all was to go away, you have the knowledge to re-plant, and feed yourselves". Those words still haunt me.

Photos: Top: More often than not, Terry is put to work in the fields by our Menonite friends when down in Pennsylvania. Here he disc harrows with five horses during last week's trip.
Middle: Our friend, Paul, plowing with four.
Bottom: Passing down the skills to keep agriculture alive: Paul's eldest son, Tim, disking.

April 6, 2010

Our 48' Box Trailer, Revised

Our trailer is back home, ramp installed and winch in place. Terry tried out the ramp with Duke, who obviously had no issue with it. New floor, e-track and bars complete the renovation. The tractor/trailer is ready to roll again. Two horses were loaded in the middle of the night, and Terry is off to PA with them today.

Toby, the cute little quarter horse we have had here for sale, sold yesterday. He was taken down the road in an open bridle and did well, so they bought him. Open bridle isn't something we usually do! It speaks volumes for that little horse.

Another article by me is out: "Horse Power" in the April/May issue of MA Horse Magazine. Go to http://www.mahorse.com and click on the on-line version of the magazine to read it. Let me know what you think!

April 5, 2010

Easter 2010

Brandon came home with friends this Easter weekend, and Maegan had friends over, as well. Saturday afternoon was spent riding and taking "country" pictures for their portfolios.
Photos: Top Maegan and her friend Leila ride Gillette together. Bottom: After all the riding is done — Can't keep a good horse clean.

April 2, 2010

A Reliable Energy Source

After the ordeal with our F550 (which, incidentally, is once again sitting in our barnyard with a new engine under the hood), we pledged to let the horses do the local runs. Just before heading to PA, Terry and I took the log splitter back to friend Joe Rainville in Sprague, hooking it up to the forecart - a good 10 mile trek.

Danny and Dakota - a truly reliable energy source!

Photos: Top: Terry stops in front of an historic house on the Hanover/Canterbury line.
Middle: Danny & Dakota heading down Joe's driveway.
Bottom: Terry took this picture of me in front of the mill in Sprague.

Hay Diaries: I put round bales in the paddocks for the grays and the bays on the evening of March 31. Today is April 2. We will be lucky if the gray's last until tomorrow morning. I had no choice - I was running out of square bales and the sale team, Dolly and the light horses need those. Terry came in with a full load of square bales last night, so we are set to go again, at least for a while.

April 1, 2010

Using the Media to Forward Our Mission

"Look back on our struggle for freedom,
Trace our present day's strength to its source;
And you'll find that man's pathway to glory
Is strewn with the bones of a horse." - Anonymous

My husband has been quick to criticize the media, computers in particular, when in conversation about the evil plaguing today's society. No surprise. Terry is very fond of saying, "I was born 100 years too late". What he means by that isn't so much that he doesn't like modern-day amenities, but that he takes great satisfaction in the virtues of hard labor and Yankee ingenuity, with a bit of bartering thrown in for good measure. There's no negotiating with a machine on the other side of the telephone, and he prefers an honest handshake to a signature on paper when finishing a deal.

It completely baffles us as to how little people know about the muscle power it took to build this country, and what it takes to currently sustain us. The press we have gotten with Jeremy Dean's Hummer Cart, and the comments and criticisms he has endured because of it, is a good case in point. One of the most prevalent criticisms we have seen is in regard to the horses (ours) that are pulling it. The modified Hummer, weighing in at 2000 lbs, seems like such an enormous weight to the layperson. To a teamster, whose horses plow the fields or harvest timber from the forest, 2000 lbs on car tires hardly registers. What concerns me most is that people are failing to REALLY get it, the way we get it. That horsepower, as in HORSE power, really is a viable alternative to fossil fuel. That we really CAN sustain ourselves with our own sweat, that hard labor is good for us - mind, body and soul. Yankee ingenuity isn't just about invention, but reinvention.

So the next time you hear someone criticize the carriage industry, or you question the sanity of a farmer who leaves the tractor in the barn and takes his horse out to plow instead, consider your own frame of mind. Remember and give honor to those whose sweat this great country was built with.

See a video of the Hummer Cart at the bottom of this blog. Be sure to turn off the music playlist to hear the video!