Tag Archives: draft horses

Happy Thanksgiving!

Really, this is the best holiday quite possibly ever invented.  We gather around a table with family and friends to share a meal and literally give thanks for all that we have been given.  I can definitely count myself as one who is truly blessed:  with good health, a wonderful life partner, a loving family, a very satisfying life, with lots of adventures to look forward to.  We continue to wait to close on our property, which we first saw last year on Thanksgiving Day.  The seller needs to put in a working septic system, and we have figured out where that will go, and then the driveway over the culvert needs to be widened to the fire marshal’s satisfaction.  We expect closing to happen sometime in January, hopefully around my birthday if all goes well.

extra southern style pecan pie, with a western take on an east coast classic cocktail...

extra southern style pecan pie, with a western take on an east coast classic cocktail…

Above all, I am thankful for the brilliant invention of pie.  This year’s Thanksgiving home run was a Sorghum Molasses (crushed and cooked up by my oldest friend and her team of Belgingers in NC) Bourbon Pecan Pie.  It was delicious.  And speaking of brilliant inventions, I invented a mixed drink this fall after infusing some mid range bourbon with Marionberries:  a blackberry Manhattan I have called the Black Friday.  The ingredients are the usual proportions of Blackberry infused bourbon, vermouth, bitters, a couple of tablespoons of blackberry apple cider puree, and garnished with a couple of the bourbon pickled marionberries.  Dark, smoky, sweet, and berry-licious.  And it goes fantastically with Bourbon Sorghum Molasses Pecan Pie.  To infuse the bourbon, I simply filled a jar with berries, topped it off with bourbon, let it infuse for a month, and then filtered.  I kept the bourbon pickled berries for garnish, clearly.

Here is the recipe for Sorghum Pecan Pie that I used, just add a couple of tablespoons of bourbon, and there you are.  Happy Holidays!

Heavy horses

We had a great day out in Mcminnville at the Yamhill Valley Historical Center Farm fest and Plowing competition.  The great Duane Van Dyke loaned us a team of shires, and Clare and Sara and Sarah and Lucy and I all plowed a demonstration plot together.  Sara Van Dyke got us started and showed us how it is done (and took the edge off our team), and then Clare took over the lines for most of the rest of the day.  Sarah H and Lucy and I all got to practice running the plow and also helped out as general swampers for One Mile Shires…Duane and his extended family had at least 4 teams in the competition.  I had my hands too full to take pictures, but there are some great shots of our end of the field on Clare’s blog.

Many thanks to the Oregon Draft Horse Breeders Association and the Yamhill Valley Heritage center for putting on this great event.  There were 1300 spectators that turned out to watch us plow!

There were a lot of great high points of the day, one of the best for me was when Lisa Hubbe from down in Scio won the Supreme Plowman award, as best teamster and team on the field.  Clare calls her the Zen Master of draft horses, and she truly is masterful in the way she handles horses, she literally never raises her voice and her team would try to pull down the sky if she asked them to.  She is also one of the most humble and kindhearted people one would ever care to meet.  Another high point was helping Duane hitch six up to his double bottom sulky plow (including the team we used all day) and watch him finish out the plowing at the end of the day.

It didn’t hurt that there were lots of beautiful teams to admire, and it was very exciting to work with full sized drafts (and pretty snorty ones at that) after working with haflingers.

This week is the Small Farmers Journal Auction in central Oregon….if you love farm equipment, work horses, and the best collection of characters the Pacific Northwest has to offer, you should head over to Madras and check it out.  I will be there for sure next year (assuming the auction continues), possibly looking for a draft pony of my own.  Or at least a good looking cowgirl hat.

Hummer will be back next year....

Hummer will be back next year! (those are some of Duane’s shires in the background).

A great plow day in Yamhill

Sarah gives Hummer a pre-plow pep talk

Last weekend I ‘crewed’ for Team Big Table at the Yamhill Heritage Center’s annual plow day.  There were 20 teams….probably the biggest collection of draft animals certainly in Oregon, possibly on the west coast outside of the Small Farmers Journal Auction (which is this week!  You should go).  There were Percherons, Belgians, mules, Brabants, Shires, Clydesdales, Haflingers, and…my dream team:  a mother daughter team of buckskin Kiger mustangs.  It was a beautiful day and over 1500 folks came out to watch the teams work.  Clare has plowed at this event for 5 years, this year she plowed the best plot ever, and won her novice division.  Nice work Clare!  My main job was to help keep her younger horse Huston on task.  After a few protests in the first two passes he knuckled down to work like I have never seen him do before.  He even out pulled Hummer, who is an old campaigner with a great work ethic.

Hummer surveys the field.

Huston pulls his weight!

When you plow a field, typically you start with what is called the ‘crown furrow’, and you ‘come gee’ (turn to the right) after every pass until half the field is plowed.  This has you plowing from the center outward, and the crown furrow has topsoil piled on it from both sides.  Then you ‘come haw’ (turn to the left) plowing from the outer edges to the center until the field is done.  The final furrow you plow is called the ‘dead furrow’, because you have flipped topsoil away from the furrow on both sides, so nothing much will grow there.  In a contest the teamster is judged on their entries and exits (where the cut of the plow starts and stops), the willingness of their team, coverage (how well the sod is inverted), and the straightness and consistency of the crown and dead furrows, among other things.

Clare sets up for her final pass

'coming haw' into the final furrow

Many thanks to the Oregon Draft Horse Breeders Association and Yamhill County Heritage Center and Historical Society.  What a great day!

Crittur updates

The chicks turned 6 weeks old this weekend, and have been busting out of their accommodations in the greenhouse.  So, since they are fully feathered in and at a decent weaning age, I rehomed them out at my friend Clare’s farm in Gaston this weekend.  They will live in a meat bird pen and get moved to fresh pasture every day until they are big enough to eat.  Whitey has always been the queen bee of the henhouse, she pretty much considers the Wyandottes to be tweedle dee and tweedle dum.  So, after about ten minutes of beating them up, she was fully reintegrated:  back up on the high roost, running the show.

The morning after I rehomed the chicks Whitey did go to the greenhouse and cluck for them to come out, which made me a little teary.  Otherwise she seems to have readjusted to coop life and today was out foraging with the Wyandottes like old times.  Here are the chicks in their swank new country doublewide:  this low pen is a Joel Salatin style lightweight metal chicken tractor that gets moved to fresh pasture every day or so.And….since I was out at Clare’s and it was a pretty nice day…..we hitched up her Haflinger team Huston and Hummer to the forecart and took them for a spin.  I think this is only the second or third time the boys have pulled the forecart, and they seem to like it!

clare and the boys 'a la carte'

The forecart is a sort of farming hybrid: many tractor-specific implements can be attached to it, and then pulled by the horses. Clare is hoping to find a small manure spreader over the winter that she can use to spread manure from the horses’ winter housing in the barn on the pasture next summer, when weather and temperatures allow the land to absorb the nutrients quickly.  One of the great challenges of keeping horses in western Oregon is keeping them off your pasture during the very wet winter months so they don’t destroy it.  Clare is trying a new system:  the boys are kept in the round pen in the barn in bad weather, and turned out on pasture when weather allows.  Since she uses a portable electric fence the pasture can be moved over the winter and damage kept to a minimum.  Brilliant.  I have only known Clare and Brian for a year, but just in that time I have seen their land respond amazingly to the rotational grazing and nutrient recycling.  Their animals (pigs, chickens, goats, horses and Dexter cows) all shine with good health as well. I will have to do profiles on all the super farm women I know some day soon! Here’s to you, Clare.

As for the rabbits, well, so far they have not been behaving in a very rabbit like manner.  We don’t know if it was the stress of moving to a new home or if she never ‘took’, but our momma bunny never kindled.  So, she and poppa bunny have a date for tomorrow, and we shall see if we can get the rabbit operation back underway.  Poppa is a very handsome bunny, and also quite sociable.  The rabbits have been slowly eating away at my raspberry patch one cane at a time, which converts the raspberry canes into a much more immediately usable fertilizer:  rabbit poop.  They love the leaves and the tough canes help keep their teeth worn down.  For those of you interested in permaculture, rabbits are a great addition:  they recycle nutrients (often stuff you can’t or won’t eat, like raspberry canes and other plant prunings as well as extra vegetables from the garden) into a high quality manure, they are nice to be around and easy to care for, they are prolific (well, except ours apparently) and good to eat.  The chickens love to scratch under the rabbit pens, where they find a “second harvest” of insects and maggots, which is good nutrition for them and helps keep the fly population under control.  I am using the rabbit poop this fall to mulch my asparagus and fertilize my cover crops.  In January I will start putting it into the compost bin.

poppa bunny loves his raspberry canes