Today, we reached a major milestone in our ongoing attempt to develop traditional low tech alternative back-ups to the modern day conveniences we will be using on the farm. All the stars lined up and we bought an Amish trained horse!
Her name is Bonnie and she is a draft cross, half belgian, quarter percheron, and quarter standardbred; but I think she just looks like a big boned standardbred. She was trained to both ride and drive, although the current owners haven't had her under harness. She is very gentle and was the husband's horse. He confessed that he was very green but I didn't see him struggle at all with her. It was a rainy day today so I didn't get to ride her a whole bunch but I did take her around the farmyard a few times and even got her up to a canter. I really haven't been in the saddle for quite a few years so I was surprised how smooth she was for such a big horse. Riding her is very basic since she only knows plough reining. I ended up buying her with her bit and a very nice western saddle. I wasn't looking forward to finding a draft saddle because they aren't all that common. I'm looking forward to getting her back into driving so we can hitch her up to this...
I bought this cart last year when I was living in Maryland. It's from around 1903 and was made by the V. Lynn Carriage Company from Brooklyn, New York. I actually found a little information about the company on the internet, which was pretty cool. It's a tall two wheeled cart with an awesome suspension for unimproved roads. Trucking it to Cincinnati on the back of my little Nissan was an adventure all by itself. I truly had the cart before the horse!
This past summer we also bought a John Deere horsedrawn hayrake for $50 at an auction in North Dakota. It can be set up for either one or two horses. Here's a picture of *C* riding on it being towed by the Cub.
We used it when we mowed the farmyard in front of the chicken coop and grainary. The grass and weeds were about four feet tall and thick as can be. The rake is 12 feet across so it wasn't very efficient in this small area. We ended up having to dump rake in big circles, which resulted in an interesting whorl pattern.
So how is this horse going to act as our low tech back up? We should be able to have her supplement/back up both our road vehicles and our tractors. We live seven miles from a very small town which is pretty comfortably in range for a horsedrawn vehicle. Now I just need to find a small bobsled or cutter for winter. We can also use her in lieu of our three tractors for work around the farm, although we're definitely going to have to dig up some more horsedrawn equipment and a forecart. The picture above shows our 1948 Farmall Cub. We also have a 1938 Farmall F-20 and a 1926 McCormick-Deering 10-20.
Sorry, I didn't have a picture of the 10-20. Three antique tractors and a horse? Nobody farms like that anymore. You can't make it without a $150K tractor...or can you? Our aim is subsistence first; any surplus will be considered for sale. Once upon a time small farms operated under this principle and were very comfortable, albeit cash poor. We also are going to try to keep it simple with hay being our main crop. Our whole place is only 50 acres so we'll see if we can fly under the radar and operate on a cash or barter basis. It would be crazy to try to compete with those gigantic monoculture operations! We recently watched a very good movie called The Sweet Land. It showed two farmers in the 1920's, one progressive and one conservative. The progressive farmer ended up up to his eyeballs in debt and lost everything while the conservative farmer stayed within his means. The banker kept trying to get him to borrow money to which the responsible farmer always answered "banking and farming don't mix". I love that line and I think in the near future it's really going to apply. Now I just need to find Bonnie a teammate...