My husband and one of our ‘girls’ plowed open a large corner of our garden to make a new berry patch last year.
Using horses for the fields is hard work, but rewarding. In August 2012, we were haying on a sultry hot summer afternoon. We were almost finished and glad of it because there were some decidedly ugly storm clouds heading in. We were pretty sure we had enough time to finish the field, and it was important because that particular field was very productive. It also has a massive tree at one end. We were bringing in the second year of an alfalfa stand – on good ground and if it’s planted right, there is no better winter feed. We have a big haywagon, with a front board about four feet high the width of the wagon, sitting right behind the seat. It stabilises a load of hay or bales, but it’s also a bit dangerous because in an emergency there is no way the driver can jump.
I was driving, we had a man up top, and my husband and two others were pitching hay up to him to arrange. I had the ‘girls’ in a nice leisurely plod, just finished rounding one end of the field, the one with the tree. Out of God’s blue and slightly grey heaven came down one Almightly deafening crack of thunder. The horses screamed, and then went off into their own little world of fear and there was absolutely no stopping them. They went from about 2 to 100 (well maybe not quite) in three seconds flat. The man on top of the load jumped, the load shifted and fell, but unfortunately the wagon righted so the girls and I went for a ride. I would have LOVED to jump, but the front board would have stopped me and I would have dropped down under the wagon wheels. Big field, with another big one coming up. We went through the ditch and into the next field, and although they weren’t going to stop until their were exhausted, they did respond ever so incredibly slowly to being turned. I pulled for all I was worth on the one set of reins, and we finally settled. I thought I was fine til I got off the wagon and my knees gave out.
These horses and I know each other very well. I’d been working them three years already, but I totally lost control. I have a point to make here…. every so often we come across some post where people talk about getting animals for the place of their dreams, or even perhaps in reality where they will go when TEOTWAWKI finally happens. I don’t understand how people can possibly think they can START at some point in the future. Short of a totally permaculture/forest garden or hunting and fishing lives, I truly believe feeding and caring for a family 1880’s style involves draught animals, and learning how to work them takes TIME.
This horse, half of our team, just adores my husband. I rather like him too… but I don’t go around nuzzling him every chance I get. Our girl can pull a plow and sniff him up without missing a step.