This awesome project will fund a conversion from one old farm tractor (1943 Ford 9N) that puts out 23 horsepower plus C02 emissions to a two horsepower draft team that puts out 2 horsepower plus compostable fertilizer!
We plan to purchase a senior team of two draft animals for our farm, Squibwych Farm, located in Northeast Ohio. Any additional funds raised will be used for a veterinary emergency fund, then for draft equipment. I say "horses" most often because, due to the far greater supply, we're more likely to bring home horses than mules or oxen; that said, I'd love to partner with a team of mules!
REMEMBER! Earth Project is an all-or-nothing funding site. If we don't reach our goal, we don't collect a dime! Our project goal is the minimum amount we will need to purchase an older team plus harnesses. All awards have been calculated to provide positive contribution after subtracting for fees and postage expense. We did not subtract for the cost of glass mason jars or other material expenses, and we hope you will approve of our use of recycled jars wherever possible!
The outcome of this Earth Project project, adding a team of draft animals to our farm, will allow many improvements, including the following:
1. Energy Independence - To supplement our geothermal heat, a team of draft horses will be able to effortlessly pull hardwood logs from our wood lot at the rear of our property up to the house, where they can be cut and split into firewood. The more obvious advantage is the ability to retire the tractor from service!
2. Pampered Poultry - Chicken tractors (predator-proof night-time pens for pastured chickens) need to be moved to fresh pasture every few days to keep the birds healthy and happy. Last summer I was unable to move the tractors enough to keep the birds very happy. Using a truck or tractor requires two people and a lot of yelling, and the occasional chicken injury ... Horses just work best for this tough chore.
3. Increased Access to Pasture - Haul water to pastured chickens and goats. We have a lot of available browse for our goats midway back in our property, but the only water is in a goat-eating bog of despair. Using a draft team, I can easily skid a 50-gallon trough back to the back pasture, eliminating the need for our goat friends to venture into the Swamps of Sadness.
4. Winter Maintenance - NOTHING mechanical moves through deep snow as easily as a draft team. Our driveway is often sealed in with a 3' berm of plowed snow, before we can even get to the 300' driveway! Horses can pull cars out when they're axle-deep in slippery snow, plus plow the driveway AND the path to the barn and barn doorways etc... Plus they make the very best hand warmers!
5. Increased Production - With the ability to provide much better grazing and clean foraging areas, we'll have an increase in goat milk, chicken eggs, and table birds (chickens, turkey, ducks, and quail). The ability to plow and mechanically harvest will allow us to plant flax, beans, squash, and potatoes. Horse manure will feed our existing crops, such as raspberries (red and black), strawberries, elderberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
6. Decrease World Suck – By bringing joy and happiness to all! HELLO, people, we're talking GIANT, FUZZY PONIES! With soft sweet smelling noses and tickly whiskers... nickering hello in the morning and uttering their deep "huhuhu" when they see you bringing them treats at dusk...
Please read on for my soap box speech on why I want to purchase an older team and some additional family folklore* on the awesomeness of drafts…
Here in the Midwest, there are a lot of Amish who use only draft power for their farming needs. On the surface this is pretty cool - but when their faithful teams get older and they can't work hard enough to justify their care, things often get pretty ugly, and there are many sad "Black Beauty" type endings. Squibwych Farm has needs that are lightweight compared to a working Amish farm - we only have ten acres, and none of our farm chores require a full-power draft team.
I plan to purchase an "experienced" team so that I can can keep them together through their senior years and provide them a nice working retirement. Most of the older teams are split up, with a weaker member often going to a "disposal site" and the other getting shuffled off to a dangerous or low-value life where it will be worked until it is used up, often without even basic medical or dental care, and then dumped, almost like a disposable tool.
We will most likely purchase our team at the Mt. Hope monthly horse auction. Harness horses, both lightweight buggy horses and full sized drafts, are sold to a mostly-Amish crowd at this Ohio auction house. Horses come from as far away as New England and Iowa to be sold to a new home or, if they're injured or thought to be too old, to truckers who haul a tractor-trailer full of animals up to Canada for "processing." *cough*Alpo*cough*
The following is my story of Jim, an old, blind draft horse that had spent most of his life with my dad’s family in Coshocton county.
In 1943, with his oldest sons off fighting in World War II, my grandpa traded in his mismatched team of draft horses for a brand new Ford Ferguson 9N tractor.
He had five children still at home who needed tobe fed and clothed, and with all the war time shortages, he wasn’t going to waste resources putting a pair of work horses out to pasture when someone else could likely use them. The mismatched draft team had come from Dad's uncle Johny; Jim, likely a gray Percheron, was a draft horse through and through, and Bell, a pretty chestnut mare, was a light draft, probably a mix between a stock horse and a draft. Grandpa liked a nice-looking horse, and while Bell was not exactly an even match for Jim, I think Grandpa must have been willing to accept her lesser strength and angsty personality because he enjoyed her good looks and maybe even her oft-misapplied spunk. Jim was sold to a farmer in a neighboring county, and Bell went off to be used as a family riding horse. Jim was older and mostly blind, probably after being exposed to leptospirosis bacteria. He had spent years working beside drama-queen Bell, plowing fields, pulling the mowing machines, working the hay lifts, hauling milk, and occasionally acting as a babysitter for the youngest twins, who could be left safe on his back, holding onto his collar while Grandpa went about his work. After being sold and hauled off to his new home in a big horse van, Jim escaped and navigated over twenty miles of rolling hills, dirt roads, and a cross-work of wire, stone, and wooden fences. He even managing a major river crossing, continuing all through the night and arriving at back at Sleepy Hollow (Grandpa's farm) early the next morning, just in time to haul the morning milk out for pickup. I wanna hug that horse!
I want to make sure that some old team like Jim and Bell have a happy, loving forever home. When they're too old or ill to continue helping us with our chores, we will keep them here to graze alongside our goats and chickens.
* I've heard several versions of the "homeward bound" story about Jim. My version may not have all the facts right, but it's closest to the version I remember Grandpa telling me and the one Dad retold recently. Asking five million questions about his favorite horses was my favorite activity while getting my clock cleaned playing checkers with Grandpa. I remember him speaking around his cigar while jumping his king across half my pawns: "Bell wasn't much of a work horse, but she was a looker, and your dad and uncles liked to ride her...."
A few photos from Squibwych Farm -
Risks and challenges
Project Concerns - I have spent a few months double-checking all my calculations, attending a few auctions, and talking to horse powered farmers to make sure I'm going to be able be successful with this project. Having owned horses all of my adult life, I'm not worried about the upkeep costs, as I am very aware of the needs of horses, but I wanted to be sure I would be able to utilize them and treat them very well.
Rewards - It's possible we won't be allowed to provide rewards of dairy since we don't have a licensed dairy. I strongly support government regulation of all food-producing facilities, and if anything I wish the inspections were more frequent and enforcement were more rigorous in big commercial diaries. Our current plans are to keep the Squibwych Farm dairy small, for home use and to supplement chicken feed. If I can't use my own goat milk to fulfill these rewards, we are blessed with a FABULOUS goat dairy right in our area. I will use their pasteurized milk to create the named treats.
FUNDS: We will need to raise $5000 to get the project going, and I'm really hopeful this could be possible! If we have that one-in-a-million luck and win the Earth Project lottery *pause to dream* any additional funds will be used in the following priorities:
1. Flexibility in the selection of a team: if a younger team of siblings is being split up (like happened at the first auction we attended) we could potentially afford to bid on them.
2. Additional funds for emergency medical expenses and/or specialty feeds, etc.
3. Harness - I'd like a leather harness but will work with whatever we can afford.
4. Equipment - first we would like to purchase or build a work skid, then the following: cart, plow, mower, rake, cultivator.
5. Crazy wish list - people transporter, like a buggy or wagon; new fencing.
RISKS: Horses are animals, and therefore there are unpredictable outcomes!
Injured or infirmed animals: I am looking to purchase an older team of horses or mules, probably from the Amish, and the largest risk is that the team will include an injured or infirmed animal that can't work at all. My plan for addressing an injured or unusable horse/mule is to augment my jobs so that one horse can easily handle the load (technically, I only need a single draft but I want to 'rescue' a team to keep them together). Most of the work would be done in the very pasture where the injured friend would be resting, allowing them to still be within sight of each other, which will keep them pretty happy. If both animals are unable to work, I will retire them and return to my current human-intensive work flows until I can find another team to take over their chores.
End-of-Life-Care: I do not believe that animals should suffer because WE want them in our lives. Horses are grazing herd animals, and as long as they can be kept comfortable and able to engage in their normal actives, (grazing and or loafing with their buddies) they should be allowed to do that. When age or injury makes it impossible for them to continue "being a horse," it's time to be a responsible and true friend and end their life in the most peaceful and painless way possible.
Difficult or Temperamental: I've owned horses for most of my life, and I've worked with harness animals before, both Amish-trained and Standardbreds that were "off the track" trotters. I believe my experience will help me select a good, solid team with a strong work history. If one or both are cantankerous, the most likely reason will be pain, which we will work to identify and treat. If pain is ruled out, I'm confident that a quiet and persistent approach to behavior modification will be enough to resolve issues.
Make a pledge without a rewardMinimum amount is $Maximum amount is $
Everyone who pledges at this or any other level will have their name added to our website as one of our founding supporters with a BIG "THANK YOU," plus a Squibwych Farm/Earth Project bumper sticker!
Estimated Delivery: Jul, 2016
*Horsehair Friendship Bracelet* rnWe all know that Friendship is MAGIC! In appreciation of your support, we will send you a handmade horsehair friendship bracelet! Please note that no horses will be harmed in the making of these bracelets (horsehair will be gathered from our mane and tail combs.) rnUpon Request: we do offer a vegan option made of braided homegrown flax.
Estimated Delivery: Sep, 2016
*Personalized Photo* You will get a beautiful 5x7 photo of a member of the team with a hand written thank-you note! Perfect for dressing up your office desk - it will make a great conversation starter! rn[Net $ contributions after fees and postage $11.75]