Well, we finally got a chance to use our team of Belgians, Bill and Bob, for real farm work last Friday. We never got them out during the winter because it was just too icy everywhere, and not enough snow cover to help with traction -- in fact, hardly any snow, just a couple of inches of ice on everything. We wore cleats on our boots the entire winter, the first we've ever had to do that. So the conditions were just too risky to hitch the boys up to the sled, which sat parked all winter.
But when the ice melted and the land dried up a bit, we hitched them up to the ground-driven manure spreader the first chance we got. The week before we had taken them out on the forecart to get them back into shape, and then earlier last week we had taken them for some practice runs on the spreader, running it empty. This allowed them to get used to it while we got used to working both them and the spreader. We've used a tractor-powered manure spreader for years, but never a horse-drawn one, and in truth, we didn't know for certain if Bill and Bob had ever pulled one. But being good, solid Amish-trained draft horses, we were pretty sure they had pulled spreaders before.
A manure spreader is a noisy, clanging thing with lots of "stuff" flying around, and many horses would not do well pulling this kind of equipment behind them. But Bill and Bob needed only a couple of practice runs to get used to it, so by the time Kate and I were ready to spread manure on Friday, the boys were ready to haul their first loads. These were light ones, more bedding than manure, again to ease them into working after a winter off.
Here's a shot of Kate driving them:
Kate had pulled her hoodie up, a smart move designed to keep certain "materials" from being deposited down the back of her neck. Because it's ground driven, this manure spreader doesn't have the same power or "throw" of a tractor-powered spreader, so you don't experience anywhere near the same "close encounters," but still ... a hoodie is good protection just in case!
Being able to do this essential labor with horses had been a gleam in our eye a year ago -- indeed, it was just last spring that we attended our first "how to work with draft horses" workshop in Vermont. So here we were, a year later, with an experienced team (far more experienced than we!), a spreader, and hard work getting done with pure animal power. It felt really, really good.
But probably not as good as Bill and Bob felt when we finally unhitched them, took their harnesses off, and led them back to their corrals. They said, "Jeez, we thought we were going into semi-retirement. That felt like real work!"
New Round Begins
The new Shelter Challenge started Monday, April 9 and ends at midnight on June 17. Grand prize in this round is $5,000, plus $1,000 for weekly winners and $1,000 for state winners. There are also other categories ... please see the Shelter Challenge website for details.
*** We are now LISTED UNDER OUR NEW NAME, ROLLING DOG FARM. State is still NH for New Hampshire. ***
Please remember, you can vote every day ... consider bookmarking the voting page to make it easy.
We just won $1,000 as a weekly winner for Week 4 of the last contest, and thousands more in the previous contests. The Shelter Challenge really does bring in a lot of money for the animals here!
You can vote in the Shelter Challenge here.
Thank you for your votes!