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Root digger

Digging carrots

One of things that drew me to farming with horses is the endless possibility for creating new equipment that is easy to understand and manufacture because of the simple mechanics. This year, I set out to make a new implement. Drawing from my experiences on a tractor-powered farm in California and some advice from Teague and Kosma, mule-powered farmers in Twisp, and Jason Salvo, a tractor-powered farmer in Duvall, I decided to build a horse-powered root digger, known to some as a bed lifter. I hoped that not only would it provide us with another job to use the horses in which we had been previously using hand tools, but it would make these digging jobs faster and more efficient.

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Marvin explains the track and trolley

Last December, a group of 20 or so farmers and horse-drawn enthusiasts gathered for another year of “Farmer to Farmer.” And wow, this year sure was a cold one! With the entire Northwest getting either pummeled with snow or blasted with freezing temperatures, many people understandably stayed home for the 2013 gathering, held in the Pine Valley of Northeast Oregon. Just outside of the town of Halfway, Marvin Brisk and his wife Pam run a diversified livestock operation using farm-raised Belgian, Brabant and Percheron draft horses. In the summer, they lease and cut hay on over 100 acres of grass and alfalfa, and grow barley, oats and other grains to help feed their laying flock and hogs.

During the weekend the group also gathered at the Mader’s farm across the small valley. At Horsepower Organics, the Maders raise alfalfa, cattle and train work horses–this is where our own Dandy & Avi came from over 6 years ago. David Mader demonstrated working horses in the round pen and the training program for their horses.

Among the topics covered this year were raising and selling market hogs, welding and metalwork in Marvin’s shop, harvesting hoophouse vegetables in the winter, and loose hay, which was demonstrated in the Brisks’ barn. Although it was an exceptionally chilly weekend, and much of the day was spent inside huddled by the woodstove discussing various farming topics, it was a successful gathering for sharing knowledge and fostering camaraderie amongst the Northwest draft-powered community, and I look forward to seeing all the friendly faces next year.

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