Small Farmer's Journal

Facebook  YouTube

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

by Tony McQuail of Lucknow, ON

We’d been farming with horses and a small tractor for PTO and front end loader work for a number of years. In the winter we used the tractor and an old snow blower I’d got cheap at a summer auction sale to keep our long and hilly lane open. Blowing snow wasn’t a lot of joy. Our lane sloped down to the west which is where our winds tend to come from. Our tractor is not 4 wheel drive so blowing worked best going down hill. With no cab I usually got thoroughly covered with snow dust blown into every crack in my clothing, visibility was lousy and wearing a snow mobile helmet just made it worse as the snow would build up on the visor. But we wanted to keep the lane clear and snow blowing was my option.

Fortunately we had taken a Holistic Management course before the old snow blower had the main bearing seize during the second snow of the season. I’d already done some repairs during the first snow that year and decided it was beyond repair. Before HM training I would have bit the bullet and rushed out to buy a new blower from a dealer at the height of the season – no chance to wait for a summer auction sale. But with HM training we defined the problem and it wasn’t lack of a snow blower. It was winter access to our farm. We started considering various options. Could we hire a neighbor to blow the lane, could we leave the car and truck at the end of the lane and just hand shovel space for them (we’d done this for 9 years before we had the tractor and blower), could we use a horse powered snow scoop to clear the lane, should we replace the snow blower? We started exploring the options. We called the neighbor but they weren’t keen on adding our lane (which is long and hilly) to their list of lanes they were already custom blowing. We borrowed a neighbours snow scoop and tried it with our horses. We took all the options through the testing questions. The horse powered snow scoop ended up the choice that best fit with our Holistic Goal and we were able to purchase one with a savings over a replacement snow blower that was more than the cost of the HM course we’d taken. HM was certainly helping us make win/win/win decisions.

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

The snow scoop is designed and fabricated by a local Mennonite, Abraham M. Sherk, who takes orders each fall and then sets up his shop to make them for delivery before winter. We’ve now been using it for over 10 years and it works well. A picture is worth a thousand words so I’ll include some photos and also the plans he drew up. If you decide to use the plans to build one could you please send $20 to Abraham M. Sherk, RR #1, Wroxeter, ON, N0G 2X0, in appreciation for his drawings and sharing the design. We figured sharing the plans with everyone through the pages of the Small Farmer’s Journal would be better than asking people to write for plans.

It has the advantage over a V-plow in that you can remove the snow from the lane without pushing up banks. We are in the snow belt east of Lake Huron and if we push up banks they drift in and then we are pushing up even higher banks. This is the same advantage a snow blower has over a plow.

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

The scoop has two steel sides about 5 feet apart sitting on steel runners made out of heavy 2 X 2 angle iron, there is a blade that is lowered and raised by use of a foot release which allows the weight of the blade to lower it and then lock in the down position and the forward motion of the horses to raise it and lock it in the up position. This is accomplished by a clever pivoting action where the tongue attaches to the snow scoop. There is a platform to stand on the back of the scoop where you can access the foot release. There is a board attached to the back of the blade that you can stand on to put more down pressure if you need it when scooping.

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

I use a team on the snow scoop and find it is good winter exercise for the horses so I alternate teams so everyone gets some work. The basic routine is I hitch the horses to the scoop – if it was frozen down I loosen the runners first. I pull into position on the lane, stop the horses, step on the foot release and the blade drops down. I make sure it has locked into position and then get the horses to walk forward. The snow curls up the blade and rolls up a cylinder of snow 5 feet long and up to about 4 feet in diameter. Once the scoop is full I pull off the lane and after we are some distance from the lane I hit the foot release, the blade raises and the snow feathers out below it in a long pile 5 feet wide and 12 inches deep. I then return to the lane with the empty scoop, lower the blade and repeat the process. It is worth thinking about where to dump the snow to allow effective use of the horses. I do a number of piles off the side of the lane so I can make loops where I’m picking up snow on one side of the loop and dumping it on the other side working my way down or up the lane. The 5 foot width would be fine for a sleigh but is a little narrow for cars and trucks so I make a second pass beside the first that is about half of the previous cut. If the snow is really deep it can take a bit of encouragement to get the one horse to walk in the snow.

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

When dumping the snow there are various ways to handle it. If you have a pond or dugout you want to fill with spring run off, piling the snow up hill from it would be of value. The way I tend to make my piles is to dump the first load at the end of my loop away from the lane. Then the next time I’m dumping on that loop I trip 10 feet before the last dump and so on with each additional dump. This tends to build up a low even pile. If the weather is crisp this snow will be hard enough the next day to have one of the runners up on it the next time we are clearing the lane and I can dump beside it. I place a second strip of snow beside the first overlapping a bit. Then I can build runs back and forth on top of this base. It is good if things stay crisp enough that the horses can walk on top of the old snow without punching in too much.

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

It works best when the snow is not much more than 8 inches deep. When it is deeper it takes a lot of trips to move the snow off the lane. If it get really deep it can be a bit of a challenge for the horses to get through when they are taking the full scoop off to dump it. In that case it can be a good idea to use the scoop to clear the trail and pack it a bit so that the snow will have some place to fall out. If you don’t it can be hard to get the snow to fall out if you are trying to drop it in deep snow. As the snow pile builds up in can get 4 to 5 feet high and so some care needs to be taken to make the approach and backend of the pile gentle enough that the horse can just walk up the pile easily and exit the same way.

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

If the snow is wet and heavy with the temperature at freezing it can be a bit more of a challenge to get the snow to leave the snow scoop. In those situations I raise the blade – then back the horses up about 5 feet – When we pull forward this usually knocks the top off the pile of snow. I may have to repeat this several times before the scoop is clear. With the snow blower this type of snow also used to plug up in the blower chute – sometimes it was impossible to blow snow in these conditions.

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

Horse Powered Snow Scoop

Spotlight On: Farming Systems & Approaches

Cultivating Questions Winterkilled Cover Crops for a Mild Climate

Cultivating Questions: Winterkilled Cover Crops For A Mild Climate Part 1

Our mild climate makes it too easy to overwinter cover crops. Then the typically wet springs (and, on our farm, wet soils) let the cover put on loads of topgrowth before getting on the soil. Buckwheat is the only crop that I can be certain will winterkill. Field peas, oats, annual rye and crimson clover have all overwintered here. Any suggestions?

Mayfield Farm

Mayfield Farm, New South Wales, Australia

by:
from issue:

Mayfield Farm is a small family owned and operated mixed farm situated at 1150 m above sea level on the eastern edge of the Great Dividing Range in northern New South Wales, Australia. Siblings, Sandra and Ian Bannerman, purchased the 350 acre property in October, 2013, and have converted it from a conventionally operated farm to one that is run on organic principles. Additional workers on the farm include Janette, Ian’s wife, and Jessica, Ian’s daughter.

Farmrun - Sylvester Manor

Sylvester Manor

Sylvester Manor is an educational farm on Shelter Island, whose mission is to cultivate, preserve, and share these lands, buildings, and stories — inviting new thought about the importance of food, culture and place in our daily lives.

Cultivating Questions

Cultivating Questions: Follow-Up On Phosphorus

We like to think that the bio-extensive approach to market gardening minimizes the risk of overloading the soil with nutrients because the fallow lands make it possible to grow lots of cover crops to maintain soil structure and organic matter rather than relying on large quantities of manure and compost. However, we are now seeing the consequences of ignoring our own farm philosophy when we resorted to off-farm inputs to correct a phosphate deficiency.

The First Year

The First Year

by:
from issue:

Prior to last year, I had felt I knew the nuances of the land quite well and fancied myself as knowledgeable about the course of the natural world. Outdoors was where I felt the most comfortable. The fresh air and endless views of fields, hills and valleys renewed my spirit and refreshed my mind. I didn’t think there was much that could fluster me when it came to the land. Until I became an organic farmer.

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading

Prosperous Homesteading at FreeSong Farm by Greg Jeffers prosperoushomesteading.blogspot.com

Wheel Hoe

The Wheel Hoe: A Tool For Shallow Tillage

When we bought this little farm I soon realized I needed a wheel hoe. The size of the horse and tractor dictated space wasting wide rows in crop production and, to some degree, so does my two wheeled tractor.

LittleField Notes Seed Irony

LittleField Notes: Seed Irony

by:
from issue:

They say to preserve them properly, seeds should be kept in a cool, dark place in a sealed, dry container. Yet the circumstances under which seeds in a natural environment store themselves (so to speak) seem so far from ideal, that it’s a wonder plants manage to reproduce at all. But any gardener knows that plants not only manage to reproduce, they excel at it. Who hasn’t thrown a giant squash into the compost heap in the fall only to see some mystery squash growing there the next summer?

A Tour of Various Draft Farms

A Tour of Various Draft Farms

Amidst all of the possibility that is out there, all of the options and uncertainties, it helps to remember that there is also a strong community in the draft-farming world. There are a great many like-minded yet still diverse people working with draft horses and ready to share their experiences. What will serve us well within this great variety of farms and farmers is to keep in touch, to learn from one another’s good ideas and mistakes and to keep on farming with draft power.

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

Horsedrawn No-Till Garlic

We were inspired to try no-tilling vegetables into cover crops after attending the Groffs’ field day in 1996. No-tilling warm season vegetables has proved problematic at our site due to the mulch of cover crop residues keeping the soil too cool and attracting slugs. We thought that no-tilling garlic into this cover crop of oats and Canadian field peas might be the ticket as garlic seems to appreciate being mulched.

Barnyard Manure

Barnyard Manure

by:
from issue:

The amount of manure produced must be considered in planning a cropping system for a farm. If one wishes to manure one-fifth of the land every year with 10 tons per acre, there would have to be provided two tons per year for each acre of the farm. This would require about one cow or horse, or equivalent, for each six acres of land.

Cultivating Questions A Horsedrawn Guidance System

Cultivating Questions: A Horsedrawn Guidance System

Market gardening became so much more relaxing for us and the horses after developing a Horsedrawn Guidance System. Instead of constantly steering the horses while trying to lay out straight rows or cultivate the vegetables, we could put the team on autopilot and focus our whole attention on these precision tasks. The guidance system has been so effective that we have trusted visiting chefs to cultivate the lettuce we planned on harvesting for them a few weeks later.

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

by:
from issue:

The agricultural system of the Old Believers has long been one of hand labor. Their homesteads (hozyastvas) were not intended for tractors or horses, with the possible exception of their larger potato fields. Traditionally the small peasant hozyastva has its roots in hand labor, and this has helped maintain the health of the land. Understanding the natural systems is easier when one’s hands are in the soil every day as opposed to seeing the land from the seat of a tractor.

Birth of a Farm

Birth of a Farm

by:
from issue:

“Isn’t it nice?” I offer to my supper companions, “to see our beautiful horses right while we’re eating? I feel like I’m on a Kentucky horse farm, with rolling bluegrass vistas.” I sweep my arm dramatically towards the view, the rigged up electric fence, the lawn straggling down to the pond, the three horses, one of whom is relieving herself at the moment. “Oh, huh,” he answers. “I was thinking it was more like a cheesy bed and breakfast.”

Low Impact Ranching

Low Impact Ranching

by:
from issue:

This kind of low-impact management has yielded visible results for Rose who can display flourishing pasture grasses, healthy cattle, and firm banks in his riverside pasture. “I am just a detail oriented person and one of those farm boys who always likes to have a project,” Rose said. “I am trying to get the most out of my land and efforts and I really enjoy seeing the positive outcomes of a finished project.”

Such a One Horse Outfit

Such a One Horse Outfit

by:
from issue:

One day my stepfather brought over a magazine he had recently subscribed to. It was called Small Farmer’s Journal published by a guy named Lynn Miller. That issue had a short story about an old man that used a single small mule to garden and skid firewood with. I was totally fascinated with the prospect of having a horse and him earning his keep. It sorta seemed like having your cake and eating it too.

Starting Your Farm

Starting Your Farm: Chapter 5

You might think that your new farm is fenced all wrong, or that a certain tree is in the wrong place, or that a wet area would be better drained, or that this gully would make a good pond site, or that a depression in the road should be filled, or that the old sheds should all come down right away. Well maybe you’re right on all counts. But maybe, you’re wrong.

Biodynamic Meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm

Biodynamic Meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm

by:
from issue:

One weekend I attended a Biodynamic meeting at Ruby and Amber’s Organic Farm in Dorena, Oregon, in the Row River Valley, just east of Cottage Grove. I always enjoy seeing other food growing operations, as this is such an infinitely broad subject, there is always much to learn from others’ experiences. At this farm, draft horses are used for much of the work.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT