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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: Livestock

The Mule Part 1

The Mule – Part 1

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from issue:

There is no more useful or willing animal than the Mule. And perhaps there is no other animal so much abused, or so little cared for. Popular opinion of his nature has not been favorable; and he has had to plod and work through life against the prejudices of the ignorant. Still, he has been the great friend of man, in war and in peace serving him well and faithfully. If he could tell man what he most needed it would be kind treatment.

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

A Greenhorn Tries Draft Horses

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We have tried a workhorse, and for our needs he has proven quite satisfactory as well as satisfying to use. Thus we feel it is possible for someone with little or no experience to learn to care for and use a horse or a team for farm and woods work, although, obviously, this is not a process to be undertaken lightly. One of the basic aims of the farm operation for us is self-sufficiency, and we thought that the horse would be more efficient than a tractor in achieving this aim.

Rabbits

Rabbits

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The domestic rabbit has the potential to become one of the world’s major sources of meat protein. As human populations continue to put pressure on the resources of the food providers, the farmers, the rabbit is likely to begin to interest, not only the farmer, but the family interested in providing food for it’s table. They convert forage more efficiently than do ruminants, such as cattle and sheep. In fact, rabbits can produce five times the amount of meat from a given amount of alfalfa as do beef cattle.

Interpreting Your Horse's Body Language

Interpreting Your Horse’s Body Language

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The person who works closely with horses usually develops an intuitive feel for their well-being, and is able to sense when one of them is sick, by picking up the subtle clues from the horse’s body language. A good rider can tell when his mount is having an off day, just by small differences in how the horse travels or carries himself, or responds to things happening around him. And when at rest, in stall or pasture, the horse can also give you clues as to his mental and physical state.

Work Horse Handbook

Work Horse Handbook

Horses are honest creatures. And, what I mean by honest is that a horse is almost always true to his motivations, his needs, his perceptions: if he wants to eat, if he needs water, if he perceives danger. He is incapable of temporarily setting aside or subverting his motivations to get to some distant goal. This is often mistaken as evidence for a lack of intelligence, a conclusion which says more of human nature than equine smarts. What it means for the horse is that he is almost never lazy, sneaky or deceptive. It is simply not in his nature.

Mule Powered Wrecker Service

Mule Drawn Wrecker Service

This will only add fuel to those late night discoursians about the relative merits of horses over mules or viciversy. Is the horse the smarter one for hitching a ride or is the mule the smarter one for recognizing the political opportunity which this all represents? In any event these boys know what they are doing, or should, so don’t try this at home without horse tranquilizers. Remember that politics is a luke warm bowl of thin soup.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 2

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 2

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From reading the Small Farmers Journal, I knew that some people are equally happy with either model, but because McCormick Deering had gone to the trouble of developing the No. 9, it suggests they could see that there were improvements to be made on the No. 7. Even if the improvement was small, with a single horse any improvement was likely to increase my chance of success.

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes

This is the account of how one farm put more horse power into the planting, cultivation, and harvesting of its potato crop. Ever since we began farming on our own in 1994 one of our principle aims has been the conversion of our farm operation to live horse power wherever feasible. This has meant replacing mechanized tools such as tractors and rototillers and figuring out how to reduce human labor as we expanded upon the labor capacity of our work horses.

Calves that Don't Breathe at Birth

Calves that Don’t Breathe at Birth

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Heart rate is one way to tell if the calf is in respiratory distress, since it drops as the body is deprived of oxygen. Normal heart rate in a newborn calf is 100 to 120 beats per minute. Place your hand over the lower left side of the ribcage, just behind and above the elbow of his front leg. If heart rate has dropped as low as 40, the calf ’s condition is critical; he needs to start breathing immediately.

Harnessing the Future

Harnessing the Future

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En route to a remote pasture where the Belgian draft horses, Prince and Tom, are grazing, we survey the vast green landscape, a fine mist hovering in distant low lying areas. We are enveloped in a profusion of sweet, earthy balance. Interns and other workers start their chores; one pauses to check his smart phone. Scattered about are many animal-powered rustic implements. This rich and agriculturally diverse, peaceful place is steeped in contrasts: modern and ancient.

Fjordworks Horse Powered Potatoes Part 2

Fjordworks: Horse Powered Potatoes Part Two

These types of team implements for digging potatoes were the first big innovation in horse powered potato harvesting in the mid-19th century. Prior to the horse drawn digger the limitation on how many potatoes a farmer could plant was how many the farm crew could dig by hand. The basic design of these early diggers works so well that new models of this type of digger are once again being manufactured by contemporary horse drawn equipment suppliers.

The Anatomy of Thrift: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift Part 2: Harvest Day

On the Anatomy of Thrift is an instructional series Farmrun created with Farmstead Meatsmith. Their principal intention is instruction in the matters of traditional pork processing. In a broader and more honest context, OAT is a deeply philosophical manifesto on the subject of eating animals. Harvest Day is the second in the series, which explores the ‘cheer’ that is prepared on the day of slaughter, and dives deep into the philosophy and psychology of our relationship to animals.

Types and Breeds of Poultry

From Dusty Shelves: A 1924 article on chicken breeds.

Boer Goats

Boer Goats

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The introduction of the Boer Goat has stirred up a lot of interest in all sectors of agriculture. The demand for goat meat exceeds the supply; goat meat is the most consumed meat in the world. One of the main points about South African Boer Goats is that out of all meat goat breeds the Boer is the top meat producer whereas in the cattle business you have over 100 breeds of beef cattle that all compete for the beef dollar.

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

Big Logs at Tarn Hows

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Simon and his elder sons Simon, Keith, and Ian, with their Belgian Ardennes horses, work good timber in bad places. The felling and extraction operation at the Lake District beauty spot of Tarn Hows was done in often appalling weather, and in the full glare of publicity. It must rank as one of the most spectacular pieces of horse logging, or indeed of commercial horse work done in these islands in recent years.

Hay Making with a Single Horse Part 3

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In parallel with making hay on the ground, nearly every year I have also made some hay on tripods. The attraction of this method is that it only needs one day of good weather to dry the grass sufficiently before it is put on the tripods, and then the hay takes very little harm no matter what the weather, usually coming out green, dry and smelling of hay two weeks later when it can be baled or stacked.

"Work Horse Handbook, 2nd Edition" by Lynn Miller

Draft Collars and How To Size Them

It is difficult to accurately measure a horse’s neck without fitting. In other words, there are so many variables involved in the shape and size of a horse’s neck that the only accurate and easy way to size the neck is to use several collars and put them on one at a time until fitting is found.

Fjordworks: Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster

Fjordworks: Zen and the Art of Training the Novice Teamster Part 1

The first step to a successful training session is to decide ahead of time what it is you wish to accomplish with your horse. In the wild the horses in a band require the strength of a lead horse. Your horse needs you to be that strong leader, but she can’t follow you if you don’t know where you want to go. On the other hand, we need to retain some space within ourselves for spontaneity to respond to the actual physical and mental state of our young horse on any given day.

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