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Logging with Oxen in New Hampshire
Logging with Oxen in New Hampshire

Durhams, Star and Lion, hooked to forecart pulling pine log.

by Tim Huppe of Farmington, NH
photos by Drew Conroy

In 1906, there were 87 pair of oxen on Meaderboro Road. Most of the teams were used daily, working in the woods or on the farms.

This part of New Hampshire with its stony ground and hilly terrain made the ox well suited for land clearing and plowing. Over time, the small hill farms raising sheep for the once thriving wool industry were abandoned, leaving empty cellar holes and small pastures to grow to woods.

The farmers with good tillable ground and ample hay land switched to using horses for their traction power.

Frank Scruton, who is now 89 years old, worked oxen his entire life. He spent winters working cattle in the woodlot in the winter and in the maple orchard during sugaring season. He would plow and pick rocks on newly harrowed ground using a team pulling a wooden stoneboat. Between milkings or in the evening, Frank and his son, Arthur, exercised the oxen conditioning them for competition pulling at the New England fairs.

Frank clearly remembers his father, Arthur, hauling cordwood from the ‘old farm’ over the road using oxen to the mills in Farmington, seven miles away. The wood was burned for fuel and his father would return to the mills in the spring, load the wood ash on an ox cart and haul it back to his farm and spread it on the fields. He also hauled many loads of four foot firewood to the brickyards in Gonic to fire the kiln operations.

Frank’s grandfather, John Frank’s farm was on the side of Blue Job Mountain. He had gone over the mountain to visit his brother at the ‘home place’ in the town of Strafford. Of course, those were the days before weather forecasts and he was unaware of the severity of the coming snow storm.

During the night’s stay, the snow became heavy and continued into the next day. Needing to head to his farm in the morning, John Frank turned the cattle loose. They marched single file over the mountain path. The white out conditions made it impossible to see the trail, but the oxen had sense enough to find the farm a few miles away.

Logging with Oxen in New Hampshire

Tim Huppe demonstrating yoking a pair of oxen.

Les Barden, 84 years old, purchased his Meaderboro Road farm in 1960. He bought the farm from the Huckins family. They raised good Milking Shorthorn cattle and kept and worked oxen. Les purchased the farm with a small herd of the Huckin’s milking stock. For the first two years, Les did not own a bucket loader tractor. All of the manure from the dairy barn was hauled to the fields using a team of oxen and an ox cart. When he needed sawdust for bedding, he would hook the team to the cart and walk to neighboring woodlots where portable sawmills had been operating. He would shovel on a load of sawdust and return home.

Les spent his days in the woods cutting firewood and white birch boltwood. The firewood was to heat his large house and there were many cords for resale. The birch boltwood was sold to a handle factory in Farmington. These additional income sources were made possible using his oxen.

Logging with Oxen in New Hampshire

Spotlight On: People

Harnessing the Future

Harnessing the Future

by:
from issue:

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.

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.”

Icelandic Sheep

Icelandic Sheep

by:
from issue:

I came to sheep farming from a background in the arts – with a passion for spinning and weaving. When we were able to leave our house in town to buy our small farm, a former dairy operation, I had no idea that the desire to have a couple of fiber animals would turn into full time shepherding. I had discovered Icelandic sheep, and was completely enamored of their beauty, their hardiness and their intelligence.

It Is Who We Are

It Is Who We Are

by:
from issue:

It is NOT a small world, it is a BIG world, as wide and various as you can possibly imagine. We are not alone. When we feel ourselves shut down, crowded by worry and a sense of failure, it would serve us well to remember Bulldog’s admonition, “Boss, never give up, no matter what, never give up.” Anyway, how could we? Who would put up the hay? Who would unharness the team? Who would milk the cows? Who would wax the cheese? Who would feed those woolly pigs? It’s got to be us, after all it is who we are.

A Small Good Thing

A Small Good Thing

We shared this video a while back, and now it has been released on Netflix. Check it out! — “A Small Good Thing” explores how the American Dream has reached its end and how for most of us, greater material wealth and upward mobility are no longer possible. To find out what is taking its place, this feature documentary follows six people in one community who have recast their lives so they can live with a sense of meaning.

The Shallow Insistence

…a life of melody, poetry and farming?

Expanding the Use of the Heavy Draught Horse in Europe

Expanding the Use of the Heavy Draught Horse in Europe

“La Route du Poisson”, or “The Fish Run,” is a 24 hour long relay which starts from Boulogne on the coast at 9 am on Saturday and runs through the night to the outskirts of Paris with relays of heavy horse pairs until 9 am Sunday with associated events on the way. The relay “baton” is an approved cross country competition vehicle carrying a set amount of fresh fish.

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 3

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 3

Working with horses can and should be safe and fun and profitable. The road to getting there need not be so fraught with danger and catastrophe as ours has been. I hope the telling of our story, in both its disasters and successes will not dissuade but rather inspire would-be teamsters to join the horse-powered ranks and avoid the pitfalls of the un-mentored greenhorn.

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 1

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 1

I am certainly not the most able of dairymen, nor the most skilled among vegetable growers, and by no means am I to be counted amongst the ranks of the master teamsters of draft horses. If there is anything remarkable about my story it is that someone could know so little about farming as I did when I started out and still manage to make a good life of it.

The Way To The Farm

Lise Hubbe stops mid-furrow at plowing demonstration for Evergreen State College students. She explains that the plow was going too deep…

Ripening

Poetry Corner: What A Boy Lies Awake Wondering

This is a poem from Paul Hunter’s book Ripening.

UCSC Farm & Garden Apprenticeship

UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden Apprenticeship

UC Santa Cruz is thrilled to welcome applications to the 50th Anniversary year of the UCSC Farm and Garden Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture. The 39 apprentices each year arrive from all regions of the US and abroad, and represent a wide spectrum of ages, backgrounds, and interests. We have a range of course fee waivers available to support participation in the Apprenticeship.

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

by:
from issue:

On a sunny early September day I met Doug Flack at his biodynamic and organic farm, just South of Enosburg Falls. Doug is an American Milking Devon breeder with some of the best uddered and well behaved animals I have seen in the breed. The animals are beautifully integrated into his small and diversified farm. His system of management seems to bring out the best in the animals and his enthusiasm for Devon cattle is contagious.

Farm To School Programs Take Root

All aim to re-connect school kids with healthy local food.

Farmrun John Erskine

John Erskine

John Erskine farms with horses in Sequim, WA.

The Real Work Karbaumer Farm

The Real Work Karbaumer Farm

by:
from issue:

A bold and opinionated German, Klaus moved to the midwest over 25 years ago from Bavaria and is currently running the only tractor-less farm in Platte County, Missouri operated by draft horses. Karbaumer Farm tries to “live and grow in harmony with Nature and her seasons” and produces over 50 varieties of chemical-free, organic vegetables for the community, providing a CSA or the greater Kansas City area.

New York Horsefarmer Ed Button and his Belgians

New York Horsefarmer: Ed Button and his Belgians

In New York State one does not explore the world of draft horses long before the name of Ed Button is invariably and most respectfully mentioned. Ed’s name can be heard in the conversations of nearly everyone concerned with heavy horses from the most experienced teamsters to the most novice horse hobbyists. His career with Belgians includes a vast catalog of activities: showing, pulling, training, farming, breeding, and driving, which Ed says, “I’ve been doing since I was old enough to hold the lines.”

Journal Guide