If it don’t feel right – check it out! Instinct is a most important applied aspect in every successful teamster’s tool chest. When things seem not to be as they should be, when things feel odd or out of balance, when everything looks a little different to you but you can’t put your finger directly on the change – PAY ATTENTION. Take the time to check the animal’s comfort, the fit of the harness, the buckles and snaps. It could be in the air and they feel it but you don’t.
When I wrote about Khoke’s grandfather rebuilding a 7-sweep rotary horsepower unit, I wrote briefly about some technical issues we ran into. To this, we got a response from John Brubaker, the community mechanic for the Winchester Mennonite community near Hillsboro, Ohio. John suggested we come to see the five 2-horse treadmills connected to power the silage chopper in the fall. He also suggested that it might be worth our time to check out the Scottsville Horse and Buggy Mennonite community in southern Kentucky. This community is only 50 miles west of the Vernon community near Hestand, Kentucky, where our longtime friends, the Bye family, lives. Before our travel plans were finalized, they also included a stop at the Delano Mennonite community in Tennessee as well.
Once upon a time there were no gas (or steam) powered motors. Necessity begets innovation and every discovery simply lays the foundation for the next. Mechanization arose, yet for a long time the only power sources were a person’s two hands or the four legs of a draft animal. An under appreciated amount of hand and draft powered machinery came to be. Among these were horsepower units. A set of gears set in motion by a draft animal walking a circular track pulling a tongue.
Living off grid is a fascinating way of life that captivates large audiences with varying degrees of reservation. Here in Southern Iowa, Khoke and I carve out a life on the land that omits many modern amenities that electricity in any form is counted among. A couple of the most common concerns people ask about include, how we manage without refrigeration, and how we do laundry. To say we do laundry with horses only begets more questions. Setting aside the mental image of horses treading washtubs full of laundry, our laundry house consists of more than one wringer washer powered by an old cast iron single sweep rotary horse power unit that Khoke rebuilt.
Since the art of working horses has been around since their domestication, one tends to think that what can be accomplished with horsepower has surely plateaued. That we are just relearning and reusing what has been established in time past before it is lost. A subconscious belief that what can be learned, has been done, that the horizon has been reached. An arrogance that threads through each new age. Yet just as surely as machinery developed over the course of time, it continues on today. The mainstream use of draft animals may have subsided, but in the circles where they continued, the machinery they are yoked to has continued to develop as well.