Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Small Farms Are Returning to the Noble Heavy Horse for Cheap Pulling Power as Diesel Costs Soar; Toon and Country

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Small Farms Are Returning to the Noble Heavy Horse for Cheap Pulling Power as Diesel Costs Soar; Toon and Country

Article excerpt

Byline: david banks

AS I said to The Byreman recently: "If you really are a Lactose Animal Technician rather than a cow farmer, what have you got in that portable equipment carrier that looks just like a bucket?"

All in jest, of course. Malcolm, like so many of my rural neighbours, calls a spade a shovel. I appreciate their straightforwardness. More than that, I admire the countryman's commitment to community.

It derives, perhaps, from a feeling of remoteness and, yes, even neglect: poor transport, distant health services, sparse commercial entertainment facilities, lack of shopping choice and ever-threatened postal services make life a good deal more challenging than for our "toonie" cousins.

As a result, the rural populace becomes self-sufficient in supplying the social glue that binds and bonds.

Our hamlet, aware that no one knows what tomorrow might bring, has suddenly become active in the struggle to save its community hall. Meanwhile Kevin, a long lost "son of the village", has returned to the farmstead as a fully qualified health professional and is eager to set up a volunteer corps of "first responders", residents with first-aid training who will tend a sick or injured neighbour until doctor or ambulance arrives.

There's even more that town can learn from country: taking a step backwards to go forward, for instance, small farms in Northumberland and elsewhere are returning to the noble heavy horse for cheap pulling power as diesel costs soar.

My domino partner Robbie - who also moonlights as a salesman of giant agricultural vehicles - won't thank me for saying so, but when a wee tractor costs pounds 20,000 and requires a year's diesel, tyres and regular maintenance, wouldn't it make sense to invest pounds 5,000 in a well-trained shire needing only a ton of hay per year and a dozen pounds of good oats each day? After all, tractors lose 10% a year in depreciation and produce fumes, not organic manure; a healthy horse can produce four or five foals in her working life, for sale at pounds 800 a time or for training. …

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