Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Paths for Horse and Handler

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

New Paths for Horse and Handler

Article excerpt

When you retire from something you love, it's more than gratifying to see someone less than half your age take it up with intelligence and enthusiasm. It's downright heady. Our neighbor Jason doesn't want to be a dairy farmer per se, but he wants to farm, and to do it with horses. Moreover, he has a keen interest in and appreciation for timber-frame construction.

Since Charlie is an accomplished carpenter and the local guru on working with draft horses, Jason has spent a lot of time on our place over the past couple of years, learning by doing. He often cares for our animals when we're away - and he pastures his own Belgian mare, Julie, here. It has been a relationship of great mutual benefit, enhanced by the bonus of genuinely liking one another, and sharing a bond to the land and to the animals that provided the muscle to plow, plant, and harvest it before tractors came along.

Over the past year, Jason has learned specifically to work with Julie, either alone or hitched with one of our older, more practiced Belgians. As they have found their rhythm together, Julie has helped Jason to become an independent entrepreneur by plowing the semi- commercial organic gardens that he and his wife, Robin, have established.

The mare also pulled storm falls from our forest for Jason's first major timber-frame construction, a one-room hermitage he has been hired to erect at a Quaker retreat a few miles away.

Over the summer, he used our hay shed to precut and notch the timbers and roof rafters for what would be the frame. It was Julie who dragged the logs to the stationary sawmill behind our barn, and the square-cut timbers back to the hay shed for notching and shaping.

One fine September weekend, Jason and a helper raised the hermitage frame in a single day. The huge timbers he'd readied snugged together almost perfectly, from floor joists to roof rafters.

The site is well above the road, along one of the twisting wooded footpaths of the Quaker property, and inaccessible to motor vehicles. Virtually every beam, post, and rafter had to be dragged up there, compliments of Julie. Jason's skill as a horse handler, and Julie's willingness to do his bidding, were both put to their biggest test yet. …

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