Wednesday, January 26, 2011

my future business partners

Someday I will walk out the back door of my cabin. I'll check to make sure the melting snow is draining off the roof, and not catching moisture under the eaves. There will be a chicken perched on my kitchen windowsill. And up the hill a little ways, a shaggy brown head as long as my arm will poke her nose out from behind a maple tree.

Her thick winter coat will leave clumps of hair wherever she scratches. Unkempt, perhaps, but clean. She'll nudge me, watching with her curious eyes, wondering what work we might have planned. Behind the corrugated tin wall of a loafing shed, her half-sister will regard us through one sleepy eye. She looks up only when I call to her, unwilling to disturb her doze unless absolutely necessary.

They'll be small for a team, maybe only fifteen and a half hands, with wide, smooth backs. I'll bring them into the lower level of our hillside barn. From above, we'll throw down hay when the sun goes down. For now, they stand quietly while I gather up gear. Shiny black working harnesses line one wall of a former box stall, each one lovingly cared for with saddle soap and neatsfoot oil and brasso on the fittings. I'll warm up their bits in my hands, and begin draping them in all the finery of a working trade. Come girls, let's get to work.

We'll walk out together into the woodlot, with a chainsaw, an axe, and a pouch full of felling wedges. Maybe someday I'll cut a tree or two with a crosscut saw, for fun or for demonstration, but today we have real work to do and but a few hours of daylight to do it in. We pick the ugliest trees, those crowding better-formed neighbors for sunlight or water. I find a hole in which to drop one. Then another. A peavy to help me roll the butt logs onto a length of chain, and then it's up to the girls.

Step, Big Mama. Step. One step at a time, till the chain draws tight. Draft-powered winch brings the logs up to the trail. We'll lift the heavy ends just off the ground, hanging from an arch that the horses can pull behind them like a small cart. And then it's away we go. Down the hill, past the cabin, past the barn. Right up to our own, cranky old sawmill, where we'll saw boards. A little draft power to help lift the heavy logs up onto the table. And then back for another. Good girls. I couldn't do this without you.

There's money in logging, to be sure, though surely not much. The demand for horse loggers, near as I can tell, greatly exceeds the supply. And we'll go out, someday, to someone else's farm, who will want their logs skidded up onto a truck to go to a mill and market. But we'll start on our own land, in our own woodlot, cutting our own trees to make our own boards. And maybe, just maybe, all that wood will be finished into fine furniture. A value-added product.

Two brown Suffolk mares. That's all I want.

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