This post has been a long time in the making, so first I need to fill you in on some of what has been happening here.
Last year (2014), our little farm grew a little; we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to purchase the adjacent 30 acre woodlot, which means we now have approximately 50 acres of woodlot to play with. Our intentions are to selectively cut the trees for John’s Windsor Chairs and other furniture as well as to build up a business of custom milling.
A good friend of ours, who has lived in the area all his life and knows about these things, referred to our woods as ‘Old Growth Acadian Forest‘, meaning that is has never been cut commercially and therefore has a mix of hardwood and softwood trees of all ages.
Trees of different species and age, each have a role to play in keeping the forest healthy and all the ecosystems working properly. We have dead and decaying trees that provide homes and a food source for woodpeckers and other wildlife. We have saplings growing that will replace these trees when they eventually fall and compost back into the ground to provide nourishment for the fungi, insects and all the pretty orchids in the spring and we have all manner of trees in between. There is a beaver pond on the land and from time to time we’ll see a bear as well as all the racoons, porcupines, deer, birds and other wildlife.
This type of forest is becoming increasingly rare, so while we want to harvest some of the trees we want to do it in a sensitive manner that will preserve the forest. So how to go about it?
Our first thoughts were with horses. Horses ticked all the boxes regarding environmental impact and seemed a perfect fit for our homestead. However, they also ticked some boxes we didn’t want ticked! A horse would necessitate housing, feeding, good pasture and the list goes on. We also knew that we didn’t want big, heavy machinery that would rip the heart right out of the forest, so what were our options?
After lots of research we finally did decide on a horse. But not a warm blooded horse that answers to his name, we chose a horse made of steel! After all, John has a background of engineering and he more easily understands the language of pistons and carburetors, than tack and harness, and he sees beauty in well oiled cogs and an engine that purrs.
Let me introduce you to our ‘Iron Horse’, a purpose built machine that is compact but strong enough to handle all but the largest of timber. It runs on tracks and can operate over most ground conditions with minimal impact. Like any other horse, it is self-driven and follows on behind as you guide it through the forest. Roads are not necessary; if you can walk, it will follow!
So back in the heatwave of July, we headed for Quebec. We drove 1000km to meet a guy who had driven a similar distance from Ontario. The arrangement was to meet at 2pm; we arrived at the designated spot in Riviere-du-Loup within 10 minutes of each other!