by Jason Rutledge

It seems ironical that in this American modern world there are more horses in the country now than ever before, according to the USDA. Yet most of those horses are for leisure, pleasure use and not actually utilitarian animals. This “working relationship”we present is a wonderful choice and may also be one of the most redeeming characteristics of modern humans. That humans are wise enough to choose such wonderful creatures to live with speaks well for our future considering some of the other choices displayed in modern life.

This is a short story of some who choose to live with horses in a very utilitarian way. Many Americans may not have heard of this. It is the story of a small non-profit, public charity organization, the Healing Harvest Forest Foundation. (HHFF) promotes the modern use of draft horses in the forest products industry. This choice of animal power is not one of nostalgia or wanting to go back in the past, but one of deep considerations for the future of all life on our planet. It is a choice that considers all life on the planet as important and precious. Our approach values all life as being precious enough to protect and preserve through sensitive relationships with our environment that expresses an honest recognition of the role humans play in the big picture. If that perspective is dismissible as being human centered then so be it. This is the best forestry and best use of horses that we know. This work is about “Carbon Positive Forestry” achieved by taking the best of the past to make a better future. One of the most endearing aspects of this work is that we are still learning and will continue to improve our skills and techniques. Maybe this article title should be – “living humbly is more likely to lead to ecological harmony”? Although this is a short story, it is not a sound bite or commercial, but a story of the real life efforts made by many families in Appalachia and across the world.

The choice of working horses in the forest is a key biological component in the practice of “restorative forestry”. Restorative forestry means imitating nature and taking the worst individual trees first, using skilled directional felling and modern horse logging. These harvesting systems leave the forest intact while extracting forest products for human needs. We do see the whole forest, despite it being mostly trees. As we evolve and learn more about the environment we continue to see the value of being sensitive. Unlike many environmental movements we maintain that what is good for the environment and ecology is also good for the economy. Over the long term this active forestry will make the most money for the landowners, while protecting the ecosystem and enhancing the forests ability to offset our carbon emissions. This is a very complex issue, yet it makes simple sense when it includes the ethical values of stewardship, by leaving a place better than you found it. It has been said that “The ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”- Gaylord Nelson

Don’t get me wrong here, I am not writing this to romanticize modern horse logging, despite it often being called “the sexy way to log”. I wouldn’t even dispute that it is sexy to work with big, beautiful, strong horses and handsome people in the woods. This work is simply worth far more than just being sexy. To quote one handsome young practitioner, “It is the right thing to do”. I agree that it is the right thing to do any way you look at it. I also am comfortable to acknowledge that it is labor intensive, hard, dangerous work and currently not an easy way to make a living. Don’t even think about looking into this if you are lazy or looking to get rich quick. Everyone else – pay attention! Even if it is not for you, you may know someone that is just right for this particular lifestyle of living with horses and animals as partners in addressing human needs from the natural world. Tell them about this article and YES magazine.

Healing Harvest Forest Foundation (HHFF) educates the public about the benefits of restorative forestry and modern horse logging. We also educate and support the practitioners of restorative forestry through financial and technical assistance. As my friend Wendell Berry said “powers not employed by the government are left to the people”. There are often issues that aren’t served to support the dominant paradigm, which usually makes them beneficial for the public good by default. Those issues are addressed by our group as an embodiment of the potentials of our governmental system. This system that allows people to address issues that serve the public good, in their own ways, are empowering. This is a good example of that empowerment. A public charity is able to share revenue with the government to address issues of public good not served by the government directly. This organization operates as a 501c3, non-profit, public charity that exist to serve the public good. We are like the green cross for the forest and are basically “organic loggers”. Our educational system is based on the proven teaching methods of a mentor/apprentice network, where applicants are matched with a proven practitioner for a twelve week intensive hands-on learning experience in the forest. Applications are available on our web site or through regular mail. Apprentices are learning the skills necessary to do this work and the ethics of why to do it. Acceptance for an apprenticeship and grants for these applicants are reviewed by the board of directors and are approved as appropriate and as funds are available. Eighty (80%) percent of our budget goes directly to the ground level workers. This is clearly bottom up change. Our funding comes from mostly private donations and some small grants. We also accept donations of horses, equipment, trucks, trailers, RV’s or anything of value that we can use to further this work. All donations are tax deductible. We appreciate all support. Your support makes you a part of the effort to do things differently in our natural world.

Last year we were donated and then granted 12 horses to practitioners. We have granted educational cost, log loaders, chainsaws, personal protective gear, harness, collars, computers, educational courses and a variety of equipment to HHFF practitioners also. A “Biological Woodsman’s Certification” is awarded to each apprentice that successfully completes their training. We network to locate job opportunities for the new Biological Woodsman in their community and support them into the future. At the moment we are primarily an Appalachian regional service area. This is because of limited funding to support the overwhelming demand for the services of a modern horse logger – specifically a HHFF trained “Biological Woodsman” – that practices “restorative forestry”. We started the organization as the formal response to that demand as experienced by the original members of the informal founding group that is called the Healing Harvest Forestry Coalition. At first there were two, now there are over fifty Biological Woodsmen throughout the mid Atlantic region. We maintain a contact list of horse loggers from all over the country and act as a referral service to those individuals in response to inquiries from landowners throughout the country. There are not enough of us to address the demand for services, but we are growing. Some may say that it is too little to late, but that doesn’t excuse us from doing what we know is the right thing for all life on our planet. There is a certain burden to knowledge and this is an environmentally ethical response to knowing we have to do things differently to change the results of human presence on this planet. We haven’t figured out how to save the planet and get rich, but feel comfortable by making an effort to do things differently and make a living. It is like the bumper sticker that says: “Make a living, not a killing”.

Our work includes sales of source differentiated forest products through our “green certified” brand name DRAFTWOOD. Our latest effort is in collaboration with Turman Log Homes to sell five log homes built from our logs. This allows our group to get a finders fee on those sales and use that money to establish a self insurance fund for our group of practitioners. If you know anyone considering a Log Home please tell them about the group in Appalachia that uses horses to get the logs out. Give us a call and we will hook (hitch) you up to have a home with the best “source story” in the country, maybe the world. If you can’t get out and hack one from the forest yourself, this could be the best alternative available. This is one of the most innovative approaches to influencing the behavior of the dominant paradigm and industrial methods. Our local industry has challenged us to prove that “green” means something in the market place, so here is our chance to show that people care about the earth….contact us or Turman Log Homes and tell them you want a DRAFTWOOD Log Home. We also supply beams for timber frame companies and are working on regular structural lumber for conventional buildings, through the LEED system and architects that are members of the U.S. Green Building Council.

There is a place for working horses in the modern world and as we learn more about the value of the ecosystem services there will continue to be a beneficial place for them in the future. Currently the value of the ecological services of the forests provide for the public good are not quantified in our economic system. We must change the economic system to include all the cost of meeting our life needs and this is a start in that direction.

Our horses are of all draft breeds, but we have many Suffolk horses among our group. The Suffolk Punch is a rare and endangered species that is listed on some list as near extinct. We support animal powered techniques to include all draft animals, including mules, oxen and even elephants. The point is that they present the lowest impact harvesting method available – plus other collateral benefits including social stability. We promote and practice modern natural horsemanship and train apprentices in those skills. We also use modern chainsaw safety and skills techniques that were developed in Europe.

For more information about this work please call, email or visit our web site and let us know if you have any interest, questions or comments. Thank the people at Yes Magazine for introducing you to a new group that are environmental actualist, it is life logic- it's biological.
No man is able to really appreciate birthing a child, but there were times when I felt pregnant with this event. It seems that just like with procreation, the child was born and has grown into its own form. That form was in fact an extended family, with all the accompanying feelings of relief, promise and kinship. This event was just an idea to start with and was more of a herd experience in reality.

There is no way we can thank the folks enough that helped make this event actually happen. The vendors braved threatening weather, potential floods and unknown reception to bring equipment for demonstration and possible sales. The many folks that brought their animals from around the region came with a utilitarian attitude, plentiful smiles and good animals to flesh their will in the fields and forests.

Since we knew we couldn’t replicate Horse Progress Days – as just being a community of interest that wasn’t Amish or an event centered organized group – we could only hope to enable a gathering of proven practitioners and interested individuals in this culture of modern animal powered techniques. My friend Tommy Flowers said it was more like a cross of his South Carolina gathering and Horse Progress Days. The key to us was the selection of good teamsters that were willing to share their life experience with interested folks in a friendly, close up and personal experience. This was accomplished in a hospitable southern way, at a southern pace.

The visitors, although not numerous, were from far and wide. There were folks from Kansas to Toronto, from Florida to New York State and all points between and many beyond. There is no question that the weather limited attendance, but those that were there were real animal power enthusiast and shopping for goods to further their working with animals. All vendors reported reasonable sales and committed to returning next year.

As with nature – diversity reflects strength and this was a diverse group of folks and animals that offered a strong presence of animal powered culture. We were delighted by the success of the tillage portion of the event leaving some finely prepared seedbeds.

Loads of manure were spread using several different model spreaders including Conestoga. The White Horse Machine sulky plows with two different bottoms (O/JD-KV) turned perfect furrows on a strip contour in the slightly rolling bottom land. The Tennessee plowmen were following a headland turned by Farmer Brown with Tommy Flowers on a Leroy Walking plow. The Groffdale disk and Shipshe Supply Culti-mulcher made a pass and the soil was completely pulverized in a smooth, fossil fuel free, tillage action.

There were fields of evenly mown hay (no time for drying of course), but several mowing machines were demonstrated. The – I and J smaller ground drive PTO cart with battery powered hydraulics and scissor action double knife mower awed many spectators. That mowing machine seemed impossible to clog and pulled with just a team comfortably. This same ground driven cart was used to run a four foot wide rotary mower especially manufactured for the event by Tennessee River Implement Co., Decatur, Tn. It is amazing to just hear the whirring of the blades and see the grass flatten behind the team.

E-Z Trail had an area with just about everything anyone would need to go in the produce business, including sprayers, plastic layers, planters and even a vegetable washer. Their field sprayer was used applying seaweed based organic fertilizer. Their goods included regional dealer Bob Richen’s collection of equipment sold at his Banks Mountain Farm store – where you can even get a log arch made by Forest Manufacturing, Ltd. They also had the biggest tent right beside the plowed ground which was a kindly relief when the hot late summer sun broke through the mostly cloudy days.

The Back to the Land Store, operated by Jim Smith, Erwin, Tn., had an inside booth and several good pieces of used equipment outside. Jim has many supplies in stock for folks that are committed to self sufficiency. Many forecarts left the event in the backs of pickup trucks. Norm Macknair brought allot more stuff than he went home with and we appreciate his attention to the details of bringing lots of parts that many modern animal powered folks need. Three regional harness shops (S & S, Sneedville, Tn., Jackson Trading Company, Asheville, NC and Jack Moore, Mules and Moore, Taylors, SC) had booths that covered any needs for draft animal fitting of any size. Tommy Flowers brought collections of good used plow parts from southern brands. Farmer Brown had a lot of his good equipment, videos and several of the Sugar Valley Pulling Collars that are the choice of many serious teamsters. Rural Heritage Magazine set up indoors and while Joe Mischka photographed and filmed the activities his wife kept shop.

Athens Enterprises was there with three animal powered treadmills, horse powering all sorts of equipment that supported human life needs in a non fossil fuel way. These folks have to win the consistent innovator award for the event (if we had such a thing). Their use of animal power through the treadmills and sweeps are more than historical respect, it is pure innovation through engineering and dedication to animal power. We were delighted to have them with us and happy to hear that they sold a treadmill that weekend. We brought one home on consignment so if you are in the mid-Atlantic and want to see one or own one look us up.

Up on the hillside above the bottomland the Healing Harvest Forest Foundation crew were harvesting timber and educating the public about restorative forestry. Demonstrations of directional felling and use of the modern logging arches were ongoing throughout both days. It was a pretty steep walk up into the woods so the visitors that made it up there were determined and had good legs. We had planned to have a wagon (with brakes) transporting folks up there but the fellow that was going to do it was stranded at home worrying about his place getting washed away. Six HHFF board certified Biological Woodsmen (Jagger Rutledge, Chad Vogel, Ian Snider, Chad Miano, Adam Green and Blane Chaffin) were felling, grading, bucking and skidding logs to the sawmill at the foot of the hill behind the barn. Andy Bennett of Double Tree Farm was running his band mill and processed about 1250 board feet of lumber and beams. Hours of conversation, instruction and sharing went on in the woods and landing. Many visitors reported greatly enjoying this part of SDAD. A frequent comment was that this had never been seen any where else. The logging horses were all Suffolk’s. Clifford Cox brought his Suffolk team of a gelding and mare, along with a suckling colt. They moved throughout the event, mowing, tillage and skidding some firewood to the E-Z Trail area for splitting. Probably the greatest statement I could make about the animal powered logging portion was that I didn’t even go in the woods until the event was over. These young practitioners are seasoned veterans and did wonderful work in those woods just as they do everywhere they work. I don’t know how I could be any prouder of them besides just outright bragging that we think they are some of the best woodsmen in the world. There is no replacement for seeing this first hand, but buying/watching the upcoming media will be the best alternative to actually being there.

Scott Davis provided daily informative workshops on rebuilding, tuning and operation of the number 9 mower. His display of a completely dismantled machine and one that was intact and used in the field were a great addition to the demonstration of proven equipment and practices. Scott was assisted by mule man Terry Gilmore. Our understanding is that Dr. Davis, MD is a family practitioner, but his attention to this aspect of modern animal power seemed surgical.

Our transport from the parking area to the grounds was provided by Gerald Cox and Mr. Bill McNew. Gerald had a beautiful pair of Friesan cross mares and Mr. McNew had a great pair of gray mules. They were impeccable and worked hard both days.

Talks by two experienced draft animal veterinarians, (Dr. Phil Elsea, DVM, Johnson City, Tn. and Dr. Scott Hancock, DVM, N. Ga.) provided talks each day about their perspective of some problems and things to look for and ways of managing work animals for best results. Smart folks showing how to fix stuff – is worth seeing.

All the teams that participated in the invitational pull were winners, in that none of them hung their horses up at all. There were six teams, four Suffolk, one Belgian and one Percheron. They all crossed 8500 pounds on a runner sled and wet ground and then four dropped out. The remaining two teams were Chad Miano and his Suffolk geldings and Richard Redifer with a big pair of bare foot Percheron mares. The Percheron mares crossed 9000 and Richard dropped out with them and Miano went on to cross 9500 with his geldings. The crowd that stayed around for this pull were truly entertained by calm powerful horses that were as honest as they get. Richard’s big mares were not the best matched but what he could bring at the time. They stood quietly in front of the boat and started like one, despite the off mare out weighing her mate by about a couple hundred pounds. He had the big mare set in an inch plus, so there were more equally sharing the effort. Those mares laid down on their bellies and scratched that load across and then stood up like statues when Richard said whoa. They were the crowd favorite and great
ambassadors of their breed and a pure reflection of their handler’s skill. Chad Miano provided the sled and weights and was as impressive as always with his powerful pair of logging horses, that were related to all the other Suffolks at the event, all being kin to the horses at our place – Ridgewind Farm.  Alan Smith didn’t hook his pair. One of his horses was recovering from a cold and he had worked them hard all day in some hot temperatures. His excellent horsemanship was a remarkable example for anyone paying attention, particularly regarding this kind choice. I was impressed and honored to meet this fine horseman. Maybe we will get to see them pull next year.

It was to dark in the arena for photos and it somehow seemed appropriate that the only folks that saw this wonderful effort were the people that actually came to the event. This experience was like the prize in the bottom of the cracker jacks, you had to eat the other stuff first to get the goodies in the end.

It may be impossible to express enough thanks to all those that helped make this event possible, but that is our hope in writing this article and personally expressing our gratitude. Hours, days, weeks and months of email, phone conversations and advance planning trips went into the preparations. They were sincerely rewarded by the individual efforts of all those vendors, demonstrators and visitors that made the first Southern Draft Animal Days a cultural success. What may also be impossible to express is the deep thankfulness about the youth participating in this experience. Their presence gave the strength of new blood and fleshed out the changing of the guard in a natural way. They are the living proof of this all being fertile culture.

When speaking of culture our honored guest speaker comes to mind. As I read Wendell Berry’s latest books, “Bringing it to the Table” and his collection of poems entitled: “Leavings” – I am again unable to express the gratitude appropriate to his support and presence at SDAD – as an honored and respected elder and leader in this community of interest. Maybe using his words will work;

“The Idea of the family farm, as I have just defined it, is conformable in every way to the idea of good farming – that is, farming that does not destroy either farmland or farm people. The two ideas may, in fact, be inseparable. If family farm and good farming are as nearly synonymous as I suspect they are, that is because of a law that is well understood, still, by most farmers but that has been ignored in the colleges, offices and corporations of agriculture for thirty-five or forty years. The law reads something like this: Land that is in human use must be lovingly used; it requires intimate knowledge, attention and care.” quoted from the essay – “A Defense of the Family Farm” in the book, “Bringing It To The Table” .

This is recommended reading; give your self the gift of taking the time to read this mans words. If you have read this far in this article, you’ve earned it.

This brings us to announcement of the next SDAD event details. When we scheduled a meeting on the afternoon of the last day of this event, the weather became even more threatening, the grounds basically emptied and no-one showed up for the meeting. This leaves us to carry the event forward by default – if it is to happen. We did learn much about what we want to do differently and hope to implement those lessons in 2010 and onward.

We are planning to conduct the next events through collaboration with existing institutions of higher learning that have a common interest in sustainability, alternative food and fiber sourcing methods and modern animal powered roles. As if this event wasn’t difficult enough to put together – we are now embracing other complex entities

and the results are understandably slower to ripen, but promise to make for a better event. We are delighted to announce our new collaboration.

We will hold the next SDAD in collaboration with the Blue Ridge Institute and Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia on the 17th and 18th of September 2010.

There is a gap between heritage based techniques and the current community of interest in being sustainable. We intend to build a bridge connecting these camps and cross that bridge behind a working animal. Please come join us at this event.

So please stay tuned to Draft Horse Journal for more information the next Southern Draft Animal Days. We want to establish this date for as an annual event to perpetuate the culture of modern animal power in the southeastern U.S. and elsewhere.

The Log Arch plans and the vital importance of the details in them.

A recent conversation with “Tommy”

Part One

T: Howdy again, Fellow coming tomorrow to see what we can start on an arch. Questions: you said slot bar setting dead center on frame, are you refering to side to side center, or front to back center on the channel 6″ wide?
J: Both Ways, side to side and front to back, centered….

T: How long square tube for tongue?
J: 24-3/4 ” some are 25″

T:How far forward or back does the bus seat weld on the two pipe supports?
J: On the very back edge of the 6″ wide frame to allow your weight to offset the tongue weight when arch is not loaded going back into the woods.

T:In your plans, the leg measurement of 20.5″, is that down the short edge or the long edge? I understand the short edge as where the 2″ was removed and then closed up.
J: It depends on if you measure from the top of the frame or just the leg. When measuring from the top of the frame it is 25″ on the long side and 23 on the short side.

T: I reckon yall dont pin the tongue in at all do you?
J: We usually don’t but you can if you want to. Remember the goal is to have a simple device that you can repair in the woods with the chainsaw. If a horse logger can’t fix it with a chainsaw, scrench and ax, then it is to complicated. It is important to have the tongue stay in place and have a lip that stops it from going futher into the tube when it dries out. We whittle the tongue from a round saplings with our chainsaw and leave the lip to stop it and hold it so we don’t need the pin. Hard to drill a hole when the thing breaks in the woods.

T:I figure it would stay if horses are hooked tight as they should be and the d tree is on the clevis and hook.
J: Yep the goal is to get to two straps going up from the side backers to the rings on the bottom of the hames to be loose, showing that there is very little weight actually on the neck when the team is standing still and not much when working, walking or pulling a log. This is where we need to develop a better back pad similar to the European harness, in order to absorb the tongue weight and slap from the two wheel device bouncing off all the impediments in the forest.

NOTE: we use a 46 inch wide (enter to center) double tree and breast yoke and adjust the driving lines accordingly to keep them walking straight and being laterally aligned.

T: Do yall always leave the bus seat back off, the cushion part? All I have seen you just had the seat back frame.
J: I usually leave the frame on my bus seat just of a back rest or back beater in some cases(like if the chain comes off the log and the horses start very hard. But I have put foam insulation from water pipes on them before to make the metal softer. I take the padding off the seat back so I can see through it when working or pass my lines through when backing up or driving, plus being able to reach through and adjust my chain while setting in the seat. Some fellow prefer to take it over complelely, so they can pass there lines from side to side without dealing with the bus seat frame at all. When the arch is turned over this frame is handy to help turn it back up on it’s wheels, and I use it to help get on and off and to hold onto when riding with another driver, usually a student.

T: You show a short piece of pipe angled on the back, and another short piece added on the front. One is for the cant hook, what is the other for?
J: This is a mistake and doesn’t need to be there at all. It was there for the guys up north to put their skip hammer in, but it is not a good place for it since the log with hit it and break the handle off, so delete that feature altogether.

T: Is Miano the only one that has a bracket for carrying his saw along?
J: Nope some guys have a place for carrying their saw on the side of the frame over the wheel and on the back of the school bus seat. This is just for carrying stuff to and from the woods and not for when the arch is in use skidding logs. It can be customised to suit you. I knew one fellow that put a radio on their arch…..just to hear country music while working….

T: What is the small step made from?
J: A piece of scrap angle iron or some use rebar, just something to help give a stable place to step on when getting on and off the arch.

T: Hope that is not too many questions for one shot. I am gonna try to get this fellow to make 3 of these things at the same time, he said to make one for me first and see if it works alright. I told him you said it had been tested. But we may do a prototype and see if we have it all figured right and read the instructions correctly!
Hope to hear from you soon.
Thanks, Tommy

PS Finally got the computer to print the 2 pics, but the upset arch still would not come through for me to see.
J: This is actually a very old drawing done by a college student for free. It has some errors, but the basic design is correct. I should update it buy I don’t have any college students to ask to do it again at this point. Let me know if this helps and I will take some photos soon.


Part Two

T: So the bus seat has 2 1/2 inch pipe on it, and there is 1 3/4 inch pipe on the frame, so the seat is removable, slides on and off?
J: Yep it comes off for transporting in the trailer. It is lighter to lift or roll into the trailer without all the pieces that will come off. This is often done alone so making it lighter is a good thing.

T: Where the square tube is under the channel iron frame, does it attach to another 6 x 10 piece of channel or just flat iron?
J: Either one, just don’t make it as big as the drawing because it will hit a big log and get in the way to attaching as close as possible. Flat works good, but if I am thinking of the same piece it is good to have it open on the end or a hole so you can drive a broken tongue out of the tube when you have to replace it.

T: Have you ever written up a materials list for this thing? If not I can do one when we are through. The braces up to the deck, what size angle iron is that?
The slot bar, is that just flat stock or angle iron?
J: These devices may be made with whatever material a farmer or logger may have around -
The slot bar is usually angle iron and is supposed to be set in the middle of the frame so the chain actually touches the back of the edge of the frame when lifting the log.

T: Fellow will be here about 7 tonight to go over this stuff. I think I about understand it all. But how far forward or backward does the actual seat itself weld to the pipe brackets? I know that might have to do with how fat I might be.
J: Setting the seat back on the frame helps lighten the tongue on the return trip into the woods when you set on the seat. It is an offsetting thing like a mowing machine without a tongue truck. We have just put the post on the back edge on the later models. You can’t set it to far back because it makes it more difficult to work the slot bar under the seat. Keeping the seat as low as possible but still with enough room to work under it is important for operator efficency.

I still need to do a complete article on how to use this device. Complete with photos, it is just another task that I need to do while actually trying to move enough logs to survive economically. More later. Jason

T: Thanks again.

Part Three

T: Talked with a fellow yesterday about bringing his bobcat over. We have a lot of trees by the house, and a good many along the power lines. Electric company has said they would come out and lay the lines down when I got ready. So I think I will get the bobcat here to apply a little pressure on them to make sure they go where they need to fall, not on the house. Would you say I should still cut them with the same method? The relative with the bobcat says he has to put them down all the time by himself but he cuts them starting at the back and then a downward angle toward the front in the direction he wants it to go. Course I figure that would mess up the end and it would then have to be cut again. He has a backhoe business now for 25 years.

J: Yep that is the classic hillbilly back cut method and it is dangerous plus needs to be cleaned up on the butt end.

Using the “Swede cut” or open face, hinge and latch method is much safer. With the hillbilly back cut, if the tree is leaning or being pushed in a certain direction it may break before you get it cut enough to fall without splitting at the butt. When it splits it is called a barber chair, where the hinge is to big and the tree splits up and falls with the butt going out in the air, which is dangerous. It has killed many a logger…..

With the Swede cut you can establish the hinge at the proper thickness before releasing the tree by cutting from the hinge toward the latch. Remember the four cuts, two to make the open face or lead notch(and it doesn’t have to be deep, never more than 20% of the tree, I personally like about 10%), number three cut is the plunge from the danger side, establishing the back of the hinge and we usually place or set our plastic wedge after this cut, which takes out half of the diameter of the tree, then the four cut is to establish the back of the hinge on the safe side and cut to release the tree when the last wood is cut which is the part of the tree we call the latch. This is the only way to cut a tree period. This method keeps control until the last second and you should have figured out, cleared out and thought of your escape route off at a 45% angle from the stump before starting the felling operation at all. The proper thickness for the hinge is about 1-1/2 to 2 inches. Thinner if the tree is leaning already in the direction you want to fall it, but at least that thick to push or wedge it over. Felling timber is dangerous, but exciting and fun, particularly when you know the principles of the Swede cut and apply them using the forces of the bar to inform your skills with the chainsaw.

Let me know what you think man.


Part Four

T: Morning there,

Last year I used the 4 cut like yall showed me. That last cut, that is a plunge cut also isnt it, through to the 3rd cut, and then all the way out the back? When starting the 3rd and 4th I cut through about 2 inches of the hinge on each side and then plunged, I still had several split up about 3 feet so I lost that. On that last cut I also chewed up a little bit of wedge.
I believe I removed at least 80 trees last year and it mostly went as it should. I only had about 2 or 3 that I think gave me trouble with direction, or getting hung up. Several even fell right on the drink can, if I had put one out there at least they would have hit it!!
Got to go check on Perch and see if baby is getting closer.

PS If you take any close up pics of the arch how about e-mail them this way. My welder right away wanted to try to copy some of this Forest arch since it is here to look at, but he will listen when I persist.

J: When making the plunge cuts the bar can be laid flat in the open face to help keep it level, (assuming the open face bottom cut is level) and cut out towards the back or the latch on the fourth cut. The reason the trees split is that the hinge was to thick. Pine is quite tough and doesn’t require as thick of a hinge to control the direction of the fall, as long as you are not trying to put it against the natural lean of the tree to much, say more than 45 degrees. We like to keep our hinges about 1 inch to 1-1/2 inches on softwoods. It is a very skilled use of the saw to be able to keep your hinge that small. It requires abstract comprehension to be able to know what the bar is although you can’t actually see it. It is common to touch the wedge a little when doing this as it is hard to determine exactly where the tip of the bar is. If the wedge is placed in the back but not to close to the point where the cuts will match up then cutting the wedge happens less. But the fact is that the wedges are plastic and don’t harm the chain and are somewhat cheap and disposable.

I will take some photos today, but I am not sure this computer will download them. My other computer has the software on it to download my current digital camera. We will see. I thought I had more photos on this computer and will look for them and send them if I can find them.

Hold the welder off and make him make whatever you want. Our Charlie Fisher arch can be used to pull anything around that uses a chain to attach it to the horses. We use it to drag pastures with a chain harrow or pull a spring tooth harrow just like it was a forecart. They can be modified to have a draw bar that is a bolt on item and could be nice. The key is to keep the tongue weight low when using the device. The tongue weight is more when the arch is empty. The counter balancing effect of the seat placement is important for this reason.

Hello Friends of Healing Harvest,

Well, we have all made it through another year, congratulations to each of you that receive this letter. Since most of the folks on our mailing list are hard working and genuine I think we share the reality that life isn’t easy, but very rewarding in dignity and happiness. Somehow I wish I could express something more meaningful than just Happy Holidays, but that is about all words allow in this moment. Tis the season!

Around this time of year we start getting solicitation letters from every NGO and cause we encounter in life. They all are quite worthy causes and efforts and I wish each success and continued progress toward their goals. Our attempts to gain support through these letters has always been minimum, but nonetheless we feel it is appropriate that we throw our hardhat in the ring too. (Especially if we can do it electronically – read cheaper than stamps!)

HHFF is a tiny organization that has maintained 501c3 non-profit public charity status for 12 years now. The mission, goals and objectives have not changed from the onset and we slowly grow the numbers of practitioners despite not applying for grants or having a single source of support. We are the only 501c3 that promotes the use of draft animal power to serve the public good through the practice of restorative forestry and community based systems of addressing human needs for forest products. This is quite remarkable given the difficulty of gaining support for a small obscure group that doesn’t really fit into any category precisely. The work of educating the public as to the benefits of restorative forestry through worst first single tree selection and modern animal powered extraction has continued through mostly volunteer efforts. Countless individuals have given their time, goods, services, some cash and talents to this process and we are so grateful for their efforts and contributions. We’ll still here, thanks to all of you!

We have brought this work to a level that has gained local, national and international recognition. It has been a combined effort of many, including those reading this, that simply talk about “horse logging”. What was once an anachronistic, nostalgic niche, is now seen by many, as a viable option in communities where a HHFF trained Biological Woodsman lives and works. There needs to be more. So if you do any charitable giving, send checks to:

HHFF Admin
8014 Bear Ridge Rd. 
Copper Hill, Va. 24079

Questions, comments or recommendations please call.

Warm Salute,
Jason Rutledge ~ 540-651-6355

Reprinted with permission from Rural Heritage Magazine.

I find hope in this article title being an obvious statement to many of the Rural Heritage readers, but as John Prine sang, “that common sense ain’t so common anymore.”

Background  Overview ~

The use of modern draft animal power to address human needs makes so much sense that it escapes many folks. Some of the old timers seem to blame it on the schools; they say “they’re educated beyond their intelligence”.  It is so easy to pigeon hole the people that work with animals as being a throw back to the past. It apparently takes some real vision to see this work as a viable option for the future, because the green jobs creation program people didn’t make it out to our event.  Our goal in conducting these events is to educate the public by having them actually see this work – while describing it and defining “Restorative Forestry” as being as “green” as it gets.

But as we all know the most environmentally sensitive part of everyone is their wallet or the other “green” we all need.  This reality allows the conversations to be empowered by common sense again. We know that over the long term, a properly managed forest will make more money with less input than any another other land use.  Ok, a bigger one time return can come from a piece of land being used for building a house or development of some kind. But, since we also know that some land will never be available for building or development for many reasons, we have the option to manage it as a forest, as the superior use.  Our purpose is to promote this form of management as superior in every regard, except getting rich quick.  The economics are summed up by the bumper sticker that says:  Make a living, not a killing.

It is a unique position to have a non-profit that exists for the public good. What this means in a common sense way is that the group works to serve the public good when no other government agency is working in that particular way.  For HHFF it is a matter of it being obvious and common sense that the practices are more sensitive to the environment. But it is also common sense that you can’t make a living doing it if you sell all your products into a market that is commodity defined and supplied by fossil fuel fired unsustainable ways. This position allows us an opportunity in this great country – to compete with the government for some funds by having the status of being a Charitable Organization and being tax exempt, giving tax deductible receipts for any donations. This work serves the Public Good, probably in more ways than I can explain.

So, we present this perspective as a way of draft animal people to understand what this “treeroots” group is about.  We have had this status for over ten years now. This 501c3 status is a good deal – although the country is full of crooked non-profits of all sorts. Some are set up just to cry the sky is falling and most of the money goes to the people running them. That is not happening here folks. HHFF puts all of it’s money back into the community and promotes restorative forestry through the use of modern animal powered techniques. We are a completely volunteer organization. If anyone has any questions about this group please contact us. Charitable giving is very weak at the moment and we have a very difficult time competing for grants, for several unbelievable reasons, but the public still sends smalls amounts which keep us going.  Please see the address at the end of this article to contribute.

The Actual Work ~

The basic program at Open Woods Day is divided into three parts. First is the – Silviculture or how we grow the trees as a part of the whole forest ecosystem. The most important aspect of our silvics is taking the “worst trees first”. This phrase is so hard for a conventional forester to say. Mostly because they didn’t think it up, but also because they don’t make as much money on a single harvest that way. Our selection method of choosing individual trees based upon poor performance is done using a system we developed called “Nature’s Tree Marking Paint”. This is a list of physically visible indicators of decline divided into three categories of, Damaged, Diseased and Inferior. There are about 18 indicators that are taught to the Biological Woodsmen through the HHFF apprentice program. We explain and show these indicators to our visitors before felling the tree. This is the beginning of the manufacturing process and the timber cutter is the front door of the business. This is the most strenuous and dangerous part of the work. Great skill is required to do that part with safety and protecting the residual or trees left to grow faster. My son Jagger Rutledge is our timber cutter and handles this demonstration with skill in communicating and actually doing the job.  In a good site there can be several thousand board feet of logs per acre to harvest in this healing fashion. It requires almost surgical precision when felling. That is our silviculture in a simple sense.

The extraction method is the second aspect of the work that is shown at an HHFF Open Woods Day. We demonstrate the techniques of precise control of the animal power source used to extract the logs with ultimate lowest overland impact possible. There is always discussion of the driving touch and speaking to the animals. Visitors often think the horses are doing the work on their own as a result of the teamster’s subtle sensitive signals. The woods present obstacle courses that should make it illegal for a horse logger to compete in a “horse show” obstacle course contest.  The logging horses are so familiar and comfortable in the woods, it is there place of work after a short time of doing it. Each one has been introduced to the sounds of chainsaws running and trees felling before being asked to move around against the resistance of a loaded log arch. As long as all the loud noises and crashes don’t touch them in their first exposure they come to ignore it as a nothing to be afraid of.   We utilize a modern logging arch to provide front end suspension of log length segments, graded  and bucked by the timber feller and a skid trail cleared to access the logs. The modern logging arch plans are available on our web site and can be fabricated by a local welding shop or skilled welder anywhere. This device provides increased operator safety by riding and not being on the ground with woody debris and rough surfaces. The logging arch reduces the disturbance created when the log is skidded to the landing for loading or sawing on site. Many of the Biological Woodsmen have converted their harness to the New England D-Ring style to provide a more comfortable fit for the horses carrying the load and heavy tongue weight of an empty two wheeled log arch.

The third aspect of this work and demonstration is the marketing of the forest products to gain the greatest value for the landowners and the practitioners. When possible we prefer to value add the forest products by at least conducting the primary processing or sawmilling on site. This was the case with some species (black locust, cherry) that we had immediate markets for but unfortunately that doesn’t apply for all the tree species we harvest. So, as much as we can sell or afford to pay the processing cost on – stays in our inventory or is sold directly into local markets or markets developed through our DRAFTWOOD “community green certified” forest products program. These specialty products include Black Locust Decking that is sold as an alternative to rain forest species that are highly resistant to weathering in exterior applications. This species is a naturally preserved wood that will last for years without treatment in outdoor use. This product is often prescribed as a “green” alternative to the rain forest wood by architects that design high end homes for folks that are committed to the “green movement”, as implied in the title of this article. We also offer pre-finished and unfinished hardwood flooring in all species native to the Appalachian forest type.  The remainder of our products (logs) beyond locally used lumber like oak fencing boards and farm building materials is sold into the conventional forest products industry, on a raw log delivered basis for whatever they will give for them. The more we value add, the more of the money stays in the local community and the more we build a constituency for the best care of the forest. When local folks make more money from their woods than having a conventional crew high grade or clear cut their woodlot, the more they like working with our program and approach to restorative forestry. As you might imagine this is a much slower process than bidding the timber off for a lump sum payment and the machines coming in and doing what usually happens to woods everywhere. Our approach protects the aesthetic natural beauty of the forest and over the long run (30 years) and multiple harvest rotations we make more money for the landowners and they have their forests intact throughout the process. We encourage them have their cake and eat it too.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article and for subscribing to Rural Heritage Magazine.

by Wendell Berry

Those of us who use draft animals for work on the farm or ranch or in the woods usually know that we are odd. We don’t fit well into the modern pattern or live up to the modern ideal, which applies relentlessly to every task the maximum available power with the greatest possible speed. The teamsters of farms and forests are likely to be regarded as old-timers—or, worse, as hobbyists – clinging to outmoded technologies and ways for reasons merely sentimental.

Maybe there is a grain or two of truth in that, but it is not significant. The larger truth is that draft animals have continued to be used, by people who know how to use them, because they make their own kind of practical sense. Put to appropriate tasks that are appropriately scaled, their work gives a favorable practical result and a favorable economic return. If that were not true, the draft breeds and the teamsters’ skills would not have survived.

Back in the 1970’s, with the examples of good Amish farms before us, my friend Maury Telleen helped me to see that the presence of draft horses or mules on those farms was not a simple choice of one kind of traction power over another. It was, instead a choice of one kind of farming, and one way of thinking about farming, over another. What Maury understood and helped me to understand was that those work teams were a determining force against specialization and for diversity. They were part of a package or a pattern. If you were working horses or mules, then, merely in the nature of things and following an obvious logic, you would also have pastures, fenced fields, forage crops, feed grains, barns for stable room and feed storage. Those things in turn made for the keeping of other kinds of animals. Diversity of crops and animals led, in turn, to the rotation of crops, the use of cover crops, the use of manure as fertilizer. The farm thus sponsored much of its own operating energy and fertility. Moreover, the use of draft animals determined the scale of the farm. The farms had to be what we would call “small” or “family-sized”—acreages that could be worked and maintained with a reasonable expenditure of effort by the work animals and therefore by the people as well. A good Amish farmer told me that he had learned from his father never to have a horse harnessed after supper. That guaranteed enough rest and good health for the horses, and also some leisure for the family.

If the use of draft animals implies diversity, homegrown energy and fertility, appropriateness of scale, and a significant measure of built-in economic health on the farm, it also implies economic diversity and health in the local community. I am thinking, for example, of Holmes County, Ohio, where the horse-powered farms are supplied and served by an impressive variety of local shops, trades and industries: harness makers, farriers, farm equipment factories, and so on. I am also thinking of the small towns of my boyhood, in which all sorts of independent small businesses survived and even thrived by participating in an economy of small, horse – mule-powered farms – in which every shore-repair shop repaired harness, and a lot of farm equipment was built or re-built or repaired in local blacksmith shops.

If we can see that draft animals on the farm belonged to and led to a distinctive kind of farming, then we will have no trouble in seeing that the substitution of tractors for draft animals belonged to and led to farming of a radically different kind. The tractors too have proved to be part of a package, as we can now clearly see. The tractor package included increased dependence on farm equipment corporations and oil companies, increased dependence on credit, increased dependence on toxic chemicals, ever-larger farms and ever-fewer farmers, loss of diversity, increased specialization, more acreage planted in annual crops and less in perennials, more erosion, clearing of woodlots, removal of fences, less wildlife. All this implies and has led to a highly centralized long-distance economy, a commensurate decline of local economies and communities and of the whole social structure of rural America. I don’t mean to say that you can’t farm well with a tractor. You can, but to do so you must take care to regulate your work by the nature, the carrying capacity, and the sustaining pattern of your farm, not by the capabilities of your machinery.

The same interests and forces that have brought about our centralized, long-distance agricultural economy have also brought about a centralized, long-distance forest economy. The economic principle is everywhere the same: a domestic colonialism that extracts an immense wealth from our rural landscapes, returning as near nothing as possible to the land and the people. The producers of agricultural products, nearly all, nearly always, are absolutely at the mercy of the buyers. Producers of forest products are in about the same fix. The Market News Service of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture doesn’t publish the current market prices for saw logs.

Given the growing demand for local food, and the increasing numbers of farmers’ markets and Community Supported Agriculture farms, it is becoming fairly easy to imagine the development of local farm and food economies in which communities and localities produce, process, market, and consume local farm products, marketing any surpluses to outside demand.

But we need to be moving also toward the integration of forestry into the local farm and food economy, wherever the farms are likely to include woodlands. And wherever forests or woodlands are predominant in the landscape we need to think of developing local forest economies which, instead of exporting raw logs, would produce, process or manufacture, and market the fullest variety of forest products, from lumber for building to mushrooms and nuts, from fence post to firewood, from Christmas decorations to finished furniture.

The answer, the only answer, to economic colonialism is to make the greatest local advantage of the products of the local countryside, producing and processing for local consumption first of all, and then for export. This exactly reverses the colonial ideal, which would have the local people starve in order to export food, or live in shacks and shanties in order to export logs.

Obviously, I’m already talking about “job creation” in the best sense. If your community is making its living primarily by the export of raw materials for manufacture elsewhere, then along with your logs or your wheat or your cattle you are exporting jobs, and then you will be exporting your young people to take those jobs. All that is clear enough. We have seen it happening.

But now, since we’re a convocation of users and lovers of draft animals and are used to being odd, let’s carry this vision of local forest and farm economies just one radical step further. Let’s suppose that a significant part of the traction power in those already complex economies were to be furnished by horses and mules — and, since this is a democratic vision, and for the sake of ox drivers who may be listening, let us include oxen. If we should do this, we would create more jobs, somewhat in the pattern of the best Amish communities. By scaling down and simplifying our technology, we would truly be bringing our economy home, where it belongs. Instead of paying outside the community for large machines and fuel, we would be providing income locally to makers of equipment, producers of feed, farriers, breeders, and so on.

The economic advantages of such local economies as I am talking about are probably clear enough. Their promise is not luxury or extravagance for a few, but a modest, decent, sustainable prosperity for many. In addition, there would be an equally significant ecological advantage. In a complex local economy, in which a lot of people were economically dependent on the products of the local landscape, there would be the strongest local support for good land use. People knowingly dependent on the land would not willingly see it cropped or grazed or logged to exhaustion.

I’ve laid before you what I’ve been calling, rightly, a vision. Like you all, I hope, I’m skeptical of visions. And so I will hasten to point out that this vision is a modest one. The scale is small, and I would be greatly surprised if it should produce even one billionaire. It is also a practical vision. I don’t think it is fully in practice anywhere, not even among the Amish. But we know that many, maybe most, of the pieces of it are already in existence, properties of the actual daily lives of actual people, though so far they may be pretty widely scattered.

This vision, in no doubt many versions, exists because it is attractive to some of us. But also we are going to see it enforced from the outside, so to speak, by the increasingly manifest failures of industrial forms of land use. I don’t think I need to say a lot about these failures beyond just listing them. The principal ones are these:

  1. Erosion and degradation of the soil.
  2. Pollution by toxic chemicals, resulting in unswimable streams, inedible fish and a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico (one of at least 400 worldwide) of 6,000 square miles.
  3. Toxic or pathogenic food.
  4. Forest ecosystems damaged or destroyed by high-grading, clear-cutting, tree monocultures, etc.
  5. Land destruction on a gigantic scale by forms of surface mining, culminating in mountaintop removal.
  6. Destruction of rural communities and the cultures of husbandry.
For a long time the exorbitant costs and damages of industrial exploitation of land and people were talked abut only by a fringe of dissidents and protesters. But now these problems have caught the attention of mainstream reporters and are making their way into public consciousness. To give just one example, TIME magazine for August 31, 2009, carries an article on industrial agriculture and industrial food that would have been unimaginable even last year. The article says flat out:

With the exhaustion of the soil, the impact of global warming and the inevitable rising price of oil . . . our industrial style of food production will end sooner or later . . . Unless Americans radically rethink the way they grow and consume food, they face a future of eroded farmland, hollowed-out countryside, scarier germs, and higher health costs . . .

But the good news is that we don’t have to be consenting victims of agribusiness-as-usual. To give just one example on the positive side, Wes Jackson and The Land Institute – with the backing of a numerous coalition of groups and institutions – have just proposed to the Secretary of Agriculture “A 50-year Farm Bill” which addresses head-on the problems of erosion, toxicity, and the decline of farm communities. The key change proposed by this bill is the increase in the acreage of perennial plants from 20% in 2009 to 80% in 2059. This change would involve at first increases in pasture and forage crops, and then, starting in 2019, the introduction of perennial grain crops.

The proposed perennialization of agriculture, like the horse and the tractor, would not be a simple choice. It to will be a package deal. A significant increase just in pastures and forages implies a new diversification. Replacing corn and soy beans grown for animal feed with perennial grasses and legumes would reduce erosion and save energy; it would also take cattle, hogs, and poultry out of the animal factories and put them back on farms, where they belong. Diversification would tend to reduce the size and increase the number of farms; it would bring more people into agriculture where at least some of them belong. An increase in the number of diversified family-size farms, together with higher energy costs, would increase the number of places where draft animals would fit in and make practical sense.

This is a prospect pleasing to all of us who are devoted to draft animals and to better, kinder ways of using the land. But it involves worries too, and to make this speech as honest as possible I want to speak of a couple of worries.

Most people who understand good land use know that to use our land in the best way, we will need more people on our farms and ranches and in our forests. We need a better ration of eyes to acres, as Wes Jackson has put it. We need more people skilled in physical work, who have workable minds. How are we going to get them? That is my first worry. I don’t think we can get the best work done by underpaying and overworking an underclass of migrant workers. I think we will have to go back to our old agrarian ideal, espoused by Thomas Jefferson among many others, of a countryside populated by settled families and stable communities earning a decent livelihood from their work and their goods. But by reducing our land-using population as drastically as we have done since World War II, we have dangerously reduced the skills necessary for resettling our land. It seems certain to me that we are coming to a time when a lot of people are going to need a lot of patient and neighborly instruction.

If you can imagine a good many ignorant people wishing or needing to learn to use draft animals, then you will know my second worry. The most knowledgeable users of work animals know they don’t know everything. And probably most of them have a list of mistakes, bad surprises, narrow escapes, and sometimes serious injury or damage. We want those lists to stay as short as possible. If, as seems possible, more people are going to think of using draft animals at work, they and we will need to stay reminded that some people should NOT use them, and that, in using them, ignorance is dangerous. Moreover, those of us who appreciate these good animals don’t want to see any of them misused or mistreated. Capable and conscientious teamsters already have, and certainly will continue to have, a responsibility to pass along their knowledge. We need to keep this on our minds. One of my own favorite pleasures is to imagine the teaching that will be branching out form the work of hands-on teachers like Jason Rutledge, his students, and their students, on and on for generations to come.

Is modern horse logging a Cultural Oddity?

This is in response to a comment made by an observer several years ago:
Here are just a few thoughts from a horselogger about this notion of Cultural Oddity from a sustainable development perspective.

The idea that someone can restore the forests of Appalachia to a better condition than they were before extracting for human needs is a “Cultural Oddity”, this is what we do.

The idea that any organization can develop a living wage job that is beneficial, sustainable or actually improving to the environment, watershed and society is a “Cultural Oddity”.

The fact that the only growing segment of our agricultural society is the Amish is a “Cultural Oddity”.

The approach of improving our society one person at a time is a “cultural oddity”.

If we keep doing what we are already doing we will keep getting what we got. Current conventional cultural practices are not sustainable. An “odd culture” would be anything different from what is already happening.

We believe what we are doing and proposing to do in the future is completely in agreement with green forestry and environmental organizations mission statements. The means of accomplishing this mission should not be judged “odd” and dismissed for it’s unusual form.

Random House Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition, unabridged:

Odd (od), adj., -er,est,n.-adj. 1. Differing in nature from what is ordinary, usual, or expected: an odd choice.

Oddity (od’I te), n., pl. –ites for 1, 3. 1. An odd or remarkably unusual person, thing, or event.

There are over 50 people in the region that are practicing animal powered extraction to one degree or another. This practice is growing in popularity amongst landowners and forest workers.

Here is what is not odd about this work.

More people are fed on this planet with animal power than diesel or fossil fuel, mostly bovine in Asia and the third world.

Animal powered systems are superior, in many ways, firstly giving independence and interdependence to the operator.
They operate on solar fuel, (hay and grain)
They replace themselves (baby horses)
They are self-repairing (time off for recuperation)
They are less compacting on the soil
They reduce carbon monoxide emissions, lessening global warming

We are used to not being understood as modern horseloggers. But being dismissed or tabled out of ignorance is unacceptable.


Conversion with Leon in Tennessee

We have many inquiries that come from the various media, including the internet and participation in a couple of chat boards. If you are reading this on a computer then there is no further need for explanation. If you are reading it in hard copy print this is an example of how we may educate the public about our organization, mission, goals and objectives.

Leon had posted a few comments about working in the woods with his horse on a chat board. I contacted him and invited him to visit our web site and read the text available about restorative forestry.. This email affirms that the work and cost of maintaining a web site and participating in discussions among “communities of interest” are good investments in public education.

It means much more. To access natural resources with culture or the skills to do certain things that are obviously more gentle and sensitive to the environmental – as opposed to accessing natural resources with just money – is an empowerment of the ground level worker. It is anthropological culture = money. It also means that the common sense economics of restorative forestry actually making the most money over the long term is understandable to many landowners. That understanding includes preserving the landowner values of protecting the visual appearance of their forest, while extracting for immediate human needs. Now our job is to translate and educate how the aesthetically pleasing forest also is the most valuable at providing ecological services for the public good. Those services include the “Carbon Positive” forestry that results from “Ecological Capitalism”.

This continuing conversation with Leon allows further sharing of cultural values and educational opportunities in techniques and economics. Some of the techniques may not be easily explained in text alone, so some referrals to other sites and sources of information are given.

Hey Jason, I have great news! I got a call yesterday morning from a guy that lives 24 miles from me. He has 70 acres of timberland. I told him about restorative forestry and he wants me to manage his woodlot.While I was looking at his land, another guy called and he wants the same thing done to his land. Both guys had loggers come in and want to clear cut, but both turned them away. When I explained the basic principles of restorative forestry to them they both said they wanted me to manage their woods, and both wanted me to split the days I work on each place so there won’t be a conflict. God does answer prayers. I was getting scared I would have to go back to trucking, but it looks like I’ll be busy for a while. I certainly hope things are going as well in your neck of the woods. Keep up the good work
I never heard of a Swede cut. I don’t know if it’s what I’m doing or not. All I know is I cut a wedge out in the direction I want the tree to go and pray. I’ve only seen one live Suffolk. On Saturdays when the weather is good I drive a wagon and haul customers around Amish farms. When I first started the man I was working for had an old Suffolk mare. She was one of the sweetest horses I ever been around, wish I knew where she is now. I am a big fan of Suffolk horses because of her. A friend of mine raises Brabants and I really like those too. Here there are mostly Percherons and Belgians because I’m right in the heart of Amish country and those seem to be the breeds of choice for them.

I don’t really understand the sliding scale payment system. I always split the logs 50/50 with the landowner which seems to be a good way to starve. Please explain that sliding scale in more detail if you can. The log buyer that I just sold the first load from those 70 acres to seems to be a very helpful guy. He said he used to log and wanted to come out and see my horse work. He acted like he never saw a horse work. I hope he will be impressed enough to refer me to some more landowners. Thanks for all your help. My other computer will be down for a day or so. How much does it cost to be a member of HHFF? Take care and keep up the good work.

Leon in TN


The Swede cut is a slang nickname for the “open faced, hinge and latch timber felling method” introduced to this country by a Swedish man named Soren Erickson a few decades ago. I was convinced to attend his course when in the newspaper article about it quoted Soren saying that one of the most important aspects of his teaching was to “restore the dignity of being a woodsman”. This technique is now taught by an organization called The “Game of Logging”. I highly recommended that anyone practicing hand timber felling attend such a course and apply the principles. Do an internet search and find the closest GOL course and attend it. It is the single most important skill that I have learned in the development of restorative forestry. It is an epiphany, or a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, a revelation, an “aha” moment.

This method is not easy to explain in a text only format, but I will try. This is not done or offered to replace attending an actual course – where the demonstration of the skills is part of a systematic recognition and use of the reactive forces of the chainsaw and the development of understanding and applying those reactive forces to control the removal of wood fiber from a tree in the process of safe directional felling, bucking into lengths and limbing.

I want to define this method within the context of restorative forestry silviculture and describe it to increase safety for the woodsman. This means that the first action is the choice of which tree to cut and simultaneously which trees to leave in the resulting cultivated condition. That decision is based upon the “Nature’s Tree Marking Paint” system of indicators of decline or low performance economically (which is available on the HHFF web site). Once the tree is selected on a “worst first” basis, then the next consideration is the protection of the residual trees or the best specimens you choose to leave for future harvesting. Additionally there are many benefits of creating an “enhanced residual condition” that is economically most gainful and ecologically positively contributing to the health of the forest and the planet through increased carbon storage and carbon sequestration by the regeneration of young trees. This post restorative harvest condition includes preserving and enhancing all the other currently not quantified ecological services the forest provides for the public good. This collected effort is why we call our method “Carbon Positive Forestry”.

With selection made and identification of the important residual specimens the practitioner makes a choice of which direction the tree will be felled. Other considerations may come into play, such as convenience of extraction and avoiding any riparian or running water landscape features. A consideration for efficiency of technique will include not only taking the worst first specimens but also going to the worst part of the harvesting site to begin felling trees. This way you may work back toward the landing and keep the laps or tops behind your harvesting and extraction work.

All commercial sized chainsaws have a sight on the body or power head of the saw. This will be a line that runs at a 90 degree right angle to the cutter bar. When you follow these methods and look down the sight the tree will usually go where you are aiming it.

A diagram would be useful here and we have photos of this step by step process, but I am unable to locate them at the moment. I have inquired with other groups that we shared them with the make a poster and if we find it I will post it on the web site.

There are four (4) cuts made in this method. But there are preparations that must be done before any cuts are made. The first action is to remove any low hazards from the area around the base of the tree. The next action is to look for high hazards or dead limbs in the crown of the tree that could fall on the timber feller in the process of wedging a tree over. The high hazards are often called “widow makers”. The next consideration is to determine the safe and danger side of the tree. The danger side is the back side of the tree in the direction the tree is leaning. Most trees, particularly the worst first trees, have some lean or crown load that weights the tree toward what is the dangerous side. One method of assessing the gravitational force on a standing tree is to stand back from it and hang a string with a weight on the end, like a plum bob and hold it up and look by it to the whole tree. This will show the crown load and any lean the tree may have. After some experience and practice a timber feller can stand under the tree and look straight up at it and determine these forces and establish the safe side and danger side of the tree. Ok you have safe side and danger side determined and you have cleared an escape route away at a 45 degree angle from the stump or tree for at least 15 feet or five steps.

You make your first cut from the top of the lead notch or open face while aiming the bar through the sight towards the direction you want the tree to go. This cut should be shallow and not more than 10 percent of the tree diameter. It should be kept level as it will establish the front edge of the hinge. The second cut is kept level straight in matching the number one cut.

This will let the face fall out as a big wedge looking piece of wood. Then go to the danger side of the tree, lay the bar flat in the mouth of the open face and using the pull force cut back into the tree and then plunge the saw into the tree creating the back of the hinge on half of the tree. This is the third cut so it is time to place your plastic wedges. Place one at the back almost perpendicular to the open face. Drive it in until it is snug and sort of hits back on the ax. Then go to the safe side, plunge in and release the tree after establishing the back of the hinge with the plunge cut and sweep out the back to release the latch or the last vertical fiber holding the tree up from setting on your saw or the tree falling until you let it go. If the tree just set there after cutting the latch, drive it on over with the wedge or put more wedges in if you need them. You may stack wedges on a 90 degree angle with each other and drive one and then another to jack the tree over.

When the tree starts to go holler timber and walk away at a 45 five steps and

then turn around and look up at a 45 degree angle to watch for limbs being thrown back out of the tops of the residual trees. This view will allow you to see stuff coming from above and from ground level...

Sliding Scale Pay System:

First – you are right you can’t do worst first single tree selection with horse logging and pay half to the landowner. What it comes down to is the average per thousand you get for your logs. High graders pay half or clear cutters, but they destroy the forest. When you take the worst first your average per thousand will be lower, but the best trees will grow faster and make more money for the landowner over the long term or at least for a few later harvest. So we pay on a sliding scale by not paying for any low value material at all. In other words we try to establish what we want as a logging cost or amount we make on a per thousand feet harvested and only start to pay a share after that amount is reached on an individual log basis. For us around here that ends up being about at least two hundred dollars per thousand. We sometimes start to pay at 250, it depends on how hard the extraction is and how valuable what we are taking out is. At 250 per thousand we pay thirty percent to the landowner. Then the sliding scale starts. At $400.00 per thousand we pay 40%, at $500.00 we pay 50% and this is what sells it to landowners that are stuck on 50/50 – at $600.00 we pay 60%, any prices above you can pay 60% and they make more money. This is best for you, because there will be so few logs in this value range that you will not have to pay for many. You can move this around all over the place, but the point is don’t pay for the junk at all, because that will represent 75% of your volume. Tell the landowner you actually pay more than 50/50, but just on the higher value logs. They will buy it usually, particularly if they are concerned about the future value of their forest or the appearance of it after the harvest...


Jason Rutledge