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My Plan for a Great 2023

December 31, 2022

Buying more local products and working more with my two Scottish Highland oxen are my 2023 resolutions.

A while ago, when I found Stash, one of my Scottish Highland oxen, dead in the field, I was devastated, but it also left his teammate, Topper, without a partner. Oxen are cattle that work for a living. They are yoked in pairs to pull heavy loads. They bond, and when one of them dies, finding the survivor a new partner is often impossible.

Sometimes solutions show up when you aren't looking. Finn, another Miles Smith Farm Highland ox, had also lost his partner. I considered pairing Topper and Finn for a long time but never had the time. Besides, I was afraid they wouldn't click. Change is challenging, and I didn't want to face defeat, so I postponed their training. They did little but eat hay and beg for carrots for almost two years. Topper had a yearly job at Christmas when I put a red nose on him, and he pretended to be Rudolph, but he needed a real job.

A New Job

Yoking these two near strangers together would be difficult. They are big, about 1,400 pounds each, and they'd have to stand close together while I maneuvered a 75-pound wooden yoke onto their shoulders. Then they'd have to stand very still while I secured it with bows (U-shaped wooden frames that hold the yoke in place). My schedule cleared two weeks ago, and I finally had time.

It took a few tries, but Topper and Finn seemed to know I was struggling to lift the yoke and stood patiently while husband Bruce helped. After yoking them, I untied them and gave the familiar command: "Walk on!" It took a bit for Finn to adjust his stride to Topper's, but soon they walked on together. I was amazed, thrilled, and joyous all at once.

When I hooked a chain to their yoke, they pulled a truck tire around the yard as if they'd done it together their whole lives. I was ecstatic. This team of black Scottish Highland oxen was working. My joy included pride in these boys. Soon I'll have them pulling logs out of the woods that we'll cut up for firewood.

Of course, using a tractor for farm jobs is more practical, but I don't get a soft fuzzy feeling from a tractor. It's so much more rewarding to see a team of hairy, black oxen respond to voice commands and help with farm jobs. Besides, these boys needed a job. On Miles Smith Farm, cattle without jobs can end up in the freezer.

My first New Year resolution is to yoke up the oxen and work with them every week. Yoking them is tedious and hard work, but it's such fun seeing Topper and Finn stepping in unison as they work together.

Local is Delicious

Something else that makes me feel good is buying local food. Of course, I'm all about local meat. Still, other local farms that produce milk, cheese, honey, and vegetables deserve my support, especially now that the supply chain seems forever unstable.

Here are a few reasons for buying local:

  1. No long-distance shipping is involved.

  2. It helps my neighbor.

  3. Local food is delicious.

So those are my 2023 resolutions: Buying local and working my oxen make me joyful. What makes you feel good?

And if you want to see Topper and Finn at work, let me know by email, and I'll invite you to one of our work sessions to see these magnificent critters work together.

Carole Soule

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