Allen Edwards, our friend and partner in the sustainable forest products we offer, likes to say that he has lots of flat ground - it's just tilted at 45 degrees! His family's property in Colfax is beautiful, but it's also very steep!
Since we're trying to convert our firewood and lumber production to the use of draft animals, the steep ground can be challenging. Pulling logs uphill is virtually impossible, and many of the slopes are too steep for horses or mules to stand on while we're hooking up to logs. A further complication is the need to remove slash (limbs, brush, etc.) from the slopes before skidding the logs.
At our last Sierra Nevada Small Farm Progress Days last Friday, we got to try a new system (new to us, anyway) that combines long cables with draft animals. In this system, we use cable "chokers" and long lines to hook into logs upslope from Allen's road system. Using pulleys, we then hook the horses to the long cable and skid the logs downslope while keeping the horses on the road. It worked wonderfully!
We'll keep trying to improve on the system, but it sure seems that we've finally figured out a way to use horses efficiently and safely in Allen's woods!