2017 Brabant Field Days

by A.J. Woolstenhulme
April – May 2018

The 2017 event took on a decidedly Western
theme as it traveled to southeastern Idaho.

Teton Valley Idaho has long been known as a gathering place for many types of people. Over the past couple of centuries, Teton Valley has experienced the influences of Native American hunting parties, the annual mountain man rendezvous during the fur trapping era, miners, Mormon settlers, ranchers, mountaineering enthusiasts, loggers, farmers, immigrant working families as well as many people coming here for the diverse recreational opportunities. The Teton Valley means many things to many people, but, for me, it has always been what I know as home.

ponies packing
A.J. Woolstenhulme drives Clennie and Reuben, his American Brabants put to a mower at his farm during the 2017 Brabant Field Days.Photo by Josh Myers, Ranch Hand Photography.

When Rusty Shippley reached out to me from the American Brabant Association, he said they thought it would be a good idea to try the annual Brabant gathering out West. The group wanted to share the excellence of the Brabant horse with a broader group of people. The last few years, we have made a big effort to preserve and maintain some of the traditions of putting up hay the old fashioned way, so we thought why not give it a try. I asked him what he thought about having a good old-fashioned hay day out West. He thought this would be a perfect setting to gather some of the enthusiasts that might have interest in the Brabant horse. With this conversation, the stage was set and we decided to go for it. Over the next few months many people undertook a flurry of tasks. We planned meals, repaired equipment and reached out to others.

ponies packing
Marvin Brisk readies the single tree attached to the horsepower that will power the drag saw.
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A view of the hay press and side delivery hay rake used during the field day.

The gathering featured the expertise of Daryl Woolstenhulme. Daryl is an expert in the use of mowers, the over shot stacker, the buck rack (sometimes called the bull rake) and the dump rake. Daryl has spent about 20 years in the Bear lake Valley of southeastern Idaho, where he has maintained a large herd of draft horses and preserved the oral traditions and techniques regarding the methods of putting up hay with horses. Over the last few decades, Daryl has broke and sold dozens of horse teams throughout the Rocky Mountains. What an opportunity it was to learn firsthand from such a great guy who carries so much passion for the ways of the American West.

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Aaron Steele strings a section of temporary electric fence netting down a rocky hillside where goats will soon be grazing the shrubbery.
packing fjord with pannier
Homemade barbecue beef, baked beans, potato salad and other goodies fed the assembly.

We also had the pleasure of hosting Marvin Brisk from Midway, Ore., who brought a few pieces of unique equipment. With the help of a Brabant filly, Marvin demonstrated the use of a horse-powered crosscut saw. He also showed a stationary bale press, which he explained would have been used for compressing hay and loading train cars enabling people to fit more tonnage in a limited rail car. Barbeque meals where served out of an antique chuck wagon restored by Dave Genetti of Ririe, Idaho. Dave also assisted us with a beautifully restored McCormick Deering four bar side delivery rake.

ponies packing
A team of Brabants rest hooked to the buck rake while the overshot stacker adds another load to an already high haystack

Although the American Brabant Association sponsored the event, we received lots of help from many types of horses. At one point, we had five mowers going simultaneously. What an incredible sight to see a 25-foot swath of lush tall mountain grass falling victim to the collective efforts of our horse power.

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Brad Toleman drives his three abreast put to a ground-drive PTO forecart powering a square hay baler.
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Closeup of the homemade ground drive PTO forecart built by Mark Speed.
packing fjord with pannier
Brent, Daryl and Ruth Woolstenhulme take a break
during the day's activities.

The mowers used were a McCormick number seven, McCormick number nine and even a John Deere number four. All in all, the day was a great success, and we got a very good start on our loose haystack. We stacked approximately five to seven tons of hay and formed a great base for our loose haystack. Daryl teaches that with good teams and a good crew you can put up a loose stack like this in one day. Using this overshot stacker (overland roller) on its highest setting, you can reach nearly 20 feet high. In a properly formed stack, there can be approximately 20 tons of hay. This particular overshot stacker, as well as the buck rake, were both original pieces of equipment belonging to ancestors here on our farm. With the help of my dad and boys, we restored these to functionality. My kids will be the sixth generation from our original ancestors to live here.

ponies packing
Four teams make short work of a hayfield. From left to right, AJ Woolstenhulme, Kari Moulton, Brad Toleman, and Wade Toleman.
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Ruth Woolstenhulme drives a team of Spotted Draft Horses, Lilly and Doll. Photo by Josh Myers, Ranch Hand Photography
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A.J. Woolstenhulme works the buck rack with a team of Spotted Draft Horses. Photo by Josh Myers, Ranch Hand Photography
Through the presence of true workhorses, the many helping hands eager to donate their time and the cooperation of the student and the master, there was a definite ambiance, reminiscent of the old American hay days that our grandparents remember. We are grateful to the many people who donated their time and effort; there were literally too many to name. We think there were people present from nearly every Western state, as well as a few from the Midwest. What a treasure it is to know that, through our efforts and passion, we are able to preserve a small part of what our ancestors used to depend on for daily life. This day truly paid homage to our ancestors and the many sacrifices they made to pave the way for our lives. rh house logo

A.J. Woolstenhulme farms in the Teton Valley of Idaho. This article appeared in the April/May 2018 issue of Rural Heritage magazine.

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