Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Shouldering a load

I tried the other day, while out at Tillers pulling firewood, to capture a photo of what a nice, tight bow looks like under load.

Often times, when the oxen are pulling a heavy load and they stop, they will simply hold it where it is.  Often times, that is, but not last Saturday.  Just as I got ready to snap the photo, Pollux stepped back a bit. 

What I was trying to capture was the way that the shoulder of the animal passes outside of the bow.  Seeing it once really drives home the point about a yoke that's too small being better than a yoke that's a little too large.  If the yoke is too large, the shoulder bone pushes against the bow and it can be painful for the animal, akin to walking across the floor on your elbows.

Anyway, this fine video by Tim Harrigan explains yoke fit better than I do.  Watch and learn.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Rip the Band-Aid

Too often, the hubris attached to a clever solution gets in the way of identifying the root of the problem itself.  We focus on a "Band Aid" solution to the problem when a better, long-term solution may be lurking.  (With apologies to Johnson and Johnson Corp. for the use of their product name in a pejorative sense.)

Such as it is with my pseudo-clever solution to this tongue-stop problem:  When I bought my forecart, used, from a local harness shop, it had an old tongue on it, which I replaced with a new Pioneer tongue from a local fabrication shop / Pioneer Equipment dealer. (I digress, but as much as I like the "why buy it when you can make it?" philosophy, a $60-odd dollar tongue made from hardwood, fitted with a tongue stop is a bargain.)

Anyway, replacing the old tongue was easy, but doing so made it clear that that maybe the old tongue wasn't so bad after all.  I kept it and used it on the "$100 Ox Cart"- which I still use all the time.  (Since we're forming a pattern here of parenthetical commentary at the end of each paragraph, I will say that the "$100 Ox Cart" is a bit small for my full-sized teams now.  I think that mounting the tongue forward on the cart a bit would fix the problem.  I have yet to do so.  See: this essay you're reading now.)

The real issue with the old tongue is that it came with a tongue stop which is small enough to slip through the big ring on my ox yoke.  None of my other tongues are small like this, and so to avoid the potentially dangerous situation of the cart sliding forward and bumping the team, I've used, for an embarrassingly lengthy period, a nylon dog collar as a safety strap.

It works well-enough and only takes a second or two to attach, but after years of using it, I'm starting to ask myself, "Wouldn't it have just been easier to size-up the tongue stop and be done with it at once?"

Maybe I need to rip off the "Band-Aid Fix" and set things right.  Maybe not.  Ask me again in a couple of years.