Thursday, December 16, 2010

Some Thoughts on Scouts and Spies

I have just gotten word from Greenleaf Press that my little book, Some Thoughts on Scouts and Spies is back in print. I wrote this in 1998 to support the Sam Brady Conferences. It is a practical look at the mechanics of scouting in hostile territory based largely on sources from the eighteenth century. I tried to use my experience running recon in Vietnam and other peace time military assignments to make the eighteenth century sources more understandable. I believe scouting is a timeless art. Moving silently, avoiding being seen, maintaining all around security and defending yourself in a tight situation miles from friendly support do not hinge on weaponry or technological improvements. Frankly, a soldier carrying sixty pounds of light weight, high tech equipment is less secure than a Stockbridge scout with next to nothing. So, this is eighty pages of lessons learned. I sincerely hope it helps someone.

The cover art is by David Wright who generously did the painting just for this book. I think he really captured essence of scouting in this painting.

It can be ordered from Amazon:

For retailers/resale or bulk sales contact Greenleaf Press at:, or by calling
(866) 725-0785.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Oxen Working in the Snow

The farm is beautiful under a layer so snow.  This is something we don't see very often in Southern Kentucky.  We had to move hay for the horses yesterday.  Maria took pictures of the process which I hope makes a little more sense of what we ask the critters to do.

Jake yoking George and James.  The boys are not tied.

The team of four going after the chains on the stone boat.  They are not tied together, they are following George the lead ox.  Even William has learned this fairly well.  (We have only had him since March.)

With everyone hitched, it is off to the round bales.  Jake  is riding the stoneboat.  I am getting ahead to open the gate.

A jumble of round bales.

Charles and William bring up the sledge.

We run a chain from George and James' yoke to a spike in the bale.  They roll the bale onto the sledge.

We do a quick tie with a rope to  keep the bale on the sledge.

The oxen, now back in their team of four, wait patiently for us to get done.

Then we are off to deliver the bale to the hungry horses.  That is a 1200 pound bale on the sledge.

The horses, of course, are waiting at their empty hay ring.

We untie the bale.

With the ring dropped back on the bale we are ready to go after another.

Much to the delight of a spectator.

So that's winter on the farm.  There is still some grazing in the south pasture but we'll need that in March so I don't want to touch it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Working Cattle

Moved hay yesterday. I am again struck by the efficiency of oxen. The biomass of our four oxen is more than that of the eight horses, yet the horses eat a quarter more hay in any given time period. The oxen are far more willing to come when called, even when they know it means work. There is no bickering within the team and they will learn a task in fewer tries. Wednesday I was moving some logs. We made two trips taking the logs from a field across the creek to the house, on the third trip I hooked them up and started them, then Jake and I followed behind to see what they would do without direction. They took the logs back to the house and stopped with the logs beside the first two loads.

Yesterday, we did have a problem. The horses had pretty much finished their round bale. There is still some grazing in the pasture though. I checked the oxen and they still had more than a day’s hay, so I decided to wait until today to move hay. We cannot afford to be wasteful this winter. I was working on firewood when I noticed that Pepper (a horse) had let himself out and was walking toward the orchard. I opened the gate to the paddock and put him in (with Pepper that is no problem, you can just tell him what to do most of the time). Next, I noticed the cattle in the horses’ pasture. I went down to see how they got through the gate. The horses had broken down the gate and were finishing up the oxen’s hay. Charlie was out and eating alongside the road. Being late in the day, I decided it would be best to get Maria’s help. The cattle were stirred up and did not come when called. The horses intimidate the cattle just for the fun of it. It took a little sorting out.

Once we got the boys yoked, everything went fairly well. We had a little bit of munching grass when they shouldn’t, but other than that, the cattle held perfectly on “whoas” and George and James were letter perfect rolling the round bales onto the sledge. Everyone was pulling evenly when we skidded the bales to the hay rings. There are no shirkers in this team.

At one point, I couldn’t get the spike out of the frozen bale. I hooked a rope to it and had the oxen pull it out. Once they know a job, they are perfection. Just quiet efficiency, no wasted motion. Rearranging bales and getting a bale on a sledge can be tricky, and the load heavy. The bales are around 1200#. On a sledge, that is a bit. Yesterday it was on dry, frozen ground. They just do it. Oxen are a joy to work with.