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One happy herd. The little bull with the drool on his chin is the newest addition.
Garrett Hack is not your ordinary furniture maker. Part woodworker, part farmer, he engages in both crafts with passion and flair. When it comes to making furniture, hand-tool work is his hallmark, allowing him to prep surfaces and add subtle details to his furniture in ways that no machine can match. And his remote shop in the mountains of Vermont seems the ideal place for a hand-tool aficionado to serenade himself with the swoosh of a well-honed handplane as it glides across the surface of a board. When it comes to his farming, Garrett also prefers the “old ways” over modern machinery.
A couple weeks ago I was at his shop taking some photos for an upcoming article. At the end of the day, Garrett and I strolled around his tract of land. He showed me where the various gardens would be, and he introduced me to his new animals: the latest batch of chicks peeping away in their coop, and a drooling but otherwise reserved newborn bull.
After the stroll, Garrett had real work to do, turning over a patch of land that would become his corn field. He hitched up his plow horse, Jazz, to an old-fashioned disc harrow, hopped on board and worked the land, up and back, up and back. He smiled the whole time, and Jazz made the job look easy, leaning instinctively into each turn and heeding Garrett’s instructions like a well-trained show dog (but on a much bigger scale!). To a city slicker like me, the job looked downright dangerous. I kept peeking for the seatbelts on the contraption he was riding and hoping that my cell phone signal would be there in case of an emergency. But happily there is no tragic ending to the story.
After the job was done, Garrett rewarded Jazz with a bucket of apples. And as I was scraping moist cow patties from my shoes, I asked him why he doesn’t use a tractor for such heavy work. He just laughed and walked into his barn, letting the peace of the spring twilight answer for him.
What, no seatbelt? Garrett steers the harrow like a pro.
Got apples? Jazz can smell 'em a mile away.
Jazzercize. The horse handles the chore with elegance and aplomb.
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What is Jazz - Clydesdale?
Having farmed (dairy) as a younger man I can't see it as a business. However, as a hobby, so called, and using a draft animal instead of a tractor makes sense. As a boy I was taught to plow using a single moldboard. The horse's name was Sally and she was a former trotter. My Father and Grandfather would harness her to our antique but well kept One Horse Shay - and wouldn't her head come up! This was in West Buxton, Maine.
Mr Hack does have it right. There is nothing like plowing a garden or mowing hay with a team of horses. I too spend my time between my draft horses (Percherons), cows chickens and the wood shop. I only wish my furniture turned out as nice as Mr Hack's.
The goal this winter will be to harvest some trees from our wood lot, saw and dry them, and build some furniture for my wife. Everything being done with horses or right here on the farm.
Thank you for sharing your good fortune. Garrett is a giant among us wood workers and all time spent with him in any medium is well spent time. I too wish I lived on the next hill it looks mighty pretty up there. Thanks for sharing.
I am very jealous. Someday, I too will have a quiet piece of land with a shop and my own home grown vegetables. That day can't come soon enough. Thank you for the article and beautiful pictures.
Thanks for this. I've long admired GH's furniture work and of course his books, and now you've satisfied my curiosity about the other half of his life. I would love to visit him one day. In the meantime, I wish him the best in helping to keep sanity and tradition alive.
I'm still trying to get all the manure out of the crevices in the soles of my shoes. Garrett does have a special life. Thanks for the comments (and background on farm safety)
Looks like Tom stepped in it. City slicker. The best way to keep your shoes clean is to take them off beforehand. You'll enjoy the warmth between your toes. Seat belts and farm implements don't go well together. You want to fall away from heavy equipment, so it doesn't fall on you. In these days of complexity and volatility, the simpler life is appealing. I guess Mr. Hack has known that for a long time. I wish him well.
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