This past weekend I was off to the town of Tinmouth, to help with David and Nancy Birdsal’s house raising party.
It’s been a dream of David’s to build his own house for a long, long time. For the last few years , The Birdsal’s have been living in a garage. It is very nice, finished, comfortable, and looks nothing like a garage, but a garage never the less. They had planned on doing their house this fall, then David got busy, and finally Nancy said “David, am I going to have a house this fall or not?” And he rallied.
I arrived the night before the event. Supplies of food were piled up on the kitchen tables and counters, coffee pots lined up ready to go. Nancy seemed a little anxious. She was intensely cleaning the top shelf of the refrigerator. When asked how many people she expected for the weekend, she said they were not sure, 30 said they were coming, but it could be as many as 50!
I was Skyped to be there. I don’t know how other people found out via e-mail, Facebook, or Skype. A lot of the people planning to attend were Tinmouth people and many others were people connected with the camp David and Nancy run in the Adirondacks during their summers. The camp is a very traditional type of camp that Nancy’s father started in the 1940’s. It’s called A North Country Camp in Keesville, NY. <www.northcountrycamps.com> It lasts the whole summer and they have kids that come year after year for activities like volleyball and archery and hiking, sailing, canoeing, and wilderness adventure. David used to run expeditions with groups of the more senior kids to places like Alaska, Northern Canada, and I think even New Zealand. Between these two friendly and outgoing people, they have a lot of friends!
I know David from when I was a student at Sterling College. He was director of student affairs and taught a draft horse management class. The first time I met him I was in my dorm room with an open window playing my banjo. When I started plucking on the banjo I saw his head spin around, cocked up, and he came over at a very fast walk to see who was playing – he’s a fellow banjo player. I met Nancy and 2 year old daughter Cory at Sterling as well. They were Dorm parents. I was lucky enough to be Cory’s babysitter on a few occasions.
I took David’s draft horse class; it teaches you the fundamentals of horse care, draft horse management practices, and teamster skills. We did a variety of agricultural field work and forestry work, hauling out logs, spreading manure, plowing. I’ve had draft animals ever since college. Now I use them for skidding out logs and I’ve used them for planting oats and giving sleigh rides, raking hay and gathering sap. I would love to be able to do all my farming with horses, but that’s not feasible. There’s something about working with horses up in the woods that’s really good for my spirit. When I was a district fireman in the forest service, on my days off I would go out to Slack Point Ranch in Polson Montana. They had 120 registered Belgians there and I would spend my 3 or 4 days off driving 4 horse hitches and 6 horse hitches moving hay.
Growing up on a Vermont dairy farm, then attending Sterling College (and a few years of commercial flying) set me up well for the work I do on the farm today. Thank you Sterling College, and David, for providing me with an excellent foundation in Draft horse husbandry, forestry practices, wildlife management techniques, plant and soil science, and resource management, that are so useful currently.
I am so happy to have been invited to be part of his house raising event!
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