- Associated Press - Monday, November 9, 2015

HERMANSVILLE, Mich. (AP) - Logging is becoming increasingly mechanized, but a Hermansville man is happy to use horses for his year-round operation.

John Boyd relies on horse-powered logging to manage a farm in Hermansville. His team consists of Moose, Brownie and Eeyore - all male Belgian draft horses that haul the logs cut by Boyd and his girlfriend, Cathy Murray.

The horses are hooked up to a modified farm wagon Boyd built when he had trouble finding equipment locally. The log loader is a JMS 155 that was added to the wagon and purchased from a local dairy farmer. The wood is cut by hand with chain saws.

“We use Stihl chain saws provided by local chain saw shops as we are believers of supporting the community,” Boyd told The Daily News of Iron Mountain (http://bit.ly/1NNmHj9 ).

The horses work four to six hours a day year-round and Boyd said they enjoy it.

“Horses love to work more than anything and snow doesn’t affect them,” he said.

Boyd said his only real expense, other than keeping his equipment in working order, is feeding the horses.

He has been doing forest management for Dale and Claire Kennedy at the November Farm in Hermansville for the past few years. Boyd maintains it isn’t just a logging operating, it is also agroforestry.

“Commercial loggers fulfill one need, but we go at it a little different,” he explained. “We take our brush and chip it, then we put horse manure in it and we produce compost for gardening. We are adding fertility to a farm that hasn’t been farmed for a long time. We are composting on a unique scale and are working to scavenge heat from our compost piles that utilize horse manure and ground up/chipped logging slash.”

The goal is to heat a greenhouse for vegetable production, he said.

The Kennedys are retired and own 365 acres on what was once a potato farms. Dale Kennedy purchased the farm in 1971.

“We are an older couple and John has been a great friend,” Claire Kennedy said. “It is nice to have him around.”

Although the Kennedys don’t pay Boyd for his work on the property, they have a mutually beneficial relationship. Boyd and Murray use all that they can from the farm. The couple grows most of the food they eat on the property and they heat with the wood and have a wood cook stove.

“He really contributes to us,” Kennedy said of Boyd. “His horses help out, they are gentle giants, and the grass is greener than it has ever been.”

Boyd said he enjoys his relationship with the Kennedys.

“We walk the land together and look at the knots, twists and turns. I’ll be working here for 30 years,” he said.

Previously Boyd worked construction as a quality assurance engineer for a major corporation before suffering three “cardiac anomalies” that made him rethink his career choice. As a U.S. Marine veteran, he also suffers from depression and says doing hard work outside keeps his hands busy and his mind clear.

“I hear the wind, see the deer walk through. I get to see wildlife. If I was operating a machine I would scare it off,” he said. “It’s a labor of love. It’s not for everybody.”

Although he rarely leaves the Hermansville area, Boyd is willing to teach what he knows. He encourages schools to contact him for tours of the farm.

“This year we hope to be able to do more sleigh rides with proceeds going to support the Local IXL Museum here in Hermansville,” he said. “In the day they used a lot of teams of horses to harvest timber that became the hardwood flooring they sold.”

They have also used the team to support the local food pantry in Hermansville.

“We have a chuckwagon that we use to support the community using Dutch ovens.” Boyd said. “We are able to create a wide variety menu of many things, up to including a chocolate cake that we did for the local Red Hat Rovers last year. We believe that being a part of a community one should do their part. We have also provided urban tree service to members of our community in exchange for the wood and plowed the community garden in Escanaba. We hope to create a community garden somewhere in Meyer Township.”

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Information from: The Daily News, http://www.ironmountaindailynews.com

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