When the temperatures drop to -40 C, Jody Luster’s equipment always starts. And when the snow is deep, his two main engines can be trusted to plow through. That’s because Luster’s primary farm equipment consists of two horses — Socks and Sally.
“The nice thing is I know they’ll start in any weather and I never have to plug them in,” says the 45-year-old Kendal, Sask. farmer whose traditional farming practices are older than he is.
Luster has been using horse power on his mixed farm for the past 28 years, with his father having used horses on this same farm for his entire career. With 84 head of cattle to feed and an assortment of barn animals to care for, Luster hitches up his trusty team of Belgian-cross horses seven days a week during the winter months.
Horse power is used to transport manure to the field daily and to haul round bales to feed and bed the farm’s wide variety of animals which include horses, cows, goats, pigs, chickens, rabbits and, Lily, the gate-closing donkey.
While Luster says using horse power is economical and practical for his farm, he adds that some of his reasoning for relying on Socks and Sally also lies in tradition.
“I’ve been on that stone boat since I was five,” says Luster, adding that stone boats can no longer be bought, so he constructs his own. “Sometimes people say I’m just old-fashioned and I don’t like change, and maybe that’s some of it, but I just like doing it too.”
While riding a stone boat seven days a week is routine for Luster, he says other farmers are often surprised when they find out that chores on the farm are not done with a tractor.
“Basically, they think we’re nuts,” says Luster. “I’ll get comments like, ‘you bought a tractor, why don’t you use it?’ but I say, ‘to each his own.’”
Luster says part of the motivation for doing chores the old-fashioned way is the fact that he gets to spend time with his horses.
“When you come out in the morning and the horses are waiting there to be hitched up, it really takes the edge off winter.”
Luster’s Grade 12 daughter Laura enjoys doing chores the traditional way as well. While she’s looking forward to moving away from home and breaking the one-hour morning chore routine, Laura says she’s been riding the farm’s stone boat for as long as she could balance and she’s certainly going to miss it.
“I’ll miss just coming out and being outside because I’ve always preferred to be out here rather than setting the table or baking with Mom,” says the University of Regina-bound teenager. “I think I’ll enjoy not doing chores for the first six months or so, then I’ll probably be coming home every weekend.”
The Lusters also milk their own cows, drinking the milk and converting it into cream, butter and cottage cheese.
“When my friends come out to the farm and see that we have our own milk, they just don’t understand and they have no idea what it takes to get it.”
Jody says he’s proud to have a farm that still operates the oldfashioned way, and he can’t imagine modernizing his business now or in the future.
“I’d have to be crippled up or unable to work; that’s the only way I’d really ever plan on using a tractor to do chores.”