No November calves at Miles Smith farm yet. Gina, the Scottish Highlander cow, just keeps getting bigger. Maybe she'll wait until husband Bruce, and I return from our Southern adventure, a 12-day trek with our dog, Flora, to visit with family in Georgia and South Carolina.
Even though we are away from our farm, farming is never far from our thoughts.
When we arrived in Suwanee, Ga., at the end of the first leg of the trip, cousin Eileen asked, "What would you and Bruce like to do?"
"Any farms nearby?" I asked, already missing mine.
The next afternoon we drove to Classic City Clydesdale Farm near Athens. Seven of us piled into two four-seater “gators” with two college students working at the farm as our guides. The farm has a small herd of Scottish Highlander cattle. The Highland cattle were hiding in the woods and not visible, but my guide told me the cows are friendly, and as we do at Miles Smith Farm, they sell the calves.
The focus of the farm is the Clydesdale horses. Owners Shannon and Mark Martin and their two sons started with two Clydesdales and now have dozens.
Clydesdales have been around for many years, but they achieved celebrity in America after August Anheuser Busch Jr. gave a team (also called a hitch) pulling a red, white, and gold beer wagon to his father, August Sr., who had been expecting a car. The old man was not disappointed; he used the team to haul the first case of post-Prohibition beer from the St. Louis brewery down Pestalozzi Street on April 7, 1933. These enormous, handsome horses have been associated with the beer company ever since.
A Budweiser Clydesdale must be a gelding (neutered male) with a strong, draft horse appearance. He must be at least four years old, stand at least 18 hands (6 feet) at the withers (shoulder), and weigh 1,800 to 2,300 pounds. In addition, each horse must be colored bay (a reddish-brown coat with a black mane and tail), have four white stocking feet, and a blaze of white on the face. You've seen the effect when eight of them are hauling a beer wagon!
“Budweiser has made our beloved Clydesdale one of the most widely recognized horse breeds on the planet," said farm owner Shannon on her blog.
Anheuser-Busch may not use mares in a hitch, but the Martins do. Clydesdale mares make great pulling horses, and they also produce little Clydesdales. The Martins show their mares in driving or riding competitions and parades. We watched farm owner Mark hitch two stunning Clydesdales that he was conditioning for a local parade.
Mark and Shannon also sell Clydesdales. These huge horses are beautiful, but owning one is a substantial financial commitment. On her blog, Shannon said, "I'm a firm believer that the cheapest part of horse ownership is the purchase of the horse.” For instance, shoeing a horse can cost $200 to $500 and must be done every month or two. And do they eat! Their appetites are as big as they are.
Most Classic City horses stay in the pasture year-round, with a roofed open-sided cover to keep them dry and provide summer shade. The Georgia weather is delightfully mild, and the thought of the 20-below New Hampshire temps made me envy the farmers down here — at least in the winter.
I loved this time away because of the fabulous food, catching up with family, traveling with Bruce and Flora, and the chance to see another farm. Traveling also means I can wear my new sneakers in the house without worrying about what I'm tracking in.
After a week on the road, worries about the farm were left behind, like so much scattered trash on I-95. Sure that my staff would call me in a crisis, the flow of calls and texts diminished to just a quick call every other day or so.
Even so, I'm ready to get back to the frigid North. That's where Yankee farmers feel at home.
For more information about Classic City Clydesdales, check out their website at www.ClassicCityClydesdales.com.
Author Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm in Loudon, N.H., where she raises and sells beef, pork, lamb, eggs, and other local products.