This week I had the good fortune of meeting and spending time with Tim Carroll of Lyle, Minnesota. Lyle is a small rural town that nestles the northern border of Iowa and resembles as much of Iowa as it does Minnesota, at least in my mind. Beautiful, expansive plains as far as the eye can see with some rolling green cornfields every few miles to diversify the scenery just a touch.
Carroll is a horse logger with a slight rebel streak that exists for the good of the people that surround him. He is a watchdog for his community, an educator, a family man and a man of big ideas. After spending a week with him I saw that it's not really horse logging that defines who he is, but rather his passion for the land and appreciating the natural life around him. Horses are a means of doing logging without the destruction that normal skidders often use, and a means of doing so more cost effectively as well. "My horses cost me $2.50 a day to keep them running" he says.
Unfortunately the weather was not entirely cooperative so I never got to see horse logging in action, but I did get to see pretty much everything else. He uses his horses not only for logging but for mowing and raking fields, and to carry the trailer that will load up hay that they will eat in the winter.
He doesn't only do logging but he takes the wood "from tree to product" he says, with a lumberyard, mill and kiln drier all on his land, he produces quality woods in the varieties of cherry, walnut, maple and more depending on the market and recent jobs.
The way Cedar River Horse Logging operates is inherently more sustainable and friendly to the environment than traditional logging because of the lower impact on the forest, but besides the low impact business practice, Carroll is thinking big and outside of forestry in terms of living a sustainable lifestyle. One example of this is his current time investment in working with local companies to make briquettes out of sawdust (as opposed to charcoal) that can be used eventually to heat homes, cook food, or produce energy.
Spending only a week with Tim I could see that there is probably much more to his life that I couldn't even gather. He's more of a Renaissance man, with his fingers in many different baskets while horse logging remains his bread and butter source of income. Though this may be so, Carroll recognizes that what he does is hard work and he can't do it forever, and he also realizes that what he does isn't commonly practiced. "This isn't a field with a lack of work, it's a lack of practictioners" he says. "I'm trying to get young people involved." It's not only a good business practice to use horses, but in Tim's mind there is a connection with the land that you don't get using traditional machinery. A connection that he feels people are losing appreciation for. A connection that, if reestablished, he thinks can help this country make strides for a better, more sustainable lifestyle.
Tim Carroll of Cedar River Horse Logging poses with his scooter that gets nearly 100 mpg, and his dog Sadie. When the diesel truck is not required Carroll opts to use the scooter for local transport, going to towns upto 50 miles away with this vehicle.
Tim Carroll helps secure logs on a truck driven by Kent Erding, a friend and fellow logger. The logs were to be taken off site and to his home, where he has the option of selling the wood or milling it and kiln drying it himself. "This operation goes from tree to product" said Carroll, who finds as many uses as he can for the wood that he secures, with some of it going to nearby Amish folk who use it for furniture.
Doreen Carroll cleans the kitchen before a strawberries and ice cream dessert.
Hired hand Chelsey Cook (top) and Doreen Carroll load up hay onto a trailer carried by horses. I wouldn't ask these horses to do anything I wouldn't do" says Tim Carrol. "If it's too hot for me, it's too hot for them. If I'm tired I figure they're probably pretty tired too."
The hay from the field will be used to feed the horses in the winter. The Carrolls had the one hot day to load up the hay before the rain came. Had they waited an extra day it could have cost them. With hay's current steep prices, the amount that the Carroll's gathered in this day came out to roughly a thousand dollars, which is a thousand they won't have to spend to feed horses come winter.
Doreen Carroll and Tim lead their horses to a new pasture late in the day. Dorreen works full time at a nearby hospital but spends her hours after work often tending to her garden or helping Tim out with the horses. "When I married her I married the horses" said Tim. Before their marriage Tim was not a horse logger nor was he into horses very much in general.
After bringing their horses to a new, replenished pasture across the street Tim and his wife Doreen walk home as the sun peeks out of the clouds at the day's end.
Some of Tim's horses take a quick break from eating grass. "These horses have a one track mind" said Tim, referring to their constant eating.
Last but not least just driving around the southern part of Minnesota once can see other people in the area making strides towards renewable energy, harnessing the power of the consistent winds on the relatively flat and endless plains in the area.