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Horse Logging “The Forty”

Many of you probably did not know that our steers spend most of their lives at the McGrath farm. It is located at the very South end of Aitkin County not far from the village of McGrath. Named for James McGrath, the owner of a logging camp in the pine forests at the beginning at the last century. Florence’s grandfather, General Grant McCrory, was a hunter for the logging camps and her grandmother was one of the cooks. The 120 acre farm was homesteaded in 1913 after the pine logs had been harvested in the area.

In the early 1970s we were approached by the widow of Florence’s father’s childhood friend who wanted to sell us their beautiful forested 40-acre tract. This tract, known as “The Forty”, has a beautiful stand of hardwood timber and has been sought after by many area loggers in recent years. We really did not want to sell the timber to a commercial logging operation after seeing some of the clear cut tracts in the area. We talked about finding a horse logger to select cut some of the timber without destroying the rest of the forest.

That opportunity came while attending the Wisconsin Grazing conference in January. Jason Julian, a young entrepreneur from central Wisconsin was exhibiting at the conference. His family uses horses on their dairy farm. Jason recently started to do some logging and was trying to expand that business.

After a few discussions with Jason and a tour of our forest we agreed that he could have the job.
Florence and I plan to retire at some point and move to the McGrath farm. The house that her Grandparents built in 1914 is small, so our plan is to build an addition.The neighbors there told us that the yellow aspen makes ideal framing lumber. Many of the yellow aspen trees on the Forty are 2 feet thick and starting to die, so I consider that a sustainable use. Opening the tree canopy will allow many young trees to sprout and provide cover and food for wildlife.

In mid-February after a five hour trip from his home, Jason arrived pulling a large trailer with two teams of beautiful Brabant Belgian horses inside. Jason asked his Amish friend, Rudy, to help. The two teams of horses were rotated every hour, with one team resting while the other team worked

Rudy, a seasoned logger, cutdown the trees and Jason and his teams dragged the trees to the township road. There he was met by my brother-in-law, Bob, who helped unhook the tree from the horses and re-hook them to our neighbor Donald’s Farmall M tractor. Donald then dragged them a quarter mile over the icy road to our neighbor Doug’s yard. There I cut the trees to the correct length and Doug stacked them by size for our future sawing project. Doug sawed the logs in mid-March with his band saw and they yielded over 7000 board feet of lumber.

We encountered a few obstacles but the camaraderie was great.

The 3 feet of snow would not have been much of a problem for two young men and four powerful horses. It was what was hidden under the snow that make it a challenge. Under the snow were many wind fallen trees and branches. After a couple trees were skidded out and a path was established the skidding went better. It was still risky as the person who held the horses’ leads had to walk briskly alongside the log as it was dragged out.

The logging took three days, but was made much shorter with the wonderful camaraderie of friends and neighbors gathering over Florence’s great meals.

It was a time to be cherished.

To learn more about Jason Julian and Legacy Horse Logging, visit his website at


Doug (Minar) Pratt

Great article Dave, We have been looking for a low impact logger to selectively work our Sugar Bush. As we want to get the Oaks, Aspen and Basswood out and save the Sugar Maples.