A Step Back In Time

By Edie Johnson

Chester/Blooming Grove – Pine Hill Farm on Route 94, the Hudson Valley Draft Horse Association and Campbell Hall’s legendary Cowboy/Percheron and Belgian Draft expert Sean Giery offered several dozen area farm and horse lovers quite a treat last weekend, thanks to the gracious invite of the Conklin family, which owns Pine Hill Farm which sits right at the border of Chester and Blooming Grove.

Walking onto the Pine Hill farmland and seeing the horses and some senior farmers well into their 80’s and 90’s who helped build and maintain the farmland in Orange County felt, well, like closing your eyes and waking up  into the late 1800’s.  Giery brought two teams (one a pair of big black Percheron horses, the other light chestnut Belgian drafts with flashy white socks and blazes), plus a plow, driving apparatus and manure spreading machine.  With many people fed up with city life and taking up “Gentleman” farming (smaller farms but with good management skills). These newer farmers are enjoying tending the fields with time honored “old time farming” techniques that are more organic and pesticide and fertilizer free (except for some good old horse manure plowed and mixed into aged soil), are making a big resurgence.  Logging with horses is also coming back in vogue. 

Sean did his time in the USAF and Natiobnal Guard and comes from a generational service family  including NYPD Mounted and firefighters.  But his pleasure is to work with horses and share them with the public, usually via Carriage Rides, Weddings, Parties, Events , Parades, Funeral Processions and Sleigh Rides. He says he had wanted to be a cowboy since he was a little boy, and has fittingly named his farm Dun Dreamin’.

Business was a little slow during the pandemic, but is beginning to pick up, and he invites anyone who hopes to do an old-fashioned farm party, wedding or other event to give him a call (he is going off to the West for a once-in-a-lifetime Conestoga Wagon Trip, but will be back in Campbell Hall in a few weeks, and you can leave a message with his cousin Mary Beth runs the farm with him.)

The plowing and spreading demonstration was magical and transported all of us to a simpler time.  The backdrop of the Black Dirt Valley and Schunnemunk Range behind it was quintessential Chester and Blooming Grove and is located very near Roe’s Orchards, the two large farms being the site of some of the earliest settlers in the area.  One of the members of the Draft Horse Association did some of the plowing, and showed his skills with machinery when the plow parts gave way and took time to repair.

A good Kentucky horseman will say “No hoof, no horse”. Likewise, there is no farmland preparation without working machinery, so machinery skills are learned on the job.

And while the true farmers and work horse equestrians of the area jealously watched the teams being driven, many of us hoped that with a little more learnin’ we will be permitted to try our hands with the reins when the next Draft Horse Day comes along.The more senior of the crowd who have lived in the era when this kind of farming was an everyday occurrence all had smiles and good memories coming back, and maybe a tear or two wishing to see this kind of life again.  Just maybe they will. 

The clinic was a big success and a reminder that these skills are valuable, are fun to participate in, and still have an important place in our community.

To plan an event, contact Dun Dreamin’ Farm (845) 742-9816 (https://dundreaminfarm.com/services), and look for more Dun Dreamin’, Orange County Draft Horse Association, and Pine Hill Farm Events in the Orange County Post-Sentinel.

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