||December 2011 issue||
|Lumberjack Max Hiltz of New Ross, N.S.,
prefers to harvest trees the old-fashioned way, with his trusty
team of oxen.
Why more people are breathing life into a dying trade
Photography by Jeff Friesen with text by Jon Tattrie
When John Little installed the bellows in his
blacksmith shop near Peggys Cove in 1968, it
seemed that one of Nova Scotia’s founding trades
was taking its last breath. His “new” equipment was built in
1916, and his basic tools — hammers and anvils — were as
old as civilization.
But there are sparks of life in this ancient trade. A new
generation is reviving the old ways in the modern world.
Little’s blacksmithing classes today are packed with whitecollar
workers tired of the cubicle existence. “Human beings
take great satisfaction from working with their hands,” he
says. His 31-year-old daughter, Becky, recently opened her own blacksmith shop just down the road from the family hearth.
It’s a similar story in the woods of New Ross, an hour’s drive
inland from Halifax, where lumberjack Max Hiltz works with
his oxen, Bright and Lion, on a snowy February day. He says
human colleagues sometimes take what you say the wrong way.
“Oxen aren’t like that,” he explains with a sly grin.
Hiltz could spend $300,000 on state-of-the-art equipment,
but he’d have to clear his forest to break even. Aided by his
oxen, he prefers to take only enough wood to pay for food and
shelter. At that pace, the resources of the forest will outlast them
all, as will, it seems, the trades that built Nova Scotia.