I think of plowing as the quintessential activity of a real farm. In fact, I hestitate to call my place a real farm because of the lack of said, plowing. I’m fond of the ‘lasagna’ method of growing crops…layering compost and straw and cardboard. I’ve run a rototiller a few times, but its just not my thing. So recently, when I had the opportunity to learn to plow….for real…I hopped on board, quite literally.
Some of you may know that I have agreed to sell Peanut to a nice couple in Vermont who plan to farm with him. He is on trial with them as I write this….staying at Ted’s place, where they are learning the ins and outs of driving a work horse. I brought Peanut up last week. Ted and I had hatched a plan (well, mostly I did) that we should put Peanut and Clayton together to plow at the GMDHA fall meeting. Ted wanted Peanut there a few days early to practice.
So Thursday morning, I help Ted harness up the horses and we hitch them to this antique plow…I believe a John Deere ‘Syracuse’….I could be wrong, but it was old and looked like a death trap. Nothing like sitting on a rickety seat sprung over a metal cage and huge plow blades beneath you. No seat belt and no brakes…it looked horrifying! I was happy to watch. Plowing with horses is interesting to watch. The more experienced horse generally walks ‘in the furrow’, while the other simply helps pull the plow along. The plow edge slices into the earth and folds it over on itself, kind of like you are carving a nice piece of meat. The look of a freshly plowed plot of land is somehow appealing, in its tidiness and uniform rows. Ted certainly made it look easy….
Then he hopped off and handed me the reins. I think I kind of gave him a glazed over expression as I said, ‘sure’.
Getting the boys lined up in the furrow proved easy enough, but then you have to pull the lever up and over to engage the plow. Here’s where it gets personal. The act of moving this lever actually lifts you up as the plow engages. Well, I belive I outwiegh Ted by 50 lbs at least and to say I am half as strong would be generous, so lifting that lever was not easy. I needed alot of help in the beginning.
I did learn very quickly, however, that if you asked the horses to ‘step up’ a step or so, while you tried to engage the plow, they actually helped pull the lever over and into position. Voila, ready to go. Next you have to keep the furrow horse in the furrow (on the right) and the plow over to the left. Ted said the furrow wheel should be ideally 2 inches inside the furrow edge. I took that very seriously as I do all specific instruction. In fact this is what began to fascinate me about plowing. The exactness and the linearness of it endeared me to the process…I was hooked!
Two days later we were plowing at the fall meeting. Add some wet soil from days of rain and abit of a hill and it was a whole new ballgame! But the principles remained the same and before long I was plowing on my own and feeling empowered!
Plowing is indeed an addicting habit. I am now triing to figureout how I can buy a plow…