This topic contains 3 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  MuleManDonn 4 years, 4 months ago.

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    Stephen Leslie

    Hello again Teamsters,
    I am doing research for a writing project on the subject of Market Gardening with horses. I am writing articles for Rural Heritage and Small Farmer’s Journal on horse-drawn implements and the systems that evolve around their use—with an eye towards eventually producing a 2nd book (1st one is THE NEW HORSE-POWERED FARM).
    Today I have what I imagine is a big question….drum roll please….I am wondering if any of the horse-powered (or mule or oxen-powered) market gardeners—or anyone managing crops with draft animals—here could tell me about the use of MOLDBOARD PLOWS on your farm? Do you prefer sulky or walk behind? Do you prefer one of the new models or the vintage plows? Do you have different plows for different jobs or stick with a general purpose plow? How many horses are you typically plowing with? Any observations on, or response to, the popular critique of the moldboard as too disruptive of soil structure and/or liable to creating hard pan?
    If you do write a response and don’t mind being quoted could you also include your name and the name and location (town, state or province) of your farm? If I do use your quote I’ll let you know where and when it will appear beforehand. It’s amazing to have this forum as a resource–I am grateful for all the great communication that happens here.
    Thanks in advance! Stephen Leslie

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    Stephen Leslie

    Haven’t got any bites on this one yet—probably most everyone is too busy plowing snow! I am wondering which plows you all use and prefer? How many horses are you typically hitching to plow? Anyone plow with a single?
    How much acreage do you expect to turn over in a day? Any special considerations for adjustments to hitch or plow depending on what you’re working—for instance, cover crop vs.sod? Any thoughts on the difference of performance of walking vs. sulky in terms of effectiveness of the tool, but also impact on teamster and horses?



    Here is a sound bite-

    We have been considering a job request to plow a garden for someone the next town over. She gave no information in her request so we asked: How much land? What type of soil? Is it stoney? Big stones or little stones? What is the land’s history? Was is just cleared or recently hayed? What are your goals with the plowed ground? It is hard to agree to a job when you don’t know what you are up against.

    After a couple of responses we discover that the land is a neglected hay field recently bush hogged with no small tree stumps to worry about, it has stones, we won’t know how bad until we plow, but we can get a bit of a feel for the stones with a visit once the snow melts. She would like a half acre garden plowed and a few narrow strips to establish a blueberry patch. If all goes well we will also harrow and seed down a cover crop for her.

    While we cannot be 100% committed to doing this job yet, but the conditions sound reasonable so we estimate that we will bring 4 horses over 2 days. The horses are soft and out of shape so we want to give our selves plenty of time to go slow and deal with rocks, with a spare on hand just in case we want to use 4 or need a replacement. If the going is good we will likely use 3 on a 2 way JD plow with Oliver/Radex bottoms. We have many good old plows, but why risk breaking your favorite old plow when you can break a good plow with parts that are much easier to replace. The Blueberry ground is supposedly less rocky so we may use 2 on a walking plow since the strips will only require 2 or 3 passes each direction.

    Overall we won’t know until we try it, but this is our plan based on what we know so far. If upon inspection the ground is too stony we may pass, if a better plow comes our way, maybe we will give it a try 🙂



    I have less experiences plowing, and less demand, than farmers that produce vegetables or grains for sale, but I have been building the skill and tools for the last few years on small plots. Last year I did about three acres. I imagine that many of us are plowing with the plow we have versus a distinct preference. At least that is true with me.

    I have a 12″ or 14″ Syracuse walking plow. While I don’t think it was originally intended as a three horse plow (the beam would be shifted a little to the left), I often use it that way. I have plowed a lot of shod as i have worked into old pastures, and I find the extra horse makes the work easier. In the last couple years i have upgraded new handles and last spring Sam Rich (CT horse farmer and Plow Champ) rebuilt the point on the plow.

    There is a funny thing about making the work easier. When you start plowing for the first time your horses may well be all over the place. It is very hard to get your plow adjusted right and to learn how the basic movements steer the plow while this is going on. The horses may also start and stop as the work seems heavier than they are use to (also because you are distracted by the plow). Each of these problems is a positive feed back loop for the others!

    Making the draft lighter will help reverse one of those positive feed back loops. Soon, your horses will start and not stop so readily while you are figuring out the plow. Once that happens you will start to get the plow bridle adjusted so it runs straight and takes the right amount with each pass. Finally the horses will walk a little slower with out stopping and that will help you learn how to tip the plow left and right to make it go where you want and help it around rocks.

    This is when some smart aleck comes along and says, “that plow only needs two horses”! just wave and keep going. Donn

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