I didn’t grow up on a farm. I never spent much time around farm equipment other than a few old tractors that Dad had around at various times. So I’m definitely learning about the implements as I go.
Last week I got to plow for the first time. My complete instruction on plowing was what I had read in “Grow It,” a book written in the 70’s for back-to-the-land types. It included a drawing of a field with a pattern showing you which way to drive around the field, and an explanation of the type of furrows you should expect to make. My tractor is a 1953 Ford, which isn’t exactly overpoweringly strong for the job of pulling a 2-bottom plow through heavy soil.
So here are a few things I learned on the job that were not included in the book I’d read.
1. There’s no need to put the plow all the way down. In fact, my tractor can’t actually pull my plow if I put it all the way down. The more I plowed, the more I realized the benefits of not putting the plow down too far.
2. (Closely related to (1.) If you get stuck, the first thing to do is lift the plow up a little bit. 80% of the time, this got me going again.
3. The first time you plow, you’re going to have to do it again later, because it takes some time to get the hang of turning corners, knowing when to pick the plow all the way up (the book I read seemed to assume I’d be keeping the plow down the whole time, but my field is too small to do that AND make it around the corners), and figuring out exactly where to drive in the next row so as to not leave an unplowed line between furrows.
4. It’s good to keep an eye on the plow when in a trashy field, because it can get fouled up with straw, grass, weeds, or whatever. Wear gloves for pulling these things out of the plow.
5. Plowing is very satisfying, but is quite slow work. I thought often about how much slower it would be with horses or oxen who’d need to rest periodically. I’d say that even with my inexperienced hand and slow tractor I was able to plow this 0.75 acre area in an hour or two. I think the standard for a horse or ox is to plow an acre a day!
I found harrowing the field with the disk a bit more fun than plowing, since I got to drive faster and didn’t get stuck. Tonight I’d like to plow again, if the rain holds off.