Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Anybody here interested in plowing info? I've got a reprint of a 1909 plowing manual that I think has a lot of good info in it that I can post if anyone's interested.

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

I don't have anything to plow.

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

Jay, If you don't mind posting it, I'd like to have it. I don't have horses, but I'd like to add it to my "library" just in case some day I need to get some to plow. I'm sure it's great information and dead on right. :-D Back then, they knew plowing by horse like the back of their hand, and they also knew every way NOT to do it.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Good Mornin' Glenda...
I posted a bit of it on the Farm Forum, so you can see the first bit there. I'll post the rest of it here... well, not the rest of it, but the bits that seem to be applicable to any kind of plowing, whether it's with a horse, an ATV, or a tractor. A lot of it is about timing and soil moisture...

Don't you have a neighbor with a horse? =0)

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

How about oxen? I'm trying to convince my steers they have to work for a living.

Not having a lot of luck.....

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Oh yes, oxen! I've been reading about using them in SFJ... a lot of folks are getting into them. =0) Tell us about yours! And how you got into it, and just everything.

Pics, too, if you can swing it. =0)

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

I'm just learning, too. These guys are known as The Hat Boys, Hershey, Angus, and T-Bone. The are among the Not-To-Be-Eaten residents, but they are expensive to feed. I'm trying to figure out a way to justify the cost, and I could use some help with plowing.

I really need to get some info, but no=one seems to have any thoughts locally.

Here ya go

Thumbnail by catmad
Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Oh, big boys! I think they usually start oxen when they're really little. Do you get the Small Farmer's Journal? They've got a regular column on oxen now which has quite a bit about equipment (fitting bows, girthing chains, horn training knobs), stories and training tips. There's also several books and some videos in their 'store'.

Are the boys halter broke?

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Here's an oxen resource...

BerryBrook Ox Supply
458 Meaderboro Rd
Farmington, NH 03835
(603) 335-4475

I'm searching through my mags for ox stuff...

Pelzer, SC(Zone 7b)

Yeah, that's my problem, but some say it can be done. They will wear halters (they were bottle babies) but that's about it.....Yup, I have my work cut out for me. But, it will keep me busy. We also have some babies comng soon, so it's a consideration for the future.
You have reminded me that Small Farm hasn't showed up lately. Thanks, I'll get it started again...

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

I just got the latest issue yesterday...
and--oh darn-- it's too windy to work outside. Guess I'll have to sit and read it. LOL
No ox article this time, though.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

There wasn't much in the recent issue of SFJ, but there's a bunch of stuff in the last issue of Rural Heritage. Here's more info than you could shake a goad at...

The Pride and Joy of Working Cattle
covers selecting a breed, training, using equipment, making equipment. Over 70 pictures over 50 pages of print. This is a self published/self promoted deal, I think. There's price and contact info if anyone wants it.

Boynton's Yokes 'n' Bows... oxen supply, including new and used equipment.
(603) 774-4412 in NH

Clark Bending... Solid wood bending including bows and yokes and plow handles. Abe Yoder, 1895 TR 152, Baltic, OH 43804

New England Ox Supply... oxen supply listing books and videos as well as the usual.

Tiller's International has a basic oxen course...


Bullock Driver's Handbook. Arthur Cannon. This Australian ox drover explains how to select and train oxen, make a neck yoke and bows, hitch to a load, drive a multiple hitch, braid a whip, and construct a variety of handy implements including a sled, cart, scoop, log skidding shoe, and a log buggy.

In Praise of Oxen. Terry James. Stunning photographs in the ox country of southwestern Nova Scotia commemorates the important role this draft animal plays there.

Oxen, A Teamster's Guide. Drew Conroy. The definitive text on training, working and keeping oxen. Topics include selecting the ideal team, housing your oxen, feeding, training principles, advanced training, making a neck yoke and bow, hitching options, logging with oxen, hoof care and much more. Conroy is regarded as one of the best authorities on oxen and their care.

Oxen Workshop at Remick Farm (DVD). Remick Country Doctor Museum and Farm in Tamworth, New Hampshire. Each year the Museum hosts an intensive three-day workshop led by well-known New England drovers, along with an experienced support staff. In this program, novice drovers learn how to use cattle power in the woodlot and on the farm. 55 min. DVD

Training Oxen. Drew Conroy and Tim Huppe. Shows how to train a handy team of oxen using three kinds of commands--verbal, body position, and physical touch--in this step-by-step guide to selecting calves, handling them in the barn, establishing training goals, pre-yoke training, yoking a team, hitching and working them on a cart or sled, and preparing them for obstacle competition, pulling contests, log skidding, and manure spreading. 2 hour DVD.

And there's also a couple of videos about making yokes and bows.

Hup on, boys...

Fowlerville, MI(Zone 5b)

My Papaw Williams plowed with oxen but I don't know the first thing about it. .......Other than you need an ox. ;) lol

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Yep'm, I've got an old foto of my G'pa with his good team and that about sums up my knowledge of oxen. Oh, and 90% of the freight in the old days was moved by oxen.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

By request, more from the old pamphlet... Jump in with your own observations and comments any time... =0)

Feeding plants is a science based upon knowledge of plant life and the nature of soil.
The farmer is most concerned with the soil and its treatment--these she controls [what the heck, I can pander to my audience if I want].

What about the soil? It is not all plant food, but largely an inert mass of very small partcles of rock brought to its finely pulverized condition by ages of weathering and decomposition.

Through this mass are distributed small quantities of mineral elements called plant foods. Besides these, a fertile soil contains organic matter called humus. This substance is the basis of soil nitrogen, which is the most important element of plant food, being the one most quickly exhausted.

Humus (rotted vegetable matter) has a great influence on the physical condition of the soil. It gives that dark, fertile appearance, holds the moisture, tends to produce a mellow, warm condition, and is the medium through which bacterial life exists. These bacteria are essential to plant growth, and thrive only in the presence of a good supply of humus. Soils which have no humus are "dead" and unproductive.

Texture of the soil is nearly always more important than mere richness. Many "worn out" lands have simply been robbed of their humus. They still contain an abundance of mineral plant food [welcome to the great southwest, land of little humus]. Others have been injured by careless or faulty management.

The maintenance and improvement of soil texture depends more upon plowing than upon any other tillage operation. Plowing adds neither humus or plant food, but if done right, will keep the soil in good tilth and make plant food more available.

Most of that is still true, the only exception that springs to my mind is now we have a better idea of the part of mycorhizzal (sp?) organisms play in soil fertility and health. But the same factors that keep your bacteria alive and happy will work for the soil fungus. =0)

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

My DH's grandpa logged with oxen. I think I have a pic here somewhere. I'll have to see if I can get it posted somehow. It's an old B&W print.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

That'd be neat...

I was reading in SFJ a while back a letter from a missionary who had taught some folks in Africa how to use an ox to plow and cultivate their fields, making a significant improvement in their living standard; now able to farm 2 acres (I think) rather than 1/2 as before when they did it all by hand...

we are not the only ones that have lost a lot of knowledge and skills. To think of an ox as still being a technology advancement...

Roswell, NM(Zone 6a)

Ok we are behind the times me and my husband both know how to farm using horse's and mules, we don't do it any more but still have all the equipment and still have horse's we could train, now we have antique tractors that he use's for the few places we plow or mow. I don't drive the tractors they scare me. I enjoyed reading about the soil and plowing. susan

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Hi Susan, amiga from NM! Nice to hear from somebody in my neck of the woods. =0) Has it been a dry winter for you folks down south? What kind of horses have you got?

I've driven tractors, but the engine noise leaves me feeling beat up by the end of the day. You can't hear a meadowlark sing like you can behind a team, not that I've done much with horses, but that's one thing that really struck me.

Roswell, NM(Zone 6a)

We have been dry and windy. We finely got some rain out of this storm. We have an arab cross mare, soild color paints, and quertor horse's now. I like the sound of the old JD tractor we have. He doesn't have any thing older then the 50's. Have you got much moisture up in your part of the country. Susan

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

No, we've only had 2 6" snows the whole winter. Got a couple inches about 10 days ago, but I think the wind has blown all that away. The last storm just made empty promises at us. =0(
My dad had an old 9N that I used. I wouldn't mind having it now...

Time for the next installment:


It pulverizes and mellows the soil.

A finely divided, mellow soil is more productive than a hard, lumpy one of the same chemical composition, because it holds more moisture; gives plant roots more feeding ground; has a more constant temperature. It also promotes nitrification and the development of available plant food.

Plowing, especially in the spring, tends to ventilate, warm and dry the seed-bed. If properly done, the mellow mulch formed prevents evaporation from the deeper soil, thus saving tons of water for the use of the crop.

Deep plowing brings up new stores of inert plant food, enlarges the moisture reservoir, deepens the seed-bed, gives more root-room and more material for the soil bacteria to convert into available plant food. Deep plowing, or subsoiling, serves to break up an impervious hard-pan and favors the absorption of moisture.

Fall plowing destroys many weeds and injurious insects. The latter are even more readily destroyed by winter or early spring plowing.

Proper and timely plowing is the most efficient and practical means of preparing a suitable seed-bed for nearly all farm crops.

The best was to build up the productivity of exhausted soils is to plow well, add humus and work up a physical condition suitable for the best growth of plants. After this is done the application of concentrated fertilizers may give profitable returns, but they should not be used to start with.


What I thought was so useful about this pamphlet was that it can be applied to any kind of plow, any kind of soil working. I'm looking at this today and thinking about my veg garden, which I work with a turning fork, which is a kind of plowing when you think about it. I'm thinking it may be time to turn my oldest bed again, to 'subsoil' it a bit and bring up some more mineral food, deepen the root room some more.

Here in the desert, our soil does indeed have all the minerals it needs (boy, howdy) but it is often at absolute zero for humus content. I've turned desert sand into black topsoil with just the yearly addition of several inches of manure and sawdust. But let it go a couple of years, and it's back to sand. The heat just causes the soil bacteria to eat everything and then die off. So you have to keep feeding the hungry little buggers. =0)

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

That is very interesting. I would likely be lost if I was transplanted to such a dry climate after living in the opposite all my life. I would have to learn how to garden all over again.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

It doesn't help that most of the gardening books assume that everyone gardens in soil similar to yours... much of the advice they offer is the opposite of what should be done out here in the West. The biggest is adding wood ashes and eggshells to the soil, a big no-no with our alkaline soil and water.

I wouldn't know what to do with all your water! LOL

Roswell, NM(Zone 6a)

I've lived here all my life just about so I really won't know what to do with good ground and water. LOL. You can add a sulfar furtilizer and it will make your soil turn loose of the minerals. I was also taught if it snows to go out and plow it into the ground that needed nitrogen as its the best natural source you could find. I know a lot of the farmer's around my uncles thought we were weird because it didn't snow much but when it did every thing that could plow was in the field that needed nitrogen. There would be horse's and tractors working side by side. I've also had good luck adding vingar to our storage tanks about once a week to help cut the salt out of our water, learned that from a lady that moved here from Germany. Well eveyone enjoy the weather your having. Susan

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Oh, that's interesting about plowing the snow down. =0) I'll have to ask around here and see if anyone ever did it. I have heard that the nitrogen is one of the reasons the rainwater is so good for plants.

You have any one-horse equipment?

Roswell, NM(Zone 6a)

We mostly have two or up plows but I think he still has one of the one horse planters. We farmed fields that were at least 30 or more acres so had the big equipment. I've watched my husband work a 10 horse hitch and he would take 4 to 6 teams to work to a dray wagon at the shows just for fun. Susan

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Have any interest in parting with the planter?
I've been thinking it must have been pretty chilly work plowing down snow... but it would sure lock in the moisture from our forever winds.

I'll bet you have seen some climate change since you got started down there.

Roswell, NM(Zone 6a)

No all of the horse drawn equipment came from my side of the family so you might say that was my inhertance. lol We are always looking for new things. I have a corn wagon and the dray wagon that was used to haul stuff from the Santa Fe rail yards in Clovis and Tiban to the store's that we are going to have to redo. And I have the running chasie for a wagon that I keep telling every one if they don't get it fixed and back together I'm putting it in my yard and hanging flowers from it. There should be a lot of equipment up around where you are there use to be a lot of work horse's up there. The weather seems to be changing a lot the last two years, we are colder longer into what use to be summer but the heat and dry seems to be worse to. Plowing the snow isn't really that bad, I enjoyed it, it was kind of peaceful and pretty at the same time the contrast of where the soil had been turned over and the rest that was covered in snow.

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

I would love to see pics of your teams and equipment. Sounds very interesting indeed.

Roswell, NM(Zone 6a)

We haven't worked any horse in about 6 years now that he has his tractors. lol, I'm going to start a young team this summer just to have one around, they are going to be small querter horse's around 14.5 hands. and I may start our big arab cross mare to the buggie just for fun. I'll send picture's when I get them in harness. I am breaking a tb fillie to ride right now, she was my christmas present, today will be the first ride for her hope all goes well and I may put her under harness as well. We always rode the horse's we worked. Well better get off the computer its nearly light enough out side to get the animals fed and some more plants in the ground. Have a Good Day. Susan

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Yes, there is a lot of old HD equipment, but it's seems to be for big teams, very little in the way of 1 horse stuff. I've seen one 4' mower, but it's been turned into a lawn ornament, and I'm not sure my donks could work a mower anyway; I've heard they don't walk fast enough and mowers are tricky beasts anyway, from everything I've heard.

I'd like to find an 8" or 10" walking plow in working order... there's a new one by I & J that I've been thinking about. A flex-tine harrow shouldn't be too hard to rig, they're making a new 1-horse riding disc, but I haven't seen any one horse seeders but one at the SFJ auction last year, and it seems like something my guys could do.

Yep, time to get to it...

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

We may be sending our percheron/TWH X mare to a guy we know to be trained for harness work. I'd like to have my DGS's haffie mare trained also. He doesn't ride her anymore since he moved up to a TWH mare. Both of them are turned out on the farm now getting fatter by the minute. Had their feet trimmed last week.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Oh nice. =0) They ought to be able to drag your fields at the least. What other sort of harness work were you thinking of?
By haffie, do you mean haflinger? I drove a team of them to the walking plow during a weekend workshop... you could sure get a lot done with one of them, they step out nicely. And they look quite sharp in front of a wagon, too. I quite enjoyed my brief experience with them. =0)

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

We just want them to pull a wagon or a cart. Yes, Goldie is DGS's hafflinger pony. She is quite substantial and I know she'd have no problem pulling a wagon. We are looking to sell her and we figure the more training she has the better. He doesn't ride her anymore and she is just turned out at the farm.

Here is her best side. LOL The two horses she is standing between are both 60" tall so that will give you an idea of her height. She is as gentle as a lamb and very willing.

Thumbnail by CajuninKy
Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

60"... oh gawd... now I have to do that conversion thing... lemme see... ah, 15 HH. =0)

I've grown up with hands as the standard of measurement. I find it interesting that part of the country uses inches (and it is a regional thing, you can always tell what part of the country a donkey ad is from when they state height in inches).
Anyhew... nice motor! LOL

Biggs, KY(Zone 6a)

She's a chunk for sure. Shaq is 16 hands.

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

OK, next installment...


Plow intelligently. [oh help]

Do not cut and cover. Make no skips.

If the plow is thrown out, back up or turn around and clear the furrow--it will pay in extra yield.

Do not plow out the field every year. Reverse the plowing each year so as to leave a dead-furrow through the center one year and a back furrow the next.

Spring plowing should be done as to avoid tramping on the plowed ground as much as possible. It is better, therefore, to do back-furrowing in the spring.

In starting a back-furrow, first throw out a shallow furrow, then reverse the direction, throwing the furrow in and plowing a little deeper. This prevents ridging.

In finishing a land, unless the purpose is to leave a deep dead-furrow for drainage, turn a shallow furrow back into the dead-furrow. The bare subsoil will produce little or no crop.

Poorly drained fields, or those in regions of great rainfall, may be plowed in narrow lands [strips], making high back-furrow ridges and deep dead-furrows. If necessary, such lands may be plowed this way two or three years in succession. This elevates a large portion of the surface and gives better drainage over the whole area.

[I wonder if this technique could be used to terrace a mild slope? There's several old fields around here that used to grow crops that have a bit of terrace ridging and I'm pretty sure no graders were used. Anybody know?]

There seems no special advantage in having the trash sticking out at the edges of the furrows. A field looks better and is planted much easier when all the trash is covered. The proper use of the jointer usually helps to accomplish this result. This attachment is valuable also for plowing sod.


A jointer is something specific to a walking plow, I think. I know what a dead-furrow is, I can figure out what a back-furrow is, but what is "plowing out a field"?
And what does it mean when they say do not cut and cover? Skipping I know a lot about... it's what I did most of the plowing weekend. LOL

Marshall, MO(Zone 5b)

I have heard my Dad talk about a plow that was set up to make terraces. It had some kind of augur on it to push the soil up in a ridge. I've never saw one .
Your plowing instructions brought back some powerful memories to me. It sounds like Dad talking every spring when we were getting ready to layout a field. We never used horses, had an F20 and an old C- Allis plus a B- Allis. I was never allowed to open a field on my own but he would stand on the draw bar of that old '20 and GUIDE me through it, I was probably 11 or 12 years old at the time. We rarely had any problems with drainage. I do remember the eye-rolling he would do when going by neighbors fields while pointing out the "errors".

Sapello, NM(Zone 5b)

Hi Huffy, glad you dropped in! =0)
I just love hearing the old memories come up, as much as I love watching a good team plow. =0) I'm happy to hear you're enjoying this.

I remember desperately WANTING to drive the tractor and my mom put the kabash on it. She figured I was already too much a tomboy. I was just eaten up with jealousy... my little sister had gotten to drive the tractor 'all the way across the pasture!' (I'm sure sitting on my dad's lap; she couldn'ta been more than 6) and I never got to because of my mean old mom. =0( LOL Oh, how my little sister lorded that over me all summer.

More soon...

Roswell, NM(Zone 6a)

Jimmy said that was what they always called when you plowed out your corners where you turned and on the last one you plowed out of the gate of the field. And he said yes that in Tx where he helped his uncle farm they would use this to terriace the sides of the hills where they would follow the conture of the land. I was raised with this being called bench and bordering, and they would use a deep breaking blow or a V plow. and my uncles had a little disk thing that would attach to the side and would arch over the border and just lightly plow it so that the trash would be covered up. And as far a a single horse planter Jimmy said to take a two or four row planter and converet it. Can you tell his a weilder and can make just about anyting he wants to, lol. Did you get any of the storm? We got the cold and wind and it took out a fin on our windmill and my tomatoe and pepper plants that I had just put in the ground, even with being covered. Well better get off Every one have a Good night. Susan

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