Monday, April 14, 2014

Plow Days 2014!

Yesterday was THE perfect day! Perfect weather, perfect company and the perfect task to be completed. As you can see, I put my team of Percheron draft horses to work and got my garden step closer to planting!

 STEP 1: Spread Fertilizer - As I'd mentioned earlier, Dan had already scattered some pony poo over the garden with the skid loader. (In my perfect world, I would have a horse-drawn manure spreader and dump the pony poo into that each time I clean out stalls, then all I'd have to do is hook up Jimmy and Charlie and scatter it on the garden. But, for right now I guess I'll survive with the occasional visit from the skid loader via Starlite Dairy and Grain.)

 STEP 2: Plow - It took some coordination and planning to get this step done yesterday. The first thing we needed was good weather. We were originally scheduled to plow last Friday, however, the threat of rain (which never happened) made us decide to reschedule it for Sunday since it looked like a guarantee for good weather. Sunday sounded better to me anyway since Dan would be around pretty much all day to look after Carl, and this way I didn't have to worry about making alternate arrangements with someone else. When I'm working with my horses, no matter where it is, I need to be able to focus solely on what I'm doing with them. I don't think it would work if half my attention is on Carl and half my attention is on the horses. They are, afterall, like children themselves and they each have a brain, so it's a lot to focus on at the same time, and I'd rather not take the risk!

 The other thing I needed was a plow...and the help that comes along with it! Two years ago I plowed my garden with Jimmy and Charlie with a borrowed plow from my dad's friend, Don Ryan, who got us into draft horses years ago! Don does a lot of plowing competitions and has been very kind in helping us out with all of this.

 At nine o'clock yesterday morning dad and I were harnessing the boys in the cross-ties in the barn when the buggy brigade when by. All the Amish were dressed in their Sunday best, heading off to Palm Sunday services. I couldn't help but feel a little guilty...after all it says in the Bible that Sunday is the day of rest and that you should let your animals rest on Sunday. However, almost every day is Sunday to Jimmy and in "farming" you have to make hay when the sun shines...

 Before 10 we had the first furrow already plowed! After that first pass Jimmy stepped into the furrow every time after that! It had been two years since they had plowed and both horses acted like they had done it the day before! I can't help but love them even more, if that's even possible! Dad and I would take turns, each plowing a few rows, then trading places in the driver's seat. We also had to stop frequently to let the horses rest. Don stayed until we got the hang of the levers and getting the right depth, which is about 6 inches. Our yard isn't really flat, so in the beginning of the row the plow wasn't cutting very deep, but by the middle it was. Thankfully, I wasn't in a competition yesterday, so the uneven depth and lack of straightness in the rows doesn't matter in a vegetable garden!

 I know I'm a really weird person in this almost obsession of doing things the hard way, but I can't help it (I'm going to show you more of what I mean in future posts!) I mean, Have Horses, Will Use Them...why not?! I don't want to just give hayrides in the fall, I want to do all kinds of things with Jimmy and Charlie. After we got our rhythm down yesterday, I was having more fun plowing than, sorry to say, giving hayrides. It was soooo relaxing. Nothing beats having your horse know his job and doing it well, and working in perfect harmony with them. Not to mention just spending that time your dad and sharing in the experience.

 STEP 3: Disking - For right now, I'm the proud owner of an antique single-bottom sulky plow! The next horse-drawn implement to acquire is a disk. Having one would be a lot of fun, but I'm not as worried about a disk as I was about a plow. It would be nice to have one because that would mean another day of working the horses, but I've been more focused on the plowing aspect. Don also has a disk he has offered to let us borrow, should we decide to disk with horses after the upturned dirt has time get a little weather beaten. It's still April and I'm not worried about disking right now, since if I did, the weeds be moving in before I even plant anything.

 At the end of the day I was sunburnt and pretty tired, but over the moon at the results! Here are some pictures of Plow Day 2014 at the Shawhan Farm!

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