April 12, 2010

Paying It Forward

We all have to start somewhere. I can remember my first time up at Ron Gluck's April Fool's Plow Day, a good ten years ago already. Terry had a walking plow that we put Della, my Belgian mare, to. It was a raw, windy day, threatening rain. Tried to plow with that mare, but she had a separate notion from me as to what we should be doing.

I remember the struggle, walking behind that plow and pushing that moldboard through the dirt, not being smart enough to know that the horse was supposed to do the work. Della danced. My leg and arm muscles ached. By the time we got to the end of the first furrow, a good 200 feet or so, I wanted to fall down. I made a remark to the onlookers (Ron always has 100 to 200 spectators there), "Now I know why tractors were invented!" and I was quickly and curtly reprimanded by a gentleman whose countenance, but not words, is long forgotten. "The walking plow is arguably the single most important invention made by man. It changed the course of humanity." Oh Lord.

Now, so many years later, I marvel at the influence such words have had on me. When Terry and I first got into this business, my only concern was "carriages and turnout". The heart changes. Our life with these horses has given us a broader understanding of the world we live in, and the world we evolved from. They have given us the courage to respect our agricultural roots, as a tribe that has learned to raise animals and plan our crops. And yes, the invention of the walking plow put the word "plan" in the phrase "plan our crops". I see that now.

I would stand here and argue, however, that if the walking plow is such an important invention, then the sulky plow takes a very, very close second. It revolutionized the way we grow our food, dropping the time it takes to produce a crop acre by almost 70%. Wow. More time for blogging!

In all seriousness, we love to share these animals and skills we have cultivated through the years with those who have never had the chance to experience farming in this way. Up at Ron's, where there are three broad acres of land for tilling, people lose all inhibitions, and give plowing with horses a try. They walk away with a whole new perspective of Creation.

Photo: Top: Diane Rockwell, a very able teamster, tries our hydraulic sulky plow for the first time. (The sale team, Pat & Prince, are on the pole).
Middle: Megan Johnson, dairy farmer (also famous for training her cow to drive), drives horses for the first time.
Bottom: "Offering assistance to a neighbor in need" — the motto of every God-fearing farmer.

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