A “cultivating culture.” Friesian horse gelding Teade and Jelmer harrowing asparagus. This was in 2015, in the first year’s growth of asparagus. The crop can stay for 10 years, so the less you go in the field with heavy tractors and machinery the less soil compaction you get, leaving more air pores in the soil so roots can develop more. The rope I hold in my hands connects to the back part of the harrow, in that way I can steer the harrow closer or farther from the crop for precise control.
Asparagus in Holland
by Jelmer Albada of Friesland, Holland
The asparagus culture in Holland is for the majority white asparagus, grown in ridges. This is done on a sandy soil, like here in the picture. This piece of land used to be the headland of the field. The soil was therefore compact, and a big tractor came with a spader, loosening the soil. After that I used the horse for the lighter harrowing and scuffle work to prevent soil compaction. The land in this area of the province is rolling, due to the ice age glaciers of before. This land lies high for Dutch standards and has a low ground water level (table), that is why asparagus can grow there, which can root 3 foot deep over the years. Very common in Holland is the high ground water level.
First try out of the restored “Meyer hacke”, the German version of the Planet Jr. Horse Hoe #8. This brand built them until about 2002. Then they would have cost about 450 Euros. I bought a good second hand one for 45 Euros then had it sandblasted and painted and had that done much cheaper than the price of a new one.
Asparagus in the fall, the last harrowing in December 2015, the plant has died off back into the ground.
This was in the green asparagus before harvest season. It was the first time I used my restored European tool carrier of the Kockerling brand. Works nice. When the picture was taken, the harness was not used correctly, it pulled on the shafts, a pass later I corrected that. At the back in the pictures you can see the asparagus ridges, that is where the white asparagus grows in. It is covered with plastic, which has a white and black side. Early in the year it is still cold and to warm up the ridges the black side of the plastic is placed upwards so through sunlight the ridges warm up. photo by photographer Frans Mulder
I am using a traditional Friesian breast harness. I’m really into shining modern light on working with horses, but the practicality of the quick-hitch harness and my cultural background inspire me to use this traditional style.
What we do here in Friesland (some other regions as well) is keep the traces attached to the evener. For hitching a single horse or a team of two this method works well. We attach the traces to the horse’s harness. In this manner we don’t stand close to the horse’s back legs.
A quick-hitch method is used to connect the traces to the harness. This is a round piece of wood with a hole in it, and through the hole goes a rope in a loop. We call that piece of wood, the quick-hitch, an “oesdop.” They used to be made out of bone (the ball-joint from the back legs of a cow or bull). These “oesdoppen” have been found in archaeological sites and date way back.
Not many people use this method. I do and find it very practical farming-wise.
– Jelmer Albada