G Haw Tool Carrier
by Walt Bernard of Dorena, OR
One of the unique features of Ruby and Amber’s Farm and Workhorse Workshops is the use of draft horses and traditionally small scale agricultural systems appropriate for draft animal power, coupled with unique, novel, and modern farm practices, (e.g. bed systems, high tunnels), to realize maximum synergy between the two systems. One of our common farming techniques is based on the bio-intensive method of planting multiple rows of crops into the same relatively fixed wide beds, allowing us to maximize production in smaller acreages. This also saves input costs as well, such as compost, lime, and other amendments and keeps more of our valuable soil covered with plants, minimizing erosion. Thus, for most of our cropping configurations, we plant multiple rows within a three-foot wide bed laid out on four-foot centers.
One of the challenges of a multi row bed based planting system has been that of mechanical cultivation. Most of the traditional draft horse tools we have been able to acquire were designed for single row plantings such as single row walk behind cultivators or straddle row cultivators, both of which have been difficult to adapt to multi row bed systems. We have seen some rare examples of implements and tool carriers that approximate our needs but most of these are either not in production, are located outside the USA, or are rare, inaccessible, antique, single implements. Examples of these implements include the Melotte cultivating tool, Le Bucher prototype tool, the Univecus. There is an excellent discussion of tool carriers in Steven Leslie’s new book, Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century.
After several years of thinking about and planning a concept design for a tool carrier that could handle our cultivation needs, we began to see the possibility of a horse drawn cultivating and implement tool carrier design based on a combination of several implements we either had on the farm or could use as inspiration for critical design functions for the tool to be successful. These implements include an antique two row beet cultivator, that we bought for 15 dollars at a Small Farmer’s Journal auction years ago, and the famed Allis Chalmers G cultivating tractor, cherished by many a market farmer for its cultivating abilities. We also analyzed the unique features of the Univecus tool carrier, as well as the other tool carrier tools mentioned above, for ideas to adapt to the design.
The key design features of the tool carrier were adapted mainly from the old beet cultivator. The beet cultivator featured a tool bar that was in front of the operator for excellent visibility, foot steering that actuated instantaneous lateral movement of the tool bar for accurate cultivating control, and simultaneous foot steering of the front axle. In other words, when you pressed the left pedal, the tool bar would immediately shift to the left while, with forward movement, the whole beet cultivator would then follow by steering to the left. The beet cultivator had a single caster wheel on the back which was steered both by the operator’s foot pedal control but mainly by the tongue direction of the horses, thus allowing left or right turns, ‘crabbing’ movements to the left or right, and a zero turn radius on the front wheels by side passing the horses.
For the height, length and implement lift design, we looked to the Allis Chalmers G cultivating tractor. The ‘G’ has excellent forward visibility of crops and cultivating tools and features a parallelogram lift mechanism that allows the working implements, sweeps, or other tools to remain at the same relative pitch in both vertical and horizontal planes, (usually level), upon raising or lowering into the ground. Most straddle row cultivators have tool bars that are hinged at the front, and therefore the working implements that are farther back move much farther on the radius of the lifting action, so they only work at the same height at one depth, and require more frame height in the rear to effect adequate clearance for the front working implements. The parallelogram lift on the ‘G’ eliminates this problem. The ‘G’ also features a raised curved frame, allowing adequate lift clearance for the working implement, while keeping the operator at a lower center of gravity and closer view of the work at hand. One disadvantage of the ‘G’ for super close cultivating is that the tool bar only moves laterally when you drive the tractor forward and steer the wheels in a lateral direction, unlike the positive tool bar movement coordinated with steering on the beet cultivator. So the design of the beet cultivator afforded superior control of the tool bar and working implements compared to the ‘G.’
Based on the desirable design features of the beet cultivator and the ‘G’ tractor we then developed the following list of features that we wanted to incorporate into the tool carrier. We have not completed all of the items on the list below, (such as the solar charger, for example).
Frame: Four-wheel frame over beds/crops.
- From 2-4 ft bed width style configuration with wheels running on outside of beds (or in rows in the case of row crop usage.)
- Row crop wheel base configuration for multi rows like corn, and other field crops.
- Foot steering for the front axle. Steering lock of axles for heavy work like digging potatoes.
- Rear caster wheels allow for precise controlled backing, zero radius turning, and rear wheels arranged to clear implements during turning and backing.
- Front quick attach spring assist tongue for team that can be offset for single horse to cultivate the edge beds in our high tunnels, or along trellised plants.
- Double tongue guard arms to keep horses off beds when needed. This is a sweeping metal rod attachment extends to the sides of the tongue and acts as a barrier if the horses crowd together, encouraging the horses to move away from the edge of the bed.
- Adjustable frame width for different bed and row configurations.
- Adjustable frame height for different implement needs.
- Heavier construction to be more stable in use.
- Low and adjustable rear seat for easy entry, safety and excellent visibility of work.
- Hydraulics for lifting power. We used a self-contained 12-volt hydraulic unit and single handle 4-position controller to operate the two double acting cylinders, which also have the ability to provide down pressure.
- Operator position for excellent visibility of work and ability to see over horses.
- Solar Trickle Charger.
Tool carrier bar design:
- Center mount tool bar forward of the operator for good visibility.
- Rear tool bar for additional tool usage, e.g. pathway sweeps to cultivate behind wheel paths.
- Front and rear tool bars designed for interchangeable implements as needed. For example, a gang of sweeps could be placed forward followed by a rake tine weeder or crumbler on the rear tool bar. In another situation one might put chisel points on the front tool bar and move the gang of sweeps to the rear.
- Adjustable frame height to lift attached implements clear of beds/plants.
- Tool carrier bar attachment points don’t interfere with crops or implement operation.
- Tool carrier bar will raise and lower appropriate heights for implement tool heights, shapes, and sizes.
- Ability to move tool bar concurrently with foot steering of the front axle similar to the beet cultivator.
- Easy implement attachment mechanism (e.g. Tool-less, easy, quick). Adapters for currently available tools on the market such as the Pioneer, Annie’s all in One, or other available implements readily available that, are designed for lawn tractors or other carriers.
- Tool bar design to use commercially available implements for veggie cultivation such as torsion weeders, budding weeders, tine weeders, KressR style cultivating tools.
The tool carrier took roughly 6 months to build and we had much technical and practical advice from our good friend and amazing fabricator, welder, and practical engineer, George Swain. After initial field-testing when we realized the tool carrier would meet and exceed our expectations we realized we needed to name the implement. We thus named the machine ‘G Haw Tool Carrier’ for three reasons: ‘G Haw’ for the obvious horse component, ‘G’ for the contributions from the Allis Chalmers G tractor, and, most importantly, ‘G’ for the contributions, advice, and engineering skills provided by our close friend and welding mentor George Swain without whom we would not have been able to complete the project to the same degree of success.
Thus far we have used the tool for a variety of crops and uses including planting, hilling, and digging potatoes, cultivation of a variety of plantings in 1-4 row configurations in our 3 foot wide beds, offset cultivation of beds next to our high tunnel walls, blind and pre-emergent tillage prior to a crop planting and other uses. To use the implement for multi row cultivation requires precision planting in ganged rows using a reliable bed marker. We have yet to fully realize the potential for the G Haw but have several uses in mind for which we need to build the implements. These include, inter row cultivation using specially designed cultivation tools, foliar feeding, a wide bed shaping tool, roto-tiller tool for mulching beds or organic debris incorporation, bed row marker, and gang planter units, to name a few applications, that we foresee in the coming years. I anticipate a follow up article regarding implement design in about a year. We also plan to post updates on implement fabrication, use of the tool carrier, and improvements in design as we make them so check out workhorseworkshops.com or our facebook page for photos and descriptions of these updates.
We have included several still photos illustrating key components and design features of the G Haw Tool Carrier. We have also created several short videos of real time use of the G Haw Tool Carrier on our workhorse workshops facebook page under the heading G Haw Tool Carrier Videos. These videos feature the G Haw Tool Carrier cultivating actual production crops on our farm at Ruby and Amber’s Farm Organic Oasis in Dorena, Oregon.
In closing we would like to state that the design features of this implement are dedicated and freely given to the public domain. Thus anyone is free to copy and modify this design as they see fit. We only ask that anyone using this design freely share his or her improvements, design changes, and implement designs with others, as we are willing to do. We also welcome those with question about the design to contact us — we are available to help.