North Dakota Plowing
by Fuller Sheldon
Dear Lynn, ladies… and fellow teamsters:
Well, we finally did it! The long-time goal of driving his own team of eight well-matched, willing, working Belgians was realized for the first time just last Saturday by Tom on Section #23. As you well know, putting together a multiple hitch becomes more of a challenge than initially supposed, and this one has taken about six years. Acquisition, adjustment, and driving – lots of driving – finally got us to the point where we just had to try it.
So with the serious farming completed for the year, and a small patch of oat stubble remaining from a couple of outings with three on a sulky, we said, “Today is the day.” Tom does the figuring for this outfit, and had determined the arrangement should be just so. Baldy is a true furrow horse, so she led in that spot, with the other front team comprised of the steppers. We used lines to the outside horses, cross-ties from bit to bit, both front and back teams. Now in retrospect, we agree with the suggestion heard at Horse Progress Days to drive the furrow team, use sticks to the left. One could expect much more precise control. But as you state, there’s no ONE way to do anything, and several methods will usually work. The teams were quiet, used to everything, and stood nicely while the tugs and ropes were all attached. Then, just to be sure, we each held the lines to a team and walked off. Soon after a few adjustments, everybody somewhat got the hang of expectations and several rounds went quite well. The John Deere triple-plow had been waiting quite a while for this day, and almost got polished off, but the soil was marginal. Some day we’ve gotta try this in either dryer conditions, or on sandier soil.
This year has seen several FIRSTS: First time using a 2-row cultivator. Lots of shop time last winter freeing the rust from 50 years of sitting idle, but actually using it in the field helped make that preparation worthwhile. Also, first time to check-plant corn. We’d heard lots of stories about wobbly crosschecks, keeping the wire tight or horses shying, so practiced several times before actually going to the field. Not perfect, but pretty good. And some of the spectators at Fort Ransom Show appreciated the demonstration. “How’d you get the plants spaced like that?” “Really?” Another first, was shredding these five acres of cornshocks. Lots of work, but lovely feed. We kinda bent the “Amish” rules by loading the shocks with the grapple loader, and that worked quite well. Help can get really scarce when talk of Shocking or bundle-hauling comes around, but we had a very pleasant oat-thrashing day in August as well.
We keep learning as we re-discover these farming basics and hope that in the retelling, some are inspired and encouraged to make their dream come true.
Fuller Sheldon for Odegaard Belgians