Training Oxen and Farming With Oxen

Homesteaders and small farmers looking for a natural power source can learn a lot from this article about training oxen and farming with oxen.

| May/June 1973

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    The oxen team in their sliding yoke taking the opportunity to graze a bit.
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    The author's wife checks a bucket while the harnessed team waits patiently.
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    Farming with oxen: the author leads the team off through field and forest.
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    Amidst the hours spent training oxen, the author snatches a moment or two of quality time with the team.
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    Illustration of a common sliding yoke design.
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    The team at work throughout the day.
    MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

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Suppose someone told you that the Exxon Corporation (formerly Esso) had developed a farm vehicle as strong as a tractor but capable of going where no ordinary tractor can . . . through waist-high snow, knee-deep mud, and up and down steep, rocky hillsides. That instead of using exhaustible and irreplaceable fuels such as gasoline and kerosene, this invention ran on any high-protein vegetable matter, even grass.

That instead of noxious exhaust it produced a biodegradable substance almost unequaled as a fertilizer. And that—on top of all these other advantages—it had a life expectancy of 20 years and cost as little as $50.00 brand new, with a resale value as high as $2,000!

If you were offered such a creation, would you be willing to spend 20 minutes a day on routine maintenance? And would you accept the fact that this mobile power source has no steering wheel but works on a remote control system that requires you only to walk alongside giving voice directions?

Well, believe it or not, the O.X.EN does exist . . . but it's neither experimental nor the invention of Exxon, for it's been used successfully as long as man can remember. In fact, we own two O.X.EN ourselves, and I'd like to tell you about them.



A Trip to the Library

Of all the hundreds of ox drivers in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, we may be the two least knowledgeable. Before the spring of 1972 we couldn't even have told you what an ox was or whether one existed this side of New Delhi and the history books. However, we did know that we wanted something to haul our firewood, plow our fields, bring sap to our sugar shack and, in short, pull harder than our two backs can pull. We knew also that we didn't want another internal combustion engine . . . which ruled out a tractor or any other power source that uses what cannot be replaced.

That meant some kind of draft animal . . . but which? Though we'd heard good things about mules, we knew they required yards of expensive harness. Horses have the same drawback plus a few of their own: We'd seen our friends down the road sell their beautiful pair of work horses after struggling to untangle all that leather and—even worse—after almost being killed by the high-spiritedness of their supposedly gentle team.






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