Walking Plows: Plowing with Horses, Mules and Oxen

Some homesteaders choose a horse drawn plow, or plowing with mules or oxen, for an experience that brings them closer to nature and avoids the costs of gasoline and machine parts.

| March/April 1974

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    If you choose a horse for your plow animal, it is important to ensure that the harness will not slip and strangle the animal if the plow gets caught.
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    A properly harnessed plow horse should have a bellyband to stop the harness sliding around, as seen in the last illustration.
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    The collar picture here connects to the plow harness that drapes over the horse's back.

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Despite the fact that our energy-intensive "modern" agri biz now does almost all its field work with internal combustion engines; at least one back-to-the-lander figures that it's still kind of nice to hitch up a draft animal and go off following the plow.  

SPECIAL NOTE:This is the first half of a two-part article. More about walking plows will appear in the May/June 1974 issue of MOTHER EARTH NEWS. 

My mate, Theo, and I believe the problems of the "rat race," in so far as we ourselves are concerned, can best be solved by our acting less "ratty". We'd like to flee to our favorite place in the beautiful Ozark Mountains but, since this is impractical (except for a few days at a time), we've decided to make our escape by standing still and living the simple life right here on our sandy hill farm in northern Louisiana. This has meant going back to older methods of doing things and educating ourselves on how to live exclusively from the land.

First we bought a wood-burning cook stove, then a hand gristmill to grind our flour and corn meal and a treadle sewing machine to make our clothes. We learned to make soap, to can our food rather than freeze it and to wash our clothes on the rub board. (All these changes took place in piecemeal fashion to temper our spoiled, soft bodies. If you think it's no big switch from an automatic washing machine to hand scrubbing, you should try it sometime.)

Now we're working our garden and patches with a walking plow drawn by a horse. We agree whole heartedly with whoever said "There's no surer way of making a living than between the handles of a plow" and we're giving it a try.

Why a Walking Plow?

In doing research for this article I found little or no material in the library on plowing with an animal, just as if there'd never, never again be a need to till the soil with a horse or mule. The best source I found was an old school textbook we have at home, from which I've taken some of my explanations and on which the drawings with this piece are based.

Arnold Walker
3/20/2013 5:34:37 PM

For what ever it is worth unlike my grandfather's shires mule that did a 50 acre cotton farm animals plows etc. are not as common as they used to be.But as I got into both animals and steam power I ran across folks they knew a lot about both ...An amish businessman I befriended developed a cart that would use modern tractor three point hitch tools and equipment.Even had one that I could power with a steam engine on my 6 mule hitch for the work of a 90hp farm tractor.

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