A New Garden Season and New Gardeners at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS Ecovillage

Meet the new horticulturists tending the organic garden.

| May/June 1984

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    Franklin Sides and Walker Abel work with horse plowing at the Ecovillage.

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Any grower worth his or her sod knows that the new year really begins on the first day he or she starts breaking ground for spring planting. And we'd like to mark this agricultural beginning by telling you what's happening in the MOTHER EARTH NEWS garden!  

For the first spring in the last five, Kerry and Barbara Sullivan won't be tending the crops and flowers out at our Ecological Research Center. Yes, that dedicated couple has moved on to study biodynamics (the agricultural method we examined in Biodynamic Gardening) at Emerson College in England. But our plants shall hardly perish, because two fine horticulturists will be serving in the Sullivans' stead. Newcomers Franklin Sides and Walker Abel will be caretaking our many organically grown flowers, herbs, vegetables, fruits, and field crops.

And speaking of change, Sides and Abel are working on a new—well, actually, a distinctly old—method of breaking ground this spring . . . namely, horse plowing. The five-year-old, 1,100-pound part-Morgan/part-Belgian draft mare in the accompanying photo is Molly, our new horse. And that's our chief plowman Franklin on her right. Now Molly is a particularly well-trained work animal. Mr. Sides, however, still has a thing or two to learn. As he readily admits, "Molly is breaking me in. I'm apprenticing to her."

How does he like it? "That crazy horse is the most exciting thing happening to me right now," Franklin says joyfully. "I tell you, it's a lot different from riding a tractor. You can hear the earth breaking as you plow and see life in the soil—worms and their tunnels, for instance—as you go.

"Of course, you also have to be able to communicate with a horse . . . you can't just turn the steering wheel, you know. But Molly does a fine job, and she's quite economical for a small setup like ours. We're even planning to breed her to a purebred Belgian this year so we can 'reproduce our own tractor'!"

Franklin does allow that the task of learning horse plowing isn't all roses: "Spending a day behind Molly wears me all the way out, mostly because I'm still learning how to do it. She could probably plow an acre of sod in a day, but—right now—I'll be clanged if I could!"

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