In Want of a Plow


| 4/19/2012 5:09:00 PM


Tags: tracking tales, farming by hand, Lauren Holt,

Nothing quite makes you appreciate the evolution of farming technology like trying to do something by hand. 

I’ve always been interested in history, and agricultural history holds a certain personal connection for me (all my grandparents grew up on farms of one kind or another, and visits to the family farm and ranch were the highlights of my summers, growing up). But it wasn’t until more recently that I really started taking a hard look at the tools and implements that are central to that agricultural history: I joined the Farm Collector staff, and I began planning to move somewhere where I would have some room for experimenting with gardening, preserving, and a scale of DIY projects that can’t fit into a two-bedroom apartment with no balcony.   

A few months ago, my boyfriend and I secured the lease of a small house on five acres. We haven’t (quite!) moved in yet, but we’re excited about the land, the woodstove, the chance to have dogs again and, perhaps most immediately, the garden. 

5acre house1 
The new place. 

Our future landlord was a friend (and our mechanic) before he became our landlord, and he’s open to us doing pretty much whatever we want with the space – gardening, chickens, goats, rain barrels and graywater reclamation, windmills, pretty much anything we want to put the effort into. But he hasn’t really done much with the land other than use it as space to store tools and old trucks, meaning that if we want a garden, we have to start from scratch. 

In many ways, we prefer this approach. It means that we can have a pretty good idea of what’s in the soil (and it’s fantastic soil, wonderfully rich and fluffy), and we can have exactly the garden layout we want, right from the beginning. But at the moment our cultivation tools consist of two shovels, two double-bladed weed cutters, a rake, a borrowed hoe and a machete our landlord lent us when we had trouble digging a tree out from under a rock wall. This is rather significant step into the past, as far as farm technology goes. We don't even have scythes.