Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Back in Time - Spring Plowing

John Stearns
Plowing "Over North"
west field
Spring 1989
When the sun begins to warm the soil, farmers get the itch to work in the fields. My brother rotated his crops between alfalfa, oats, and corn to build up the soil, so plowing was only done between alfalfa and corn and then from corn to oats. Rich seeded alfalfa with the oats, so the following year the alfalfa would be established and ready to produce. A field was left in alfalfa for several years.

In these photos, alfalfa was being plowed under so the field can be prepared for the next crop (corn).

I love the feel and smell of freshly plowed earth, and recently seeing plows in the fields brought back a lot of memories.

It was common, especially on the home place for seagulls from Ocean Lake to follow the plow and gobble up worms from the turned soil. Other birds joined the gulls in the feeding frenzy.

nearing the end of the field
My oldest brother often helped Rich in the spring and during harvest. John was plowing the day that I took the photos.

plow heads polished by the soil
As the plow is pulled through the field, the plow heads are polished by the friction. The polished heads can be seen in the photo above.

at the top of the filed, preparing to make another round
Rich used a four bottom, two way, roll-over plow, which means that at the end of the field, the plow is  flipped (rotated) to keep the furrows going in the same direction. This type is also called a moldboard plow and completely turns over the soil in the furrow.

Other types of plows are used for various reasons. Farming Equipment Canada has a good post on the types of plows.

Once the field was plowed, my brother(s) would use other equipment - floats, discs, etc. to prepare the field for planting. I often wonder how technology has changed equipment and farming.


  1. Enjoyed these pictures a lot. I remember watching birds follow plows when we would drive by fields in New England. Later, my husband and I used to see them in fields along the Eastern Shore. Fletch used to go out to his grandparents farm in VA and walk the fields after they were plowed in search of arrowheads -- he found many!!

  2. That is the same type of plow my husband and I had in the 1970s-80s when we farmed. The smell of freshly plowed ground, the smell of rain on that fresh earth definitely triggers some good memories.

  3. The bird information makes sense. We have huge flocks of redwing black birds all of a sudden. The fields are being ready for plowing. I Find this county/farm introduction in my life FASCINATING.

  4. I think on family farms, probably not much.

    But, have you seen those huge combines and plows that the big companies use???? Holy cow .... they are MASSIVE!

  5. This post transported me to my youth. My great aunt and uncle lived in the San Joaquin valley. Though they lived in town, I spend times out in the fields with family friends. Later my cousin would move out into the fields as well. I can smell the earth, and remember the feel of stepping over the huge humps and rows of a plowed field. thanks nancy!

  6. This is definitely out of my experience! But definitely interesting. Neither grandparents farmed nor parents or uncle. Personally I thank everyone willing to farm as it isn't the easiest life. Thanks for sharing your memories.

  7. This took me back to growing up on our Illinois farm. I still love the smell of plowed dirt!

  8. This is a great post Nancy!! I used to mow lawns to make summer money. I remember going out in the early morning to beat the heat and the plows would be out in the fields. I can still remember the smell of the alfalfa fields and fresh mown grass. Such a lovely memory. Thanks Nancy.

  9. I enjoyed this photos today Nancy. Being born and raised in Iowa I really miss the smells of springtime. We are having such a wet spring with lots of flooding, I wonder when and if the farmers will even be able to plaint out here this year.

  10. I love seeing the plowed fields in the spring and since moving here I finally get to see them everywhere I drive. These are great photos.

  11. I hated walking on a newly plowed was really a struggle to walk. Farming has sure changed in this area not many little farmers anymore :)


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