RicelandMeadows


“Cow Plowing”

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May 20, 2017

I completed planting my corn last Wednesday. I feel good about getting it planted, especially this year due to our wet weather. It has been a crazy weather spring and that trend continues. I waited on some dry days, like all of the area farmers, I pushed hard once it got here.

This field is where our cows spent the winter. There is a three-sided building, just out of the frame where they could take shelter when they wanted it. Usually in winter, the ground freezes hard and stays that way for months. This past winter, the ground was only frozen hard for about a total of three weeks. The cows feet punched this field full of holes. I mean they tracked it into oblivion! It was all but impossible to walk through the quagmire. The cows slowly picked their way along, from water tank to hay feeder. Every step left a hole six to eight inches deep.

In late February, I moved the cows out of this paddock. They spent the worst days of late spring on our cement lot next to the barn. The overhang shelter was bedded with woodchips. They were comfortable, dry and content even though the space was smaller than the paddock. I must say, I did not miss fighting the mud either.

Once the cows had been moved off that back muddy paddock, winter returned. The ground froze and thawed several times before we were out of the icy grip. The punched up field resembled a landscape found on the surface of our moon. I decided to disc it once to smooth it enough to even be able to plow it.

I made the first round with the disc and could not believe my eyes! The cows feet, mixed with the freeze and thaw cycle of spring, had turned my nightmare into a dream! Twice over the field with the disc and spike tooth drag made the field ready to plant. I planted my corn that same day, just before dark. I was excited by my new found innovation. I was overcome by a bit of sadness when I realized that I could not share this contrary news with my friend, the late Gene Logsdon.

Gene and I often talked and discussed many things “farming”. We shared many of the same beliefs. The corn I had just finished planting in that “cow plowed” field was an open pollinated variety called “Wapise Valley”. Gene and I had many conversations about corn, soil, cover crops, the value of oats in many forms and anything that made things easier for the small farmer. “Cow plowing” is one of those topics we would have talked at length about. Gene passed away almost a year ago. I miss my friend. I will remember him always, especially at planting time, but always when I stumble on a topic that he would have loved to debate! RIP Gene

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This section joins the field in the photo above. The cattle “plowed” all around the old stumps and even leveled this section, saving me hours, perhaps days, of work! Timing was everything. The cattle got moved while the winter freeze could work the sodden clay. I stayed off the wet ground until the sun and wind had dried it. I know from experience that working these wet clay soils too early will make clods like bricks dried in the sun. It takes a full year for the frost to break them up. Using that knowledge sure paid off this year.

I am not sure that I would try this process again, unless it would be on ground where extreme efforts were needed. As an example, say an area where a forest had been cut down. The cows could work the rutted, rooted uneven ground by accident. Smoothing it out for a spring planting of grass could be done by dragging a wooden drag around. I bet the pioneers learned and used this method when clearing this area of Ohio. In any case, I can say it worked well for me, I did not discover it, but certainly did rediscover it!