Last weekend I ‘crewed’ for Team Big Table at the Yamhill Heritage Center’s annual plow day. There were 20 teams….probably the biggest collection of draft animals certainly in Oregon, possibly on the west coast outside of the Small Farmers Journal Auction (which is this week! You should go). There were Percherons, Belgians, mules, Brabants, Shires, Clydesdales, Haflingers, and…my dream team: a mother daughter team of buckskin Kiger mustangs. It was a beautiful day and over 1500 folks came out to watch the teams work. Clare has plowed at this event for 5 years, this year she plowed the best plot ever, and won her novice division. Nice work Clare! My main job was to help keep her younger horse Huston on task. After a few protests in the first two passes he knuckled down to work like I have never seen him do before. He even out pulled Hummer, who is an old campaigner with a great work ethic.
When you plow a field, typically you start with what is called the ‘crown furrow’, and you ‘come gee’ (turn to the right) after every pass until half the field is plowed. This has you plowing from the center outward, and the crown furrow has topsoil piled on it from both sides. Then you ‘come haw’ (turn to the left) plowing from the outer edges to the center until the field is done. The final furrow you plow is called the ‘dead furrow’, because you have flipped topsoil away from the furrow on both sides, so nothing much will grow there. In a contest the teamster is judged on their entries and exits (where the cut of the plow starts and stops), the willingness of their team, coverage (how well the sod is inverted), and the straightness and consistency of the crown and dead furrows, among other things.
Many thanks to the Oregon Draft Horse Breeders Association and Yamhill County Heritage Center and Historical Society. What a great day!