It’s that time of year again — time to turn over the soil in anticipation of a new growing season and a new crop.

Of course, there are many farms where tilling doesn’t happen, or at least not every year. We call those no-till operations and that practice has its own merits.

But there are still many farmers in Ohio and Pennsylvania who still practice plowing. On a recent road trip to Mount Hope, Ohio, I passed an Amish man doing some spring plowing along Mount Hope Road. He used two horses and what I’m sure was a one-bottom plow, though he was too far off the road to be certain.

It is always exciting to see someone plowing early in the spring, especially after a hard winter like we just experienced.

Looking back

When I was a boy, I often rode in the tractor with my grandfather when he plowed, but we used a slightly more modern setup. He pulled a five-bottom plow with a tractor rated at 140 hp. It was more than enough power, and we probably could have pulled another bottom or two with ease.

But the concept was still the same — turning over the old in the hope of something new. It was fun for the first few rounds, and then I’d get bored and ask to be let out, where I would walk through some of the furrows and examine the clumps of soil.

I was fascinated by the way it smelled — a fresh, earthy kind of smell farmers know very well. And I liked the way it looked, moist and loamy and crumbling in my hands. Unless it was wet, or near a waterway, then it was yellow with clay and hard to break.

Soil life

Earthworms were abundant, and so were the holes in the side of the furrow they had dug. I’ve never seen a bigger earthworm than I’ve seen behind the plow, and some were downright ugly — especially the unfortunate few that were separated in two.

But mostly it was a pleasant experience, and was the first major thing we got to do outdoors, following the dormant winter.

I still do a little plowing today, but on a much smaller scale. About four years ago, my dad bought a Farmall Cub with a one-bottom 12-inch plow.

It’s a small plow for a small tractor, but for a garden or a truck patch, it’s perfect. I can get good results at eight-nine inches deep and I’ve added some rear wheel weights to reduce slippage.

It’s a slow process, but it’s also a lot of fun … as long as I’m not plowing uphill.

Your story?

How about you? What kind of plowing arrangement do you use? Isn’t there something enjoyable to it, at least for the first couple rounds?

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties.
Chris Kick
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