Friday, July 11, 2008

In which we put Jethro to work in the fields, planting his own future dinner.

It was back in March I commissioned John Amero to build this plow for Jethro. It was a design he and I came up with together: it uses "Danish Sweeps" turned sideways to slice through the ground -- well, that was the theory.

I wanted something that would disturb the ground just enough that I could plant seeds without overturning or killing existing vegetation. The theory was, it would cut long slits through the turf and I'd throw seeds in the slits.

Jethro is the only donkey in the world to have one of these.

Then I got my Pratie Heads partner Bob Vasile to build this collar. We modeled it after the "Swiss Collar for Developing Countries" design, and got from the Prairie Ox Drovers site the idea of using this striped cotton pad underneath.

Bob built me the stool - a surprise present - out of the convex pieces of hickory wood he removed. The stool is, therefore, the exact size of Jethro's neck minus the kerf.

Under the stool - a fanny pack full of Fruit Loops. Nobody could expect a donkey to plow without Fruit Loops!?

I bought the singletree (above left) and pad at the Dixie Draft Horse, Mule, and Carriage Auction.

Even though I had all the apparatus assembled in March, it took until today for the heavens to be favorably aligned for a trial run. It's rained, just enough but not too much; I had a friend willing to help - this is a two person project; a couple days ago I decided to buy crabgrass and bermudagrass, both of which can be planted in July with at least some possibility of germination.

Jethro seems pleased with his importance in this picture.

As I expected, it took a fair amount of cajoling to get the donkey down to the railroad tracks. He stalled, sulked, then moved forward as if he'd been doing this all his life, then stalled again. This picture is taken in mid-sulk. (I'm at the other end of the blue rope, with the Fruit Loops.)

Sweet treats helped, but it's hard to reward forward motion with a treat since the rewardee has to stop walking to eat.

The ex-ex-pat and I were dripping with sweat when we finished this experiment, but Jethro was fresh as a daisy.

Preliminary assessment: so far I would call it a success. (You can't see the scored earth in this picture because it's hidden by the grass and weeds.) To be truthful, we did not end up with dozens of perfectly even, parallel grooves in the dirt as I had imagined. We created, instead, a wavering ADHD type trail winding down to the tracks and back again. I accommodated to reality by planting in an identically undulant manner.

We'll see if anything comes up.

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At 8:43 PM, Anonymous Judy Merritt said...

Jane, I think that is called curvature plowing when you follow the curvaqture of the terrain at least thaqt is what you can tell anyone who comments.
Looks like a nice rig BTWE
Judy from the donkey lists

At 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great to see someone else doing this, I am going to be trying something similar with Nubian Goats.

At 6:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I happened on your blog and this thread of posts while trying to figure out how to make conservation tillage work for draft animals. trying to make it work for water buffalos. your blog's inspirational, keep it up!

At 5:23 PM, Blogger Roseedon said...

I have been thinking about trying to use our donkeys (2) to help with maintenance around the property and was wondering about plowing. Your blog is inspirational, I can see a lot of cajoling being necessary but what a lot of fun.


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