How to Plow: Your Plow
by Ralph Rice

Most likely you bought your plow at an auction or from some old farmer. The plow will have been sitting around and will be covered in rust. If you try to plow with it that way, dirt will stick. The plow will be hard to pull and guide, and won't do a good job of plowing. Scrub away the rust using a brick, wire wheel, or auto body grinder.

This first scouring will take long enough to try your patience, but it doesn't end there. The friction of dirt as you use the plow will continue to scour the share, jointer, and landslide to a fine shine, but if dirt sticks, the plow won't scour. You must therefore scrape off the dirt at the end of each row until it stops sticking. Use a wide putty knife, trowel, or other scraper you can easily carry in your pocket.

Eventually the share, jointer, and landslide will develop a mirror-like shine and dirt will slide off, enabling the plow to glide along slicing the earth into neat strips. The more you plow, the better the shine. The better the shine, the easier the plowing.

Once your plow is scoured, keep it well greased, oiled, or painted. The oil or grease may be wiped off before plowing, while the paint will wear off as you go. A plow may accumulate a small amount of surface rust just sitting in the field overnight. This minor rust will scour off as soon as you begin plowing. Deep rust from sitting between seasons, on the other hand, causes heartache. The best way to avoid this heartache is to not let rust accumulate in the first place. Coat your plow with grease, heavy oil, lard, or paint before storing it between seasons.

When I finish plowing for the day, I start the next furrow and leave my plow buried in the dirt about 3' from the headland. Leaving the largest part of the plowshare, jointer, and landslide covered with dirt helps keep out air and thus prohibits the formation of rust. This short term fix should be used only when you'll be plowing in the next day or two. If the weather turns bad or you won't start a new field for a couple of weeks, grease up the plow just as you would at the end of the season. The time you take to mess with grease will be a lot less than the time needed to scrub away rust.

The plow's handles need to be serviceable and free of cracks. Replace the handles if need be. The beam, if wooden, should be inspected the same as the handles..


Ralph Rice plows on his farm Riceland Meadows near Jefferson, Ohio. This article appeared in the Spring 2004 issue of Rural Heritage.

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26 April 2012 last revision