The ancient ritual of the earth
November 23, 2018 2:40 AM   Subscribe

Earlier in the summer, he had told me he would prepare for the world championship by drinking five pints the night before. When asked if any other international athlete adopted a similar strategy ahead of a major competition, he disputed the terms: “I wouldn’t say athlete.” The Guardian covers the World Ploughing Championships.
posted by Stark (16 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
It's written by Sophie Elmhirst, whose pieces I always like when I come across them.
posted by Kattullus at 3:06 AM on November 23, 2018

Run for years by the formidable Anna May McHugh and now her equally admirable daughter Anne Marie.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 5:15 AM on November 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

Can confirm the Ploughing Championships are basically the Glastonbury/Coachella of Rural Ireland, although I get the impression the ploughing itself is more like the bands who play year in year out halfway down the bill on the side stage and symbolise the 'spirit of the festival' rather than the headliner on the main stage.
posted by kersplunk at 5:36 AM on November 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

Do contestants have to plough through tough dough even though it makes them cough?
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:35 AM on November 23, 2018 [14 favorites]

Only in Slough.
posted by fredludd at 7:01 AM on November 23, 2018 [5 favorites]

They ought to in Peterborough.
posted by epo at 7:21 AM on November 23, 2018 [3 favorites]

The similar International Ploughing Match was held in my hometown one year when I was a very unhappy weird gay rural kid, and it was All The Talk that year, and I experienced it as a big celebration of a culture that had no place for me in ways that I was not yet entirely able to articulate, and accordingly, I was deeply, furiously resentful of the International Ploughing Match.

However, reading this, it's probably something I'd find charming and interesting as an adult, since I'd know I was going back to my urban life of homosexuality afterwards.
posted by ITheCosmos at 8:21 AM on November 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

"pluffing" every single time, until I go "oh yeah" and adjust it in my brain.

"plowing", we'd call it here in the Colonies.
posted by hippybear at 9:07 AM on November 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

And in the Colonies, the enthusiastic adoption of John Deere's literal ground-breaking steel plow in the mid-19th century (and subsequent mechanized farming [YT] methods) helped create the Dust Bowl environmental disaster of the mid-1930s.

To raise public awareness, the New Deal's U.S. Resettlement Administration sponsored filmmaker Pare Lorenz to write and direct the theatrical documentary The Plow That Broke the Plains (1937) [YT, full length]. Quoting from the script:
This is a record of land ...
of soil, rather than people -
a story of the Great Plains:
the 400,000 acres of
wind-swept grass lands that spread up
from the Texas Panhandle to Canada . . .
A high, treeless continent,
without rivers, without streams . . .
A country of high winds, and sun . . .
and of little rain ...
Sow the wind, reap the whirlwind.
posted by cenoxo at 1:34 PM on November 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

As if the articles linked in this post aren't about driving a tractor....

The dust bowl was caused by a lot of issues, including clear cutting of trees and applying methods of farming suitable for one type of soil to another type entirely, to which it was not suited. That combined with a misunderstanding of the climate of the newly settled area led to real problems.

If it were dragging something behind a tractor (as opposed to hand plowing using oxen) that led to the dust bowl, the UK would have had similar problems by now.
posted by hippybear at 1:57 PM on November 23, 2018

Modern tractors in the western USA cost a fortune, and do everything but brew coffee. Field coordinates are plugged in to the GPS, and it's all computerized. Rows are always straight or perfectly following terrain and layout. Real farmers hate them, and corporate farmers are the only ones that can really afford to run them.

Then there are 'vintage' plowers using horses. That is the true plowing skill. Guide the horses, guide the plow, and create art.
posted by BlueHorse at 4:09 PM on November 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

Speed the plough.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:09 PM on November 23, 2018

Larger farms, harsher winters, and drier soils in the United States led to the adoption of steam engines and tractors (aka 'traction engines') in the latter half of the 19th century. From The Steam Plow in America [Farm Collector, March/April 2003]:
By the mid-1800s, the prospect of a steam plow had created more than a little excitement in agricultural, industrial and social circles. The power of steam was self-evident, and it seemed clear that the person who successfully harnessed and combined the power of steam with the utility of the plow would fundamentally alter the agricultural landscape.
Although there were many attempts at steam plowing (and some partial successes during those years, with 13 patents granted in 1871 alone), 1876, generally considered the birth date of the steerable steam traction engine in the U.S., was a turning point in the evolution of the development of the steam plow. A steerable steam traction engine provided a new means for working the land, and the advent of the steam traction engine heralded the use of tractor plows.

The multiple gangs -- large, heavy plows intended for use with steam traction engines -- were among the first types produced, and these plows, ranging in size from six to 14 bottoms, soon met with farmer approval and broke many sections of Western prairie. The 1893 Peerless steam plowing outfit, for example, was guaranteed to plow as much soil in the same time and to an equal depth as could be done with six, three-horse teams -- provided, as a Geiser catalog stipulated, the soil was "firm enough to carry the engine, free from stumps and rocks, not too wet, having no grades over 1 foot rise in 10 and good fuel and water are provided."

Large steam traction engines had one field purpose only, and that was drawing multiple plows. Custom plowing was the rule, especially on the large tracts in the West. An integral part of the successful farming of America and the opening of the prairie lands, the large steam traction engines with their multiple gang plows eventually made way to a new age in farming.

As smaller, cheaper and more adaptable gas-powered tractors were developed, individual farmers could afford to buy their own tractors and do their own plowing. The new tractors freed small farming operations from their ties to large custom plowing outfits, heralding the end of the era of steam.
Development of a 'Yankee steam plow' was encouraged in Steam Plowing in America [Scientific American, 12/25/1869, Volume 21, Issue 26]. While they lasted, steam tractors were juggernauts: watch 40-120hp Peerless Z3 steam traction engine pulling a 20 bottom plow in Virginia's red clay [Somerset, Virginia; Aug. 26, 2006 (SLYT)].

English farmers started using steam power at about the same time: see the History of Steam Ploughing [Steam Plough Club, 1998].
posted by cenoxo at 10:26 PM on November 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

One of my worst memories as a kid (well not really worst, but, not the most pleasant, I'll say that) was Rock Picking by hand. Everyone in the neighborhood, got together and threw rocks on wooden flatbed trailer behind a field tractor.

I see there's a lot of machine rock picking now. Good. What a horrible job that was. Weeding, Rock Picking. All that shit.

Steam Engines and Flywheels are Kewl as Fuck though.
posted by symbioid at 11:13 PM on November 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

Isn’t Steam Engines and Flywheels that The Decemberists cover band?
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:31 AM on November 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Q: What did the farmer say when he lost his plough?

A: Hey! Where's my plough?!
posted by Meatbomb at 4:36 AM on November 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

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