Annapolis Valley Nova Scotia

My first ploughing match

Anna Mallin

Some times excursions are purely exploratory. You set off in the spirit of adventure, knowing that a first visit is just that—an introduction; an opportunity to be introduced to a new department of information; and, if one is lucky, a chance to meet and talk to some wonderful people.

Prompted by a notice in a grocery store, I found myself at the Provincial Ploughing Match at Northville Farm Heritage Centre in the Annapolis Valley. I had expected something rather formal, with ticket takers and announcers and a program of events and a sense of competition. But the website had indicated a heritage farm, and exhibits of implements used in times before our highly mechanized and computerized age.

So what did I find? Informality. Seriously big, healthy, strong horses; seriously intense participants; seriously frail looking ploughing contraptions ranging from the walking-behind plough to the spidery riding plough. Everyone was busy. But when asked a question, participants provided fulsome, friendly, enthusiastic explanatory answers before getting back to their work.

In one field, there was a young man riding on a spidery contraption drawn by two horses He was making a practice furrow on a field with stakes set out in a straight line about 10 feet apart. The goal seemed to be to drive the horses directly over the stakes. I was, of course, concerned about stakes and hoofs and plough getting tangled up. My worries were for naught as an assistant pulled the stakes out of the way as soon as they threatened the horses’ hooves and when it was apparent that the plough would, indeed, be on track to be “straight”.

This is not a fast process. Great care is taken and horses are encouraged forward one or two careful steps at a time. I am sure that in “real” conditions, after the first scratch is laid, that ploughing would proceed at a less painfully slow pace (or the work would never get done)!

What impressed me was the frailty of the riding plough. Obviously, a tremendous effort-saving improvement over the walking-behind plough in terms of efficiency and ease of use. But my mind, of course, wondered about the time and effort that might be spent in maintenance and repairs.

I wandered around the farm and poked into a sawmill and other buildings full of tools used up to the recent past to make such things as barrels. I learned that visits can be arranged with volunteers showing off the various exhibits and implements.

Rain started. My camera was getting wet. I left at mid-day before the serious judging started, and before the meal served by the volunteers.

On returning home I scurried to the internet, learned more about ploughs, joined the NFHS web group, and intend to watch for an announcement of next years events - including a planting day (with more ploughing), horse pulls, etc. There is much more to learn and enjoy—which is just what I had hoped for in a first visit.