Miles Per Acre

January 2016 Stereoscope;

Miles Per Acre Published by Patti Simpson

This past week, I read an article via a Nebraska genealogy group I follow. I found the article quite interesting. It was written by a Sam Moore in 2009 and showed a chart telling how many miles are traveled in plowing an acre of ground.Can you imagine the thoughts of a 19th century, Midwestern farmer setting out to plow the “back 40” we’ve all heard so much about? A 40-acre field is one-quarter of a mile on each side, or one full mile around the outside edge.According to the attached chart, in plowing that 40-acre field with a 12-inch walking plow (the standard size for two horses), our sturdy farmer (not to mention his faithful team of horses, mules or oxen) would have to walk 330 miles, and that doesn’t include getting to and returning from the field. Allowing time for periodically resting the animals, a slowly plodding yoke of oxen would have required about 25 ten-hour days to plow 40 acres.It’s small wonder that horses steadily replaced oxen, even though a horse cost more to feed, had less stamina and was more excitable, and besides that, couldn’t be eaten when he became too old to work (well, he could, but it wasn’t real popular). A horse could walk almost a mile an hour faster than an ox, bringing the total time to plow 40 acres down to about 16 10-hour days. Think how fast a modern tractor could knock out this same field.I can only imagine my grandfather, and his father and grandfather before him, starting out to plow a field with his trusty team and a 12-inch walker. It’s no wonder there were no diets, exercise machines or fat farms in those days. —end

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