The hoe – past and future

I’m currently enjoying ‘Land Girls’ by Angela Huth.landgirls

It’s an affectionate portrait of three young women who join the Women’s Land Army.

Much of their time is spent hoeing – and a quick stroll through internet images reveals this to be fairly universal, throughout the ages. It is largely women’s work.

I’ve gathered some of them together under the Page title Hoes in Work – seen in the side panel to the right. Paintings and posters on this theme appear on the Hoes in Art Page.

A brief study of the hoe, its history and use is on the Hoe parent page.


Prior to the Second World War, agriculture in Britain was in a state of decline. Food imports were up to 70% and in 1939 the possibility of a German Prior to the Second World War, agriculture in Britain was in a state of decline. Food imports were up to 70% and in 1939 the possibility of a German sea-blockade provoked the fear of national starvation. Women were needed to bring in the harvest and to put 2 million acres under the plough at a time when thousands of men were once more leaving the land to join the forces.

The future may see people once again filling the landscape. Technology like this prototype, from the German DFG Research Training Group (Graduiertenkolleg) 722, may be the way forward in  post-Peak Oil agriculture, where chemical weed-killers and diesel-power are too expensive.


Or possibly the present enormous agri-farms will be broken up, to be worked under village or commune control. Then a machine like this might be more suitable:


This has been developed by PhysicalWeeding – the trading name of Steam Weeding Ltd, a company that designs specialist physical weeding machinery for the European, New Zealand and Australian markets. It is owned and run by Dr Charles ‘Merf’ Merfield, an international organic horticultural scientist specialising in weed management and machinery, and Tim Chamberlain –  a pioneering and multi-award winning organic farmer from New Zealand.Visit their SteamWeeding site to see more.

You can even get a grant for it in Ireland!

Meanwhile at the big-garden or small-holding level, there’s a device that appeals to me – and to ‘Farmer Lynn’ of the friendly, modest but extremely impressive tinyfarmblog – it’s the Valley Oak wheel hoe :


and its Swiss counterpart the Glaser wheel hoe []


They both offer various blades and attachments – and both cost about $350.

Hmm. Maybe it’s back to something I could knock together out of the bits of old vineyard equipment lying around. Like this early model – with Thomas W. Barnett wheel-hoeing onions on his small farm at Bountiful in Utah 1921.


But when it comes down to it – nothing beats a hand-hoe for simplicity and versatility and cost. And nothing beats this man for fitness and determination: he produced a ton [edit: 2.5 tons – phew!] of potatoes on his croft – plus a mountain of other vegetables – with a hoe.

field031Read his inspiring crofting blog here at Musings from a Stonehead .

This entry was posted in hand-tools, peak oil and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The hoe – past and future

  1. Stonehead says:

    Thanks for the mention. Incidentally, we harvested 50 hundredweight of tatties from that field—2.5 tonnes.

    We also have an old wheel hoe that looks very similar to the one in the photo of Mr Barnett, a wheel cultivator, and a push plough.

    Thanks again, and enjoy watching us sweat!

  2. Slightly off the subject perhaps, and I understand some keen gardeners can be lectured from all angles to become more green. However it’s equally as important to think about people ethics. E.G., a few brands of rotovators are made with child labor in the Far East. So PLEASE think about where new rotovator is coming from if you make a purchase. A cultivator manufactured in the US might not be cheap, however it’s a very important decision.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s