Saturday, May 30, 2015

Break in!

A bunny has busted in!  Although I did not catch anyone red-handed, I had noticed some nibbling the baby beets and was starting to wonder.  This spot next to the shed also had cover from a pallet leaning against the wall, which was the first mistake.  I'm working hard to keep the area on both sides of the fence clear and open.  Bunnies love cover.

Anyway, it's ironic since this plastic fencing is marketed as rabbit fence and is said to have a scent that drives bunnies away.  Apparently not my rabbits!  I moved the pallet and backed up this stretch with a steel section of rabbit fencing.  I also did some mowing to spread the scent of smelly oil and gasoline, and to reduce cover.  I will do more of this when it dries out.  It has rained about 1/2" for each of the past couple of days.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

First Hilling and Microgreens

Can't believe it's time to hill potatoes already!  The row of fingerling potatoes is especially ready for it.  It's going to be tricky hilling since the two rows of spuds ended up a little close to each other.  Anyhow, it's nice to see these spuds tucked into their soil blankets now.  What I am I going to do with all these potatoes???

I just started thinning out the beets and swiss chard yesterday.  The planter really spilled a lot of seed out so there is a lot of tedious thinning to do.  But the plants are coming on strong and there maybe enough to sell microgreens at the stand for a couple of days.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Weed bank and water

I was out of town for 3 days which included about 1" of rain total.  Today I am pretty impressed with how quickly weeds are re-emerging.  I don't think the weed bank has been depleted much in this field yet.  I'm happy to see the lettuce looks strong.  In the other rows beets and chard look the best, and kale and radishes are spotty for some reason.  The newly re-seeded spinach and carrots have not emerged yet.

On the other side of the garlic the potatoes look good with just a few probably losses at the low, wet ends of the field.  The bok choi is problematic, very spotty and weak.  I plan to buy new seed and fill in the dead spots.  The transplanted tomatoes have survived transplant shock well, but the peppers have a higher mortality rate.  The celeriac looks good.

The lentils are emerging very uniformly and strong.  It's only been 6 days--fantastic!

The Southwest corner has a bit of standing water in it.  Once again, total rain over 24 hours has been less than 1".  

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Corn and Cucurbits

So the low field had 4 rows of Double Standard and two rows of Black Jack popcorn.  Both varieties are open pollinated and I plan on saving seed.  I also drilled in a 75' row of flint corn on the other side of the Turkey Wheat, which is all that I harvested of flint last year!

So in the upper field I used the wheel hoes to mess up the remaining rye sod enough to put in one row of cucurbits.  This was a combination of seedlings and direct seeding.  Cucumbers, Zuchinni, Squash (Delicata and Butternut), and Cantaloupe.  The Cantaloupe seed was saved seed from last year.  I don't know if it was a hybrid or OP variety, so I am crossing my fingers that it turns out OK!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Tomatoes, Peppers, Celeriac, and re-seed

I put in my tomato, pepper, and celeriac transplants today.  The weather is still cool and there is rain forecast for the weekend.  This is going into real good ground.  In the remaining space I put in a row of basil, a row of beans, and a double row of black hulled lentils.

In the higher ground that was seeded on April 20 I reluctantly tore out the spinach and carrots, and re-seeded them.  I don't know if the cold wet weather rotted the seed, or if my 2-3 year old seed was no good.  But germination levels were in the 0-5% range.

I am planting onions wherever they fit.  I started two 231 cell flats of onions so I have a lot to plant!  I use them to fill in bare spots in other rows, which works pretty well I think.

There are still all kinds of old tree and shrub roots coming out of the field, especially from the newer areas.  This is telling me that nitrogen will be hard to come by until all this carbon has rotted out of the ground.

Once over

Yesterday I pulled the spike tooth over the newly plowed ground and got it pretty smooth.  However, the low field still had some stubborn chunks down the middle so I brought the disc out and tried to grind them down some more.  Cassie and Sebastian worked well as a team and were able to tune out Rosie's agitation back at the barn (only 400 feet away btw).  Donkeys hate to be apart.

The upper field where the rye was did not turn out so well.  The rye sod, being in wobbly rows, pushed the plow around and a lot of it was still standing after plowing, dragging, and discing.  I think the problem with the plow is exacerbated by pulling with 3 abreast.  The plow has to "walk over" so far to stay in the furrow that the side thrust is always there waiting to pull it back out of the furrow when the plowshare hits something like a stubborn root zone.  I am going to try rigging the team 2-1, in kind of a reverse unicorn, the next time I plow.  This will make them string out very long for my tiny headlands, but it will be fun to try!  The principal will be the same as a 5-horse hitch of 3-2 which is a common plowing hitch for gang plows.

Long story short, I am going to put the corn into the low field, since it has a much better seedbed at this point.  The upper field will get the cucurbits.  Last year the cucurbits grew fantastically well in a former rye cover crop and in any case I think this rye is mostly terminated, thanks to being mowed twice.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Plow Day

Today was one of the biggest work days yet.  We plowed down the strip of winter rye cover crop, and also plowed at the low end of the garden where the cucurbits will go.  Both of these strips were new ground last year and have never had a crop.  My plan is to put the corn on the high ground and the cucurbits on the other strip.

Termination of the rye was so-so.  The rye was drilled in rows that wandered and as the plowshare moved in and out of the sod it would lose it's bite.  Even though the field looks plowed from a distance, we unfortunately left a lot of rye standing.  The rye has been mowed twice and hopefully it is pretty worn out by now.  Nevertheless the seedbed is not going to be as good as I had hoped for.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sloooow germination all around

My "big planting day" in this field was April 18, 25 days ago.  Can't believe how slow it is coming along!  The peas are the only thing to look at.  The carrots, lettuce, and spinach you have to squint to see.  Radishes, beets, swiss chard, and kale you can see at 10 feet.  On the positive side, the leeks are taking root strongly and look good.  It's too early to call on the onion transplants, but the onion sets also look good.  The last week of wet weather is starting to give the weeds an edge.  I even found a couple of dandelions gone to seed--is that even fair??  I should be able to hoe in another day or two.

Overall these past 25 days have been cold and somewhat wet, but little or no frost and some good sunny days.  I would say that the soil temperature has remained fairly low however.

The robins (or whatever they were) are out of the nest and nowhere to be found.  It seems a little early for them to be gone but I'm hopeful they are OK.  Robins only spend 2 weeks in the nest and it's possible that it's been that long.  In the absence of any nest disturbance I don't think it was a predator.

The first row of potatoes is coming up!  I'm really psyched about this.  This row is fingerlings that I saved from last year and they look strong.  Furthermore, they are coming up in areas that were staying fairly wet and even under water during these rainy days.  This row was planted 24 days ago.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Multiple Fronts

I have a bunch of things going on right now around the farm.  I filled up one of my old raised bed frames with asparagus crowns, and spread compost over the bed I planted last year.  The older asparagus bed in this same area is doing well, although I have never been able to control the weeds and grasses.  These new asparagus beds are clean, at least for now.

I drilled some French Breakfast radishes into the kitchen garden along with one row of lettuce.  This isn't really the kind of use I envision for the kitchen garden, but I wanted to get some more radishes planted and the main garden is too wet today.  We received a little more than 1" last night, most of it in one thunderstorm at dusk, and there is more rain on the way.

Here is how the dwarf apple trees look in the old garden out in the pasture.  These are just Fleet Farm trees I stuck in last Spring.  The goats are on pasture now most of the time.  Still waiting for a little more growth before putting the donkeys out.  I have been overseeding the pasture during raining periods to improve the grass mix.

I'm making a new drag to improve on the cultimulcher I built last year.  I'm hoping it will be lighter and clog a little less.  Not a big priority for the farm, but I love to tinker.

Building a new stand to go out front.  I hope to have this finished and installed in a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Barley barely there

The barley strip is coming in very weak.  I don't know if the seed is rotting or just taking it's time due to the cold.  At the far South end there was enough water during the rains that the clover seed floated up and formed a big clot of clover.  No need to panic yet, we'll see what happens.

I tested the new brick oven last night.  It heats up much faster than the old one and really does a nice job.  This oven is stronger and better built than any I have made before, but I still have room to improve.  Despite having a full two weeks of curing time it's clear that the mortar was not dry yet.  Although two weeks is said to be enough time, I think the cool Spring weather makes it more like 3 or 4 weeks.  I'm not real happy with that refractory mortar from Menard's in any case.  It does not seem to be as strong as the stuff from County Materials and even can be scraped away with a fingernail.  The heat formed several cracks even near the face of the oven.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Mow rye plant onions etc

The rain held off for a half day and I decided to do a little more work.  I mowed the rye cover crop, which is suggested for encouraging root growth.  I will be plowing this rye down some time after this rain cycle in anticipation of a corn planting.  That's my plan, anyway.

To the right of the rye in the photo you can see the leeks.  There are only 100 or so leek plants in the row, and today I put in a few celeriac plants (to get them out of the tray) and then filled the rest of the row with a full tray of onion plants, probably 150 or so.  It was just starting to rain when I finished up planting before dark.

Here is how the two rows of garlic look.  It's growing well, but I've been surprised at how many little weeds are trying to come up.  I have probably hoed this row carefully 3-4 times now and each time there has been a new crop of weeds in the thread stage.  The rogue scuffle hoe is working well.  I am also using my wheel hoe with three tines to great effect this year.  With so much more of the nasty grasses gone this year the soil is much, much easier to weed.

Addendum: As of 5/4 I am still waiting on the rain.  It only sprinkled over night.  But it's all over the forecast for this week, so it has to come sooner or later.  I drilled in bok choi to finish the third potato row, starting with a miniature "toy choi" and finishing with conventional.  I also broadcast a bit of crimson clover onto the newly opened strip, so it is now officially oats/peas/radish/crimson clover.  Weird, I know!  Interesting to see what does best.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Rain coming

I spent an hour working on the new section by hand, pulling out more roots and even turning a few spots of sod by hand.  Make no mistake, it's ugly.  Some of it is merely native sod covered by loose soil, and there are tree roots everywhere.  But there is a lot of rain forecast for the next week so I crossed my fingers and planted a cover crop.  My experience with buckwheat in this garden has been poor, even though buckwheat has a reputation as the ultimate smothering cover crop.  For me it comes up weakly and shades out very little.  So I put oats, field peas, and daikon radish in this strip.  Just broadcast it and then dragged the spike tooth over the field once.  The seed is actually covered quite well and I think having it seeded this early should guarantee a nice stand, of something anyway.   I will work it up again mid-season and plant another cover crop.

At the complete opposite end of the garden is this strip which is finally giving up some of it's crabgrass.  This end is lower and wetter.  I am beginning to think that these lower areas are going to be more suitable for warm weather crops like corn and cucurbits, and maybe even celeriac or onions.  Anything that doesn't need to be planted so early.  I hitched the team to the cultimulcher after spike toothing the above and was very pleased.  For once the cultimulcher ran smoothly and I was really impressed with how well the clods were dug out.  I am working on an improved design and maybe with a week of rain I will get started on it.

I shot these the below videos two days ago to give you some flavor of working out there.  The team is getting better, I am getting better, and the soil is getting better.