Monday, September 28, 2015

Winter cover crops in place

The West strip was plowed and then disced by the full team.  Plowing was pretty good and it was satisfying to pull out some old rotting tree roots.  However, as usual there are always a few skipped spots.  At this point I don't know if that little plow does as much good as a thorough digging with the 9" sweeps and judicious use of deep cover crops.  It will be interesting to see if this ground can be brought up to the standard of the higher and drier areas of the garden.

Here is how it looked after discing.

I broadcast Turkey Red winter wheat and a small amount of hairy vetch on 9/27.  Unfortunately I could not source enough vetch in time for a full planting.  I am going to broadcast all winter hardy cover crops this season, in lieu of drilling them in.  The drilled in rows were difficult for me to terminate this year.  I hope that the sod will be more dispersed in a broadcasted crop.  Also, I'm planting wheat in lieu of rye in the hopes that it will be easier to terminate.  After broadcasting I grabbed Sebastian and pulled the drag over once.  There is some rain in the forecast but not as much as I had hoped.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Historical Grain Research Plot

I am doing some very exciting winter wheat comparisons on the cucurbit ground.  On the absolute best patch of ground in this strip, I put in the 3 winter varieties from the USDA small grains collection.  Bacska ( developed by the University of Wisconsin from seed collected in Hungary in 1900, released in 1918), Turkey Red (donated in 1991 by the N.I. Vavilov Research Institute of Plant Industry ), and Wisconsin Pedigree No. 2 (developed in 1918 at the University of Wisconsin from a selection of Turkey Red)  The USDA will only release 5 gm of seed for testing purposes, which is about 137 wheat seeds.  So I took very good care of them!  They were hand planted and spaced about 1" apart.

There is more information about Bacska and Wisconsin Pedigree No. 2 in the 1919 UW publication Wheat Growing in Wisconsin.  On page 16 the author writes, "Of the winter wheat varieties those of outstanding importance are the Ped. No. 2--Turkey Red and Ped. No. 408 Bacska.  Other varieties have shown very good promise so far as yield is concerned, but these two are not only high yielders but are also the two best wheats from the milling and baking standpoint."

Both of these shots are facing South and a little East.  From East to West, the planting is Turkey Red, Wisconsin Pedigree No. 2, and Bacska.

To protect these small, vulnerable rows, and to do further testing, I surrounded the tiny USDA planting with mulitple, 100' rows of three strains of Turkey Red.  From left to right in the picture, I planted rows of Turkey Red from the Ehmke Seed Company, from Heartland Mill, and from my own 2015 harvest.  The Heartland and Anarchy Acres plantings each comprise exactly three rows drilled in with the Earthway seeder.  The Ehmke has extra rows since it surrounds the USDA planting to the North and South, as well as to the East.

The Ehmke seed is certified from a 2015 crop and was grown out from stock that the Kansas State University research farm has maintained.  K-State has worked with their Turkey and rogued out elements that don't match Turkey.  According to Vernon Shaffer at the University, Turkey is known for being "tall, late, and small heads."  He also emphasized that Turkey is not a precise variety of wheat but more like a class of wheat, and that historically Turkey wheat had a range of variability within it.  Specifically Vernon said that the height of Turkey is supposed to include tall and some shorter stalks, but not as short as modern dwarf wheat.

The Heartland Turkey is milling wheat I purchased last year.  It is 2014 crop.

The Stephens Turkey is from wheat I grew on Spring Street and is 2015 crop.  It was brought to Wisconsin about 3 years ago and my seed was purchased from Lonesome Stone Milling.

5:45 pm on Tuesday, September 29th.  96 hours in the ground--wow!  Hard to capture in a picture, but the early signs are that the Heartland Turkey is coming up the fastest.  The Ehmke is harder to spot, and I can't find any Stephens Turkey up at all.  I wonder if the differences will maintain or fade away.

Here is the view on October 1.  Now you can see the Stephens Turkey (right three rows) coming up.  All the wheat looks healthy.

You have to squint to see the USDA samples.  These were hand planted and may have ended up deeper than the other stuff, which was seeded with an Earthway push seeder.  I actually didn't think it was that deep at all when I was trying to open up a trench with a hoe, but I did tamp it down well by walking on it and that may be the difference.  I don't anticipate any problem with the USDA stuff but I will be relieved when it is all up.  There is no rain in the forecast and we only received about 3/8" since planting.  I may water the USDA samples if it looks real dry out there.

More ground prep

I am working to try to reduce clogging and do a better job of terminating cover crops.  To reduce clogging I think that fewer tines will pick up less stuff.  I'd also like to move the tool bars further apart and move or eliminate the rear cross member.  The last two items will take work, time, and re-design, but buying 9" sweeps was pretty easy.  The unit is covering substantially the same width with two fewer tines now, so two less opportunities to drag trash around.  It seems to be working.  I think I will grind the sweeps sharp so they cut better.  Right now they can sometimes bounce off of tough roots without slicing through.

Here is how the cucurbit strip looked after a few times through with 9" sweeps.  This is the best seed bed yet.  This strip was new ground in the Summer of 2014, over wintered rye, winter manure added.  It is just mellow wonderful soil now.

The corn field after a few drags.

Final pass through the cucurbits before planting.  This picture was taken the morning of Friday, September 25.

The same morning we plowed down the corn field.  It looks better in the picture than it does in person.  There are skips but I'd say 80% of the field is turned under.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall ground prep

Things happened really quickly starting around September 17.  First we dragged up and down in the buckwheat stubble, incorporating but mostly making piles of trash and throwing them to the side.  This is new ground from this Spring and is still coming along.

A few days later it was time to clear out the cucurbits to make room for the wheat planting.  A few butternut squash could have stayed on the vine for another week or two, but the ground needed to be cleared.

At the other end it was finally time to clear all those corn stalks.  I took the scythe and cut everything down first, as low as possible.  Then Sebastian helped me move all the stalks into a pile.

Here is how the corn field and the cucurbit field looked before tillage.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


I purchased this IH-76 pull behind combine in the beginning of September and immediately put it to work.  I threshed all the spring and winter wheat that was shocked and stored (red fife and turkey red), netting about 30 lbs.  It was a blast and although it was not set up perfectly the first time, I got a clean enough sample to run through the fanning mill.

The goats and chickens alike had a feast afterwards.

The following week I reset the threshing clearance, speeds, etc and threshed the buckwheat followed by peas.  After initially turning their noses up, the herd really took a liking to the buckwheat and pea trash and ate up every scrap.  I think I netted 20 lbs of buckwheat.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fall prep

The buckwheat was harvested and shocked.  It went pretty fast with the cradle, only the straw is so weak that it can be tricky to tie the shocks.  Interestingly, after seeing all the buckwheat re-seed itself two weeks later it almost seems like hand harvesting caused more shattering than the cradle.

This is how it looked after pulling the drag through a few times.  Frustrating with all the trash clogging the tines, but the team and I are getting better at this.

Flint corn looks great.  I harvest the ears and then toss the stock to the herd.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Another spinach planting

Rain was forecast so I dumped a wheelbarrow of compost down and drilled in some spinach and carrots for the Winter.  Note: looks like this planting failed, too.

The picture doesn't really show it but it's clear to see the nitrogen nodules on the clover roots.

This crazy chicken followed me all the way down to the garden and then hung out there all day.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Getting into Fall

Lot of stuff to record and report on...

The double standard open pollinated sweet corn was a disappointment.  Flavor is marginal and it quickly gets over ripe without ever having made obvious signs of being ripe.  So it's hard to know when to harvest.  Also, the ears are small.  Right now I am just tossing a few stalks into the pasture each day for fodder.

The popcorn looks good and I can't wait for it to dry down enough to try popping!

The black lentils never really showed up and I think I will just pull them up. The plants have about two lentils on them and not much more.  The flint corn looks strong and it is surviving occasional onslaughts from raccoons and the like.  The dragon tongue beans dried down nicely and I harvested them for seed.  The red beans have longer to take before they dry down.

A few serranos have ripened now.

The clover that was planted into the barley and frost seeded into the Turkey Red winter wheat has grown strongly.  I'm not sure if I will attempt to Fall plow it or not.

It took multiple tries with the team to dig up the old ground that was snap peas, Red Fife Spring Wheat, and garlic.  I really need to make improvements to the drag so it won't trash up as easily.  The red clover that I seeded into the the spring wheat was probably just a hindrance.  I drilled in oats and peas, even though I should have gotten it in a month ago.

The zucchini is just about done and winter squash must be a couple weeks away.  I have eaten a couple of cantaloupe so far.  The parsnips are a pleasant surprise and they are coming up strong (for me), meaning about 75% germination.  But I never watered them.

I plan to harvest and thresh the buckwheat, even though I have no idea how.

The second to last work session before planting oats and peas into that strip.