Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cold Spring Update

May is almost here and there is a little, but a not much more, to show for it.  A few veggies are poking out of the ground, and all of the onions and leeks have been planted at the far East end.  Weirdly, forecasted rain kind of backed off and for a moment I was worried the onions would dry up and start dying.  But the past two days have added about 3/8" of rain to the field, just about perfect.

The donks are grazing on the wheat and clover cover crops.  They seem to prefer the wheat.  This will get plowed up as soon as it is dry enough.  I started to plow the clover but it was too wet to plow very well.

The winter wheat historical tests, samples from the USDA small grains collection.  From left to right, Turkey Red, Wisconsin No. 2, and Bacska.

USDA Spring wheat samples.  From left to right, Sturgeon, Marquis, and Red Fife.  Wish I had ordered some bluestem!

Garlic looks fantastic!  The over-wintered onion experiment was a complete failure, I don't think a single plants survived.  Also, the sets died.  However, all over there were onions that I forgot to harvest last year that survived just fine, and also a bunch of spring onions that self-seeded themselves all over.  Many of these volunteers I dug up and put in with the garlic.

Here is the Marquis just coming up in the garden.  

Here are the "Three Turkeys," KC-State (Ehmke), Heartland, and Stephens.  The Stephens is noticeably taller and more variable.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Planting Spuds and Veggies

April 18, one of the first passes over the 2015 vegetable area that will be seeded to Spring grains.

Another view of the East strip, planted to vegetables on the 18th.

My seed potato was pretty far gone but I think it will be OK.  My furrows are pretty shallow and I think that helps in my cold wet soil.

Furrow opened up with the 6" plow, ready for seed potato.

A view of the East strip.  You can see the allium row (leeks and onions).  Further over is spinach, snap peas, bok choi, beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, brussel sprouts, brocolli, and lettuce.  This ground was newly opened in 2015, but it looks pretty good.

Here are the two rows of potatoes after being covered up.  This strip of oats and peas from last year does not look as good as I had hoped.  There were a lot of weeds and some sod to dig up, and it frankly could use more time.  But since potatoes get hilled so many times it is easier to manage weed pressure.  This ground will get some corn in a month, and that will buy me some tillage time.

Spring Street Marquis

Ron and Mary put the 2 acres of Marquis on Spring Street to bed this morning.  Ron disced the field and then worked it again with his cultimulcher.  The following day the Marquis was drilled in at 120 lbs/acre (notch 20 on both sides), and medium red clover was put in the grass box at about 7 lbs/acre (notch 2 on the grass box).  There was just barely enough seed to cover the field (I started out with just 4 very precious bushels, and removed quantities for testing on my homestead as well as donating a sample to UW-Madison for their bread wheat test this year.  In fact, I still have not baked with this legendary wheat yet.  I will have to wait until August!  As usual Ron took his spike tooth and worked the field once after drilling.

Note: Ron vacuumed out the remaining clover seed so I was able to weigh what was left in the 50 lb bag we started with.  A total of 11 pounds of clover seed was put on the field, so the seeding rate was 5.5 lbs/acre.  So the setting on the grass box could have been opened up a bit.

"Attention was first attracted to Marquis wheat in the United States through its having won premiums at several expositions.  Seed was introduced by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1912 and 1913 and the variety was thoroughly tested at numerous experiment stations in the spring wheat sections.  These and other experiments reported by Ball and Clark 40 41 proved the variety to be widely adapted.  In the meantime, in consequence of much publicity, a strong demand for seed arose. A considerable quantity was brought into the country for sowing in 1913. Much larger quantities were imported in 1914. The importations of these two years, with the seed home grown in 1913, were sufficient to sow about half a million acres in 1914.  Most of the imported seed was sold in Minnesota North Dakota and Montana.  Smaller quantities were sold in other spring wheat States. In this way the Marquis variety became widely distributed in a very short time. In 1919, only seven years after its introduction, it made up at least 60 per cent, or nearly 12,000,000 acres, of the total spring wheat acreage of the United States."  --Classification of American Wheat Varieties

The field on day 1 after 2 passes with the dis.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Historic Spring Wheat Testing

April 18 was the first day it was possible to get in the field this year.  Naturally, rain is in the forecast so there is no time to waste!  I had more historic wheat to test, plus some other grains to mess with.  

From the USDA small grains collection, I had packets of Marquis, Red Fife, and Sturgeon.  Sturgeon is a UW-Extension selection of Marquis from the 1930's.  Surrounding this I drilled in 4 rows of Marquis, 2 rows of Red Fife (the smelly, damaged stuff from Appleton), 2 rows of Kamut/Khorasian wheat, 2 rows of Barley, and a good spread of naked oats.  I basically covered the mixed vegetable ground from last year with wheat, oats, and barley.

In the new strip on the East end (was buckwheat, then oats & peas), I put in mixed vegetables in full and half rows.   Spinach, peas, bok choi, beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, brussel sprouts, brocolli, and lettuce I think.  Tomorrow I hope to get some leeks and potatoes planted, before it starts raining in the afternoon.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Pears and Raspberries

Margaret took me to Jung's when I visited Madison today and got me some early, awesome, Christmas presents!  Two pear trees, a cherry tree, and two types of raspberries.  I planted the trees in my old kitchen garden near the house.  This spot is not working out as a garden, but for trees it has 100% sunshine and it's already fenced in and the ground mulched.  So it's a real good spot.

The raspberries were mostly planted in the area of the burn pile in the big garden.  This soil was not really prepared but has minimal grasses and I think it will work out well.  I had straw mulch on the field that had to come off so after planting I dumped all that straw on top.  The soil her stays pretty wet and I think it will be good raspberry soil.  We'll see!

10th Avenue Red Fife Planted

The Red Fife on 10th Avenue went in today.  This is a 1.6 acre field that Dale Nelson is taking care of for me.  He grew soybeans in it last year and the field was worked up in October and also had a couple loads of manure spread on it.  I have been waiting for this field to dry out and this was the first day we could realistically get in this year.  It was still a tad wet but I think it will be OK.

Dale ran a spring tooth over it in the AM and we met back in the afternoon with a 12' John Deere drill.  I wanted to spread at a rate of 210 lbs/acre (this seed tested at about 55% germination), but the adjustment was stuck and I could only get it to notch 35 (should have been notch 38).  Anyway, this worked out pretty well in the end.  Dale drilled the seed in conventionally and there was about 1 bushel left after going over everything once.  Then we changed the setting back to notch 20 and he ran the drill East and West primarily, which helped cover some of the seed that did not quite get in.  The seed would have covered better if we had waited for a dryer day.

"The cultivation of Red Fife wheat in the United States dates from 1860 when JW Clarke a Wisconsin farmer had an excellent crop. The name Red Fife was never commonly adopted the word Fife being the name most often used As the wheat increased in popularity and cultivation other names became applied to it."  -- Classification of American Wheat Varieties

The seed did not cover as well in the tire tracks of the tractor, which compressed the soil.  
Running the seed out while driving across the first set of tracks was a convenient way of working the seed in a little better.  A spike tooth would have done a similar job.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Flint Corn Tacos

I have been muddling my way through what to do with all the flint corn I grew last year.  This crop is very alluring to me and I want to make it a staple part of my diet, somehow.  Experiments with polenta/grits have been so-so, but tacos and tortillas are showing some promise.  Here is where I'm at today.

Flint corn taco with dried beans from the farm.  A nutritiuous meal that is 100% off the farm.

Start with 1 lb of hard corn, in this case, Roy Calais flint corn.  I have selected only the red ears for this meal.  Roy Calais produces about 60% yellow ears and 40% red ears.  We're going to boil it in water with 2 T of slaked lime added.  You can get the lime from a little package in the Mexican section of the grocery, or from the lumber yard in 50# bags.  Slaked lime is a common additive to concrete to improve work-ability.  I have a lifetime supply left over from making the last brick oven.

The recipes I found for making masa recommended 10-15 minutes of simmering, but for my flint corn I am finding at least 30 minutes is needed, and I think it could go even longer.  Stir it several times while simmering, then turn off the heat, cover, and let sit over night.

It's ready if some of the skins can be rubbed off.  I have been rubbing some of the skins off, but not all of them, and rinsing the corn well.  Some of the original liquid should be reserved to hydrate the dough after grinding.

I'm still looking for a good masa grinder. This time I used my old Lehman's grinder with stones, but the auger had trouble feeding the wet corn.  I ended up pushing most of through with a dowel.  However, the stones made a very nice dough in a single pass.  The hand grinder available online feeds the corn very well, but the plates are so poorly made that you have to grind the dough several times.  And the dough feeds though the auger very poorly.  I have tried dressing the plates on the mexican grinder (using a belt sander) and next time I will test it out.

The dough may need hydrating to get the proper consistency.  The hotter the frying pan, the better for cooking.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Cold Spring Again!

It's early April and there is no sign that anything will be planted soon.  I have not kept close track, but we're getting 1-2 rain events per week these days, and most of them are significant.  The largest one was over 2".  Although nothing has been really flooded, it's difficult to see when I will be able to plant anything.  The greatest concern is the Spring wheat, which can go in any time after February really.  It will not be a good year for Spring wheat in all likelihood.

The winter wheat in the test plot looks good.  At this point the Stephens Turkey is actually a bit taller and greener than the Heartland or Ehmke (KC-State) Turkey.

On the left is last year's wheat and barley, which was frost seeded to clover.  The clover is strong.  Since I have never tried to terminate clover before I plan to start working it as soon as possible.  The dark chunks are compost that was applied when the ground was still frozen.  To the right is the corn ground from last year, which was seeded to Turkey Red as a substitute for a rye cover crop.  I was out of rye and I also hope that the wheat will be easier to terminate than the rye was last year.  There is also a handful of vetch in that strip.

Oats and peas, composted, and ready to grow something the minute it gets dry enough!!!

Flats in the kitchen.  I am a pretty poor grower of seedlings.  The top flat is celeriac, as usual a bloody mess well below 50% germination.  But I think I will have a few more to plant this year than last.  The lower flat is peppers that I started a few days ago.  I sprinkled the top with wheat bran, of which I have buckets.  I heard of someone using rice hulls as a substitute for vermiculite, so I figured wheat bran (hulls) could be a substitute for rice hulls.  We'll see!

Trying to start onions as a pile all sprinkled on top.  The last two years I was using 231 cell flats with one onion seed per cell.

Mystery wild allium, possibly allium canadense.  There are 3 volunteer plants in the yard, and I have eaten a couple of them.  But I'd really like them to establish so I can have more in the years to come!

March 12, almost one month ago.  At this point just a few days of sunshine would have done the trick, but it just keeps getting cold and wet.  The end of this week is forecast for 22 degree overnight low!

The Backska in the historical test plot showed some winter kill and the leaves are noticeably wider and pale in color.  This shot is also from March 12.

March 12 and the garlic is coming up real strong.