Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Re plant

The sweet corn planted on May 18 was coming in very spotty, and after investigation it looks like some of the seed rotted.  So I went up and down with my handy corn planter/pointed thingy and filled in the gaps.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Wheat Checkup

Here is the red fife on 10th Ave.  It's looking good but I think the drill may have a row or two clogging up.  There is a regular row across the field with spotty germination.
Here is the field on 8 Mile rd.  The Turkey Red is to the left, and conventional soft red is on the right.  I already told Brian to combine his wheat first, and to cut into mine a little bit so that everything I harvest is pure.

Corn and squash planted

So just to recap, I did not remove all the red clover, settling on just a 14' wide strip next to the garlic.  The rest of the clover will be harvested for fodder, and I hope to plow it up this Fall.  The strip to the West of the clover was planted to winter wheat last year.  It also is not working up very well, so I just focused on a 6' strip down the middle, enough for the squash plus two rows of floriani red flint corn.  A few live wheat stalks will not bother anything.

Here is the upper corn strip.  It's 4 rows of black jack popcorn, saved from the 2015 harvest, and two rows of Roy's Calais flint corn, also saved from last year.
For most of my drilling, I stretch out a rope, then run up and down with the wheel hoe.  After that I run the Earthway down.  All corn is set to 1" depth.
Roy's Calais corn is red and yellow.  I used one yellow cob and three red cobs to make the seed mix.  The red gene is recessive (or something like that) and you're supposed to use more red than yellow.  The whole harvest came from a single red cob harvested in 2014.
Best seedlings yet!  I've never had plugs that popped out like this so nicely.
So the squash went straight down the middle of the strip.  Sebastian & I also added 4 loads of compost prior to working up the field.  There is greek heirloom squash, butternut squash (saved), and cantaloupe (saved).  One each side, 2' rows, is floriani red flint corn.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Under Control

After getting back from my break up North I work non-stop in the garden.  Hardest hit is the team--we have to get this red clover dug out!  Wow is it hard work.  The clover will just not give up, and the team needs to rest often.

Here is a view of the three USDA wheat seed tests.  From left to right is Turkey Red, Wisconsin Pedigree No. 2, and Bacska.  The Bacska looks very good, and it is distinct from all the other winter wheat in the garden.  It's going to be fun to try baking with this wheat in a couple of  years.
Here is the lettuce that I planted last August, for winter harvest.  Now it's growing quite nicely in the oats.  Go figure.  BTW, the oats came up very spotty and I think I need to double drill next time.
More lettuce woes.  I drilled in a triple row about a month ago, and maybe three survived.  Lettuce is not my forte.

Here is my 2016 attempt at a pea trellis.
Here is how the strip West of the garlic looked before I drilled in popcorn and flint corn.  So that damned red clover finally gave up!  I fully expect that there are a few live crowns still down there, but overall I am pretty pleased.  At any rate, a couple of red clover plants will not bother the corn.  At the South end where it gets wetter the seed bed is not as good.  But the team pulled there hearts out.  The drag was set up with 3 x 9" sweeps, set pretty close together.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Welcome Back

I got back today after being gone for a week.  I was just blown away by the changes in the garden!  Here are a few highlights:

  • Beans planted just nine days ago are flying out of the ground!
  • Corn & basil from the same day are coming up
  • The potatoes are well established
  • Haynes Bluestem & Prelude Spring wheat are coming up, a little weak
  • Oderbrucker and Manshury Barley are coming up OK
  • Lettuce that I planted last September for a winter hoop house is now coming up nicely in the naked oats.  This ground was worked up before sowing in mid-April.  Weird!
  • Garlic is insanely healthy looking
  •  The Bacska winter wheat is looking amazing
  • Tomatoes and peppers are just about through with transplant shock.  I saw one pepper plant that died
  • The red clover corn plot is looking better.  Two more diggings and I can plant.  If the rain holds off I will work it up tomorrow.

Facing North, you can see the beans, then two rows of tomatoes, peppers, and a few celeriac.  The weaker row past that is a mixed row of bok choi, cilantro, lettuce, and the Haynes Bluetem/Prelude.  I think the lettuce is a bust.  The bok choi looks OK but it may have to be torn out due to excessive cabbage beetles.  Over to the right the potatoes look great.

Historic Spring wheats: Sturgeon, Marquis, and Red Fife.  I think it was a mistake to plant it right next to the winter wheat.  The Sturgeon is getting shaded out big time.
I had a great experience driving home yesterday.  I detoured through the tiny Amish community in Kingston/Daulton, hoping to see some fields being worked with draft animals.  I got my wish--I saw a 5-abreast hitch of Belgians doing a beautiful job of pulling a 2 bottom plow.  I was so excited that I missed a lot of the details.  The setup was a forecart pulling an old plow, probably a 2 x 14 or 2 x 12.  It was raised and lowered very easily by the operator, maybe even a trip type of plow. 

The team was plowing a corner field, and I passed the field twice.  The first time, the team was being rested with no one attending! The whole rig was just sitting there, with 10,000 lbs of horse flesh standing till!  I poked around the neighborhood some more in my car, and I was back in 5 minutes.  Now the team was being worked again, alone, by a boy not more than 12 years old.  WOW!  Now I was triply amazed.  I waved and the boy waved back with a smile.  I complimented him on his team and left the scene.  I would have loved to watch more but I figured I had been impolite enough already.  Anyhow, this scene will stick with me!

One other thing--the plowing job was excellent.  The field was a thin hay, or maybe just weeds, but it definitely had some sod in it.  Nevertheless, the soil was turned over and everything buried, completely, and the soil crumbled beautifully.  The field could have been harrowed with a spike tooth and planted the same day.  The plow bottoms were beautifully scoured and shiny.  A really professional job all around.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Beans Basil and Corn

I didn't put any more tomatoes in today since we had a frost warning last night.  But now I plan to put the rest of the tomatoes and peppers in tomorrow.  Anyhow, I marked out the pepper row and then proceeded to plant one full row of dragon tongue beans (from my own seed), one row of basil, and 3 rows of sweet corn.  This leaves one row open before the garlic, which I'm not sure what I will do with yet.

From left to right, two rows of solanaceous, 1 row of dragon tongue beans, and three rows of OP sweet corn, 12 row improved Golden Bantam.  Last year I grew Double Standard and it turned out poorly.

I took the team in and worked up the clover ground to the West of the garlic.  I used the drag with just two 9" sweeps, and it did a good job.  Probably 75% of the crowns have been cut now, which makes me feel much better.  This red clover is so tough and it's really a far reach for my tiny team to dig it out.  The plow job was poor, since that plow is just outclassed by tough sod and also because it has been so wet.  Today it was still too wet in the lower parts, but it had to be done.  I want popcorn and flint corn to go in here, preferably right now.  But it will take two weeks for the clover to decompose and to finish working the soil.

This is the lowest part of the garden, the far West strip.  Here I ran the sweeps through the wheat cover crop and got a start on it.  This strip will take cucurbits, which hopefully won't mind being cooped up on their flats for another 2-3 weeks.  It was also too wet to work in here, although we still made about 8 passes through here.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Tomatoes going in!

It's just drying up enough that I could get out and do some work today.  Needed to get the vegetables on the East strip organized and fixed, and to start clearing out my supply of tomatoes in flats.

Put about 50 tomatoes in, I have two more flats to go.  These are going in on the former oats & peas strip, next to the potatoes.  I only planted the high ground in the middle.  Towards the end of the row it is still fairly wet.

So.....tore out some more failures from the April 18 planting.  I put in about 85' of beets (Detroit and Chiogga), and purple top turnips.  I actually labeled the rows, too!

Rules for Gardening:

  • Never apologize for your soil
  • Keep planting until something grows
  • Summer comes once per year
  • One word--turnips!  If nothing else will grow, grow turnips.  Peasant food will save your garden.

Got some frost damage on Saturday night (May 14), which nipped some of the potato leaves.  They will be OK.

Here is what the Marquis on Spring Street looked like on May 15.  The Turkey is in the far background.

Donks and goats have been on 100% pasture for 3 weeks now, I'd say.  The donkeys come up front because the lawn is thicker than the pasture right now.

Elliot inspecting the Ehmke Turkey.

The Boyne raspberries are significantly ahead of the laphams.  The lapham raspberries are showing the tiniest buds and nothing else, but all of the Boynes have good leaf growth like this one.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Sketchy Start

April was wetter and colder than expected, and this East strip might not be completely ready for good vegetable growing yet.  It was cleared of brush one year ago and had good cover crops on it last year, but there is a real bloom of weeds on it and the April 18 seeding is doing poorly.  Only the peas, radishes, carrots, and beets are easy to spot.  It's time to start selectively working it up and replant it.

It was not dry enough to do much today, but towards the South it is higher ground and I did drill in a half-row of spinach. We'll see if it germinates.

The bee packages installed on Monday are a little troublesome--I went in yesterday and found both queens still stuck in their cages.  This is my fault since I forgot to take marshmellows when I picked up the packages and made a dough out of honey and flour instead to keep the queen caged up.  The workers were making good progress digging into it but three days was enough.  One queen I helped out by pushing a stick though the dough, and the other I just pulled the screen back.  I'll have to check again early next week.
The below are just picks showing the two varieties of raspberries I planted a few weeks back.

Barley tests

I am branching out my tests into two historic varieties of Barley.  There is a potential customer for Turkey Red wheat, a small malting operation, so I am bit curious about historic barleys.  It turns out there are two fairly significant barley varieties that were developed in Wisconsin, so I ordered sample from the USDA germplasm genebank.  Here is the entry that got me excited, from the Annual Report of the Wisconsin Agricultural Experimental Association, Volume 8 (1910)

Here is the Oderbrucker about to go in the ground.

And here is the Manshury.  It was collected from the John A. Salzer Seed Co., Lacrosse, Wisconsin, 20-Mar-1903.  

This picture is taken while standing on the East strip, towards the winter wheat, facing Southwest.  The Oderbrucker is in the foreground, and the Manshury is in the background.  They are single rows about 6" off the wheat.  Soil is a bit weedy but I think it will do.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Bees installed

My two colonies died over winter so I had to buy two new packages.  These are 2 pounders from Lee Heine.  This is the latest I have ever installed bee packages.  Too bad, there are blossoms everywhere and it will take weeks for these colonies to build up and take advantage of them.  It will not be a big honey year.

On the way to pick up the bees in Watertown I checked on the 10th Ave Red Fife field.  It's coming up nicely, but a little thinner than I wanted.  It's raining again now and hopefully a few more will germinate.

Saturday, May 7, 2016


The garden is at the height of it's beauty on a warm evening in Spring time, when the crab apples are in bloom and everything is quiet.  The pictures are just a placeholder--you have to be there to appreciate it.

The terminators

The red clover cover crop is going to be very tough to terminate.  I am still hoping to plant corn in there in a couple of weeks, but it is going to be sketchy.  I tried plowing it about two weeks ago, and it was too wet.  Today it was also still too wet, but the calendar is telling me that I have to try something.  With the soil wet the plow will not scour well and it's twice as hard to pull.  It also clogs and jumps out.  Anyhow, we got about 50% of it cut and turned over, which is about the best I can hope for.  My plan is to come back in a week and start digging with the Danish sweeps and start killing off the surviving plants.  It will take time and 3-4 field days, I think.

Because of the crisis in getting this worked up, I am going to use last year's potato, tomato, pepper, and pea ground to grow corn.  Not my first choice, but I put some extra loads of compost to help the soil a bit.  I'm not sure red clover is the best cover crop when my equipment for terminating it is a bit marginal.

To the left of the photo is the winter wheat cover crop, which is turning over more or less OK.  This could almost just be worked with the Danish tine digger, especially if it was a bit drier.  The cucurbits will go into this ground, so there is a little more time to play with.

You can see the strip behind and the soil is maybe 50-60% turned over.  I left a strip of clover untouched, mostly out of curiosity to observe it's growth and life cycle.  The team pulled like demons.

I am liking these Danish sweep wheel hoes better and better.  This is my first try, and I'm getting some understanding of how to set them up.  I recommend starting with the sweep flat on the floor, and then get the Danish tine mounted such that the wheel is about 2" off the floor (would like it a bit higher than what is shown).  This gives the sweep a nice angle of attack to get into the soil.  The next element is handle height, and if you are starting with the sweep flat on the floor the handles should then be 2" above a comfortable working height.  This height for most people should be around their center of mass, the belly button, for best power and control.  This unit is also a bit short coupled--the #2 model (which I gave away) is longer and drives a little straighter as a result.

Asparagus--thank goodness!  My first real vitamins in several months.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Haynes Bluestem and Prelude

I added two additional Spring wheats to the trial plot today.  These are late additions that I ordered from the USDA just a week ago.  Both are historic Spring wheat that used to be grown in Wisconsin.

Here is the Prelude seed about to go into the drill.  The Prelude was plump and light colored, while the Hanyes Bluestem (not pictured), was denser and darker.

The Haynes Bluestem and Prelude are planted single file right next to a row of potatoes.  The Haynes Bluestem has the higher ground, and Prelude is lower and goes to the row end.  A flag marks the dividing point.
Here is the entry in "Classification of American Wheat Varieties" for Haynes Bluestem.  Scroll down to see the entry, it's towards the bottom of this page:

Another story about bluestem wheat:

Here is the entry in "Classification of American Wheat Varieties" for Prelude:

Here is how the Sturgeon, Marquis, and Red Fife are looking.  The Red Fife is the strongest at this point.
Sturgeon, Marquis, and Red Fife