Thursday, September 29, 2016

Plow and plant

Fantastic morning plowing and planting a late cover crop with the team this morning.  The plow is working very well and the new team lineup is the best ever.  I have the larger donks (Sebastian and Cassie) on the same doubletree to the right, and Rosie is on her own singletree.  I have set the hitch point on the evener over towards the larger donkeys, so that Sebastian and Cassie are doing probably 75% of the work, and Rosie the remaining 25%.  I may set it over even further, primarily to reduce side draft.  Right now I have Sebastian walking on plowed ground, and Cassie on unplowed ground (straddling the furrow).  If Sebastian walks in the furrow, it's hard to keep the plow in the furrow.  Keep in mind that side draft with 3 abreast minis is fairly severe.  Although each animal is pulling a fraction of what a full sized horse or mule would pull, they are not correspondingly that much narrower.  My singletrees are about 20" wide, and usually a full sized equine would have a 34" or maybe 40" wide singletree.  But my largest donk weighs about 350 lbs, probably 1/4 of what an average draft horse or mule weighs these days.  So things don't scale down quite the way I'd like, and side draft with 3 abreast is a big issue to deal with.

Anyhow, the soil conditions were pretty good (could have been a tad drier), and with rain coming I did not mess around much.  After plowing, I halted the team while I broadcast oats and peas.  They had a little trouble standing for me and I had to lunge for the lines at one point.  After broadcasting we picked up the spike tooth and just ran over the field a dozen times.  The seed all got covered and it actually looks pretty decent (see below).  September 29 is a tad late for oats and peas, but I don't want a lot of winter hardy cover crop to deal with next season.  I may try it in one small strip, since we are getting better at Spring plowing now.  For sure I am not eager to deal with terminating a lot of red clover again.  This strip was popcorn, flint corn, and garlic, and most of it was that darned red clover that was so hard to terminate in May.  I was a little disappointed in the corn yield, and I don't know if I should blame the red clover for not feeding the soil enough, or myself for planting too densely.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Corn Harvest

I grew three varieties of corn this season, and the results were so-so.  I think the drought contributed to some poor yields, but I also think I crowded the plantings.  I used 24" rows, next year I plan to try 32".  Also, I need to find a popcorn plate for the Earthway seeder, since the popcorn seeds just pour through the corn plate.

By now every deer in the county knows about my corn and it is a race to get the corn out of there.  I should have started a week earlier, as a lot of the flint corn has been fed to the wildlife by now.  Today I went in and finished up.

Flint corn is fun to harvest, since I am harvesting and selecting seed at the same time.  For good seed, I am looking for full ears, sturdy plants, and no mold.  When I see one I like, I set it aside.

You can see that my stand of flint corn is not that pretty.  I think the poor showing is a result of the drought and the plants being too close together.
Here is a good candidate for a seed ear.  The ear dropped away nicely from the stalk.  Even better is one that is hanging all the way down, so that it dries down and rain is conveyed away from the inside.

Cassie did a great job of standing still while I picked popcorn and filled up the cart.  Rosie worked a shift a couple days later and was insufferable.  She would not stand still!  Just a sign I need to work her more as a single.

Sebastian was an absolute rock star.  Here he is standing while I pile sweet corn stalks high on the cart to take back to the barn.  I feed all the animals a lot of cornstalks this time of year.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Winter wheat test plot

September 20 is a good target date for winter wheat around here so when I saw the weather and the calendar, I figured it was time.
Auusie Bacska just before sowing in the 2016-17 test plot
I put the most important stuff towards the middle of the field, where the soil is best.  "Most important" is everything but the USDA Turkey Red, since the other varieties are more interesting to me.  I made plantings that were 5 rows wide and as long as they needed to be to use up all the seed.  Not all the seed quite fit into the 5 rows and I ended up double seeding one of the Turkey Red plots.  The planting was all done with the Earthway seeder, probably using the beet plate, set to 1" depth.

From North to South, the plots are flagged and there should be a 6" or so gap between plantings.  Here is the sequence (the outside ends are identical plantings):

USDA Turkey Red
Wisconsin Pedigree No. 2
USDA Bacska
Bacska, Australian Winter Cereals Collection
USDA Turkey Red

Soil conditions were not the best, but I was a little short on choices.  I mostly got it onto the old potato ground, and it's 10' or more from the previous winter wheat section, so I hope there is no contamination.  There will definitely be a few spuds growing as weed in the plots, however.