Posted June 10, 2003: If I’m not mistaken
there is a song that goes “You are my sunshine my only
sunshine . . . so please don’t take my sunshine away”.
Well the sunshine was sure taken away from Eastern Pennsylvania
for the month of May . . . and well into June. It’s
not that we got all that much rain but, we had a great deal
of cloudy drizzly weather making it difficult to get our crops
planted. It is also preventing the crops that are planted
from growing. Not the weeds though, oh no, they don’t
mind at all. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many
small weeds germinating under oats in my life. And first cutting
hay, no way.
I know some folks with livestock who got part of their first
cutting in the silo and some folks who put up large wrapped
round bales. But those of us without livestock, who depend
on small bales of dry hay for marketing off site, haven’t
had a chance. I will say the cool damp weather has kept the
alfalfa weevil at bay so the hay that is out there is growing
great. The problem of course is that I need to get the hay
from out there to in here before I can turn it into cash.
With all the wet weather, I’ve noticed our rotary hoe
has not been doing the same job it was in the past. I use
my rotary hoe as close to the fifth day after planting as
I can on both newly planted corn and soybeans. Two and a half
years ago I was lucky enough to visit some friends in Japan.
I got to tour the countryside and visit many different types
Now you may be wondering, "what does a visit to Japan
two and a half years ago have to do with weeds in his corn
today?" Well, it’s quite simple:
While visiting on the north island of Hokkaido I met a farmer
who had the exact same rotary hoe we have here at the Institute.
We discussed an improvement he made to his by adding an angle
iron bracket to the rear frame of the hoe, to which he attached
a section of tractor tire snow chain.
To make a long story short, I tried here when I noticed the
rotary hoe alone was having little effect on the weeds. It
works great for first hoeing, when the crop has not yet emerged
from the soil. Ideas can come from the strangest places.
The other tool I’m trying out is a tine weeder with
twenty inch tines. I’ve gone through my corn about fifteen
days after planting. That’s about the time I’d
usually rotary hoe for a second time. I’m trying the
tine weeder since it’s more aggressive and seems to
tolerate wet soil conditions better than the rotary hoe. Now
I need a little cooperation from Mother Nature in the way
of sunshine to get the corn and the beans growing.
Aside from field work and other field operations I have another
exciting project I’ll have the opportunity to work on.
For the past three or four years I’ve been working with
a group of engineers, designers, local officials and folks
from the EPA and PA DEP to create a wetlands here on our farm
to purify waste water from our visitor center. This year the
office of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) awarded
The Rodale Institute a grant to actually put the design into
practice. We’ll still need to find extra funding to
fulfill a matching component of the grant but I’m excited
to finally get the site built. We even had the distinct pleasure
of hosting our congressional representative, Jim Gerlach,
to present the check.
The basic idea is to create a new restroom facility for our
visitor center that views all the water entering and leaving
the building as a valuable resource. This will be a research
project looking at pulling proven technologies into a residential
package that will be practical, functional, and aesthetically
pleasing. The goal is to develop optional systems to either
standard or sand mound septic systems.
We’ll be using collected rain water from the roof of
the building to charge the toilets, purifying the waste water
through a series of constructed wetlands, and then using that
water through a subsurface irrigation system to water the
landscape plantings. I hope to keep you posted on the progress
of this project which we hope will ultimately save farm land
from development by permitting houses to be built on marginal
lots that won’t support existing septic technologies.
If you’d like more information email
me and I’ll send you as much as I can.
Maybe next week the jet stream will move north and that sunny
warm air from the south will bring us here in Pennsylvania
the hay weather we need. I still need to plant my pumpkins,
mow the field borders, and all the crops need cultivation
Until then let
me hear from you, I enjoy all the emails.
From one Farm to Another