September 5, 2003: I can’t believe its September
already. With summer weather coming late to Pennsylvania,
and the usual work load it brings, the weeks flew by. If you
read my last article you already know it wasn’t a stellar
year for field crops here at the Institute’s research
farm. But the corn is starting to show the promise of good
yields, the apples should come through well (barring any catastrophes),
and the air is beginning to cool off.
More importantly, it’s time to plant cover crops. I
love planting cover crops because it encourages me to look
forward to another year -- pushing any problems of this growing
season to the back of my thoughts. You can’t plan for
next year without feeling a twinge of excitement and the promise
that a fresh growing season brings. And to get that feeling
this early is great.
The primary function of cover crops on this farm is to grow
-- or rather fix -- nitrogen. For that reason, all my early
covers contain legumes. Most of the ground going into legumes
was wheat ground that was just harvested and ground that isn’t
slated for hay. For the most part I plant hairy vetch or mixes
that contain hairy vetch. This year I’m planting some
fields to straight vetch at approximately 28 pounds of seed
per acre. I’m also planting a number of fields to a
mixture of hairy vetch at 20 pounds of seed per acre coupled
with oats planted at about 1.5 to 2 bushels per acre. The
oats will winter kill and give protection to the vetch over
You may recall I mentioned last spring that most of my vetch
failed to over winter – a blunder I hope not to repeat.
I’m also planting one field with vetch and rye and one
field with vetch and wheat. Even though I swear every year
I won’t plant rye with vetch I do a little any way.
It really produces biomass, but the rye can be a bugger to
handle in the spring. As far as grass covers go, I’ll
be planting those after the corn and soybeans are harvested.
I’ve been working for years on organic no-till systems.
Last year I was able to no-till the vetch since the wheat
crop that came before was so clean. This year was just the
opposite. The rain we had thru July and into early August
left the fields far to weedy to give the cover crops a chance.
I had to plow all the wheat stubble in order to establish
my cover crops. I’m hoping that by plowing and prepping
the fields we’ll get good stands.
Update on the waste water project
I spoke before about our new project for managing the water
coming from the restrooms of our visitor center. Several of
you wrote to me asking for updates as the project unfolds
so I thought I’d briefly mention how the project is
going. We have our design team in place made up of folks from
in-house, universities, private companies, and other non-profits.
I’m excited about the future impact this project will
have on how we manage this resource on the rural landscape,
where decentralized sewage systems make the most sense.
The design team will be meeting early this month to finalize
our plans and solidify our funding. The core of this system
will be a multi-celled constructed wetlands to clean up the
water leaving the restroom. While we’ll be working on
research tasks that support and prove the value of the system,
a great deal of our energy will be spent working on educational
components designed to reach two major audiences.
On one hand we’ll be working with home owners and those
looking at new construction to give them the information necessary
to make informed purchase requests. Our second audience will
be those technical people and regulators who will be able
to endorse and supply the systems the public wants. Our time-line
is to begin construction early in 2004. I’m really excited
about the long term ramifications of moving these types of
systems into the forefront for rural planners. I’ll
be giving you many more details and some photos as the project
This summer we built a walking trail around the perimeter
of our research farm. This trail was originally designed to
give our staff a quiet place to walk. But we have decided
to open it up to the public so everyone can gain access to
and enjoy the farm. It runs about three miles in length. If
you plan on stopping buy to visit with us I hope you’ll
take the time to walk the trail and really see the farm.
This summer was also a time to fix up one of the older buildings
on the farm. We have a large “Pennsylvania Dutch”
bank barn in the center of our farm complex. The date stone
says it was built in 1819. In fact the staff of The New Farm
is housed in this barn. Well, it was time for a new roof and
a fresh coat of paint. This barn really is the focal point
of the farm buildings and brightening up the exterior has
really made the entire farm look great.
September is the month we begin harvesting pumpkins. This
year’s crop may be a little light in tonnage, and I
only planted 2.5 acres of them. But the quality looks good,
and I’m sure there will be more than enough to get us
all tired of picking them, loading them, and shipping them.
As fall slowly creeps our way, I wish for all of you a safe
and successful harvest. Take a moment, jot me an email, and
let me know what’s happening on your farm this harvest
From One Farm To Another . . .