2004: Hey, the snow pile outside my window at the edge
of the parking lot has finally melted! April is here and, as
the old saying goes, “spring has sprung.” The past
four days have been absolutely gorgeous and we’re taking
full advantage of the beautiful weather to get into the fields.
Normally by this time of the year we have all of our oats neatly
tucked into the soil. This year, because of late snows and frozen
ground, the oats are still in the bag. We did manage to sneak
our frost seedings of alfalfa/orchard grass into the winter
wheat later in March. So things are getting done, even if not
quite at the rate I’d like.
The apple orchards are
looking good. Don Jantzi, our orchard foreman, has the trees
pruned and ready for this year’s growing season. Don
and I gave a presentation at this year’s sustainable
ag meeting (www.pasafarming.org)
held in State College, Pa. I was surprised by the fine attendance
at the presentation. Attendees at the conference had several
congruent sessions they could attend, and the interest in
organic apple production was, well, surprising.
Since that presentation, several of you have written to ask
about the spray schedule and materials list we will be using
this year on our apples. I’ve talked with the editors
of NewFarm.org and I think we’ll be writing a special
article to address this issue. In the meantime, if you want
a copy of the schedule just drop
me an email and I’ll get it out to you. We will
be making some modifications to the schedule we used last
year to take advantage of some of the newer materials available
to us and to adjust to the changes we’ve seen in the
insect pest populations.
Last year I modified a small two-row Monosem vacuum planter
to accommodate no-till practices for some research plots.
I really liked the way it worked and I’m now in the
process of converting it to a four-row unit that will handle
all my corn and soybean planting this year. This required
extending the tool bars, adding the planting units, and changing
the drive shafts. Aside from these usual changes, we made
some modifications that are truly unique.
No-till planting, as we do it, is done into standing cover
crops. Last year we built a roller to mechanically kill the
cover crop ahead of the planter (check
out Introducing a cover crop roller without all the drawbacks
of a stalk chopper for more information). One of our goals
in using the new planter was to pull the cover crop back over
the planted row after the seed was planted. We tried to use
Yetter residue managers to accomplish this. While the system
seemed to work in the rolled grains where we planted soybeans,
it failed miserably in the vetch cover where we planted corn.
The fingers in the wheels just acted like a rake, rolling
the vetch up until it lifted the planter out of the ground.
This year, we are mounting rubber tires in place of the residue
managers in an attempt to gently push the cover crop back
over the planted row. Since we only need to move the plant
material about an inch, we think the tires may do the trick.
I’ll let you know how it works later in the year. For
now, the planter conversion is well on its way to being complete.
A quick walk through the greenhouse reminds us all that
planting season is getting closer every day. The young bedding
pants have been transplanted into larger pots and are being
readied to go into the cold frames to be hardened off before
heading to the fields and gardens. I just got a call from
my potato-seed supplier saying he shipped our seed today.
Our soybean seed arrived last week. The field equipment is
ready by the door. The plow is in the field as I write, getting
started on the dryer hillsides. It feels like the marshaling
of the supplies and troops for a major military action. I’m
sure the same types of activities are taking place on you
The winter crops that are already out there look good. The
warmer weather and sunshine have greened up the wheat. The
rye that got into the ground late after the corn was harvested
last fall seemed to double in size in just two days. The cover
crop of oats and hairy vetch seems to be coming back to life
and will soon make its big push of growth.
There is one other project unrelated to our field work that
is taking place on the farm this spring. We’re getting
a new auxiliary power generator large enough to power the
entire farm. Up until now, we’ve only had a small generator—just
large enough to run our greenhouses. But lately we’ve
had so many power outages that have lasted longer than a day
that we though it wise to get a generator large enough to
keep the whole operation up and running. It’s one of
those extravagant expenses that you keep putting off but,
after 32 years at this location, it’s time.
We needed to pour a concrete pad to set the mammoth machinery
on and bury a conduit from the pad to the barn where our main
electrical room is. I must admit that I feel a little like
a kid on his birthday about to get a present. I guess we all
love the hardware. Well, I’ve got to get back out to
the shop. Email
me and let me know how things are on your farm.
From One Farm to Another.